Sunday, 11 April 2021

Marxism, Zionism and the National Question - Voluntary Federation, and Workers Self-Activity (2/3)

Marxism, Zionism and the National Question

Voluntary Federation, and Workers Self-Activity (2/3)

In the case of Israel-Palestine, the latter exists as an annex of the former. Where it suits it, for example, when it comes to providing COVID vaccines only to Jews, and not Palestinians, Israel claims that Palestine is autonomous, However, its clear that Palestine has no real autonomy. Israel controls the borders of Gaza, by land and sea, closing them by military force when it sees fit. It breaches those borders militarily at will, whenever it chooses to undertake attacks on Palestinians under cover of supposed policing actions. It controls utilities and so on. In the West Bank it has repeatedly settled Palestinian lands illegally, and created roadblocks preventing free movement of Palestinians across their own land. For all intents and purposes, all of Palestine, and all Palestinians live under Israeli jurisdiction, but without the political rights and freedoms of Jewish Israelis. This is even recognised by the UN.

We have, here, then, a situation similar to that of the oppressed nations under the Tsarist Empire, of Catholics in Northern Ireland, in the 1960's, or of blacks in the US, or of Native Americans in the US. Lenin's programme for the oppressed minorities in the Tsarist Empire was not to argue for their independence, and creation of new class states. It was only to argue for recognition of the right to self-determination should these nations choose to exercise it. To separate this from the use of "self-determination" by chauvinists, Lenin changed the formulation to "the right of free secession".  In the meantime, Lenin argued for a struggle waged by all workers for the maximum democratic rights and freedoms for all workers, including and especially those of the oppressed minority.

Similarly, absent any immediate likelihood of the establishment of a truly independent Palestinian state, Marxists have to deal with the reality as it exists, and not some idealist version of how we might want it to be. Whilst, like Lenin, we can acknowledge the abstract right of the Palestinians to their own state, that really does them no good whatsoever if there is no chance of it being achieved. Israel and the US have lyingly stated their commitment to a Two State Solution for decades, but during that time, it has become an ever more distant possibility. Israel has occupied Palestine whenever it chose; it has stolen more and more Palestinian land; it has turned the West Bank into a Swiss Cheese of Palestinian Bantustans and reservations, separated from each other, making any viable state impossible.

Saturday, 10 April 2021

Thank Goodness For Amazon Prime (Other Non-State Media Is Available)

A very old bloke has died.  From all accounts a bit of a racist and colonialist.  The capitalist state's propaganda arm, the BBC, has done its normal job of giving an impression of North Korean media, with wall to wall coverage of paint drying, and avoidance of any critical views.   As with the media's coverage of COVID, and compliance with Game Theory, all the other main terrestrial channels followed its lead.  Thank goodness for non-mainstream terrestrial channels, and Youtube.

Freesat and Freeview at least allowed viewers to escape all of this nonsense, by watching old dramas, comedies, detective series and so on, or the exploits of salvage hunters, car restorers, or documentaries.  Amazon, Netflix and others have provided a range of films and other programmes for a small subscription.  Thank goodness for them over the last year, as we have been locked up in our homes, and locked out of workplaces and venues for leisure and entertainment.  They at least enabled us to avoid wall to wall state COVID propaganda, now supplemented by state Monarchist propaganda.

As the development of herd immunity starts to fade COVID into the distance, the media must have thought their prayers were answered.  What would they do when they could not fill the screens and column inches with hysterical stories about COVID?  Then along come two answers at once.  First, violence returned to the streets of Northern Ireland courtesy of the inevitable results of Brexit, and for good measure, a prominent royal personage pops his clogs.  The latter will be a news story for longer than you might think possible, as all the period of mourning, then funerals, then memorials and so on are stretched out, but even the media and the state can only stretch it out so long.  A return of violence in Ireland offers the media a much more viable cornucopia.

"The Troubles", were a font for the media back in the 1970's, 80's and 90's, when it was not as large as it is today, and when 24 hour news channels did not require constant feeding with sensationalism.  Having fed off and fed into the cesspool of nationalism that created media figures such as Nigel Farage, or Baroness Fox, the media created a continued feeding ground for itself with Brexit.  Its role was very much like that of the press tycoon in the Bond film, "Tomorrow never Dies", which itself borrows from the idea presented in Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane", about press baron Randolph Hearst.  The violence in Northern Ireland is direct consequence of the Brexit that the media fostered with all of their fawning over nonentities like Farage and Fox, in the previous ten years, and more.  No wonder there was a sparkle in Jon Snow's eyes when he interviewed a pundit from Ireland, on Channel 4 News, and asked expectantly, whether, with the Summer coming, and with all of the frustrations  of a year of lockdowns and lockouts, we could expect a much greater level of communal violence in the province?

Did someone mention bread and circuses?  Well Brexit is making the bread supplies more difficult, and increasing its price considerably, but circuses there are aplenty.

The Economic Content of Narodism, Chapter 4 - Part 11

Struve also adopts a similar subjectivist stance to the Narodniks, when he asks the question “on what basis can our national economy be reorganised? (p 202)” (p 468) This is the same kind of schema mongering as that of the Narodniks, and their plans for alternative paths of development. In a capitalist economy, it is organised and reorganised by the bourgeoisie, as ruling class, and even they can only do so within the constraints of The Law of Value, and the specific laws of capital

“Instead of the question of possible reorganisation, what should have been put is the question of the successive stages of the development of this bourgeois economy; and it should have been put from the viewpoint of precisely that theory in whose name the author so splendidly replies to Mr. V. V., who describes Mr. N. —on as an “undoubted Marxist,” that this “undoubted Marxist” has no idea of the class struggle and of the class origin of the state.” (p 468) 

Struve himself fails to understand the central role of class struggle. He rightly criticises the Narodniks and Danielson for taking the peasantry as a whole, rather than being stratified and differentiating into a bourgeoisie and proletariat. The concept of a single peasantry is a “fiction”, he says, but later falls into the use of the same fiction. The problem, in Russia, he says, following the Narodniks, is the insufficient size of allotments, so that, even with additional land renting, a large proportion of peasants farm at a deficit. But, instead of making this the central feature, he instead concludes that the determining factor in Russian agriculture is “insufficient production”. From this he concludes that a rise in productivity would benefit the peasantry in general, the same peasantry he had correctly stated previously was a “fiction”

The claim that production was insufficient was itself unfounded. 

“The author draws his conclusion without any data, without any analysis of the facts relating to “insufficient production” [which, however, does not prevent a minority from becoming affluent at the expense of the majority], or to the splitting up of the peasantry—simply due to some prejudice in favour of Malthusianism.” (p 468-9) 

Struve may have wanted to claim that he meant it would be beneficial to both sections of the peasantry, those becoming bourgeois and those becoming proletarians, but, in that case, he should have shown how this was the case for each. Danielson argued that a rise in productivity would not raise national well-being, if the goods were produced as commodities. Struve sets out to refute this view. Firstly, Struve says, the peasants with 1 or no horses (accounting for 50%) and the horseless (accounting for 25%) produce grain for their own consumption, not for sale. In fact, they buy additional grain. A rise in productivity benefits them. However, Lenin says, these peasants ae not the ones that see any rise in productivity. 

“They are not able to retain their present farms, with their primitive implements, careless cultivation of the soil, etc., let alone improve their farming technique. Technical improvement is the result of the growth of commodity economy.” (p 470) 

It will be those peasants that were able to improve their methods that will enjoy rising productivity, and it is this minority who will benefit as they take over the farms of those who find themselves dispossessed. For those peasants who find themselves totally dispossessed, and turned into proletarians, they are no longer even in the position of those peasants that were dominated by capital, but who remained tied to the land. They are now as free as a bird. 

“I have no wish to say that such a change will be of no benefit to them. On the contrary, once the producer has fallen into the clutches of capital—and this is an undoubtedly accomplished fact as regards the group of the peasantry under examination—complete freedom, which enables him to change masters, and gives him a free hand, is very much of “a benefit and a blessing” to him. But the controversy between Messrs. Struve and N.—on is not at all conducted around such considerations.” (p 470) 

In other words, Lenin makes clear, here, that he views the complete proletarianisation of the producers as a preferable and beneficial occurrence compared with the position of the petty producer, dominated by capital. It means the proletarian now has free movement, and the ability to sell their labour-power to the highest bidder; it means that all of those remaining vestiges of the former mode of production can be cleared away, the division into two great class camps now becomes apparent and the proletarians, on that basis, can begin the class struggle for Socialism.

Northern Soul Classics - No One Can Take Your Place (Instrumental) - The Inspirations


Friday, 9 April 2021

Friday Night Disco - Blame It On The Boogie - Jackson 5


Marxism, Zionism and the National Question - Voluntary Federation, and Workers Self-Activity (1/3)

Marxism, Zionism and the National Question

Voluntary Federation, and Workers Self-Activity (1/3)

In the area of the Middle-East and North Africa, the way forward, as with Trotsky's analysis of the Balkans, is for the small nations to come together as a federation.

“Petersburg's diplomacy has no business in the Balkans, and the Balkan peoples can expect nothing to their advantage from the diplomatic chancelleries of Petersburg. The peoples of the Near East must organise a democratic federation on their territory, on principles of independence from both Russia and Austria-Hungary.

This standpoint unites us closely both with you and with the fraternal parties in the Balkans, whose fight against local dynastic and militarist reaction will be the more rewarding and successful the more vigorously and uncompromisingly we wage our struggle against any and every interference by the Great powers in Balkan affairs.”

(Trotsky Writings On The Balkan Wars, p 319-20)

But, for the liberal-interventionists, and petty-bourgeois nationalists, such a political struggle, on this basis, is too hard, compared to the solution offered at the end of a barrel of a gun.

“And tangled knots exist in plenty in the Balkans...A customs union, federation, democracy, a united parliament for the whole peninsula – what were all these pitiful words beside the unanswerable argument of the bayonet. They had fought the Turks in order to 'liberate' the Christians, they had massacred peaceful Turks and Albanians in order to correct the ethnographical statistics of population, now they began to slaughter each other in order to 'finish the job'.”

(ibid, p 329)

But, such federations must be the consequence of the voluntary agreement of the people themselves, not the consequence of some larger nation forcing others into such a framework. It is impossible to see how such voluntary agreement would arise without some long period of prior cooperation and struggle for political rights and freedoms in general.

“... a Social-Democrat from a small nation must emphasise in his agitation the second word of our general formula: “voluntary integration” of nations. He may, without failing in his duties as an internationalist, be in favour of both the political independence of his nation and its integration with the neighbouring state of X, Y, Z, etc. But in all cases he must fight against small-nation narrow-mindedness, seclusion and isolation, consider the whole and the general, subordinate the particular to the general interest.

People who have not gone into the question thoroughly think that it is “contradictory” for the Social-Democrats of oppressor nations to insist on the “freedom to secede”, while Social-Democrats of oppressed nations insist on the “freedom to integrate”. However, a little reflection will show that there is not, and cannot be, any other road to internationalism and the amalgamation of nations, any other road from the given situation to this goal.”

(Lenin, The Discussion On Self-Determination Summed Up)

Such voluntary associations do not have to arise fully formed. The EU, for example, is a voluntary association that has grown from an original six nations to its current 27. Similarly, voluntary associations might arise out of compulsory ones. Norway was originally forcibly retained by Sweden, but remained voluntarily tied to Sweden during the period of autonomy, prior to secession. In a different context, the British Empire forcibly retained millions of people and dozens of nations within its remit, but most of those nations have remained voluntarily within the Commonwealth. Wales was forcibly subdued by England, but the Welsh have repeatedly shown little desire for independence or even autonomy, though Brexit seems to have increased such separatist sentiments. Scotland and England fought repeated wars, as each sought dominance, but the 1706 Act of Union was a voluntary act of union between two nations both of which shared in the gains created by a British nation state, and in its exploitation of other nations via the Empire.

Thursday, 8 April 2021

The Economic Content of Narodism, Chapter 4 - Part 10

Lenin gives a scenario which, he says, the Narodniks cannot deny is a common feature of Russian agriculture. In it, a Kulak takes over the best part of allotment land from a village community, whose members have been ruined by debts, and other obligations. The former owners of these allotments confined by natural ties, and other constraints to the village, now find themselves having to sell their labour-power to the Kulak, and he employs them to cultivate all this land, now in his possession. Essentially, deprived of free movement, to be able to go to sell their labour-power to the highest bidder, the Kulak can even pay them lower wages than the value of their labour-power. The Narodniks policies, as seen earlier, which sought to tie peasants to their village, would make this condition worse. The same is true today, in respect of those who again seek to limit free movement, and to impose immigration controls. But, because the Kulak is able to farm all of this land more efficiently than the former peasants could do separately, he requires less labour. Even without the introduction of machines, the simple division of labour and economies of scale, creates a relative surplus population

The Narodniks “forget that the initial form of capital has always and everywhere been merchant’s, money capital, that capital always takes the technical process of production as it finds it, and only subsequently subjects it to technical transformation. They therefore do not see that by “upholding” (in words, of course—no more than that) the contemporary agricultural order against “oncoming” (?!) capitalism, they are merely upholding medieval forms of capital against the onslaught of its latest, purely bourgeois forms.” (p 466) 

So, its impossible to deny that the rural overpopulation was a capitalist overpopulation. It arises precisely because this large-scale production requires less wage labour to be employed for any level of output. But, Danielson also claimed that this process of the invasion of agriculture by capital was nearly complete, whereas it was at a very early stage. Capitalism and capitalist production for the market dominated, but that capital and capitalist production, was at a very immature stage. Because Danielson claimed that the process was nearly complete, he concludes that the home market could not be expanded further, so that capitalist production would hit a brick wall unless it could sell its output in foreign markets. It is he same kind of catastrophism encountered today, except today the perpetually impending crisis, or next recession, is forecast on the basis of The Law of the Tendency for the Rate of Profit to Fall. 

But, of course, the process of the invasion of Russian agriculture was far from complete. Large numbers of peasants were dominated by capital, and produced for the market, but they were dominated by merchant capital, via The Putting Out System, or via the prices that the merchants paid for their produce; they were dominated by usurer's capital, in the interest it charged ion their debts; and, although an increasing number were employed as day labourers, on larger-scale capitalist farms, these farms had a long way to go in introducing machines and other fixed capital, to raise their productivity to the levels of Western Europe, and North America. Far from the process nearing completion, it had only just begun, and the more it unfolded, the larger the domestic market would become. 

“... there are still many intermediate phases before it reaches full development, before the producer is completely divorced from the means of production, and every step forward by agricultural capitalism means a growth of the home market, which, according to Marx’s theory, is created precisely by agricultural capitalism—and which in Russia is not contracting, but, on the contrary, is taking shape and developing.” (p 466) 

Indeed, alongside this capitalist development, there were still significant vestiges of feudal economy, such as the leasing of cut-off lands, in return for labour services, and payments in kind. 

“... here you have all the features of feudal economy: the natural “exchange of services” between the producer and the owner of the means of production, and the exploitation of the producer by tying him to the land, and not separating him from the means of production), and still more in the social and the juridical-political sphere (compulsory “provision of allotment,” tying to the land, i.e., absence of freedom of movement, payment of redemption money, i.e., the same quitrent paid to the landlord, subordination to the privileged landowners in the courts and administration, etc.)” (p 467) 

They also undoubtedly result in a ruination of the peasants and overpopulation, thereby, complicating the picture, in relation to capitalist overpopulation. This simply illustrates the fact that capitalism had not completed its work in destroying all these old feudal relations. 

“The undeveloped condition of capitalism, “Russia’s backwardness,” considered by the Narodniks to be “good fortune,” is only “good fortune” for the titled exploiters. Contemporary “over-population,” consequently, contains feudal in addition to its basic capitalist features.” (p 467) 

That shows Marx and Lenin's point that these countries that develop capitalism later, suffer both from capitalism and from the previous mode of production, from capitalism and not enough capitalism. It illustrates that what is required is a more rapid development of capitalist relations, so as to create the conditions required for Socialism. 

“If we compare this latter thesis with Mr. Struve’s thesis that “over-population” contains natural-economic features and commodity-economic features, we shall see that the former do not rule out the latter, but, on the contrary, are included in them: serfdom relates to “natural-economic,” and capitalism to “commodity-economic” phenomena. Mr. Struve’s thesis, on the one hand, does not exactly indicate precisely which relations are natural-economic and which commodity-economic, and, on the other hand, leads us back to the unfounded and meaningless “laws” of Malthus.” (p 467)