Hooray for Paul Foot!

Michael Keaney michael.keaney at mbs.fi
Wed Feb 12 08:57:20 MST 2003

DMS writes:

4. I think I am being realistic, it's a difference in
class orientation.  Yours obviously is towards your local bourgeoisie.  The
central issue is not the global
hegemony of US imperialism vis-a-vis its allies or
clients.  The central issue is the opposition to the
requirements of capital for war, and imperialsm as
a whole.


Of course, write me off as a bourgeois recidivist running dog and continue
to reside in the glorious purity of anti-capital, undifferentiated; unspoilt
by attention to the messy dialectics of actually existing capitalism;
unconcerned with the very real political possibilities opening up at the
global level. No, let us instead pretend we have a system of Kautskyian
superimperialism whereby we can accomplish the ironic deed of dismissing all
who deny such an existence as Kautskyian social patriots oriented towards
their local bourgeoisie. Neat.

To imagine that somehow Paul Foot of all people is oriented towards "his
local bourgeoisie" is ridiculous. He could be accused of many things but I
think that's going too far. His overriding concern is to stop the war, and,
fully aware of the imperfections of people like Chirac and Putin, he
nevertheless argues that their position presents a good opportunity for us
to try to put the brakes on the relentless march to war. Your fatalism,
meanwhile, has the advantage of being ideologically pure but practically
useless as you wash your hands of the messy business at hand.

Lou Paulsen had it right when he spoke of Rumsfeld's "Old Europe" being in
fact an instance of thinking out loud, a revelation of the true intent of
the Bush administration and its backers. If there is anything that we should
be thankful to this bunch of hellbent warmongers in the White House for, it
is for their candid honesty in their regard for their "allies", present and
former. The rank stupidity of people like Rumsfeld and Perle is a godsend to
those of us who wish to hasten the weakening and ultimate demise of the
imperialist chain. The mechanisms of hegemony are under incredible strain --
witness the fallout of last weekend's NATO conference, at which Joschka
Fischer, a consistent and often dangerous buffoon until recently, with great
courage told Rumsfeld in English, in full view of the tv cameras, that he
was not able to accept the arguments of the Bush administration and he was
not going to lie down and do what he is told. That deserves applause, but it
also deserves a cold, objective recognition on behalf of Marxists that there
is a deep split within the imperialist chain that threatens to tear it apart
altogether. It is there to be exploited, and while it may, at an empirical
level, look ridiculous to compare Germany with Argentina, given their
respective positions in the global imperialist order, the dilemma facing
Germany now is sufficiently stark for its bourgeois leaders to recognise
that they face a choice: capitulation and thereafter de facto semi-colonial
status within a reordered imperialist chain in which US hegemony is more
rigorously and ruthlessly applied to weaker, more compliant, and utterly
prostrate "allies"; or the development of a progressive nationalism of the
type that Néstor has been championing here and elsewhere and which appears
to be embodied in the shape of Rodriguez Sáa in Argentina. To say this is
not to align myself, or identify myself, with my "local bourgoisie". It is
instead to recognise that within the imperialist chain there is a
hierarchy -- at the top sits the US, which aims to put greater distance
between itself and its strategic partners/rivals (Bush puts great emphasis
on the latter) and all because of a looming energy crisis that will hit the
US hardest precisely because of its structural dependence on an
unsustainable pattern of oil consumption. To weaken the mechanisms of US
hegemony we must, among other things, weaken the links of the imperialist
chain. That is a job primarily for those of us outside the US. I leave it to
those inside the US to determine how best to meet the challenges presented
to them, fully supporting their efforts.

I would never charge anyone refusing to differentiate between US imperialism
and an abstract "demands of capital" as consciously aligned with the
interests of his/her local bourgeoisie, whatever the practical consequences
that such a position might entail. But, as with arguments for free trade,
the assumption of a level playing field always benefits the strongest.

Michael Keaney

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