US Civil War

Nicholas Siemensma nsiemensma at yahoo.com.au
Thu Jul 10 07:28:01 MDT 2003


> Please remember that my mention of that war only
> intended to show 
> that capitalism doesn't always imply full progress
> towards a self-
> centered economy, and that even Marx and Engels
> (when analyzing that 
> war) had thrown that idea to the waste basket.

Nestor is right to emphasise the practical
difficulties inherent in diffusionist theories: aside
from getting the past wrong, they imply the existence
of a progressive and developmentalist capitalist
dynamic *today*.  Indeed, this has been argued here by
certain people, and is surely inherent in any
historical conception which ignores the formative
influence of pre-existing imperialist world-systems in
the emergence of capitalism, and the determinant
presence of imperialism today.  I want to talk in
other posts about what this means for Australia as one
competing national capital/imperialism, and for
politics in our conjuncture.  Jose continues to write
great stuff about organisational issues, but sometimes
this debate about party-building seems to take place
in a vacuum where history and current events are
subordinated to the framework of revolutionary
politics and the question of the party, rather than
deciding what is necessary and possible in a practical
revolutionary organisation on the basis of a starting
point - the conjuncture itself.  Jose is excellent on
this issue.

Just a very quick comment on the history itself.  I
don't see how it can be argued in any meaningful sense
that capitalist state(s) ever truly confronted
pre-capitalist modes of production or social
formations: what happened was a total world-historical
process in which coeval subjects shared the same
historicity, whatever were the specific localised
features, instantiations and forms of appearance.  The
characteristic dynamic of capitalism and its
imperialist world system is combined and uneven
development, such that we can only understand the US
Civil War as part of a concatenation of global events
based on class struggle and competition between rival
national capitals: the convulsions of 1848 in Europe,
the Taiping Rebellion (the "formidable revolution"
which Marx expected to cause economic crisis,
political upheaval and "the next uprising of the
people of Europe") of the 1850s, the gold rushes in
North America and Australia, the unification of Italy
and Germany, the construction and spread of railroads,
the anarchic Pennsylvania beginnings of the oil
industry before Rockefeller's big hand and monopoly
capital, the spread of the Gold Standard, the
Franco-Prussian war etc.  All this surface run of
events can be subsumed beneath some general diffusive
spread of capitalist property relations, but I think
we can find (and others have done) a deeper
value-theoretic analysis of what went on.

I was going to go on inter alia about Oz and the
current crisis but I'm tired and I need my sleeeep.

Nick

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