No Capitalist Allies. No Nationalism?

Focusing on the African continent and the parts of the world where a lot of people of African descent live, this article challenges the notion that the fight for national ‘self-determination’ is a more valid political agenda than the fight for international proletarian self-determination. The author blames much of the confusion about the value of nationalism as a revolutionary movement, on VI Lenin:

“The silencing of the working class and the decade-old replacement of informed socialist discourse with the half-wit sound bites of liberalism in the world-sociopolitical debate is a natural consequence of generations of adherence to the [Leninist] “political line” which preached the gospel of “United Democratic Fronts” against “Imperialism.” This doctrine, as we have seen in practice, is capitalist ideology in essence, all nationalist struggles being ultimately directed at fortifying the capitalist order of society. It has yielded the most repressive and corrupt regimes in Angola, The Congo, Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda, Somalia – – the list goes on ad infinitum.”

To counter this historical trend of nationalism (necessarily) gone wrong, the author urges:

“Working people have a duty to reassert the primacy of the working class struggle over all others. The working class has no allies among the capitalist of any country irrespective of what their race, or, religion might be. The battle lines may not be clearly demarcated in this era of sound bites and systematic dis-information about “national security,” “democratic values,” and “war on terrorism” but there is no question that the real struggle is between capital and labor. Whatever the diversionary route taken society shall finally come face to face with this reality. That is the bottom line. It is time to return to basics.”

http://laborpartypraxis.org/abcofclassstruggle.html

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30 responses to “No Capitalist Allies. No Nationalism?

  1. Once again, the call to “go back to basics” and simply sweep the period of national liberation struggles underneath the table so that we can all be “workers” again (not unique to this source – the Progressive Labor Party and various Trotsyist sects have made this gesture before).

    The problem is: the basics are not (and never were) as simplistic as those who exhort us all to go back to them.

    As Lenin himself pointed out (contra Luxemburg and Trotsky’s chauvinist bent toward the Irish struggle): Marx and Marxism contended saw all struggles as those of class, not merely those that appeared to be so; the question was “how” did various anti-imperial and anti-colonial struggles related to the class struggle, and not “if.”

    In that, Fanon proves to be a corrective for having simply pointed out in the latter (more often than not forgotten) half of Wretched of the Earth that internationalism extends from an understanding of nation and nationalism.

    It is true that the subordination of the class struggle has proven to be a tricky matter. And yet, there’s a willful myopia in this. A case in point with South Africa, where the array of forces did not merely consist of the ANC vs. the apartheid state, but where you also had the Inkatha Freedom Party (the right-wing Zulu-based party in SA) as well as a SACP that at the time did have the potential to hold its own outside of the United Democratic Front prior to the IFP’s assassination of Cris Hani.

    The point then is not to proceed muddleheaded about whether or not to engage in necessary struggles — I challenge Western activists to think about the luxury of considering struggle a volunteer activity — but rather, in the future, to learn what to do when the struggle comes to you.

    • “Once again, the call to “go back to basics” and simply sweep the period of national liberation struggles underneath the table so that we can all be “workers” again (not unique to this source – the Progressive Labor Party and various Trotsyist sects have made this gesture before).”

      Adduku is neither a Trotskyist nor is he a Maoist” (PLP). Nobody is sweeping the national liberation struggles under the table. The fact is that these national liberation movements have been complete, and in most cases – most of African countries and more recently those in Eastern Europe and former Soviet Union, are ruled by bourgeois classes and governments that are tied to US imperialism, or in Africa their former colonialists.

      It is racist to restrict nationalism to African &/or 3rd world countries, and to exclude the nationalist movements in Eastern Europe and former Soviet Union. Most of those countries are joining NATO, some the EU. What does yiur reading of Fanon have to say about that? In Nigeria, the independence government is now in process of having the armed forces massacre hundreds of people, bombing villages in Niger Delta to suppress a rebellion against Shell, Texaco, &c. exploitation and pollution of this oil region, which destroyed local economy. Do you support this?

      Lil Joe

  2. Yo, Hegemonik right on for posting. I’m reading what you’ve read and i’m always down for some debate. especially having been initially trained in a maoist perspective of politics, i find a lot of what you’re saying familiar.

    Having not read the piece in its entirety I don’t want to comment yet as to what I agree/disagree with in its and your analysis, but I would like to make a request: could you engage the piece a bit more? Labeling it as more of the same “go back to the basics” that wants to sweep the “history of national liberation movements under the rug” seems to dismiss the article in totality without providing an analysis of its weaknesses.

    I will say that I agree with you that things (and “the basics”) are never as simple as they may seem. I also agree with you when you state,

    “Marx and Marxism contended saw all struggles as those of class, not merely those that appeared to be so; the question was “how” did various anti-imperial and anti-colonial struggles related to the class struggle, and not “if.” ”

    However, the question as I see it is – if we understand that all struggles are lead by a certain class’ ideology, then what class is leading the way? Since you denounce this article I would venture to say that you believe working class ideologies lead the way in many national liberation movements. Is this true?

    Please, for the interest of all of our growth as marxists, engage the article more directly and show us where it goes wrong.

  3. I think there’s an underlying assumption, big L, that ideology is a zero sum game: either the working class is in the lead, or some other class is (the bourgeoisie? if so, are they comprador or nationally based? Or is it the petty bourgeois, or some feudal element?)

    Struggles are inherently frought with societal contradictions. The particular instance of South Africa (which is referenced explicitly in the article) was a good example of that: you had several schools of thoughts including the strict adherents of the Freedom Charter; Marxists of a pro-Moscow base; Trotskyists; a few Maoists in the mix; and for a brief period the the Black Consciousness Movement. That’s without getting into the whole mess of the Inkatha Freedom Party and its feudal and compradorist bent.

    The class forces these tendencies based themselves in and which they claimed in some way to represent were contentious. Mandela, for example, represented a fairly clear example of the national bourgeoisie; Hani a much more working class oriented figure.

    In dealing with that, the Gramscian concept of hegemony is useful, as it understands two things intuitively:
    1) In ideology as in chess, you don’t need the most pieces to win; just the right pieces in the right places. Hani’s place within the ANC/SACP alliance was crucial – he had the armed wing of the ANC’s respect, as well as that of the mass anti-apartheid movements.

    The SACP was always subordinated to the ANC in its alliance, but it always played a crucial role in the struggle that the ANC could not play (both because of its national bourgeois ambitions and its reliance upon an official disavowal of communist aid).

    In at least one book on the ANC (Fred Wilderson’s Incognegro – a must read), a secret vote was held as the apartheid state was crumbling amongst ANC underground cadres — a “re-up” of the ANC’s inner circle as conditions changed. Mandela had the approval of 99 delegates. Hani had the approval of all 100. I think it proves that Hani and the SACP held much greater control over the ANC than is usually thought, and that the SACP could very easily have splintered from the ANC.

    Of course, Hani was shot by a dumbfuck, and the course of history is as it is today.

    2) In dealing with the comings and goings of the struggle, classes also push and pull one another in various alignments. The national bourgeoisie in a national liberation struggle has a certain claim over ownership patria/fatherland; the workers the intuitive sense of “building” the nation from their own flesh and blood.

    To continue this example: the SACP generally had a good idea of how to build actions in which the working class and slumdwellers would lead, and the national bourgeoisie forced to follow. The best instance for examination would be the non-compliance campaigns: in them, the ANC and SACP alliance would build up the multi-class bloc such that the renters were the first to stop paying rent; they would then pressure the home owners to stop paying money on mortgages.

    Nevertheless, the case of South Africa is such that if the national bourgeoisie were to be lost as an ally to the cause, then it would have dire consequences. Their defection toward acceptance of the Bantustans would have been traumatic; it would have consolidated the apartheid state to the point where it could have been infinitely worse than where Palestine is at present.

  4. “…if the national bourgeoisie were to be lost as an ally to the cause…” – hegemonik

    what was the cause? from the “national” bourgeoisie’s perspective, the cause was one thing, from the “national” proletariat’s perspective it was another. supposedly they were allies in the anti-apartheid cause, but clearly de-colonization has no panned out as trojan horse for socialism that we marxists should have hoped for. rather, the picture looks much the same, albeit now the green (money) is painted with blackface rather than whiteface, and still the red blood flows. life in the shantytowns has not improved. nationally liberated SA cant hold a candle to the island of pseudo socialism that is Cuba where at least the people are housed clothed and educated in a manner befitting of humanity. the difference between them is nothing but the survival of the bourgeoisie. the bourgeoisie’s cause is hegemonik.

    there is more i would like to say, but i’d rather cut the chase and ask where you stand on the political question of utmost relevance to us today. putting our differences of opinion on historical matters to the side for moment, can we agree that the way forward for the working class, in this nationally liberated world that we currently inhabit (palestine, puerto rico and some other small exceptions to the rule notwithstanding), is to organize independently of ALL capitalists (national or transnational)? and that this applies as a rule of thumb for 99% of the world’s proletarians in 2009?

    this after all is the thesis advanced by the article we are commenting on. even if we disagree on the strategy pursued in so many cases in a past era of proletarian upheaval, i hope we can see clearly that today, no capitalist is our ally.

  5. @estaban:

    The error of the idea of a united front as simply a “Trojan horse” by which to import socialism is forcing a subjective bent upon an objective situation. Namely, that the struggles of national liberation do not exist as a “Trojan horse” but as something of their own accord, and produce united fronts/liberation fronts accordingly. The terms of the national liberation struggle are their own, and are not fought on strictly socialist grounds (though I take care to mention: the socialist understanding of imperialism provides a distinct grounding).

    Therefore, “independence” of socialists in a national liberation struggle is illusory; autonomy (of initiative and policy) is possible, but not complete independence.

    In that, let’s not forget the hard lesson of the interwar period preceding the national liberation wave. In many ways, the sectarian “class versus class” analysis of the Third Period – in which Communist Parties fought not just the bourgeois parties but the social democrats and socialist parties – actually laid down the groundwork of the following Popular Front period – in which, having few allies in the period of fascism, the Communist Parties got sucked into bourgeois coalitions.

    This is why Mao later commented that dogmatism was worthless – because the Dogmas of the Comintern led directly to its irrelevance.

    The lesson for today is that the general autonomy of revolutionary organizations should be taken as a necessary subjective stance, but that it has to be adapted to the objective condition, and further that we have to be able to think on our feet. Alliances have to be made on the basis of whether the concessions made are positive (i.e., do they allow for the survival of socialist thought and struggle?) or are they negative (i.e., do they simply constitute a sort of right-opportunism of the moment?)

    There are no pat formulas today, and this is partly why the idea that a single monolithic party with correct line will emerge for the working class (to the exclusion of other classes) becomes even more of a farce now than it did back in the 30’s.

  6. cutting to the chase, i will pose the question i am most interested in right here at the top of this comment: who are the proletariat’s capitalist allies?

    secondarily: if nationalism is a united front of a national bourgeoisie and the proletariat of a given nation, and if such united fronts have panned out historically in the form of neo-colonialism/neo-liberalism, what basis is there today for nationalism?

    hegemonik: “…let’s not forget the hard lesson of the interwar period preceding the national liberation wave.”

    this reminds me of the essay amiri baraka wrote titled “Obama & The Tragic Errors of The Weimar Republic” in which he urges us to support obama as a bulwark against the supposed fascism of mccain. Malcolm X Grassroots Movement’s Kali Akuno wrote an article prior to obama’s election in which he recognized the phenomenon of a black man becoming the choice candidate for the transnational capitalist class. obama has proven to be precisely such a representative, he has administered the biggest transfer of wealth upward that has been seen in a long time (ever?), continued bush’s program abroad, militarized the border, and abandoned single-payer health, and done nothing for the black working class – to name just a few of the “fascistic” elements of his program.

    the non-profit sector, which in general is a wing of the bourgeoisie, does nothing to oppose any of this, as with the trade union leadership (and their non-profit appendages called workers centers), which is thoroughly integrated into the transnational capitalist class as its principle medium of injecting ruling class hegemony into the ranks of the workers.

    since we both are coming from a marxist perspective, which holds up as its central slogan “workers of the world unite!” i think the burden of proof is on you to identify which capitalists are our allies or potential allies. obama clearly is not. it is also incumbent upon you to argue why we shouldnt build an organization that is based in the working class and draws the class line as the principle point of conflict in society globally.

    without a significant revolutionary proletarian movement and without organization that is seen by the working class as a vehicle for its aspirations, i agree that its dogmatic to just utter “class against class” as a mantra. the problem, though, is how to build such an organization? i dont think the answer involves capitalist allies, especially when we have so few PROLETARIAN allies. the longer we postpone building an organization that fights for working class political autonomy, the more we invite fascist-type developments to unfold.

    in the 2009, it should be clear that intermediate classes such as the artisans/petit bourgeoisie, peasantry, and “national bourgeoisie” are dwindling and more and more we approach a scenario representative of the picture painted by Marx in the manifesto where there are two great classes standing squarely in opposition to each other. in the US, foreclosures, white collar layoffs, the structural adjustment program that the “labor aristocracy” in key unionized industries is forced to accept, etc have already and will continue to erode not only the “middle classes” but also the middle to upper strata of the working class.

    the marxists who ascribe to and spread the doctrine of national liberation to this day, contribute to the fracturing, weakening, of the whole proletariat and especially engage a racist denial of the oppressed to inherit (through conquest) the fruits of our labor – to dissolve the USA into a single western hemispheric socialist entity. whenever someone denigrates the concept of ‘class against class’ they deny the most oppressed the only tool that will ever liberate them. there are no classes left but reconcilable sections of the proletariariat and irreconcilable capitalist enemies.

    if this is dogmatic, show me a worthy capitalist friend. my analysis here may be wrong, but i am revealing the material basis for my logic and i think this is one key aspect that marks my assertions as non-dogmatic, even if arguably mistaken. i am open to being proven wrong on the basis of my observations of material reality.

    hegemonik: “There are no pat formulas today, and this is partly why the idea that a single monolithic party with correct line will emerge for the working class (to the exclusion of other classes) becomes even more of a farce now than it did back in the 30’s.”

    we agree on this point. what i see though, is that some people abuse this apparently fresh-thinking approach to marxism (-leninism?). they throw “no formulas” up as an excuse to justify their own laziness in the face of tempting bourgeois “allies” like non-profits (funded by big profits) and populist politicians (nader, obama). i understand this temptation as a pathway out of marginalized leftist irrelevance, and i actually respect it for recognizing a big problem facing marxism today. i just think its misguided and that there’s no subsitute for keeping our perspective firmly rooted in the working class (with all its diversity – ie not monolithic).

    while i agree with the quote above, i think we do need to build a communist organization that is composed of working class people (lgbtq ones, non-citizen ones, female ones, ones in industry, ones in services, ones who do unpaid work, non-english speaking ones, high wage and low wage ones, black ones, male ones, white ones, student ones, etc ) and brings a proletarian class consciousness into all struggles. i dont think there is any need in 2009 to find allies outside the proletariat. i dont even know where they would be found (again i ask you to point me toward them if you know of any). hence the relevance of a class against class outlook, and the objective fact that capitalists are not our allies… be we in the US or in nigeria, south africa, brazil, france, or china.

    so as of right now, who are the capitalist allies available to the proletariat in the US and elsewhere? if there are none, then why the hostility toward ‘class against class?’

  7. cutting to the chase, i will pose the question i am most interested in right here at the top of this comment: who are the proletariat’s capitalist allies?

    It’s dependent upon situation. In that of a well-developed capitalist society, there are few to none. In a society that is semi-feudal, those who are working against feudalism. In one that is under the boot of imperialism, those that will oppose imperialism on the grounds of nation.

    I am not, and will not say that the capitalists should be the permanent allies of anyone; nor do I think there are even temporary allies in the U.S. today. I’m actually quite opposed to Baraka’s analysis which has lapsed quite clearly into a form of Popular Frontism.

    But as I alluded to earlier, Baraka (and many modern Popular Frontists) are merely on the same path as their Depression era ancestors: having spent some decades in hyper-sectarian formations, they now recoil into the arms of the Popular Front.

    Put simply: what are on their face opposed strategies are actually two complementary strategies, which (like their author from Georgia) are not worth rehabilitation. If you really think the Popular Front sucks, then it’s best not to adopt the class-vs.-class approach as if it were a dogma.

    secondarily: if nationalism is a united front of a national bourgeoisie and the proletariat of a given nation, and if such united fronts have panned out historically in the form of neo-colonialism/neo-liberalism, what basis is there today for nationalism?

    Nationalism is not a united front; national liberation (as the antithesis of imperialism) tends to produce national liberation fronts. And it’s not as simple as merely the national bourgeoisie and proletariat, but also the interests of various shades of the peasantry.

    In that, various Latin American forces have the national liberation front character for good reason: the U.S. can and will intervene both diplomatically and militarily to completely wipe out any resistance to a state perceived to be violating the Monroe Doctrine (even if bourgeois).

    Within those fronts, the role of working class and socialist forces should be built autonomously (and not in complete subordination) – but with concessions made simply to face the objective reality that the U.S. can take advantage of infighting. This is the balancing act people in the oppressed nations have to take part in. It’s by no means something I think they greet (who wishes to have their choices be constrained between Lula or getting bombed?) but this is the hand that has been dealt.

  8. Also: when I mention “class versus class” analysis, I am speaking very specifically to a particular strategy of the ComIntern (specifically its Third Period) in which affiliated parties were expected to take part in clashes with social democrats and socialist parties.

    The underlying assumption (from the even earlier “Bolshevization” period) is that there could only be a singular party for a singular working class in any given country. The problem being: no such “singular” party could exist, as there was never a singular working class (or even a singular country – as was the case in France, where Algerians and Vietnamese were considered a single unit under colonial dominion).

  9. “In one that is under the boot of imperialism, those that will oppose imperialism on the grounds of nation.”

    like khomeni and mugabe?

    “Nationalism is not a united front; national liberation (as the antithesis of imperialism) tends to produce national liberation fronts.”

    it would help me if you could describe what nationalism is then, because all the examples of nationalism itself that i am aware of represent a front between a section of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat (and peasantry). by definition its a front bc the bourgeoisie is never big enough to fight its own battles. it tends to be a cooptive manuver that takes advantage of the sufferings of the working class to get them to be junior partners in the “national” bourgeoisie’s project to establish its own dictatorship over the masses – and this they call liberation. gratned, the working class yearns for freedom and they have sympathy for the nationalist agenda, but usually there is not an internationalist proletarian organization around as an alternative. such organizations are harder to build bc their ideology is a couple degrees removed from hegemonic understandings of the world. but being harder to build isnt an excuse. there are no shortcuts. not in 2009.

    within a short span of time, what historically has happened is that this national bourgeoisie, once the working class has helped it get in control of the state as the new ruling class, opens up to foreign capital because that’s what yields them the greatest profit. they become internationalist capitalists, when what is needed is internationalist proletarianism. the masses are left confused – what happened to our allies? and are discouraged from further revolutionary dreams bc “all revolutions end with new assholes in power” and they turn to religion or apathy to cope with their misery, which more of them experience now in the context of the shanty town in a megalopolis rather than the fields but with little change otherwise.

    “This is the balancing act people in the oppressed nations have to take part in. It’s by no means something I think they greet (who wishes to have their choices be constrained between Lula or getting bombed?) but this is the hand that has been dealt.”

    i dont think lenin, trotsky, mao or even castro would appreciate this tone of resignation. each in their own ways learned in the process of their committed struggles to achieve liberation for the working classes by any means necessary, that alliances with even nationalist bourgeois elements are fickle at best and deadly at the worst. each at some stage of the revolutionary process broke definitively with the bourgeois democratic elements, realizing that a single movement representing the whole working class (including rural workers and poor peasants) was the only vehicle that could acheive total victory.

    “In that, various Latin American forces have the national liberation front character for good reason: the U.S. can and will intervene both diplomatically and militarily to completely wipe out any resistance to a state perceived to be violating the Monroe Doctrine (even if bourgeois).”

    thats not true. mexico nationalized its oil and the US didnt “completely wipe it out.” the FARC challenges the monroe doctrine and it has survived as the oldest continuous guerilla movement in the world. Chavez challenges the monroe doctrine (not merely enough) and they havent been able to just snap their fingers and completely wipe him out. your comment overestimates american might. even tiny non-bourgeois cuba has survived just 90 miles from the US. youre right though of course, that the US will vigorously oppose them and tries to defeat them, but my point is that the best way to defend against this yankee imperialism is not to appease them, but to create a solid movement that is unflinchingly working class and that breaks with bourgeois elements.

    the examples in which the working class movements were wiped out were ones in which the “revolution” didnt complete its own work, allowed the back door to stay open to the bourgeoisie, rather than closing ranks to establish a new state apparatus in place a smashed old one. nicaragua and chile are clear examples of the former, while cuba is an example of the latter (not to hold cuba up as true socialism or anything). we would have no business defending the bolshevik revolution, the cuban revolution, the chinese, vietnamese, or any other revolution if we really believed that the fight to destroy the bourgeois apparatus were futile, and that the Allendes and Lulas were the pinacles of the possible.

    but to bring it back to the US, do we agree that there need to be working class organizations that put forward a perspective that is radically different from the democrat-trade union-nonprofit complex that passes for a left? and should we not clash with them (i dont mean with violence of course)? if such organizations had success at organizing workers on the job, in the community, in the home, on the street, in the schools, in the military, in the prisons, i think the clash would be innevitable. in my opinion the amiri barakas and cornell wests and dolores huertas (supported clinton! not even obama) and even noam chomskys all need to called out and the working class needs to be exposed to real proletarian politics.

    what concrete forms do you think organizing should take to build the role of the working class autonomously?

    • Esteban:

      I very much suggest that you cease to use a crowbar to try to jam words (much less political positions) into my mouth.

      It’s simply poor form.

      Knocking down the strawmen:
      khomeni and mugabe?

      Khomeini and Mugabe are two separate instances. In the first: Ayatollah Khomeini was very much not a national liberation figure (the old joke is that he spoke Farsi with an Arabic accent), and the Islamic Revolution very much the product of the revolutionary Left in Iran being hypersectarian and prone to being so focused on winning small battle amongst themselves that he emerged as a Bonapartist figure.

      As for Mugabe, the case with ZANU and Zimbabwe was such that the sheer bitterness of a war that involved outright settler colonialism coupled with a former colonial power that engaged primarily in low-intensity warfare and mercenaries meant that any number of issues between Rhodesia and the imperial order were never decisively resolved. In some ways, Zimbabwe has become the perfect example of how bad an imperialist power can fuck with a country well after an official war has ended.

      In that, Bob Mugabe is in his own way a sad servant of imperialism by being a very bad anti-imperialist. By refusing to turn the low-intensity war into an actual people’s war, he allowed the issue of white settler monopolization of arable land to become a cause celebre for the BBC over the span of decades.

      my point is that the best way to defend against this yankee imperialism is not to appease them, but to create a solid movement that is unflinchingly working class and that breaks with bourgeois elements.

      This is empty sloganeering, not to mention a complete misreading of the actual text. Not a single instance you mention, save Nicaragua built around a national liberation front.

      Hint: you tend to find the letters “LN” at the end of an actual national liberation front’s name.

      In the one case you mention, the Sandinista movement, we can generally agree the national bourgeoisie got too big a piece of it, though I take pains to say that there was contingency — it’s entirely within the realm of reason that were the lower class strata of the Sandinistas willing to take the offensive against the Contras, that the national bourgeoisie would have followed. The problem was much less a matter of Ortega crushing his own movement, than a false sense of comfort the Sandinistas had built by taking up the ballot and to some degree winning through it — failing to understand that war is politics by other means.

      • the fact is that if we measure success by the rubric that the people who are affected by it measure it (food, housing, medical, education, healthy social relations, etc.), other than cuba, very few national liberation or third world socialist examples made improvements in the lives of the working class or even allowed these countries to be any more independent of international forces than they were before.

        OF COURSE its because the US fucked with them – thats what the capitalism is supposed to do! this has to be foreseen, and theories that are supposed to illucidate strategies (shine the path) are supposed to match objective realities… like the world system hegemon fucking with you.

        maybe building an isolated struggle in a backward country thus picking a very uneven fight with a very violent bully ISNT the best strategy!!!

        maybe its suicidal in fact. look at the whole continent of africa. disunited because nationalism even its liberatory variant is not denies internationalism. punked by capital because socialism was not the dominant theory of really existing nationalism, but rather a pragmatic afterthought tacked on to recieve aid from USSR.

        from the geo-political viewpoint, the blow national liberation dealt to global capitalism proved to be a paper tiger, and the “liberated” territories ended up becoming the most profitable spheres for investment within a couple decades, thus reinvigorating capital for an entire historical epoch. culturally they all worship american media monoculture. so what has been accomplished?

        its one thing to be excited about national liberation during the era when they were live struggles, when in some cases the people were empowered to participate in the processes (cuba, china) and when they presented (relatively minor) obstacles to capitalist accumulation. all those dimensions do offer us glimpse into the possible. but to reflect on them in 2009 with nostalgia and ostensibly with the aim of resurrecting theory and practice around them, when looked at as a whole, these disparate and theoretically backward movements were collosal failures, is at the very least unimaginative/intellectually lazy/ undialectical.

        in year 2009, when global immigration has never been higher, when capital has never been so transnational, when there is no USSR to confuse about what socialism is, when there are so many simultaneous crises emerging, and when there are virtually no nations left to “liberate” I think the preoccupation with nationalism is misguided. whatever one thought of national liberation during that phase of history, its a phase that was completed 3 or 4 decades ago.

        in fact the whole phenomenon, was justified on “marxist” grounds, upon the basis of the stagist theory that first the bourgeois democratic revolution had to be made nationally, and that the internationalist socialist struggle belonged to a later epoch.

        well now we’re in the later epoch, so what’s your proposal? all you got to say is: “uhhhh… national liberation”

        really, again? it was tried – like 20 times already. in one or two cases marxists took the lead and for a couple decades it benefitted the people. then reality hit, the world system strangled it and they are back to being punked by imperialism just like the rest of the de-colonized people (and the workers in the imperialist core too). are you ready for marxism yet?

        nostalgia for the era of Ls and Ns offers no strategic insights.

  10. I guess I am sympathetic here to Hegemonik.

    I just want to contribute some thoughts on this article itself, here clearly the “Advance the Struggle” folks have to clearly demonstrate what they think of the line represented in the article that rejects Lenin’s analysis of imperialism as a particular form in the development of capitalism, I think this might give a more concrete understanding where you guys are coming from.

    In my own opinion I think the rejection of this line will inevitably lead to a definite form of social-chauvinism which historically existed within the second international (think Rosa Luxembourg quipping that the idea of Polish self-determination is as laughable as Irish self-determination). Obviously the conditions in which global capital operates within capitalism is different with the development of transnational capital, but the basic truth of the relations of production across the world show how national oppression and super-exploitation is a basic truth of how global capital functions.

    The line “capitalism is the highest stage of capitalism, no more no less” in this article simply shows what is problematic here. There are periods and points in its development which are distinct – Late capitalism is different from early capitalism, Neo-liberalism is different from the period state-capitalism, this obvious, these are different configurations in which blocs of capital had to work within.

    Lenin’s basic theory of imperialism still remains correct

    1) the merger of finance and industrial capital, with finance capital being primary.

    2) The unevenness of the concentration of capital into metropoles and peripheries of capital.

    3) Development of a comprador bourgeoisie – the distinction here between a national bourgeoisie is very basic. Imperialism stifles the development of national industry which has no relation to the core countries and therefore creates dependencies. You can see this basic operation today still throughout the world, from agriculture business to heavy industry.

    4) Periphery labor used for primary commodity production and services, as well as raw material.

    5) Development of a “labor aristocracy” amongst the working class that benefits from the surplus of imperialism – in the period of late capitalism, this seems to be the basic case with Trade Union wages sky rocketing until stagflation of the 1970s’.

    It should be noted too that the current paradigm of neo-liberalism, even though we’re seeing resistance and divisions amongst the entirety of the world-system, still fundamentally remains an American enterprise. The institutions of its implementation are thoroughly controlled and influenced by the US (IMF, World Bank).

    • regarding the line about Lenin’s theory of imperialism, since it was just one line, i dont think there’s much to talk about. i basically agree with lenin’s analysis.

      i say basically, because i havent read anything good that counters it, and i have a feeling that if i did read those who proposed alternative interpretations of imperialism from lenins own era (for example rosa’s stuff), that lenin’s would be most correct. but i feel uneasy about Lenin’s conception of imperialism. responding to your outline might help me pinpoint where my discomfort lies.

      your point 1): im comfortable with this point

      2): metropoles and peripheries – yes, but these shift. japan emerged to become a top-tier metropole a full 2 decades after lenins death. this shows that capital had room to grow, despite being in its ‘death agony.’ since then others such as singapore and taiwan and south korea have made marked advances to metropole status.

      3) I have trouble distinguishing between a comprador and national bourgeoisie in today’s context. i think national liberation pretty much exposed the fact that the national bourgeoisie cant exist autonomously in a globalized world and that they innevitably follow capitalist logic to couple back with ‘imperialism.’ maybe you can give examples (not nepal please) of conflict of interests today between national and comprador bourgeoisies?

      also, could you try re-wording this: “Imperialism stifles the development of national industry which [that makes sense] has no relation to the core countries [?] therefore creates dependencies.”

      4) periphery labor for raw material and primary production… does this include chinese workers making hummers? indian telecommunications professionals? iran making, north korea and pakistan making nuclear reactors etc? this is a big shift that might not render Lenins thesis obsolete, but parallel to the emergence of new metropoles i think demands an explanation.

      5) if they benefitted from the surplus of imperialism, what does the long drawn out 3 decade + crisis that began with stagflation of the ’70s (ie, a slowing of the accumulation of surplus) indicate about imperialism? these upper working class workers have been under steady attack since the 80s. the fact that the labor aristocracy is being outsourced to the periphery presents a deep problem for these central theses of Lenins’ on the nature of imperialism as the highest stage.

      im kind of brainstorming out loud, but overall, i think todays ‘imperialism’ might be more a network of metropoles with common interests and common relationships to the world’s peripheries (taiwan and south korea corporations have heavy investments in the maquiladoras of northern mexico and el salvador, similar to nike and ford, for example). which creates a sort of community of interest amongst groups of capitalists and states. of course they compete and the US is in the privileged position of managing this community of world capitalists concentrated in metropoles scattered across every continent, but the current state of affairs seems qualitatively different from the 1910 situation which was an age of empires.

      is the US the sole remaining empire, or has the quantitative shift from a handful of empires down to 1 empire accompanied by a qualitative shift in the nature of empire-ism; imperialism?

      “empire” is a useful metaphor, just like “colony” is, but neither of these formally exist any more. such a dramatic shift of the political organization of the world signals to me that a qualitatively different stage must have been achieved. neo-liberalism is different from liberalism, and i think the neo-imperialism that we have been discussing is different from imperialism. i admit though, this is just intuition and i should read some things. until that happens, lenin is my default.

  11. I also just want to posit another thought, the most potentially revolutionary force in the United States are the section of the working class that has been forced into this country through the operations of imperialism, and that their relationships to their home countries are still entirely tied. A migrant people roam the metropoles to work and send remittances back home.

    This is one section of the most potentially militant and revolutionary part of the working class and their ties to the exploitation and oppression of their nation is still very real.

    I have become more disenchanted to the idea that workers’ have no nations, they indeed seem to do have that possession to their communities, to their history, etc.

    • i agree that they are the biggest potential revolutionary force, but it is precisely because of their innate internationalism, which in addition to many other reasons, makes migrants transmitters and coordinators of a hemisphere-wide struggle.

      • Being real, this is a country that teaches immigrants at its gates that you (individually) work hard, and you (individually) get ahead. The first English word immigrants from non-European nationality get taught is the n-word, and the first thing you’re supposed to do is elbow out the competition (whether you go through the documented or undocumented route).

        There is a potential for internationalism amongst the immigrant working class, but it’s not as simple as it seems. Or as some old coot said, proletarian consciousness doesn’t grow from a (sweat)shop floor.

      • “There is a potential for internationalism amongst the immigrant working class, but it’s not as simple as it seems.”

        very true. when i said innate internationalism, i meant by virtue of the fact that immigrants reside in, work in, live in, and identify with more than one nation. hence they are in between nations: internationalist by fact, not by thought.

        but ideologically, virtually none of the marxist principles can be generated autonomously, idigenously within the working class. that has to be brought ‘from without’ by vanguard people like you who know whats up.

        but that too is not as simple as it seems. the article on Working Class Self Activity shows how the shop floor is actually a training ground for unity and consciousness. Republic Windows showed internationalism (if you want to call races nationalities, that is). so its possible. dont be so pessimistic…

        there’s a lot of racism in the working class, and thats what we as revolutionaries are supposed to erode. getting everyone to organize around their own nationality may at times be a practical necessity, but as a principle it feeds into racism and reactionary nationalism. nationalities and races and every other division within the working class should be organizationally integrated to the extent possible.

  12. I really dont have time to engage in cyber space politics, cause I do a lot of real political stuff and I have a lot of reguler work stuff. I just want to say shinethepath and hegomik demonstrate how retarded marxism becomes when you impose a maoist framework on it. Fundamentally, the maoist/nationalist framework moves farther and farther away from marxism and thus farther and farther away from something people can actually use to fight capital.
    I also think thse maoist have a very non-marxist understanding of imperialism, which is center to their support of nationalism and class collaborationist positions. They got to read,
    “Imperialism: Pioneer of Capitalism‎” by Bill Warren.

    Lil joe go hard. I like your polemics. Keep smashing these liberals!

    Jonak

    • hahahaha your funny. hell yeah. Liberals step to the side and let the real leftist militant-revolutionaries come through. Yarrrrrrrrrrrrramean sucka maoist liberals?

    • They got to read,
      “Imperialism: Pioneer of Capitalism‎” by Bill Warren.

      why?

      “fundamentally, the maoist/nationalist framework moves farther and farther away from marxism and thus farther and farther away from something people can actually use to fight capital.”

      very convincing

      • If I am to understand from the invocation of Warren’s work, we’ve now gone from denunciations of national liberation to Warren’s outright apologism for imperial (as something that is somehow “progressive”), Estaban.

        If so, I have two words summing up the absolutely barren nature of the British imperial chauvinists: Christopher Hitchens. Remember his argument for how the Iraq War was going to transform Iraq into a secular democratic republic, with Ahmad Chalabi as its Spartacus in a Brooks Brothers suit? And what have we today: an Iraq that is now as sectarian as ever, caught between the fundamentalisms of Shia ayatollahs, Sunni sheikhs, and American free marketeers.

        If that’s “progress” of the working class movement, I’d hate to see what regress would look like.

  13. http://www.mouvement-communiste.com/pdf/letter/LTMC0724EN.pdf

    If these maoist liberals want to read something good on imperialist economics, check out the above. Its a marxist critique of Bukharin’s “The ABC of communism.” If you have a thoughtful response to this, Il be impressed.

    Jonak

  14. “…there is no question that the real struggle is between capital and labor. Whatever the diversionary route taken society shall finally come face to face with this reality.”

    This piece struck me as extremely idealist. Is it true that the “real” struggle is between capital and labor, while all other struggles (including national struggles and what the article calls “the boogie man of ‘racism’”) are not “real”? And, is it true that this “real” struggle between capital and labor will inevitably (“whatever the diversionary route taken”) be exposed in its pure state?

    Anyone with only a basic sense of world events knows that many other struggles are real – struggles between different countries, between big and small capitalists, between different groups within the ruling classes, between different modes of production, between men and women, between varying ideologies, religious views, and others. Instead of superimposing the struggle between capital and labor onto our reality and its many contradictions in an abstract way and in a Hegelian fashion, the materialist approach would be to study how the struggle between capital and labor operates within this reality and how it is shaped by and interacts with the many other real contradictions.

    “As capital develops in its global dimensions and the ‘bottom line’ asserts itself ‘white labor’ is becoming as dispensable as ‘black labor.’ Perhaps even the unthinkable is emerging as truth: Colored labor, being cheaper, and every bit as skilled, and therefore more in harmony with the profit motive, is becoming more desirable than white labor. So, ‘white collar jobs’ are reported by the media to be leaving (white) America for countries with very large ‘colored’ populations.”

    This is just the cherry-picking of facts (really, only a single fact: the media is reporting the offshoring of white collar jobs) to make an argument: the economist argument that the development of capitalism in itself is wiping out national distinctions and maybe even privileging (!) “colored” labor for employment, because it’s cheaper! This argument is clearly disproven by just looking at the vast disparity in unemployment and underemployment rates between white people and oppressed nationalities in the US, as well as between the US and the neocolonial countries. Capitalism is not simply based on maximizing profits at a particular moment (the “bottom line” that asserts itself, like the Hegelian spirit), but also on continuously reproducing the conditions for making profits.

  15. “Being real, this is a country that teaches immigrants at its gates that you (individually) work hard, and you (individually) get ahead. The first English word immigrants from non-European nationality get taught is the n-word, and the first thing you’re supposed to do is elbow out the competition (whether you go through the documented or undocumented route).”

    Yes Hegemonik racism is real, but does that mean we adopt a defeatist attitude and do nothing. Esteban is right in that we as revolutionaries need to be able to call that shit out and work to organize people to advance the class struggle. Organizing people only within their ‘national’ groups will do nothing to defeat the capitalist WORLD system. Boris you seem to find the revolutionary struggle between labor and capital to be idealistic, and yes I can see that if you only envision it as a stuggle between male white workers and capital. Obviously sexism and racism exist and are terrible, but they are strengthened and reproduced through capitalism and bourgeois ideologies. You are never going to go anywhere as an organizer or militant if you keep dissecting all these struggles and ideologies from capitalism. You will only strengthen liberal, bourgeois thinking. How are you going to fight sexism if you don’t understand how women are exploited through the gendered reproduction of capital? In the past marxist and / or leftist groups have been bad on race and gender, but we don’t make up for that by claiming that black people are an oppressed nationality and fight for their national liberation within the US. That just sounds crazy and will ultimately lead to supporting some liberal group that is fighting for equality for their milieu. Thats what happens to all these liberal groups who what to divide the people and just work on their own “group’s” liberation, such as queers, womyn, blacks, latinos whatever. It is time for us to unite as an anti-sexist, racist, homophobic, ect, working-class, who are the most exploited by the violent exploitative system of capitalism. By keeping these ideological struggles as a part of our internationalist class struggle perspective then we have an ability to engage in revolutionary struggle. Until you start thinking of struggle this way you will be stuck in liberal organizing jumping from issue to issue and missing the larger picture.

    • “Boris you seem to find the revolutionary struggle between labor and capital to be idealistic, and yes I can see that if you only envision it as a stuggle between male white workers and capital.”

      The struggle between labor and capital is not idealist – what is idealist is this article’s conception of that struggle.

      The article describes racism as a “boogie man,” argues that the development of capitalism in itself is eliminating national divisions and “Colored labor . . . is becoming more desirable than white labor” (just because of the off-shoring of white collar jobs), defines the contradiction between labor and capital alone as the “real” struggle, and argues that there is a “new capitalists’ union – global capitalism” in which all of the capitalists of the world are organized and united.

      Its conceives of socialist revolution as a process where all of the capitalists of the world line up on one side and all of the workers of the world line up on the other and do battle, while the other contradictions in the world simply and inevitably give way to the labor vs. capital contradiction in its pure form (“. . . there is no question that the real struggle is between capital and labor. Whatever the diversionary route taken society shall finally come face to face with this reality.”). This is idealism.

      First, it is enough to look up some basic facts – the disparities in the living conditions of white people and oppressed nationalities in the US, the disparities in unemployment/underemployment between oppressor and oppressed nationalities, the existence of many “real” contradictions in addition to the labor and capital contradiction, the contention between different capitalist countries and groups, and the absence of any such thing as a worldwide “capitalists’ union” – to refute its arguments. Second, if we look at Marx’s approach to history (in the 18th Brumaire, Class Struggles in France, The Civil War in France), we see that there is none of this reductionism. Marxism is the concrete analysis of the concrete situation, not the distortion and reduction of reality and its complexities to fit an abstract model of the capitalist mode of production.

    • The error I was pointing to here was the idea that there is a such thing as an “innate” sense of internationalism amongst immigrants. Do such conditions exist for immigrants to be internationalist? Certainly – and just as much so for those born here. But capitalism left to its own devises does not teach internationalism or even basic solidarity.

      As for “dividing the people” capitalism certainly does that by itself. I’ve yet to figure out how denying African Americans’ unique national historical existence unites anyone except the Klan.

  16. I was gonna respond to this debate last night, but I woke up to find that Esteban had said what I wanted to say in a very clear manner.

    In case you missed his last post, here’s the link: https://advancethestruggle.wordpress.com/2009/06/15/no-capitalist-allies-no-nationalism/#comment-99

    I read through the original article posted here, and I don’t even think that the article hits on it as well as E’s last comment.

    One quote: “from the geo-political viewpoint, the blow national liberation dealt to global capitalism proved to be a paper tiger, and the “liberated” territories ended up becoming the most profitable spheres for investment within a couple decades, thus reinvigorating capital for an entire historical epoch. culturally they all worship american media monoculture. so what has been accomplished?”

    This is the question that must be answered. The old maoist slogan that, “Countries want independence, nations want liberation, and the people want revolution” is hollow (except perhaps for the people want revolution part) if we don’t critically assess the lessons of the 20th century.

    One of the main lessons is that “national liberation” proved to be less than liberating in many cases, and in many ways didn’t understand how well the circuits of capital cross the boundaries of these “nationally liberated” areas of the world system.

    Please refer to Esteban’s comment cos I really think his analysis hits on the main deficiencies of the old-school, played out strategy of tailing “national liberation” movements.

    • because I can’t reply to individual threads anymore, I’m going to wrap up with a thought. Take it as you will.

      1) The project of national liberation was distinct from simple nationalism (what Amin would call the “National populist projects”), in that it dared to imagine a world where internationalism was not empty rhetoric as practiced at the UN, but the equality of nations within an international system.

      Insofar as the national liberation struggles of the 60’s and 70’s failed, was it because they were insufficiently internationalist or insufficiently boned up on “the classics”? This argument doesn’t even take into account the subjectivity of those nations themselves – it skips over the problem of why ZANU failed the people of Zimbabwe, or Nasser fail the people of Egypt, in favor of some academic argument of how they failed some checklist that hardly even applies to undeveloped nations.

      The question really approaching the decolonized nations of the world hasn’t been whether they can be “internationalist” (after all, we have nothing if not “internationalist” institutions such as the African Union, the OAS, or even Mercosur). In more cases than not, the question is whether they’ve even figured out real nationalism – as opposed to ethnic gangsterism and chauvinism.

      The best of the figures on national liberation have challenged us as to how a nation is secure in its own borders, enough so that it resists the temptation to make others free against their will. Cabral, Ho Chi Minh, Fanon – these writers provided more than adequate warning of the paradox of nationalisms that did not provide an actual nation and yet feels entirely at ease invading others.

      2) The question of tailism is relevant. But so too is the question of adventurism and whether that is acceptable. The Left within the liberation fronts have made just as many errors going into opposition against the national bourgeoisie too early as it has too late; the liquidation of these parties by purge or by war or white terror has been tragic.

      3) Within the context of the U.S., the legacy of white betrayal and the failure of white Leftists to join their movements to the Black, Chicano, and queer liberation movements has been (and remains) the primary obstacle to a multinationality party or formation within the U.S.

      Whether it was fractioning of the Populist Party in North Carolina by white segregationists, or the “No Chinese Labor” etched in the first union label, or the UFT rejecting black community control of schools, white betrayal casts a pall over the Left projects.

      So I must question whether the inordinate focus on the identity politics of the oppressed, as if the white working class has itself not been suckered into its own identity politics around Pat Buchanan, Reagan, Perot, and “Joe Sixpack” – over and over again.

  17. Sometimes class i.d and national i.d seem equally mystical. Maybe somewhere within the discussion of who we ARE we could talk a bit more about what we WANT. And literally-not just theoretically- how to get it.

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