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)

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