Social Imperialism [O' Lincoln]

M. Junaid Alam junaidalam at msalam.net
Tue Sep 30 19:50:14 MDT 2003


Tom wrote:

"This is only one of several related issues:

1. Does the west exploit the 3d world?
2. Does it use some of the fruits of this exploitation to buy off a section
(or all) of the working class in the west, creating a "labour aristocracy"?
3. Is that the explanation for reformism in the west?

2. Highly unlikely, and the available evidence is against it. It tends
to be a conspiracy theory, because without a collective decision, what
would lead individual managements to hand out more benefits than
necessary to any of their workers? Let alone all of them. One of my
posts from the earlier debate is here:
http://www.mail-archive.com/marxism@lists.panix.com/msg41915.html"
===
I do not find that argument convincing in the least. Arguments
dismissing arguments as "conspiracy theories" are always suspicious, but
I fail to see how "available evidence is against it". If so, I really
start to wonder just what good those new markets, raw materials, extra
natural resources, cheap labor, tariffs, bayonets, and bombs, did for
the West. Why, the resultant profits must have up and vanished into thin
air.

Some people say, underminging their own argument, that Western workers
are better off because they waged class struggle for it. So they admit
they are better off--and as for waging class struggle, well that only
led to what it led to because the bourgeoisie accomodated what it could
afford to accomodate. That has nothing to do with any "collective
decision" to concurrently hand out benefits, that is a silly non-sequitur.

Why does anyone handout benefits, in the case the capitalists, as you
ask? To appease, to bargain, to placate, to satisfy, to some reasonable
extent. How obtuse do you suppose the system of capitalism to be, as if
it does not adapt to survive?

Tom says "I think reformism has deeper roots than this (it's about
hegemony not just material benefits" I agree that part of the problem is
hegemony. I do not agree that pointing at the corporate media as an
excuse for every ineptitude in political consciousness here proves much.
Because then you say, well we build an alternative to the corporate
media. But who is spearheading that? Middle-class activists and
intellectuals, not workers.

  I think it is safe to assume that Marx considered that the bourgeoisie
would try to defend its position via written propaganda, etc.: this is
no explanation for the fact the people so readily believe it. Or what
the Vietnam vet said in the documentary Hearts and Minds (roughly):

"It is a testament to the American people that the government thought it
  had to lie to them to push the war; it is not a testament to the
people that they were so easily deceived".

Tom, you say in response to part 3 also:

"3. If so, how do we explain reformism in the 3d world? Which in some
very important countries, Indonesia for example, or Sri Lanka, is
clearly as strong as anywhere else. It is not exactly absent even in
Palestine or Iraq.  and affects the working class as a whole."

This appears rather irksome to me. In Palestine what you have is the
total lack of parity in power relations, what you have there is
epitomized antagonism between core and periphery, colonizer and
colonized, white racist and dark-skinned native, and it is _here_ you
most resist the idea of Western privilege? The PLO adapted to reformism
and political surrender because of the overall weakness of the
Palestinian situation, pinned down as it is in the pincer movement of
Americam imperialism and Zionist colonialism.

Of course in any situation you will have traitors, or chivatos, or House
Negroes, or Chalabis, or whatever. That is not the point. The point is,
do you have a systematic, historically-grounded, geographically
centered, accrued privilege of one group of masses over another, the
inculcation and development of chauvinism and racism among one section
used to wage war and force down the other through economic, political,
and military means. This is not identical to the existence of reformism
or different tendencies in a domestic context, it is parallel in
configuration on some level, but not one and the same.

The veracity of that is seen in Tom's own summary of the importance of
this question:

"But if American workers have a material stake in
the survival of imperialism (because they get some of the fruits of it),
that hope [socialism] loses all material basis and becomes utopian."

That question cannot at all apply to the "reformist" examples. Does the
PLO have a material stake in the survival of the occupation? Let us
assume it does. That accounts for maybe 5000 top bureaucrats, certainly
not the Fatah faction as a whole, large chunks of which have in fact
broken with Arafat and joined violent resistance, and it has nothing to
do with the Palestinian masses. So the dynamic and relationship is not
the same at all.

But to answer that question Tom poses directly, I think a significant
layer of Americans do receive in the relatively short-term benefits from
imperialism, and a lot more _think_ they do. And if it weren't true,
then they wouldn't swallow some of these more outrageous lies so easily
and cheerfully. I think there is absolutely no doubt that what is
described as "the American way" and all the myths and ideals surrounding
it would have to change radically in a socialist society. People here
are not prepared to accept that unless they are fully aware of what
other alternatives there are and what kind of world we will live in if
we continue down this road.




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