Empire on Lenin

Craig Brozefsky craig at red-bean.com
Sat Dec 8 16:07:54 MST 2001

"Greg Schofield" <g_schofield at dingoblue.net.au> writes:

> 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.

I think you have confused my description of N/H's task in Empire with
my conception of ideology.  Their task was to provide a redemption of
liberal bourgeois ideology, that is what is generating interest in the

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

It is not.  My conception of ideology is drawn largely from Metzaros'
The Power of Ideology, and private discussion.  Victor's comments on
the list recently about The Ideological Unconscious resonate with my
understanding of ideology.  The best definition I have at this time
was written a few weeks ago, pardon the computer lingo as it's an
artifact of the audience I as writing for at the time:

  "Ideologies are dynamic expressions of perspective in social
   conflict, changing with the political condition.  They have
   attributes of an operating system, an organizing program for a
   segment of the population, tho they are not as inert or dominant in
   their control as an OS.  They have expressive as well as
   controlling relations to their subjects.  As the arrow of time
   moves forwards ideologies change to explain new political
   situations and justify modifications to social structures that are
   needed to preserve their constituencies, or sometimes they fail and

   Ideologies are not strictly confrontational with one another, and
   they can envelope each other, or overlap.  This is because the
   perspectives they are expressions of also overlap.  I also think
   that ideologies are non-transcendable on a social level while there
   is radical conflict between perspectives."

> 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.

Yes, and I think that Foster's article positions Socialism or
Barbarism as such a clearer understanding of contemporary imperialism,
and hints at the point I was making about the "fashionable" status of
Empire being it's offering of redemption for bourgeois ideological

This resonation with bourgeois intellectuals doesn't make it
important, especially since it's a product of Empires caricaturization
of present social conditions to create a Moloch threatening
ultra-imperialist civility so that UIC can be redeemed by the pure
desire of the working biomass.  It's all shadow puppets.

When you actually attempt to describe contemporary imperialism in a
way that does not mesh with the concept of ultra-imperialist civility,
the Kautskian redemption, you will be unfashionable, which was
Foster's point in contrasting Empire and SorB.  You cannot steal the
thunder of Empire, leapfrogging it in the minds of bourgeois
intellectuals and still provide a clear and rational understanding of
contemporary social conditions, because the source of that resonance
is inimicable to such an understanding.

> 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?

I remember nothing in Lenin suggesting a exclusive relation between
capital and particular states as being vital to a concept of
imperialism.  In "Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism" he
refers to the Roman empire as imperialist, which I was not aware had
"national finance capital".  I do not know what you mean by capital
being "expressed" thru particular states.  I do not know what you mean
by "national finance capital" for that matter.

> 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?

No, we reject it for the same reason Lenin did.  It is a oppurtunist
dream, a promise that will never be kept:


Empire resonated because it attempts to redeem this dream.

> All of this gets us back to the main political question - what
> exactly is the period that we are in, what are its characteristics?

SorB is a good start.

> 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.

Why lament the loss of something that never existed?

> 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.

No, I understood your post and I expressed why I think such a plan is
doomed to fail.

> 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?

How about reading SorB and Lenin so that we don't have to run around
in circles like we seem to be now.

Craig Brozefsky                           <craig at red-bean.com>
Ask me about Common Lisp Enterprise Eggplants at Red Bean!

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