- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Carter just happened to be a good and moral leader, whereas Reagan wasn't.

Posted by: NJ ( DSA, MA,USA ) on February 03, 19100 at 23:41:59:

In Reply to: Yes, Historical Materialism is essential to Marxism posted by Barry Stoller on February 03, 19100 at 10:54:35:

: : I don't know about that. It seems to me that 'social consciousness' is plastic enough that a wide variety of different ideologies can exist in tandem with a private property economic structure. I mean, Jimmy Carter was significantly different than Pinochet, if you get my drift.

: First, let's get the Carter worship out of way.

You have your revered figures, I have mine.

: Carter and Pinochet are both examples of bourgeois rule---but at different points in the evolution of bourgeois rule. The first rule of dialectics is to look at historical development.

And, apparently, in doing so, to ignore a lots of other things like character, honesty., corruption, etc. Reagan came after Carter, and he was as bad as they come. Carter just happened to be a good and moral leader, whereas Reagan wasn't. 'Historical development' has nothing to do with it.

:Was Pinochet worse than Andrew Jackson?

Well, no, at least not when you look at what Andrew Jackson did to the Cherokees. But to infer from that that EVERYONE of Jackson's era was a racist tyrant is not accurate. Jackson's deportation/genocide of the Cherokees was, in fact, WIDELY criticized at the time, most notably by Justice John Marshall of the Supreme Court. Ditto for slavery and America's brief foray into colonialism during teh Spanish American War.

: Second, I NEVER meant to infer that the mode of production did not produce a wide variety of ideologies. Engels explicitly addressed this issue:

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: If therefore Barth [a critic of H.M.] supposes that we deny any and every reaction of the political, etc., reflexes of the economic movement upon the movement itself, he is simply tilting at windmills. He has only got to look at Marxís Eighteenth Brumaire, which deals almost exclusively with the particular part played by political struggles and events; Or Capital, the section on the working day, for instance, where legislation, which is surely a political act. has such a trenchant effect. Or the section on the bourgeoisie. Or why do we fight for the political dictatorship of the proletariat if political power is economically impotent? Force (that is a state power) is also an economic power.(1)
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: Dialectics, after all, is the continual movement of contradictions. The Church here, the state here; the peasant here, the large-landowners there... Lots of room for widely divergent activity... One personís will cancels out another... Many outcomes possible... But there is order in all of it---economic evolution. Capital itself creates the antagonisms that put forth their own solution:

What does it mean for one man's will to 'cancel out' another? Does that mean that we can conclude that EVERYBODY acts, or ought to act, out of class interest, simply because the majority do? Should we throw Henry Wallace and Guavara out the window because they were 'class traitors'?

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: Mankind... inevitably sets itself only such tasks as it is able to solve, since closer examination will always show that the problem itself arises only when the material conditions for its solution are already present or at least in the course of formation.(2)
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: That's not to say socialism must happen, itís to say it can happen. The objective conditions (development of large-scale industry, etc.) are necessary, but the subjective conditions (ideological preparedness of the proletariat) must be there as well.

I understand that,but I'm not sure what happened to teh original topic. How does this relate to whether or not self-interest is the only good, as you seemed to be insinuating? I still don't believe that, and more than that, I claim YOU don't believe it either. I think you believe in altruism and self-sacrifice and things like that, in you heart.

: Max Weber once suggested...

: Yes, Weber was one of Marx's most ardent critics.

I know.

: : There are many other examples in which ideology, and particularly religion, has conditioned a society's response to the economic or political conditions of their existence...

: No denying it; see above---Engelsí''etc.' included religion...

OK.

: : Was there much capitalist economic development in Kerala, or Vietnam, or Africa? Hardly. Revolutionaries in these countries picked up ideas about the rights of man, and evidently decided that such rights did NOT need to wait for the flowering of capitalism to come to fruition.

: None of these countries had / have Marxist economies...

I know, but that;s not really the point. My point is that revolutions there were motivated by abstract ideals, not (for teh most part) by pressing economic/historical inevitability. The very thing you said was impossible.

: : Faraday's discovery of Electromagnetic Induction was probably last century's most important discovery, because it paved the way for electric generators. But at the time, it had utterly no practical application.

: Engels---who mentioned Faraday many times in his Dialectics of Nature---would have said otherwise: Faraday happened just in time (we aren't counting in minutes I hope...).

Yeah, OK, if we take the long view (the REALLy long view) I suppose his ideas did find practical application fairly soon. In geological time, anyway. But come on now. We may not be counting in minutes, but we shouldn't be counting in decades either. Faraday didn't do the thing with the ring magnets and the wire because he felt a pressing need to discover how to generate electricity, or because he foresaw radios and cars. He was interested in seeing if the reverse or Oersted's law, which said that electric currents generated magnetic fields, also held true. Oersted's law, incidnetallky, was discovered by accident. No 'economic determinism' there.

: : I think it proves more that autonomy and free will, rather than self-interest, are necessary foundations of altruism and socialism.

: Self-interest determines autonomy and free will. As long as humans get hungry, there cannot be absolute autonomy, free will, OR altruism.

True, but as you conceded in another post, altruism doe exist in every context, even in the worst circumstances. Anyway, I don't really consider needing to eat 'self-interest', except in a very basic sense. The real question is what people do AFTER they have enough to eat. Like JC said, "Man does not live by bread alone...."

: : But many individual capitalists, although probably not the board of GM, can and will be converted by the socialist gospel... Individual members of the bourgeois, and even capitalists, can be converted to socialism if they can be made to see that social need outweighs their own self interest. You don't believe that's possible. I believe that's not only possible, but it's happened many times before; such was the basis of most religions (subverting selfish desires for a higher good) as well as socialism.

: If your religions have indeed succeeded in 'subverting selfish desires for higher goods,' pray tell, where is the evidence?

Well, I gave you the argument as to how land redistribution went over easier in Kerala because of religious reasons. Religion kept capitalism out of places like Tibet. Religion made Brazil and El Salvador fertile ground for activism and revolution. Religion in India and other Asian countries, I think, predisposed those countries to Nehruvian socialism by curbing the desire for luxury goods, etc. Religion played a big part in introducing communal socialism to places like Tanazania. Religion provdied the impetus for teh first public schools in the world, in the Colony of Massachusetts. Religion played a big part in explaining the opposition to the Vietnam War. Religion played a big part in social activism, especially in teh Catholic and Quaker context. Religion was essentially THE source of Gandhian socialism. Etcetera.

:All I see is that capitalism keeps growing and growing and soon will cover every inch of the planet.

Not everywhere....

:If you really think the ruling class 'can be converted to socialism if they can be made to see [how?] that social need outweighs their own self interest,' then you are denying history.

I was converted. Wallace was converted. C. Lamont was converted. Guevara was converted. Nyerere was converted. Sometimes it works. There have been kings and emperors (Ashoka) before who stood by passively as their empires crumbled to dust, because their religion told them so. Not everyone always acts out of self ineterst or lust for money and power. A socialist knwos this better than most. Nobody can be a socialist purely out of self ineterest. That's the difference between socialism and capitalism.

: Radical social change, involving radical shifts of economic power, NEVER have happened by reason or sweet talk. If they did, we wouldn't be having any problems NOW---for history has surely given humanity no shortage of great reasoners and great sweet talkers. But, as lovely as these individuals are, they are no substitute for the MASS ACTION OF THE PEOPLE---lead by a revolutionary core who knows the tasks of the struggle and are prepared to risk their lives.

Mass action is good. But so is what you derise as 'reason and sweet talk'. I don't consider religious and moral demands as 'sweet talk', actually. The command to love your neighbor is as hard as a diamond. IF PEOPLE ACTUALLY FOLLOWD THAT IT would lead to socialism. Not many people as yet have folowed it- it's too hard. But gradually, slowly but surely, morality has been advancing over more and more of the world over the millenia that people have existed.


: You can't change history without getting dirty, NJ.

Revolution, 'mass action', and religious/moral power should all be compelementary. None of those tools should be ruled out a priori.

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: Notes:

: 1. Engels, Letter to J. Bloch, 21 September 1890, Selected Correspondence, International 1934, p. 484.

: 2. Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, Progress Publishers 1970, p. 21.
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