Monday, May 28, 2007

Lenin on the Dutch Revolt

No sooner do I indicate my increasing interest in revolutionary movements and ideas than Lenin posts a long, interesting entry about the Dutch Revolt. His final paragraph touches on something that I became specifically interested in through reading Ellen Meiksins Wood's excellent book, The Origin of Capitalism (and which helped fuel this larger interest of mine), that is, the nature of the Dutch (and Florentine) economy:
Is this an instance of a 'bourgeois revolution' of the kind that has plagued marxist typology? Well, it involved a noble-bourgeois alliance with the support of labouring classes - but then, so did the English revolution, and so - initially - did the French revolution. Were the Dutch bourgeoisie capitalist at the time? As I say, it had a highly urbanised society, it had a monetised economy, it made extraoardinary technological advances especially in agriculture, it was a highly developed commercial society, it had extensive wage labour, and it was more reliant than usual on overseas trade. The closest comparison that obtains is the Venetian city-state, particularly Florence. Yet, like Florence, Holland did not take the leap to industrial capitalism as England did, slowly being eclipsed toward the end of the 17th Century, especially after the English state acquired a state with a thoroughly integrated ruling class in charge of its domestic and international mission. Perhaps this is because, like the Florentine economy, the essential character of surplus-extraction in the Dutch economy was pre-capitalist commerce and 'political' extraction. [...] The revolt, with its various layers, dimensions and stages, certainly freed an extraordinarily advanced commercial economy from a horrendous economic, political and spiritual burden. It was certainly, in its way, the first 'modern' national war of liberation - yet this merely raises the extent to which 'modernity' is a problematic ideal-type, for in so many ways, the Dutch Republic retained pre-modern forms.

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