Perry Anderson wrote, “At least four alternative readings of the times - there may be more - offer diagnoses of the directions in which the world is moving … The best known is, of course, the vision to be found in Hardt and Negri’s Empire,
to which the other three all refer, at once positively and critically. Tom Nairn’s Faces of Nationalism
and forthcoming Global Nations
set out a second perspective. Giovanni Arrighi’s The Long Twentieth Century
and Adam Smith in Beijing
constitute a third. Malcolm Bull’s recent essays, culminating in ‘States of Failure’, propose a fourth.”[i]
Anderson summarised Nairn’s thinking: “Tom Nairn’s account goes roughly like this. Marx-ism
was always based on a distortion of Marx’s own thought, formed in the democratic struggles of the Rhineland in the 1840s. For whereas Marx assumed that socialism was possible in the long run, only when capitalism had completed its work of bringing a world market into being, the impatience of both masses and intellectuals led to the fatal short-cuts taken by Lenin and Mao, substituting state power for democracy and economic growth. The result was a diversion of the river of world history into the marshlands of a modern middle ages. But the collapse of Soviet Communism in 1989 has now allowed the river to flow again to its natural delta—contemporary globalization. For the core meaning of globalization is the generalization of democracy around the world, fulfilling at last the dreams of 1848, crushed during Marx’s life-time. Marx, however, himself made one crucial mistake, in thinking class would be the carrier of historical emancipation, in the shape of the proletariat. In fact, as the European pattern of 1848 already showed, and the whole of the 20th century would confirm, it was nations, not classes, that would become the moving forces of history, and the bearers of the democratic revolution for which he fought.
“But, just as a counterfeit democracy would be constructed by Marx-ism
, so nationality too was in due course confiscated by national-ism
- that is, imperialist great powers - in the period after the American Civil War and Franco-Prussian War.
“Hardt and Negri concur that globalization is essentially a process of emancipation …”[ii] Anderson sums up, “Politically, all four versions agree that globalization is to be welcomed …”[iii]
Nairn denies all Marx’s work and thought after he left the Rhineland in 1848. Anderson writes of ‘the fatal short-cuts taken by Lenin and Mao’. This echoes Plekhanov to Lenin, “you shouldn’t have taken power.” Lenin should just have let the First World War carry on, killing yet more millions of Russians and others. He should have reinstalled tsarist feudal absolutism. Mao should have let Japanese aggression succeed, and let Chiang Kai-Shek carry on misruling ever-smaller areas of China.
Anderson writes of Lenin and Mao ‘substituting state power for democracy and economic growth’. So socialism can’t use state power to establish democracy and produce economic growth? And if it does, it’s not socialism?
Anderson writes that capitalism completes its work by creating a world market, but, inconsistently, that ‘the core meaning of globalization is the generalization of democracy around the world’. It is superficial to see globalisation as basically a political process. It is also a ridiculous prettification of the political processes actually occurring in the world. Is the partition of Iraq part of ‘the generalization of democracy’? The destruction of Yugoslavia? The ‘ever closer union’ of the EU?
Anderson writes, ‘national-ism
- that is, imperialist great powers’, absurdly equating nationalism (even Scottish?) with ‘imperialist great powers’. In reality globalisation is just a liberals’ word for imperialism.
Countries are right to assert their sovereignty against imperialism. Economist Shahid Alam wrote in his brilliant book Poverty from the wealth of nations
(Macmillan, 2000), “In the long run, sovereign countries will structure their international relations to develop manufactures and indigenous capital, enterprises and technological capabilities; they will impose at the outset, or gradually, policies that regulate the entry of imports and foreign capital, labor and enterprises. On the other hand, the quasi-colonies and colonies will implement policies which facilitate the free entry of imports and foreign factors; the establishment of foreign monopolies over their markets; and direct expropriation of their resources. These asymmetries ensure that loss of sovereignty will produce lower levels of industrialisation, lower levels of productivity in the subsistence sector, lower levels of human capital, lower rates of taxation and public expenditure and, finally, lower growth rates of per capita income.”[iv]
He summarised, “All other things remaining the same, the loss of sovereignty retarded industrialisation, human capital formation and economic growth. … The results showed a strong positive correlation between sovereignty and industrialisation.”[v]
This materialist analysis demolishes Anderson and Nairn’s bourgeois idealism. Nairn is a counterfeit Marxist, who distorts Marx’s thought in order to back the reactionary ideal of Scottish nationalism.
[i] Perry Anderson, Jottings on the conjuncture, New Left Review, 2007, 48, 5-37, p. 31.
[ii] Ibid, pp. 31-2.
[iii] p. 36.
[iv] M. Shahid Alam, Poverty from the wealth of nations: integration and polarization in the global economy since 1760, Macmillan, 2000, pp. 10-11.
[v] M. Shahid Alam, Poverty from the wealth of nations: integration and polarization in the global economy since 1760, Macmillan, 2000, pp. xi and 13.