Forwarded from Nestor (NAFTA-Marxism)

Julio Huato juliohuato at
Sat May 5 20:45:52 MDT 2001

John Enyang writes:

>From time to time I've heard out supporters of the Bretton-Woods
>institutions in Africa, where defence of the WB is usually expressed in
>terms borrowed from von Hayeck, Milton Friedman and the Chicago School. It
>is rarely, if ever, that one hear appeals to Marx and the Grundrisse to
>justify  the progressive and revolutionising role of Bretton-Woods staples
>such as structural adjustment programs, domestic market liberalisation,
>endless rounds of currency devaluations in the name of export
>competitiveness and so on.

I consider the capitalist mode of production as superior to precapitalist
modes of production.  I must admit that the fundamental results of Marx's
view of history make sense to me, even in the 21st century.  I have
explained in detail why.  Some people like to start with some arbitrary
political preconceptions and, reason backwards to make up the premises that
would allow them to derive their pre-decided "conclusions."  That's not the
way Marx reasoned and that's not a way I find very productive myself.
Marx's starting point was the historical reality of human alienation and the
need that set him out to think and struggle throughout his life was that of
restoring the fundamental unity of the humankind departing from such
historical reality.  This is a profound revolutionary attitude towards
history and society: a Kantian categorical imperative if you wish (this is
the way Ernest Mandel used to refer to it).  It was his starting point which
allowed him to produce one of the most fruitful theoretical works ever
produced.  His theoretical works were aimed to grasp the historical reality,
the premises in existence.  And concrete political tasks were to be derived
from this analysis of the premises in existence.  Not the other way around.
I completely identify with this approach.  It is not a dogmatic approach
since there can be many ways to view the "historical reality of human
alienation" (mainly, the social condition facing direct producers under
capitalism or whatever modes of production happens to exist) and many
possible ways to view the restoration of "the fundamental unity of the
humankind."  That's why debate is so important.

As a result, it wouldn't bother me a bit if Friedman, Hayek, or any other
villain happened to agree with Marx in some point.  It wouldn't bother me
either if I were to agree with them.  Marxism must rely on scientific
reasoning.  It cannot cave in to "guilt-by-association" arguments.  That
would be a long step back.  When my critics dump on me a bunch of names of
people who are supposed to be horrible, that DOES bother me somewhat.  I try
to shrug my shoulders and keep going, but I can sense how offensive these
references are meant to be.  And I'm a human being, just like you or any of
my critics.  So obviously I don't enjoy that.  But I force myself to keep
going and not be concerned by that mode of arguing.  It takes us nowhere.

>So, would it be presumptuous to infer from your comments above that you
>intend to offer just such a defence? Or was your mention of the World-Bank
>really by way of avoiding an issue raised by Nestor:

It doesn't matter much if it'd be presumptuous.  It'd be wrong.  I don't
defend any capitalist institution as a matter of principle.  But I don't
condemn it as a matter of principle either.  Doing that is easy, but it's
not very helpful.  It's an abdication of the responsibility to analyze.  I
know concrete class struggle does not always allow you to make fine
distinctions.  But then we should be honest by saying that our
characterization responds to some urgent need and it's preliminar.  I think
I've given enough hints of how I view this already.  I'll beg you to read
other postings and make up your mind.

>Julio: I confess my ignorance of basketball. If there's any
>humour here, sorry, you've lost me.

John, it wasn't me who started to use ironies.  I have well-developed
self-defense mechanisms.  Just like you, I suppose.  Now, as I compare the
styles of your first two postings criticizing me and this one, I notice a
slight, positive change in tone, which I appreciate.  So, please accept my
apologies and notice my change of tone too. :-)
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