Re: [OPE-L] Imperialism in our century.

From: Dave Zachariah (davez@KTH.SE)
Date: Tue Jan 01 2008 - 17:10:39 EST

Thanks a lot for your informative reply Paul.

Paul C
What do you mean by the last sentence Dave?

Dave Z
What I meant to say was that the last one hundred years have been a 
period of proliferation of nation states, quite the contrary to what one 
would expect from an abstract capitalist logic of expansion alone.

Paul C
Remember that states are something quite different from capitalist firms.
States are territorial organisations that appropriate a significant, often
major, part of the surplus product in the teritories that they control.
As such they have distinct interests as surplus appropriators.

Dave Z
I fully agree with you here. What I was aiming at was to what extent is 
there a "class character of the state" and to what extent are 
inter-state rivalries driven by rivalries between capitals today?

As for the class character of the state I think of it primarily from a 
juridical point of view: the state is "capitalist" if it is assigned to 
protect capitalist private property. Then it is a matter of degree of 
the influence capitalist interests can have over the state. If those who 
run the state apparatus come from the propertied classes or at least are 
steeped in its ideology there may be a direct influence. If not, there 
is always indirect influence that stems from the fact that the bulk of 
taxable incomes are generated in capitalist firms.

If we take the major inter-state conflicts since the collapse of the 
Soviet bloc, I can't see that they were the result of competition 
between capitals. They are primarily driven by territorial interests but 
under the influence of certain capitalist interests. Moshé Machover has 
argued that the US involvement in conflicts in the Middle East has been 
driven by short-term capitalist interests and long-term territorial 

1. The short-term. To raise the price of oil and to win favourable arms 
contracts with the state. (This of course benefits a section of 
capitalist firms at the expense of the others.)

2. The medium-term. Control over international oil trade to make sure 
that it continues to be traded in dollars rather than euros.

3. The long-term. Control the Middle East's oil reserves, and therefore 
those rival states whose economies depend on it.

on 2008-01-01 00:08 Paul Cockshott wrote:
>  Dave Z
> -----------
> However, there are two issues that I think lack analysis:
> What is the relation between the capitalism and the nation state,
> especially once capitalism has reached a truly global scale? From a
> purely abstract capitalist logic one would expect a decay of smaller
> nation states and the formation of larger blocs of juridical and
> military power, e.g. as the EU. But the reverse seems to be true.
> Paul C
> ------
> What do you mean by the last sentence Dave?
> Dave Z
> -----------
> Given
> the integration of global capitalism today I have a hard time to see
> that the rivalries between capitals  themselves will translate into
> rivalries between nation states (except for the case of state-capitalist
> enterprises).
> Paul C
> -------
> Could one not have argued the same thing in 1908?
> Remember that states are something quite different from capitalist firms.
> States are territorial organisations that appropriate a significant, often
> major, part of the surplus product in the teritories that they control.
> As such they have distinct interests as surplus appropriators. They are
> typically controlled by the propertied classes within that territory, but,
> in parliamentary states, have also to respond to the interests of other
> classes. They also have the power to create money, upon which power the
> whole process of capital accumulation ultimately depends, since capitalist
> wealth is denominated in the money created by these states.
> It is quite exceptional for a state to be controlled by and in the service
> of 'capital' they are typically in the service of 'national interests' and
> influenced primarily by firms based in their territory. In recent 
> years the
> UK state has come to approximate a state in the service of 'capital in 
> general',
> but that reflects the particular preponderance of finance capital 
> within the
> UK economy. Few other capitalist states approach this British level of 
> openness to
> foreign capital.
> Consider the degree wo which the US state and the US currency are 
> dependent on German
> Chinese and Japanese credit. The creditor states could, with 
> adjustment to their
> internal policies remove these lines of credit.
> Kalecki teaches us that the mass of profit in a capitalist economy is 
> determined
> by the sum of capitalist consumption, net investment and the trade 
> surplus.
> The trade surplus that China runs with the US constitutes a huge boost to
> the profits of Chinese firms, even if from the standpoint of a rational
> Smithean calculus, it constitutes nothing more than a huge loss, a 
> huge subsidy
> to the US. From the standpoint of individual chinese firms the trade 
> surplus
> is a big gain, it boosts their profits. From the standpoint of the 
> state however,
> as personified by the state bank, it is of much more dubious benefit. 
> It causes
> an accumulation of dollar holdings of increasingly perilous real  value.
> One response is to set up large state venture funds so that China can 
> convert these
> surpluses into equity capital, but such equity capital need not be 
> invested in the USA.
> Another response could be for the state to step up internal 
> infrastructure investment -
> but with 50% of Chinese gdp currently going on investment there is 
> little room for this to go much further.
> Alternatively the surplus could be expended as internal state spending 
> on either armaments or
> welfare as happened in for example the UK during the 50s.
> But if these things happen, what position does that put the USA in?
> Suppose that the financing available for the current US deficit of 
> some $700 billion
> dried up.
> Will it still be able to sustain its current level of imports of 
> manufactured
> goods and oil?
> What would be the implications for the US state if it could no longer 
> finance
> anything near current levels of oil imports?
> The free market value of the dollar would decline much further than it 
> has already.
> Costs of oil and manufactured goods in US shops would rise even more 
> drastically.
> What would the implications of this be for political stability with 
> the state?
> What would the implications be for the continued viability of the US 
> armed forces
> if they could no longer afford the oil they currently use?
> These factors alone would seem to provide ample motivation for the 
> revival of
> imperialism in its most classic form -- the seizure of territories 
> rich in raw
> materials, first Iraq, then perhaps Iran, then Venezuela. If all these 
> countries
> were under US occupation they would have to supply oil in dollars, 
> however depreciated
> the dollar becomes on the world market.
> We should not be using the imperialism of 1908 as our model, but the 
> imperialism of
> 1938.
> Paul Cockshott
> Dept of Computing Science
> University of Glasgow
> +44 141 330 3125

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