Re: [OPE] Patnaik's Notes on Contemporary Imperialism

From: Dave Zachariah <>
Date: Sun Dec 26 2010 - 15:58:56 EST

On 2010-12-25 17:34, GERALD LEVY wrote:

> A side comment first: Of all the descriptors for these countries/parts
> of the world capitalist economy, I think the worst (and that's saying a
> lot!) is "developing economies". This presumes that all of these
> economies are actually developing and that's not the case. Even more
> objectionable is the inference that if your economy
> isn't already an 'advanced' capitalist economy then your economy
> is 'developing' (i.e. getting there; headed in that direction). This
> seriously miscomprehends - in a reactionary way - what is happening
> in the world capitalist economy.
I agree, 'developing economies' is a poor short hand. 'Industrializing,
largely agrarian or small producer economies' etc. are somewhat better
aggregations. Even 'low income economies' works better.

> In any event, I think that the designation of the "working class
> and the peasantry" is out-of-date (and early 20th Century) because
> it does not take into account the 'petty commodity producing'
> ('informal') sector in which so many millions of people are
> (self-) employed. They are neither wage-workers or peasants but
> are a HUGE social layer in many parts of the world capitalist
> economy - often much larger than the waged working class and
> peasantry COMBINED.
Agreed. The informal proletariat and petty-producers constitute a
significant share of these economies. But on the other hand Patnaik is
probably right to see the alliance of a working-class and peasantry as
primary. The structural capacities and interests of the informal
proletariat and petty producers are more contradictory and unclear to be
the basis of a socialist movement.

> Well, let's see: there was a close connection between the Nazis
> and finance capital (see Daniel Guerin's classic [1938] work _Fascism
> and Big Business_) and I think the evidence is also pretty strong in
> relation to Italy under Mussolini, Spain under Franco and - if
> you think it was fascist, Chile under Pinochet. What exactly is the
> misconception?
No doubt did individual rentiers and industrial capitalists support
fascist movements at various points, but as a general theory of fascism
the idea of it as 'promoted by finance capital' I don't think holds up
closer examination. It misconceives two things: (i) the structural
relationship between the capitalist state and competing capitals, and
(ii) the popular or mass nature of fascist movements. Let me try to
elaborate it a bit.

 From the standpoint of individual capitalists the liberal-parliamentary
state is the most stable form of political rule. Authoritarian states
with highly concentrated political power bring about two potential
dangers to structural position of capitalists. Firstly, the high degree
of personalization and dependence on political power in the economy
risks rewarding some capitalists at the expense of others. It is a key
factor for why reason the parliamentary state has proven to be the
stable form of rule so far; it can mediate between conflicting capitals,
ensure legal equality and the viability of the entire economic system in
the name 'national interest'.

Secondly, the concentration of political power risks, as Fred Block once
put it, pushing the state towards 'tipping point'; after which the state
apparatuses gains so strong hold of the economy that the capitalists
lose their structural bargaining position vis-a-vis the state and become
subordinates to its commands.

Finally, upholding the apparatuses of such a state requires a greater
surplus appropriation by it.

Taken together fascism then is a costly and risky route for the
personifications of financial and industrial capital; if their rule can
still operate through the mechanisms of the parliamentary state they
will be structurally biased against fascist movements assuming power or
gaining too much influence. In other words, financial capital will not
'promote fascism' but rather the traditional political forces of
reaction. This is what we are witnessing in Europe now. I think the
historical record is the same; these are the forces that the bulk of the
capitalist class sided with in Germany and Italy during the 1920s and
1930s until the combination of depression and domestic/international
revolutionary movements threatened the operation of parliamentary system
and the efficacy of the traditional forces of reaction, i.e. the
conservative or liberal Right. Only then did the costs of alternatives
to fascist rule seem higher, and the interests of a desperate capitalist
class converge with an already rising fascist movement.

Fascist movements on the other hand are best understood as, what Eric
Hobsbawm called, 'revolutionaries of counter-revolution'. In other
words, as popular movements against the liberal-parliamentary system in
general and the Left in particular; prepared for violent cleansing and
'restoration' of what they perceive to be their community under
cultural, and often military, threat. In this strategic outlook
cosmopolitan capitalism and its 'materialism' is rejected and instead
the goal is to support national producers and preserving the national
class structure.

//Dave Z
ope mailing list
Received on Sun Dec 26 16:00:30 2010

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