Bought off workers?

jenyan1 jenyan1 at
Mon Jun 18 16:45:37 MDT 2001

On Mon, 18 Jun 2001, Greg Schofield wrote:

> Clearly the intensity of the impoverishment varies enormously from country
> to country, but what must be striking is the universality of the direction.
> Even the US does not escape this relentless logic, the disbursement (I call
> it this because rarely is every step of the production process kept within
> one border) of the means of production and the large scale flight of
> capital from production is world wide.

Firstly, let me say that I never used terms such as "bought off," bribed
etc to describe workers in the West. This language was introduce by
D. Welch to the discussion for his own obscure purposes. My position on
the question is explained somewhere below.

I'm in agreement with your description of the general direction in which
capitalist society is heading. However, parallel to the immiseration and
impoverishment there are social groups who have continued to do very well
out of the current arrangements. In inner city chicago where I reside
(as a student I might add), there are new apartments going for millions
just a few blocks away from the run down and segregated housing projects
which are characteristic of every large US city. But no number of similar
anecdotes will convey the dehumanising reality of a hyper capitalist
society like this one.

With reference to your description of the flight of capital from
production to speculation, Magdoff and Sweezy have explained this process
in terms of the tendency of monopoly capitalism to stagnation.

> The apparent new productive investments made by big capital in the third
> world are rarely made by big capital itself, but come from the within those
> countries or from smaller capital.
I'm not sure about your take on this. Apart from resource extraction, new
investments in the third world tend to be in sunset industries (eg steel
relocating from Pittsburgh or Port Kembla) and labour intensive industries
and sweatshops, while high value and strategic industries (avionics, high
end computing, military and space technology) remain a carefully guarded
private monopoly with close links however to the state (and we're talking
of specific states, not just any state).

> ... investment in the means of production within the homeland - that is
> the major reasons classically imperialist countries grew so strong (by the
> way that is where the surplus went).
What you say is true, but again, do not ignore the fact that the classical
imperialist states were dependent on their colonies, as Britain was on
India. I don't see what there is to debate here, since the British ruling
class at the time was quite candid about the fact that without the control
and de-industrialisation of India there could be no satanic mills in
Manchester, not to mention the slaves of Africa or the disappeared natives
of the Americas.

> Large financial capital stands above governments even the US....
yet it relies on the US Federal Reserve to bail it out at the first sign
of instability, as in the recent LTCM fright, or the fist of NATO to
ensure a favourable environment for its activities, as in Eastern Europe.
Greg, really ought to know better than to simply repeat this fluffy
globalisation 'discourse'.

> And then there are the broadly similar pressures being placed on the first
> and third worlds - this is unusual - in fact unprecedented.
I'm in agreement with you here.
> John what I cannot accept, especially in view of the transformation of the
> property form and the internationalization of financial capital, that all
> can be explained by classical imperialist theory and structural adjustments
> brought about by a separate process - the world bank the international
> spokespeople of financial capital actually speak in chorus the same recipe
> for all countries, it is just that those debt ridden countries must obey to
> a higher degree than say Australia.
Chomsky correctly points out that free markets are for suckers and that
nobody in the ruling class dares to imagine that this chorus, as you
describe it, applies to the ruling class itself. They write the rules for
us to follow, namely the rules of the 'free market', but are quite ready
to use the state to intervene on behalf of their own interests where
> My point is the old imperialism had a homeland that the leading imperial
> bourgeoisie formed in personal presence the ruling class and in this sense
> Lenin was spot-on as describing government as a board of directors (that is
> with joint authority over all). That is not the situation today government
> is a form of management, the strategies and desires of collective big
> capital (more often just a section of it) are transformed into policy -
> tempered perhaps by historical conditions. Classic imperialism did not work
> this way, could not work this way for the personal nature of government was
> linked with the administration of colonies these connections is what gave
> it its imperial character.
To the same extent that imperialism is no longer imperialism of the
"classical" era, so is capitalism no longer the capitalism of the steam
and cotton era. I have not however, abandoned the concept of "capitalism"
on this account.

> The old concepts do not apply, I cannot see war as a necessary condition of
> imperialisms existence (that is serious war between imperial powers), yet
> there can be little doubt that ugly, brutal wars are in fact everyday
> realities, military punishment, enflamed communal strife mark this period
> as different from that which proceeded it (the tailend seen in the 1970s -
> Vietnam perhaps marking the last classically imperialist military action).
Greg, I think we had more recently the gulf war, and an aggression against
Yugoslavia, not to mention the 'great game' currently going on in the
Caspian and Caucasia. But semantic debates about which of these
legitimately constitutes a "classical" imperialist or colonialist action
according to some arbitrary definition are frankly just unproductive and a
distraction, and I will not partake in such.

> Big capital may make its home in certain cities, but it is not cemented
> into states as the old big capital was, its fortunes can be transferred
> elsewhere at the press of a button (so long as a high proportion remain as
> transferable shares and other liquid forms). This does not create
> imperialism but something distinctly different and following a different
> logic - mind you the blood and pain grows it does not diminish because of
> this even if we are denied the really big bloodbaths of the great wars.
Again, though dirty and sunset industries are relocating to China and
India (this is called 'development'), Boeing is not going to leave the US
in the forseable future, Aerospatiale is not relocating to the Congo
basin, and future LCTM's are still going to rely on the Federal Reserve to
contain the inherent instability of the financial system.
> John, as my point is somewhat different and as I see in the old
> imperialisms surplus manifested in the means of production, expressed as
> productivity in the first world homelands, as the only "buying-off" that
> occurred in the past, and as I see in these new conditions no-such
> imperialist pattern, no such attempt at "buying-off" (I think the
> expression is absurd in this context), I am left with not a softer system
> but until we know its proper nature an unpredictable and extremely
> dangerous form of capital.

I would avoid, and have never used terms such as buying off, bought off
etc. What is accurate is that liberalism and social democratic reformism
were adopted as a conscious strategy to avert social revolution in the
West. I agree however with your statement that the era of social
democratic reformism is drawing to a close, and that the workers of the
west will probably have to deal with a more ugly entity in future.

> I prefer to call this period Bourgeois Socialism (hence Lenin is right in
> calling imperialism the highest stage of "private" capitalism - since the
> 1970s at least, we have stepped beyond that). Bourgeois Socialism because
> the means of production have been socialisied - socialisied amongst the
> bourgeoisie, socialisied in a form that quintessentially expresses their
> class character  - the tradable share.
> Hence my hostility to both dependency theory and the mis-application of
> imperialism - things have taken an ironical twist the world today is driven
> into two vast camps, perhaps for the first time ever, the workers and the
> bourgeois oppose each other globally.
Much of what you say is true, but on a rather abstract level. The point
I would urge you again not ignore is that workers in the South are
oppressed both as workers and as oppressed nations. This fact presents a
serious challenge to a revolutionary movement since as well as confronting
the capitalist classes the global working classes have to simultaneously
deal with the ideological legacy of the past centuries of oppression,
a legacy which has now aquired a life of its own, both in the South and
the North. The rub is that this legacy cannot be washed away by appeals to
abstract humanism. It can only be overcome through concrete acts of
solidarity and a common struggle.

> It is the intimate connections between the conditions of the third world
> worker and the first, which we need to understand capital is using them as
> competing interests (which is a reflection of their true position), you
> don't have to be much of a marxist to know that this then inspires the
> objective of solidarity as a practical solution to the existing problem.
> the fact that now they are faced with a similar force moving them in a
> similar position - now that capital has first made them competitors and
> hopefully soon allies in solidarity - this is a new situation it is not an
> accident as it is the direct result of the nature of capital in its final form.
Well, this is the important question and we are at one here.

J Enyang

> Greg Schofield
> Perth Australia

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