Empire on Lenin

Greg Schofield g_schofield at dingoblue.net.au
Fri Dec 7 08:01:49 MST 2001

Graig you pack a whollop and it will take time to digest properly.

I find it hard to understand your use of ideology in the terms I understand it - this is not a cheap shot but an honest question: It would seem that the way you treat ideology, is as if it were the main objective of struggle and in fact struggle might be subsumed within it.

Now I will disagree with this is as a reification, but I am unsure if this is what you had in mind.

In terms of post-modernism which I see as a bourgeois irrationalism, and Negri-Hardt speak in this mode, I understand that their abstractions have run away with them and politically it looks very much like a Kautskian error. What interests me is the ground they cover, as it is the same ground I have so far tried to cover quite unsuccessfully in terms of sparking on-going debate, in that sense their errors are of less concern then the occassional observation which stands out as important in it-self.

I am simply not for dismissing Empire out-of-hand, rather the critique of Empire must be a clearer understanding of the ground they attempt to cover (much like Lenin did on Kautsky). Empire's importance is precisly the importance it has gained within, broadly speaking, "bourgeois" intellectual circles.

But I do not want sound too defensive, I don't mind having Empire slung around my neck so long as the subject matter is discussed - that is the correct periodization of our era.

Both Empire and Super-Imperialism are limited descriptions, they are the terms of a previous conception which we are for the time being stuck with until we can sort matters out more thoroughly.

Now where I really would disagree with you is in how you appear to concieve of historical development where if the US is removed then just some other state will assume the mantle and carry on as before.

No-doubt, powerful states would still exercise power in whatever international system emerges. But this is rather abstract, for the point is how this power is exercised and to what degree it is free to exercise its will.

I cannot see why the development of capitalism would simply self-perpetuate at this level, why the socialisation of capital would remain fixed in continual (super)Imperialism.

What happened to the vital link between imperialism and national finance capital? Is capital still exclusively expressed through particular states? And if this is not the case and capital is no longer confined as in classic imperialism, how can we go on using the same conceptual framwork which Lenin established in 1914?

These are our vital questions.

When you say:

"Then why are you suggesting that the working class adopt the concepts
of the bourgeois in order to provide them with the redemption they
seek?  You are not talking about the working class interests leading
the whole of society, you are talking about substituting bourgeois
oppositional politics for working class interests.  You ask why the
theorist have no audience in the working class?  This is why."

I reply I do not expect such theorists to have a working class audience - their work comes from the academie and is directed to the academie. Why would calling for international order and re-enforcing the organs of such order (ie through the mechanism of states in a democratic forum) not be in the immediate interest of the working class, do we reject this because it might also be in the interests of other classes?

By itself it is simply bourgeois oppositionalism, as part of the struggle to democratise the state and direct the economy it goes well beyond such confines (as I stated in the previous post).

As for redeeming the bourgeoisie, this is not such a bad idea is it. Redeeming an object from pawn is to take possession of it from alien hands, lets by all means redeem the bourgeoisie and stick them in our back pocket.

Craig, I find your concept of national liberation being still relevant to be somewhat of a surprise. As a struggle against foriegn administration it makes sense, as a struggle against debt bondage we have to introduce some qualifiers, but as a general struggle for the international working class I find it hard to see it realistically existing except in a handful of places. Mind you democratising the state and directing the economy in the interests of the working class could be seen as a form of national liberation and to this extent I can see very wide appeal right across the globe - but I am sure this is not what you mean.

Just how then does National Liberation actually figure aside from moves to democratise the state and direct the economy. I mean is it simply the refutation of debt, or is it the pushing aside of a collaborating ruling class, but this of course brings us back to democratising the state and directing the economy, as applicable in Australia as Indonesia, and in the USA as in Mexico.

There is a separate but related question, that of national minorities and I have some sympathy with this, but such national questions are never politically clean, nor are they relevant for the bulk of the working class except as international questions sometimes expressed within the borders of their own state. Aboriginal self-determination has importance for the Australian working class, but it would be strange if this ever became the central issue of struggle for them.

All of this gets us back to the main political question - what exactly is the period that we are in, what are its characteristics? To argue that it is Imperialism is to begin a series of qualifications, the end of which is that Imperialism as a distinct period in history with a distinct relation to capital, is lost.

I believe you may have misread my post, I am trying to use Empire, like Lenin used Kautsky, as a means to define our period just as he used it define his. Unlike Lenin I am no-where near having substantial answers.

If we don't use Empire, what do we use, what text becomes central to the subject matter. As I said above the virtue of Empire is that it has already made an impact and as I have been vainly trying to at least raise the same areas of concern and have made no impact - then common sense dictates using it.

I am attempting to defend Empire from dismissal which also dismisses the subject material (ie the current period and its differences to classic Imperialism - its character and specific relations to capital). I am not seeking to defend Empire itself, which is a much faulted work, but where else do we begin?

Greg Schofield
Perth Australia

--- Message Received ---
From: Craig Brozefsky <craig at red-bean.com>
To: marxmail <marxism at lists.panix.com>
Date: Fri, 07 Dec 2001 08:03:51 -0500
Subject: Re: Empire on Lenin

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