[OPE] capitalist states, imperialism, and militarism

From: GERALD LEVY (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Sun Mar 02 2008 - 08:46:14 EST

> > After all, if there weren't economic benefits for capitalist nations > > going to war then there would be less wars! If what you were saying > > was correct, then all 'rational' capitalist societies would disarm.> I don't share this conceptualization of "capitalist nations" and its > "rationality". By same token firms could never act in a way that would > depress the average rate of profit. Capitalist nations have no goals or > rationality. 
Hi Dave Z:
"Capitalist nations have no goals or rationality"???!!!
I think this fundamentally misconceives the relation between nation
states and capital.  If one is referring to an imperialist nation (do
you think that imperialism is a reality, btw?) then that nation 
certainly does have (imperial) goals and its behavior normally is, at
least to a significant degree, rational in the sense that its behavior is
generally consistent with its (real) goals.
If, for instance, a nation state seeks imperial expansion and a territorial
re-division of the world that benefits that nation's economy and the
interests of  the ruling class, then militarism has an important and
logical/rational role as part of that project.  E.g., it is entirely rational
for US imperialism to use the military to attempt to preserve US 
hegemony in the world capitalist system. 
All of the talk at the time of the "First Gulf War" of a "New World Order"
in which all nations would be on the same basic page and the UN 
would become the body through which the "world community" would 
collectively and peacefully make decisions and take action has been 
shown by subsequent experience to be a naive fantasy.  There have
been, in fact, no indications of a move away from rivalry among 
nation states (indeed, the formation of regional trade associations
could be viewed as *expressions* of heightened, but re-aligned, rivalry 
among nation states) or militarism.  [In this sense, I think our current 
difference in perspective on the role of the military and states is 
related to our prior discussion on the extent to which capitalism is
moving towards 'one world government' rather than the continued
existence of rivalries among nation states.] 
> It consists of legal subjects with varying interests. Some > vastly more powerful than others, some forming coalitions with others by > virtue of overlapping economic positions or interests.> It is not capitalist nations that go to wars but territorial states. 
This formulation bends the stick way too far in the opposite direction.
Even if we accept that states have _relative_ autonomy they *most
certainly* don't have _absolute_ autonomy.  You are asserting, if I 
understand you correctly, that wars waged by states in which the
capitalist mode of production prevails, have no economic goals. This,
I think, is counter-factual.  It's true that wars oftentimes can't
be reduced _simply_ to economic/class interests, but those interests
are generally a big part of the picture.  I guess we'd have to look at 
particular wars to evaluate these contrary claims more concretely.
> Some representatives of capital find particular military actions in > their interests and may support or even push for them, other > representatives don't. Oil companies and arms producers and contractors > profit at the expense of the rest of the capitalist class.
I guess you are talking about the war against Iraq. While it's 
true that some segments of capitalists from the US  would benefit to a 
greater degree than the US capitalist class in general, I think the
intent of the war was to benefit US capital and the state as a whole.
Of course, developments there haven't proceeded in exactly the way 
planned by the US government .... 
It should not be forgotten that wars have historically been a means
through which the economies of individual capitalist social formations
have been fueled and an economic crisis overcome.  Military spending 
in the US,  Germany, and Japan all had a role in stimulating capitalist 
expansion in those countries.   This should not be forgotten - especially 
because the bourgeoisie has not forgotten that lesson. 
I guess the larger question implied by this discussion is this: does 
imperialist rivalry _necessarily_  require a role for militarism or is that simply 
one way in which imperialist  rivalries have historically often been expressed? 
Note that I have asked this question but haven't asserted an answer (yet).
As a _practical_ matter, taking into consideration the current relation 
among nations, I don't see militarism becoming less of a factor in the immediate
period ahead.  And, I don't think the historical trend has been for militarism
to be diminished in importance for individual states and capitalist economies.
In solidarity, Jerry

ope mailing list

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Mon Mar 31 2008 - 00:00:14 EDT