The EU question (Response to Louis - I)

Julio Huato juliohuato at hotmail.com
Thu May 3 12:51:31 MDT 2001


Louis Proyect writes:

>I hope you can understand my sense of humor.

Humor is NOT the problem.  Humor is part of the solution.

>When I speak of Mexican
>industrialists setting up shop in Arizona and hiring gringos at minimum
>wage, I was only joking. It was my way of saying that while capitalism
>might exist everywhere, profits are not evenly distributed. While Marxists
>advocate the abolition of the profit system, we also defend weaker nations
>against more powerful ones.

Absolutely.  I don't think I have stated or implied anything contrary to
this principle.  If we can't distinguish between the social relations in
which people live, work, and love and the people themselves, then we can't
go far.  "Abstract" is not necessarily a bad adjective, as far as I'm
concerned.  I'm not saying that imperialism (without quotes) is justified.
I don't believe so.  But by imperialism I mean extra-economic (military,
political, ideological, psychological) methods for imposing on poor nations
the interests of propertied classes in the rich nations.  The struggle
against imperialism (understood this way) is a democratic struggle.  It is
not necessarily a socialist struggle, not per se.  But, IMO, this is not
what we were arguing about.  If we do not use abstract thinking in dealing
with these issues, we're not going to grasp them, and our actions will be
ill-guided.

>You claim that Lenin invented a concept called
>"imperialism". Actually, Marx and Engels were fumbling around in the dark
>with a similar concept in their writings on Ireland. They argued that as
>long as Great Britain oppressed Ireland, the workers in both countries
>would remain unfree. That did not stipulate that national independence be
>qualified on a socialist basis. They simply called for a free Ireland. When
>one country can dictate to another country what crops are grown and for
>whom, and when the results are famine, Marxists can not stand on the
>sidelines paring their nails in olympian fashion. They can not tell the
>masses that history is moving forward in some inexorable process toward a
>unified, college educated proletariat that washes its hands before every
>meal. That is not Marxism. It is left-Hegelianism.

I don't think I said Lenin coined the term "imperialism."  The term probably
dates from the times of the Roman Empire.  It must predate Hilferding's use.
  In any case, as we all know, "imperialism" has a very specific meaning
among people who assume that Lenin's assessment of late-19th-century and
early-20th-century capitalism was (is) essentially valid.  Lenin made it
clear that his "imperialism" was not the same as Hilferding's or Bukharin's
imperialism.  My definition of imperialism is a bit closer to Luxembourg's
view of it in his work on accumulation.  But she thought imperialist
policies arose from something like Nestor's "full reproduction
circle/deformed capitalism" theory.

>I am not sure about underdevelopment being abolished. My goals are more
>modest than yours apparently. I think that if socialism can provide a job,
>a house, medical care, education and recreation on the basis of Cuba or the
>USSR, then I am for it. You can call it "socialism" if you'd like. I am
>still for it.

I don't underestimate the importance of meeting our basic economic needs, at
least at the level of modest "middle-class" families in the US or Western
Europe.  I think the European standard might be a bit better, but not sure.
But as much as I'd love to have all the goodies you mention (for me and all
my friends, who are too many for this list to collect dimes and help), I
still like Rosa Luxembourg's dictum that "socialism is much more than a mere
question of knife and fork."  What the heck.  If we have nothing, let's want
it all.   Now, that said, I don't see our goals colliding too much.

>I am not sure our disagreement is over the ability of email to change
>history. It is rather about the role of the imperialist ("imperialist" if
>you'd prefer) in the third world. ("Third world" if you'd prefer.)
>Everything you write reminds me disconcertingly of Marx's 1850s articles on
>India. That is not the kind of Marx we should embrace, despite the
>criticisms of the worst excesses of the Viceroyalty. We are not just
>opposed to excesses. We are opposed to Viceroyalties. Period.

The question of whether Marx and Engels were "eurocentric," racist, sexist,
etc. is very important from a biographical point of view.  From my point of
view, I don't really care much.  As a revolutionary thinker, Marx was
extremely coherent throughout his adult life.  And his judgments on Mexico,
Latin America, the Third World, etc. must be assessed on their merit -- not
on the basis of our inability to abstract the fundamental dignity of all
human beings from the oppressive social relations in which they are
immersed.  The democratic principles of sexual, racial, gender, ethnic, and
national equality don't float on the top layers of the atmosphere.

On the other hand, it is precisely because we're not just opposed to abuses
(imperialism, profit upon alienation, etc.) but mainly to the uses
themselves (surplus value production) that I emphasize that imperialism (the
nasty methods) are not the essence of capitalism.

>Actually, the real issue is whether the term imperialism is a useful one. I
>find it truly fascinating that you deny its existence. I think the mailing
>list can certainly benefit from a discussion with you on these issues,
>since they get to the heart of what Marxism is about.

I do not deny the existence of imperialism.  I deny that it is a necessary
and essential manifestation of advanced capitalism, as claimed by Lenin and
followers.  I explained above what I mean by it.  I'm not saying that
imperialist methods will be abandoned by the capitalists in rich countries
any time soon.  That's off the point.
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