Saturday, July 28, 2012

Wobbly times number 150

On progressive nationalism

"The right of self-determination means that a nation may arrange its life in the way it wishes. It has the right to arrange its life on the basis of autonomy. It has the right to enter into federal relations with other nations. It has the right to complete secession. Nations are sovereign, and all nations have equal rights."  Stalin, Marxism and the National Question

To speak or write about 'nations' doing this or that or having rights is a prime example of reification.  Stalin was a revolutionary social democrat in 1913 when he wrote the above and like Stalin, most social democrats of the time thought similarly about the right of national self-determination.  The ever growing move away from promoting class conscious praxis for the abolition of the wage system, toward what might be called 'progressive nationalism' on the eve of World War I, demonstrates how far the socialist workers' movement which Marx and Engels had been part of, had been coopted and folded into the dominant ideas of the capitalist epoch through reified thinking in general and political opportunism in particular.  

As Marx critically observed about reification in The Holy Family Chapter VI

"Once man is recognised as the essence, the basis of all human activity and situations, only 'Criticism' can invent new categories and transform man himself into a category and into the principle of a whole series of categories, as it is doing now. It is true that in so doing it takes the only road to salvation that has remained for frightened and persecuted theological inhumanity. History does nothing, it “possesses no immense wealth”, it “wages no battles”. It is man, real, living man who does all that, who possesses and fights; “history” is not, as it were, a person apart, using man as a means to achieve its own aims; history is nothing but the activity of man pursuing his aims."

Nationalism is the political movement of the capitalist class (aka the bourgeoisie) to achieve domination of the producing classes through the establishment of its own political State.  The conception of national sovereignty for the capitalist class develops within and emerges from the womb of feudalism, the system the bourgeoisie sublates via political revolution.  Under feudalism, political power is held by the aristocratic class and sovereignty is in the hands of a monarch, aka the sovereign.  Thus, the 'right of national self-determination' is the political program of those rulers in waiting who wish to impose the wage system on the majority, the working class.    

Colonialism grew out of aristocratic class rule and the well learned historical examples for the projections of class power presented by the Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, Sumerian etc. slave owning classes.  The primary difference between the ancient domination of slave producers within empires, from feudalistic empire building, was the ever growing wealth and consequent political power of the capitalist class, a class which began to seethe and chafe under aristocratic rule as its colonialist mercantilism expanded in historical tandem with the closing of the commons by aristocrats in search of private sources of wealth.  Privatisation by class ruled governments is hardly a new concept.  Henry VIII made vagabond (read 'unemployed) peasants criminals, having them hanged along the roadsides of his kingdom. However, the major political-economic consequence of the closing of the commons was the ever growing employment of displaced peasants as wage-labourers, the workers who created the product of their collective labour as commodities, owned by the employing class and made available in markets for sale with a view to profit.  In the West, this roiling, ever wealth accumulating capitalist class began to show its political face in alliance with the landlord class in parliamentary institutions. In the ideological sphere the decline of feudalism was marked by the gradual decline of feudalist legitimising religions e.g. in Europe, the Catholic Church and with that decline, the rise of the Protestant movement with its work ethic and the ever dominating ideology, bourgeois individualism.  "Dieu et mon droit" was dying.

Whether or not it is labeled 'progressive', nationalist ideology is based on the notion that the employers and the workers have class interests in common.  But within the inherently exploitive wage-system, exploiters and producers have no class interests in common: Buyers do not have interests in common with sellers when they come to the marketplace for commodities.  Anti-colonialist nationalism has been and is the struggle of nascent ruling classes to cement their sovereign rule over the producing classes of workers and peasants through the establishment of a political State.  While the establishment of a capitalist political State may liberate the bourgeois from domination by monarchists or faraway colonial ruling classes, it does nothing, in terms of promoting the emancipation of the workers from wage-slavery.  

"The emancipation of the working class must be the act of the workers themselves"   This was the principle on which the First International was based.  That principle is as true now as it was then.  The wage-system existed then and it exists now, even within political States labeled, 'socialist'.  

In order to emancipate themselves, the workers will have to abandon contemporary leftist mythologies concerning 'progressive nationalism', 'boring from within' the pro-capitalist trade unions and parties, as well as the absurdly conservative notion of, 'a fair day's wage for a fair day's work.'  Until they do, they will continue to spend their lives, as they spend their money, as wage-slaves, all equal under the law, in their own identities, democratically voting for bourgeois to lead them in government, while competing with each other for approval-votes from employers--because, as bourgeois ideology goes, the only way one can be free is if, some other one is un-free.  C'est la vie under the rule of Capital.    

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Wobbly times number 149


"In short, the Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things.

"In all these movements, they bring to the front, as the leading question in each, the property question, no matter what its degree of development at the time." Marx and Engels, COMMUNIST MANIFESTO

"At the same time, and quite apart from the general servitude involved in the wages system, the working class ought not to exaggerate to themselves the ultimate working of these everyday struggles. They ought not to forget that they are fighting with effects, but not with the causes of those effects; that they are retarding the downward movement, but not changing its direction; that they are applying palliatives, not curing the malady. They ought, therefore, not to be exclusively absorbed in these unavoidable guerilla fights incessantly springing up from the never ceasing encroachments of capital or changes of the market. They ought to understand that, with all the miseries it imposes upon them, the present system simultaneously engenders the material conditions and the social forms necessary for an economical reconstruction of society. Instead of the conservative motto: “A fair day's wage for a fair day's work!” they ought to inscribe on their banner the revolutionary watchword: “Abolition of the wages system!"" Marx, VALUE, PRICE AND PROFIT

"The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win." Marx and Engels, COMMUNIST MANIFESTO

"All previous historical movements were movements of minorities, or in the interest of minorities. The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority." Marx and Engels, COMMUNIST MANIFESTO

"With the seizing of the means of production by society production of commodities is done away with, and, simultaneously, the mastery of the product over the producer. Anarchy in social production is replaced by systematic, definite organisation. The struggle for individual existence disappears."  Engels, ANTI-DURHING