An exchange with an Australian on PEN-L

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Fri Apr 12 06:54:05 MDT 2002

Grant Lee:
>Briefly: before 1901 the six current States were highly autonomous and
>mutually competitive, although nominally British-controlled Colonies. Before
>Federation , railways were actually a strong means of protection for the
>bourgeoisies of the five mainland Colonies, who made sure that different
>rail gauges were used, so that rolling stock from one Colony could not be
>used in another, effectively tying rural capitalists and small commodity
>producers to each colonial capital/major port. In some cases it _was_ the
>separate Colonial governments which constructed the lines; in other cases
>they were privately built and owned (although in all of these cases,
>government -- either Federal or State eventually stepped in when the lines
>became unprofitable). By the time there _was_ a Federal government (1901),
>virtually the entire present rail network had been constructed. The _only_
>major line actually built by the Federal government has been the
>Trans-Australian line, completed in 1917.

This is far too technical for our purposes, I am afraid. Reading this, one
can not really figure out whether Great Britain ripped off Australia the
way it ripped off Argentina. According to the Argentine parliamentarian I
cited in my first post, 1/3 of the GNP of Argentina was being expropriated
by England in the 1870s. When a local Argentine bank resisted British
chicanery, London sent gunboats to impose its will. Was this Australia's
history as well? That would be news indeed. I have never heard anybody
refer to Australia as a victim of imperialism.

>Also, with reference to "The Collapse of Argentina, part one", in general
>I'm afraid I can't see anything unique within Louis's description of the
>exploitation of Argentina by 19th Century British railway companies, when
>compared to the activities of British capital in the "formal Empire" or even
>Britain itself for that matter.

You can't tell the economic difference between Great Britain building
railroads inside its own territory and in Argentina? Good grief.

> Is
>there anything at all unusual about cartels and monopolies dictating terms
>to weak states? More importantly, in what and where was Argentine-based
>capital being invested after the railways were built?

You don't seem to get the purpose of my posts. They are to prove that
cartels and monopolies dictated terms to a weak state, namely Argentina. By
establishing the data, it weakens the case of people like Chris Harman of
the British SWP who can't tell the difference between a European economy
and Argentina. It was such a theoretical failure that led large sections of
the British left to be neutral in the Malvinas war. It is also responsible
for the failure today to see the NATIONAL aspects of the Argentine revolution.

>Whatever the differences may have been, Australia and Argentina clearly
>shared a remarkable number of similarities given their diverse locations and

Actually, I am going to be spending most my next post identifying the
differences between Canada and Argentina--only because I am trying to write
email reports rather than a book. Bringing Australia into the mix would be
too much. I will argue that Argentine agriculture was a variation on the
latifundia with a low level of mechanization. Canada was just the opposite.
The government encouraged small-proprietor ownership and the level of
mechanization was substantially higher. Was Australia based on something
like the latifundia?

>I am also puzzled as to why, in "Collapse" you have repeatedly compared, in
>passing, Argentina's situation to that of Britain and the US, rather than
>the comparisons, offered by those you were critiquing, e.g. Australia.

In my next post, I will be comparing Argentina to Canada. I don't see what
purpose would be served by comparing it to the US or Great Britain, which
were imperialist powers of some magnitude.

>Several weeks ago, an Argentine friend wrote to me recently that "we are a
>failure as a society".

I have no idea what you could have written him in consolation, since you
don't appear to recognize that the country has been victimized by
imperialism. During the early years of the Great Depression, unemployed men
would blame themselves for their failure. Eventually a mass radical
movement gave them the understanding that the fault is in capitalism, not
theirs. This is the lesson I am trying to impart for Argentina.

Louis Proyect
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