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:
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.
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.
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.