Patriotic “Anti-Capitalism” for Fools
Yet Again on the CWG/LCC’s Support for “Workers’” Immigration Control and Protectionism in the US
By Michael Pröbsting, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 30.5.2017, www.thecommunists.net
Every political position has its own inner logic. Consciously or unconsciously, its protagonists follow a certain political method. If an organization does not possess a fully developed revolutionary program based on a Marxist method, it ends up in a centrist labyrinth of zigzags and eclecticism. This is the sorry fate of the so-called “Liaison Committee of Communists” – a group with a presence in the US, New Zealand, Zimbabwe and Brazil.
During the last two months, there has been an exchange of polemical articles between the RCIT and the LCC on the issue of immigration control. This began when the LCC’s New Zealand group issued a new slogan advocating immigration control by the working class, due to problems for New Zealand workers as a result of cheap migrant labor and the rising cost of housing. According to the LCC, these problems are caused by or have at least been tremendously exacerbated by increasing migration. (1)
In response, the RCIT strongly refuted this slogan as an unwarranted concession to social chauvinism based on an incorrect analysis. (2) We explained that, in a world characterized by imperialist exploitation and increasing inequality between rich and poor nations, socialists residing in rich capitalist countries must oppose all forms of immigration control. Such immigration control only serves as a weapon in the hands of the ruling class against the poor, semi-colonial countries. It is used by them as an instrument to limit the freedom of movement of poor people and as a means of dividing the international working class and rallying its domestic national working class behind the cause of chauvinism. (3)
Recently, the US group of the LCC published another reply to the RCIT. (4) In this article they again defended the slogan of “workers immigration control” and also applied it to the US. Essentially, the LCC denies that there are divisions between the white working class in the US and the workers and migrants from poor semi-colonial countries. By ignoring the issue of the labor aristocracy, the upper sector of the working class bribed by the extra-profits of US monopoly capital, they don’t perceive a problem when the working class of an extremely rich imperialist country is given the right of veto against the migration of workers from poorer countries.
They also claim that Lenin’s explicit and unambiguous opposition to any restriction of immigration to imperialist countries is not relevant for today. According to the LCC, Lenin “is speaking in a historical moment before industrial underdevelopment took root in what were then colonies of empires, not in the present of ‘neoliberal’ globalism.” As if in a world like today’s, opposition to imperialist immigration control should somehow be less important and urgent for Marxists!
LCC calls for the ban of foreign capitalists from the US
However, in our current reply we will not repeat the arguments and analysis which we have already elaborated in our previous articles on this issue. Here, we will deal solely with a new position which the LCC has recently introduced into the discussion. In their latest contribution, they justify their policy for “workers immigration control” by citing problems ostensibly caused by the migration of wealthy people and capitalists to the US. To illustrate the supposed problems caused by rich foreigners immigrating to the US, they focus on both capital flight and the gentrification of important metropolitan centers like San Francisco and New York.
At the conclusion of their “analysis”, the LCC raises yet another new slogan: “Ban business migrants and capitalist investors!”
This new slogan is certainly worthy of its association with the LCC’s call for “labor aristocratic immigration control,” and is merely just another manifestation of the organization’s vulgar social-chauvinism. To put it bluntly, this new slogan is nothing less than an adaption to the most reactionary prejudices among pro-Trump supporters!
First of all, it is reactionary nonsense to maintain that it is not, or not mainly, the US capitalists who are transferring their capital abroad, but rather foreign capitalists residing in the US. Likewise, is it really the case that gentrification in San Francisco or New York is not caused by US speculators in real estate and wealthy middle class American but instead by foreigners?! We think that the LCC’s blaming of foreigners for these developments is utterly reactionary babble!
The LCC’s call for the banning of foreign capitalists from the US is, in fact, merely a repetition of vulgar protectionism. There is a long tradition of bourgeois forces – both in the US as well as many other imperialist countries – calling for the ban of foreign business competitors. One just has to recall the chauvinist campaign of US trade unions against Japanese car producers or, more recently, against Chinese competitors.
The LCC is just adapting to this chauvinist sentiment against foreign competitors, irrespective of the “anti-capitalist” rhetoric in which it is clothed. The concrete meaning of such chauvinist slogans is an indirect preference for US capitalists relative to their foreign competitors. In other words, the LCC’s slogan to ban foreign capital and capitalists is nothing but a capitulation to imperialist protectionism!
In effect, calling for the ban of foreign investors means that the LCC considers capitalist exploitation by foreigners as somehow worse than exploitation by US-American capitalists. To such chauvinist nonsense we can only repeat the words of Marx, directed against supporters of protectionism: “If they [the protectionists, Ed.] speak consciously and openly to the working class, then they summarise their philanthropy in the following words: It is better to be exploited by one’s fellow-countrymen than by foreigners.” (5)
The Marxist tradition against imperialist protectionism
Authentic Marxists have always been intransigent opponents of any concession to imperialist protectionism. Faced with the alternative of free trade or protectionism, revolutionaries in imperialist countries oppose both and call instead for a policy of, by and for the international working class in the context of an internationalist class struggle.
While supporting free trade versus protectionism in capitalism’s epoch of ascent, Marx and Engels nevertheless later warned the working class that they should support neither option of capitalist trade policy. This is what Engels wrote in an article on “Protection and Free Trade“:
“The question of Free Trade or Protection moves entirely within the bounds of the present system of capitalist production, and has, therefore, no direct interest for us socialists who want to do away with that system. (…) If a country nowadays accepts Free Trade, it will certainly not do so to please the socialists. It will do so because Free trade has become a necessity for the industrial capitalists. But if it should reject Free Trade and stick to Protection, in order to cheat the socialists out of the expected social catastrophe, that will not hurt the prospects of socialism in the least. (…) In the meantime, there is no help for it: you must go on developing the capitalist system, you must accelerate the production, accumulation, and centralization of capitalist wealth, and, along with it, the production of a revolutionary class of laborers. Whether you try the Protectionist or the Free Trade will make no difference in the end, and hardly any in the length of the respite left to you until the day when that end will come.” (6)
Such a perspective has become even more appropriate during the epoch of imperialism. Rudolf Hilferding, the author of the famous book Finance Capital, which played an influential role for Lenin’s theory of imperialism, summarized quite well the Marxist attitude towards the issue of protectionism and free trade. Indeed Lenin reprinted the following quotation in his book on imperialism.
“While capital can pursue no other policy than that of imperialism, the proletariat cannot oppose to it a policy derived from the period when industrial capital was sovereign; it is no use for the proletariat to oppose the policy of advanced capitalism with an antiquated policy from the era of free trade and of hostility to the state. The response of the proletariat to the economic policy of finance capital – imperialism – cannot be free trade, but only socialism. The objective of proletarian policy cannot possibly be the now reactionary ideal of reinstating free competition by the overthrow of capitalism. The proletariat avoids the bourgeois dilemma – protectionism or free trade – with a solution of its own; neither protectionism nor free trade, but socialism, the organization of production, the conscious control of the economy not by and for the benefit of capitalist magnates but by and for society as a whole, which will then at last subordinate the economy to itself as it has been able to subordinate nature ever since it discovered the laws of motion of the natural world. (…) It is precisely in those countries where the policy of the bourgeoisie has been put into effect most fully, and where the most important social aspects of the democratic political demands of the working class have been realized, that socialism must be given the most prominent place in propaganda, as the only alternative to imperialism, in order to ensure the independence of working class politics and to demonstrate its superiority in the defence of proletarian interests.” (7)
Lenin based his own, no less cogent refutation of any support for either protectionism or free trade in imperialist countries by explaining that both are simply variations of monopoly capital’s essence:
„Official science tried by a conspiracy of silence, to kill the works of Marx, who by a theoretical and historical analysis of capitalism had proved that free competition gives rise to the concentration of production, which, in turn, at a certain stage of development leads to monopoly. Today, monopoly has become a fact. Economists are writing mountains of books in which they describe the diverse manifestations of monopoly, and continue to declare in chorus that “Marxism is refuted”. But facts are stubborn things, as the English proverb says, and they have to be reckoned with, whether we like it or not. The facts show that differences between capitalist countries, e.g., in the matter of protection or free trade, only give rise to insignificant variations in the form of monopolies or in the moment of their appearance; and that the rise of monopolies, as the result of the concentration of production, is a general and fundamental law of the present stage of development of capitalism.“ (8)
Trotsky and the Fourth International continued this approach and emphasized that the working class must be opposed to all forms of defense of the imperialist fatherland (including the “preference” of domestic to foreign capitalists):
“The defense of the national state, first of all in Balkanized Europe – the cradle of the national state – is in the full sense of the word a reactionary task. The national state with its borders, passports, monetary system, customs and the army for the protection of customs has become a frightful impediment to the economic and cultural development of humanity. The task of the proletariat is not the defense of the national state but its complete and final liquidation. (…) A “socialist” who preaches national defense is a petty-bourgeois reactionary at the service of decaying capitalism. Not to bind itself to the national state in time of war, to follow not the war map but the map of the class struggle, is possible only for that party that has already declared irreconcilable war on the national state in time of peace. Only by realizing fully the objectively reactionary role of the imperialist state can the proletarian vanguard become invulnerable to all types of social patriotism. This means that a real break with the ideology and policy of “national defense” is possible only from the standpoint of the international proletarian revolution.” (9)
Hence, the working class must give no support either to protectionist or to free trade measures.
“One of the pretty clear reactionaries inside the British Labour Party, Dr. Haden Guest, a chauvinist, a militarist and a protectionist in parliament, mercilessly poured scorn on his own party’s line on the question of free trade and protectionism: MacDonald’s position, in Guest’s words, has a purely negative character and does not indicate any way out of the economic impasse. That the days of Free Trade are over really is absolutely obvious: the break-up of Liberalism has also been conditioned by the break-up of Free Trade. But Britain can just as little seek a way out in protectionism. For a young capitalist country just developing, protectionism may be an unavoidable and progressive stage of development. But for the oldest industrial country whose industry was geared to the world market and had an offensive and conquering character the transition to protectionism is historical testimony to the beginning of a process of mortification, and signifies in practice the maintaining of certain branches of industry that are less viable in the given world situation, at the expense of other branches of the same British industry that are better adapted to the conditions of the world and the home market. The programme of senile protectionism of Baldwin’s party can be countered not by an equally senile and moribund Free Trade policy but only by the practical programme of a socialist overturn. But in order to tackle this programme it is necessary as a preliminary to purge the party both of the reactionary protectionists like Guest and reactionary free traders like MacDonald.” (10)
When the LCC began advocating immigration control by the working class in imperialist and rich countries, we immediately warned that doing so opens the door to the hell of social-chauvinism. While they first limited this slogan to New Zealand, the LCC now extends it even to the most advanced imperialist country – the United States. Confirming our warning, they have now taken the next logical step and call for the “ban of business migrants and foreign investors” in the US. In other words, they have adopted a so-called “Marxist” version of the arch-reactionary “America First” policy of Trump and Co. In fact, this is nothing but patriotic ”anti-capitalism” for fools!
We cannot deny the inner consistency of the LCC’s positions. There is an inescapable inner logic in their social-chauvinism: when one grants the domestic, relatively privileged working class of the imperialist and rich countries the right to veto all issues related to the migration of workers from poorer, semi-colonial countries, one is perfectly capable of giving preferential treatment to domestic capitalists by calling for the ban of their foreign competitors. In both cases, the LCC’s inner logic inevitably leads to its favoring, whether in the US or in New Zealand, domestic white workers to migrant workers and the domestic capitalists to their foreign competitors.
It is obvious that this has nothing to do with the most basic teachings of proletarian internationalism and the tradition of Marxism. It is nothing but a vulgar adaption to the social-chauvinist ideology of the privileged labor aristocracy which is currently experiencing a certain revival under Trump’s “Make America Great Again” rhetoric.
In conclusion, let us draw attention to the fact that the sad fate of the pseudo-Trotskyist LCC is an example of the fate of sterile sects. Such groups typically believe that they can avoid the traps of opportunism by divorcing themselves from the systematic, practical participation in the class struggle. In this way, according to their view, such sects can immunize themselves against contagion from reformist mass consciousness. This is, however, an idiotic delusion, as it invariably also isolates them from the dynamic pulse of class struggle. One cannot fight the pressure of reformism by self-isolation, but only by combining an authentically revolutionary Marxist method with systematic interventionism in the living class struggle, both in theory and in practice.
(1) The first CWG(A/NZ) article is — Aotearoa.NZ: For Workers’ Control of Migration, March 17, 2017, http://redrave.blogspot.co.at/2017/03/aotearoanz-for-workers-control-of.html; Their first response to ours was —CWG(A/NZ): Worker or Capitalist control of borders? Reply to RCIT, April 30, 2017, http://redrave.blogspot.co.at/2017/04/worker-or-capitalist-control-of-borders_30.html.
(2) Michael Pröbsting and Andrew Walton: The Slogan of “Workers’” Immigration Control: A Concession to Social-Chauvinism, 27.3.2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/workers-immigration-control/; Michael Pröbsting and Andrew Walton: A Social-Chauvinist Defence of the Indefensible. Another Reply to the CWG/LCC’s Support for “Workers’” Immigration Control, 14.5.2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/cwg-immigration-control/
(3) For a more detailed elaboration of the RCIT’s position on migration and the internationalist program of revolutionary equality, we refer readers to various documents which we have published and which are accessible on our website. See e.g., RCIT: Marxism, Migration and Revolutionary Integration, https://www.thecommunists.net/oppressed/revolutionary-integration/; Michael Pröbsting: The Great Robbery of the South, chapter 8.iv) and 14ii), https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/great-robbery-of-the-south/; Michael Pröbsting: The British Left and the EU-Referendum: The Many Faces of pro-UK or pro-EU Social-Imperialism, August 2015, Chapter II.2, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/british-left-and-eu-referendum/part-5-1/, RCIT-Program, chapter V: https://www.thecommunists.net/rcit-manifesto/fight-against-oppression-of-migrants/, RCIT-Manifesto chapter IV: https://www.thecommunists.net/rcit-program-2016/chapter-iv/; and various actual statements and articles here: https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/articles-on-refugees/. See also Michael Pröbsting: Migration and Super-exploitation: Marxist Theory and the Role of Migration in the present Period of Capitalist Decay, in: Critique: Journal of Socialist Theory (Volume 43, Issue 3-4, 2015), pp. 329-346. We have also published a detailed study on migration and the Marxist program in German. See Michael Pröbsting: Marxismus, Migration und revolutionäre Integration (2010); in: Der Weg des Revolutionären Kommunismus, Nr. 7, pp. 38-41, http://www.thecommunists.net/publications/werk-7
(4) LCC vs RCIT on Immigration, May 26, 2017, http://www.cwgusa.org/?p=1890
(5) Karl Marx: The Protectionists, the Free Traders and the Working Class (1847), in: MECW Vol. 6, p. 280
(6) Friedrich Engels: Protection and Free Trade. Preface to the Pamphlet: Karl Marx, Speech on the Question of Free Trade (1888), in: MECW 26, pp. 535-536
(7) Rudolf Hilferding: Finance Capital. A Study of the Latest Phase of Capitalist Development (1910), Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1981, pp.366-367. Lenin reprinted this quote in Imperialism. The Highest Stage of Capitalism (1916) ; in: LCW Vol. 22, p. 289.
(8) V. I. Lenin: Imperialism. The Highest Stage of Capitalism (1916) ; in: LCW Vol. 22, p. 200
(9) Leon Trotsky: War and the Fourth International (1934); in: Trotsky Writings 1933-34, pp. 304-305
(10) Leon Trotsky: Where is Britain Going? (1925), in: Trotsky’s Writings on Britain, Vol. 2, New Park Publications, London 1974, pp. 115-116