Welcome to Stephen Philion

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Jun 4 07:33:19 MDT 2001


Patrick:
>So, why "tout" this stuff? I don't think, Louis, you're right about
>Bersteinian analysis and politics. To me the metaphor is rather the
>Warrenite neo-marxian moment in development studies: "imperialism is
>good for you."

I spent this weekend putting together a review of the Marxist literature on
imperialism going back to the 1853 Tribune articles on India to Colin Leys
on Kenya in 1978. Part of that was taking a close look at another side of
the 'revisionism' debate in the Second International from 1896-1898.
Belfort Bax, an Englishman, challenged Bernstein on colonial policy just as
Luxemburg challenged him on the question of whether the capital
accumulation cycle had dispensed with prior contradictions under new
monopoly conditions. This second phase of the debate is the one that most
folks are familiar with since Luxemburg's replies can be found in print.
But the Bax-Bernstein exchanges are virtually identical to those that took
place between the MR types and Warren et al in the 1970s. The main
difference, of course, is that in the 1890s colonialism was dominant while
in the 1970s neocolonialism prevailed. But the same logic is deployed by
Bernstein, drawing from the same undialectical understanding of the
Communist Manifesto. Bernstein states that the transformation of peasants
into wage workers is a good thing in itself, even if French or British
troops have to supervise the transformation. The notion that the expansion
of capitalist property relations into agrarian, self-sustaining societies
is a good in itself in inimical to the anti-capitalist protest movements
that are the most important sign of a new radicalization since the 1960s.
The fact that somebody like Vandana Shiva articulates the hopes and ideals
of new radicals should be a challenge to our movement. If we stand by with
our arms folded stating that the Communist Manifesto calls for the victory
of Shell Oil over the fishers and farmers of Ogoniland, then we have no
business calling ourselves revolutionaries. It is that simple. My break
with Henwood was not over personal matters. I hardly know him as a person.
It took place when he sided with Jim Heartfield of LM Magazine in these
debates. Those are his politics, but his postmodernist and gutless refusal
to stake out a position and defend them, makes a debate nearly impossible.

Louis Proyect
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