[OPE-L:6689] Re: Imperialism

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Sat Mar 09 2002 - 09:42:06 EST

Re Julian's [6677]:

Previously I wrote:
> One example of non-economic gain: the (former, hopefully)
> testing of nuclear devices in the Pacific by the US and French
> militaries. While  this didn't result in economic gain necessarily,
> I think it could surely be viewed as international  exploitation
> (using the term somewhat more loosely that Marx  did in
> _Capital_  Volume 1: perhaps we need to have a discussion
> about the distinction between exploitation and oppression?).

Julian then asks some difficult questions:

> With "exploitation" reserved for "economic", and "oppression" for
> everything  else?

That is a thorny question because  a dominant group or class can be
able to gain, through other forms of domination,  _economic_  gain
from other groups and classes through other means than the process
of extracting surplus-value from labour-power.   E.g. there are economic
gains that have traditionally arisen for men, due to the dominant role
of patriarchy within  "modern" social formations, within the context of
the nuclear family such as food preparation, cleaning, etc.  In this case
that relation is not a formal relation of capitalist exchange _but_
surely if we are to call it "oppression"  (as distinct from "exploitation")
then there has to be a "economic" component to oppression.

> Fair enough, but of course in "Capital" exploitation is reserved for the
> process of extracting surplus value from labour-power.

See above.

> Is it the case that everything in the nexus of economic wrongs which
> "imperialism" denotes is reducible to exploitation in this sense?

No, I don't think so.  When traditional societies were forcibly
re-located in the Pacific  for the purposes of nuclear testing, this
was (in part) an "economic wrong"  even though it occurred outside
of the process of extracting surplus-value from labour-power (was
this a 20th Century example of "enclosure"?).

When land was seized from Palestinians by the Israeli military
I would again say that was clearly an "economic wrong"  even
though it can't be reducible to the exploitation of  wage-labour
by capital. BTW,  words can not adequately express the *RAGE*
that I feel now concerning the the escalation of the genocide
directed by the Sharon government against the Palestinians: it makes
me feel like I should be out on the street fighting! (in fact, I think
I'll try to find-out if there are any demonstrations happening today in
New York City).  Does anyone else want to discuss this?

And, of course,  pre-capitalist forms of  exploitation continue to
persist in many parts of the world (e.g. there are millions of people
in the world today that perform bonded labour).   Even if we might
not agree on whether that labour produces surplus value (as distinct
from a surplus product),  there is _still_ exploitation going on _even
if_ it can't be reducible to the extraction of surplus value from wage-

> And to the extent that it is, is it necessarily helpful to emphasise this
> aspect in every concrete case -- for example, commodity cartels (coffee,
> rather than oil, perhaps)?

Coffee production, in part, still involves  peasant farmering and
bonded labour (even though it has increasingly come to be dominated by agro-
business and transnational corporations which employ agricultural wage-
labourers), right?

> On the other hand, characterising all these non-labour exploitation issues
> simply as "oppression" seems to provide insufficient nuance. The fact that
> Honduras, say, suffers from its dependence on banana exports is not quite
> the same thing as having one's home seized for use as a military base
> (e.g.  Diego Garcia).


 > Hopefully (but not very much so) French (European?) nuclear tests in the
> Pacific are a thing of the past.

Yes, finally after world-wide protests against the French government's plan
to explode nuclear devices at Morunoa (those 'tests' took place in 1995-6
despite those protests), the French government agreed afterwards to
cease all further nuclear testing.  In 1996 the South Pacific officially
became a nuclear-test-free zone with the signing in Suva of the protocols to
the South Pacific Nuclear-free Zone treaty by France, Britain, and the US.

> But one should bear in mind the importance of France's *American* colony
> Guiana to the European space programme -- necessary if the EU is to
> independent capacity in telecommunications, as Will Hutton was pointing
> in the Observer last Sunday.
> France's presence in Guiana is probably economically beneficial to the
> inhabitants, in the sense that their incomes are higher than otherwise
> they are also part of, indeed citizens of, the EU).
> Nonetheless, they are placed in a dependent relationship with their
> patrons.
> One might call this oppression, but not if this word also has to bear some
> economic connotation.

On that last point we are agreed!

In solidarity, Jerry

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