March 27, 2010

Marx, Engels, and the American Civil War – II

Posted in Communism, History, United States, War tagged , , , , , , , at 01:40 by Matthijs Krul

We finished the last section of our discussion of Marx, Engels, and the American Civil War with their joint article on the state of the war and its prospects in March 1862, in which they remarkably accurately analyzed and predicted the course the war would follow for it to result in Union success. The Confederacy in the meantime was resorting to much more severe measures against ‘liberty’ than it would ever have accepted of a Union government, and which led to much dissension: first, the introduction of the first ever draft in the Americas in April 1862, and subsequently a severe tax on agricultural produce, which was enforced by a suspension of habeas corpus. Those people who accuse Lincoln of dictatorial tendencies in his repression of the pro-Southern dissenters in Maryland are well advised to take this into account. The Confederacy also increased its bureaucracy beyond any foreseen proportions to some 70.000, more than the Union and vastly more than ever before. This was mere necessity to have a chance at full mobilization and achieving the war aims.(1) The Union eventually also introduced conscription of sorts, and what’s more, its industrial expansion was aided greatly by the war, while inflation destroyed real wages, leading to much worker resistance. This would combine with fear of labor competition to form some virulent anti-war sentiment in places like New York City, but we shall see more about this later. Read the rest of this entry »

March 26, 2010

Marx, Engels, and the American Civil War – I

Posted in Communism, History, United States, War tagged , , , , , , at 21:30 by Matthijs Krul

Given the reputation of America today as a bulwark of reaction and imperialism, it may surprise many to know that Marx and Engels were great supporters of the United States in their own day. For them, the United States was not a great power opposed to the interests of the various peoples worldwide as today, but it represented capitalism in its most pure and its most historically progressive form. America did not have any feudal history or any aristocratic remnants, and as such was the clearest and most energetic example of capitalism’s powers. Moreover, the colonization of the Americas in the first place was the genesis of the capitalist mode of production, by launching Europe beyond its feudal confines. As Engels put it in a lecture for the London German Workers’ Educational Society as early as 1847 (that is, before they became ‘Marxists’ proper):

Citizens! When Christopher Columbus discovered America 350 years ago, he certainly did not think that not only would the then existing society in Europe together with its institutions be done away with through his discovery, but that the foundation would be laid for the complete liberation of all nations; and yet, it becomes more and more clear that this is indeed the case. Through the discovery of America a new route by sea to the East Indies was found, whereby the European business traffic of the time was completely transformed; the consequence was that Italian and German commerce were totally ruined and other countries came to the fore; commerce came into the hands of the western countries, and England thus came to the fore of the movement. Before the discovery of America the countries even in Europe were still very much separated from one another and trade was on the whole slight. Only after the new route to the East Indies had been found and an extensive field had been opened in America for exploitation by the Europeans engaged in commerce, did. England begin more and more to concentrate trade and to take possession of it, whereby the other European countries were more and more compelled to join together. From all this, big commerce originated, and the so-called world market was opened. The enormous treasures which the Europeans brought from America, and the gains which trade in general yielded, had as a consequence the ruin of the old aristocracy, and so the bourgeoisie came into being. The discovery of America was connected with the advent of machinery, and with that the struggle became necessary which we are conducting today, the struggle of the propertyless against the property owners. (…) Thus, through the discovery of America all society has been divided into two classes, and without the rise of the world market this would not have happened. The workers of the whole world have everywhere the same interests; everywhere the different classes disappear and the different interests coincide. When, therefore, a revolution breaks out in one country it must necessarily affect the other countries, and only now can real liberation take place.

(1) Read the rest of this entry »

March 24, 2010

Arundhati Roy on the Naxalites

Posted in Asia, Class Struggle, Communism tagged , , , , at 12:02 by Matthijs Krul

The Indian magazine Outlook India has published a long article by Arundhati Roy, a famous writer and activist, on the Naxalite Maoist movement of the poor in certain parts of India. The Naxalites are often portrayed as mere fanatics, throwbacks to earlier historical periods, or ‘security threats’. Of course, one does not expect capitalist governments to see insurrections of the poor and exploited against their rule in any other terms, but what is more galling is the simple lack of attention for and understanding of the real causes of this movement’s existence and successes. All the more important the fact that Roy was willing to break this silence. This despite the fact that she herself had a negative idea of them, based on the general propaganda against Maoism as a purely barbaric form of cultural and social violence – similar to how the Chinese nationalist-religious revolts of Taiping and the Boxers were portrayed in the West in their day, and how they are often still understood. It is for this reason worth giving this article the widest possible readership, and therefore I reproduce it here, despite its considerable length. For more on the Naxalites and their relations to other groups, see http://mccaine.org/2009/06/24/communists-fight-in-india/ . Read the rest of this entry »

March 14, 2010

What was Nazi Germany? – Part III

Posted in Europe, Fascism, History, War tagged , , , , , , , , at 23:41 by Matthijs Krul

Having set out the rise and outlook of the Nazi government as well as its economic impulses during the 1930s until the onset of World War II, it is now time to get into the matter of the actual conquest and colonization process itself. In this, it will be necessary to focus as little as possible on the now very familiar history of the diplomacy, the war itself, military tactics and so on. These things, although interesting in their own right and important for understanding the history of the period, do not shed much light on the nature of the Nazi regime as seen from a larger perspective. The essence of this series of articles is, after all, not to answer the question what Nazi Germany did, but what Nazi Germany was: in other words, when seen from a larger historical perspective and put in its post-19th century context, what sort of class society was Nazi Germany and from where did its policy direction come? I hope to have already shown that Nazi Germany’s class support came mainly from the army, from the middle-sized and large farmers/landowners, and initially from those sections of industry (and banking) most affected by the Great Depression. Later, the more competitive and ‘liberal’ sections of industry joined the Nazi effort more fully as the rearmament and strategic investment shifts of the Goering plans led to prospects of an improved position for these industries in case of war. Industry and (large) agriculture indeed have been shown to be the main beneficiaries of the militarist restructuring of German society during the 1930s. I hope also to have shown that Nazi policies aimed at effectively applying colonial methods, which were familiar to German politics both from the cruelties in Africa and the Americas by other nations as well as their own, within Europe itself. Now it is time to address two other, related, topics. The first is that of the war and the full implementation, as could be done during wartime, of the Nazi government’s settlement plans for Eastern Europe and its colonization scheme for Europe altogether. The enormity of the horror of these plans, fortunately curtailed by events although still unbelievably destructive, is still not quite commonly understood, nor is its connection to colonialism as a phenomenon. The second topic is the question of cui bono? – who ended up benefiting from this, and how? These will now be addressed. Read the rest of this entry »

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