MrZine have published an essay "Once Again on So-called "Extractivism"", which is an extract from a longer essay, "Geopolitics of the Amazon" by Bolivia's Vice-President Álvaro García Linera. This is a commentary on the "Extractivism" essay, perhaps with a view of writing more about some of its themes. As a commentary it does not aim to be critical of García Linera's text, merely to try to understand it, its place within some of his other works and its relation to certain tendencies and arguments within Marxism. All unreferenced quotes are from "Once Again on So-called "Extractivism"".
Modes of Production and Totality
Perhaps the first thing that will strike a European reader of García Linera’s text is that a senior politician has written a text which is both unapologetically Marxist - the essay begins with an exegesis of the meaning of “mode of production” in Marx focusing particularly on the relation to nature – and of a rare theoretical rigour ambition, aiming both to clarify certain theoretical issues in Marx and intervene in a crucial argument in contemporary Bolivian politics. Of course, the particular unity of theory and practice entailed by leading politicians producing valuable theoretical work (Lenin, Trotsky, Bukharin) or leading theorists taking up important political posts (Korsch, Luxemburg, Lukács) was not alien to Europe in the Russian revolution or the central European revolutions following it but it is a link has now long gone.
García Linera’s initial focus on the totality of the “mode of production” feels similarly alien and perhaps even old-fashioned. In “Marxism and Postmodernism”, Jameson argues that late capitalism makes analysis in terms of mode of production difficult, drawing on the pre-Marxist history of the concept, particularly in the Scottish Enlightenment, Jameson argues grasping the mode of production relies on uneven development, “distinct and coexisting modes of production are registered together in the life world of the thinker in question” and that 18th century Scotland saw the “coexistence of radically different zones of production and culture.” Jameson contrasts 18th century Scotland and 19th century Europe for Marx with today with the postmodern rejection of totality grounded in a “purer and more homogenous expression...from which many of the hitherto surviving enclaves of socio-economic difference have been effaced by way of their colonisation and absorption by the commodity form.” In “State Crisis and Popular Power”, written before the election of Morales as President and García Linera as vice-President, García Linera writes, “due to the social and civilisational diversity of the country, large stretches of territory and sections of the population remain outside, or have not interiorised, the disciplines of the capitalist labour process; they recognise other temporalities, other systems of authority, and affirm collective aims and values different from those offered by the Bolivian state.” The externality of large sections of the Bolivian population to the capitalist labour process and the aims and values of the (old) Bolivian state, that is the coexistence of different modes of production registered by García Linera is the condition of possibility of representing capitalism as a mode of production. This point may be taken further, and it could be argued that an encounter with the non-capitalist productive processes in the Third World may be the only way capitalism can be represented and we can continue to be Marxists in any real sense in Europe.