Lenin in Essen

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Wed Mar 14 06:46:34 MST 2001

Charles Brown wrote:

>>I wouldn't conclude that because Doug wrote a book on this that he
>>has thought longer or has more erudition on the subject of the
>>dynamics of capitalism in our age than others on this list.

>I would.



I don't think we should be too down on Doug's book, it was highly successful
and went thru several paperback editions. I enjoyed "Wall Street" which is a
good example of left-keynesianism, with all the virtues and limitations of
that genre. And Doug's pedigree as an analyst greatly helped the book. The
pyscholoanalysis of money is always an interesting topic and prehaps more so,
the psychology of people for whom it is important.

Of course, it has been a difficult book to follow up, since the New Economy
vanished in a puff of smoke before Doug's book on the subject could even be
published. Sidney and Beatrice Webb once published a book called "Soviet
Communism - a New Civilisation?", based on personal research which the two
decrepit old Fabians, both then in their 80s, conducted in Soviet Russia in
1937. They were highly impressed with the industriousness and order they found
everywhere. Any residual doubts they may have had about the Soviet schemes
were gone by the 2nd edition, from which the question mark disappeared, and
the founders of British municipal socialism now hailed "Soviet Communisnm - a
New Civilisation". As I understand it, and I'm in no position to know, Doug's
own still-unpublished book also went through various progenitive phases in
which the interrogative was deployed then abandoned. New economy? Not new

One should not be too hard on economists. Time itself tends to be hard enough
on them. Doug has been upbraiding poor Lenin for being a bit off on judgments
made a century ago, but petit bourgeois economists have problems not looking
ridiculous after a just a couple of years. For a good while now, for instance,
one was repeatedly told by people like Doug and James Heartfield that the
suggestion that capitalism might crash resulting in great human suffering,
that it wouldn't boom forever, etc, was actually evidence of one's own
misanthropy, paranoia, criminal hankerings after Stalinist police-states, of
being a Leninist dinosaur etc.

This finding alternatives not just unthinkable but evidence of clinical
illness (to be a communist was simply certifiable), was always a feature of
the most virulent forms of anti-sovietism during the Cold War. The fact that
people who are no doubt honourable and kindly in their private lives, are so
abject in their capitulation to capitalist reality, is evidence not merely of
defeatism and moral despair, but also of the desperation of those who have
learnt to love the chains that bind them.

The formative episode in Doug's case seems was the stockmarket meltdown of
1987. Not once but many times, Doug has admonished those of us who speak of
crisis by pointing to thatv event. It was horrible, but the crash of 1987
didn't actually damage capitalism at all! It was the USSR which fell!

Of course it is clear to anyone who takes a historical view that these shocks
and crises reverberate for years in the great capitalist pinball machine, and
can trigger new and still-more devastating crises sometimes years or even
decades later. The 1987 meltdown led to the Japanese bubble bursting. 14 years
later -- 14 YEARS LATER -- the effects of this event are only NOW only
reaching their convulsive conclusion.

The problem with economists is that they simply do not see the fundamentals,
they have a profession like a mayfly's. A mayfly is an insect which lives so
short a time (one day or less) that has no mouth or digestive tract. Its
function is to copulate and die.

When you look only a little further ahead, and you read the kind of thing
which Stephen Shenfield has just been saying for instance, and which the
IPCC's latest report spells out, you see that the world of 2050 will be *at
best* a world of empty oceans and skies, poisoned fields, abandoned cities and
risen seas, and that humankind will have essentially retreated to a strip in
the temperate zone bounded by deserts in the south and mud in the north. Here
we shall continue to try to find substitutes for the fossil fuels on which our
lifestyle and even survival depend. In the worse case, which the IPCC has now
begun to examine, the collapse of the methane-rich tundras will trigger
runaway warming. That *is* the political reality we have to anticipate, work
with, and try to avert. Anything not rooted in these fundamental facts is not
real mass politics. Doug is a great believer in the mainstream. These *are*
the issues and this *is* the mainstream. Yet these issues are almost
completely absent from his discourse.

Charles, perhaps you would be kind enough to pass this on to Thaxis for me as
I am not subbed just now.


Mark Jones

Louis Proyect
Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org

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