gschofield at one.net.au
Mon Jun 18 20:55:44 MDT 2001
Dayne this is the second follow-up post. I would like to broadly agree with
your points and comments but move onto the thing you bring up that I really
think the debate is about.
Now first an apology, I have been calling the thing, or tendency I disagree
with, dependency theory, I have disagreements with the theory, but this is
not really what I am trying to get at. The problem is related but somewhat
tenuously - when these theories emerged they were used in part in the West
to justifying views which wrote of the working class and romanticized those
much further away. In fact, the idea that the working class had been
somehow "bought-off" in the 1st world to my knowledge first was articulated
in conjunction to various dependency theories being brought-up.
I think dependency theory strongly implies such a concept, but no-one would
accuse Frank of this. My point is that when dependency or national
subjugation becomes an essential aspect of capital, the other side of the
coin is that somehow the working class of the benefiting nation are
corrupted. But all this aside (not implying Dayne accepts my formulation)
as Dayne has said it best and I wish to draw attention to his statement:
> Greg, i think you are dumping more of the weaknesses of the 'first
>world' left on dependency theory than is deserved. It seems to me that
>problems of the 'first world' left which originated separate from
>dependency theory - before, around, and after its 1960s-70s heyday - are
>all being lumped together and blamed on dependency theory. For example,
>identifying with and looking for salvation from revolution elsewhere has
>been a weakness of the U.S. left since long before the appearance of
>dependency theory. The Third International encouraged an attitude of
>relying on Moscow for direction; Stalin cultivated(by any means possible,
>including murder) the attitude that the decisive way to support world
>revolution was to support his/the CPSU leadership of the USSR and the
>USSR's foreign policy.
And again with more added (a slight disagreement with the Stalin relation,
but only slight).
>DG: Again, i generally agree with your points above. However i don't
>hold dependency theory fundamentally responsible for the problems of the
>first world left. So i don't see my general agreement with your views
>above as somehow a repudiation of dependency theory.
> Social democracy (reformism - which may be at least partially a
>product of 'first world' workers 'being bought' off in some way but is
>certainly not a product of dependency theory) and Stalinism are by far the
>biggest sources of political weakness in the 'first world' workers'
>movements, before and since the appearance of 'dependency theory. Social
>democratic(reformist) and Stalinist organizations have led and influenced
>mass workers movements, and actually, of course, *misled* them away from
>fighting for their/our own interest in independent working class political
>organization and social revolution. At most, you and others may hold
>dependency theory responsible for disorienting elements or segments of a
>*potential* revolutionary 'first world' workers leadership, but certainly
>dependency theory can not be held responsible for crimes against the
>workers movement in any way comparable to those of Social Democracy and
My disagreement about how you are applying Stalinism has grown, but I do
not want to be side-tracked from your emphasis on the current "left" of the
1st world. That is indeed the problem.
The reason my approach may seem strange or wrong headed is because within
the communist movement, by those who embrace marxism, when this problem
occurs (the one you are referring to above) the justifications are drawn
from two sources which are usually mixed together - Lenin's notion of
imperialism, and loosely garnered "dependency theory" (I use this
expression because unlike Lenin where the ideas can be sourced to a single
mind - the other sprung from several sectors at once of which Frank was
perhaps the clearest exponent).
This error then (an error manifested within the leading parts of the 1st
world workers movement - or what is left of it), is the thing I am hitting
at. It appears strangely nameless (simply dismissing by some label will not
do, many good comrades hold this idea of forms of it). I have called it
dependency theory, I am open to better titles. From my viewpoint such a
label locates the error within a body of theory, for the reasoning behind
it needs to criticisied, not the fact that people might hold the idea.
You see I have no problem with the people who state it, for as David Welsh
has pointed out it is very very widespread. It manifests itself in many
places and one is amongst communists. This is why I say I don't have a
problem with the people, so much as the reasoning. Once pinned down (I
think Julio is trying to do this from another angle), examined and properly
criticised I think it can be easily dealt with (I have great faith in my
fellow comrades), but pinning it down an establishing exactly what it is
the difficult part.
This is why I so pleased with George's contribution, because he expressed
it honestly and openly, but it remains still elusive, I haven't quite got
it and my associating it with dependency theory (which I don't at this time
abandon but might in the future) is admittedly tenuous. It is important to
acknowledge, and I hope George will forgive me this, that identifying an
error is difficult for first it needs to be openly stated (I might mention
here that it behoves no direct theoretical or political problem with the
author except in the area being discussed).
Now it would be pointless just splitting hairs, trying to correct errors
for the sake of it, rather I see this particular error, because of its
widespread nature (in many forms) is a vital one. By clearly debating and
dispensing with it, the interconnection with other notions also is broken
and the end product must be seeing the political situation very much
differently than we collectively do at present - otherwise there would be
no real point in the exercise.
This is how I see the connections. Lenin's theory of imperialism has been
so adapted overtime in order to fit new circumstances that it has become
emptied of meaning in today's circumstance (the theory however remains a
vital contribution because only by knowing it fully can we hope to see the
particular shape of the thing we are presently in).
Part of the revamping of Lenin has been the attachment of theorylets, ideas
and notions about "imperialism" which destroy the particulars of the
original theory and hence its overall usefulness and historical nature. I
have called this the dependency school/theory, but we could add any other
suitable tag to it so long as it persevered the idea that there exists at
this moment a gulf between 3rd and 1st world workers.
I take Lenin's Imperialism too seriously to have it intellectually
prostituted, which has been done in effect by the way it has been adapted.
Simply slapping on the "New" such as New Imperialism does nothing at all -
in fact it avoids the issue - the question we must ask and get an answer to
is what is the nature of the present capitalism - its broad determining
characteristics - elsewhere I have given my view that theoretically and
practically we have entered a stage that can only be labeled Bourgeois
Socialism. This would mean that Lenin's views held very well until about
1945 and between then and to about 1975 there was a distinct transition
period, from 1975 onwards the transition has become more and more complete
and the nature of the epoch clear and distinct.
It should be expected that unclear ideas emerged in a period of transition
when reality it self was in flux, the older forms are still very much alive
and the new forms not yet clearly emerged. Hence the rather desperate and
disparate attempts to jigg marxism to better fit the changing situation (in
this I lump together many different trends).
25 years into the process we still have not sorted ourselves out, we for
the most part carry concepts that have been loosened and added to and
patched over. The working class do not want a bar of us (and why should
they) nor are we any longer distinct politically or theoretically as we
blend into religious cults on one extreme and fray into all types of
petit-bourgeois ideologies at the other. In order to keep our sanity, in
order to justify our identity we are all (myself included) embrace utopias
big and small. Again this can only be expected in a period following a
Well we have to shake out of it, and one way to do this is return to rigor
in theory and as Jesus said throw out the sour wine. I will argue endlessly
that Imperialism as Lenin understood it is over and gone - I will argue
this on the basis of Lenin's original conceptions. Now if anyone thinks
this means that by saying this is an argument that capitalism has got more
pleasant my response is the reverse, no it has got far uglier and more
deadly. I would add to this that the accusation that the idea of
imperialism be preserved at all costs is itself ideological and utopian -
historical concepts run their course - Lenin was very specific about this
and Imperialism, his imperialism, was just that - a historical concept -
not an additive to the logic of capital which is at a completely different
level of abstraction.
I would ask all comrades to reread Julio and the arguments set against him,
in this light time and time again he is being answered in the same fashion
...imperialism ...imperialism ...imperialism and the same effort is being
made to preserve the special place of the third world worker. The assumed
opposite of this is what David Welsh is speaking about. And it is George
who has stated the proposition more clearly than anyone.
We need to step back consider the political implications of these views,
but moreover judge which push into new territory and potentially pose new
questions and which do the opposite.
If my thesis is correct (Bourgeois Socialism) even partly correct, even
just leaning in the right direction, then the emphasis on imperialism,
becomes self-blinding. Capital has changed its spots, but the animal
underneath remains the same, we need to perceive it for what it is not what
we would have it be.
To all those whose first reaction is simply that I do not properly
understand the theory and I am ignoring the evidence I reply the proof is
in the pudding - that is when anarchists take the lead in the streets the
communists are sleeping - unless we wake up we may well die in our sleep,
if our ideas had been all that solid we would be leading this unrest and
articulating out its platform - it cannot be the same old thing for we are
living proof that it is not.
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