Friday, April 18, 2008

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

OK, I've now read Marko Attila Hoare's return to the Decentism fray.
It has been a rare treat to be engaged in a genuinely constructive and interesting discussion in the blogosphere. Doesn’t happen as often as it should… I refer to the debate between myself, Bob from Brockley, Peter Ryley, New Centrist, Peter Ridson, Never Trust a Hippy and one or two others about the meaning of progressive politics today.
This debate has helped me think about the central schizophrenia in my politics, which, to use Marko's analogy, is my inability to decide which is more worth fighting for, a bird in the hand or two in the bush. Marko correctly characterizes this debate as (at least partly) between people like the Drink-Soaked Trots, who fight for two birds in the bush (a socialist transformation of society, whatever that may look like) and people like Hoare, Alan Johnson and much of the Euston group, who fight for a bird in the hand (reform of existing capitalism to immediately improve the lives of its victims). As for me, I oscillate between these positions.

In that, I am, in strictly Marxist terms, a classical centrist, which, of course, is a very dirty word amongst the Drink-Soaked. This means I respect Marko's defence of liberal capitalism as a space in which it is possible to secure reform, and as worth defending in its own right.

Where I part with his analysis is here:

Which brings us back to the question with which we began: of whether the inequalities in wealth and power under the global capitalist order make it impossible for large parts of the Third World to enjoy the standard of living, the rights and the benefits that we enjoy in the West; whether Third World countries will always be kept down by the richer countries that profit from their exploitation (there is also the question of just how many people globally could enjoy Western levels of access to heating, electricity and consumer goods before the environment collapses altogether, but that is a problem we would have to address even in a hypothetical post-capitalist world, and is the subject of a whole other discussion).

There are in fact several cases of countries, thoroughly exploited economically by the developed West, carrying out successful national-liberation struggles to achieve their independence vis-a-vis the latter.

[...]

We can compare the Turkish and Irish experiences favourably with those countries that liberated themselves from Western domination under the banner of a radically anti-Western or anti-capitalist ideology - China, Cuba, Iran. Their experiences show that the anti-Western, anti-capitalist cure may be worse than the Western neo-colonial disease. For all the qualifications that must be made (Turkey’s oppression of the Kurds; Ireland’s domination by conservative Catholicism; the restriction of personal freedoms in both countries; etc.), the Turkish and Irish experiences show that not only is it entirely possible for colonised countries to achieve genuine national and economic liberation within the global capitalist order, but that this is best achieved under the banner of a Western-style or Westernising nationalist ideology, rather than an anti-capitalist or anti-Western ideology.

This argument, I think, completely misses the point of mine and Peter's critiques of Marko's position. Neither I, nor any Drink-Soaked Trots, would ever argue for any sort of support for 'anti-imperialist' anti-Western revolutions of the Chinese/Cuban/Iranian sort (except in the same, strategic way that Marko would support the Communist-led sides in the Yugoslav, Greek and Albanian civil wars of the 1940s.

My position is that the expropriation of the global South by the global North (or 'West') happens seperately from the direct, military forms of political domination that go under the terms 'imperialism' and 'colonialism'. Instead, contemporary forms of economic inequality are driven by what Peter calls 'a specific model of global capitalism that was not based on free markets, as often stated, but on markets fixed and governed by powerful multi-lateral institutions, which were rapidly transforming societies and destroying communities'.

It is the failure of the trad left to grasp this (and hence their continued anachronistic application of Leninist formulae to the contemporary moment, in the half-baked idea of the American 'empire') that leads them support 'anti-imperialist' regimes like Chavez's or the Ayatollahs'. The Drink-Soaked, in contrast, understand this difference, as do our allies Asayake and Last Superpower. And this is what makes us closer to a 'pro-Western' position than that taken up by the trad left.

So, I am not arguing for an anti-Western, 'anti-imperialist' politics. I am arguing for a critique of neo-liberalism that escapes the anti-imperialist, anti-Western paradigm.


I just noticed Peter has also posted again on this, making some very pertinent points, all of which, I think, I agree with.

8 comments:

Waterloo Sunset said...

Seen his latest post?

Of course, I could respond that, in the predominantly middle-class milieu of the left-wing intelligentsia that I come from, using terms like ‘lumpen’ to describe abusive, aggressive and intolerant Neanderthals is how we actually talk. We may not be so common and we may generally be washed, educated and couth.

I think that my view on both those people who deny the centrality of class and the inadvisability of allying with them has been proven.

A small experiment. Change the word "middle class" in that quote to the word "white". And the word "lumpen" to an obvious racial slur. Funny how little it changes the nature of Hoare's argument.

Obviously, I'm posting this reply here because Hoare is too much of a coward to actually debate people directly. (I'd happily go one on one with him. But it's not going to happen).

Marko Attila Hoare said...

'A small experiment. Change the word "middle class" in that quote to the word "white". And the word "lumpen" to an obvious racial slur. Funny how little it changes the nature of Hoare's argument.'

The joke's on Waterloo Sunset. My statement was simply a paraphrase of the argument of Shuggy from DSTPFW:

'I feel so badly for you - to be introduced to how people in places like Glasgow and Newcastle actually talk. You know, like real people, majority people, common people, unwashed, uneducated and uncouth people.'

For Waterloo Sunset, Shuggy, Will and their pals, it's acceptable to use vulgar, abusive language that denigrates women and disabled people, because it supposedly reflects working-class culture from Up North.

But if you give them a taste of their own medicine, they wet their pants and run off blubbing about political incorrectness and snobbery.

They dish it out, but they can't take it.

Waterloo Sunset said...

Hello Marko. Have you actually lowered yourself to directly address one of your critics? I am touched.

My statement was simply a paraphrase of the argument of Shuggy from DSTPFW:

Yes, I know Marko. I seem to be better at understanding nuances then you though. To put it another way, there is a significant difference between someone who identifies with class politics ironically (do they have that in academia?) using stereotypes to ridicule misconceptions of the working class and someone who openly attacks the concept of class politics doing so the same. Don't try and claim irony Marko. That comment is, for you, a reflection of everything else you've said on the subject. It's not

For Waterloo Sunset, Shuggy, Will and their pals,

I've just spat coffee overmy monitor. Um, Marko, I don't actually know any of the Trots in real life. And our politics are actually very different. I don't know whether to be horrified or highly amused by your confusion.

Unless you've found a new political litmus test. It's no longer about pro or anti west. It's about pro or anti Marko. It's always about you, isn't it?

I like "pals" though. I've never heard the term used outside Enid Blyton before. Do you say "chums" as well? You'll have to excuse my curiosity. This is like a whole new world for me. Like I've opened up your blog and found myself in Narnia.

For Waterloo Sunset, Shuggy, Will and their pals, it's acceptable to use vulgar, abusive language that denigrates women and disabled people, because it supposedly reflects working-class culture from Up North.

You still haven't proved that "cunt" (which I assume you're talking about) does so. Surely as an academic you understand the difference between assertion and proof? I'd suggest starting by looking at the etymology of the word.

Because I don't remember you ever being elected as the spokesman for women everywhere. Maybe I missed the meeting. I was possibly in the pub or something.

And I certainly didn't ask you to speak for me. And I am actually registered with a disability. (Dyspraxia to be specific). While I'm on that subject, it's "people with disabilities". Not "disabled people". Our disability is not our bloody defining feature. And, actually, I personally find your insistence on putting yourself forward to "protect" me far more offensive then the occansional schoolyard taunt. I'm not some rhetorical device to be used to score political points. Piss off and liberate someone else. (You can take the boy out of the vanguard...)

But if you give them a taste of their own medicine, they wet their pants and run off blubbing about political incorrectness and snobbery.

They dish it out, but they can't take it.


Hahahaha. I think you'll find that you've dished out far more ad hominems then I have recently Marko. I have much less of an overblown sense of my own importance then you do and hence am finding this whole argument amusing.

And you do realise "political correctness" is a straw man and nobody's used it seriously since the 80's? Are you going to moonwalk for us next?

But "running away" is an interesting choice of words. Because you ban comments on your blogs. You won't directly address arguments point by point unless taunted. I on the other hand have openly challenged you to a one on one debate. We can even ban naughty words if it will help protect your delicate little sensibilities.

So what do you say Marko? Debate? Or are you running away? Surely a clever old scholar like you should wipe the floor with gutterpunk trash like myself?

Time to put up or shut up.

Marko Attila Hoare said...

'I on the other hand have openly challenged you to a one on one debate.

So what do you say Marko? Debate? Or are you running away?'

You're asking if I want to fight ? Just the two of us ? Sounds like it's the testosterone speaking.

Still, I suppose I have no choice but to fight with you, otherwise my machismo will be called into question and everyone will think I'm a big girl's blouse.

'To put it another way, there is a significant difference between someone who identifies with class politics ironically (do they have that in academia?) using stereotypes to ridicule misconceptions of the working class and someone who openly attacks the concept of class politics doing so the same.'

I can't work out what you're saying here, so I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. Point to you.

'It's about pro or anti Marko. It's always about you, isn't it?'

Busted. Looks like you've got me bang to rights.

'And our politics are actually very different.'

If you say so.

'I like "pals" though. I've never heard the term used outside Enid Blyton before. Do you say "chums" as well?'

Damn - I can't think of a single counter-argument.

'You still haven't proved that "cunt" (which I assume you're talking about) does so.'

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/cunt

'Because I don't remember you ever being elected as the spokesman for women everywhere.'

You're right. I've never been elected as the spokesman for women everywhere, so I have no right to accuse anyone of using misogynistic language. Another point to you.

'While I'm on that subject, it's "people with disabilities". Not "disabled people".'

Or 'retard', if you blog at the DSTPFW.

'And you do realise "political correctness" is a straw man and nobody's used it seriously since the 80's?'

You're right again. Telling someone off for saying 'disabled people' instead of 'people with disabilities' has nothing to do with political correctness.

After all, it's a strange form of political correctness that's more offended by 'disabled person' than by 'retard'. So I guess it can't be political correctness, after all.

'I have much less of an overblown sense of my own importance then you do and hence am finding this whole argument amusing.'

Yes, you certainly sound amused.

'Because you ban comments on your blogs.'

Yes, I've learned that not having comments on my blog is a bit like being a religious heretic in the Middle Ages - it provokes fear, suspicion and social ostracism.

I really should try to conform more with social norms. You win again.

Well, I've had enough - it looks like you've won almost every round of this exchange. I therefore surrender and declare you the winner.

You have the biggest penis. You are welcome to brag about this victory to your mates down the pub.

Or should that be 'chums down the pub' ? I'm such a nerd, I really don't know.

Waterloo Sunset said...

*Yawns*

Actually I suggested a one on one because I thought you might genuinely prefer the format. And I actually made the mistake of thinking that making it more formal might mean you wanted to debate your ideas rather then just indulging in straw men and passive-aggressive whining.

My bad. I promise not to make that error again.

jogo said...

You've got you a pair of flamers, Bob. Did they get kicked off of youtube, or what?

The Contentious Centrist said...

"a pair of flamers"??

Not a fair comparison.

As far as I can read, the charivari crowd have been banging on pots and their object of contempt attempting to get above all that noise to make himself heard.

What a spectacle. Fortunately for me, I'm not easily moved to pity anyone...

Waterloo Sunset said...

Um, Centrist, the problem is that when you actually do try and engage with Marko's arguments seriously, as I did here- http://brockley.blogspot.com/2008/04/revisiting-between-burke-and-paine-in.html he completely ignores it.

I think it's reasonable to draw a conclusion from that he actually prefers the kind of baiting I've been doing here to actual debate- he responds to the former but not the latter. (You have to remember Marko pulled this on HP which was always going to be the most supportive audience for his arguments).

At which point, it seems to be more worthwhile to just give him what he wants rather then actually taking the effort to do another critique to be evaded.

Because at the moment it's like trying to debate with water.