Re: [OPE] Britain--parasitic and decaying capitalism: A comment

From: D. Göçmen <>
Date: Tue Dec 29 2009 - 08:16:06 EST

in your first email stating your points you make many points. They have been addressed by David. I do not have anything to add to what he said in his reply. Some of your points are for political economists by profession. It would take me too much time to go into them. However there are two closely related fundamental points in your post. Let me try to re-address the issue by reducing them to these two points. This might be also in the sense of Jerry when he suggested we discuss imperilism.

FIRST: "If 'imperialism' is to mean anything specific it has to relate to 'empire' and therefore to the system of territorial states which pre-dates capitalism. Classical imperialism in the capitalist era then was the convergence of the rentier interest and the interests of the territorial state to establish the above scenario in regions where either the market did not exist or where states opposed the capitalists from outside. Capitalist imperialism is therefore the set of extra-economic mechanisms of coercion used by states when the standard operation of rentiers through an established free market cannot operate in a region for various reasons."

SECOND: "But I think the general argument behind the 'labour aristocracy' thesis is conflating the professional middle-class with the working-class. They do not share the same positions in the economic structure anyway. In my view this theory was primarily adopted by small far-Left groups who failed to give a proper account for the reformism within the working-class movement and hence their own political weaknesses. The consequence of such a theory is to destroy the confidence of the labour movement in the advanced countries."

Ad first: your approach is a ahistorical one. There is a long debate among German mainstream academics and Marxist theoreticians on this issue. Among mainstream academics (bourgeois intellectuals) Momsen was most prominent one in this debate and his main argument was exactly this: there nothing special about imperialist stage of capitalism. He suggested, like you, that the term imperialism has to be related to the concept of "empire" and if we do this, then, his argument goes on, we may conclude that in expansionism we face there is nothing new. If one approaches imperialism in this way he/she makes the main driving force behind imperialism invisible and somewhat arbitrary. And I think that that was the main concern of Momsen and people alike. Hobson's and Lenin's approach is, as you know, a historical one. Almost all elements of Lenin's theory of imperialism are already formulated by Hobson. Lenin's attack on Hobson concerns, I think, the point that though he says socialism is necessary for establishing a society on the basis of the principle of equality and peace he does not see any social force (working class) that has an essential interest in overcoming capitalism and establish socialism. Therefore, his call for socialism is a moralising one. Of course, it goes without saying that Lenin's theory is systematically much better one. So if you approach imperialism as Hobson and Lenin do, then, you are able to indicate the driving force behind the expansionism in the imperialist stage of capitalism and point out what the solution is. It is of course a fact that any form of expansionism involves political, cultural, military and so on expansion too. But to suggest any solution requires that you define the main force to be attacked.

People in the current debate claiming that Lenin's theory of imperialism do not apply anymore claim that there is no longer any competition among imperialist states. Therefore, there is no danger of an imperialist war to re-divide the world. I think they err and this point is very well argued in David's paper. If you do not use Lenin's theory of imperialism you can hardly explain why Iraq is occupied and what happened in international politics before it came to the occupation.

Ad second: labour aristocracy theory does not conflate "professional middle-class with the working-class" and it does not "destroy the confidence of the labour movement in the advanced countries". The aim of this theory is to attack a certain (reformist) political approach in the labour movement. If you look at the evolution of social democrat movements and analyse current development on the left (the rise of Die Linke in Germany, Scottish Socialist Party, European Left) you may see clearly that these theory is well-founded and still valid. I find David's arguments about Kautskyism very convincing, though he does not say anything about new ideological sources of new-reformism. In short, if you do not use this theory you will ot be able to explain the political orientation of headquarters trade unions in imperialis countries. So far from me today.




-----Original Message-----
From: Dave Zachariah <>
To: Outline on Political Economy mailing list <>
Sent: Tue, 29 Dec 2009 12:17
Subject: Re: [OPE] Britain--parasitic and decaying capitalism: A comment

  Dogan wrote:

I do not know where you get thesequotations from. They are certainly not in the paper I downloaded fromthe link you sent. Are they something you think you can conclude fromthe paper or quoted from somewhere else. From what I read from David Iknow he would never say something like that without further qualifyingit.
I did not say they were quotations from the paper, I wrote that theywere the political *corollaries* of the analysis and line of argumentgiven in the paper.

The issue is not the author's intentions, which I will take for grantedare honest and good. The issue is (i) the validity of the analysis and(ii) its political implications.

This said I do not see anythingwrong with David's article
Then what is your take on the theoretical problems and weakly supportedexplanations that I tried to highlight previously?

(The failure to distinguish extra-economic coercion from the laws thatoperate through the market; the cause of high real wages in theadvanced countries; the cause of higher wages within the professionalmiddle-class; the actual flows of money and goods between economies;the domestic reproduction of the real wage vector; the extrapolation ofthe British economy to all advanced or 'imperialist' economies and soon?)

//Dave Z

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