Arguing against militarism and imperialism etc

Tom O'Lincoln suarsos at
Thu Jul 17 00:03:33 MDT 2003


Your reply is a classic. You accuse me of tautology and abstraction, and
then you produce a gem like this:

>>military policy depends on the foreign policy adopted through political

D’Oh. Next you say you want to “get away from schematism, inevitabilism and
mechanical determinism” (which of course means I’m guilty of all these
sins) and then you come out with a masterpiece like this:

>>Militarisation is not inevitable in the sense of the sunrise and sunset<<

Err, no it’s not. But when it happens again and again over 150 years or
more, perhaps we should recognise there is a pattern and analyse it rather
than denying it. 

You note that Australia spends proportionately more on arms than New
Zealand and inform us that ‘there are no "inevitable laws’ determining the
total amount of military expenditure.”

Umm, no there aren’t. Otherwise it would be static, whereas in fact it is
GOING UP. It’s going up because Australia moved toward a more “independent”
stance – and doesn’t that suggest that calling for a more independent
foreign policy under capitalism is not such a hot idea?

You say: 

>>Your argument leads to the conclusion that the Australian elite is
always imperialist and that we can do nothing about it beyond saying what
is in the working class interest<<

It became imperialist in the course of the 19th Century, and has been
imperialist ever since. This is a brutal, concrete, empirical fact. In the
face of that, to say it’s “not inevitable” is the mother of all schematism.
Are there things we can do? Of course, and I have done many of them
including help organise an anti-war demonstration in February. The question
is what politics we base those efforts on.

But here is what you’re getting at, and it is indeed different to me:

>>a more specific analysis of the problem may reveal that there is a margin
of options and choices where conscious intervention may be able to cause
policy changes and affect outcomes.<

“Policy changes”? “Affect outcomes?” You call this a “Leninist approach”,
but it is standard social democratic stuff. 

And you sense as much, for you say:

>>If this is all reformist, then we will just have to wait until the day of
the revolution<<

Not at all. I’m for fighting for reforms, but by revolutionary means and on
the basis of revolutionary politics. That is the difference.

>>a socialist like me does not want to hang around waiting
until that happens<<

As if I had spent my life “hanging around” waiting for the revolution. This
is a caricature. That is to say, yet another abstraction.

>> (1) Most Australians do have some national identification, I do not mean
just passports, I mean an affinity or love for their country, patriotism
and the lifestyle it offers<<

Err, you’re forgetting racism. On this see also below.

>>it is precisely BECAUSE this affinity exists, that politicians can
utilise this in various ways<<

Yes, they use it to wage imperialist wars and put refugees into
concentration camps.- These facts are not abstractions, they are at the
centre of the struggle today.

>> sources of nationalism can be found in all social classes<<

As a matter of fact, the Australian ruling class had a lot of trouble
constructing Australian nationalism. A big part of their solution was
racism. You continually ABSTRACT from such facts.

>>Dialectically speaking, you may be able to mobilise national
feeling AGAINST militarism, AGAINST imperialist adventures, AGAINST
bombastic military sabre-rattling.<<

Yes of course. This is just what much of the anti-war movement did. The
trouble is that it means legitimising alternative forms of imperialism, and
is therefore ultimately self-defeating. I’m for working in the space it
opens up, while warning against the dangers. 

>>you can actually use and appeal to the positive sides of Australian
national culture, the "better side of Australians", against

More abstraction. Let’s get specific. Left activists here do indeed say
it’s “Un-Australian” to lock up refugees. The trouble is, it’s not
un-Australian at all – all the history proves otherwise. And to build the
refugee movement on a healthy basis, we have to start with the historical

As for your précis of the Lenin-Luxemburg debate, you miss the whole point.
Lenin was for the RIGHT of self-determination, but AGAINST NATIONALISM. And
especially so in imperialist countries. This is real dialectics.


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