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

From: Paul Bullock <paulbullock@ebms-ltd.co.uk>
Date: Tue Dec 29 2009 - 09:32:02 EST


Your statement that David Y is " not very interested in theoretical discussions
here but agitation for the political line" seems to me to reflect a very peculiar distinction,
you seem to want to make between what you call the 'economic' and the 'political'.
(Farewell then, bourgeoise Political Economy!)

What we should be interested in is the identification, from the application of a scientific method,
of the material social and so political relations that are maintaining a constant state of war and oppression
over and against the interests of the mass of the global population. Any serious study of society must present the 'student'
with the question... "and what now?" and this must be political, and the bourgeoisie wouldn't dream of denying the fact.

So David is morally coherent in having drawn political conclusions from a life of study of imperialism.
However since you seem keen still to stay back in the field of 'purely' theoretical discussion, a number of 'theoretical points'
occur to me from your initial comments.

I trust these are of interest to you


paul b.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Dave Zachariah" <davez@kth.se>
To: "Outline on Political Economy mailing list" <ope@lists.csuchico.edu>
Cc: "Jacob Richter" <j_richter_scale@yahoo.co.uk>
Sent: Saturday, December 26, 2009 11:15 PM
Subject: [OPE] Britain--parasitic and decaying capitalism: A comment

>A comment on David Yaffe's article "Britain--Parasitic and decaying
> capitalism".
> The general outline of the article is consistent with the orthodox
> theory of imperialism going back to Hobson and Lenin.
It must be clear, as David said that Hobson is not at all the same as Lenin

>But even after subtracting the typical ( typical in what respect? what does
this mean? the 'left' parties here, deny, like you, the material split in the working class, and call for
abstract unity with almost anyone) complaints against other far-Left groups in Britain,
I find parts of the article unconvincing and not well-argued.

> Imperialism
> --------------------------------------
> A key problem is that what actually constitutes 'imperialism' is not
> well defined, and in what sense its operation differs from the laws of
>motion of capitalism that operate within an established market.

(what do you mean? that imperialism doesn't establish markets, or that it only operates
outside a market system?? in general it imposes a monopoly 'market' - buyer / seller -
where it can, in order to extract materials and create freedom to invest and extract as much surplus
product as possible, necessarily in alliance with its HQ state,and this is what 'constitutes' imperialism...
the idea is actually to get rid of the 'established' market ... if there was one)

I would agree that the classical era of capitalist imperialism was characterized
by the dominance of the rentier interest and its distinguishing feature
is the 'export of capital', i.e. global investment, as opposed to the
export of commodities. But I do not think these features are sufficient,( for what ??)
and to believe they are will lead into the traps of nationalism
( what is this 'trap of nationalism' in formulating a concept of imperialism?
the national struggle for freedom from imperialist interference and control is
necessary for the just development of a society, and will be lead by the
revolutionary class of that society depending on historical conditions.)
and misconceived notions of 'national oppression'.
( please provide a 'properly' conceived notion of national oppression! )
> If capitalists in region A invest in region B, this in itself is not
> imperialism, but the operation of capitalism. Further, if the
> capitalists are transformed into rentiers that merely transfer interest
> payments and dividends from region B to A, then it is the operation of
> capitalism with finance capital. Both scenarios occur persistently
> across regions, especially between countries considered to be 'imperialist'.

(this conceals (1) the different relations between 'developed states', (2) and relations
between 'developed' and 'underdeveloped/ developing' - ( client states, semi-colonies,
occupied,oppressed etc), and so confuses the source of extra profits/ super exploitation
with 'normal' profits: it simultaneously confuses the struggle for dominance by one imperialist
power in another weaker nation,with the process of periodically 'peaceful' inter-imperialist
rivalry within and between the developed economies - in agreed areas of mutual competition.
BUT note there has to be an agreement about such competition, thus about tarriffs, and all other
rules of operation, existence of national champions, rules for takeovers etc ...
it not simply a function of some magically evolved 'established ' market.

Incidentally I find all this business about 'established ' markets - and later your reference to the 'free market'
as quite anti intellectual. I would have thought that even the average student would have taken on board long made
liberal criticisms of such fairy stories, such as Galbraiths 'American Capitalism' , even if they were anti-Lenin.

> 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.
  (So here Imperialism is to be related to pre- capitalism ! WHY?)
>Classical imperialism in the capitalist era then
> was (nb! past tense ) the convergence of the rentier interest and the interests of the
> territorial state to establish the above (? pre-capitalist??) 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.
 ( So 'capitalist imperialism is the imposition of a market from without, ie colonialism ???
neo-colonialism......this is all very loose)

> The extraction of interests and dividends by rentiers in Britain from
> various regions of the world is not equivalent to 'national oppression'
> as such. Any oppression that results from this economic relation is done
> by the rentier class, the state apparatus and the client states or
> organizations that they may involve and not the exploited classes in
> Britain. (The only sensible use of 'oppressor nation' is the case of
> settler-colonial states, when an entire community is founded in a region
> that exploits or excludes the indigenous population.)

 You seem to be refering to 'national oppression' as the oppression BY a 'nation',
 and not oppression OF a nation by another state, which is what the term means.

> The article rightly points out the differential between rates of return
> on foreign assets flowing between the rich and poor regions. This is to
> be expected since capital exports from a region is driven by precisely
> the low rate of return that follows from a stagnant workforce and high
> levels of capital investment. ( But this doesn't explain the
 very high and so different rates involved - the issue of super profits,
 super exploitation and its inevitable political basis.

 It also clouds over the fact that most recent investment - up until
 last year - was made by wealthy states into other imperialist states,
 which, in the very next section, you then admit!)

> This may very well lead to a parasitic extraction by agents in the rich
> countries but to conclude the nature of this it would be necessary to
> look at the income flows across all regions. A substantial---I would
> guess the bulk---of these streams flow between the advanced countries.
> It is however clear the advanced economies that have been running a
> persistent trade deficit the past years are parasitic since it means
> that they are appropriating a part of the surplus product produced
> elsewhere, from both developing and advanced countries.

(So advanced economies run a deficit at the expense of
 advanced countries - very clever)

> Moreover, it does not follow logically that a high rate of return in
> underdeveloped countries is a result of super-exploitation. Work by Paul
> C, Allin and myself has shown that rates of return on capital stocks are
> independent of the wage share and are determined by the growth of labour,
 productivity and the level of investments.

You must be confusing the real standard of living with the value of V.

 (Apart from contradicting the much observed fact that US workers have not enjoyed
 an improvement in their living standards for years, here we see the appeal to 'civilised'
 relative surplus value extraction, science allows humanity etc, but the point is that
 'science' combined with the absolutely lower rate of consumption by workers in 'underdeveloped'
 ( ie capitalistically manipulated and ruined countries) provides the super profits
- these workers cannot in any way be said to enjoy the living standards
 of western europeans and remain super exploited)

> Still less does it entail that rate of exploitation would be lower if the local working
> classes were exploited by 'national' capital.
( This last sentence makes no sense at all, unless it is an outright apology for imperialism)
> Labour aristocracy
> --------------------------------------
> It is certainly true the current levels of living standards in the
> advanced countries are dependent on income flows from abroad. But to
> conclude that there exists a 'labour aristocracy' that is somehow bribed
> by super-profits from 'oppressed nations' is a really weak theory in my
> view. The article does little to corroborate the theory by identifying
> the sections of the working-class more precisely;

> how they actually are
> benefited by super-profits; from which investments are these
> super-profits in 'oppressed nations' flowing; how this hypothetical
> economic relation leads to an ideological mechanism which supports the
> rentier interest? (You appear to be a mechanical determinist )
> The only plausible candidate for the so-called 'labour aristocracy' that
> the article gives is within the financial sector, which I agree is
> unproductive and the center of the rentier interest. Employees in the
> financial sector have an interest in preserving their employment and
> therefore also the financial system.*( But not in the arms industry??
or the employees of GMAC?....if the exchange rate of an imperialist states currency is
supported because it has constant access to plunder then obviously
a trade imbalance can be run that benefits sections of the skilled working class, and even extends consumer credit
to the poor for periods. All this certainly acts as a distraction, distractions that are worked
for all they are worth by the millionnaire media etc, and dulls/isolates the senses of many workers to the disasters
existing and unfolding.

> 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.

 (So why did Lenin have it, why did Engels have it? Why had countless
 other 'bourgeoise' writers discuss such a material relation? extending into the working class?
 eg the iron law of oligarchy - Mosca, etc) #

The consequence of such a theory is to destroy the confidence of the labour
movement in the advanced countries.
( Are you saying that workers don't recognise sell outs by btheir own trades
 union leaders?, that the AFL-CIO split in the USA is a fiction? How can you destroy
confidence in a failed leadership that won't even mobilise agaibnst the Afghan/Iraq invasions?)
> The real issue is the need for global trade-unions with coordinated
> activities across borders, and the primary obstacle is the
> wage-differential between regions of varying levels of development in an
> era of global capital flows.
 It makes capital flow to low-wage economies
> with labour reserves and migration flow towards the high-wage economies
> which weakens bargaining power there. This creates real problems for
> socialist politics in the advanced countries and is predicted to
> stabilize once the labour reserves begin to deplete. Then the bargaining
> power of labour can begin to rise on a global scale.

> //Dave Z
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Received on Tue Dec 29 09:41:13 2009

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