A General Discussion of Decadence Theory

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mikus
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Nov 3 2007 22:33
Alf wrote:
I thought mikus has given up discussing with the ICC. Then again, perhaps he has, because the last post was just a series of insults. Give me Revol's cussing any day.

I should elaborate on my earlier statement defending myself for making fun of you creeps.

I personally find it extremely offensive that people criticize straw-man repeatedly, even after it has been pointed out over and over again. In fact, I find this far more offensive than any polemic. It makes debate impossible, and it treats everyone (whether the person being criticized or non-participating readers) as if they are too stupid to notice that the criticism has nothing to do with the original issue/s. I don't appreciate this. It's like banging your head against a wall with you people.

So if you prove yourself too stupid to make a serious argument, or too intent on pushing your political product to actually answer people's refutations, then I feel no shame in telling you this.

It took you guys almost 5 pages to even begin to defend Rosa Luxemburg's crisis theory, for god's sake! And then what we get are not answers, but straw-men and running around in circles. (Similar to the present thread.) And you expect me to be tolerant? Your abhorrence of polemic is just an excuse not to answer those who are legitimately frustrating at your needlessly repetitive arguments.

Mike

mikus
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Nov 3 2007 22:54
ernie wrote:
Capricorn neither we nor Rosa have ever said capitalism will grind to a halt.

Actually, Demogorgon303 has said that capitalism will break down regardless of whether or not the working class has a revolution. So this is exactly what you say your group never said. (Although, Demogorgon303 is of course not a member of your group, as you all have been very anxious to point out. Perhaps he should be booted from the "supporter" list as well, since he supports the mechanistic crisis theory that your group supposedly doesn't.) If you want to distance yourself from Demogorgon303's baseless claim (given that he has not been able to defend any economic theory which shows that this will happen, and tacitly admitted he has nowhere further to go with Luxemburg's theory), then go ahead. But don't claim that none of you made that claim.

Even more importantly than some random ICC supporter making the ridiculous claim, Rosa Luxemburg's theory clearly implies that the accumulation of capital will eventually grind to a halt, whether or not she said this explicitly.

Why? Her theory states that the capitalist world:

1. Needs external markets to accumulate.
2. Turns external markets into internal markets.

Now, assuming that there is a finite source of external (i.e. non-capitalist) markets, it follows that once all of these external markets become internal markets, the accumulation of capital will become impossible.

So it makes good sense for the rest of us to say that this mechanical breakdown claptrap is a part of your theory.

Mike

PS Rosa Luxemburg at least had her own theory of capitalist breakdown as a basis for saying that capitalist accumulation would eventually halt. Demogorgon303 admitted that Luxemburg's theory may not be correct, yet he still keeps making this claim, which is simply baseless without an underlying explanation of why this is the case.

alibadani
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Nov 4 2007 03:20

Capitalism will not grind to a halt.

Capitalism will break down.

These two statements can both be true.

Mikus you are just boring as hell; it is tedious to argue with you, but left communists are known for needlessly torturing themselves arguing with obnoxious rude fucks like yourself. (I obviously am an exception).

If you are so curious about the decadence thing read Luxemburg. It seems you have already done that, so shut your bitch-ass up and fuck off!!!

mikus
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Nov 4 2007 03:27
alibadani wrote:
Capitalism will not grind to a halt.

Capitalism will break down.

These two statements can both be true.

Explain both statements and then we'll see.

And secondly, I already showed that Luxemburg's theory implies that capitalism will grind to a halt.

So read what I wrote, and shut your bitch-ass up and fuck off!!!11111

alibadani wrote:
If you are so curious about the decadence thing read Luxemburg. It seems you have already done that, so shut your bitch-ass up and fuck off!!!

OMG!!1111

Is somebody sad that the ICC hasn't let him in yet?

alibadani
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Nov 4 2007 04:01

Mikus,

You need a life, for real. None of the ICC supporters are being denied entry into the organisation you dipshit.

How many times have you said you're tired of arguing with creeps and monkey-brains (or whatever you've said)?

Do yourself a favor and stop.

capricorn
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Nov 4 2007 10:59
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Easily identifiable anarchist positions are also appearing. Capricorn for example talks about the revolution happening at any time in the last hundred and fifty odd years making it a question of morality, of will, despite the material conditions.

Why, Baboon, is it an "anarchist" position to say that communism could have been established at any time in the last 150 or so years, i.e since 1857 or so?
Here's a couple of quotes from someone you'll have difficulty labelling an anarchist.
The first was written in 1872 (what's that, 135 years ago):

Quote:
... it is precisely this industrial revolution which has raised the productive power of human labour to such a high level that — for the first time in the history of mankind — the possibility exists, given a rational division of labour among all, of producing not only enough for the plentiful consumption of all members of society and for an abundant reserve fund, but also of leaving each individual sufficient leisure so that what is reallyworth preserving in historically inherited culture - science, art, forms of intercourse - may not only be preserved but converted from a monopoly of the ruling class into the common property of the whole of society, and may be further developed

The second was written six years later, in 1878 (ie 129 years ago):

Quote:
The possibility of securing for every member of society, by means of socialized production, an existence not only fully sufficient materially, and becoming day by day more full, but an existence guaranteeing to all the free development and exercise of their physical and mental faculties - this possibility is now 'for the first time here, but it is here.

The author was that well-known German anarchist . . . no, not Dr Charles Marx, but Fred Engels (in the opening pages of "The Housing Question" and part 2 of part 3 of "Anti-Dühring").
So, he, for one, thought communism could have been established at any time since the 1870s. What was lacking of course was the "will" to do this, the communist class-consciousness. OK, you can dismiss Engels as utopian for believing that this will could arise before capitalism supposedly began to breakdown 40 or so years later. In fact, why don't you? But I can imagine his reaction if you, or Demigorgon, were around at the time and tried to tell him "no, communism is not possible, we're still in the golden age of capitalism, it's still developing the forces of production and we must let it go on doing this for another 40 years".
Incidentally, I wouldn't call myself an "anarchist" as most people calling themselves anarchists are not communists. Libertarian communist is OK for me, except that you can drop the "libertarian" if you like since communism implies the disappearance of the state, ie there is no other sort of communism.

lem
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Nov 4 2007 11:03

Mikus seriously i mean you're an autodictat/academic, the icc are "just" militants, play nice. also you should be using the oppurtunity to repeat your arguments against decandece not just insult your opponents!

ernie
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Nov 4 2007 12:09

The ICC does think that if capitalism is left to continue its process of decadence that it will destroy society. We think that capitalism's decadence has already entered an even deeper period of decay with its entry into its phase of decomposition, by this we mean that from the 1980's society had seen that the ruling class was not able to impose its objective the defeat of the working class and thus opening the way to world war, whilst on the other hand the proletariat whilst not being willing to march off to war for the ruling class had not been able to impose its own alternative; the development of its struggles through politisation and the unification of the struggle. This situation of impasse means that whilst the ruling class can go to all out world war, the deepening economic crisis has been able to continue to unfold, and all of other contradictions of society have also been able to develop: social decay, the growth of irrationalism, fundamentalism, ecological destruction etc. This process will continue and if the proletariat is unable to get rid of capitalism this rotting of society will destroy the whole basis of communism, the whole would will be sucked into ecological destruction, economic decay and a military barbarism comparable to Iraq. Even now capitalism is not only unable to employ tens of millions in the heartlands, but is ejecting more and more of humanity from any form of material support. It is not a question of if capitalism will destroy society, it has already begun this process, the question is how long will the process of total destruction take. Capitalism will not come to a halt but in its process of dying will drag the whole of society and humanity down.

lem
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Nov 4 2007 12:11

What is decomposition wrt 'crisis' ernie?

ernie
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Nov 4 2007 12:24

Lem, I have to dash to work, but here is a link to a fuller explanation of what we mean by Decomposition
[url=Enter URL here]http://en.internationalism.org/ir/107_decomposition
I hope it helps, sorry not to be able to reply with a shorter explanation, but exploitation is weaving its siren call.

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Demogorgon303
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Nov 4 2007 12:46

I'm only making the claim that Marx makes in several works, where he points out that the revolt of the productive forces is a separate thing from the revolution, even if the latter springs from it. So, in the German Ideology he says:

In the development of productive forces there comes a stage when productive forces and means of intercourse are brought into being, which, under the existing relationships, only cause mischief, and are no longer productive but destructive forces (machinery and money); and connected with this a class is called forth, which has to bear all the burdens of society without enjoying its advantages, which, ousted from society, is forced into the most decided antagonism to all other classes; a class which forms the majority of all members of society, and from which emanates the consciousness of the necessity of a fundamental revolution, the communist consciousness, which may, of course, arise among the other classes too through the contemplation of the situation of this class.” - http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/german-ideology/ch01d.htm#d4

In this passage, the productive forces cause mischief and become destructive. Marx is careful to distinguish the proletariat and its development of a revolutionary class consciousness from this phenomena. The growing revolutionary potential of the class is connected with the "mischief " of the productive forces but it is not identical with it.

In the Communist Manifesto, Marx writes:

"Modern bourgeois society, with its relations of production, of exchange and of property, a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells. For many a decade past the history of industry and commerce is but the history of the revolt of modern productive forces against modern conditions of production, against the property relations that are the conditions for the existence of the bourgeois and of its rule. It is enough to mention the commercial crises that by their periodical return put the existence of the entire bourgeois society on its trial, each time more threateningly ... The productive forces at the disposal of society no longer tend to further the development of the conditions of bourgeois property; on the contrary, they have become too powerful for these conditions, by which they are fettered, and so soon as they overcome these fetters, they bring disorder into the whole of bourgeois society, endanger the existence of bourgeois property. The conditions of bourgeois society are too narrow to comprise the wealth created by them." - http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/ch01.htm

It is clear from this passage that, once again, Marx considers this contradiction between the forces of production and the relations of production as expressing itself in an economic form and locates this within the cyclical crisis. I'll come back to this in a moment.

When writing the Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, Marx returns to this theme (referring back to the period of reflection before writing the German Ideology and writes:

"At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or – this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms – with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution" - http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1859/critique-pol-economy/preface.htm

The context of this passage makes it quite clear that he is not talking about any conjunctural crisis but a whole historical period of a given social system. Underlining this is the use of the word, "era".

All these passages come back to the same points:

- Firstly, that the fettering of the productive forces by moribund relations of production is expressed in the economic sphere independently of the response of the proletariat.

- That this fettering is emphatically not simply the repeated collisions that manifest themselves in the economic crisis. In the Communist Manifesto, where this identification is the strongest (and stil far from complete), Marx refers to a whole series of crises, rather than any single crisis. This fettering is a whole historic epoch characterised as a series of convulsions. Nonetheless, it is the crisis that reveals the essence of the contradictions that will one day be responsible for this definitive fettering.

This makes a nonsense of claims that Marx has no conception of "decadence" or an "epoch of decay".

So we come to the question of how can such a fettering express itself within capitalism, the most dynamic mode of production in history? A capitalism that stops expanding is a non-existent capitalism so this "fettering" must manifest itself in a specifically capitalist form i.e. as an interruption or blockage in the accumulation process. The first expression of this occurs through the economic crisis which has existed at all stages in capitalism. The crisis tendency is an inevitable expression of the accumulation process in its entirety - in fact, the crisis is necessary to capitalism's development because in the same way it springs from a blockage on the process it is at the same time the necessary process that allows capital to overcome this blockage.

But in decadence the crisis takes on a new quality. More and more, it no longer resolves itself "naturally" but increasingly requires the direct intervention of the bourgeoisie to overcome it. The measures they take, paradoxically, are an attempt to adopt capitalism to the shape demanded by the productive forces, but in a capitalist form. These productive forces continue to grow (as capitalism cannot do otherwise) but in a manner that contains insoluble contradictions:

- Counteracting the fall in the rate of profit, the bourgeoisie increases exploitation of the working class, but this exacerbates the problem of overproduction. It attempts to resolve overproduction by turning the exploited working class into a consuming class, not by actually paying it more (which would reduce exploitation) but by the mechanisms of credit.

- The aspects of the crisis engendered by the "anarchy of production" i.e. the failure of capitalism to allocate production in the correct proportions is confronted by the imposition of economic planning by the state in a variety of contingent historical forms. Accompanying this is the tendency towards monopoly, which can nonetheless never be fully realised

- The tendency towards true internationalisation of the economy is accompanied and confronted by the creation of imperialist blocs, free trade areas (NAFTA, EU, etc.), "globalisation", etc.

- The suspension of competition on the local level is reproduced on the global level as each nation (or group thereof) reinforces its position by fortifying the state. Each nation is confronted with the necessity to secure its domination of markets, supplies of essential raw materials, the cheapest labour, etc. As a result every nation is forced towards imperialist orientations.

Each of these phenomena show the productive forces straining at the relations of production. The response of the bourgeoisie is to adapt the latter as far as possible to accomodate these pressures without, in the final analysis, changing their essence. And it is this failure to change the essence of these relations that in turn exacerbates the economic crises that confront the system.

lem
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Nov 4 2007 13:30
Demogorgon303 wrote:
"At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or – this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms – with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution" - http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1859/critique-pol-economy/preface.htm

The context of this passage makes it quite clear that he is not talking about any conjunctural crisis but a whole historical period of a given social system. Underlining this is the use of the word, "era".

that's a relly nice try but i don't think that the use of the term era must signify that marx means a new series of points in time. it seems that he could mean just one point in time against which future dates can simply be reckoned from almost arbitarily

Quote:
1 a: a fixed point in time from which a series of years is reckoned b: a memorable or important date or event; especially : one that [b]begins a new period in the history of a person or thing2: a system of chronological notation computed from a given date as basis3 a: a period identified by some prominent figure or characteristic feature <the era of the horse and buggy> b: a stage in development (as of a person or thing) c: a large division of geologic time usually shorter than an eon <Paleozoic era>

capricorn
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Nov 5 2007 01:18

"Decadence" was a dubious enough concept, but "decomposition" looks as if it's even more dubious. It seems to be based on the false premise that capitalism needs another world war to destroy the physical elements of capital so that capital accumulation can take place through repairing the damage, but because this war has not materialised society has begun to decompose.

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Alf
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Nov 5 2007 12:28

Dave C wrote:

This is in contrast to Hegel, who believed that his philosophy was presuppositionless, and for whom method and system were identical. You and your clique proceed in a manner more akin to Hegel than Marx. The method you call "historical materialism," which you claim consists of certain historical claims, is what you apply to capitalism. You think that you can make historical claims about capitalism that are separable from any analysis of capitalism. Marx understood the essence of his materialist conception of history to be the exact opposite of this. Marx rejected any "general historico-philosophical theory, the supreme virtue of which consists in being super-historical." (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1877/11/russia.htm) Yet this is precisely what "historical materialism" means to you. So I think that on a very basic level, your "method" is the direct opposite of Marx's. Paradoxically, this explains why whenever your specific claims are challenged, you are quick to praise the importance of the proper Marxist method”.

This quote from Marx is often taken out of context to support the view that Marx never tried to elaborate a general theory of history, but only aimed to analyse the laws of capitalism. So what was the context of this quote?

It’s a letter toLetter from Marx to Editor of the Otyecestvenniye Zapisky[/i, responding to A Russian critic (I think it was Mikhailovski) who tried to portray Marx’s theory of history precisely as a dogmatic and mechanical schema, in which every nation is predetermined to go through exactly the same pattern of development. And indeed, this tendency was very strong among the original Russian Marxists, who often tended to present marxism as a simply apology for capitalist development, and who assumed that Russia must necessarily go through its own bourgeois revolution.

In the letter in question, Marx actually comes to a very different conclusion:

“[i]In the postcript to the second German edition of Capital – which the author of the article on M. Shukovsky knows, because he quotes it – I speak of “a great Russian critic and man of learning” with the high consideration he deserves. In his remarkable articles this writer has dealt with the question whether, as her liberal economists maintain, Russia must begin by destroying la commune rurale (the village commune) in order to pass to the capitalist regime, or whether, on the contrary, she can without experiencing the tortures of this regime appropriate all its fruits by developing ses propres donnees historiques [the particular historic conditions already given her]. He pronounces in favour of this latter solution. And my honourable critic would have had at least as much reason for inferring from my consideration for this “great Russian critic and man of learning” that I shared his views on the question… In order that I might be qualified to estimate the economic development in Russia to-day, I learnt Russian and then for many years studied the official publications and others bearing on this subject. I have arrived at this conclusion: If Russia, continues to pursue the path she has followed since 1861, she will lose the finest chance ever offered by history to a nation, in order to undergo all the fatal vicissitudes of the capitalist regime”.

This conclusion was rather unpalatable to most of the Russian Marxists of the time; indeed, Marx and Engels seem to have more respect for the populist terrorist of the Peoples Will than the group around “Plekhanov and his boring doctrines…” as he once referred to it. We can argue about whether or not this was a correct attitude on their part, but as we argued some time ago in the article ‘Mature Marx: past and future communism’, one of the chapters in our book on the evolution of the communist programme, for Marx and Engels, the key to future developments in Russia was the proletarian revolution in the west:

as Engels had already argued in his reply to Tkachev, and as was made perfectly explicit in the introduction to the Russian edition of the Communist Manifesto, published in 1882. If the revolution was suc¬cessful in the industrialised centers of capital, then human¬ity could be spared a great deal of torment right across the globe, and the vestigial forms of communal property could be directly integrated into the world communist system: “if the Russian revolution becomes the signal for a proletarian revolution in the West, so that the two can supplement each other, then present Russian communal land ownership can serve as a point of departure for a communist develop¬ment”.
This was a perfectly reasonable hypothesis at the time. Indeed, it is evident today that if the proletarian revolutions of 1917-23 had been victorious - if the proletarian revolu¬tion in the West had come to the aid of the Russian revolu¬tion - the terrible ravages of capitalist “development” in the peripheries could have been avoided, remaining forms of communal property could have become part of a global communism, and we would not now be faced with the so¬cial, economic and ecological catastrophe that is most of the “third world’.
Furthermore, there is a great deal that is prophetic in Marx’s preoccupation with Russia. Ever since the Crimean War Marx and Engels had had the profound conviction that some kind of social upheaval in Russia was about to take place (which partially explains their support for the People’s Will, who were judged to be the most sincere and dynamic revolutionaries in the Russian movement); and that even if it did not assume a clearly proletarian character, it would indeed be the spark that lit the general revolutionary confrontation in Europe.
Marx was mistaken about the imminence of this up¬heaval. Capitalism did develop in Russia, even without the emergence of a strong and independent bourgeois class; it did largely, though not completely, dissolve the archaic peasant commune; and the main protagonist of the actual Russian revolution was indeed the industrial working class. Above all, the revolution in Russia did not dawn until cap¬italism as a whole had become a “regressive social regime”, ie had entered its phase of decadence, a reality demon¬strated by the imperialist war of 1914-18.
Nevertheless, Marx’s rejection of the necessity for each country to go through mechanical stages, his reluctance to support the nascent forces of capitalism in Russia, his intu¬ition that a social upheaval in Russia would be the opening shot of the international proletarian revolution - in all this he was brilliantly anticipating the critique of Menshevik gradualism and “stageism” initiated by Trotsky, continued by Bolshevism and practically vindicated by the October revolution. By the same token, it is no accident that the Russian marxists, who had been formally correct in seeing that capitalism would develop in Russia, should have “lost” Marx’s letter: the majority of them, after all, were the founding fathers of Menshevism...”

All this shows that Marxism was not a rigid system of ‘universal progress’, even if it certainly became that in the hands of the Mensheviks and later of the Stalinists. What it absolutely does not show is that Marx’s theory excluded any attempt to draw out the general dynamic of social formations prior to capitalism. The huge amount of energy Marx put into studying the Russian ‘commune’ and the general question of primitive communism in his later years, and the amount of space covered by the analysis of pre-capitalist social forms in the Grundrisse make this a senseless proposition. Above all, it is not at all justified by the Preface to the Critique of Political Economy, where Marx outlines his general approach to historical evolution, particularly in the passage

Mankind thus inevitably sets itself only such tasks as it is able to solve, since closer examination will always show that the problem itself arises only when the material conditions for its solution are already present or at least in the course of formation. In broad outline, the Asiatic, ancient, feudal and modern bourgeois modes of production may be designated as epochs marking progress in the economic development of society. The bourgeois mode of production is the last antagonistic form of the social process of production – antagonistic not in the sense of individual antagonism but of an antagonism that emanates from the individuals' social conditions of existence – but the productive forces developing within bourgeois society create also the material conditions for a solution of this antagonism. The prehistory of human society accordingly closes with this social formation”.

This is not a rigid mechanical schema, but it certainly is an attempt to elaborate a general theory of mankind’s historical trajectory. It involves not only capitalism, but all the class societies that preceded it. It doesn’t mention primitive communism, but we have already said how concerned Marx was to understand the role it had played in history, though as Marx remarked, again with regard to the Russian question, “the history of the decline of primitive communities has yet to be written. All we have so far are some rather meagre outlines…(but) the causes of their decline stem from economic facts which prevented them from passing a certain stage of development” (First draft of letter to Vera Zasulich, 1881).

Regarding whether or not Marx saw that capitalism would follow the same basic path as primitive, Asiatic, ancient and feudal modes of production and enter a period of decline, the discussion on the Russian question is also of interest. In a letter to Vera Zasulich, Marx wrote:

“the capitalist system is past its prime in the West, approaching the time when it will be no more than a regressive social regime” (cited in Shanin, Late Marx and the Russian Road, RKP, p103).

This judgement tends to agree with Engels’ view, cited by Capricorn, that the preconditions for socialism already existed in Europe. However, the problem was a little more complex than the way Capricorn presents it. In 1858, in a letter to Engels dated 8 October, Marx wrote:

“The proper task of bourgeois society is the creation of the world market, at least in outline, and of the production based on that market. Since the world is round, the colonisation of California and Australia and the opening up of China and Japan would seem to have completed this process. For us, the difficult question is this: on the Continent revolution is imminent and will, moreover, instantly assume a socialist character. Will it not necessarily be crushed in this little corner of the earth, since the movement of bourgeois society is still, in the ascendant over a far greater area?”

This shows three things:
- that the judgement of capitalism as a system that had or was soon to become a “regressive” system, a system that was “past its prime”, was entirely in Marx’s frame of reference
- that Marx based his judgment on the ripeness of the conditions for the proletarian revolution by looking at the entire globe and the overall historical era reached by the capitalist system
- that the period between 1870 and 1914 was in many ways an ambiguous period. The phase of bourgeois revolutions had in fact drawn to a close in the heartlands of capitalism, although it was not yet possible for revolutionaries to say that they had ceased to be on the agenda in the peripheral regions; the phase of generalised imperialist expansion by the industrialised countries had begun, and while revolutionaries could not support the bourgeoisie in its colonial invasion of the pre-capitalist regions, they were also aware that this development was to a certain extent a factor of progress (see for example Marx’s writings on India).

This post has already been too long but I want to make one last point in response to Dave C’s argument that the era of capitalist decline is identical with the proletarian revolution. This approach fails to take into account the fundamental difference between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie as revolutionary classes, ie classes that are the bearers of new modes of production. With the latter, the bourgeois revolution could indeed be coterminous with the epoch of feudal decline for a period lasting centuries. This is because the bourgeoisie, as an exploiting class, could build up its economic position in feudal society long before making its political revolution, and the conditions for such revolutions evolved very differently in particular national circumstances. Hence it was possible for a century and a half to lie between the English revolution and the French. This cannot be the case for the working class, which has no property forms inside capitalism and can only unleash its social-economic transformation after the seizure of political power; and for the same reason, the proletarian revolution must necessarily spread itself more or less rapidly across the entire world. Thus in 1917, when a very short revolutionary opening appeared, the majority of revolutionaries understood very clearly the catastrophic consequences of a defeat for this first global assault on capitalism. Both Rosa Luxemburg in the Junius Pamphlet and the Communist International in its early pronouncements specifically argued that it would entail a spiral of even more devastating wars. In other words, if the revolution failed, capitalism would not become ascendant again, or return to some kind of stability, but would plunge ever deeper into barbarism.

Capitalism’s decline is not “identical with the class-conscious struggle of the proletariat that abolishes capitalism” as Dave C claims. The first is merely the precondition for the latter. As Rosa put it in Social Reform or Revolution (section V):

It is not true that socialism will arise automatically from the daily struggle of the working class. Socialism will be the consequence of (1), the growing contradictions of capitalist economy and (2), of the comprehension by the working class of the unavailability of the suppression of these contradictions through a social transformation. When, in the manner of revisionism, the first condition is denied and the second rejected, the labour movement finds itself reduced to a simple co-operative and reformist movement. We move here in a straight line toward the total abandonment of the class viewpoint”.

baboon
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Nov 5 2007 16:08

I think you're wrong Capricorn, but think you raise an important point for this discussion. I think with hindsight we can see that capitalism still had some time to develop overall and the proletarian revolution wasn't on the cards until it had fully expressed its bankruptcy. Though capitalism was going towards its definitive decay in the late 19th c, it had some way to go and trade unions and reformist policies were still part of the class movement. There are plenty more examples of both Marx and Engels being precipitous in their analysis of the possibility of revolution but I wouldn't hold this against them.
Capitalism is not a simple market place of production meeting consumption, but the expropriation of producers and turning them into proletarians and here the market needs to constantly expand. Exploitation and its realisation are not identical, realisation being "the second part of the process" , and this realisation depends on the market. Exploitation and realisation are "not only limited in time and space, they are also separate in theory" (Capital, vol. 3). The former depends on the productive forces, the latter on the "power of consumption", and that power of consumption is reduced to the lowest level possible by capitalism, ie, the minimum amount for the reproduction of labour power. This leads to the "poverty and restricted consumption of the masses" while the productive forces develop apace. This contradiction is also exacerbated by the constant drive to increase the accumulation on an ever greater scale. Marx is clear that for this to happen the market must constantly expand. Given the independence of the market from consumption, clearly enumerated by Marx, then the possibility exists of the market, or new markets, being outpaced by production. This innate tendency to overproduction is the fetter through which capitalism hobbles humanity and brings with it, in germ in ascendency and in spades in decadence, the threats of crises at higher levels and greater destruction. When Marx was developing his economic theories only around 10% of the world's population lived under capitalism and, for most people, the sytem's capacity to expand seemed limitless. But Marx underscored the basic contradiction between unlimited production and the necessarily narrow market of restricted consumption.
The advance that Luxemburg makes on Marx (or rather, the workers' movement with Luxemburg) is to put the development of capitalism within the context of non-capitalist society (feudalism, then peasants and artisans) both within and without national territories, with different elements having different weights at different times. This within the growing competition over the division of the planet - the necessity to conquer new markets, the predominant factor in the last decades of the 19th c. Realisation becomes the major underpinning of full-blown imperialism, ie, the new, global conditions for capitalist accumulation. If capitalist production itself constituted a sufficient market for accumulation then, historically, capitalism could peacefully continue accumulating with no limits. In that case, there would be no need for imperialism to express itself. Marx said that: "to say that only the capitalists can exchange and consume their commodities amongst themselves is to completely forget the character of capitalist production and forget that it is a question of the valorisation of capital, not consuming it".
Luxemburg wasn't talking about "third persons" to get rid of surplus commodities, but that beneath the violence that commodity production contained, existed a world of force, fraud, oppression, looting and spheres of influence. All tending to reinforce the contradictions and decay of the system within a world historical context. The first world war (not the date August 4, 1914) is the concrete expression of this decay. A more dramatic and emphatic historical signpost would be difficult to find.
Though there are some formulations in Luxemburg which do suggest that accumulation will come to a full stop, a fuller reading of her analysis gives a wider picture involving the class struggle. Marx gives a similar impression in some cases, but what's important about Luxemburg (and Marx, and Engels) is to understand the dynamic that they are exposing, ie, that capitalism becomes "a string of political and social disasters" (RL). This latter has been demonstrated beyond any doubt in the 20th c and is unfolding in front of our eyes right now.

Leo
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Nov 5 2007 16:26

Double post.

Leo
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Nov 5 2007 16:27
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but "decomposition" looks as if it's even more dubious.

It feels quite real down here where I live though and I will even say that you can hear the sound of barbarism easily when it's quiet in places which doesn't "seem that barbaric" yet.

capricorn
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Nov 5 2007 16:43

Yeah (and its pretty decadent too), but is it caused by the fact that capitalism needs another world war for capital accumulation to proceed but that they can't unleash it because the workers don't allow it?

ernie
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Nov 5 2007 21:22

Capricorn we are not saying that capitalism needs another war to allow capital accumulation to take place: that is the position of Grossmann and the IBRP and we do not agree with it.
We think that in decadence war has become the dominating factor of the life of the bourgeoisie. Each national bourgeoisie large or small is forced to do all it can to win a larger slice of the world in order to impose its military, economic and political domination upon its rivals. With the context of a carved up world this can only mean war. Thus two world wars, not a days peace, the massive growth of the war economy in the first world war, its reinforcement and extension from the end of the 1920s (though in the 20s there was no let up in tensions and the US underwent a huge process of military development, as did Japan). This saw the economy placed under the control of the state in order to try and confine the antagonisms between the different parts of the ruling class under the overall needs of the state. These tensions clearly were accentuated by the crisis of the 30's but we should not forget that even in the so-called period of the capitalist boom in the 1950s and 60's there was huge military expenditure East and West and countless wars.
War is not not an exception in the life of decadent capitalism but is an underpining characteristic. Clearly this feature of dying capitalism becomes more pressing faced with economic crisis. War however is no anwer to the problems of capitalism; in the 1920's the world economy was bascially stagnent and the boom of the 50s etc were only the product of the war as far as the US had been able to gain domination over the whole of the Western Bloc, Faced with the onset of the crisis in the 1960's the tensions between the two blocks certainly got worse as the contradictions of the extreme state capitalism of the Eastern bloc became increasingly unable to offer any means for dealing with the impact of the crisis, which forced it to try and strike out: Afghanistan being an extremely dangerous expression of this.
We have always pointed out that a 3rd World War had not economic sense at all becasuse it would have meant the total destruction of humanity but capitalism, especially the weakers imperialist power would be forced to try and strike out: as Germany had to do in the First and Second World War. Russian imperialism was in similar position.
The overcoming of the counter revolution marked by 1968 and the waves of international class struggle that followed until 1989 showed that the working class was not willing to mobilise for war. This meant that the USSR collapsed under the economic and social impact of Stalinism's inability to be able to offer any means, not matter how insane, of stopping the contradictions of capitalism tearing the Eastern Bloc apart. It could do nothing about the desire of the different national bourgeoisies of the block seeking to break free of its rule and going over to the US.
In the West the economic contradictions were left to become ever deeper. Since 1989 with the disappearance of the blocs the economic turmoil in the old Eastern bloc countries espeically Russia, along with the adandonment of Africa, crisis in Asia and Latin America, the Internet boom and now the dramatic financial economic earthquake shaking the world have all underlined that the economic and social crisis of capitalism has worsened.
As have the terrible bloody wars we have seen in Africa (4 million dead in the Congo) the falling apart of state, wars in the Balkans, the Middle East, the growth of the impact of terrorism especially in the very heart of the capitalist system. The enormous/unimaginable cost of the US's war drive alone demonstrates the destuctive nature of decomposing capitalism, its has speant nearly $800 billion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan alone (it is spending $3 billion a day on Iraq alone). And this war drive by the US and its rivals is not going to stop but has to continue becasuse the logic of imperialism means that the US and its rivals have to fight it out to the death in their desperate efforts to assert their imperialist ambitions.

ernie
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Nov 5 2007 21:27

Capricorn, decomposition is a an expression of particular stage in the class struggle between the proletariat and bourgeoisie. The impasse between the two class can only mean that the contradictions of capitalist society are allowed to putrify to unheard of levels. Levels that will lead to the very basis of the proletariat's ability to offers its revolutionary alternative: its consciouss and organisation, as society rots. The proletariat is faced with a historical challenge either develop its struggles and consciousness or be destroyed.

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Devrim
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Nov 5 2007 21:27

Ernie, try paragraphing.
Devrim

ernie
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Nov 5 2007 21:36

Devrim, is that better?

capricorn
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Nov 5 2007 23:11

I see the ICC has a theory of everything. It must be nice to be so sure.

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Capricorn we are not saying that capitalism needs another war to allow capital accumulation to take place: that is the position of Grossmann and the IBRP and we do not agree with it.

Sorry, Ernie, but what are you saying, then: that even with another World War capital accumulation won't take place?
In any event, while I can understand that as long as capitalism lasts there'll be jockeying between the various capitalist States for sources of raw materials, investment outlets, markets, trade routes and strategic points to protect and control these, I don't see why this will lead to a Third World War. Proxy wars and limited wars, yes, but another World War, I doubt it. I can't see them being that stupid.

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dying capitalism

If only. I wish you wouldn't exaggerate.

mikus
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Nov 5 2007 23:26
ernie wrote:
Capricorn we are not saying that capitalism needs another war to allow capital accumulation to take place: that is the position of Grossmann and the IBRP and we do not agree with it.

When did Grossman say this after the second world war? Seeing as he died in 1950, I find this highly unlikely, especially given that capital accumulation was already taking place.

dave c
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Nov 6 2007 06:05

First I will analyze a few of the quotations brought up, then I will describe the general sense of Marx’s statements on the subject of the contradiction between the forces of production and capitalist social relations.

Firstly, it is not my intention to claim that Marx never speaks of decline without a mention of social revolution. But a “theory of decadence” would have to have some substance to it. A theory of decadence must have an economic basis. It is in this sense that I claim there is no theory of decadence in Marx. So, to the question of whether a conception of decline independent of the rising tide of social revolution is something central to Marx’s theory of capitalism, I do not see how the answer could possibly be yes.

Now, the quotes that Demogorgon presents from the German Ideology and the Communist Manifesto seem to me to be similar to each other. Marx does not seem to be elaborating a theory of decline, but speaking of the fettering of the productive forces that is chronic to capitalism. Marx seems not to be talking about a qualitatively new period of crises, but rather the very rise of crises which bring the social order into question. In the German Ideology quote, Marx writes that the forces of production have become “destructive forces.” Coming back to this idea later in the book, he writes that capitalism

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produced a mass of productive forces, for which private property became just as much a fetter as the guild had been for manufacture and the small, rural workshop for the developing craft. These productive forces received under the system of private property a one-sided development only, and became for the majority destructive forces; moreover, a great multitude of such forces could find no application at all within this system. (The German Ideology, Prometheus, 82)

When Marx earlier writes that the productive forces become “no longer productive but destructive forces,” I think he is saying the same thing in a possibly misleading way. They become destructive forces when they come into continual conflict with bourgeois business as usual, not necessarily when capitalism declines. They are still, technically speaking, “productive forces.” In the Communist Manifesto, Marx links his analysis of the “too powerful” forces of production clearly to the appearance of overproduction in crises, i.e. to a chronic “fetter” and not to an absolute fetter delimiting a period of decline. Marx believes that machinery and money “cause mischief” in a way they did not before, but must we take this as a periodization of decline? Especially in the light of Marx’s later economic theory, these quotes seem to show an early understanding of the internal contradictions of capitalism developing with cyclical crises phrased in the language of an understandable revolutionary impatience.

A good example of the further development of Marx’s perspective is in The Class Struggles in France:

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With this general prosperity, in which the productive forces of bourgeois society develop as luxuriantly as is at all possible within bourgeois relationships, there can be no talk of a real revolution. Such a revolution is only possible in the periods when both these factors, the modern productive forces and the bourgeois productive forms come in collision with each other. . . . (The Marx-Engels Reader, Norton, 593)

This use of “forces/relations of production” paves the way for the more substantive analysis of his later economic works. In the Grundrisse and Capital, Marx’s mentions of the contradiction between the forces and relations of production are of two types. One type is the mention of the internal contradiction of capitalism, which exists as long as capitalism exists:

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. . . the bourgeois mode of production contains within itself a barrier to the free development of the productive forces. (Theories of Surplus Value, vol.2, Prometheus, 528)

In this sense the productive forces are developed without an absolute limit or dead end, but face an imminent barrier which is constantly posited, constantly overcome:

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. . . the necessary development of the productive forces as posited by capital consists in increasing the relation of surplus labour to necessary labour. . . .(Grundrisse, Penguin, 609)

The other type is passages in which an absolute limit of the development of the forces of production under capitalism is reached. And these passages are about social revolution, since the human being is the “main force of production” (Grundrisse, Penguin, 422). A good example of this type of passage is the following:

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Along with the constantly diminishing number of the magnates of capital, who usurp and monopolize all advantages of this process of transformation, grows the mass of misery, oppression, slavery, degradation, exploitation; but with this too grows the revolt of the working-class, a class always increasing in numbers, and disciplined, united, organized by the very mechanism of the process of capitalist production itself. The monopoly of capital becomes a fetter upon the mode of production, which has sprung up and flourished along with, and under it. Centralization of the means of production and socialization of labor at last reach a point where they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. This integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated. (Capital, vol. 1, Penguin, 929)

These three things--the integument bursting, the knell sounding, the expropriators being expropriated--are three descriptions of one process. Some passages deal more explicitly with crises:

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Capital, at the same time, is thereby faced with the task of launching its attempt anew from a higher level of the development of productive forces, with each time greater collapse as capital. Clear, therefore, that the higher the development of capital, the more it appears as barrier to production -- hence also to consumption -- besides the other contradictions which make it appear as a burdensome barrier to production and intercourse. (Grundrisse, Penguin, 416)

Here the contradiction inherent in crises appears as a greater and greater barrier, preparing the ground for a decline brought about by the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat. Another example:

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Capital itself is the contradiction, in that, while it constantly tries to suspend necessary labour time (and this is at the same time the reduction of the worker to a minimum, i.e. his existence as mere living labour capacity), surplus labour time exists only in antithesis with necessary labour time, so that capital posits necessary labour time as a necessary condition of its reproduction and realization. At a certain point, a development of the forces of material production -- which is at the same time a development of the forces of the working class -- suspends capital itself. (Grundrisse, Penguin, 543)

Capital is superseded, destroyed.

This is how Marx describes the conflict of the forces and relations of production in his economic works. Marx writes of bourgeois social relations as 1)inherently limiting the forces of production, 2) becoming more and more of a barrier, and 3) being superseded. This is because all of these uses follow directly from his analysis of capital’s laws of motion. There is no absolute or qualitatively distinct fettering of the forces of production within capital that would delimit a necessary phase of decline. This is because Marx’s theory of crisis is not a theory of permanent crisis. Turning it into one is wishful thinking:

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The interpretation of the great crisis between the two world wars [by Mattick himself among others] as a possible final crisis of capital made the wish the father to the thought. But this could only be known afterwards. In principle in developed capitalism any great crisis can become the final crisis. If it does not, it remains a presupposition of further accumulation. (Paul Mattick, Economic Crisis and Crisis Theory, Merlin, 121)

To put my perspective in perspective I will relate it to an ICC book, The Dutch-German Communist Left. Here is a criticism of the Group of International Communists of Holland in that book:

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The crisis of 1929 was seen, not as a generalized crisis expressing the decline of the capitalist system, but as a cyclical crisis. In a pamphlet published in 1933, the GIC asserted that the Great Crisis was 'chronic' rather than permanent, even since 1914. Capitalism was like the legendary phoenix, endlessly reborn from its own ashes. After each 'regeneration' by the crisis, capitalism reappeared 'greater and more powerful than ever.' But this 'regeneration' wasn't eternal, since 'the flames threaten the whole of social life with an increasingly violent death'. Finally, only the proletariat could give the capitalist phoenix the 'death blow' and transform a cycle of crisis into a final crisis. This theory was thus contradictory, since, on the one hand, it was a vision of cyclical crises as in the 19th century, with capitalism constantly expanding, in permanent ascendancy; on the other hand, it described a cycle of increasingly lethal destructions and reconstructions. (273)

Marx described a series of cyclical crises with capitalism constantly expanding, yet having increasingly lethal effects, as is clear from the above. Why does the ICC object so strongly to this analysis? You could somehow claim that Marx's analysis does not apply to the 20th century, while Luxemburg’s does, but Marx’s analysis is not “contradictory,” it just contradicts Luxemburg!

I think that all of this begs the question of whether we are to base our understanding of capitalism’s development on a few phrases from the Communist Manifesto or on Marx’s actual analysis of capitalism’s laws of motion.

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Devrim
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Nov 6 2007 06:11
ernie wrote:
Devrim, is that better?

Better, but not as good as if you insert a blank line between them.
Devrim

capricorn
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Nov 6 2007 08:46
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When did Grossman say this after the second world war? Seeing as he died in 1950, I find this highly unlikely, especially given that capital accumulation was already taking place.

I was wondering about that too since I assumed that Grossmann was long dead. I've not actually read him but, from all accounts, he was as bad as them in that he, too, undertook the absurd task of trying to demonstrate mathematically that one day capitalism will break down as an economic system. Absurd, because how can you factor the consciousness and will of the working class into a mathematical formula?

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Alf
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Nov 6 2007 09:12

"the absurd task of trying to demonstrate mathematically that one day capitalism will break down as an economic system"

But is it any more absurd than trying to demonstrate mathematically that capitalism can realise all the surplus value it creates within the labour/capital relationship, ie that there is no reason for it to break down?

Will have to come back to Dave C's new post later.

capricorn
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Nov 6 2007 11:30

I don't know, Alf. Maybe. According to Luxemburg, there was a Russian professor called Tugan Baranovski who, it seems, did try to demonstrate mathematically that capitalism could, in theory, go on for ever. I don't know if it really was his view that capitalism would in fact go on for ever. But, though (like Marx) I do think that "capitalism can realise all the surplus value it creates within the labour/capital relationship", at least over the period of a complete business cycle, I don't think that this means that capitalism will or can go on for ever, but that's for other than purely economic reasons. Capitalism is not just an economic system, it's a complete economic, social and political system in which other factors than pure economics determine what actually happens. Capitalism will come to an end, as in the case of all previous social systems, through the conscious action of those who have an interest in bringing it to an end. I don't think it will collapse or breakdown economically before this happens.

ernie
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Nov 6 2007 11:55

Capricorn I think I need to clarify a couple of points in reponse to your reply

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Sorry, Ernie, but what are you saying, then: that even with another World War capital accumulation won't take place?
In any event, while I can understand that as long as capitalism lasts there'll be jockeying between the various capitalist States for sources of raw materials, investment outlets, markets, trade routes and strategic points to protect and control these, I don't see why this will lead to a Third World War. Proxy wars and limited wars, yes, but another World War, I doubt it. I can't see them being that stupid.

1. The point that I was trying to make was that for Grossmann (see The law of accumulation and breakdown of the capitalist system) and the IBRP war plays the function of devalorising capital thus allowing a new cycle of accumulation to take place .

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The specific function of war in the capitalist mechanism is only explicable in these terms (devalorisation). Far from being an obstacle to the development opf capitalism or a factor which acclerates the breakdown , as Kautsky and other Marxists have supposed, the destructions and devaluations of war are a means of warding off the imminant collapse, of creating a breathing space for the accumulation of capital

Grossman

I am not sure what Grossmann throught after WW2, but I was not referrring to that.

Grossmann's book is well worth the read because it is a serious attempt to reassert against revisionisms and opportunisms idea that capitalism could go on and one that for Marx the concept of the breakdown of capitalism was fundamental. One may not agree with his economic analysis but it is a serious work. It is a pity that there is only an abridged version in English.

We are not saying that accumulation will not take place, clearly it does,though with increasingly deepening playing out of the contradications of capitlaism.

2. The ICC does not see the immediate or possibly the long-term perspective as being a Third World War. For such a war you need another imperialist power with the military, economic and political might to pose itself as an alternative to the US and around which other powers would be willing to gather in opposition to the the US. There is also the question of the need to crush the working class. Since the collapse of the old bloc system it has become clear that there is not another power with that ability at present and instead the tendency is for each imperialist power (great or small) to play their own game. Alliances will be made, but they a temporary.

The perspective is heading towards a situation of every deeper tensions, as each power is driven to pursue their own ambitions no matter what cost this may have. This is particularly so with the world only super power, which is being forced to to make displays of its military power which whilst aimed at reminding its rivals of its power, are ending up showing it to be unable to impose its rule eg Iraq and increasing Afghanistan.

You are right WW3 is not on the cards at the moment but something equally barbaric is playing itself out as more and more of the planet is being reduced to a state of barbarity.

Capricorn, would it be right to say that there is possibly a meeting of minds on this at least?