[OPE-L:8544] Fw: RE: Main Contradictions behind War on Iraq

From: Howard Engelskirchen (hengels@zoom-dsl.com)
Date: Mon Mar 03 2003 - 15:52:00 EST

This, from the bhaskar list, makes a good contribution to our discussion.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Radha D'Souza" <rdsouza@waikato.ac.nz>
To: <bhaskar@lists.village.virginia.edu>
Sent: Sunday, March 02, 2003 11:37 PM
Subject: BHA: RE: Main Contradictions behind War on Iraq

> Hans, John and other listers:
> My response to the discussion on the main contradictions in the Iraq war
and how CR might help has a very different take on both issues, Iraq and CR.
The link between oil and capitalism is part of the wider link between
capitalism and resources. Oil is one of the many resources, including land
(the indigenous question in settler colonies) human resources (the labour
question in non-settler colonies) and the environment debates between the
countries of the so-called "North" and "South" or "sustainable development".
And, it is not possible to talk about capitalism and resources without
talking about imperialism and (neo)colonialism.
> I would be very interested in Howard Engelskirchen's account of CR and
Marxism. Unfortunately I do not have access to the other list Hans Ehrbar
> Any consistent critique of imperialism and (neo) colonisation defies the
traditional disciplinary boundaries and that is where CR is helpful. CR
could provide a non-eclectic methodology for the critique of imperialism
about which I have written elsewhere but I will stay with Iraq for now.
> All capitalist nations concur on the need to discipline Iraq, what they
disagree on is the method. There is no disagreement on the core issue that
capitalist nations must determine the normative order of the world. The
"systemic contradiction" that Hans E refers to is as much about the form of
imperial governance as it is about oil. The style of imperial governance is
an issue that goes beyond Iraq and had resurfaced in many forms in many
places since the end of the "Cold War". Post-war style of imperialism was
influenced heavily by the presence of the "socialist" bloc, the breakdown of
institutions and infrastructure during the World Wars and the national
liberation struggles.
> Capitalism has always required an institutional framework within which to
operate. Marx in capital, T of SV and other writings pays considerable
attention to the institutional framework of capitalism. When the
institutional framework constrains the development of capitalism (means of
production v relations of production) there is a general crisis.
> Capitalism comprises three institutional relations - between capitalist
states; between capitalist states and the colonies (call it "Third World" or
"south" today) and the citizens and state in both places. While undoubtedly,
the declining hegemony of the US is the trigger for the present Iraq crisis,
and an economically weak but militarily strong capitalist state is the
potent mix that makes fascism (Germany in the earlier times) the declining
hegemony is symptomatic of structural changes in capitalism - it is the
effect not the cause.
> The stand on Iraq must be contextualised in the light of Palestine, Libya,
Iran, Indonesia, Malaysia, Columbia a host of other places where the old
forms of imperial governance in the post Cold War era started to slip. Many
third world states were forced to change, some did willingly, others did
under duress, yet others with bribes in the form of aid and assistance and
those that did not yield to the carrot got the stick. While in the immediate
sense the Iraq war is about oil, it is also about changing the rules of the
game vis--vis the "Third World". Which is why, the UN system, which was the
lynchpin of the post-war system, is more vulnerable now than ever before.
> It is certainly true as Hans E says that the US benefited from the
dissolution of the colonial Empires. It benefited because it took it over
from Britain and was able to provide an institutional framework for the new
phase of finance capitalism that was emerging at that time. That sort of
change of regimes is not new to the US. Britain took over the imperial reins
from the Dutch and developed the Empire system to accommodate a capitalism
that had transcended the mercantile phase to industrial capitalism. Each
change has meant cataclysmic changes in the nature of governance and
institutions that were mediated by wars that helped introduce changes.
> Traditionally, the Marxist critique had seen The Economic and The
Political as two distinct but related "realms". That was limiting because
despite the disclaimers and qualifiers, the understanding tended either
towards economic reductionism (and therefore determinism) or political
reductionism (and therefore voluntarism). CR could help overcome that
because of its relativist and constitutive epistemology.
> Likewise the US $ was powerful because the US wrote the rules of the game
in the post war world. The rules of the IMF were one of the most contentious
issues between Britain and the US when negotiating post-war institutions.
Putting down the Iraq crisis to oil in a simplistic Iraq=oil equation
reduces the potential of CR. It does not take note of the complexities of
time (history) and place (geography) in an issue. While the crisis is
certainly systemic, the systemic crisis includes, the economic, political,
institutional, legal, cultural and other dimensions of social life.
Introducing imperialism and (neo) colonialism into the equation forces us to
break out of isolating issues into one or a few aspects and to assess the
totality of the situation including emergent factors and conditions.
> Marx himself is very aware of the colonial question and time again
addresses it in different contexts, Ireland, India and so on. Generally
speaking there is a perception out there amongst those from the "Third
World" (it has been around for a while now) that when Marxists speak of
capitalism they tend towards the "internal" dimensions, which manifests
politically as "Eurocentrism". Capitalism without colonies is inconceivable
but at the same time capitalism and imperialism/colonialism are not
> When a crisis is systemic, the tendency is a movement towards systemic
collapse. So whatever the policy options that may be adopted, the
contradictions are not resolved within the existing institutional framework
(maturing of contradictions in Marxist language). In determining how the
crisis is resolved, CR is more liberating because the resolution could take
may different forms. That leaves the space open for people and
> The systemic tension today arises from three related areas: the
centralised and unified nature of the economic dimensions of capitalism is
one; the limitations of the UN system as an overarching institutional
framework for post-war capitalism is another and the experience of national
liberation and anti-colonial aspirations and experiences (disillusionment)
over the past 50 years is yet another. It is in understanding and answering
these types of issues that CR become relevant.
> Finally, Hans E talks about the Bush style of governance that has eroded
what he describes as "the goodwill the US has enjoyed world wide". Many
might question the goodwill bit. Equally, the present Iraq policy and the
team that drives it has not come into existence with Bush Jr. They have been
around a while now, driving the same agenda.
> I am sorry about this quick and ad hoc response to an important issue.
> Radha D'Souza
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Hans Ehrbar [mailto:ehrbar@econ.utah.edu]
> Sent: Sunday, 2 March 2003 4:05 p.m.
> To: bhaskar@lists.village.virginia.edu
> Cc: bhaskar@lists.village.virginia.edu
> Subject: BHA: Main Contradictions behind War on Iraq
> John,
> I looked up the Grundrisse quote, which is reproduced below,
> and discovered that this quote backs up only half of what I
> said.  Marx does say that the one-sided focus on labor is
> misplaced and contradictory, he mentions science and nature
> as additional productive powers, but he does not say
> anything about the *limits* of the environment.
> Regarding the decline of the hegemonial power of the US., I
> would try to argue along the lines that the onslaught of
> capitalist competition tends to erode over time any special
> privilege and any monopoly.  Capitalism reproduces the
> general separation of the producers from the means of
> production, but it erodes the exceptional market power of
> particular monopolies or hegemonial states.  This makes it
> so resilient: the fate of the capitalist system is not tied
> to the fate of the USA.
> Hans.
> p. 706 in Vintage edition of Grundrisse:
> Capital itself is the moving contradiction, [in] that it
> presses to reduce labour time to a minimum, while it posits
> labour time, on the other side, as sole measure and source
> of wealth. ... On the one side, then, it calls to life all
> the powers of science and of nature, as of social
> combination and of social intercourse, in order to make the
> creation of wealth independent (relatively) of the labour
> time employed on it. On the other side, it wants to use
> labour time as the measuring rod for the giant social forces
> thereby created, and to confine them within the limits
> required to maintain the already created value as
> value. Forces of production and social relations -- two
> different sides of the development of the social individual
> -- appear to capital as mere means, and are merely means for
> it to produce on its limited foundation. In fact, however,
> they are the material conditions to blow this foundation
> sky-high.
> p. 593 in German:
> Das Kapital ist selbst der prozessierende Widerspruch
> [dadurch], dass es die Arbeitszeit auf ein Minimum zu
> reduzieren stoert, waehrend es andrerseits die Arbeitszeit
> als einziges Mass und Quelle des Reichtums setzt.  ... Nach
> der einen Seite hin ruft es also alle Maechte der
> Wissenschaft und der Natur, wie der gesellschaftlichen
> Kombination und des gesellschaftlichen Verkehrs ins Leben,
> um die Schoepfung des Reichtums unabhaenging (relativ) zu
> machen von der auf sie angewandten Arbeitszeit.  Nach der
> andren Seite will es diese so geschaffnen riesigen
> Gesellschaftskraefte messen an der Arbeitzeit, und sie
> einbannen in die Grenzen, die erheischt sind, um den schon
> geschaffnen Wert als Wert zu erhalten.  Die Produktivkraefte
> und gesellschaftlichen Beziehungen---beides verschiedene
> Seiten der Entwicklung des gesellschaftlichen
> Individuums---erscheinen dem Kapital nur als Mittel, und
> sind fuer es nur Mittel, um von seiner bornierten Grundlage
> aus zu produzieren.  In fact aber sind sie die materiellen
> Bedingungen, um sie in die Luft zu sprengen.
>      --- from list bhaskar@lists.village.virginia.edu ---
>      --- from list bhaskar@lists.village.virginia.edu ---

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