Proyect on WWIII

Greg Nowell GN842 at CNSVAX.Albany.Edu
Wed Oct 7 15:02:46 PDT 1998

Proyect's point about conflict as a "solution" to the problem of excess capital destruction is true political economy. That is, it treats what to "economics" is an "exogenous" effect as "endogenous." I don't really know anyone other than the Marxists who do this.

Among the number crunching political scientists, I don't know of any truly compelling linkages between economic crisis and imperialism/global conflict. I've read quite a bit of this stuff with regard to Hobson's Imperialism (the scholarship is substantial). But Hobson is one of the few non-Marxists who incorporated a theory of oligarchic economic control into his macro-economic model, making for true "political economy"--in which, among other things, racism and militarist ideologies are viewed as systemic outputs of investment gone awry.

We can make a few observations about capital destruction and war. First, in the last great capitalist war, against Iraq, the capital destruction was insignificant from the point of view of jump-starting stagnant capitalist economies. Second, to the extent that this thesis proposes a "rational underlying motive" for war, we can assume that we won't get a repeat, because modern weapons push the "rationality" to the totally unrational. Third, war is not necessary to unload unwanted assets. The French didn't suffer heavy bombing in WWII, but the left movement of the post-WWII helped capitalists unload significant unwanted assets on the state. Mainly coal. The developing sector, oil, was not touched.

This suggests that if there is to be a "new capitalism" where "solutions" do not depend on war, it must go the route of socializing weak or unpromising assets (industries) while letting the viable ones churn on (privatize profits, socialize losses). An old line, Lenin also castigated state capitalism. It would seem that the main way to do this is not by socializing the hardware but by socializing the debt, and let the hardware do what it may.

That seems to be the direction in which we are headed. As for the number killed by Stalin, I confess that I had heard that it was rather high. 60 million is about 2-3x the number bandied about in the usual places. But it seems clear to me that in the absence of repression post-WWI Russia would have splintered in 1920 into what it is today. It would never have withstood Hitler, which would have left him with that many more resources for England and France. But maybe Hitler wouldn't have needed conquest: the indirect empire that held Rumania and Bulgaria before WWII might have worked as well on an independent Ukraine. The real question is "at what price, and to what end, a nation state?" It may be that the only logical theoretical solution is the least compelling historical one, i.e., anarchism.

As for "funky Albany state," it had occurred to me that there might be better situations. However, we are No. 1: officially certified by Princeton's survey as the no. 1 party/beer school in the United States. The alcohol problem is everywhere and exerts a powerful depressing effect on the quality of campus life. Some people do get educated very well here. And if Proyect's kids come here, well by all means, have them take my political economy course. And if they stay out of the bars they may actually learn something.

-- Gregory P. Nowell Associate Professor Department of Political Science, Milne 100 State University of New York 135 Western Ave. Albany, New York 12222

Fax 518-442-5298

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list