The Greens got together in Chicago this weekend for their nominating convention. They picked Cynthia McKinney as their Presidential candidate. Cynthia picked NY activist Rosa Clemente as her running mate. It’s going to be a tough year for the Greens. Nader is running as an independent and Obama has captured the imagination of a whole layer of young people. I have to be honest and say I had not heard of Rosa Clemente before this weekend.
The political space to the left of Obama grows by the hour. You have to be known to be willing to kill to be President. Assholes loves to say things like “no option is off the table” with the Rumsefeld-esque glint in their eye. Every President looks forward to the very first time they can address the nation with the lines; “My fellow Americans, at this moment the brave men and women of of the armed forces are….” Obama is clear; as President he wants to escalate the war in Afghanistan.
Obama prostrated himself before the Empire in an op-ed piece in the standard bearer of the Empire, the New York Times. The war in Afghanistan is heating up and becoming increasingly regional. Over the weekend an elaborate assault almost overran an American Forward Operating Base in Kunar province. The “anti-war” candidate says that a draw down in Iraq will provide the necessary 10,000 additional troops needed to escalate in South Asia.
A few weeks ago in writing about Francis Wheen’s digs at Lenin I said that one should not be allowed to write about Lenin unless one has actually read Lenin and in context. At this weekends Socialist Party gathering in Ann Arbor (held next door to the old MC5 house on Hill St.) during a workshop entitled “Rescuing Lenin from the Leninists” that was confirmed.
I don’t know who the man was that was the object of such derision by some participants, but it wasn’t the Lenin of history. We weren’t even talking about the same guy at that meeting. Paul D’Amato has an essay in the new International Socialist Review challenging the myths that some of the comrades at the workshop seemed to take at face value.
The thing about reading any of the classic Marxist texts is that to be of real value they need to be read in context. Only when we place the arguments firmly in the time and circumstances in which they are written are we able to separate the wheat from the chaff and formulate generalizations applicable to today as well as an education in method.
This is the point of Lars Lih’s book on Lenin’s What is to be Done. The mistranslations that Lih points to, which is what most people know of the book, can only be understood if you place Lenin’s 1902 work in the context of the arguments in the Marxist movement of the time. Joe Craig of Ireland’s Socialist Democracy has a thorough six part review for those whose resources won’t allow an 800 page $80 book.
One of Lenin’s great contributions to Marxism was in breaking the orthodoxy of the time in the movement by understanding the close of the whole political era opened up by 1848. Industrial and finance capital had fused by the 1890’s and had become monopolistic. Imperialism is not a policy of the Great Powers but the global capitalist system in which the Great Powers operate.
One conclusion Lenin drew from the new Imperial terrain was that capitalism and capitalists could no longer play a progressive role as it had, for instance, in the struggle against the Prussian autocracy and German disunity. The torch had been firmly passed to the proletariat as the only truly revolutionary class.
Imperialism as a concept may have gone out of fashion in the 1990’s. Clinton’s imperialist MO was the “humanitarian intervention” as personified by the utterly cynical assault on Serbia over Kosova in 1999. The last 7 years have reconfirmed imperialism in all its bloody truth. Obama is sure to continue the sanguinary confirmation. He cannot escape from the logic of imperialism any more than Bush, indeed if we judge by his warmongering over Afghanistan he is looking forward to it.
Aside Apologies for accidentaly erasing all of the comments on the blog. I thought I was dumping a ton of spam and it turns out I was dumping comments. Big mistake, I am sorry.