Sunday, 18 April 2021

The Economic Content of Narodism, Chapter 4 - Part 15

Struve sees the root of Danielson's fear as being his recognition of only extensive agriculture. This is also the foundation of Malthusianism, including in its modern found amongst some environmentalists. It is the view that output can only be significantly increased by cultivating ever greater areas. Even when global production was dominated by the production of material commodities rather than services, there was no justification for such a view; today, when, in the developed, and many developing economies, it is service industry that accounts for around 80% of output, there is even less justification for such a position. In many developed economies, the physical mass of material consumed in production is falling proportionally. Using the materials footprint measure, which includes the mass of imported materials, as well as domestic materials production, developed economies, on average increase their MF, on average, by 6% for every 10% increase in GDP. Obviously, this does not mean absolutely less material being consumed, but relatively less. 

I set out the reason for that some time ago. Many commodities, today, combine the functionality of several previous commodities. A smart phone is also a SatNav, video camera, music player, video player, games console, portable computer and so on. All of the materials previously required for the production of these separate commodities are no longer required, because the smart phone replaces them. That is the case with whole ranges of commodities. Moreover, the development of materials science means that whole new ranges of synthetic materials are being produced that are cheaper and more functional than existing materials. Technology also ensures that materials are used more efficiently. One of the clearest examples of that is energy. Global GDP grew six times faster than oil consumption between 1980-2006, because of far more efficient means of converting oil to energy. The development of solar, wind, wave, geothermal and other renewable technologies means that progress is likely to continue to increase. 

But, the other main factor is a transition from a manufacturing to a service industry economy that has been as profound as the transition from agricultural to manufacturing economies in the 19th century. Huge areas of the economy, today, involve the purchase of labour services that only involve the consumption of auxiliary rather than raw materials. If I purchase an Amazon Prime or Netflix subscription, the number of films I stream has no impact on the consumption of raw materials. At most, it has a minor impact on the energy required for such streaming, and an even more minor effect on the wear and tear of the fixed capital infrastructure involved. The same is true if I go to the cinema, or if I buy an online game, subscribe to an online music service, or a smart phone subscription, or go to a live comedy or music performance. 

If I go to a restaurant, rather than eat at home, the raw materials consumed are no greater, and possibly less, because of economies of scale; what I have bought is actually the labour service of the restaurant workers, and, if its a fancy restaurant, run by a celebrity chef, even more is that the case. It has, in fact, been the progressive role played by capital in raising productivity to such phenomenal levels that has made this possible. It has reduced the cost of producing food and other material commodities to such an extent that the average worker in a developed economy now only needs to spend about 15-20% of their income on their purchase. That has meant that consumption has shifted to the purchase of services, a manifestation of the Civilising Mission of Capital. Even in relation to the main single item of workers' budgets – shelter – the cost of this would have been reduced significantly, also, were it not for speculation having driven up asset prices, including land and property, into hyperinflationary bubbles. 

So, the idea that continued economic growth involves increased use of natural resources, and, thereby, of land is itself false. Only in terms of raising the living standards of millions of people in non-industrialised countries does that remain the case. But, in those countries too, capitalist development, particularly capitalist development by large-scale, multinational capital, means that production, from the start, can be based on efficient capital intensive methods that reduce the amount of land and resources required for production. The individual peasant farmer is unable to use capital intensive methods. Pressed down upon by usurers and merchant capital, and the state, they are forced to farm their land aggressively, often destroying its fertility in the process, simply in order to survive in the short-term. A large capitalist farmer, however, sees the land as a long-term asset from which they hope to derive profits for decades to come. They have every interest in using the land efficiently, but also of protecting and curating it, of utilising crop rotation, and other methods to retain and develop its fertility. The more such capital is able to raise productivity, the less land it needs to cultivate, in order to obtain a given level of output. 

Look at the example of Brazil. Farmers using modern capital intensive, and scientific methods have been able to increase the output of maize per hectare, by increasing the number of harvests per year. The FT reported a while ago, 

“Using new varieties of seeds that have allowed them to shorten soya and corn crop cycles, Brazilian farmers in the country’s centre-west savannah areas have moved from planting one crop to incorporating the second, the safrinha. In some areas where irrigation is available they are even contemplating a third harvest. 

The corn crop has benefited most from the safrinha. In the 2012-13 year, corn output is expected to total nearly 80m tonnes, up from about 56mt in 2011. Soyabeans, meanwhile, are estimated at more than 80mt compared with about 75mt in 2011.” 

By contrast, as Brazil's industrial population increases, and rising living standards led to a rising demand for food and other materials, farmers, lacking the same access to capital, to utilise these scientific methods resorted to more extensive agriculture. The actions of burning the rainforest, are, in fact, the actions of farmers who do not have access to the same amounts of capital, so as to be able to farm capital-intensively, and so who must try to compete by farming more extensively, and more aggressively and less efficiently. Once again, it is the inadequate development of capitalism that leads to the problem.

Saturday, 17 April 2021

Michael Roberts and Historical Materialism - Part 1 of 12

In an article in the Weekly Worker, recently, Michael Roberts examines a new paper, that looks at evidence of changing labour productivity, prior to the development of capitalism, as further proof of Marx and Engels' Theory of Historical Materialism. Yet, Robert's use of this data, and his account, shows a lack of understanding, on his part, of the theory itself.

Marx and Engels' theory, is an equivalent, in the realm of sociology, to Darwin's Theory of Evolution, in the realm of biology.

In his Preface to Capital I, Marx writes,

“To prevent possible misunderstanding, a word. I paint the capitalist and the landlord in no sense couleur de rose [i.e., seen through rose-tinted glasses]. But here individuals are dealt with only in so far as they are the personifications of economic categories, embodiments of particular class-relations and class-interests. My standpoint, from which the evolution of the economic formation of society is viewed as a process of natural history, can less than any other make the individual responsible for relations whose creature he socially remains, however much he may subjectively raise himself above them.”

Marx who lived only a few miles from Darwin, sent him a copy of Capital.

Both theories analyse and provide an explanation for change and diversity, based entirely upon materialism, and so requiring no resort to appeals to any kind of external supernatural forces, or grand plan. They enable their subject matter to be studied scientifically, for the first time. Darwin's theory explains natural diversity and evolution, based upon The Law of Natural Selection. It is a Natural Law that applies throughout time, and means that whatever material conditions exist at any particular time, will favour some characteristics within species, giving them a natural advantage, so that those with these characteristics will tend to prosper, and their genes will be carried over into the next generation, so that increasingly, this creates diversity, and ultimately a new species entirely.

Marx and Engels' theory, similarly, is a theory of how social, rather than biological, organisms develop, on the basis that they are best suited to the material conditions that exist at any given time, or place, conditions, which themselves change over time. In Theories of Surplus Value, Chapter 9, Marx describes this.

“the higher development of individuality is thus only achieved by a historical process during which individuals are sacrificed for the interests of the species in the human kingdom, as in the animal and plant kingdoms, always assert themselves at the cost of the interests of individuals, because these interests of the species coincide only with the interests of certain individuals, and it is this coincidence which constitutes the strength of these privileged individuals.” (p 117-8)”

What is it that provides these “certain individuals” with strengths at one time that do not exist at others? It is that changes in the material basis of society bring about different ways of society going about its necessary business of producing its means of reproduction, and these different productive relations favour certain individuals and groups of individuals. The types of individual favoured at one period are then not those that were favoured in the previous period.

So, for example, the conditions that come into existence as a result of the increase in commodity production and exchange, and of competition that arises amongst the commodity producers, are not those that favour the landlord class, which dominated in the previous period.  Nor are they those that favour those commodity producers that relied upon the existence of guild monopolies and so on.  They are conditions that favour those amongst the independent commodity producers, who are best suited to these new conditions of competition.

This was something, as Lenin describes, that the Narodniks did not understand, and from his account, its also something that Roberts does not understand. In his account, evil feudal landlords, overnight, from the 15th century on, become transformed into evil capitalist landlords.

For Darwin's Theory of Evolution, changes in climate meant that some creatures died out whilst others prospered, because they were better suited. In relation to society, in Marx and Engels' Theory of Historical Materialism,

“In acquiring new productive forces men change their mode of production; and in changing their mode of production, in changing the way of earning their living, they change all their social relations. The hand-mill gives you society with the feudal lord; the steam-mill, society with the industrial capitalist.”

(Marx – The Poverty of Philosophy, Chapter 2)

Northern Soul Classics - What's Easy For Two - The Intruders


Friday, 16 April 2021

Friday Night Disco - Nobody But Me - The Isley Brothers


The Economic Content of Narodism, Chapter 4 - Part 14

Struve adopts the position also of a Professor standing above classes handing down Moral Law based upon a critique of practical reason, but such an approach inevitably results in bourgeois conclusions. The AWL and SWP stand on opposite sides of the barricades, but the conclusions from their opposing positions are equally bourgeois. The consequence of the SWP's position is that the working-class subordinate itself to assorted reactionary, petty-bourgeois nationalists or worse, whilst the consequence of the AWL's position is that the working-class subordinate itself to imperialism. The irony is that both organisations claim that they are in favour of an “independent working-class”

“This attempt to rise above classes leads the author to extreme haziness in stating his points, a haziness so great that the following bourgeois conclusions may be drawn from them: in opposition to the undoubtedly correct thesis that capitalism in agriculture (as capitalism in industry) worsens the conditions of the producer, he advances the thesis of the “benefit” of these changes in general. This is the same as if someone were to argue about machines in bourgeois society and refute the romantic economist’s theory that they worsen the conditions of the working people by proofs of the “benefit and blessing” of progress in general.” (p 472) 

The Narodniks would undoubtedly respond to Struve that what Danielson feared was not rising productivity, but bourgeoisdom. The same was true of the earlier Sismondists, they wanted progress but not bourgeois progress, because of the evils that capitalist production entailed. In the end, they came down on the side of opposition to progress, rather than accept the evils of capitalism. They were right, as Marx says in Theories of Surplus Value, Chapter 9, in pointing out that the progress was not possible without those evils, as against those economists who tried to refute the existence of such a correlation, but, in opposing progress, to avoid those evils, they were being reactionary. 

“There is no doubt that technical progress in agriculture under our capitalist system is connected with bourgeoisdom, but the “fear” displayed by the Narodniks is, of course, quite absurd. Bourgeoisdom is a fact of actual life, labour is subordinated to capital in agriculture too, and what is to be “feared” is not bourgeoisdom, but the producer’s lack of consciousness of this bourgeoisdom, his inability to defend his interests against it. That is why it is not the retardation of the development of capitalism that is to be desired, but on the contrary, its full development, its thorough development.” (p 472)

Thursday, 15 April 2021

Marxism, Zionism and the National Question Conclusion

Marxism, Zionism and the National Question


The nation state was a natural product of capitalist development. It reflected the fact that capitalism, to emerge as the dominant mode of production, required a single market of a minimum size that enabled production to be undertaken on a sufficient scale to enable capitalist production to undercut existing handicraft production. The development of markets, in the towns, brought the growth of the bourgeoisie, and of its political influence. It brought together scattered populations across provinces and principalities, into the modern nation state.

Those nations that failed to achieve this, either disappeared from history, or else they became annexed by larger capitalist nation states, or they became colonies. Capitalism itself, as it spread across the globe, established such nation states, even amongst the colonies, as their own national bourgeoisie developed, creating a national movement that brought about political independence. The nation state was a particular form which corresponded to the development of capitalism at a particular point in its development. During that period, the development of the nation state represents a progressive development.

The continued rapid development of capital, however, quickly brings this period to a close. The established nation states, not only engage in actions of expansionism and colonialism, but nationalism itself, for them, becomes an expression simply of chauvinism. The slogan of “self-determination” for such states is used simply as cover for “defence of the fatherland”, or of existing borders. By the end of the 19th century, the nation state itself represents a fetter on the further development of the productive forces and of capital. In Europe, it means that a much larger single market is required, similar to that which exists in the US, which rises to challenge the old European capitalist powers. But, nationalism now becomes also an impediment to the creation of a solution to this problem.

The dominant powers in Europe, France and Germany, seek to construct such a single market, but they do so on the old basis, of creating it by force, and attempting to preserve their own pre-eminence within it. The other dominant power, Britain, still enjoying near hegemony, and control over huge markets, via its Empire, simply seeks to maintain its dominance by preventing the creation of any such European single market and state, which would quickly overhaul it. Hence its role in the Napoleonic Wars, and in World War I and II.

In the 20th century, as large-scale socialised capitals, and then multinational corporations, become the norm, the nation state ceases to be the ideal form for the representation of the interests of capital, and its development. Attempts to promote or defend the nation state form, thereby, become utopian and reactionary. The state form required by mammoth, multinational and transnational capital, particularly as socialised rather than private capital, and so, also of the growth of fictitious capital to astronomical proportions, alongside it, becomes the multinational state, or federation of nation states into economic single markets, currency areas and so on, whose political concentration is equally inevitable, just as it was with the formation of the nation state, in the 19th century. Indeed, as the ruling class, a class now of mere coupon clippers, owners of fictitious-capital, is transformed into a truly global class, and the ownership of this fictitious-capital is transferred at the press of a button, from one country to another, so only global para state bodies, are capable of creating the kinds of structures required. The level playing field now required, is at minimum that of the huge multinational economic bloc, such as the EU, and ideally one established at a global level, as imperialism develops as a global, rules based, hierarchy of states, in which each state must agree to defend the rights of all capitalist property, or face the consequences.

Even large nation states, outside any of these structures, whilst they might have the superficial appearance of political independence, and self-determination, in reality, are economically subordinated to these larger economic powers, and so, also their political independence is heavily constrained, and illusory. The nation state is today a fetter on the further development of capital and the productive forces. It is a relic of the past, as is the demand for self-determination, which has become a slogan to defend all sorts of reactionary nationalist concepts and agendas. As Lenin argued, rather than “self-determination”, only the slogan of “free right of secession” could hold any revolutionary and progressive content, and then only when used by socialists in an oppressing nation as a means of gaining the trust of workers in an oppressed nation.

In general, the revolutionary and progressive demand, in the age of imperialism, and when our task is the overthrow of the capitalist state, and its replacement by a workers' state, is not “self-determination”, but is the voluntary association of workers of all nations, and the formation of federations of nations, the creation of large multinational federations as the political form required to best develop large single markets, and a more rapid development of the productive forces.  As Marx and Engels stated it succinctly - 


Wednesday, 14 April 2021

The Economic Content of Narodism, Chapter 4 - Part 13

Danielson's error lies in the fact that he ignores the classes arising out of this process, described by Marx, whether in industry or agriculture, and so he fails to analyse the antagonistic relation that exists between them. However, Struve repeats this error, rather than correcting it. Like the Narodniks, he assumes the role of “Law Giver”, standing above classes, and class antagonisms, and simply handing down prescriptions derived from a Kantian critique of practical reason. This is the same moralistic approach as that adopted by the petty-bourgeois Third Camp. 

Kant argues, 

“Any fully rational agent who wills an end, necessarily wills the means to that end. This is an analytic proposition; for to will (and not merely to wish) an end, is to will the action, which is a means to this end if he is irrational enough to be tempted to do otherwise.” 

(H.J. Paton, The Moral Law, p 28) 

Its on this basis that, on the one hand, the AWL's moralistic opposition to assorted tyrants leads them to be at best agnostic about the role of imperialist military intervention against them, whilst, on the other hand, the SWP's moralistic antagonism to imperialism leads them to be positively supportive of the role of assorted reactionaries in opposing it. Both the SWP and the AWL trace their ideological lineage back to the petty-bourgeois Third Camp of Burnham and Shachtman. Burnham the philosophy professor was the ideological rock upon which all of the Third Camp has been founded, as a petty-bourgeois trend of moral socialism. For the AWL, the end being willed is the defeat of assorted tyrants (unless of course they are tyrants in the service of democratic imperialism, as with the Gulf Monarchies against Gaddafi, or Assad), and so, for them, willing this end is only rational if you also will the means to that end, including if necessary, military intervention by imperialism, and its own tyrannical allies. 

For the SWP, the end to be willed is the defeat of imperialism, and so it is only rational to also will the means to that end, including supporting assorted reactionary regimes (which might themselves be imperialistic and expansionist) and movements, wherever they engage in such opposition to imperialism. Both rationally pursue their own moral commands, but, because both start from their own subjective determination of what constitutes a moral “good”, and, likewise, moral “evil” they necessarily arrive at different conclusions about what means they must also rationally will to achieve the moral ends that their particular moral imperative commands. 

This is the inevitable consequence of basing your political theory and practice on subjectivism and idealism, rather than materialism, and an analysis of what is objectively progressive and reactionary. The moralists fail to recognise that, in fact, means and ends are not separate categories. Ends are also, inevitably, determined also by means. The defeat of Saddam Hussein by imperialism, and the defeat of Saddam Hussein by Iraqi workers does not at all amount to the same end, simply achieved by different means. These are two completely different ends determined by different means, and that must be the case, because imperialism and the working-class are not simply two means to an end, but themselves two antagonistic class forces, each seeking their own contradictory ends, in pursuit of their own contradictory interests

That was illustrated clearly in Trotsky's analysis of the position of the liberal interventionists in the Balkan Wars. They, like the AWL, argued that putting an end to Ottoman despotism was a “moral good”, and so, if you willed that moral good as an end, you also had to will the means to that end, which included the intervention of Russia to bring that about, and also required playing down the atrocities committed by the liberal interventionists in achieving that end. In respect of the atrocities committed by the liberal interventionist forces, and the attempts by the Liberals to cover them up, Trotsky wrote, 

“An individual, a group, a party, or a class that ‘objectively’ picks its nose while it watches men drunk with blood massacring defenceless people is condemned by history to rot and become worm-eaten while it is still alive. 

“On the other hand, a party or the class that rises up against every abominable action wherever it has occurred, as vigorously and unhesitatingly as a living organism reacts to protect its eyes when they are threatened with external injury – such a party or class is sound of heart. Protest against the outrages in the Balkans cleanses the social atmosphere in our own country, heightens the level of moral awareness among our own people. The working masses of the population in every country are both a potential instrument of bloody outrages and a potential victim of such deeds. Therefore an uncompromising protest against atrocities serves not only the purpose of moral self-defence on the personal and party level but also the purpose of politically safeguarding the people against adventurism concealed under the flag of ‘liberation’.” 

(Trotsky, The Balkan Wars, p 293)

The AWL, have cited the first part of this quote, typically out of context, to justify intervention by imperialism, as though Trotsky had been writing it to attack atrocities by the Ottomans, when, in fact, he wrote it with the direct opposite meaning.

And, making the point that ends cannot be separated from means, Trotsky also wrote the following, indicating that the working class cannot subcontract its historic tasks to the bourgeoisie and its state. 

“Democracy has no right, political or moral, to entrust the organisation of the Balkan peoples to forces that are outside its control – for it is not known when and where these forces will stop, and democracy, having once granted them the mandate of its political confidence, will be unable to check them.” 

(ibid, p 148-52) 

“But it is not at all a matter of indifference by what methods this emancipation is being accomplished. The method of “liberation” that is being followed today means the enslavement of Macedonia to the personal regime in Bulgaria and to Bulgarian militarism; it means, moreover, the strengthening of reaction in Bulgaria itself. That positive, progressive result which history will, in the last analysis, extract from the ghastly events in the Balkans, will suffer no harm from the exposures made by Balkan and European democracy; on the contrary, only a struggle against the usurpation of history's tasks by the present masters of the situation will educate the Balkan peoples to play the role of superseding not only Turkish despotism but also those who, for their own reactionary purposes, are, by their own barbarous methods, now destroying that despotism... 

Our agitation, on the contrary, against the way that history's problems are at present being solved, goes hand in hand with the work of the Balkan Social Democrats. And when we denounce the bloody deeds of the Balkan 'liberation' from above we carry forward the struggle not only against liberal deception of the Russian masses but also against enslavement of the Balkan masses.” 

(ibid., p 293-4)

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

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

Marxism, Zionism and the National Question

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

Marxists have to deal with this reality, not some moralistic schemas of how things might be, which is both what the demand for a secular democratic state of Palestine, as well as the demand for a two state solution amount to in their own different ways. The reality is, therefore, that Marxists have to focus on a united struggle for Palestinian rights and freedoms across the whole of Israel-Palestine. The obvious framework within which such a struggle should be conducted is for a secular, federal state of Israel and Palestine. Within that structure, of a single federal state, both Jews and Palestinians would have equal political rights and freedoms. A federal solution would mean that there would be administrative autonomy in both majority Jewish and majority Palestinian areas. It simply takes what exists de facto on the ground, of a single Israeli state, and applies consistent democracy to it. This is the culminating demand of a series of political demands for Palestinian rights and freedoms that Palestinian and Jewish workers could fight for immediately.

Of course, its true that, if such a federal solution were established, the Palestinians might still then demand separation. Palestinians socialists, in line with Lenin's argument above, would oppose such a separation, whilst Jewish socialists would emphasise their right to do so. As Lenin describes, any demand for the separation of the Jewish areas, would amount to nothing more than a reactionary demand for “defence of the fatherland”, by the oppressor nation, and should, therefore, be opposed by all.

“The right of nations freely to secede must not be confused with the advisability of secession by a given nation at a given moment. The party of the proletariat must decide the latter question quite independently in each particular case, having regard to the interests of social development as a whole and the interests of the class struggle of the proletariat for socialism.

The Party demands broad regional autonomy, the abolition of supervision from above, the abolition of a compulsory official language, and the fixing of the boundaries of the self-governing and autonomous regions in accordance with the economic and social conditions, the national composition of the population, and so forth, as assessed by the local population itself...

The party demands that a fundamental law be embodied in the constitution annulling all privileges enjoyed by any one nation and all infringements of the rights of national minorities.”

This is no different to the way that English socialists should emphasise the right of Scotland to separate, whilst Scottish socialists should emphasise the need to remain united, and in the same way that British socialists should argue against Brexit. But, at least, the best conditions are created for such separation, as with Norway and Sweden. Indeed, not only would Palestinian socialists argue against such separation, but both Palestinian and Jewish workers would argue the need for a much broader voluntary association of states across MENA, as the most rational and progressive means of developing the productive forces, and building the unity of the working-class required for the progress towards Socialism.

“The proletarian party strives to create as large a state as possible, for this is to the advantage of the working people; it strives to draw nations closer together, and bring about their further fusion; but it desires to achieve this aim not by violence, but exclusively through a free fraternal union of the workers and the working people of all nations.”

The fact that such a wider federation is required does not, however, prevent its advocacy in Israel-Palestine, just as the EEC began with just 6 members, and just as the need to build a global federation of states does not prevent support for smaller federations on the road towards it.

“7) Federation is a transitional form to the complete unity of the working people of different nations. The feasibility of federation has already been demonstrated in practice both by the relations between the R.S.F.S.R. and other Soviet Republics (the Hungarian, Finnish and Latvian in the past, and the Azerbaijan and Ukrainian at present), and by the relations within the R.S.F.S.R. in respect of nationalities which formerly enjoyed neither statehood nor autonomy (e.g., the Bashkir and Tatar autonomous republics in the R.S.F.S.R., founded in 1919 and 1920 respectively).”

(Lenin – Draft Theses On The National and Colonial Questions)

Monday, 12 April 2021

The Economic Content of Narodism, Chapter 4 - Part 12

Danielson forgets that an increase in productivity can only come from changes in agricultural techniques, Struve says. Its true that Danielson forgets that, Lenin says, but this fact only strengthens the argument in relation to the differentiation. Its only the richest peasants that can bring about such changes, and this simply exacerbates the plight of the poor peasants, who are, thereby, proletarianised. The poor peasants don't even have enough food, let alone the money required to introduce improved techniques. 

Danielson argues that increased productivity would compel competitors to reduce prices, but agricultural prices were set on the global market, so, as Struve says, for Danielson's argument to be valid, Russian agriculture would have to raise its productivity to a level higher than in Western Europe and North America. 

“That objection is quite a sound one, but it tells us nothing whatever about which particular section of the “peasantry” will benefit from this technical improvement and why.” (p 471) 

There is no reason for Danielson to fear rising productivity, Struve says, but he does, because he can only envisage agricultural progress based upon extensive cultivation, and with machines also increasingly replacing workers. Struve's description of Danielson's fear, and its absurdity is correct, Lenin says, but does not deal with the basic error of Danielson's position. Danielson adopts the Marxist position of the progressive role of rising productivity in industry, but rejects it in relation to agriculture, even though the socio-economic consequences are the same. Lenin quotes Marx from Capital I, where he points to the fact that liberal capitalists and economists berated the old landed aristocracy, asking “where are our thousands of freeholders gone?”, to which the landlords could equally respond to the industrialists, “where are the independent weavers, spinners and artisans gone?”

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)

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Marxism, Zionism and the National Question - Liberal Intervention and The National Question

Marxism, Zionism and the National Question

Liberal Intervention and The National Question

In everything, the class struggle predominates over national and democratic struggles. All democratic demands, including self-determination are subordinated to the class struggle, and need to maintain the global interests of the working-class. Earlier was seen Engels' comment that the lives of millions of European workers could not be put in jeopardy for the sake of the independence of Herzogovinians. Lenin makes the same argument, above in relation to the three kingdoms. Trotsky made the same point in relation to the Balkan Wars, and in also setting out why Marxists cannot support or fail to oppose imperialist intervention under the flag of liberal interventionism.

When the Russian “liberal interventionists”, undertook massacres in the Balkans, reminiscent of the massacres undertaken by imperialism in Iraq, Afghanistan and so on, Trotsky condemned them, and the attempts of liberals like Miliukov to cover them up, writing,

“An individual, a group, a party, or a class that ‘objectively’ picks its nose while it watches men drunk with blood massacring defenceless people is condemned by history to rot and become worm-eaten while it is still alive.

On the other hand, a party or the class that rises up against every abominable action wherever it has occurred, as vigorously and unhesitatingly as a living organism reacts to protect its eyes when they are threatened with external injury – such a party or class is sound of heart. Protest against the outrages in the Balkans cleanses the social atmosphere in our own country, heightens the level of moral awareness among our own people. The working masses of the population in every country are both a potential instrument of bloody outrages and a potential victim of such deeds. Therefore an uncompromising protest against atrocities serves not only the purpose of moral self-defence on the personal and party level but also the purpose of politically safeguarding the people against adventurism concealed under the flag of ‘liberation’.”

(Trotsky Writings On The Balkan Wars, p 293)

Nor was this just a matter of simply complaining about the atrocities carried out by the liberal interventionists, whilst accepting that they might be undertaking some progressive historical task in liberating the oppressed. The working-class must oppose any such interventions, and cannot simply hand over its own historical tasks to the bourgeoisie.

“But it is not at all a matter of indifference by what methods this emancipation is being accomplished. The method of “liberation” that is being followed today means the enslavement of Macedonia to the personal regime in Bulgaria and to Bulgarian militarism; it means, moreover, the strengthening of reaction in Bulgaria itself. That positive, progressive result which history will, in the last analysis, extract from the ghastly events in the Balkans, will suffer no harm from the exposures made by Balkan and European democracy; on the contrary, only a struggle against the usurpation of history's tasks by the present masters of the situation will educate the Balkan peoples to play the role of superseding not only Turkish despotism but also those who, for their own reactionary purposes, are, by their own barbarous methods, now destroying that despotism...

Our agitation, on the contrary, against the way that history's problems are at present being solved, goes hand in hand with the work of the Balkan Social Democrats. And when we denounce the bloody deeds of the Balkan 'liberation' from above we carry forward the struggle not only against liberal deception of the Russian masses but also against enslavement of the Balkan masses.”

(ibid, p 293-4)

“Democracy has no right, political or moral, to entrust the organisation of the Balkan peoples to forces that are outside its control – for it is not known when and where these forces will stop, and democracy, having once granted them the mandate of its political confidence, will be unable to check them.”

(ibid p 148-52)

Marxists can never fail to oppose imperialist military interventions, for all these reasons set out by Trotsky, because the ends desired by imperialism are never the ends desired by the working-class, however much the liberal-interventionists might try to present that as being the case, on the basis of an idealistic, superficial and subjectivist description. Ends are never inseparable from means. If socialists give imperialism such cover, then they will use it also to intervene against socialist states, or even progressive social-democratic states that challenge the interests of the ruling class. They will always claim to be intervening to put an end to some oppression, some infringement of democratic norms, and so on, just as they do when justifying an inter-imperialist war.

Failing to speak out about such military intervention is chauvinism, and also cuts us off from the workers of those smaller nations who suffer as a result of such intervention. Despite all of the promises of the liberal interventionists, the lives of the workers in Iraq, Libya and Syria etc. got a lot worse after the intervention of the imperialists, and expansionist powers, be it the US, EU, Israel, and Gulf States, or be it Russia, Iran and Turkey. Marxists can only win the confidence of workers in these smaller states if we oppose the military intervention of all these larger states.

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

The Economic Content of Narodism, Chapter 4 - Part 9

Danielson also carries over his description of the creation of relative surplus population in industry to agriculture, but without making any analysis of the particular socio-economic conditions. Struve notes that overpopulation, for Marx, is correlated with technical progress. Both he and Danielson argue that there has been little technical progress in Russian agriculture, and so the reason for overpopulation, there, must lie in some other cause. 

Lenin quotes Marx again from Capital I, Chapter 30, where he says that, when capital takes hold of agriculture, the demand for agricultural labour falls absolutely. This is different to the situation in industry, where it falls relatively, but rises absolutely. Part of the agricultural population is constantly being released, and becoming part of the urban industrial proletariat. Lenin notes that Marx uses “manufacture” in the text to mean all non-agricultural industry. That is significant today, given that manufacture itself now accounts for less than 20% of employment, with 80% employed in service industry. 

Danielson didn't prove the capitalist nature of overpopulation, in Russia, because he failed to analyse the capitalist nature of Russian agriculture. He only summarily discusses capitalism in agriculture, in reference to the larger private, landowner farming. He fails to analyse the capitalist nature of all the agriculture, in Russia, in conditions where all production was geared to and dominated by the market. It was this failure that leads Danielson and the Narodniks to their erroneous theories about the inability for Russia to develop a home market. But, Struve fails to take up this error, and instead makes the error of denying the existence of capitalist overpopulation entirely, instead putting forward the Malthusian theory of overpopulation. 

“The invasion of agriculture by capital is characteristic of the entire history of the post-Reform period. The landlords went over (whether slowly or quickly is another matter) to hired labour, which became very widespread and even determined the character of the major part of peasant earnings; they introduced technical improvements and brought machines into use. Even the dying feudal system of economy—the provision of land to the peasants in return for labour service—underwent a bourgeois transformation due to competition among the peasants; this led to a worsening of the position of tenants, to severer conditions, and, consequently, to a decline in the number of workers. In peasant economy the splitting up of the peasantry into a village bourgeoisie and proletariat was quite clearly revealed. The “rich” extended their tillage, improved their farms [cf. V. V., Progressive Trends in Peasant Farming] and were compelled to resort to wage-labour. All these are long established, generally recognised facts which (as we shall see in a moment) are referred to by Mr. Struve himself.” (p 465)

Monday, 5 April 2021

Marxism, Zionism and the National Question - Reform and Revolution

Marxism, Zionism and the National Question

Reform and Revolution

Lenin distinguishes three categories of countries – the advanced capitalist countries; the countries of Eastern Europe, Balkans and Russia, and the colonies and semi-colonial countries. In the first category, there were, now, no progressive national movements, and these countries oppressed others. In the second, bourgeois-democratic revolutions were taking place at the start of the twentieth century. Here, the task was increasingly seen as falling to the workers to accomplish this task, as part of the socialist revolution. This is the basis of Trotsky's Theory of Permanent Revolution. That meant the socialists in the oppressor countries, e.g. Russia, had to emphasise the rights of nations to self-determination, or as Lenin later phrased it, the right to secede,  but that the socialists in the oppressed nations had to emphasise the need for voluntary integration of nations.

“In this connection the most difficult but most important task is to merge the class struggle of the workers in the oppressing nations with the class struggle of the workers in the oppressed nations.”

In the colonies and neo-colonies, the bourgeois-democratic revolution had not begun, at the time Lenin was writing. Socialists had to argue for the immediate liberation of them. That process was completed in the 1960's. With that, the historical period in which the demand for self-determination had any revolutionary content comes to a close. Its use now becomes, as with its use by the chauvinists in WWI, a cloak for demands for “defence of the fatherland”, and, thereby, nationalist and reactionary. The revolutionary demand, today, is the internationalist demand for the voluntary integration of nations. It is that which also flows from the creation of a world economy, and of multinational capital.

A central aspect of that voluntary integration is the struggle for political reforms, and the rights of minorities. Lenin sets out, in contrast to the Proudhonists and others, that, in the national question, reform and revolution are not opposites, but complimentary. In order for a revolutionary break to occur, it must usually be accompanied by a period of reforms. The reforms, or at least the struggle for the reforms, take the shape of demands for equal political rights and freedoms.

Examples in more recent times are the Civil Rights Movement in Northern Ireland, or the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, as well as the Civil Rights Movement in the US. All of these political struggles, are ones in which the working-class, across nations, nationalities, or ethnic and religious divides can be united. The role of socialists in oppressor nations or groups is to emphasise the need to introduce such reforms, because, just as no nation can be free that holds another in chains, so this applies to all these other divisions. The struggle for these political reforms does not mean that the end goal should be, or will be, a revolutionary break, but it does create the best conditions in which such a break can occur, if that is what the oppressed minorities decide is required. It creates the basis upon which such a break can be peaceful, and create the least divisions of the working-class.

The example Lenin gives, here, is Sweden and Norway. In this case, the pinnacle of such reforms was the establishment of autonomy for Norway. But, this autonomy still did not mean that Norway was equal with Sweden, and so the Swedish ruling class retained privileges that were mitigated but not abolished. This is the difference between a reform and revolution, Lenin says.

“As long as Norway was merely autonomous, the Swedish aristocracy had one additional privilege; and secession did not “mitigate” this privilege (the essence of reformism lies in mitigating an evil and not in destroying it), but eliminated it altogether (the principal criterion of the revolutionary character of a programme).

Incidentally, autonomy, as a reform, differs in principle from freedom to secede, as a revolutionary measure. This is unquestionable. But as everyone knows, in practice a reform is often merely a step towards revolution. It is autonomy that enables a nation forcibly retained within the boundaries of a given state to crystallise into a nation, to gather, assess and organise its forces, and to select the most opportune moment for a declaration ... in the “Norwegian” spirit: We, the autonomous diet of such-and-such a nation, or of such-and-such a territory, declare that the Emperor of all the Russias has ceased to be King of Poland, etc.”

This may well be the case with Scottish independence, or Catalunyan independence, whether we believe that such independence, of itself, is a progressive development. Similarly, I would argue that in Israel-Palestine, the correct Marxist strategy, given that all Palestinians, be they inside Israel itself, or within Gaza and the West Bank, which exist essentially as vassals, and dependencies of Israel, must be a struggle, here and now, for equal political rights of Palestinians with Jews. That is a political struggle to be fought jointly by Jewish and Palestinian workers, together, and the onus in that struggle falls upon Jewish socialists in Israel to champion it. That struggle, so long as Palestinians do not have their own separate state, must include the right to vote in Knesset elections, for all Palestinians, as well as the right to send representatives to it; it involves the right of Palestinian majority areas, such as Gaza and the West Bank to administrative autonomy; it involves a right to migrate to, and move freely within, Israel and the occupied territories.

It may be that, out of this process, the Palestinians, as with the Norwegians, form themselves into a nation capable of creating an independent nation state, in which case the autonomous Palestinian parliament, as with that of Norway, could simply declare its independence, but, arising on the back of years of joint struggle, by Jewish and Palestinian workers, this would be under completely different conditions to those of suspicion and hostility that currently exists between these communities.

But, such reforms do not necessarily lead to a revolutionary break, and the establishment of a new class state. On the contrary, Lenin sets out the presumption is against the creation of any new class state, except in exceptional conditions. We are in favour of tearing down borders not erecting new ones. The Civil Rights Movement, in Northern Ireland, was not conducted on the basis of creating a new Catholic state in the North, or even of just a redrawing of the border between the North and the Republic. The Civil Rights Movement in the US was not conducted on the basis of creating a new independent black state, in the US. That had been the programme not of socialists but of black nationalist like Marcus Garvey.  The links between Garvey and the Ku Kux Klan, and other white separatists, mirror the links between Zionism, and other such nationalists and separatists like the Nazis, and indeed the relations between US Zionists, and white supremacists, today, inside the pro-Trump movement.

Rather, the strategy of Marxists is to combine the political struggle with the class struggle. Our goal is not the creation of some new class state, nor, as in the case of the social chauvinists, to defend the continuance of existing class states under cover of the demand for self-determination, as a proxy for defence of the fatherland, of national borders and national privileges, but is the overthrow of the existing class state, and its replacement by a workers' state as the only real basis upon which the rights of workers can be guaranteed, irrespective of nation, ethnicity or religion.

Sunday, 4 April 2021

The Economic Content of Narodism, Chapter 4 - Part 8

The reality of Russian agriculture was that large amounts of the peasant's production went to cover redemption payments, taxes, interest payments and merchant's profit. Of the rest, its distribution amongst the peasantry, as a whole, was not at all even. Yet, Struve ignores all of this complex of social relations, and simply notes that “production is insufficient”

Lenin then turns to an examination of the basis of Struve's errors, and also of the contending position of Danielson. Danielson makes the same mistake that many Marxists do. Danielson notes that the relative surplus population arises because capital introduces labour-saving technologies. That means that the same amount of output can be produced by less labour. The “freed” labour then constitutes part of the relative surplus population. But, in fact, this is not all Marx says on this matter. He talks about a process in which labour is both repelled and attracted. The introduction of the labour-saving technology does not occur in a vacuum. The introduction of this new technology, that replaces older technology – intensive accumulation – occurs alongside an accumulation of capital. Even if the new technology means that a smaller physical mass of fixed capital is employed, it processes more material, so that an increase in the accumulation of circulating capital is required. More workers, machines etc. are employed to produce this additional material. But, the rise in productivity created by the new technology causes the price of the end product to fall, and this means the demand for it rises. 

In addition, the relative surplus population causes wages to fall, and surplus value to rise, which means that the mass of profit, and so potential for additional accumulation rises. Where the new technology is introduced this releases variable-capital – and potentially fixed capital where one machine replaces two. Some of this is absorbed as additional circulating constant capital, as more material is processed, but the rest can now be used in some other sphere, including new, high profit/high growth spheres. So, what occurs is that output grows relative to labour, but this does not at all mean that labour is reduced in absolute terms. On the contrary, Marx explains how it results in a growing mass of capital, growing mass of profit, and growing level of employment. Marx's argument against those who claimed that the freed labour would simply be used producing the new machines etc. by contrast, was that there was no automatic mechanism bringing that about, and that, often, it was not the displaced workers that found work, as the expansion occurred, but their children. 

Danielson, in the same way, ignores this fact that, alongside the relative displacement of labour, caused by the growth of large-scale machine industry, goes an expansion of employment, as production and the market expands. As the market expands, its not only the large scale factories that expand. They, in turn, create a home market for a range of inputs, as well as to meet the consumption needs of their workers. This expansion of the home market means that the number of handicraft producers, meeting these needs, also expands. He, 

“disregards the parallel fact of the growth of handicraft industries, which expresses the deepening of the social division of labour.” (p 463) 

And, Lenin notes, 

“It is a known fact that our handicraft industries have grown and that a mass of new ones have appeared since the Reform. The theoretical explanation of this fact and of the capitalisation of other peasant industries is also known; it was given by Marx to explain the “creation of the home market for industrial capital” [Capital I, Chapter 30]”. (Note *, p 463) 

The “anti-imperialists” also fail to understand this basic function of the role of large scale capital in bringing about an increase in the size of the domestic market, in developing economies, and the consequent development of domestic capital. They can only see “super-exploitation”, “unequal exchange”, “dependency”, and “the development of underdevelopment”, and so fail to recognise the progressive role that this multinational capital performs.