[Marxism] The Brenner thesis and L* P*

Charles Brown cbrown at michiganlegal.org
Tue Nov 1 14:24:08 MST 2005

Louis Proyect 

Charles, ideology is driven by material social and economic conditions, not
the other way around. 

Lou, I addressed this theoretical issue the last time we discussed this.
What I am saying is not idealism, as you imply. What I say fits the formula
of social being determining social consciousness. The social consciousness
that was selected by the changed social being of early capitalism was
substantially (not wholly) the social consciousness of Graeco-Roman society.
That is not an idealist thesis. It is a historical materialist thesis.


LP: When Europeans obeyed economic imperatives to find an 
alternative route to Asia and bypass Middle Eastern merchants, they 
happened on the New World. Once they were there, they developed racial
ideologies that dovetailed with the need to exterminate or enslave
indigenous peoples.

CB: No. I am now announcing a new _historical materialist_ hypothesis that
the ideologies they developed were not developed wholecloth, but drew
heavily upon the ideologies of Greece and Rome. In fact, even before they
set out, they already were drawing on those classical European ideologies in
even thinking of establishing colonies and slavery. They did _not_ think up
the whole of their new ideology after they got to the New World. The
ideologies of  modern slavery and colonialism did not arise spontaneously,
like Minerva from the head of Zeus.

There's nothing in the "economic imperatives" of the new
wage-labor/alienated peasants in the English countryside or elsewhere that
says "you must form colonies , enslave people or exterminate them ".  The
latter part is integrated in with the new wage-labor/capital ideology. 


LP: When indigenous peoples, especially in North America, 
proved unsuitable for plantation labor, they brought in slaves from Africa.
To explain this injustice to themselves, they once again resorted to racial

CB: Once again ? When had they used racial myths before ?

Racism _was_ a new part of the ideology. As far as I know, feudal Europeans
and classical Greeks and Romans did not have race as we know it as part of
their ideology.  The concepts of "barbarians" and "savages" may have some
earlier historical roots.


LP: When the British invoked Rome,  it was like Hitler invoking Teutonic
legends. The drive for profits explains colonialism and racism, not myths
and legends. 

CB: No. When the British or Spanish invoked Rome, they were expressing part
of the new social consciousness that was selected and caused by the new
social being. The fact that Roman ideology of slavery and colonialism is old
doesn't bar it from being reused, recylced, reinstituted ( in part) as part
of the new ideology of the new social being. What was old was new again.
Nothing in Marx denies  that as idealism.

Anyway, as I said.  The newly formed bourgeoisie recycled the ancient
ideology of slavery and colonialism because it enhanced fulfilling the new
drive for profits.

Again , this is not idealism.  The ideology was selected by the newly
forming bourgeoisie as part of the new capitalist consciousness.  In so
selecting, this new class, this new social being, was causing the new social

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