"Economic Nationalism"?

Sam Pawlett rsp at uniserve.com
Thu Jan 6 23:47:53 PST 2000

rc-am wrote:
> Sam, this is a ramble, not always in response to what you wrote, but
> because this is my last post on this thread.

> Sam wrote:
> > kind of vague and ambigious. Democracy? The state? What do you mean?
> Over and beyond formal definitions which we will argue about endlessly, a
> substantive index of democracy would be the ability of a population to
> restrict, if not circumvent, the "ability to reign in, ignore and/or crush
> working class demands", would it not? That's what I wrote in this
> instance. Is that too vague? Probably, but not ambiguous.

The idea is that there is nothing over and above the working clas to crush or co-op it. THe working class becomes the ruling class.

> You might not have noticed that I defined the state in terms of its scope
> of action, perhaps a post-1930 definition, and indeed one that I would
> think is redundant in some important senses but, still, a definition that's
> implicitly referenced in discussions of economic policy such as that being
> discussed in this thread: ie., Those institutions associated with the
> reproduction of the social relationships that, within the immediate
> processes of production, are neither guranteed nor reproducible. I did
> mention brunhoff, who says as much, or maybe you missed this. I also
> mentioned the genealogy of the nation-state in european absolutism, that it
> arose as a way of enclosing and putting down the peasant revolts and
> providing the basis for the formation of a disciplined proletariat -- a
> task it continues to do, though in some quite different ways.
> Concentration camps, which you mentioned later here, had a precise
> historical model through which the connection was made between life and
> sovereignty, and in the case of nazi germany in particular, labour.

> >Capitalist state? Worker's state?
> Is this a distinction that has to do with personnel or with the form and
> character of the state? If the latter, what's the significant difference
> between the two?

A capitalist state is where the capitalist class rules and a worker's state is where the working class rules. You seem to be defining the state so that it necessarily acts over and above the working class. I don't think this is necessarily true. Or do you believe that it is impossible for the working class to become a ruling class? IN classic socialism, since there is no more capitalist class, everyone is a worker, hence a classless society.

> > Marx viewed all states as dictatorships of one class over another.
> I think his meagre writings on the state are a little more complicated than
> this,

Certainly, I was trying to put his views into capsule form.

including that of the state as that which gives political and
> economic effect to -- forms -- capitalists as a class vis-a-vis workers,
> which suggests that the state is more than a neutral instrument. But it's
> not exactly that easy to reconstruct anything amounting to a theory of the
> state, let alone an analysis of the state form today going by marx's
> writings.

I don't know about that. Hal Draper, Ralph Miliband and Poulantzas amongst others have produced fairly comprehensive Marxist theories of the state. By no means do they agree either.

> do you mean trotsky's dual power thesis? Please elaborate. Also, can you
> explain to me how a state might be able to restrict rights to freedom of
> speech, say, to those it deems revolutionary, without repeating the
> murderous restrictions imposed on communists who have been declared
> counter-revolutionaries?

Well, if there was a strong counter-revolutionary movement going on inside your borders and enormous pressure from the outside, what would you do? Its like when Castro was asked "when will you allow pro-American journalists access to the press in Cuba?" Castro replied "when American communists can do the same in America."

> But I do want to ask you sam whether you think it's possible for a movement
> to take the place of the state (in the way you mentioned) and not amount to
> the kinds of decompositions and demobilisations of that movement being
> experienced in south africa.

Yes, or I wouldn't be a socialist. Is it fair to say that the national liberation movement took the place of the state or "took power" in S.A.? Looks like a classic case where the leaders rode to power on the backs of the mass struggle. Once in power, they enact policies to keep themselves in power and enhance their power. If the national liberation movement replaces the state, it means just that. The old apartheid edifice --with new bells and whistles-- would no longer exist.

Maybe that's also a question for patrick and
> russel too. It undoubtedly is the case in east timor -- and it didn't take
> very long at all. Would the palestinian authority also count as an
> instance? Are these not leftist groupings of some description taking state
> power?

IN the case of Palestine and Timor there isn't much of an independent state. They're more like bantustans. They are not free to make and enforce their own policies.

Are the problems here, assuming you agree there are problems, a
> question of those groupings being insufficiently leftist?

I think so.In Palestine, the Authority lacks a lot of things. Undemocratic, unrepresentative, very corrupt and very repressive. The PA basically does Israel's dirty work: keeping the territories and their inhabitants in line. A lot different from the original vision of the Palastine Liberation Movement. From what I hear, there is amongst Palestinians, massive and serious discontent with the PA.

> More specifically, isn't the formula of deciding whether or not a
> particular nationalism is progressive or not based on whether it is
> constituted as anti-us imperialism somewhat limited and perhaps even
> increasingly redundant as a sure sign of things, ie., As an index of the
> connection between nationalism and anti-capitalism? What does the place of
> the euro suggest for this (see below)? Is french anti-us sentiment
> progressive? Is indonesian anti-us sentiment progressive in light of the
> centrality of japanese capital to that economy? Is mahathir's anti-western
> conspiracism progressive?

I would say it depends on the class content of the theory and policies that these governments are enacting and governing in the name of. The anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist nature of nationalism depends on its class content. Mahathir and Castro are both nationalists but it is the class content of their nationalism's that makes one a dangerous reactionary and the other a progressive. (Guess which one?-:) Make sense? Or for a real stark contrast, the nationalists Hitler and Mahatma Gandhi? Nationalism has to be evaluated on a case by case basis.

Sam Pawlett

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