Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

September 18, 2015

BRICS: the anti-capitalist critique

Filed under: Counterpunch,imperialism/globalization — louisproyect @ 7:36 pm

Thick as BRICS: an Illusory Alternative to Neoliberalism

Author of Revitalizing Marxist Theory for Today’s Capitalism and other books written in defense of classical Marxism, University of Manitoba professor Radhika Desai probably spoke for the majority of the left when she wrote a Guardian op-ed piece titled “The Brics are building a challenge to western economic supremacy”. Key to this challenge was the creation of a Development Bank that can serve as an alternative to the IMF and the World Bank. As she put it:

The Brics countries do have a mortar that binds them: their common experience, and rejection, of the neoliberal development model of the past several decades and the western-dominated IMF and the World Bank that still advocate it. Their rapid development over the previous couple of decades was despite, not because of, this. Countries whose governments were able and willing to resist this model developed faster.

At the heart of her analysis is the notion of “development”, a term somewhat distinct from the socialist aspirations of earlier generations but one clearly in sync with a chastened left that while not quite agreeing with Margaret Thatcher’s TINA, does see some good in putting people to work on state-sponsored projects that generate tax revenues and raise the standard of living. If it isn’t socialism, at least it is some kind of New Deal. If a capitalism based on “neoliberalism” is to be avoided at all costs, why not opt for a more progressive and humane capitalism that is the “lesser evil”? If this sounds like the argument that some activists make for voting for Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton or even Bernie Sanders, you may be on to something.

At least some people resting on the foundations of Marxism disagree with Desai. In a newly published collection of articles by Patrick Bond and Ana Garcia titled BRICS: An Anti-Capitalist Critique, you can find powerful arguments making the case that this supposed alternative to neoliberalism is no alternative at all. Whatever your stance on this debate, you would be well served by reading this book since it will enable you to make an informed political decision. It should be added that Pluto Press has published both Radhika Desai and this new book so they deserve kudos for helping the left keep abreast of important theoretical challenges.

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  1. It seems to me to be wrong for anyone, let alone Marxists, to say the BRICS are developing an alternative to Western neo liberalism. You can certainly make the case that they are challenging Western dominance. The challenge to neo liberalism is a class struggle rather than a national one, so the challenge to neo liberalism could come from within the neo liberal nations themselves or can come from nations whose masses have struggled for and achieved social democracy.

    A current threat to neo liberalism is occurring in Britain with the election of Jeremy Corbyn. The problem with your position is that you view Corbyn as an Assad loving Putinite and friend of the Kremlin (You should have your own slot on Fox news). This is why your politics is rotten.

    Marxists also have to avoid falling into the trap of believing the only legitimate form of working class struggle is socialism. There are epic working class struggles that revolve around ‘making capitalism function more humanely’.

    Though it should also be very strongly noted that workers struggles for better terms and conditions within capitalism has nearly always resulted in a more efficient and more productive capitalist system. So making capitalism better from a working class point of view hasn’t really been to make it more humane but actually to make it better in every respect!

    Now judging by your usual standards you will see the above as equating support for capitalism. Well that is your problem and not mine. Just so you know.

    Comment by Simon Provertier — September 19, 2015 @ 12:27 pm

  2. I’m not quite sure what Lou is all excited about. Stalinist bad boys, the KKE, have been arguing that BRICS is not a viable alternative to neo-liberalism for years. it’s hardly a novel idea.

    Comment by Georges — September 19, 2015 @ 4:03 pm

  3. The KKE is a classic “3rd Period” type CP. It is hardly representative of trends on the left that are sympathetic to Putin and has even denounced him as an imperialist. You will find much more sympathy for the BRICS, even if it is couched in critical support, from those who identify with Venezuela, Cuba et al.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 19, 2015 @ 4:12 pm

  4. The KKE has no great love for Putin, but they understand very clearly that Russia is being targeted by US/NATO. They know who the main enemy is. As for me, I believe BRICS is a major irritant to US/NATO. The BRICS elites (Russia and China included) would like nothing better than to have their fair share of the spoils and get along with the US, but it seems the Empire is not interested in sharing, but in subjugation. Further, a lot of good people believe in political fantasies. They believe or believed in Obama, Bernie Sanders, SYRIZA etc.. I myself am hoping against hope that Jeremy Corbyn will bring about a revival in left Social Democracy, but I’m quite prepared to be disappointed.

    Comment by Georges — September 19, 2015 @ 4:43 pm

  5. The world does not need a revival of Social Dumbocracy. Anyone with a ounce of sense can see that this is a planet inhabited by enormous numbers of insane people. The insane do not make a good foundation upon which to build a society. What the world needs is a revival of neo confuscian dictatorships . Yes, those masses of insane people are capable of being cured. They sure as heck are not going to cure themselves. That is why neo confuscian dictatorships are neccessary.
    I am sorry that I can not provide a link to show the truth of this assertion but it is such a new and novel idea that it has not appeared anywhere else. Or maybe I am plagurizing Machevelli, or Socretes. But, I do not know since it is has been decades since I have read anything in those directions.
    There are two types of dictators. Those that rule as monarchs to enrich themselves and their associates. Then there are those that rule as regents on behalf of truth and justice. It is true that those of the second type are quite rare. What is important to remember is that the job of being a neo confuscian dictator is not easy. What is also important to remember is that even when such people have taken power much of the population of the countries in which they rule can not tell the difference between a type one and a type two dictator. The vast majority of people of the world have not been trained to tell the difference. In fact the vast majortiy of the time the vast majortiy of the people do not even know what is good for them.
    To tell people who have been totally unprepared for the job of managing a society that they should have the power to rule themselves is extremely medically neglegent.
    Of course a class of people can be selected from this mass of commoners who with the proper indoctrination can be molded to become stewards of the health of a society. But it is not a task that everyone needs to take part in. Therefore they should not have their desires stoked for such activity.

    Comment by Curt Kastens — September 19, 2015 @ 5:53 pm

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