[OPE-L:1460] Re: RE: Re: RE: Re: Re: Mandel, Mattick, etc.

Jurriaan Bendien (djjb99@worldonline.nl)
Mon, 11 Oct 1999 21:35:49 +0100

Hi Andrew

Your write:

>This may be a bit unfair (even sectarian on your part) about Callinicos.

Well to be honest, occasionally Callinicos does write articles for
publications from other groups, including Against the Current, which are
genuine contributions to a discussion. And as a matter of fact, in the
theoretical journal of the organisation I belong to at the moment
(Socialist Workers Party of the Netherlands) we have published an exchange
of views between Michael Lowy and Callinicos. But in other instances, such
as with Mandel, we see the sectarian and dogmatic knee-jerk reaction
happening very quickly, and it becomes villification. And it's the same
with Chris Harman and similar people. It is not sectarian to say this, it's
simply a fact. Just read their literature if you have a stomach for it. The
polemics that they have got into are sometimes positively nutty. I want to
stay out of that sort of thing, I have better things to do with my time.

 Speaking in a personal capacity, I don't care much for that whole British
Trotskyist tradition, although it has produced many outstanding intellects
and political actors, and some literature which is worth reading. The whole
history of British Trotskyism and its offshoots is riddled with sectarian
in-fighting, so that the debates frequently become arcane bunk which I like
to keep well away from. I mean, some groups will deduce you're a so-and-so
because of some difference in interpretation of the labour theory of value.

I wouldn't claim though that we have never had problems with sectarianism
here on the continent, but generally speaking the socialist parties there
are have better traditions so there is more intelligent debate and less
sectarian bunk.

>think things are so up in the air in social theory that his 'sect' probably
>have trouble even keeping up with it, and establishing a party line may be

When I mentioned his "sect" I was probably not quite correct
scientifically. It's probably more a "semi-sect", a sort of combination of
a group of honest working-class socialists capable of objective and
critical thought, and a bunch of religious nutters. But it will eventually
become a sect because its theories are dogmatic and don't work. If for
example on moral grounds you call the former Soviet Union "state
capitalist" then (1) you haven't understood much about the socio-economic
structure of that society, (2) you don't have any real insight into the
real problems of socialist transition, of building socialism. You can
certainly jump up and down and shout that socialism means workers power,
but beyond moral fervour you don't have any real idea about the
organisation of a socialist economy or a socialist society, or how to get
there. And that's more the problem that interests me.

>Would be very interested to know more about what you find appealing about
>Shaikh's position and which references are relevant to this, if you have
>time for a brief paragraph on this. Look forward also to you writing up
>your ideas on Mandel.

The US organisation Solidarity published a pamphlet by Anwar Shaikh called
I think The Current Crisis: Causes and Implications. It gives a very clear
simple discussion why profitability matters, using the classical argument
but using modern terminology, and he shows what's wrong with various
positions by leftwingers taken on the issue. Furthermore he (like Fred
Moseley) actually measures the rate of profit in a fairly sophisticated way
for the USA, and various other variables such as real wages and
productivity. I found that pamphlet (which is only an outline of something
that requires much more discussion) very appealing, and in particular that
he places appropriate emphasis on the growth of fixed capital and profit
margins and what that means for the accumulation process (Ernst might
disagree with me here). I have another paper of his presenting a model of
economic crisis from the old days but that was never published. Implicitly
he gives a very good reply to Okishio and to Dobb in his writings. As
regards Anwar Shaikh's papers, you can get references easily from the New
School site. Just look under Anwar Shaikh or Willy Semmler or New School of
Social Research etc. I have regrettably not read all of Shaikh's writings
either, for lack of time, but I will do so in future because I think he is
an outstanding Marxian economist.

In solidarity


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