Posts Tagged ‘Marxism’
Imperium. Perry Anderson. Critical Thoughts. New Left Review. No82 (New Series) 2013.
“American capitalism has resoundingly re-asserted its primacy in all fields – economic, political, military and cultural – with an unprecedented eight-year boom.”
Perry Anderson. Renewals. 2000.
“(New Left Review’s Relaunch)…scandalised many by demanding from the left a lucid registration of defeat ‘No collective agency able to match the power of capital is yet on the horizon’ Anderson noted……These judgements stand.”
Susan Watkins. Shifting Sands. 2010.
“In contrast to the economic structure, the political structure cannot be expanded indefinitely, because it is not based upon the productivity of man, which is indeed, unlimited. Of all forms of government and organisations of people, the nation-state is least suited for unlimited growth because the genuine consent at its base cannot be stretched indefinitely.”
Hannah Arendt. The Origins of Totalitarianism. (1)
The “unprecedented” American boom ended in Autumn 2008. But despite the absence of what Anderson has called an “answer to the prolonged slow-down of the advanced capitalist economies that set in forty years ago” America remains, post Soviet Collapse, the uncontested, hegemonic, global authority. (2) American power reaches outwards across the globe. This is not just grounded on the attraction of its economic strength, cultural appeal, or technological advances. An active exercise of domination is at work.
Within this received wisdom on the left, the Special Issue of New Left Review, Imperium, sets out to present the “outlook and continuity of objectives” of the “administration of empire, the thinking behind this rule. It also aims to “asses” this vast field, centring on what is decidedly not a “poverty of strategic theory.”
To former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, writing in 1997, U.S policy goals must be “to perpetuate America’s own dominate position for at least generation and preferably longer still; and to create a geopolitical framework” that can evolve into “shared responsibility for peaceful global management.” (3) By contrast, for Anderson, in 2002 the US’s objectives unfurling before the rather less peaceable invasion of Iraq, were described as part of a “structural shift in the balance between force and consent within the operation of American hegemony…” (4)
The present study is only the latest, then, of Anderson’s efforts to understand the leading role of America in what David Harvey has labelled the “new imperialism” and the global dominance of neo-liberalism. Following indications signalled by Robert Brenner he looks further into history to explain the particular form that the American state has taken. Imperium begins by stating, “Since the Second World War, the external order of American power has been largely insulated from the internal political system.” The focus is therefore on the “narrow foreign-policy elite, and a “distinctive ideological vocabulary” of “grand strategy.” (5)
Imperium concludes with, and starts from, the following historical narrative, “In the course of four decades of unremitting struggle, a military and political order was constructed that transformed what had once been a merely hemispheric hegemony into a global empire, remoulding the form of the US state itself” (Page 110 Imperium) Included in the Special Issue is a study of the above American “literature of grand strategy”, Consilium. We discover (to no particular surprise) that it is soldered around the idea that the “hegemony of the United States continues to serve both the particular interests of the nation and the universal interest of mankind” (Consilium Page 163)
These were the long years of the global fight against the Soviet Union. For Anderson the USA, he concedes, graciously or not, “was indeed an electoral democracy, did confront a socio-political system that was not” (Page 33 Imperium). During those decades the country has witnessed domestic opposition to “imperial force”. This, volatile, “constraint”, the limited “public tolerance” of foreign expeditions (we immediately think of the aftermath of Vietnam) has played a role. It continues to shape the decisions of the Obama administration. (Page 108. Imperium)
But behind this is there is, as he has commented on the second Obama Presidential victory an “all-capitalist ideological universe – a mental firmament in which the sanctity of private property and superiority of private enterprise are truths taken for granted by all forces in the political arena.” The Democrat President cannot ignore the culture that feeds Obama’s Republican opponents. One feature stands out, a domestic “nationalism peculiar to the United States as the capitalist superpower in the struggle with communism, intensely more hyperbolic than that of any Western society.” (6)
Outside this native soil there is little alive that is capable of offering a serious political challenge to policies dictated by the “new regime of accumulation” and the “liberal-capitalist order”. Gloomily in 2002 he talked of ‘resistance’ as “chaff in the wind.” In 2007 Anderson had a brief flicker of hope in “spectacular demonstrations of popular will” the World Social Forums in the first half of the last decade, and a “patchwork of resistance”. But they could not halt, “a further drift to the right” as a “new Concert of powers has increasingly solidified.” (7) Read the rest of this entry »
Norman Geras 25 August 1943, – 18 October 2013.
I just would like to add a tribute to Norman.
Geras’ writings were an inspiration to the left .
The Legacy of Rosa Luxemburg (1976) and Marx and Human Nature: Refutation of a Legend will remain as landmarks of socialist thought.
Like many comrades I had the privilege of meeting Norman – in particular as a member of the Socialist Society.
We had a correspondence about ethical theory.
I am sure that many other comrades who knew him well will add their memories.
One of the most cherished memories for me is at the Ralph Miliband memorial meeting at the LSE.
He explained his ethical stance, which later took him into directions which not many of us on the Marxist left shared,
A superb thinker and a great human being.
Many people might not recall the right-wing columnist, David Aaronovitch, but here he is in full fettle,
They were the most sexy left group on campus – smoking dope, dropping acid, bonking and partying.
WHEN I was first at college, the most romantic and sexy left group on campus was Tariq Ali’s International Marxist Group. They smoked dope, they dropped acid, they bonked, they argued, they partied. When they got militant the blokes all put on denim jackets, tartan scarves and black gloves, and occupied things. And the IMG women were cool, too, divided between free-loving Alexandra Kollontais and Earth Mothers.
Echoes of this past were ringing in my ears when I read the accounts this week of the attempts by Liz Davies, the ousted Labour candidate for Leeds, to get elected to the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party this autumn. She is part of a slate – the “centre-left” slate, no less – which is canvassing for the votes of ordinary Labour Party members, even as I write. She’s had a very good press for, after all, what is she doing, other than trying to debate, in a party that now stifles debate? Poor Liz.
And Poor Liz campaigns more in sorrow than in anger. This is part of her election statement: “During the general election campaign, tens of thousands of Party members worked long hours… because they believed a Labour government would build a fairer, more compassionate and more collective society,” she says. But what happened? “Tragically, the New Labour Government has implemented or proposed measures which will have exactly the opposite effect.” So what can we do, Liz? “This year’s NEC elections are a critical and historic opportunity for party members to express their disappointment with the Government and their alarm over its apparent future direction.”
Liz’s slate is a heterodox one, bringing together various groups. But Liz’s bit of it, Labour Left Briefing, may be slightly less amazed by the failure of Tony Blair to be their kind of guy than is the ordinary disappointed activist in the Clapham smoke-filled room. Because, in fact, they never thought that the PM would usher in “a fairer, more compassionate, more collective society”.
More here. At the time Labour Briefing’s ‘Inner circle’ (about 12 people) had two former members of the IMG. Leonora Lloyd and me. Oh and by the way we won 2 out of the six seats on the Labour Party National Executive.
The re-elect Labour on a Socialist Platform Parliamentary cretins have long abandoned the Red Flag of Revolution for the White Flag of Reformism and have almost destroyed our movement.
Prepare for November 5th 2013 Day of Direct Action for a Bonfire of all Con- Dem Government Vanities.
From Peoples Assembly to People’s War is our call the days of Reformism and Revisionism are over.
“Build an Anti-Capitalist Alternative.”
PS: this does not appear to be a conscious spoof.
Hat-tip to the Father of the Faris.
What did ‘Evil’ Miliband really believe in?
Keeping Socialism in Sight.
Labour Briefing. October 1994.
Andrew Coates reviews Socialism for a Sceptical Age by Ralph Miliband (Polity Press, £11.95) and Socialist Register 1994 Between Globalism and Nationalism, Edited by Ralph Miliband and Leo Panitch (Merlin Press, £12.95).
We need to take a long look at the prospects for socialism, To follow fashion is to think that the best a Labour government could bring would be a reformed constitution and industrial modernisation, Ralph Miliband’s death on May 21st deprives the left of one of the most trenchant critics of this ‘new revisionism’ which denies that there is a realistic alternative to capitalism, Tough-minded and deeply-informed, he never lost sight of the potential for more radical change.
Miliband’s reputation was made through his studies of the Labour Party (Parliamentary Socialism, 1961 and 1973) and the state (The State and Capitalist Society 1969). The former attacked Labour leaders’ ‘”dogmatic” attachment to the parliamentary tradition; the latter explored the limitation of reforming parties of the left.
In the 1980s Miliband was faced with a wholly new problem. Former Communists and radical socialists leap-frogged over Labour to endorse what David Marquand called a ‘new progressive coalition” of the centre-left which repudiated even the modest objectives of class-based reform. In Divided Societies (1989) Miliband had to put the arguments for the very existence of class struggle. He admitted, however, that there was a fundamental “crisis of the agencies” of socialism, from unions to parties. From the convulsions in the East and the dramatic weakening of Mediterranean socialism, to the triumph of Blair, there is ample evidence that he was right.
As its title suggests, Socialism for a Sceptical Age takes on board this crisis. But it also addresses the far deeper difficulties of capitalism. This (it seems almost too obvious to state – were it not that is constantly ignored) is based on wage-labour - a “morally abhorrent” type of exploitation and subordination.
In a series of sketches Miliband outlines the case against today’s social system. Neo-liberal economics have blighted individual lives and entire continents. Despite this, some if the left believe that private enterprise is a source of liberty. This is false. Capitalism and democracy is not friends. As Miliband points out, popular rights are “largely the result of stubborn pressure” from “labour and left movement, against the dominant forces of property and privilege.” Weaken them and freedom suffers.
The limited parliamentary control over nationalised industries was, in retrospect, at least a start towards making economic management responsible to an electorate. Unapologetic about collective control, Miliband insists that socialisation of the means of production must replace private ownership,. Against the prevailing winds, he asserts: “Public enterprise makes possible a democratisation of economic activity beyond anything that capitalism can achieve.”
Miliband was often a robust opponent of those believe that the Labour Party has socialist potential. He was scornful about the lack of Marxist influence within it. It seemed, a few years ago, that he wanted to help form a new party to Labour’s left. While Socialism for a Sceptical Age describes the failings of Labour’s modernisers, it also recognises that new social movements, and small red-green parties, are neither stable nor coherent enough to replace social democracy. Nor are these bodies any more sympathetic to Marxism. We have to have substantial parties, with a collective and strong leadership that can govern a country. He concludes: “There is little doubt that social democratic parties will for the foreseeable future remain the main political force on the left, or at least a factor of major importance”. The immediate task lies in “strengthening left reformism” through grass-roots work, by recreating a Marxist current, and by building coalitions with the oppressed.
Some claim that the globalisation of the economy makes even moderate socialism impossible. The latest Socialist Register tackles this issue. Leo Panitch analyses the nation state in the world system and its role in turning hyper-liberal policies into facts of life for its citizens. Far from agreeing that governments must accept treaties (from Maastricht to GATT) dictating permanent free-market strategies, Pantich points to the potential for alternative development. A crucial factor is sheer political will.
Other important articles by Manfred Bienefeld and Arthur MacEwan take up the same theme. They should be required reading for anyone who wants an answer to the globalisers’ claim that reform is bounded by the rules of international finance.
In a short excursion around the history of the year-book, Miliband himself discusses its most important interventions in left debates, including those on Conservatism, post-modernism, Stalinism and the ‘new revisionism’. As a guide to the central concerns of the British left the Register had been and remains invaluable, and Miliband played a major role in creating and sustaining it.
He sometimes argued that labret could never play a positive role in socialist politics. But his best contributions focused people’s minds on the real problems faced by socialists. By laying-down long-term principles for the creation of an egalitarian, democratic and co-operative society, Miliband left us with great resources. Every socialist can profit from his lucid and inspiring writings.