Nov 08 2020

EMANCIPATION & LIBERATION – WELSH COVERAGE 2002-20

Following the posting of our Irish coverage(http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2020/10/15/emancipation-liberation-irish-coverage-2002-20/), E&L is posting our  Welsh and republican related coverage from 2002 to 2020 to promote a wider socialist republican ‘internationalism from below’ alliance

EMANCIPATION & LIBERATION – WELSH COVERAGE 2002-20

 

 

2020

 

The British Left and the UK State – Allan Armstrong, RCN, Republican Socialist Platform

THE BRITISH LEFT AND THE UK STATE

From grey to red granite – Allan Armstrong, RCN, Republican Socialist Platform   Continue reading “EMANCIPATION & LIBERATION – WELSH COVERAGE 2002-20”

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Nov 07 2020

THE BRITISH LEFT AND THE UK STATE

 

The British Left and the UK State, written by Allan Armstrong  can be found at:-

https://allanarmstrong831930095.files.wordpress.com/2020/11/british-left-uk-state-long-1-2.pdf

Below is an outline of the Contents and the concluding chapter addressing the need for a socialist republican ‘internationalism from below’ strategy to address the current challenges the Left faces

_____________

 

THE BRITISH LEFT AND THE UK STATE

From the British Left’s ‘national exceptionalism’ during the ‘IndyRef1’campaign to acting as Left outriders for the UK state during the Brexit campaign

 

 

Contents

1. Introduction – the relationship between the UK state and the British Left
2. The challenge to British Left unionism represented by IndyRef1
3. From IndyRef1 in 2014 to the Euro-referendum in 2016 – the British Left begins to dig a hole for itself.
4. The Left Brexiteers, the 2015 Westminster general election, the 2016 Euro-referendum and on to the 2017 Westminster general election – giving succour to the Right Populist and Hard Right Brexit offensive
5. The CPB, SP(E&W) and SWP provide cover for McCluskey’s anti-democratic, ‘British jobs for British workers’, racist and Right accommodating Brexit
6. Two forces for possible future Socialist advances –Ian Allinson’s Grassroots Left election campaign for the UNITE general secretary and the appearance of Left Remain forces in the new Labour intake.
7. The growing ascendancy of the Hard Right and the final demise of Left Brexit in the December 12th general election
8. The Left Brexiteers export their Brexit illusions to Ireland
9. Conclusion – challenge the UK and partitioned Irish states, their ‘internationalism from above’ allies and the disunited Left’s ‘national ‘exceptionalism’ with a socialist republican ‘internationalism from below’ strategy

  Continue reading “THE BRITISH LEFT AND THE UK STATE”

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Oct 15 2020

EMANCIPATION & LIBERATION – IRISH COVERAGE 2002-20

E&L is posting our  Irish coverage from 2002 to 2021 to promote a wider socialist republican ‘internationalism from below’ alliance

EMANCIPATION & LIBERATION – IRISH COVERAGE 2002-20

 

2020

From Grey to Red Granite – Allan Armstrong, RCN

http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2020/10/10/from-grey-to-red-granite-viewing-the-left-the-scottish-question-and-the-nature-of-the-uk-state-through-the-lens-of-neil-davidsons-writings-and-political-work/ and https://allanarmstrong831930095.files.wordpress.com/2020/10/from-grey-to-red-granite-7.pdf

Continue reading “EMANCIPATION & LIBERATION – IRISH COVERAGE 2002-20”

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Oct 10 2020

FROM GREY TO RED GRANITE – Viewing the Left, the Scottish Question and the Nature of the UK State through the Lens of Neil Davidson’s Writings and Political Work

 

Below are  the Contents and Introduction to Allan Armstrong’s article, From Grey Granite to Red Granite – Viewing the Left, the Scottish Question and the Nature of the UK state through the Lens of Neil Davidson’s Writings and Political Work.

The full article can be read at:-

https://allanarmstrong831930095.files.wordpress.com/2020/11/from-grey-to-red-granite.pdf

 

 

Neil Davidson speaks to a socialist conference in Athens

Allan Armstrong speaks to a James Connolly walking tour in Edinburgh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FROM GREY TO RED GRANITE

 Viewing the Left, the Scottish Question and the Nature of the UK state through the Lens of Neil Davidson’s Writings and Political Work

 

 

Allan Armstrong

 

________

Contents

  Continue reading “FROM GREY TO RED GRANITE – Viewing the Left, the Scottish Question and the Nature of the UK State through the Lens of Neil Davidson’s Writings and Political Work”

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Sep 16 2020

JOHN MANSON – SOCIALIST, LITERARY CRITIC, TRANSLATOR AND POET (1933-2020)

 

Allan Armstrong writes about John Manson, socialist, literary critic, translator and poet who died on August 3rd.  

 

JOHN MANSON – SOCIALIST, LITERARY CRITIC, TRANSLATOR AND POET (1933-2020)

It was with considerable sadness that I learned of John Manson’s death a month after it occurred on August 3rd. John had been a “a non-party Socialist since the dissolution of the CPGB”[1] and a significant literary critic, translator and poet. I first met John in 2006 and last met him 2012. Those who want to know more about John’s life and legacy should read the fine obituary written by Alan Riach in The Herald on 28.8.20[2] Continue reading “JOHN MANSON – SOCIALIST, LITERARY CRITIC, TRANSLATOR AND POET (1933-2020)”

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Aug 15 2020

THE CASE FOR A  REPUBLICAN INTERNATIONALIST COALITION FOR  SCOTLAND’S INDEPENDENCE

THE CASE FOR A  REPUBLICAN INTERNATIONALIST COALITION FOR  SCOTLAND’S INDEPENDENCE

 

Banner made when Edinburgh RIC hosted the the national RIC contingent on the ‘All Under One Banner’ demonstration on 6.10.18

 

 

a. The Radical Independence Campaign

An examination of the wording of the initials and principles of the Radical Independence Campaign is instructive.

R = Radical, I = Independence, C = Campaign

Each one of these terms is ambiguous. Continue reading “THE CASE FOR A  REPUBLICAN INTERNATIONALIST COALITION FOR  SCOTLAND’S INDEPENDENCE”

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Jul 12 2020

THE UK STATE, RIGHT POPULISM AND REACTIONARY UNIONISM IN 2020 – rUK IT or fUK IT?

Allan Armstrong has produced his third online pamphlet, following The Continuing Shift from Neo-Liberalism to Right Populism. This follows the last update which looked at the impact of Right Populism and reactionary unionism on the politics of the these islands after the December 12th UK and February 8th Irish general elections. The contents  of the latest  pamphlet (https://allanarmstrong831930095.files.wordpress.com/2020/11/dec12th-covid-19-and-blm-scotland2-3.pdf) are shown below. This is followed by two sections from the pamphlet specifically relating to the recent and current situation in Scotland, which form the basis for Allan’s talk on the Campaign for a European Republican Socialist Republican Party Zoom meeting.

 

THE UK STATE, RIGHT POPULISM AND  

REACTIONARY UNIONISM IN 2020

rUK it or fUK it?

 A republican communist analysis in the aftermath of December 12th general election, Covid-19 and Black Lives Matter 

Allan Armstrong. 6.7.20

 

 

Contents

A. FROM THE DECEMBER 12TH WESTMINSTER GENERAL ELECTION THROUGH THE COVID-19 CRISIS

Continue reading “THE UK STATE, RIGHT POPULISM AND REACTIONARY UNIONISM IN 2020 – rUK IT or fUK IT?”

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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 Alexander Anievas 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  hough, is misleading. I t 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, and the Dutch Netherlands, or through the extension of wage labour following 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 HtWctR begins 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 a 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. Socialists should uphold a working class united in its diversity.  This also enables us to provide a vision of a future new global order, which encompasses the many peoples of this world., and not see Socialism as the projection of the more limited world of an essentially European/US  working class.   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 similar thinking can also be used to establish another Eurocentric view of the world, where English economic development is replaced by the role given to ancient Greek philosophy in other versions of European supremacy.  Both of these approached promote tunnel-vision views, either exaggerating England’s contribution to ‘progressive’ capitalist development or classical Greece’s contribution to ‘western civilisation’.

However, HtWctR  hould also make us more aware of a particular Scottish conceit, which has been associated with both classical political economy and much Left Social Democracy, and 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, place capitalist society at the pinnacle of so-far achieved social development. In doing this, they have therefore contributed to another Eurocentric approach, in which Scotland is seen to have played a significant 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.  Similarly, the collapse of the USSR undermined the Left unionist appeal of this model.

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, it could be argued that many of the arguments used in HtWct provide an argument for Scottish internationalism, which should form the basis for Socialist thinking in Scotland.

 

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 financial institutions, IT and higher education in the quaternary sector and oil and natural gas, 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 (updated 20.9.20)

 

 

 

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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also see:-

FROM GREY TO RED GRANITE 

VIEWING THE LEFT, THE SCOTTISH QUESTION AND THE NATURE OF THE UK STATE THROUGH THE LENS OF NEIL DAVIDSON’S WRITINGS AND POLITICAL WORK

https://allanarmstrong831930095.files.wordpress.com/2020/11/from-grey-to-red-granite.pdf

 

NEIL DAVIDSON MEMORIAL MEETING, 11.7.20

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May 11 2020

INTERNATIONALISM FROM BELOW, Volume 4, part A

Allan Armstrong is in the process of writing Volume Four of the Internationalism from Below series. This volume is entitled, Communists, nation-states and nationalism during the 1916-21/3 International Revolutionary Wave’.

Due to the Coronavirus lockdown, Allan has not been able to complete the research to finish this. However, the part which deals with the situation in Latvia, Finland and Ukraine, between the February 1917 Revolution and the Treaty of Brest Litovsk in March in 1918, has been finished.  This begins with an examination of the role of Social Democrats, including the Leninist wing of the Bolsheviks and the Radical Left in addressing the ‘National Question’. It also outlines the beginnings of a renewed ‘Internationalism from Below’ approach, which was later to develop in Ukraine.

This part of Book Four can be accessed at:-

https://allanarmstrong831930095.files.wordpress.com/2020/05/internationalism-from-below-book-4a-3.pdf

This E&L website will give notice when the full book is available. Continue reading “INTERNATIONALISM FROM BELOW, Volume 4, part A”

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May 03 2020

PAULINE BRADLEY SINGS ABOUT HELEN MACFARLANE ON MAY DAY

May Day Greetings Comrades and Friends. I sent this to the on line #VirtualMayDay PSI event and it was aired, Thank you. It’s from the play Rare Birds about revolutionary Scottish woman Helen MacFarlane from Barrhead, the original translator of Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto. However she was published under the male pseudonym of Howard Morton.

 

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This is a review, written by Allan Armstrong in Emancipation & Liberation, no. 10  of Helen Macfarlane: A Feminist, Revolutionary Journalist and Philosopher in mid-nineteenth century England by David Black

Tribute to Helen Macfarlane— That the Parliament notes the forthcoming launch of the book, Helen Macfarlane: A Feminist, Revolutionary Journalist and Philosopher in mid-nineteenth century England; welcomes the fact that this radical Scotswoman will at last be rescued from obscurity and given her place of importance in 19th century politics and political movements, including the Chartists and the Vienna uprising of 1848; further notes that it was Helen Macfarlane, under the alias Howard Morton, who first translated the seminal pamphlet, The Communist Manifesto, into English for the magazine, The Red Republican, and that she played an active role in promoting the politics of revolution and equality throughout her life, and believes that the Scottish Parliament Information Centre should order several copies of her book and that libraries across Scotland should be encouraged to do likewise.

Moved by Tommy Sheridan, supported by: Mark Ballard, Rosie Kane, Rosemary Byrne, Frances Curran, Colin Fox, Alex Neil, Elaine Smith, Ms Sandra White

 

Few people probably noticed this motion tabled before the Scottish Parliament on February 18th this year. However, our parliamentary representatives are to be congratulated for their attempts to bring Helen Macfarlane, a remarkable woman, to the public’s attention. The inspiration for the motion was provided by the publication of Helen Macfarlane: A Feminist, Revolutionary Journalist and Philosopher in mid-nineteenth century England; written by David Black, editor of the marxist-humanist journal, Hobgoblin (see our Republic of Letters page).

The motion itself gives a brief outline of Helen Macfarlane’s wider significance. Dave’s book is not the usual biography. Too little is known about Helen Macfarlane. We do not know when she was born – only that Macfarlane was of that generation of post-Napoleonic War ‘baby-boomers’, which included other original and radical women writers such as George Eliot and the Bronte sisters. (p.2)

Dave’s enquiries locate Helen Macfarlane’s upbringing in Scotland. However, she later moved to London and Burnley. She was in Vienna during the 1848 Revolution. This profoundly affected her thinking. She joined the Fraternal Democrats, the most politically advanced section of the Chartist Movement. Between April and December of 1850, she wrote a number of articles for the Democratic Review, the Red Republican and Friend of the People. She also made the first English-language translation of The Communist Manifesto. Where later translators wrote of the Communist spectre haunting Europe, Helen Macfarlane wrote of the hobgoblin, which stalked the Europe of the Pope and the Czar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police agents. (p. 138)

Given the all-prevalent, male chauvinist, anti-woman feeling in mid-nineteenth century Britain, Helen Macfarlane, usually wrote under the nom-de-plume of Howard Morton. In her own words, British society condemned itself in ‘the position of women, who are regarded by law, not as persons, but as things’. (p.3) And in confirmation of women’s tenuous position in bourgeois society, all trace of Helen Macfarlane disappears from history, after 1851.

Not surprisingly then, Dave’s book is necessarily and unashamedly a Biography of an Idea (p.3) and that idea is Freedom. Dave identifies Helen Macfarlane’s concern with Hegel’s Idea of Freedom and with its ‘externalisation’. (p.4) She was the first person, born in Britain, to study, translate and utilise Hegel’s thought. However, she took Hegel’s thought further. Macfarlane’s ‘narrative of history’ saw a ‘pure democracy’ emerging from class struggles.(p.4)

Like the great French revolutionary, August Blanqui, Helen Macfarlane saw democracy as a historical process leading towards a ‘Republic without Helots’ – and end to exploitation and oppression through emancipation and liberation, where freedom and equality will be the acknowledged birthright of every human being… without poor, without classes… A society… not only of free men, but of free women. (p.4)

Dave demonstrates that Helen Macfarlane already anticipated the clear distinction between the ‘forms’ that the movement took in the twentieth century (Social Democracy, Stalinism, etc) {which} were based on economic determinism rather than a concept of Freedom (p.132). Therefore, she retains a contemporary relevance.

The other of Helen Macfarlane’s concerns, was the economic and political development of England. (p.4) The Britain of the day was the most economically advanced area in the world. Helen Macfarlane lived in Burnley, at the very centre of the cotton manufacturing industry, which was then the pacesetter for capitalist development in the world. Engels also had lived in nearby Manchester, prompting him to write The Condition of the Working Classes.

Helen Macfarlane polemicised against three political tendencies involved in the Industrial Revolution. The first of these included the Manchester Liberals, who fought against ‘Old Corruption’ under the banner of Free Trade. (p.4) The leading spokesmen for these humbug manufacturers were Richard Cobden and John Bright. Many of their arguments are being recycled today by such neo-liberal advocates of global corporatism as Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. However, one difference is they are also the political leaders of the ‘New Corruption’, ripping off workers, consumers and the finances of the state for the benefit of the global corporations.

Helen Macfarlane also polemicised against such rosewater sentimentalists as Charles Dickens. He advocated charity to deal with the problems of the day. Again we have contemporaries in such figures as Sir Bob Geldof, the G8’s licensed court jester. Geldof’s interventions around the current G8 summit have been designed to promote musical ‘alternatives’ to the events organised by the ‘Make Capitalism History’ wing of the G8 protests. His proposed million person march in Edinburgh, white-clad and pleading, resembles Father Gapon’s St. Petersburg supplicatory march to petition the Tsar, a century ago. The ‘sentimental’ Dickens could also show his real political feelings, when writing of the Chartist Movement – Bastards of the Mountain, draggled fringe on the Red Cap, Panders to the basest passions of the lowest natures! (p. 53)

However, Helen Macfarlane’s opposition to Thomas Carlyle, the famous Scottish writer and opinion-former of Victorian Britain, was perhaps her most important polemical contribution. Carlyle opposed the rise of industrial capitalism. Because of this stance, he won many adherents, including a whole generation of Radical and early Labour figures. He opposed the new sham aristocracy of mill owners. However, he was even more vociferous in his opposition to Chartism, and indeed any movement of the oppressed. He was especially contemptuous of Black West Indians and our own White Ireland… these two extremes of lazy refusal to workl! (p. 80) In 1849, Carlyle published an essay attacking American abolitionists in an essay, Occasional Discourse on the Nigger Question!

Helen Macfarlane was extremely prescient in her attack on Carlyle. The idea… which, I think, pervades all Mr. Carlyle’s works, is that of hero-worship, (p. 82) When Carlyle looked for a force to counter the Chartist Movement, he sought a precedent in the Norman conquerors, an immense volunteer police force, stationed everywhere, united disciplined, feudally regimented, ready for action; strong Teutonic men. (p. 80) He clearly anticipated the rise of the later fascist paramilitaries.

It is always important to remember the dark appeal of fascism, which today opposes globalisation. Fascism seeks to divert the current worldwide mass movement into narrow chauvinist, racist and sexist channels, to create more hatred, division and conflict. Helen Macfarlane upheld revolution as the best antidote to the reactionaries of her day. I am free to confess that, for me the most joyful of all spectacles possible in these times is the one which Mr. Carlyle laments; one which I enjoyed extremely in Vienna, in March 1848 – i.e. ‘an universal tumbling of impostors’…. Ca ira! – or, if she had been writing today., ‘Y Basta’!

 

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