The EU question (Response to Louis - II)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Fri May 4 08:43:30 MDT 2001

>The only justification for such an unhuman mode of production to exist
>was to supersede feudal (and tributary in general) backwardness.

There are a couple of additional points that can be made. During the
anniversary of the Communist Manifesto 3 years ago, many commentators noted
that Marx's prediction of capitalism sweeping the planet appeared accurate.
This, of course, is the process known popularly as "globalization". If you
read the CM undialectically, as people like Julio Huato, Doug Henwood and
James Heartfield tend to do, you might draw the conclusion that this is
still some kind of progress, even if it is nasty around the edges. After
all, Marx and Engels did supposedly support free trade in 1848, although
the exact nature of their support is open to debate.

In any case, we are no longer in 1848. Capitalism successfully destroyed
the feudal system over the course of the 19th century. What NAFTA and the
FTAA represent is not a blow against feudalism, but against the
possibilities of independent capitalist development in Latin America. It
does hasten the proletarianization of many countries in the hemisphere, as
peasants are displaced from their land. But that being said, this is not
what Marx and Engels championed in 1848. They were defenders of the
bourgeois-democratic revolution, in which land reform and national
sovereignty were key. NAFTA and FTAA are nails in the coffin of the
possibility of peasant free holdings and independent bourgeois development.
So if we are going to turn the clock back to 1848 for our Marxism, we might
as well be consistent.

The Mexican revolution of 1910 was probably the last semi-successful
bourgeois-democratic revolution in the 1848 mold that this hemisphere has
seen. Adolfo Gilly described the limitations of the Zapata/Pancho Villa
resistance because they represented peasant jacqueries against national
states that were rapidly being transformed into neocolonies. The ruling
classes preferred dependence to an aroused and armed peasantry.

Even back then, the Mexican bourgeoisie was anxious not to upset its
powerful neighbor to the north. If we are sincere about supporting
capitalism in Mexico, then we should be looking to elements in the local
bourgeoisie that are as incorruptible and as nationalist-minded as
Garibaldi or Louis Kossuth were. In fact Marx and Engels were part of the
revolutionary generation of 1848 and primarily saw their task as
consolidating a unified democratic republic and expropriating the landed
gentry on behalf of the peasants. This is what supporting capitalism meant
for Marx and Engels in 1848. In the context of that year, it meant being a

Supporting NAFTA and FTAA today has nothing in common with that project.
Instead it represents the same thing politically as supporting the landed
gentry in 1848. Capitalism has become a brake on the mode of production.
While it was dynamic in 1848, today it holds back further development of
the productive forces. All this is elementary Marxism. It seems almost
embarrassing to have to repeat it. I suspect that it is necessary only
because of the immense ideological pressure of a generation of Francis
Fukuyama and his cohorts. Socialism has become synonomous with stagnation.
In today's NY Times, Thomas Friedman offers up an op-ed from Ghana in which
he extols World Bank and IMF measures taken in the same spirit as those in
Kenya. Supposedly they are what is needed to move Ghana forward away from
the kind of "African socialism" that has kept the country backward for so
many years. In reality, what has kept Africa backward is capitalism. Free
trade agreements will only retard the development of indigenous capital.

In reality the true successors of the revolutionary generation of 1848 are
not World Bank president James Wolfensohn or Vicente Fox. It is people like
Mac Stainsby or Stu Lawrence who go to Quebec and get tear gas or rubber
bullets fired at them while protesting FTAA. By fighting against this kind
of stagnant capitalism which is nothing but the dead hand of empire, even
if we disagree with the particular form in which socialism will be
realized, we understand that we are the true advocates of progress,
technology, productivity and science. In 40 years Cuba has done more to
uproot waste and stagnation than any capitalist nation in Latin America. If
Thomas Friedman was sincere about progress, he'd advise Africans to emulate
Cuba as James Wolfensohn implicity does. Alas, we are in an odd situation
in which self-professed Marxists seem reluctant to support the same kind of

Louis Proyect
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