- Capitalism and Alternatives -

'Beyond' Marx (some more)

Posted by: Barry Stoller on February 15, 19100 at 13:32:06:

In Reply to: Notes on the environment. posted by Farinata on February 14, 19100 at 14:26:44:

Stoller: Curious, this millennial reliance upon ecological catastrophe to initiate social change. SDF, I believe, has also touted ecological catastrophe as the midwife of revolution. What exactly is this belief based upon?

: Hardly millennial, Barry; the process of environmental destruction on a grand scale has been going on since the Industrial Revolution...[etc., etc., etc., etc.]...

Thanks for the gratuitous examples of ecological depredation, hot shot, but that wasn't the point (I don't deny ecological depredation). The point was the 'millennial reliance' upon ecological disaster to initiate social change.

For example, later in my post, I repeated myself: 'To posit, however, as some Greens do that oil shortages or other such ecological doomsday scenarios will instigate social change for the better is unclear.'

To which you---apparently cooling off long enough to actually pay attention to what I am saying, responded: 'I doubt it will.'

Moving on...

: As for a world war, it might happen, except for the fact that the nation state has never been weaker. Our countries are now run by multinationals, as you know; and multinationals generally don't like wars (arms companies apart); it's harder to sell dead people things.

A common falsehood.

Multinationals are in fact nothing new. Ever heard of the imperialist era? The concentration of capital was as intense then as it is now. And those multinationals DID start a world war when their capital expansion became threatened.

As far as 'selling things to dead people,' you forget that most of capital's customers are other capitalists, not to mention the home stateitself: the poor people who fill the ranks of armies barely buy more from capital except the reproduction of their labor-power.

The home state that you think is growing obsolete has been and will ALWAYS be required to protect the private property of capitalists. Think of tariffs, 'common agricultural policies,' 'export guarantees,' government-funded R&D, and---last but not least---national defense. What independent capitalist firm could do the large work of the nation-state? Capitalists, even the largest conglomerates, would soon go broke if they had to purchase their own militias, weapons, etc.

And to burst another multinational myth, the properties held by multinationals are multinational but the stockholders are national: there are no non-Americans on the boards of directors for Exxon, General Motors, and Ford, for example.(1)

As Istv`n Mész`ros recently put it:

The 'nation-states' are not outsiders to globalization but an integral part of it.(2)

Stoller: World wars, history has shown, ARE the midwives of revolution. Ruling classes are weakened by fighting other ruling classes; proletarians are armed; capital's social relations are exposed as antagonistic to the interests of working people; the relations between capital and their puppet governments become strained; war opposition can develop into class opposition, etc., etc.

: I disagree here. War in the context of fighting over precious resources is different...

You forget the primary reason World War One (and Two) began.

: [A]ny ruling class with half an ounce of sense will realize that they have a greater common interest with the ruling classes of neighboring countries than they do with the peasants in their own...

Again, you disregard the examples of the First and Second World War.

: I'll say it plainly; I think there will be massive civil disturbance and a massive death toll; and I think it will happen sometime between 2030 and 2040; I don't expect to survive. What I'm interested in is the rebuilding afterwards; if we can build a sustainable society, we might be able to recover from it eventually.

Suggestions? Or do you only offer utopian generalities?

Stoller: 'Beyond Marx' I suspect is a code term for spontaneous, peaceful revolution---a fairy tale concocted by middle class 'radicals' to assuage their middle class guilt-trips.

: Barry, are you not allowed to be a revolutionary unless you're covered in coaldust? And are you continuing to judge people solely by their class?

Are you suggesting that class difference (and affiliation) is not the paramount difference between people?

: We are all *people*; don't exclude people because of their social background...

If you want 'social change' that DOESN'T exclude the property rights of '*people*' like this dude, then you will have what already exists today: capitalism.

: Any vanguard that sets itself apart from the broad mass of humanity is merely laying the seeds of a new ruling class; revolution has to come from within the populace; not be something forced upon it by a vocal minority.

You pointedly misuse the term vanguard. A vanguard DOES NOT 'set itself apart from the broad mass' of workers---as Lenin clearly demonstrated here:

[W]hen enforcing the land socialization law---the 'spirit' which is land tenure [independent peasant holdings]---the Bolsheviks most explicitly and definitely declared: this is not our idea, we do not agree with this slogan, but we think it our duty to enforce it because this is the demand of the overwhelming majority of the peasants. And the idea and demands of the majority of the working people are things that the working people must discard of their own accord; such demands cannot be either 'abolished' or 'skipped over.'(3)

(My definition of vanguard can be found here.)

: To say, as Lenin did, that "The working class by itself can only attain trade union consciousness" is wrong and patronising...

From where things stand in America after almost 100 years of trade union activity---most recently, Sweeney endorsing Gore---I'd say Lenin's remark is a self evident truth.

: In actual fact, Green politics are the entry point for a lot of the young blood in 'alternative' politics today...

What's 'alternative' about those politics is the ABSENCE of class consciousness---and without class consciousness, all you'll ever be able to do is beg for reforms at the table of the lords... excuse me, '*people*'...

: You can argue about dialectics until your audience goes to sleep (and thus delay the revolution!) - but let people know about things like BSE and how they relate to global capitalism and you have a veritable army ready to listen to you.

Once again, you posit ecological catastrophe (this time merely its prehension!) as the midwife of revolution, an idea you rejected earlier. How will knowledge about BSE initiate social change? You wrote a long-winded (and historically uninformed) post but you never actually addressed the original question.

Again: Your millennial reliance upon ecological doomsday to initiate social change is unfounded. Your Green 'army,' thus far confined to the educated middle classes who suffer few material privations, is hardly challenging capital. And your overarching Green philosophy that people must CONSUME LESS is exactly not winning over the working people---who already suffer an excess of material privations.

So, back to the top: an inevitable ecological catastrophe will provoke an inevitable world conflict between capitalist nations struggling to monopolize what remains of finite commodities (such as oil); this, in turn, will provoke a class crisis which may or not successfully lead to proletarian revolution led by its advanced members.

BTW, dialectics is simply the study of contradictions---specifically the contradictions of capital that demonstrate that socialized ownership of the already socialized labor-power of the working class is materially POSSIBLE.

Now you tell me how consuming less in itself will NOT follow present lines of class distribution without class consciousness and its logical corollary, class struggle for control of the means of production.


1. Seymour, 'Imperialist Rivalries Heat Up,' Imperialism, the ‘Global Economy’ and Labor Reform, Spartacist pamphlet, September 1999, p. 11.

2. Mész`ros interviewed by Kanellis, 'The Need for a Radical Alternative,' Monthly Review January 2000, p. 34

3. Lenin, 'The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky,' Collected Works volume 28, p. 309.

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