Forwarded from Jurriaan
jenyan1 at uic.edu
Sun Jun 3 17:29:54 MDT 2001
On Sun, 3 Jun 2001, Jurriaan wrote:
> Dear critics,
> I have no intention of saying imperialism is "progressive", even although
> the colonisers may have done some undoubtedly progressive things at times,
> such as building schools and hospitals, develop infrastructure or whatever
> (as the Dutch did in Indonesia; this kind of thing was precisely the
> "civilising influence" which Second International apologists of imperialism
> used to extoll its positive benefits).
When the Germans occupied Europe and turned it into a veritable colony,
they no doubt built hospitals, railways and other infrastructure. This
infrastructure does not make Europeans consider themselves the beneficiary
of German occupation. Nor does one hear sane Europeans call the occupation
"progressive," not even in any "dialectical" sense. Undoubtedly therefore,
what we have a glimpse of in the "imperialism is progressive" argument, is
more than just naive ignorance or even cynical, bald hypocrisy. It is the
kernel of racism in European (including N. American) bourgeois thought,
one that has often given rise to exterminism, and threatens to do so again
in the future.
> I am merely saying the real political issue is imperialism, not
> globalisation as a social trend.
With the preceding statement I cannot but agree. But why do you have to
smuggle in rubbish like the following?
> To oppose globalisation doesn't make sense to me, it's a bit like
> protesting against gravity, you can jump up and down to protest against it,
> but that doesn't make it go away.
There are a set of physical laws which describe gravity pretty accurately.
Globalisation on the other hand is a social phenomenon, a product of
history and certain concrete social relations between humans. It is a
basic assumption that humans make their own history, though in
circumstances usually not of their own choosing. We humans can and do in
this way, for the better or worse, influence history through our concrete
actions. Rarely do we seek to do so by jumping up and down, though by
jumping up and down one might perhaps gain some insight into gravity and
the immutable nature of its laws.
> And because no clear consensual concept of globalisation exists anyway,
> it's a catch-all phrase, and so it is not even clear often what people
> are protesting against. Basically the rhetoric about globalisation
> covers up the absence of any serious socialist analysis of the modern
> world economy and the modern states system.
What we have at the moment is too much theory and academic debate in
comparison to the amount of useful practice which is vanishingly small.
> That is to say, the globalisation discourse is a regression from the
> discourse about imperialism.
> Marx wouldn't have supported a "movement against globalisation" because at
> best (insofar it means anything) it refers to a highly contradictory
> development, containing both progressive and regressive aspects.
Do you really talk to the dead, are you vainly imputing your own position
to Marx, or are you just engaging in insubstantial, flimsy and pointless
> An aspect of globalisation is that we are able to have this discussion
> on the internet between people in different countries, and that is surely
> progressive ? Would you rather destroy internationalised communication and
> information networks, like a Luddite, because they are an "evil of
> globalisation" ? I wouldn't. I would, like Marx, recognise real progress in
> the development of the productive forces where it is being made.
Jurriaan, one. Straw Man, zero. Perhaps my having the simple mind of an
African peasant has lead me to the mistaken position that the question for
Marxists not whether scientific knowledge is "bad", "good" or indifferent
in any abstract sense, and that Marxists are supposed to be concerned with
the concrete social contexts within which this knowledge exists and the
social and political ends to which it is used therein. Ditto for the
> I wouldn't. I would, like Marx, recognise real progress in the
> development of the productive forces where it is being made.
Though a small minority of humans has perhaps grown fat on its spoils,
those from the Third World would be able to tell you that imperialism is
by far the greatest impediment to the social and economic progress of the
majority of human kind. In this sense it is completely reactionary, not
progressive as you and your imagined Marx seem to believe.
You would do well to note for future reference the flaw in the following
childish argument: We currently have imperialism (or "globalisation" if
you prefer) AND the internet; ergo, we cannot have the internet without
"globalisation" and, furthermore, to oppose "globalisation" is to oppose
the internet and thus to be backward, reactionary and a luddite.
> The only way to resolve the discussion is to say that globalisation IS
> imperialism. But if that is so, why not use the word imperialism ? The fact
> is that "imperialism" still has a radical political connotation, and
> "globalisation" has no such connotation at all.
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