Seven Left Myths About Capitalism

by G.B. Taylor

Occupy Wall Street has renewed hope for a left political renaissance by challenging economic inequality and the neoliberal discourse that legitimated it, and reintroducing the word capitalism to political debate. The “greed” of the “1%,” counterpoised to the hardworking, rule-abiding 99%, has emerged as the dominant political frame of OWS. Rhetorically powerful, the slogan’s elegant simplicity conceals as much as it reveals. The language of “corruption,” the betrayal of Main Street by parasitic Wall Street bankers, and nationalist appeals to “take America back” all express a deep confusion as to the nature of the current crisis. This often results in a highly personalized moral critique of capitalism rather than a systemic one.

The crisis wracking capitalism today cannot be understood as simply the evil actions of greedy bankers and the 1%. In fact, as Max Weber pointed out, unlike the ostentatious opulence of earlier economic forms like feudalism, capitalism actually has tendencies which check greed – for example how intra-capitalist competition forces firms to save and reinvest. Thus the logic of states wielding coercive external power in human form as armies and police is quite different from that of capitalism, wherein power is more difficult to pinpoint or assign personal agency to. Conflating these two modes of power leads to very different political demands and outcomes. Capitalist power acts not only or even primarily on us from outside, but through us, as worker and capitalist alike are caught up in an impersonal competitive imperative that would quickly bankrupt any turncoat bankers or CEOs who might suddenly take Occupy’s message to heart. Continue reading

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The Road to Socialism in China

by Sitaram Yechury

The tremendous strides made by the Chinese economy during the last two decades have been recognised, even by its worst critics, as being incomparable in the 20th century.  The average annual rate of growth during the last two decades registered an amazing 9.8%. The Chinese economy continues to grow over and above this record at roughly 8% in the current year.  The IMF has predicted that by the year 2007, People’s Republic of China  will surpass the United States of America as the largest economy in the world (World Economic Outlook, IMF, 1997).

Pictures of Chinese leaders Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping and Hu Jintao on parade to celebrate the 60th anniversary of socialism in China.

How was such a remarkable development possible?  Particularly, in a period when the mighty Socialist Soviet Union was dismantled? When all pen-pushers of imperialism and the bourgeoisie were busy seeking to nail the coffin of socialism and claiming that “capitalism is eternal”, socialist China continued to register  such impressive  economic successes.  In a period when imperialist ideologues are churning out theories such as the `end of ideology’, socialist China continues to  speak of upholding Marxism-Leninism.  While the right-wing intellectuals and academicians are in a haste to state that China’s successes have nothing to do with either Marxism or socialism, some amongst the Left are also concerned whether these successes in China represent the restoration of capitalism?  Has Mao’s China been abandoned?  Have `capitalist roarders’ taken over China?  What are the consequences of the current economic reforms for the future of socialism in China? These are some of such questions that we seek to explore. Continue reading

Thoughts from China: Socialism, a Work in Progress

by Brad Janzen

Editor’s note: The author is teaching English in China.

BEIJING – I arrived in Beijing on June 25.  My first time in Asia. My first time outside of the Western hemisphere. Though I had studied some Chinese, I was a bit overwhelmed at the communication barrier as I walked into a restaurant to order my first meal here.  The menu was all in Chinese, with no pictures, and no pinyin. (Pinyin is the transcription of Chinese to the Latin alphabet, with accent marks denoting the tones).  Nevertheless, after being here for two and a half months, my Chinese is slowly improving.

china2

My initial impressions of Beijing and China were, and still are, complex. China has surpassed Japan and Germany to become the second largest economy in the world, and China’s GDP will likely pass that of the U.S. in a few years. China’s economy is a mixed economy, with the state controlling much of what Lenin called the “commanding heights” of the economy, but with a large capitalist sector, and with an enormous number of small businesses. While the state permits capitalist enterprises, including foreign companies, to operate here, the state retains the ownership of the land, and essentially is granting the company the privilege of using the land in the interest of development. Continue reading

The Struggle for the Leninist Position on the Negro Question in the United States

by Harry Haywood

This article by Harry Haywood, originally printed in the September 1933 issue of the The Communist, is from A Documentary History of the Negro People in the United States, edited by Herbert Aptheker. According to the editor, the original article “is published below, in part, with the essential argumentation intact.” I am making this article available on the Internet for the first time. For more on this history of the African American National Question, see Freedom Road Socialist Organization’s Unity Statement on National Oppression, National Liberation and Socialist Revolution and The Third International and the struggle for a correct line on the African American National Question.

The present program of our Party on the Negro question was first formulated at the Sixth Congress of the Communist International, in 1928. On the basis of the most exhaustive consideration of all the peculiarities, historical development, economic, living and cultural conditions of the Negro people in the United States as well as the experience of the Party in its work among Negroes, that Congress definitely established the problem of the Negroes as that of an oppressed nation among whom there existed all the requisites for a national revolutionary movement against American imperialism.

Harry Haywood, legendary African American communist leader

This estimation was a concrete application of the Marxist-Leninist conception of the national question to the conditions of the Negroes and was predicated upon the following premises: first, the concentration of large masses of Negroes in the agricultural regions of the Black Belt, where they constitute a majority of the population; secondly, the existence of powerful relics of the former chattel slave system in the exploitation of the Negro toilers – the plantation system based on sharecropping, landlord supervision of crops, debt slavery, etc.; thirdly, the development, on the basis of these slave remnants, of a political superstructure of inequality expressed in all forms of social proscription and segregation; denial of civil rights, right to franchise, to hold public offices, to sit on juries, as well as in the laws and customs of the South. This vicious system is supported by all forms of arbitrary violence, the most vicious being the peculiar American institution of lynching. All of this finds its theoretical justification in the imperialist ruling class theory of the “natural” inferiority of the Negro people. Continue reading

The National Question in Russia: Marxism and the National Question

by Joseph Stalin

It remains for us to suggest a positive solution of the national question.

We take as our starting point that the question can be solved only in intimate connection with the present situation in Russia.

1. Russian SFSR, 2. Ukrainian SSR, 3. Byelorussian SSR, 4. Tajik SSR, 5. Kirghiz SSR, 6. Georgian SSR, 7. Azerbaijan SSR, 8. Armenian SSR, 9. Uzbek SSR, 10. Kazakh SSR, 11. Lithuanian SSR, 12. Latvian SSR, 13. Estonian SSR, 14. Moldavian SSR, 15. Turkmen SSR

Russia is in a transitional period, when “normal,” “constitutional” life has not yet been established and when the political crisis has not yet been settled. Days of storm and “complications” are ahead. And this gives rise to the movement, the present and the future movement, the aim of which is to achieve complete democratization.

It is in connection with this movement that the national question must be examined.

Thus the complete democratization of the country is the basis and condition for the solution of the national question. Continue reading

The Caucasians, the Conference of the Liquidators: Marxism and the National Question

by Joseph Stalin

We spoke above of the waverings of one section of the Caucasian Social-Democrats who were unable to withstand the nationalist “epidemic.” These waverings were revealed in the fact that, strange as it may seem, the above-mentioned Social-Democrats followed in the footsteps of the Bund and proclaimed cultural-national autonomy.

Regional autonomy for the Caucasus as a whole and cultural-national autonomy for the nations forming the Caucasus – that is the way these Social-Democrats, who, incidentally, are linked with the Russian Liquidators, formulate their demand.

Listen to their acknowledged leader, the not unknown N.

“Everybody knows that the Caucasus differs profoundly from the central gubernias, both as regards the racial composition of its population and as regards its territory and agricultural development. The exploitation and material development of such a region require local workers acquainted with local peculiarities and accustomed to the local climate and culture. All laws designed to further the exploitation of the local territory should be issued locally and put into effect by local forces. Consequently, the jurisdiction of the central organ of Caucasian self-government should extend to legislation on local questions…. Hence, the functions of the Caucasian centre should consist in the passing of laws designed to further the economic exploitation of the local territory and the material prosperity of the region.”

Thus – regional autonomy for the Caucasus. Continue reading

The Vulgarisation of Marxism by the Opportunists: The State and Revolution

by Vladimir Lenin

The question of the relation of the state to the social revolution, and of the social revolution to the state, like the question of revolution generally, was given very little attention by the leading theoreticians and publicists of the Second International (1889-1914). But the most characteristic thing about the process of the gradual growth of opportunism that led to the collapse of the Second International in 1914 is the fact that even when these people were squarely faced with this question they tried to evade it or ignored it.

In general, it may be said that evasiveness over the question of the relation of the proletarian revolution to the state–an evasiveness which benefited and fostered opportunism–resulted in the distortion of Marxism and in its complete vulgarization.

To characterize this lamentable process, if only briefly, we shall take the most prominent theoreticians of Marxism: Plekhanov and Kautsky.

1. Plekhanov’ s Controversy with the Anarchists

Plekhanov wrote a special pamphlet on the relation of anarchism to socialism, entitled Anarchism and Socialism, which was published in German in 1894.

Georgi Plekhanov

In treating this subject, Plekhanov contrived completely to evade the most urgent, burning, and most politically essential issue in the struggle against anarchism, namely, the relation of the revolution to the state, and the question of the state in general! Continue reading