THE DEATH AGONY OF ANTI-IMPERIALISM, PART 1
1. On that side, the tub thumpers for the late Ghadafi and the not yet late Assad, once again and forever defending current and future ayatollahs, Perons, Hezbollahs, ANCs, Mugabes from “imperialist attack.”
On the other side, those who have just as ardently defended “democratic revolution,” “national self-determination,” the “popular struggle” as chinks in the armor of imperialism, even if it that defense requires tacit or explicit assent to the military intervention of a NATO, a UN.
It’s not a pretty thing, this death agony of anti-imperialism. Of course, at its peak, anti-imperialism wasn’t a pretty thing—the making of anti-imperialism, like the making of sausage, or money in the stock market, requiring massive amounts, and in the proper proportions, of belligerence, stupidity, arrogance, and blindness.
Once so inseparable, the anti-imperialist/democratic revolution/national liberation front has been broken by events in Libya and Syria.
The apparent, and manifest, opposition of these two poles of anti-imperialism is the expression of the bankruptcy at the core of anti-imperialism. That core is the separation, extraction, derivation of the, or a, “nation” from the property relations of capital, simultaneous with the separation, extraction derivation of the, or a, nation apart from the limitations to capital accumulation embodied in those exact same property relations. Thus the “nation” appears as a being, oppressor or oppressed, dominant or subservient.
The conflict between “dominant” and “dominated” nation does not appear as developing from the condition critical for proletarian revolution, which is the inability capitalist domination of private property forms to sustain capitalist accumulation. The “state of being” masks the condition of class struggle.
We get, and in the neck, the “national revolution,” “national self-determination,” “national liberation,” “popular unity,” all presented as intermediations of social revolution; as interpositions, when in fact each is an obstacle and in opposition to the proletarian revolution.
There are no “economics” to the national, the anti-imperial, the “democratic” revolutions, and thus there can be no reckoning of class, by class, for class, against another class, of classes bound and opposed to each other by the conditions of labor.
The struggle in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Iran, is detached, extracted, isolated from the global condition of capitalist accumulation. It’s a “battle for democracy.” It’s an “imperialist coup.” It’s everything, except what it is.
2. Every once in awhile, the question comes up: “Why, how, has capitalism survived all these years? How after all the years of overproduction and enforced scarcity, after all the massacres, exploitation, the feasting on blood, gristle and bones, after all the banquets of ashes, does this system survive?”
And every once in awhile, the answer is offered up: “Because capitalism’s opponents, particularly those proclaiming to have apprehended Marx’s work, are so inept. Because those who proclaim their deeper grasp of the principles of capitalist reproduction, have nothing in their hands.”
No sooner does that answer appear than it is rejected. It must be rejected. It is not, after all, a materialist analysis. The answer, like the question, presupposes knowledge, or a particular type of knowledge, as the maker of history, in lieu of history. “They think (incorrectly). Therefore capitalism is (still).”
Worse, this mis-formulation is another iteration of the ancient catechism:
Q: “What does the crisis of humanity amount to?”
A: “The crisis of humanity reduces itself to a crisis of the proletarian leadership.”
Short version? “If only……”
3. Capitalism has distinguished itself by configuring the state apparatus as a vector for accumulation. The bourgeoisie have done this not simply as lenders to the “new” “revolutionary” state; nor simply as merchants provisioning army and parliament with costumes, grapeshot, rations, or telephones. They have utilized the state as an enterprise for maintaining, disciplining, enforcing the specific organization of labor as wage-labor, and for “clawing back” portions of the variable capital paid out in wages, thus augmenting the mass of surplus value.
Private property, private bourgeois property, that is to say private ownership of the means of social production for the expansion of value is at one and the same time the origin and the limit to capitalist accumulation. And it’s expensive; it’s expensive in terms of cost, and in terms of the proportion of revenues that must be rededicated to the process of accumulation.
In addition, the expense, the costs of doing business, include the organization of collective social labor… of abstract labor. What is value, after all, if not abstract labor, or rather, labor abstracted? It’s a costly business, requiring the permanent dispossession of labor, its detachment from everything save the demands of accumulation. It’s a costly business, that in this abstraction of labor from everything save the demands of accumulation, accumulation of capital is itself identified concretely as the limit to the emancipation of labor.
Whereas labor must become abstract, be abstracted, capital cannot. Its realization depends on its exchanges of its appropriated, abstracted labor with, among, the “others” of its identity. The uneven, by necessity, unbalanced, disparate nature of capitalist production, of production entombed within private ownership which is so essential to the distribution, apportionment of the total available surplus value, means every such exchange embodies a conflict between means and relations of production.
Capital has no resolution for this conflict, offering only its reproduction, but the bourgeoisie can “bequeath,” delegate that conflict, and the social costs of marshaling labor as abstract labor, to the state, the “national state.”
The “modern state” in the less than modern sectors of capitalism becomes the administrator of accumulation, the brokerage for the supply of labor as labor-power, and the nursery, the crèche for the bourgeoisie itself.
4. In the 20th century, the state as nursery, broker, crèche, makes its entrance with the Mexican Revolution. With Obregon raising the red battalions from the Casa del Obrero Mundial to battle the agrarian revolt, with the incorporation of the CROM; later with the CTM replacing the CROM, with Cardenas following Obregon and supplanting Calles, with Lombardo-Toledano replacing Morones, the Mexican state conducts the counterrevolution within the revolution, enshrining “labor” in the expansion of bourgeois property.
In its own offices, appropriating and allocating wealth to its own officers, the state suckles an always emerging bourgeoisie.
An analogous [different origin, similar function] process is given life in Russia after the workers’ revolution expels the bourgeoisie. There, what the bourgeoisie could not do is done through the state dispossessing labor from the organs of its own power, the soviets that represented the potential for the emancipation of labor as opposed to the mimicry of the relations of value production. Again the state acts as counterrevolution within the revolution, but without the connection to bourgeois property, production as and for the accumulation of value, flourishes in the breakdown and disorganization of the economy.
The struggles in the Mideast are struggles precipitated by the failure of the national state in its role as organizer, broker, and incorporator of labor; in its role as distributor of value; in its function as vector for accumulation. The “national revolution,” presented once as an intermediation to the proletarian revolution is exposed by the failure of the state as the opponent to proletarian revolution.
The “democratic revolt” has no place to turn, and no standing.
Next: Part 2 (no kidding, really?)
August 6, 2012