In the latest issue of Workers Liberty (January 2001), there is a very interesting article by Hillel Ticktin about the European Union (should we support or oppose it?) and the nature of modern capitalism (is it in decline or not?).
The article is a reply to the views of Chris Reynolds of the Alliance for Workers Liberty, who (at least in the opinion of comrade Ticktin) argued that capitalism remains progressive and hence not in decline, and used Lenins theoretical insights to maintain that capitalisms progressiveness lies in its development of the productive forces and its constant of labour Ticktin, naturally, refutes this thesis and outlines how if you look at the real fundamental nature of capitalism - which is to accumulate through the production of surplus value - then it quickly becomes apparent that capitalism is in decline, even at the simplest empirical level.
However, during the course of his argument, Ticktin makes the following riposte: Chris Reynoldss line leads logically to the support of the bourgeoisie as a progressive force because they are inherently internationalist, and anti-racist, and against all laws preventing the free flow of labour. That is the inherent nature of capital because capital itself is congealed abstract labour and abstract labour requires a fully flexible workforce. The fact that actually existing capitalism is nationalist, sexist and racist does not alter the overall tendency.
For comrade Ticktins contention to mean anything, he can only be saying that the multifarious bodies and institutions of the modern-day UK state or ANC-ruled South Africa are somehow inherently sexist and racist. But is this true? While the essence of capitalism is exploitation, it does not mean as a matter of necessity that it has to take a racist or sexist form. An examination of the actually existing UK state (for example) reveals an entity where the bourgeoisie is aggressively pushing its own reworked and re-articulated anti-racism/anti-fascism (if not anti-sexism) but all within the framework of a national chauvinist ideology which actively feeds off the myths and lies of official anti-racism/fascism (ie, World War II as a war against fascism).
We do need to get away from the dogmatic idea that you can conflate capitalism into racism or vice versa.
Phil Watsons sectariananti-Trotskyism distorts his review of Georg Lukácss A defence of History and class consciousness: tailism and the dialectic (Weekly Worker href="../367/index.html"> January 18). He is suspicious of the motivations of John Rees in promoting the book. He fears that John Rees wants to appropriate Lukács for Trotskyism rather than official communism, which he appears to believe is something different than Stalinism. The comrade even believes the SWP is using the book to provide theoretical sustenance for the economic practice of the SWP. How he reaches this incoherent conclusion is anyones guess.
Lukácss Tailism and the dialectic contains powerful arguments against economism. As John Rees points out in his introduction, Lukács rejected the view that class consciousness could simply be read off from economic circumstances (p11). In fact the article is so hard on economism or the idea that economics automatically generates socialist consciousness that Phil can shake off the emotional grip of hostility to the SWP to acknowledge that the book contains some good Leninist concepts and in some aspects Lukács had a good command of Leninism.
Like John Rees, Phil respects HCC as a seminal work on Marxist philosophy. So why carp about the promotion of Tailism and the dialectic by John Rees, when Phil himself writes that the book and its promotion among SWP members helps fuse complex philosophical themes with praxis. Surely it is philistine anti-philosophy that feeds the SWPs economism. In the Socialist Alliance they even substitute themselves for social democracy.
Phil seems to be on stronger ground when he complains that Lukács made it clear that Tailism and the dialectic was not a defence of HCC. But to survive within Stalinism, Lukács often had to adopt devious methods. Statements were made confessing the incorrectness of previous ideas, only for them to be readopted later when times were less oppressive. A politically correct statement could be made that toed the party line, only for contrary statements to be made in a more subtle manner.
Intellectual conformity was not simply an academic requirement. A failure to conform to the party line might mean prison or worse. In a half-joke, Lukács once said that he only escaped prison because the leaders of the secret police did not want his flat, so there was no material reason to send him to prison.
Phil coyly refers to the reception of HCC in the official communist movement as controversial. In fact it was rudely denounced by Zinoviev and later by Stalin and his red professors. But after the categorical statement in Tailism and the dialectic that he did not wish to defend HCC, Lukács goes on to say that he would be only too glad if he could regard the book as completely redundant, if he could see that its purpose, to demonstrate methodologically the correctness of Bolshevik tactics and organisation, had been fully accomplished. But he could not sit back because the movements leaders were moving in the opposite direction: Menshevism. So he felt compelled to defend, not every dot and comma of the book, but some of its central claims. In doing so he claimed he was merely attacking Menshevism.
But Phil is concerned about idealist flaws he can see in HCC. He accuses John Rees of a willingness to preserve what he describes as Lukácss Hegelian construct of identical subject-object. He seizes on a phrase used by John about the subject and object trading places to attempt to prove his point. To illustrate this he uses the example of the Russian Revolution 1917. He contends that the idea that the Russian Revolution traded places with its environs is laughable. But the way he develops his points has more in common with the Menshevism of Rudas, Lukácss critic, who attributed the failure of the Hungarian revolution to objective circumstances.
Comrade Watson believes that objective factors gained their revenge on the subjectivism of the Bolsheviks in 1917: . consider the panoply of problems that the Soviet regime then faced (civil war, allied intervention, the failure of world revolution), all of which went on to distort its liberatory promise. Which pays testimony to the complexity of reality and its subsequent impact on subjective decisions, often turning them into the opposite of what was originally intended.
But without the subjective decision and the stress on the subjective factor in revolutionary situations, there would be no soviets or Paris commune, no attempts at human liberation. Phil writes that the Bolsheviks decision to launch the insurrection in 1917 was a correct tactic, considering the objective balance of forces that existed internationally at the time. But there were no objective balance of class forces internationally in 1917. The Russian working class were in the vanguard. The soviets were not generalised throughout Europe. The slogan, All power to the soviets, was subjective in the sense of a call to intensify proletarian organisation and consciousness.
John Rees is surely correct when he talks about the dialectical interaction between subject and object in a revolutionary situation: Development does not occur then as a continuous intensification. It means rather that, at a particular point, the situation demands that a decision be taken and the day after tomorrow will be to late (Tailism and the dialectic p30). For Lukács this subjective moment is distinguished from the process that leads up to it in that it forces together the essential tendencies of that process and demands that a decision be taken on the future direction of the process (ibid p56). This is not a justification of the SWPs politics of riding the waves of class struggle without a programme: quite the opposite.
The fact that Tailism and the dialectic has only just been published shows how rotten the compromise was that Lukács made with Stalinism.
Hate figuresEddie Ford neglected to mention (Weekly Worker December 21) that one of the prime reasons why so much intense hostility is directed towards Norman Finkelstein is because of his consistent and militant championing of the democratic rights of the oppressed Palestinians, coupled with his relentless exposure of the foundation myths upon which the state of Israel is built.
Remember, for decades there was a virtual news blackout in the United States about the Palestinian/Arab peoples of Israel and when their existence did start to be acknowledged in the early 1970s it was purely as members of a dark and sinister force (shadowy terrorists, kidnappers, bombers, extremists, etc) that posed a threat to the bright and blue-eyed values of Judaeo-christian civilisation. Regrettably, not that much has changed. Just look at the crop of recent Hollywood movies to see how wild-eyed Arab fundamentalists have replaced the commies as hate figures.
However, it must be pointed out that Finkelstein is not a member of the primitivist and objectively anti-semitic destroy Israel brigade of the vulgar anti-Zionists. Unfortunately, many on the British left subscribe to this profoundly anti-democratic position - which seems to be under the illusion that socialism can come to this area courtesy of the reactionary, semi-medievalist Hamas and the guns, aircrafts, tanks, Scud missiles, etc of the various despotic Arab regimes that neighbour it. The historically constituted Jewish people within the existing territory of Israel are meant to conveniently exit from history in order to make way for socialist federations and the like.
What is the CPGB trying to say about racism and capitalism?
In an article discussing the sickening attempt of William Hague and the Tories to play the race card over the MacPherson report and Damilola Taylor, you make the extraordinary claim that what the current spate over Hague and the politics of race actually reveals is how permeated the UK state is on all its levels by the ideology of anti-racism. In other words, we are visibly confronted by institutional anti-racism (Weekly Worker December 21). And this after admitting that there is a certain degree of truth to the idea that the Tories and the gutter press are playing the racist card!
Are you idiots, or just plain confused? It should be obvious to anyone not hoodwinked by The Guardian and BBC Radio Four that the UK and capitalism is racist to the core and always will be. Is was the fact that this was becoming so obvious that forced the establishment to spill (some) of the beans not, because they had had some St Paul-like conversion to anti-racism, as the Weekly Worker seems to think, but because that was the only way they could think of to buy off criticism and salvage their shitty system. Enter William MacPherson. It is a mini-victory for us that the truth has been outed. Lets build on it, not pretend it never happened.
More crazily, you write: But as the idea of institutional racism became holy writ, more and more sections of the left have reduced their role to one of trying to out-MacPherson MacPherson and hence become a left moralistic appendage to official society and its anti-racist/fascist values. What does this mean? So you think that we should try to under-MacPherson MacPherson then, and go round saying that there is no such thing as racism in the UK? No wonder you are so impressed by official society and its anti-racist/fascist values the capitalists must have done our job for us. Why bother with revolution? The new CPGB is beginning to sound suspiciously like the old CPGB and its British road to socialism.
In fact, if you do not think that the UK state is racist, and criticise MacPherson for saying that it actually is, arent you just saying the UK state is OK and that anti-racists and revolutionaries are a bit of a nuisance?
Finally, you can really tell that the Weekly Worker has left the planet when you try to make us believe that Hagues argumentation is still couched in the language of anti-racism and pro-multiculturalism at the end of the day the modern-day Tory Party is itself part of the official anti-racist consensus. Make me laugh. How can you say this when the Tories and their press are up to their necks in refugee-bashing and have declared total war on political correctness: ie, anti-racism and anti-bigotry.
I strongly suggest that Weekly Worker journalists stick their heads out the window and take a peek at the real world. If you do, you might be in for some shocks.