Re: The Manifesto and Eurocentrism

Sun, 8 Mar 1998 00:38:14 -0800
Clayton Bagwell (

Karim wries:>I find Bagwell's statement "the story of capitalism as told in
>Manifesto would have the same essential character regradless from
>which continent it might spring, for it is the story of the conflict
>beween labor and capital, the dialectic of capital" quite
>undialectical. Marx never saw capitalism as a transhistorical,
>transspatial phenomenon. Marx's understanding of capitalism is
>nothing if not historicized.

I regret a poor sentence structure that gave rise to this misinterpretation
of what I tried to say. I recognize and fully agree that capitalism has a
history and that its emergence depends upon a pre-existing set of historical
conditions; further I agree that culture places its stamp on institutions
and structures. What I meant to say more clearly is that capitalism has, as
a distinguishing feature, the conflict between the wage earner and the owner
of the means of production, and that whether the pre-conditions for a
capitalist revolution existed in Europe or Africa, the result of a
successful bourgeois revolution would still contain the struggle between the
wage earner and the owner of the means of production. Therefore, the
proletariat is not a Euro-centric invention.

But Kairm goes on to say: However,
>"the general principles laid down in this Manifesto are not "on the
>whole as correct today as ever" either, as M/E argued .... Any careful
look at the structural reality of late
>capitalism will show that. Of course, that does not mean that the
>Manifesto is irrelevant. It only shows, like any other philosophy,
>Marxism is defined by its own timespace, and
>historicizing/terrritorializing of Marxism is probably the most
>Marxist act that we can undertake."

I think Marxism is not "like any other philosophy," to be taken from the
shelf, dusted off for an argument, and placed back on the shelf. It is far
too relevant and far too alive for that, far more vibrant than the
bourgeoisie would wish. As Marxists we should feel joy in that. I suspect
non-Marxist will not feel such joy.

So Marxism is different. My understanding is that this difference comes
because marxism is a dialetical materialist concept of history. It uses the
high standards of dialectical reasoning of Hegelian idealism but with a
materialist rather than idealist epistemology. In case I'm using the big
words wrong I mean that humankind's thinking and beliefs spring from our
material relationships. The ability to produce the conditions for
capitalism had to exist prior to the existence of capitalism. Capitalism
could not be thought of until certain material pre-conditions were met. In
my interpretation, when M&E applied dialectical materialism to history they
uncovered the political-economic concept of class struggle and used this to
understand the driving force of history. This is a central theme in the
Manifesto, for when the authors turned their critical eye upon capitalism
they elucidated a set of contradictions peculiar to capitalist mode of
production and distribution predicated upon the class struggle between the
proletariat and bourgeoisie. Using the tool they had discovered, M&E
thoroughly described the era of the bourgeoisie. If they missed on this
date, or that structure, or some final form, so be it. The pushing of all
other classes down into the background by the bourgeoisie is real. The
collapse of the size of the bourgeoisie at the same time their wealth grows
greater is real. The unstoppable munching of resources and increasing
exploitation is real.

Later Karim says: " Even in Western societies, the nature of class
conflict was not like
>the way Marx described it in the opening sentences of the Manifesto.
>As the Polish Marxist Leszek Nowak pointed out, whether it is in the
>transition from slavery to feudalism or a transition from feudalism to
>capitalism, the slave and serf revolts were only secondary to
>intraclass conflicts beween the old and new rulling classes."

If Nowak is saying that there is no distinction between the old ruling
class of feudalism and the new ruling class of capitalism, that that was
merely an intraclass rivalry I have a problem with that. Once again the
attempt is made to minimize the effect of class struggle on the movement of

Then Karim says: >"Class politics needs to be priveleged, but not as a
manifestation of
>an intrinsic essence of some metahistory, but as a historicized,
>dialectically ( discursively/ concretely), pragmatically constituted

I think he means that class struggle is not an intrinsic aspect of
history and should be thought of as a concept that was constructed at a
point in time and should be left there as any other museum piece. That is a
direct assault on the basic premise of the maifesto. I would love to hear
the words of Engles in rebuffing this attack!
Karim backs off in the next sentence (I don't blame him.) He says, "we
need to recognize the processes through
>which class is continuously structured and destructured in relation to
>other frames of beings and identitities, such as race, gender,
>experince of coloniality, and so on." (I would like to include the class
difference arising from the relations of production.-cb)

So now we have classes, but somehow in an imagined setting devoid of
class struggle.

I want to read other proscribed papers in the forum. Perhaps I will find a
marxist submission that accepts the existence of the proletariat and its
struggle with the bourgeoisie. If not, then perhaps something about the new
technology of communications and production and whether capitalism can
contain them or will they be the changes in the means of production that
burst asunder the existing relations of production. Even so, as the
emergent bourgeoisie recognized its interests being opposed by the ruling
class of the time, so must the proletariat in order that society as a whole
may take advantage of the historical advances it has created.

Clayton Bagwell