The EU question (Response to Louis - II)

Jim Farmelant farmelantj at
Fri May 4 11:01:55 MDT 2001

On Fri, 04 May 2001 10:55:52 -0400 Louis Proyect <lnp3 at> writes:
> Nestor:
> >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.

Marx's support for free trade was in any case, conditional and limited
in nature.  He supported the repeal of the Corn Laws in Britain as a
way of spurring industrialization, since that led to the rapid
of the forces of production along with the expansion of the proletariat
which would grow in strength.  On the other hand Marx also supported
protectionism in the US ( and called for it in Ireland) and other newly
industrializing countries
on the basis of an infant industries argument.  Marx as a close student
Ricardo (the inventor of the theory of comparitive advantage) realized
that a newly industrializing nation might well be able to secure a better
long term comparative advantage for itself in international markets
through protectionism at the expense of its short term comparative
Marx's support of both free trade and of protection was always
conditioned on
an assessment of which policies within a given place and time was likely
to strengthen the workers movement over the long term.  Marx, it should
also be noted issued warnings to the workers movement against getting
itself dragged into the capitalists' intramural conflicts over free trade
versus protection.

> 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.

And even the 1848 revolutions ended in failure at least in the
short term due to the timidity of a bourgeoisie that feared
the rising proletariat more than they hated the feudal aristocracies
and gentry.

> 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.

Indeed, where are we going to find them?  Remember, Garibaldi
stood out precisely because he was lacking in fear of the proletariat
that characterized so much of the German and French bourgeoisie
of his time.  In fact he often described himself as a socialist.

>I n 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
> revolutionary.
> 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.
Quite right!  Support for free trade could be progressive back
in the 1840s because capitalism as a mode of production still had
a progressive role to play.  But the world has moved on over the last
150 years.

> While it was dynamic in 1848, today it holds back further
> development of
> the productive forces. All this is elementary Marxism.

Some people who label themselves Marxists, still believe
that capitalism still has a progressive role to play in the
contemporary world.

>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.

Undoubtedly, if Marx were with us today, the last thing that he would be
recommending to developing countries would be free trade.  If he could
recommend protectionism for the US or Ireland, what makes people think
that he would offer a different sort of advice to countries like Ghana or
And he would also no doubt be calling for them to go beyond simple
protection, and break with imperialism and capitalism itself.

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
> solution.
> Louis Proyect
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