Re: [OPE-L] Letter from France: In Europe, Islam fills Marxism's old shoes

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Fri Dec 31 2004 - 12:11:45 EST

>I think you confuse christian with Islamic radicals. The latter
>offer a social and economic program based on sharia. This
>involves redistribution through obligatory charitable donations
>and the abolition of interest payments. As such it contains
>an anti-capitalist element.
>As a Marxist, I dont think that this program is sustainable,
>in that under a system of generalised commodity production, interest
>will tend to re-emerge in covert forms even it it is legally
>abolished. But that argument is relatively sophisticated and
>we should not ignore the potential popular appeal of simple
>solutions like abolishing interest.

The attempt to reform capitalism through the abolition of interest
payments or the euthansia of the rentier is not of course rooted in
Islamic ideology but in the surface appearance of capital itself.
The interruption of commodity circulation appears as a shortage of
money, appears as unwillingness of banks to lower interest rates such
that there will be borrowing and hence creation of the media with
which to circulate commodities (banks create circulating media; they
do not simply mediate between savings and loans). The (apparently)
natural economy seems to come to a halt because of shortage of money.
Here is the basis for the wish of the natural, the concrete,  use
values to do away with the fetish, the fetish and power of money. The
problem seems to be rooted in the money changers; they  become the
demon personification of capital and Jews the face of that
personification in this demonology.

    Free credit appears to be the solution--this tradition, developed
in the great depression by Major Douglas, has its roots in Prodhoun
as Dudley Dillard perceptively recognized more than sixty years ago.
While reduction of interest rates and repression of rentier activity
can spur economic activity, i.e. accumulation through the
exploitation of wage labour, the Great Depression proved that it is
not a panacea for a crisis of general overproduction. Joan Robinson
went so far as to say Marx was proven not to have been incorrect to
have ignored the rate of interest altogether (though of course he did
not). Moishe Postone tries to relate the problem back to the double
nature of the commodity too quicky. He should talk about things such
as above. He is on to something but Franz Neumann already had the
idea in Behemoth. His attempt to relate NAZI demagogy against finance
capital to Proudhon is very interesting indeed.
As William J Blake noted: "It is can be stated as an historic axiom
that any group that seeks to divert attention from the material power
of the capitalist class to that segment of their power dependent on
finance operations (abstracted from the interplay of these
monopolies) is almost invariably anti semitic and nationalistic. That
is it serves as a shield for the Fords, Rockefellers, Mellons and
even Morgans and other international 'Gentiles" by assuming the true
oppression of labor to rest in the counting houses of only Jewish
arbitraguers, exchange dealers, note borkers and private investment
banker...It is always needful to take the mind of the peasant from
the landowner, the worker from the boss, so as to divert the class
struggle from reality into a cryptic world. In the Middle Ages it was
religion, today it is 'the monetary mechanism.'" New Masses, vol 19
1936, p. 20
We see this at work in Keynesian obsessions over the secrets of the
temple (ie the ominpotent and autonomous Fed) and the putative
hegemony of the rentier through Wall Street.

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