- How have wars historically and today contributed to the success or failures of socialist projects all around the world? The conference is co-organised by transform´s cooperating media partner Eszmélet Journal with the Karl Polanyi Center for Global Social Studies and Social Theory College (TEK). Supported by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.
transform! europe recommends this new conference of the yearly Non-Capitalist Mixed Economies conferences.
This time the conference considers how wars historically and today have contributed to the success or failures of socialist projects all around the world. It also discusses what processes we see in this respect in our current world, what geopolitical and geo-economic reordering is going on, and whether we see any possible outcome towards socialism and/or non-capitalist mixed economies. The focus will be on economic developments in conjunction with political efforts and forces.
Selected talks will be later published by Eszmélet Journal.
2-3 September 2023
Hybrid conference, supported by Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung.
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Venue: Hotel Corvin, Budapest, 1094, Angyal utca 31, Hungary, Corvin room
Participation for the audience is free of charge, we welcome everyone interested in the venue.
To our online participants: registration is needed through this link.
The talks will be in English (translation on Zoom: Hungarian/English)
Key Organisers: Karl Polanyi Research Center for Global Social Studies, College for Advanced Studies in Social Theory, Eszmélet Journal
Partner Organisations: Fordulat Journal, Geopolitical Economy Research Group, Institute of Political History Social Theory Research Group, International Karl Polanyi Society, Karl Polanyi Institute of Political Economy, LeftEast, Living and Working Conditions Observatory, Periféria Policy and Research Center, Solidarity Economy Center, transform! europe, Working Group for Public Sociology “Helyzet”
Planned Version (12 August)
SATURDAY 2 SEPTEMBER
13:00 Opening statements
Miklós Gula (College for Advanced Studies in Social Theory), Attila Melegh (Karl Polanyi Research Center for Global Social Studies, Eszmélet Journal)
1st Panel: Historical Lessons: Colonial Wars, Wars of Independence, World Wars and Guerilla Wars Globally
Here we focus on anti-colonial wars, including anti-colonial struggles, guerilla wars in Latina America, Africa and Asia as well as the first period of the Russian revolution and other near-revolutionary situations in Europe after the First or Second World War.
13:10 – 14:30 Session 1
Raquel Varela: Anti-Colonial Wars and Revolutions in Portugal
Pietro Basso: Revolutionary Wars in Africa Against Colonialism (online)
Salvatore Engel-Di Mauro: War and the Fates of the Mongolian and Vietnamese Revolutions
Richard Werner: After Successful Wars of Independence or Anti-Colonial Wars: How Colonialism is Continued Through Economic Means
Moderator: Miklós Gula
14:30 – 14:50 Q&A
14:50 – 15:10 Break
15:10 – 16:30 Session 2
József Böröcz: Destruction for Prosperity: War as an Instrument for Building Global Economic Inequality
David Barrios Rodríguez: EZLN: the Wars Against Oblivion and the Struggles for Life
Prem Kumar Rajaram: The Struggles of the Undeserving Poor: Riots, Protest, Hunger and Religion in the Colonial Social Formation
Tamás Krausz: Can We Learn From History?
Moderator: Bruno De Conti (online)
16:30 – 16:50 Q&A
16:50 – 17:10 Break
2nd Panel: Wars, Refugees and Non-Capitalist Solidarity Economy
In this section we consider how non-capitalist solidarity economies can be built up and have been built up in various refugee crises. What conditions would guarantee their maintenance and their positive historical role.
17:10 – 17:50 Session 1
Petra Ezzeddine: Are the Solidarity Households Really Solidarity Households? The (De)Economisation of the Humanitarian Arena for Ukrainian Refugees in the Czech Republic
Noémi Katona: Solidarity Economy Answers to the Crisis of Care: Potentials and Challenges of Reorganising Care
Moderator: Mary Taylor (online)
17:50 – 18:10 Q&A
SUNDAY 3 SEPTEMBER
10:30 Opening statement
Joanna Gwiazdecka (Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung)
10:35 – 11:45 Session 2
Béla Soltész: Temporarily Protected – By Whom? The Social and Political Context of Helping Refugees in Hungary and Colombia
Savvas Michael-Matsas: Solidarity for Refugees and Self-Organisation From Below in Fortress Europe. The Greek Experience. (online)
Violetta Zentai: Duty to Care and Solidarity: the Limits to Commoning in a Neoliberal-Authoritarian Order
Moderator: Attila Antal
11:45 – 12:05 Q&A
12:05 – 13:05 Lunch Break
3rd Panel: Current Wars, International Conflicts and Possible Transition to Socialism
In these discussions we consider whether the current wars have any potential in achieving social transformation towards a non-capitalist future and how the effect on the transformation of economies can be assessed.
13:05 – 14:05 – Session 1 – Roundtable Discussion
Radhika Desai: The Socialism of War According to Keynes
David Lane: Socialist Approaches to War: From Promoting Peace to Revolutionary War
Alan Freeman: The Geopolitical Economy of Force
Moderator: Attila Melegh
14:05 – 14:25 Q&A
14:25 – 14:45 Break
14:45 – 15:45 – Session 2 – Roundtable Discussion
Fikadu T. Ayanie: Neoliberalisation and Enduring Wars in Contemporary Africa: Ethiopia in Focus
Attila Melegh: Is Anti-Imperalism Anti-Imperialist?
Bruno De Conti: Currencies and Wars: the Geopolitics of the International Monetary System (online)
Moderator: transform! europe
15:45 – 16:05 – Q&A
1. Raquel Varela (Professor FCSH-UNL, Campus de Campolide):
Anti-Colonial Wars and Revolutions in Portugal
In this paper we will analyse the impact of anti-colonial wars and anti-colonial revolutions in Africa 1961-1974 on the Portuguese revolution 1974-1975, highlighting the impact at the level of the State, the political organisation of workers and students, the global connection between the fight against forced labour in the colonies and exploited labour in the metropolis. How the experience of war germinated an experience of resistance to war that was essential in the prefiguration of a socialist society in Portugal in the biennium 1974-1975.
2. Pietro Basso (Professor of Sociology and Director of the M.A. in Immigration at University of Venice):
Revolutionary Wars in Africa Against Colonialism
The deep, living roots of African anti-colonial revolutionary wars sink into the immense history of the multiple forms of African resistance to the European slave trade, which developed for centuries from the hinterland to the high seas up to the Caribbean islands. The era of these wars spans a century and a half (1830-1976), and targets the physical occupation, robbery and terrorist domination of all the European colonial powers, each of them (from France to Italy, from England to Portugal, from Germany to Belgium) was compelled to know small or large military and political defeats on the territory of Africa. People’s wars that have expressed themselves, over time, with messianic-religious, nationalist, pan-African and even socialist ideologies. Their overall outcome is the generalised conquest of political independence with the defeat of historical colonialism, and a first moment of modern economic and cultural development and a first, general redemption of the value and dignity of the African populations, denied and brutally mortified by the dominant colonial narratives. But the experience of the last half century of “Arab” Africa as well as of “black” Africa clearly demonstrates that the old colonialism has been replaced by a new colonialism with which the exploited classes of Africa have already had to and will have to fight on all plans, even on the military level — as the Nigerien events of these days show. The liberation of Africa from colonialism and imperialism will be complete exclusively with the liberation of this and other continents from capitalism — and can find genuine help only in the struggle of the exploited classes of the whole world.
3. Salvatore Engel-Di Mauro (Associate Professor at the Geography Department of SUNY New Paltz):
War and the Fates of the Mongolian and Vietnamese Revolutions
There is a chronic dearth of interest among leftists in the core-capitalist countries about socialist revolutions and resulting socialist states outside of Europe. Even less interest or appreciation is evinced with respect to warfare’s effects on socialist prospects. The cases of the Mongolian and Vietnamese Revolutions, born through and subsequently shaped by war, point to liberal democracies’ belligerence playing a major, if not decisive role in constraining socialist states’ potentials for material and wider social improvements and making progress towards forming a classless society. Accordingly, self-defence from capitalist forces is a crucial issue that is hardly confined to socialist countries. Socialists in liberal democracies, the world’s most powerful imperialist institutions, should fight for the downsizing of military capacities as a priority in their respective countries, short of waging successful revolutions.
4. Richard Werner (Professor of banking and finance at University of Oxford):
After Successful Wars of Independence or Anti-Colonial Wars: How Colonialism is Continued Through Economic Means
5. József Böröcz (Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University):
Destruction for Prosperity: War As An Instrument for Building Global Economic Inequality
I address, partially, two large conceptual problems of the social sciences. The first has to do with the fact that much of social theory operates from the assumption, un-met by the historical record, that modern social life operates under conditions of general peace. Hence, I ask, How would we need to re-think our perspectives on social life if we were to consider generalised violence a defining feature of the modern social experience? The second problem has to do with the fact that, in spite of an extraordinarily belligerent global history since the long 16th century, we still tend see the “wretchedness” of much of the world outside the core of the world-system as a “purely” economic, hence quasi-natural phenomenon. Indeed, this is perhaps the most Euro-centric feature of much of comparative-historical sociology. So, I am prompted to ask, what if we were explicitly to introduce extended experience of war as an explanation for relative impoverishment and overall “economic” suffering on the one hand, as well as prosperity and global political dominance on the other? In this paper, I use all available historical data for the years 1960-2018, concerning per capita GDP, obtained from the online “databank” of the World Bank, to discern the effects of some of the most compelling forms of violence on what development economists call state-to-state inequalities in “economic performance.” Preliminary results suggest that legacies of colonialism, “world war,” and the various forms of physical, social, economic, cultural, mental and psychological violence that have been selectively waged on the societies outside the core of the world-system are not only detectable, but in fact increase over time, as we survey the global record of inequalities.
6. David Barrios Rodríguez (Institute of Economic Research, National Autonomous University of Mexico):
EZLN: the Wars Against Oblivion and the Struggles for Life
In 2023, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) commemorates several anniversaries that reflect its history of struggle: it will celebrate 40 years since the formation of the guerrilla nucleus, 30 years since the collective decision to rise up in arms, and 20 years since the appearance of the Caracoles Zapatistas, which consolidates the proposal for the construction of autonomy. The experience in the Mexican Southeast has been widely identified as a pioneer challenge to neoliberalism in Latin America and the entire world; but based on the affirmation of another way of conceiving history, they have chosen to integrate the different moments of dispossession within a common trajectory: “We are the product of 500 years of struggle” [General Command of the EZLN, 1993]. This is part of a rejection that, starting in the 1990s, indigenous and Afro-descendant populations from Mexico and Latin America pointed out regarding the change/adaptation of the economic model by bringing back some of the predatory practices that centuries before had marked the beginning of capitalism with the arrival of the invaders or later, in the republican era with the “modernisation” of the region in the context of the hegemony of the liberal project and the consolidation of the nation state. That is why, in a broader way, these challenges can be understood as a reaction to the coloniality of power [Quijano, 1999]. It is also an experience that has generated confusion and strangeness, for example from the resignation of the dispute over the power of the State and its management; but also in relation to the refusal to continue hostilities or to strengthen its military capabilities. By building systems of education, health; as well as a multiplicity of collective community works, they have chosen to build life. The decision has been made in a context in which for 30 years they have been under military and paramilitary siege from the implementation of different counterinsurgency strategies. That is why the last element to be developed in the presentation will be aimed at framing the experience of the Mexican Southeast in the deployment of different articulated expressions of war. The process begins with the declaration of war (First Declaration of the Lacandona Jungle) and the strategy deployed by the Mexican State and continues with the launch of the “war against drug trafficking” (2006) in which we can identify the concatenation of modalities of war in the country, with components of irregular warfare (counterinsurgency, information and propaganda) and an extended process of militarisation of public security. During the last five years, the South-Southeast region of the country incorporates the dimension of development and modernisation, with the construction of infrastructure megaprojects through militarised mechanisms, which poses irreversible damage to the communities in the Mexican Southeast on the horizon.
7. Prem Kumar Rajaram (Professor in the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at Central European University):
The Struggles of the Undeserving Poor: Riots, Protest, Hunger and Religion in the Colonial Social Formation
In the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, the poor in British India rioted, protested and undertook what was described as ‘criminal’ activities. These were the very poor, who struggled against the transformations of old moral economies and modes of provisioning and who had a very little part to play in the new colonial-capitalist economies. I will focus on two conflicts instigated by the poor — protests against the codes of the Madras Famine of 1876-78 where people were force marched to relief camps some distance from home and fed a diet lower than the caloric intake needed for adult humans, and uprisings in and around tea plantations in the Dooars region, where Oraon workers started a millenarist movement bent on overthrowing the British Raj. Both these protests called to mind modes of social provisioning and moral economies that were squarely against colonial capitalism. By focusing on these conflicts from the margins, and the responses from them, we learn important things about the colonial social formation and capitalism as a social totality. These lessons remain valid, I will suggest, for understanding racial and colonial capitalism today.
8. Tamás Krausz (Professor Emeritus, Doctor of Science (DSc) at Eötvös Loránd University):
Can We Learn From History?
The first important lesson is that the economic and political steps, ideas were always intertwined because reality forced this on the socialist experiments. The leaders and participants of the socialist movements could learn that the real problems always started when the socialist power started to realise its economic program. The question always arose whether there is an alternative beyond state economy and/or market economy. The second and even today alive experience can be traced back to the Russian revolution: the possibility of an economy based on mixed ownership. Besides the various forms of state and private property, we could also observe many forms of cooperation, and diverse structures of social self-management and communal cooperatives both in production and redistribution. However, this form of ownership could never survive in the world for a longer historical period, even though this system of communal relations would be the essence of socialism, par excellence. This has many reasons. Liberalism claims that socialist self-governance is a mere utopia, while real socialists (not “state socialists” or “market socialists”) believe that the realisation of an economy based on mixed ownership is itself the practical task, which has a lot of past experiences in the history of humankind…
9. Petra Ezzeddine (Assistant professor at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Faculty of Humanities, Charles University in Prague):
Are the Solidarity Households Really Solidarity Households? The (De)Economisation of the Humanitarian Arena for Ukrainian Refugees in the Czech Republic.
In 2022, as a result of the war in Ukraine, the Czech Republic received the highest number of refugees in the history of the independent state, with 390,000 refugees from Ukraine arriving in the country in a relatively short period of time. A specific feature of this migration was that these were mostly women with children, and they were accommodated in so-called solidarity households by hosting families, which in the early weeks provided accommodation completely free of charge. But even within this group of ‘desirable’ migrants was a group of systemically excluded migrants and this despite the fact that these were also ‘vulnerable’ groups of women and children (including newborns) — and this was a group of approximately 2,000 Roma from Ukraine. Gradually, however, it became clear that the humanitarian arena in the Czech Republic became an explicitly political space (Redfield 2013, Agier 2016) that played out hierarchical competitions between different actors for their interests or resources (Hilhorst and Jansen 2011). In my paper, I focus on how solidarity households were politically negotiated, and how the monetisation of solidarity through social benefits was altered and discursively framed. I will ask what role solidarity households can and cannot play in a humanitarian infrastructure in the era of neoliberal and un-caring societies.
10. Noémi Katona (A postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Sociology at the Center of Social Sciences, Budapest):
Solidarity economy answers to the crisis of care: potentials and challenges of reorganising care
The presentation will focus on the potentials and limitations of reorganising care in today’s capitalism, and the possibilities of building a solidarity economy network fulfilling care needs. By solidarity economy different initiatives, movements, and economic cooperations are meant that aim to counteract the logic of capital accumulation, and focus on ecological sustainability and the reproduction of life and nature instead. Thus solidarity economy practices work towards a systemic change that affects all spheres of life; and social reproduction and reproductive work play an essential role in it. The presentation will cover initiatives that are especially focusing on care work and the fulfilling of care needs. Firstly, the main causes and tendencies of today’s care crisis will be discussed, reflecting on the most important economic, social and demographic developments, which define the organisation and conditions of care work. Neoliberalisation processes, the restructuring of families, and increasing marketisation trends will be addressed. Special focus will be given to the economic and social crisis in Europe, also in connection with the war in Ukraine. Secondly, the possibilities of solidarity economy initiatives will be discussed that focus on the reorganisation of care work, challenging the separation of productive and reproductive work; and the increasing marketisation of care work that evolve on a global scale. While empirical examples of different social initiatives will be introduced, the aim of the presentation is to discuss the potentials and limitations of such countermovements on a theoretical level. How radical, and how broad social change do these initiatives aim for and are able to achieve? How do they relate to different, established social institutions (especially the state) and what alternative social institutions do they build? How do they relate to other initiatives aiming for transformative change? Through the analysis of these countermovements the possibilities of a solidarity economy will be addressed.
11. Béla Soltész (Institute of Political and International Studies, Eötvös Loránd University):
Temporarily Protected – By Whom? The Social and Political Context of Helping Refugees in Hungary and Colombia
In February 2021, the government of Colombia decided to provide a ten-year temporary protection status (TPS) for Venezuelan refugees, despite earlier concerns related to the economic and security consequences of such a radical policy move. In February 2022, the government of Hungary announced that Ukrainian citizens fleeing the war would be entitled to receive TPS in Hungary for one year, or until the end of the war, despite a staunch anti-immigrant agenda followed by the same government during and after the 2015 refugee crisis. However, in both cases, the day-to-day work of attending the needs of the refugees was carried out mostly by the civil society — either through its well-established organisations or through spontaneous groupings based on solidarity. The comparative presentation explores how the introduction of the TPS in both countries affected the work of formal and informal institutions, and who has been taking the responsibility to actually provide the refugees the protection they are offered by the TPS. The presentation also discusses the notion of temporality in both cases, as well as possible pathways for the integration of refugees to the host society.
12. Savvas Michael-Matsas:
Solidarity for Refugees and Self-Organisation from Below in Fortress Europe. The Greek Experience.
Greece, at the southeastern borders of the EU, at the forefront of successive migratory waves, particularly from the “refugee crisis” of 2015 onwards, became an advanced post of “Fortress Europe” and a theater of tragedy. The recent shipwreck in Pylos, where about 700 refugees, most of them women and children, were drowned, provides a devastating testimony for the inhuman character of established anti-migrant policies. But, at the same time, in this sinister landscape of an international civilisational crisis, a rising counter-movement of solidarity for migrants, creating self-organised solidarity structures from below, despite constant harassment and repression by national and supranational authorities, opens new prospects. In this struggle the future not only of the refugees but of universal human emancipation is involved.
13. Violetta Zentai (Director at the Center for Policy Studies, Central European University):
Duty to Care and Solidarity: the Limits to Commoning in a Neoliberal-Authoritarian Order
The lecture explores the cumulative experiences and consequences of civic solidarity acts in Hungary during the covid-19 pandemic and in welcoming the displaced Ukrainians since February 2022. A series of collective research initiatives has explored solidarity acts unfolding in Hungary governed and encroached by a stubborn neoliberal-authoritarian regime. One stream in the larger collective research endeavours captures the production of the ethos and practices of the duty to care by civil solidaria through reorganising human capacities and relations in provisioning basic goods in society. It reveals how solidarity actors create and exploit transformative potential of civic experiments in reciprocal and inclusive collective actions which embrace the principles of commoning. The theoretical puzzles of the research engage with problems of de/re-politicisation of civil society, the limits to commoning in a neoliberal order, and the politics of care in late capitalist reproduction of society.
14. Radhika Desai (Department of Political Studies, University of Manitoba):
The Socialism of War According to Keynes
A capitalist nation at peace is riven with contradictions, antagonisms and inequalities, not to mention oppression and exploitation. However, in the total wars of the twentieth century, particularly the second world war, Britain, in particular, was transformed into a practically socialist economy. The experience, in which, thanks to rationing on the basis of ‘fair shares and equal sacrifices’, average life expectancy for instance actually grew during the war, laid the cultural and emotional basis for the comprehensive social transformation of this enduringly unequal society. Focussing on John Maynard Keynes’s 1940 tract, How to Pay for the War, this paper examines some of the macro-economic thinking that laid the foundation for the war economy and for the intellectual and cultural transformation that followed.
15. David Lane (Professor Emeritus at Emmanuel College, Cambridge University):
Socialist Approaches to War: From Promoting Peace to Revolutionary War
The paper outlines the changing approaches, during the twentieth century, to inter-state wars by European socialist movements. The analysis reveals contradictory policies and practices: opposition to, and participation in, capitalist wars and the promotion of peace. Moreover, theories of imperialism explaining relations between dominant and subordinate states called for conversion of inter-state wars into revolutionary wars, and for support to insurgents in wars of liberation in colonial areas. Consequences of the Second World War led to policies predicated not only on promoting socialist goals but also on the security of established socialist states. Finally, the paper poses the question of how these ambiguities relate to the current conflict between NATO-Ukraine and Russia.
16. Alan Freeman (Co-director of the Geopolitical Economy Research Unit):
The Geopolitical Economy of Force
This paper will study how war compels states to organise their economies. It will study in particular the reorganisation of the British economy in the first and second world wars, the USA in the second world war, and Germany in the Second World War, and it will assess the similarities with, and the differences from, the organisation of the Russian economy in the Civil War, the Second World War, and the Ukraine war. It will focus on territorial war, which is essentially war about which power will occupy and govern territory, and total war, which is war in which the entire nation is engaged. It will demonstrate that organisation for war imposes on a state a set of requirements normally anathematic to the capitalist class, notably planning, sufficient guarantees of working class living conditions to forestalling labour strife, maintaining an army capable of fighting, and the subordination of the profit motive to the overall military needs of the state. Even the capitalist powers all recognised this in the conflicts under study. The UK for example issued ‘wartime regulations’ which directly involved labour in the management of production on the basis of a series of social guarantees; in the second world war these became the basis for the postwar welfare state. It will address the paradox that war itself, and not the New Deal, was the basis for the phenomenal economic recovery of the USA which dates from 1942, not the New Deal years. In fact, in general, mobilisation for war rescued the Western Powers from recession, notwithstanding the human catastrophes that resulted. It will then touch on the role that war has played in the economic success of the Soviet Union, of China, and of Vietnam. It will then finally, in the light of these results, attempt to address the thorny question: is there an economic alternative to war as a means for nations to recover from Depressions?
17. Fikadu T. Ayanie (PHD Candidate at Corvinus University of Budapest):
Neoliberalisation and Enduring Wars in Contemporary Africa: Ethiopia in Focus
18. Attila Melegh (Associate Professor at the Institute of Communication and Sociology, Corvinus University of Budapest):
Is Anti-Imperalism Anti-Imperialist?
The current reconfiguration of global capitalism has led to the crisis of globalisation understood as a US-led global marketisation project. The hegemony of the US is in decline and there are major challenges on behalf of China/Russia/BRICS, whose powers aim at creating a new, alternative, substantially capitalist block to liberate themselves from the US control. This reminds us of the Kautsky/Bukharin/Lenin debates more than a hundred years ago, when they confronted issues like ultra-imperialism versus blocks of states and the nature of the imperialist order and its internal fights. The 1990s was an era of an ultra-imperialist attempt with a massive increase of FDI mobility and the neoliberal marketisation of societies worldwide. This historical epoch started declining with the 2008 crisis and led to a fake double movement as it challenged the previous era on the level of verbal politics without substantial institutional change. Tensions have risen and wars have intensified. In this scenario some of the left claims that the fight of the alternative capitalist block against the US-led EU-North-America block is a key terrain of anti-imperialism. I certainly oppose this. This talk will argue that these conflicts actually follow an imperialist logic, namely the fight over geopolitical positions based on the strength of relevant capital fractions. Thus with Lenin’s imperialism theory: „The capitalists divide the world, not out of any particular malice, but because the degree of concentration which has been reached forces them to adopt this method in order to obtain profits. And they divide it “in proportion to capital,” “in proportion to strength,” because there cannot be any other method of division under commodity production and capitalism.” (Chapter 5) Thus I will conclude that this whole system is to be challenged, if we truly fight against global imperialism.
19. Bruno De Conti (Institute of Economics, University of Campinas):
Currencies and Wars: the Geopolitics of the International Monetary System
The financial sanctions of the United States — and other Western countries — against Russia are raising heated debates about the so-called “weaponisation of the US dollar”. Yet, this close relation between currencies and wars is not new. In this talk, we will discuss the geopolitics behind the International Monetary System, the current conflicts in this arena and the obstacles and possibilities for transformations.