Jan 19, 2009

Loren Goldner on international capitalism: three articles

Left-communist writer and activist Loren Goldner has posted several new articles to his website, Break Their Haughty Power, over the past couple of months. I'd like to highlight three of them:

1. "The Biggest 'October Surprise' Of All: A World Capitalist Crash." Here Goldner traces the roots and implications of the current global capitalist crisis, building on his 2007 essay, "Fictitious Capitalism for Beginners" (discussed previously on Three Way Fight). In this new piece, Goldner argues that the crisis "offers the anti-capitalist radical left its biggest opening since the defeat of the world working-class upsurge that followed World War I."

In the early 20th century, British imperialism was in decline and U.S. global power was on the rise. This time, it is U.S. power that is in decline, with "NO SUCCESSOR POWER waiting in the wings." ("...different regions in the world, East Asia..., Russia, India, Europe, are all dissatisfied with the current world system, and would like to reorganize it. But none of them is individually strong enough to overthrow the power of the United States, and the US has been skillfully trying to keep them from forming a powerful bloc.") Coupled with this situation of international rivalry making the ruling class vulnerable, Goldner argues, "the ideological baggage for controlling the working class of the preceding period – Social Democracy, Stalinism, Keynesianism – has been greatly weakened" -- a combination that he believes creates an unprecedented opening for a new revolutionary upsurge.

2. "General Perspectives on the Capitalist Development State and Class Struggle in East Asia." offers a quick history of the rise of capitalism, socialism and Marxism in Japan, China and Korea from 1868 to about 1930. (This is the first chapter of Goldner's work in progress on the Korean working class.) Among other interesting points, this essay discusses how Imperial Japan adapted ideas and models from the west, especially Imperial Germany, in its successful effort to jump-start capitalist development. Goldner also notes how Kita Ikki ("the most important Japanese theorist of fascism") synthesized Marxism with the Japanese emperor cult in 1919 (the same year that the former socialist Mussolini founded Italy's fasci di combattimento).

3. "Great Game II: From Tallinn to Seoul and Tokyo, by Way of Kiev, the Declining American Superpower Lashes Out on the Borders of Russia and China" Contrary to those who argue that global capitalism has largely transcended traditional national or bloc rivalries, Goldner argues that the U.S. ruling class is pursuing a version of "the Great Game":

"Great Game I...was Britain vs. Russia, 1800-1917 (and beyond), Russia then being the 'weak link' in world accumulation... The breaking of that 'weak link' was the Russian Revolution, subsequently isolated by the failure of world revolution and the triumph of 'socialism in one country' as a result of that isolation.... Great Game II: 1979-present. The US has replaced Britain in a strategy to control the borders of Russia and China, and to keep the four Eurasian power centers (Europe- Russia- India - China) off balance while the center of world accumulation moves to Asia, thereby staving off the demotion of the dollar as the world's reserve currency. This will hopefully be followed by the coming proletarian revolution in the new 'weak link,' China."

While a lot of me feels that it is wildly premature to speak of a "coming proletarian revolution" anywhere, I do find Goldner's work to be consistently thoughtful, informative, and challenging, and his efforts to make east Asia a central piece of a global analysis are welcome.


Matthew N Lyons said...

Loren Goldner says that he is a writer and activist, not a "scholar" (as I wrote in the original version of this post). Sorry Loren!

Nick Paretsky said...

There's a new website, "Radical Perspectives on the Crisis," http://sites.google.com/site/radicalperspectivesonthecrisis/, which is providing a survey of recent articles, news commentary, interviews, etc from diverse left perspectives, and includes articles by people such as Goldner, Wallerstein, the Monthly Review group, Midnight Notes, Wildcat (a German collective), some of the Italians, Naomi Klein.

One that I've briefly scanned and looks like it might be an "autonomist" analysis is by "Free Association," which references the protests in Greece; http://sites.google.com/site/radicalperspectivesonthecrisis/finance-crisis/on-the-crisis-of-finance-and-financialisation/freeassociationspeculatingonthecrisis. The theory might be bad, but the graffiti and slogans from Greece, I like, eg., from a university occupation in Athens: "'Tomorrow dawns a day when nothing is certain. And what could be more liberating than this after so many long years of certainty? A bullet was able to interrupt the brutal sequence all those identical days!'"

There's a piece by Rick Kuhn, a New Zealand academic, whose been reviving Henryk Grossman's theory of capitalist collapse, based in Grossman's interpretation of Marx's theory of the falling rate of profit. (Kuhn's been arguing that Grossman's position was much more sophisticated than its been portrayed by his many marxist critics.)

There's an international survey of how labor unions are responding, http://sites.google.com/site/radicalperspectivesonthecrisis/news/worldslaborfederationsreacttofinancialcrisiswithproposalsfromre-regulationtosocialismbydanlabotz.

If you want to know about various reformist proposals being trotted out, like "democratic control over investment," there's some of those.

Even if a person doesn't like any of the perspectives presented, it will at least give an idea of how bad the Left is.

I think the Hamerquist piece recently posted here deserves a slot on this site. (I'm still trying to work thru the H. statement.)

Nick Paretsky

Nick Paretsky said...

On my comment on the website, "Radical Perspectives on the Crisis," (http://sites.google.com/site/radicalperspectivesonthecrisis/): Rick Kuhn works in Australia, not New Zealand.

The website makes this declaration on "The things we generally agree upon":

critical of the standard economistic perspective that structures the way people usually talk about what is happening, what will happen, and what should happen. We also generally disagree with "liberal" and "democratic" perspectives, because they tend to take certain deep assumptions of the economist for granted. Although some of us may be "marxists" or "communists", we hate the (insert most embarrassing marxist and communist group names) as much as you do. Many of us also care about certain values one might call "anarchist", such as mutual aid and self-organization.

critical analysis of the global economy, direct action, revolution.

this crisis is not isolated, but part of something bigger that has an internal logic we need to understand."