Jul 02 2020

In memory of Neil Davidson: The West – No Better Than All the Rest

 Allan Armstrong was reading  How the West Came to Rule – The geopolitical origins of capitalism, by How the West Came to Rule – The geopolitical origins of capitalism and Kerem Nisancioglum, as he learned of the tragic death of Neil Davidson. This book was influenced by Neil’s work on Uneven and Combined Development at a world scale.

Allan has engaged in several debates with Neil about how Socialists can address Scottish history. He decided to write a review of Anievas and Nisancioglum’s book, and look at  aspects of British and Scottish history, through the lens they provide.

Allan  sent this review to Conter. He thought that the second  issue of the magazine would be well served if it had a number of articles  in Neil’s memory. However, the Covid-19 crisis has delayed this issue.

 

THE WEST – NO BETTER THAN ALL THE REST

 

Challenging Eurocentric views of the world

I was reading How the West Came to Rule (HtWctR) when I learned of the death of Neil Davidson. Neil is acknowledged by the book’s authors, Alexander Anievas and Kerem Nisancioglu, as one of their inspirers.[1] HtWctR places the Uneven and Combined Development Theory (UCDT) at the centre of its analysis, referencing Neil in doing so.[2] Neil had been making a major contribution to reviving and applying this theory to global history. This led to the conference entitled ‘Uneven and Combined Development for the 21st Century’ held in Glasgow between the 5-7th September 2019. Anievas addressed this conference, albeit on another topic than HtWctR.[3] Although this conference placed historical development in Scotland under the UCDT spotlight, its contributors also examined historical developments over a far wider arena. HtWctR addresses these developments at the global level and represents the most ambitious attempt I have read to utilise UCDT both historically and geographically, whilst also drawing upon other theories.

The title How the West Came to Rule though, is misleading. It could initially be mistaken for one of those many triumphalist books written since the nineteenth century heyday of European imperialism to the aftermath of the collapse of the USSR, which have celebrated ‘western civilisation’.[4] However, the book is making a very different argument – “one in which non-European agency relentlessly impinged upon and (re)directed the trajectory of European development”.[5] The authors point out that The Intersocietal Origins of Capitalism[6]   would be a better, but less ‘sexy’ title.

 

Making the case for the intersocietal origins of capitalism

In making the case for the intersocietal origins of capitalism, a key aim of HtWctR is to challenge not only liberal histories of the world, but by extension much Marxist historical writing and practice too. From both of these perspectives, capitalism, the first social system or mode of production to encompass the whole world, is seen to have its origins solely in Europe. This capitalist core was later extended to a ‘greater Europe’ in North America. HtWctR looks again at such thinking. This helps us to understand the role it has played in sustaining either liberal democratic ‘end-of-history’ thinking or much Marxist ‘capitalist-road-to-socialism’ thinking. Both schools of thought have looked to the global victory of European-led capitalism before their ideal societies could be created. This is why they are unable to escape from a Eurocentric view of the world.

HtWctR recognises the contributions of World Systems Theory (WST) (associated particularly with Immanuel Wallerstein).[7] But it argues that WST is based on the projection and intensification of European imposed market relations and division of labour throughout the world, whilst placing a negative sign where bourgeois political economy places a positive sign. WST opposes Adam Smith’s belief in the beneficial effect of the ‘invisible hand’ behind the ‘free market’, and David Ricardo’s belief that each national economy would find its optimum niche in the world market due to his theory of ‘comparative advantage’. WST though still mirrors their Eurocentric view of the word. WST has been good in identifying the exploitative ‘core/periphery’ relationship established under European initiated capitalist imperialism, but it also downplays the wide range of social relationships and labour regimes which the global capitalist system encompasses. These produce their own contradictions and forms of struggle.

HtWctR also recognises important points made by the Political Marxists (associated particularly with Robert Brenner).[8] The Brenner Thesis attaches much significance to the capital/wage labour relationship, seeing it as the distinguishing characteristic of capitalism. However, HtWctR shows that neither the earlier nor contemporary ‘real subsumption of labour’[9], with its domination by waged labour, can account for the nature of the global capitalist system. It also persuasively argues this system  cannot be adequately understood as flowing from purely internal developments in England; nor as the product of other developments in Europe or their projection into North America, e.g. in the Italian and Flemish city-states, in the Dutch Netherlands, or through the extension of wage labour due to the classic bourgeois revolutions in the USA and France.

 

Providing the history to back the case

To help us understand the intersocietal impact of socio-economic developments and their consequent struggles HtWctRbegins its historical study with Europe’s engagement with the Mongol Empire. This led to “an increased exposure to the technical developments in the more scientifically advanced Asia”. This was followed not only by new social relationships and labour regimes but by the transmission of the Black Death “and the subsequent demographic reordering which brought feudalism in Europe into crisis.”[10] (At this point, Covid19 could not yet be on the authors’ minds!)

After this, there is an analysis of the “‘superpower’ rivalry between the Ottoman and Hapsburg empires…. {which} undermined existing centres of feudal ruling class power – the papacy, Hapsburg Empire and Italian city-states – and supported or encouraged new counter-hegemonic forces – the Protestants, French and Dutch.” When the Hapsburgs concentrated their military efforts on the Mediterranean and Central East Europe, this afforded the Northwestern European states “the geopolitical space that proved crucial to their development along capitalist lines… {whilst} the Ottomans unintentionally created for the English a condition of geopolitical ‘isolation’, which directly contributed to the homogeneity of the English ruling class… At the same time, Ottoman territorial dominance of the Mediterranean and land routes to Asia serve to push Northwestern European states onto an altogether novel global sphere of activity – the Atlantic”[11]

Once HtWctR brings this Atlantic sphere into the wider picture, it examines “the manifold impact of the ‘New World discoveries’… and the intersocietal  interactions, conflicts and struggles critical to the emergence of the modern conceptions of territorial sovereignty, and the development of Eurocentrism, scientific racism and the modern institution of patriarchy.”[12] This section of HtWctR addresses many more issues.[13] However, it also shows how “the development of capitalism in England was itself dependent on the widened sphere of activity offered by the Atlantic and that it was through the combination of American land, African slave labour and English capital {that} the limits of English agrarian capitalism were overcome.”[14]

Although not stated explicitly, there is an implication that without the Native American genocides and African slavery, the agrarian-based English capitalism would have come up against its own developmental limits, just as the Italian city-states had. Such an approach undermines not only British imperial apologists but also the thinking of those on the Left seeing an almost inevitable self-generated capitalism with its origins in England and by extension to Europe and North America.

HtWctR looks at the ‘proto’-development’ of capitalism in the Low Countries, where further economic development would also have been curtailed without the Dutch East India Company’s (VOC) ability to create “a commercial network that combined uneven labour processes spanning the spice-producing islands of Indonesia, precious metal production in Japan and India, and textile workers in India into a single integrated network of ‘global’ production…The development of Dutch capitalism – the Bourse, Amsterdam entrepot and VOC  – were all based on this subjugated and exploited mass of unfree Asian labour-power.”[15] And the relatively limited  extension of waged labour in Dutch manufacturing at this time was tied to control over overseas unfree labour; just as the much greater extension of waged labour in England in the eighteenth century, came about through a more extensive command over American land and African slave labour.

 

Capitalism depends on a variety of forms of oppression and labour regimes 

However, HtWctR also highlights the particularly capitalist nature of various institutions developed overseas by the Dutch, despite these using unfree labour. The plantation is a key example. This also formed the basis “from which ‘super profits’ based on cheap production costs could readily be exploited.”[16] And HtWctR also notes what the black Marxist C.L.R. James had already pointed to in the British West Indian slave plantations. They had “gangs of hundreds in the huge sugar factories {which} were closer to a modern proletariat than any other group of workers at the time”.[17]

So, as well as showing that unfree and ‘free’ waged labour grew alongside and not necessarily in conflict with each other, within the different territories ruled by single states, e.g. the Dutch Netherlands and the UK, this chapter reinforces HtWctR’s argument that capitalism is a broader social system, quite capable of resorting to a wide range of labour regimes to extract profits. Non-European historians have long pointed this out this link.[18] Socialist feminists have shown that the reproduction of capitalism requires massive amounts of unpaid domestic labour, overwhelmingly provided by women,[19] with the additional effect of lowering wages in the non-domestic care sector.

And today, it should be clear that some of the most up-to-date and voracious capitalist businesses are prepared to resort to non-waged labour to maximise their profits. ‘Uberisation’ is the modern use of a version of the pre-Industrial Revolution ‘putting out’ system. Uber’s computing platforms enable it to extract big profits from self-employed taxi drivers, just as merchants providing cloth and markets did from self-employed weavers.

 

History 1, History 2 and old and new identity politics

Flowing from its recognition of a wider system of exploitative labour regimes, various forms of oppression, leading to different types of alienation, HtWctR uses Dipesh Chakrabarty’s distinction between History 1 and History 2. History 1, which supports the rule of capital, tries to make “all places (histories) exchangeable (comparable) with one another”.[20]This is a reflection of the “individual concrete labour of each worker {as} the precondition for their exchangeability on the market.[21] By contrast, History 2 refers to those histories that are encountered by capital ‘not as antecedents’ established by itself, nor as ‘forms of its own life process.’” [22] “While capital may indeed seek to rewrite social life to further the cause of ‘endless accumulation’, it does not do so – to twist a famous maxim – in conditions of its own choosing.”[23]

In looking to other sources of resistance to capitalism HtWctR argues for “an understanding of the historical constitution of racism and patriarchy as tied to, but not reducible to, the emergence of capitalism… It would avoid treating struggles that seek to destroy racism as somehow external from or mere supplements to – the cardinal aim of destroying capitalism”[24] (however that is envisaged – the abolition of the ‘free’ market, private property or the wages system).

For many Socialists such an approach conjures up the dangers of ‘identity politics’, underpinned by the theory of ‘intersectionality’.  They argue that the pursuit of individual or sectional aims undermines working class unity. In the UK, they often look back to a 1945-75 ‘golden age’ when there was apparent working-class unity. However, this ‘unity’ was often based around the notion and perceived immediate interests of the white, male, trade unionist. At best, black, women or gay workers were tolerated, provided they ‘knew their place’. Furthermore, trade unions were often active agents in these workers’ discrimination (as well as some unions promoting sectionalism which divided workers on their recognised skill levels).

There is indeed a problem with much of today’s identity politics. However, in many ways its approach to capitalism as an update of that of the ‘old identitarians’ found amongst many trade unionists and Social Democrats, seeking their place within the existing capitalist order. Social Democracy accepts wage slavery. But it wants ‘house slave’ status (better pay and conditions) for labour. It fears workers being reduced to the ‘field slave’ status of precarious super-exploited labour, often seeing those in this situation as a threat. These ‘old identitarians’ have long turned against those who seem to challenge any gains they have made. ‘British jobs for British workers’ has strong roots going back to the TUC’s support for the 1905 Aliens Act, Gordon Brown’s specific use of this slogan in 2009, and to UNITE leader, Len McCluskey’s support for Brexit.

And as Satnam Virdee has shown, even at the highpoint of Red Clydeside in 1919, celebrated by many Left Social Democrats and official and dissident Communists (Trotskyist and Maoist), Manny Shinwell of the ILP and Willie Gallacher (later of the CPGB) were trying to “import into the broad strike campaign the ‘old demand’ that black and Chinese crews should be expelled from British ships.”[25] It was as if Shinwell from his Jewish background and Gallacher from his Irish background wanted to be seen as British working class ‘old identarians’ or ‘insiders’ by turning on ‘racialised outsiders’.

Today, ‘new identitarians’, whether organised on an ethnic, gender or other basis, counter the ‘old identitarians’, who have already made it, preventing the newcomers from getting their own place under the capitalist ‘sun’. There are those who have made more recent gains within the existing capitalist order, including some feminists. They in their turn have become defensive ‘identitarians’ opposing such newcomers as the transgendered. They use the same sort of arguments once used against reforms to benefit women and gays.

The only way to challenge such divisions is from an overall international Socialist perspective. This sees the linked nature of various forms of exploitation, oppression and alienation[26] under the global capitalist order we live under. These three ‘plagues’ need to be challenged with a vision and practice based on emancipation, liberation and self-determination in its widest sense. HtWctR goes some way to providing the theories which could assist Socialists in this. It can also help us to avoid other pitfalls.

 

English exceptionalism and Scottish conceits

For those of us brought up in the UK, HtWctR highlights a particular political danger in locating the origins of capitalism exclusively in the agrarian conditions of post-Black Death England. This can lead to a Left version of English exceptionalism (a frequently unrecognised feature of British Left unionist thinking). This sets up England as the ideal capitalist model against which all later capitalist developments, in the rest of Europe and beyond, should be judged. But this can also be extended to establish a wider Eurocentric view of the world, where English economic developments replace the initial inspiring role given to Greek philosophy in more Right-wing versions of European supremacy. Both promote tunnel-vision views, either exaggerating England’s contribution to ‘progressive’ capitalist development or of classical Greece’s contribution to ‘western civilisation’.

However, HtWctR should also make us more aware of a particular Scottish conceit, which has been associated with both classical political economy and much Left Social Democracy, official and dissident Communism. The experience of initial capitalist development in Scotland took place later and much more rapidly than in England. This made the process much more visible. Several major Scottish thinkers took the lead in Europe in outlining the development of commercial society. They included Adam Smith in his The Wealth of Nations with its ‘free markets’; and Lord Kames in his Historical Law Tracts, with its identification of four stages of social development, – hunter gatherer, herder, agricultural and commercial.

Marx’s work on classical political economy and his refinement of the stages of human development to include primitive communist, slave, feudal, capitalist and communist modes of production (sometimes with addition of the ‘dead end’ Asiatic mode), placed many Scottish-born thinkers at the centre of his critiques.  Both the Right’s celebration and the Left’s critique of ‘free trade’ and ‘free’ labour, along with their placing capitalist society at the pinnacle of so-far achieved social development, have therefore contributed to another Eurocentric approach, in which Scotland is seen to have played a leading role.

Nearly all those earlier Scottish thinkers saw the 1707 Union as a key step on the road to a commercial/capitalist society. Scotland’s central place amongst the philosophers and theorists, as well as within the British imperial economy, contributed to the Victorian notion of the primacy of a ‘British road to progress’ in the world. From such thinking, various ‘British roads to socialism’ were to develop, beginning with Henry Hyndman’s Social Democratic Federation – later to be renamed the British Socialist Party.

We are still living with their descendants today, whether schooled in the old official Communist Party of Great Britain, its Communist Party (of the no longer so Great) Britain, or by some dissident Communists. Precisely because of Scotland’s leading role in capitalist development, Scottish unionists, whether from the Right or Left, could place themselves in the vanguard of progress. They have celebrated their own distinctive Scottish-British part in all this – whether symbolised by the kilt recognised as court dress or by Red Clydeside’s leading role in a British Labour and Socialist movement.  These British unionists have seen any concerns with a distinctive post-1707 Scottish history as being motivated by petty nationalism. Their own ‘internationalism’ stems from either their British unionist or Comintern links.  It was only with decline of the British Empire, that Britishness, in its hybrid unionist forms, could be more clearly seen as another form of nationalism, albeit one with continued linked imperial or unionist pretensions.

But the truly global nature of today’s capitalist society outlined in HtWctR, should warn us of the dangers of another Scottish conceit. Growing numbers of Socialists in Scotland are breaking with their Left British unionist past. But in the process, many are mainly confining their practice to Scotland. Although most Left British unionists have not recognised their dependence on the wider ‘intersocietal origins of capitalism’, Socialists who downplay Scotland’s own links with past and current global capitalist developments, tend to become Left Scottish nationalists. To counter this, HtWct suggests the need for a Scottish internationalism based on the idea of ‘unity in diversity’.

 

Scotland, the UK and Europe no longer at the capitalist epicentre

Today Europe, and particularly the Northwestern European archipelago we live in, may appear increasingly peripheral to the centres of world socio-economic developments. And for those of us in Scotland, either increased provincialisation under Brexit or the break-up of the UK could both accentuate this. Therefore, Socialist thinkers in Scotland would appear to be more in the position of some seventeenth and eighteenth-century Italian city-state philosophers championing Venice’s fading glorious commercial and Renaissance past. These thinkers were still able to challenge the reactionary Papal States and Kingdom of the Two Sicilies; but they lived in a Mediterranean world, which was no longer at the centre of a wider socio-economic system. Their city-states were to give way to ‘nation’-states. They had been marginalised by developments in North Western Europe and the Atlantic.

Today Scotland may seem to be as peripheral in the world scheme of things as the eighteenth-century Italian city-states, but there is an important difference. As with most other states within the current global corporate order, many migrants or their immediate descendants live and work here. These include people from Asia, East Africa and Oceania, who hail from those areas in the rising capitalist heartlands of the Pacific and Indian Ocean seaboards. Here the Chinese promoted ‘Belt and Road Initiative’[27] competes with Indian, Japanese and US based economic initiatives. Scotland also has migrants from that cockpit of global conflict – the Middle East.

Thinkers from the Italian city-states, inspired by the European Enlightenment, would have to travel to Paris, London or Edinburgh to be heard or have much influence. Today there is a global flow of scientists, economists, social scientists and cultural figures to universities and colleges throughout the global corporate world, including Scotland. It’s not so much that Scotland is marginal in today’s world system. It forms just one of many areas, located throughout the world, where corporate capital has promoted particular activities. These include the most up-to-date finance, IT and higher educational in the quaternary sector but also the oil industry – the latest in Scotland’s ‘boom and bust’ primary sector, following timber, kelp, coal and iron ore.

 

Migrants and the making of a new ‘internationalism from below’

Migrants and their immediate descendants include a growing number of Left scholars. The two authors of HtWctR, and many of those they draw their theories upon, are amongst their number. They are able to provide a wider perspective, drawing on their own intersocietal experiences. Corporate capital’s drive to maintain global hegemony is producing its own ‘internationalism from below’ opposition. And this extends far further than Academia. This has been highlighted in these islands by significant struggles, e.g. of Turkish GAMA workers in Ireland[28] and the Latin American Workers Association led London cleaners’ strikes.[29]  Such  developments enable those of us with longer-standing domestic Scottish connections to develop a shared political practice, which can overcome Brexit provincialisation or national subordination within a corporate capital dominated global order. We are potentially far more connected than those who confronted the rise of seventeenth and eighteenth-century mercantile capitalism.

Neil Davidson is a very good example of the potential for such links. He came from the opposite social direction to those in Academia with a recent migrant background.  He had longstanding Scottish roots in Buchan and Aberdeen. But Neil went out from his job in Glasgow University to address academic and political meetings across the world. Although a major figure in global Left Academia, Neil always saw the need to push beyond this to ensure that any conferences he was involved in organising were open to political, trade union, community and social campaign activists.

It is a tragedy that Neil took ill on the first evening of the September 2019 conference. Since his fatal illness overtook him over the next few months, Neil was unable to contribute more fully to the further development and application of the thinking aired at this conference, nor to respond to the thinking of HtWctR. Neil was non-sectarian in his political approach.[30] I have always found reading and engaging with Neil’s books an enjoyable experience, because even where there is disagreement, I have learned so much from his scholarly work. I would very much have appreciated the sort of discussions I had with Neil in various watering holes after political and other events,[31] had he lived to address the arguments put forward in HtWctR. Socialists currently living in in Scotland have a responsibility to ensure that Neil’s legacy in this regard is carried on.

 

30.5.20

 

 

References and Footnotes

[1]           Alexander Anievas and Kerem Nisancioglu, How the West Came to Rule – The Geopolitical Origins of Capitalism (HtWctR), (Pluto Books, 2015, London) p. xii.

[2]           HtWctR, op. cit., pp. 24, 49, 77, 197 and 300.

[3]           Alexander Anievas, Reassessing the Cold War and the Far-Right: Fascist Legacies and the Making of the Liberal International Order after 1945.

[4]           A recent example would be Rodney Stark’s How the West Won.

[5]           HtWctR, op. cit., p. 4.

[6]           HtWctR, op. cit., p. 12.

[7]           HtWctR, op. cit., pp. 14-22.

[8]           HtWctR, op. cit., pp. 14-22.

[9]           The theory of ‘subsumption of labour’ is briefly but well explained on p. 17. This is a particular Marxist theory, and hence one that may not be familiar to many in today’s proclaimed ‘post-marxist’ world. However, the distinction between the ‘formal’ and ‘real subsumption of labour’ reflects important differences in the labour regimes workers and others are subjected to, with immediate and practical political consequences.

[10]         HtWctR, op. cit., p. 274 and for the full argument, Chapter 3, The Long Thirteenth Century, Structural Crisis, Conjunctural Catastrophe, pp. 64-90.

[11]         HtWctR, op. cit., p. 274 and for the full argument, Chapter 3, The Long Thirteenth Century, Structural Crisis, Conjunctural Catastrophe, pp. 64-90.

[12]         HtWctR, op. cit., p. 275 and for the full argument, Chapter 5, The Atlantic Sources of European Capitalism, Territorial Sovereignty and the Modern Self, pp. 121-73.

[13]         Chapter 6 addresses The ‘Classical’ Bourgeois Revolutions in the History of Combined and Uneven Development. It has clearly taken some of its inspiration from Neil Davidson’s How Revolutionary were the Bourgeois Revolutions? (Haymarket Books, 2012, Chicago)

[14]         HtWctR, op. cit., p. 275.

[15]         HtWctR, op. cit., p. 276 and for the full argument, Chapter 7, Combined Encounter; Dutch Colonisation in Southeast Asia and the Contradictions of ‘Free Labour’, pp. 215-44.

[16]         HtWctR, op. cit., p. 276 and for the full argument, Chapter 7, Combined Encounter; Dutch Colonisation in Southeast Asia and the Contradictions of ‘Free Labour’, pp. 215-44.

[17]         HtWctR, op. cit., p. 333, footnote 249.

[18]         HtWctR, op. cit., p. 333, footnote 249.

[19]         HtWctR, op. cit., pp. 324-6, reference 101, Silvia Federci, Caliban and the Witch.

[20]         HtWctR, op. cit., p. 37.

[21]         HtWctR, op. cit., p. 37.

[22]         HtWctR, op. cit., p. 37.

[23]         HtWctR, op. cit., p. 38, Marcus Taylor, footnote 191.

[24]         HtWctR, op. cit., p. 282.

[25]         Satnam Virdee, Racism, Class and the Racialised Outsider (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, Basingstoke) p. 82. Satnam was also at the conference in Glasgow in September 2019.

[26]         http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2014/05/07/exploitation-oppression-and-alienation-emancipation-liberation-and-self-determination/

[27]         https://www.theguardian.com/cities/ng-interactive/2018/jul/30/what-china-belt-road-initiative-silk-road-explainer

[28]         https://www.theguardian.com/cities/ng-interactive/2018/jul/30/what-china-belt-road-initiative-silk-road-explainer

[29]         http://www.indymedia.ie/article/77562?userlanguage=ga&save_ prefs=true

[30]         Despite our different views on aspects of global and Scottish history, Neil asked me to contribute to No Problem Here – Understanding Racism in Scotland (Luath Press, 2018, Edinburgh) another title, like HtWctR designed to provoke questioning) and to speak at the conference of scholars and activists invited to its launch in Glasgow in 2018. My contribution is entitled ‘Britishness’, the UK State, Unionism, Scotland and the ‘National Outsider’. A fuller  version of this can be seen at: http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2016/03/02/britishness-the-uk-state-unionism-scotland-and- the-national-outsider/

[31]         These included the meeting organised by the SSP in 2003, which debated Neil’s Discovering the Scottish Revolution 1692-1746 (Pluto Books, 2003, London) and my Beyond Broadswords and Bayonets(http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2003/08/03/beyond-broadswords-and-bayonets-2/) and  the meeting organised by the Radical Independence Campaign where we debated ‘For and Against Brexit’. (https://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2016/03/01/a-socialist-case-for-leaving-the-eu/ and http://republicancommunist.org/blog/ 2016/04/12/a-political-comparison-between-the-2012-14-scottish-independence-referendum-and-the-2016-eu-referendum-campaign/)

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NEIL DAVIDSON MEMORIAL MEETING, 11.7.20

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Jun 11 2020

CRISIS AND THE NEED FOR CONFLICT

Mike Macnair makes the case for seeing current political developments in the world as a move from neo-liberalism proper to nationalist rivalry. This is similar to the case Allan Armstrong has made on this blog about the switch from neo–liberal hegemony to Right populist ascendancy.

 

CRISIS AND THE NEED FOR CONFLICT

 

Here’s my boy – America First, Britain Second!

What we are seeing today is a situation where the United States is lashing out towards Iran and in the Middle East more generally, as well as China and Russia. Continue reading “CRISIS AND THE NEED FOR CONFLICT”

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May 11 2020

CAPITALISM AND WORKERS’ HEALTH – PLUS CA CHANGE

Karl Marx had something  to say about capitalism and workers’ health  in Capital, Volume 1. Chapter 15. (https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/pdf/Capital-Volume-I.pdf – page 316). We are posting this below.

 

CAPITALISM AND WORKERS’ HEALTH  – PLUS CA CHANGE

 


 

 

                                                  Twenty first century factory

     

 

 

Nineteenth century factory                                                                                                                                                                                                    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“What could possibly show better the character of the capitalist mode of production, than the necessity that exists for forcing upon it, by Acts of Parliament, the simplest appliances for maintaining cleanliness and health? Owing to its very nature, it excludes all rational improvement beyond a certain point. It has been stated over and over again that the English doctors are unanimous in declaring that where the work is continuous, 500 cubic feet is the very least space that should be allowed for each person. Now, if the Factory Acts, owing to their compulsory provisions, indirectly hasten on the conversion of small workshops into factories, thus indirectly attacking the proprietary rights of the smaller capitalists, and assuring a monopoly to the great ones, so, if it were made obligatory to provide the proper space for each workman in every workshop, thousands of small employers would, at one full swoop, be expropriated directly! The very root of the capitalist mode of production, i.e., the self-expansion of all capital, large or small, by means of the “free” purchase and consumption of labour-power, would be attacked. Factory legislation is therefore brought to a deadlock before these 500 cubic feet of breathing space. The sanitary officers, the industrial inquiry commissioners, the factory inspectors, all harp, over and over again, upon the necessity for those 500 cubic feet, and upon the impossibility of wringing them out of capital. They thus, in fact, declare that consumption and other lung diseases among the workpeople are necessary conditions to the existence of capital.”

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also see:-

FIGHTING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

FIGHTING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

 

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Apr 18 2020

INTERNATIONALISM FROM BELOW – Volume 3

Allan Armstrong has completed the third volume of his book – Internationalism from Below: Reclaiming a communist tradition to challenge the nation-state and capitalist empire. This volume is titled, Revolutionary Social Democracy, Nation-States and Nationalism in the Age of High Imperialism and the Second International (1889-1916). It can be read online at:-

https://allanarmstrong831930095.files.wordpress.com/2020/05/internationalism-from-below-book-3doc-1.pdf

Most of the theories the Left uses today to address the ‘National Question’ have their origins in the period of High Imperialism leading up to the First World War and the outbreak of the 1916-21/3 International Revolutionary Wave. These theories are linked to the names of Kaul Kautsky, Otto Bauer, Rosa Luxemburg, Vladimir Lenin and Josef Stalin. All emerged in the context of a Second International struggling with the impact of High Imperialism and the growing threats of war.  The authors  of these theories sometimes competed over their claims to provide  an orthodox Marxist underpinning for their approach to the ‘National Question’. However, during this period an ‘Internationalism from Below’ trend also emerged. It was less concerned with being orthodox, but analysed the latest developments in the formation of nations and nation-states from the perspective of revolutionary Social Democrats living in oppressed nations. These writers and activists included James Connolly in Ireland, Kazimierz Kelles-Kreuz in Poland and Lev Iurkevich in Ukraine. Their theories were to be tested in the 1916-21/3 International Revolutionary Wave, which forms the subject of Volume 4. Continue reading “INTERNATIONALISM FROM BELOW – Volume 3”

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Feb 04 2020

FROM ILLUSIONS IN A LEXIT BREXIT TO A DISILLUSIONED LEXIT FROM BREXIT POLITICS – THE DECEMBER 12th GENERAL ELECTION AND INDEPENDENT SOCIALISTS ACROSS THESE ISLANDS

Allan Armstrong has published an article entitled From Illusions in a Lexit Brexit to a Disillusioned Lexit from Brexit Politics (https://allanarmstrong831930095.files.wordpress.com/2020/06/socialists-and-december-12th-election.pdf)  The contents of this book are shown below, followed by the last two chapters and conclusion. This  article follows The Impact of the December 12th General Election across the Constituent Parts of the UK. (http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2020/01/24/the-impact-of-the-december-12th-general-election-across-the-constituent-parts-of-the-uk/)

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FROM ILLUSIONS IN A LEXIT BREXIT TO A DISILLUSIONED LEXIT FROM BREXIT POLITICS 

 

 

Telegraph backs Lexiters’ ‘revolution’ and ‘Peoples Brexit!

 

Contents

a)  The 2015 general election provided a warning

b)  After 2015 – an increasingly floundering Left

c)  Northern Ireland – a different pattern

d)  Reactionary unionism and Europhobic opposition to the EU

e)  The largest independent Socialist parties walk into the Brexit trap

f)  The official Remain and Leave campaigns – two wings of the British ruling class

g)  The Lexiters’ false arguments

h)  The political options open in the run-up to the 2016 EU referendum

i)  From 23rd May, 2016 to 8th June, 2017 – A victory for the Left or the Right?

j)  ‘Independent’ Socialists and ‘Oh Jeremy Corbyn’!

k)  Corbyn and the ‘independent’ Socialists unwittingly help Boris Johnson to victory

l)  Independent socialists after the December 12th general election

m) Independent socialists in Scotland and Northern Ireland/Ireland

n) Conclusion

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THE DECEMBER 12th GENERAL ELECTION AND INDEPENDENT SOCIALISTS ACROSS THESE ISLANDS

 

1. Independent socialists after the December 12th general election

On December 12th, Labour’s vote share fell by 7.8% and its number of MPs decreased from 262 to 202. The Tories’ vote share rose 1.2%, but its number of MPs increased from 317 to 365. The gap in the vote share was 11.4%, 32.2% for Labour and 43.6% for the Tories.[1] Not surprisingly a shattered Jeremy Corbyn offered his resignation, opening up the prospect of a new leadership campaign. Continue reading “FROM ILLUSIONS IN A LEXIT BREXIT TO A DISILLUSIONED LEXIT FROM BREXIT POLITICS – THE DECEMBER 12th GENERAL ELECTION AND INDEPENDENT SOCIALISTS ACROSS THESE ISLANDS”

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Dec 09 2019

THE RISE OF NATIONAL POPULISM AND REACTIONARY UNIONISM IN THE RUN UP TO THE DECEMBER 12th GENERAL ELECTION

In the lead-up to the December 12th general election Allan Armstrong updates  his analysis of the drift to the Right populist and reactionary unionist politics in the UK and what this possibly means for the future of the Union.

This is followed by an article by  statement from  the Radical Independence Campaign in Scotland on the general election.

Finally we are posting an article by  Tony Greenstein, expelled Labour Party member from Brighton. He predicted the unexpected rise in support for Jeremy Corbyn in 2017, but thinks that Labour’s chances have declined in the run up to the December general election.

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  1. THE CONTINUED RISE OF RIGHT POPULISM AND REACTIONARY UNIONISM 

IN THE LEAD-UP TO THE DECEMBER 12th GENERAL ELECTION

 

(A fuller explanation of what is meant by Right national populism can be found in the article:- https://allanarmstrong831930095.files.wordpress.com/2020/06/right-populism-2.pdf

Neither the UK nor Great Britain have ever been unitary states. All forms of unionism are based upon the unionist nature of the UK state, which has recognised England, Scotland, Ireland (later Northern Ireland)  and Wales as constituent units. This has led to the adoption of various forms of hybrid Britishness.

Three key terms used in this article  are:-

Conservative unionism – This acknowledges the unionist nature of the UK state through administrative devolution (or later acceptance of liberal unionist devolutionary measures  which it once opposed, but have become part of the status quo)

Liberal unionism – This also accepts the unionist nature of the UK state but promotes political devolution as a better method of holding the state together

Reactionary unionism – This upholds the UK state and openly celebrates  its most repressive aspects. e.g. the crown powers, the armed forces and judiciary. It is also prepared to mobilise extra-constitutional force to prevent national self-determination, greater measures of political devolution, and reverse political devolution and even some administrative devolutionary measures that have already been accepted.) Continue reading “THE RISE OF NATIONAL POPULISM AND REACTIONARY UNIONISM IN THE RUN UP TO THE DECEMBER 12th GENERAL ELECTION”

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Aug 30 2019

It’s the constitution stupid – After the Boris ‘coup’ let’s fUK it!

Allan Armstrong gives his response to the latest constitutional crisis hitting the UK state

 

It’s the constitution stupid – After the Boris ‘coup’ let’s fUK it!

 

Contents

  1. A constitutional and legal coup under Crown-in-Westminster sovereignty
  2. The UK’s growing constitutional crisis, the retreat of neo-liberalism and liberal unionism and the growth of right populism and reactionary unionism
  3. The continued rise of right national populism and the hard right in the UK
  4. The May 23rd Euro-elections – Farage’s right populist victory paves the way for the hard right take-over of the Tory Party
  5. The asymmetric polarisation of UK politics
  6. From Maybynism to Borisbynism? – Labour’s role in helping to move official politics to the right
  7. Neo-liberal attempts to turn back the right populist challenge over Brexit
  8. The right and centre Remainers take politics to the streets
  9. The Lexiters’ (and Irexiters’) economism and abstract propagandism
  10. The emergence of left Remainers, Another Europe Is Possible, and their turn to the streets
  11. Conclusions

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  1. A constitutional and legal coup under Crown-in-Westminster sovereignty

The decision taken by Boris Johnson and his backers  to prorogue Westminster on the 28th August represents the culmination of a prolonged constitutional crisis, which began with the Scottish independence referendum between 2012-14, and has been accelerating in the aftermath of the Brexit vote in 2016. Today we have liberals (in all the mainstream British parties), and even some conservatives, bemoaning  the unconstitutional and illegal nature of the decision taken by the unelected prime minister, Johnson, along with privy councillor, Jacob Rees-Mogg (Tory MP representing the eighteenth century), and the unelected head of state, queen Elizabeth. However, the UK state, based on the sovereignty of the Crown in Westminster, with its armoury of anti-democratic Crown Powers, gives enormous power to the dominant section of the British ruling class. Proroguing parliament is both constitutional and legal. Continue reading “It’s the constitution stupid – After the Boris ‘coup’ let’s fUK it!”

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Jul 28 2019

BBC’s WAR ON CORBYN

Tony Greenstein takes apart the BBC’s Panorama programme Is Labour anti-Semitic? providing the Right wing,  racist and Islamophobic background of its producer, John Ware and highlighting the tendentious biased techniques used in its production.

BBC’S WAR ON CORBYN

 

 

 

As John Pilger has long argued, the BBC is the most refined propaganda service in the world.1 Its reputation for ‘impartiality’ is what has helped make it so effective.

However, the BBC was born in the womb of the British state. In 1926 Lord Reith, its first director-general, banned the Archbishop of Canterbury from broadcasting an appeal for compromise in the General Strike.2 The ruling class was determined to defeat the unions and they did not want any such messages. At Orgreave during the miners’ Great Strike of 1984-85 the BBC deliberately reversed the order of its footage, showing miners throwing stones and police baton-charging them, so as to make it appear that the police were responding to miners’ violence rather than the miners responding to police brutality.3 Continue reading “BBC’s WAR ON CORBYN”

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Jul 26 2019

WHY WOMEN HAVE BETTER SEX UNDER SOCIALISM

Murdo Ritchie reviews the book, Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism and other Arguments for Economic Independence by Dr Kristen R. Ghodsee.

 

WHY WOMEN HAVE BETTER SEX UNDER SOCIALISM

 

Inessa Armand 

 

“If women’s liberation is unthinkable without communism, then communism is unthinkable without women’s liberation.”  Inessa Armand

The collapse of “socialism” in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union may have changed borders but it didn’t make the Earth move –at least for many women.  The economic, personal and sexual changes that occurred, changed many women’s lives but not to their benefit according to this new book. The provocative cover title has two parts the first in large type joined by a conjunction to the second in smaller lettering.  But the writer makes the case for understanding both in their inter-linked entirety.  She is quite clear “unregulated capitalism is bad for women.” (p1)  Continue reading “WHY WOMEN HAVE BETTER SEX UNDER SOCIALISM”

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Feb 19 2019

FROM BLATCHERISM TO MAYBYNISM

Below is a synopsis of Allan Armstrong’s new pamphlet  The Continuing Shift to the Right in the Transition from Neo-Liberalism to Right Populism

https://allanarmstrong831930095.files.wordpress.com/2020/06/right-populism-2.pdf

 

This is followed by the last two chapters (relettered) which deal with the impact of Right Populism  since the Brexit vote,

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THE CONTINUING SHIFT TO THE RIGHT
IN THE TRANSITION FROM
NEO-LIBERALISM TO RIGHT POPULISM

 

Allan Armstrong presents a case that the world is leaving the period of Neo-liberal domination and entering a period of Right  populist domination. This is analogous to the earlier move from post-Second World War Social Democratic domination, which ended in 1979/80. He emphasises the role of the 2008 Crash in dividing the UK and US ruling classes. This had led to the rapid growth of Right Populist politics in these and other states. The Right’s winning of the Brexit vote and then the election of Trump (‘Brexit, plus, plus, plus’) has performed a similar role in the transition from Neo-liberalist domination to Right Populist domination that the election of Thatcher and Reagan had played in the earlier transition. Continue reading “FROM BLATCHERISM TO MAYBYNISM”

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