[Marxism] Fwd: On the U.S. socialist group Solidarity: Let the dead bury the dead - II

Joaquín Bustelo jbustelo at gmail.com
Tue Jan 7 03:28:04 MST 2014

You will want to read Part I for this to make sense. I've been forced to 
break it up due to a Marxmail censorship bot that doesn't like long posts.

And there will be parts III and IV.

In addition I've not reformatted the text for Marxmail's Luddite "text 
only" policy. If what's below makes no sense because block quotes, 
links, etc. have been lost, complain to Louis. I'll send a copy of my 
real, original post to anyone who asks for it.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: 	On the U.S. socialist group Solidarity: Let the dead bury the 
Date: 	Tue, 07 Jan 2014 04:37:34 -0500
From: 	Joaquín Bustelo <jbustelo at gmail.com>
To: 	Activists and scholars in Marxist tradition 
<marxism at greenhouse.economics.utah.edu>


*   *   *

[Last revised towards the end of November.]

What is below is the result of many weeks of thinking, reading, writing 
and rewriting. It is /not /a clear and comprehensive exposition of what 
I think about the interrelated subjects that I touch on. Very often, the 
way I think through what I feel about some question or a series of 
questions is by writing. But in this case, I'm not finished, and have 
decided I'm not going to finish, not just because time is running out, 
but because I don't think I am in a place where I should try to speak 
with more force and conviction about certain subjects.

That's the feeling kept me from finishing this draft.

So I am not going to further refine this document, not because I've run 
out of ideas on what to add or how to modify what is below, but not just 
because I've run out of time, or that I don't think most folks in Soli care.

I'm not sure how --or even whether-- I am going to vote on the referendum.

In terms of the actual political positions in it or that flow from it, I 
have no problems.

But that is just the tip of the iceberg, and I suspect that what is 
underneath is what is sinking Solidarity.

And, YES, I remain of the opinion that Solidarity is sinking. And, from 
my point of view, our response has mostly been rearranging the deck 
chairs while the band plays on.

To explain:

*Implicit 'workerist' assumptions*

As I perceive it, a central theoretical underpinning of this document as 
it is now fleshed out with the commentary is that capitalism is 
quintessentially a system based on the exploitation of the working class.

I do not believe that, and have not for many years, even though long ago 
I tired of making the argument.

Capitalism is based on /three /fundamental axis of oppression and 
exploitation: class, gender, and nationality (understanding them 
broadly, in the latter case, for example, to encompass tribe, ethnicity, 
race, geography, community, caste, indigenous status, etc.).

There is also an axis of "exploitation" that lies seemingly beyond and 
outside the social sphere, and that is of natural resources and nature 
itself. I do  not take it up here further because I've not figured out 
how to do so, even though my gut tells me it belongs in a "big picture" 
sort of analysis, like what I am trying to write.

In the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels discount gender and 
nationality, over-generalizing from the initial English and Western 
European experience of the industrial revolution and its immediate 

    Abolition of the family! Even the most radical flare up at this
    infamous proposal of the Communists....

    The bourgeois clap-trap about the family and education, about the
    hallowed co-relation of parents and child, becomes all the more
    disgusting, the more, /by the action of Modern Industry, all the
    family ties among the proletarians are torn asunder,/ and their
    children transformed into simple articles of commerce and
    instruments of labour....

    *  *  *

    The working men have no country. We cannot take from them what they
    have not got. Since the proletariat must first of all acquire
    political supremacy, must rise to be the leading class of the
    nation, must constitute itself the nation, it is so far, itself
    national, though not in the bourgeois sense of the word.

    /National differences and antagonism between peoples are daily more
    and more vanishing, owing to the development of the bourgeoisie, to
    freedom of commerce, to the world market, to uniformity in the mode
    of production and in the conditions of life corresponding thereto.
    /[The Communist Manifesto, Chapter II: Communists and Proletarians
    /Emphasis /added.]

Read it again, especially the /italicized /parts, and understand that 
Marx and Engels felt /compelled /to take this up and also that their 
statements are /categorical, unambiguous, /and not really susceptible to 
any interpretation save the literal one.

Marx and Engels don't argue in the Manifesto that nothing else had ever 
mattered but rather that the development of capitalism was simplifying 
matters by making these other historical axis of exploitation and 
oppression irrelevant. But in their view, it hadn't always been so.

*Primitive Accumulation*

In /Capital/, Marx explains that what we call /"//n//ational" 
/exploitation, especially of indigenous peoples, and not the /"class" 
/exploitation of modern proletarians, had played the central role in 
so-called "Primitive Accumulation" ("primitive" meaning original or 
initial, not backward or rudimentary) and the emergence of industrial 

    The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation,
    enslavement and entombment in mines of the aboriginal population,
    the beginning of the conquest and looting of the East Indies, the
    turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of
    black-skins, signalised the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist
    production. These idyllic proceedings are the chief momenta of
    primitive accumulation. On their heels treads the commercial war of
    the European nations, with the globe for a theatre. It begins with
    the revolt of the Netherlands from Spain, assumes giant dimensions
    in England’s Anti-Jacobin War, and is still going on in the opium
    wars against China, &c. [Capital, Ch. 31, Genesis of the Industrial

Marx and Engels were convinced that capitalist development would reduce 
everything to the common denominator of class. The distinction between 
oppressor nations and their victims would disappear, as  backward 
countries were dragged into the world market and modernized. So just 
after writing the Manifesto with Marx, Engels wrote a year-in-review 
article about 1847 in which he hailed the United States stealing of half 
of Mexico's territory:

    In America we have witnessed the conquest of Mexico and have
    rejoiced at it. It is also an advance when a country which has
    hitherto been exclusively wrapped up in its own affairs, perpetually
    rent with civil wars, and completely hindered in its development, a
    country whose best prospect had been to become industrially subject
    to Britain — when such a country is forcibly drawn into the
    historical process./It is to the interest of its own development
    that Mexico will in future be placed under the tutelage of the
    United States./ [Engels, the Movements of 1847
    /Emphasis /added.]

Of course, Marx and Engels later came to understand that this war was 
mostly about trying to increase the number of slave states, and took a 
different attitude. But we should understand WHY they took the position 
they did initially.

*The decline of 'classic' colonialism*

At that time (mid-1800s), the sort of colonialism that had been central 
to the initial creation of large masses of capital seemed to be a dying 
phenomenon, so it was completely discounted by Marx and Engels. That was 
not an irrational view. Virtually all of the Americas had shaken off the 
colonial shackles (in Latin American and the Caribbean this was to a 
large degree a byproduct of the bourgeois Great French Revolution). What 
remained was tiny (relative to the past). The then existing European 
colonies in the rest of the world were based on or extensions of trading 
ports, and did not encompass huge inland territories.

Given the development of the steamship and its industrial monopoly, 
Britain steadily expanded its world presence throughout the 1800s, 
until, with the increased weight of industrial capitalists in the more 
cohered capitalist nations of the late 1800s, there is an explosion  of 
direct colonization that  by 1895, pretty much had the entire world 
divvied up. If you want to see the evolution in a quick slide show, look 
at these four maps: 1800 
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Colonisation_1800.png>, 1822 
<http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Colonisation_1822.png>, 1885 
<http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Colonisation_1885.png>, 1898 

The one thing to remember that isn't reflected in the maps is the 
development of the neo-colonial mode of penetration and domination, 
especially in Latin America, so although the map seems to reflect little 
or no change in this hemisphere, that was not true. After the U.S. Civil 
War, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean increasingly came under 
complete U.S. domination, while sub-equatorial South America became a 
field of contention between Germany, the UK and the U.S.

My point is that Marx and Engels viewed the reduction in colonialism as 
a long-lasting tendency based on the idea that "The country that is more 
developed industrially only shows, to the less developed, the image of 
its own future." [Preface to the First German Edition of Capital 

What really happened after Marx's death and at the very end of Engels's 
life was an explosion of colonialism in a variety of forms as soon as 
industrial capitalism had got itself together in places like France, 
Germany, Italy and the United States. That tells me THIS is the real 
nature of the system: it's not just all about class.

As for gender, the footnote Engels added at the beginning of the 
manifesto, pointing to The Origin of the Family, Private Property and 
the State 
<http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1884/origin-family/>, which 
outlines how the defeat of the matriarchy and the subjugation of women 
is the origin of ALL exploitation and hierarchical oppression, is enough 
for me. And quite contrary to the /Manifesto's/ prognosis that "all the 
family ties among the proletarians are torn asunder," the family remains 
a fundamental unit --if not /the fundamental unit-- /of human societies.

More information about the Marxism mailing list