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World War Two State Capitalism Imperialism and Anti-Fascism Text and Audio from the Meeting.

Sep 30, 2014 by


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I’ve learnt a new word whilst reading up for this presentation. Necrometrics. Its not a reference to the undertaker from Fistful of Dollars – it’s the measurement or estimation of death toll. A special science for capitalist decadence!

Some of the biggest events in history arent actually that bad.

Bible only 1.2m

The slaughter of American Indians – less than half a million deaths.

Napoleonic wars 3m

Rome 7m

But

Genghis khan 40m,

In the birth of capitalism:

Slave trade 16m

British India 27m

WW1 15m

WW2 80m incl Poland 5-10m Ukraine 8m Bangladesh 4m

Stalin 60m

China (KMT and Mao combined) 4m

Overall in the 20th century 200m deaths

for the slaughter since WW2 some 80m and counting.

This is indeed the age of imperialism indeed. I’m afraid the only response I have to this is to hope that 2017 brings the solution of more revolutions to celebrate that anniversary just as 2014 seems to have been about war and futile slaughter.

I didn’t want to do a factual history about WW2 – see the Howard Zinn text which does that very well (https://libcom.org/history/worldwariipeopleswar-howard-zinn) , I have focused instead on contrasting capitalism today with capitalism in the 19th century to illustrate what imperialism and anti fascism represent.

So what is the age of imperialism then. I was at an interesting discussion at a meeting on WW1 in Sheffield earlier this year. It ended at the point that what does imperialism mean!! This was a problem I’d had that had me reading various writings from Lenin Bukharin, Marx and so forth. I never really got the answer and thought it was meant as some sort of economic function related to colonialism maybe. But that discussion helped me realise why I couldn’t understand these worthy explanations

It’s a problem of viewpoint I think. Imperialism is nothing other than the normal way capitalism functions today. None of us have been around long enough to know capitalism behaving in any other way so we cant see it as distinct practice, to us it is just capitalism in the 20th and 21st centuries

The ICC give a useful definition of imperialism – it is the policy of a country that tries to conserve or to spread its political, economic and military domination over other countries and territories. (http://en.internationalism.org/wr/299/what-is-imperialism)

In other words everyday practice for every country in a capitalist world. It cant go away and nations cant decide not to be imperialist. Whether small or large, neutral or unarmed, weak or strong, they still follow the same financial competitive rules.

It is capitalism. The state supports its economy operating on and within the world market, at home and abroad if you will.

So to explain this further and put it in context I want to take a step backwards but at what capitalism was in the 19th century to put state capitalism, imperialism and anti fascism in their true context

The first phases of capitalism were based on private money developing independent economic enterprises which earned more money to expand that private wealth. It supplanted a system where all the means of production was owned by kings emperors tsars and the aristocracy in general

As capitalism developed over the centuries the world experienced a dynamic and highly productive system that apparently gave people freedom to live and earn and get wealthier and escape restrictions set by birth. There’s only a few million people in the world at that time so shy couldn’t everybody be free to be wealthy if you work hard and accumulate???

well it didn’t work out that way did it. The wealthy became wealthier and fought to keep the control it gave. They were so wealthy the capitalists had private armies and police forces to look after their wealth. They set up their own trading companies, legal systems, governments.

So For example the Hanseatic League operated up to the1500s, Whole trading towns that took themselves out of feudally run states to pursue wealth through trade as independent states.. Later, capitalists sent their armies or workers overseas to extract wealth from those new places being found across the world and then sent armies overseas to protect their interests – the East India Company and its like led the colonialist development that capitalism pursued up to the 19th century. Britain had about 20 of these charter company by 1700 and almost doubled that figure during the following 2 centuries. – each focusing on specific parts of the globe. UK wasn’t the only one, other countries that following britains lead had numbers of these companies competing across the world too.

My point here is that in this the nation state as we know it played little role – its only in the 19th century that it starts to expand its role in society through the liberal reforms of the 19th Century for example and through systems to help the economy function on a national basis eg measurements technical standards

Under feudalism there was no need for a major central state, all functions were performed more or less at a local level but following the rules set by Kings and queens. At the start of the 19th Century, the UK state only had 1500 civilian employees. ( presume that means non army or aristrocracy.) by 1850 army accounted still for 85% of all state employeess and by 1920 still 55%.

It was estimated that in 1910 Britain had 73 state employees for every 10000 pop whereas now the UK has 5.5 now million in a pop of towards 80m. ie nearly 700 per 10000

(these figures are just an indication and should not be taken as precise)

Its at the end of the 19th century that brings capitalism to its next phase – imperialism – seen as the period of wars and revolution. the state apparatus itself had expanded its role and expand in size so whilst Lenin saw it as a period of monopoly capitalism, I think now we see it as the period of state capitalism. The centralised state has taken over management of the nation as a political and economic entity and on the world level it is the nation states that focus that competition to increase influence and power through economic and political means.

WW1 brought this process to a head, the period now of imperialism was a period of war and revolution. (too many wars and too little revolution

What is interesting is that most people see WW1 clearly for what it was – a fight over money, markets and wealth – as ive suggested this was the norm up to that time

The Versailles Treaty that divided the world after the war demonstrates this preoccupation too in focusing on reparations to cover the costs that some countries the victorious countries felt they had incurred.

WW2 continued the process and was indeed in itself a product of unsatisfactory conditions left in the wake of WW1..

The ruling class learnt lessons from the working class rebellion at the end of WW1 concerning control of the WC and how to manage economic reconstruction . the state now also started to operate on a broad basis as a mechanism of social control alongside its management of the military and the economy. From the period onwards, nation states need justification for their actions and had the tools in a state capitalist system to spread these false ideologies.

No longer can pure financial gain can be see to be at the front of a policy of death and destruction – There has to be some sort of social justification to mobilise the population now eg the defence of national freedom, democracy fascism workers state and so forth became key and in more recent times the ideological tools have been joined by ideas of human rights, asian democracy and to some extent religion comes back into favour.

This was learnt by the ruling class during the 2nd world war as states came up with goals of a better society following the war to encourage participation in the war – , the NHS in the UK and the EU were both products of this approach

The absorption of a socialist social democracy and communist Soviet Union into the capitalism system has given the so-called liberal wings of capitalism a strong new language to use as a powerful mobilising force for capital against the representatives of so-called private capitalism and market economies. Over the last century the former push for new forms of capitalism and the latter eulogise over the good old days of private capitalism – but both drag everyone to the slaughter in support of fake goals. Relative to the 19th Century, all of them of represent state capitalism just a question of language/colour/ideology used to package it.

Imperialism and anti imperialism, Fascism and Anti Fascism then are all are products of the first half of the 20th Century. WW2 brought them to the fore to be used by all nation states of capitalism to mobilise themselves to compete economically and militarily on the capitalism world market and particularly to mobilise their respective populations in support.

They do have a common breeding ground however – the left-right division of the political wings of capital.

Anti imperialism has been the rallying cry of the left of capital to weaken the private capitalist sectors and foster greater state control and ultimately to attract support for Russia and its allies. Today this still exists, it appears that even the US bloc want to see the Russia bloc strengthen so that it has a more visible opponent to confront

Regarding anti fascism, Its impossible to deny the threatening nature of right wing militaristic groups such as Golden Dawn and also the horror of the policies of genocide followed by the Nazi regime in Germany but to me it equally impossible to deny the absurdity of defending the policies of Stalin towards his political opposition and his own workers as being somehow less horrific. Its not more acceptable because it wasn’t a slaughter based on race. Both were murderous dictators who decided that specific sections of humanity needed to be eliminated.

So lets not be conned by the arguments that Stalinism is a better form of capitalist and fascism is worse. I would recommend the recent article on the CWO website about Poland as it effectively demonstrates the imperialist machinations followed by both the Fascist and Stalinist regimes as they prepared for WW2 (http://www.leftcom.org/en/articles/2014-09-17/75-years-since-the-soviet-invasion-of-poland-the-nightmare-of-imperialist) Having recently been to Poland it was interesting to learn a little more of its history suffering from the first Nazi regime, then the Allies and then the Russians.

Antifascism then is part of the ideological campaigns by capitalism – an attempt to create a false enemy and indeed a false unity. This is the policy of the united front – an attempt to persuade us all to ignore the capitalist nature of democracy and so-called socialism of the Russian bloc and its allies and draw in the wc to support one side of capital against the other. It is an attempt to bring the left and liberal wings of capital together and mobilise the working class in their support – against what is certainly a violent enemy – but either way here capitalism wins.

IF State cap has given capital the weaponry to try to manage the economy and to use ideology against the population, then nationalism is the foundation for all ideologies of imperialism and anti imperialism, fascism and anti-fascism

We can see this still as the legacy of the period around WW2. Nowadays although we clearly live in a globalised society a globalised economy – companies and nation states operate global divisions of labour in pursuit of their economic goals. Nationalism however remains a strong indeed is strengthening. It’s the ideal weapon for capital to reinforce itself control over society and its market based economy – it needs competition – and to maintain this, the ideologies of group identification that the nations gives are essential race and religion are less coherent as forces

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