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Issue #1741      July 27, 2016

Marxism and the way forward

Fighting the global offensive of capitalism

“Finally, there came a time when everything that men had considered as inalienable became an object of exchange, of traffic and could be alienated. This is the time when the very things which till then had been communicated, but never exchanged; given, but never sold; acquired, but never bought – virtue, love, conviction, knowledge, conscience, etc, when everything in short, passed into commerce. It is the time of general corruption of universal venality, or to speak in terms of political economy, the time when everything, moral or physical, having become a marketable value, is brought to the market to be assessed at its lowest value.”

The 19th century witnessed great human discoveries, opening up new vistas of scientific knowledge, literary genius, liberal and rational thought, great art and culture.

But the grandest among them, is surely the climax of them all; the articulation of the theory of human emancipation by Karl Marx. Marx’s analysis of the nature of capitalism, the modus operandi of capitalist exploitation, and finally the possibility of human emancipation, shook the world and finally led to the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, and the formation of the world’s first socialist state.

For over a century, millions of people had organised in powerful working-class and other people’s movements, challenged the existing order, convinced they were on the verge of drastic change – a socialist future world that could guarantee the rational use of human creativity and resources.

Every moment of thought since October 1917, however remote from the event it might appear, has reflected the problems raised by the Russian Revolution. For millions of working people, October had shone as a ray of hope in their lives, while for the ruling classes of the world it represented a mortal threat.

However you looked at the problems of world society, whether from a factory bench or from a university philosophy department, whether you sought a radical change or were utterly hostile to socialism, the Soviet experiment was seen as the alternative to the existing social order.

Today when capitalist propagandists claim that the issue of socialism is now closed, what is the actual state of affairs?

Current reality

Today, capitalism is all but universal. Capitalist laws of motion, the logic of capitalism, have penetrated ever deeper into the societies of advanced capitalism, spatially throughout the world. Now every human practice, every social relationship, and the national environment are subject to the requirements of profit-maximisation. In effect, what does this constant self-expansion of capital, capital accumulation, mean?

Ellen Meiksins Wood, writing in Monthly Review, encapsulated it thus:

“At one extreme, in advanced capitalist countries, it means the penetration of capitalist principles into those social institutional and cultural spaces that even a few decades ago they had not yet reached.

“At the other extreme, it means that marginalisation and increasing impoverishment of whole regimes outside the advanced capitalist countries. In a sense, the class polarisations of capitalism are being reproduced in the North-South divide, not to mention the impoverishment of the so-called underclasses within advanced capitalist countries.

“The other side of (this) new imperialism is a new kind of militarism. This one does not generally have territorial ambitions, and generally leaves nation-states in place. Its objective is not hegemony over specific colonies with identifiable boundaries, but boundless hegemony over the global economy.

“So, instead of absorbing or annexing territory, imperialist militarism typically uses massive displays of violence to assert the domination of global capital ... the United States, enforcing its freedom to navigate the global economy without hindrance.”

Profit through military

The global expansion of corporate interests manifests itself through emphasis on the market economy, through the phenomenon of (imperialist) globalisation.

History shows that war in its various forms is the military means by which capitalism acquires most markets, a permanent supply of cheap labour and raw materials, essential to counteract any decline in its rate of profit.

Thus the global crisis of capitalism, now threatening the United States of America at the very heart of the system, characterised by a wave of frantic corporate mergers, acquisitions and alliances, could be offset only through an acceleration of its control over the global economy by war or other means.

The last century of the millennium experienced the first barbaric invasion of Iraq and devastating bombing of Yugoslavia, at the very heart of Europe, by US imperialism along with its NATO partners – all monstrously designed to further the global economic interests of capitalism.

The multiplication of US sanctions against a number of countries refusing to surrender to US imperialism – Cuba, Libya, North Korea and of course Iraq and Yugoslavia – is a reflection of a waning global economy, a crisis of overproduction – global glut.

In the loud lamentations of one of the foremost world financiers, George Soros, “The global capitalist system, which has been responsible for the remarkable prosperity of this country (United States), is coming apart at the seams”.

So what has happened?

First of all “it is certainly not just a Japanese or Latin American crisis, or the consequences of specific national strategies or policy failures. It is not a function of `crony capitalism’, nor of any other specific and defective form of capitalism.

“It is not exclusive to deficient capitalisms, such as the parasitic Russian form.

“It is a consequence of capitalism pure and simple and it manifests itself even in the most ostensibly successful capitalism. Crisis is a consequence of systematic processes inherent in capitalism as such, which are playing themselves out in every capitalist economy and in the relations among them!”

What then are the implications of this prolonged crisis?

Historically there is not, nor ever has there been, a mechanical link between economic crisis and mass political movements. The forms of struggle, and especially their timing, cannot be predicted in advance.

While there are no ready-made answers in classical Marxist philosophy to the specific questions that we face today – Marx only delineated certain basic principles – he also clearly saw the potential for a human way of living. His Communism was not a utopian vision, but the reflection of the possibilities in human existence and human potential.

In this world, money rules. In every part of the capitalist world the new technology has made its mark on all our lives through the same medium – the market – in which goods and services and individuals are globally bought and sold.

Imperialist globalisation has made it fashionable to take it for granted that we just cannot live without the market. But in reality, what the introduction of the new technology has brought about is a two-tier labour market in which the people in the expanding lower layers are trapped by poor education or lack of education, poor housing or homelessness, degrading or mindless forms of work or long-term unemployment and hunger.

Only the higher privileged layers of the employed enjoy the benefits of the system.

Imperialist globalisation thus means technological monopoly, financial control of worldwide financial markets, monopolistic access to the planet’s natural resources, media and communication and monopolies over weapons of mass destruction.

Since this situation is generating a global crisis where all capitalist countries are affected, the basis is laid for nation-wide and world-wide struggle against the system itself.

In other words to fight the global offensive of capitalism, a new sense of international solidarity and unity among the working masses is an urgent task today.

And clear indications are visible that, though very slow, change in the consciousness of the working class, the toiling people and all sections of the poor, is taking place across the globe, realising the necessity of halting this capitalist offensive.

This struggle has to be intensified and political consciousness raised,... wherein the socialist alternative does not appear a far cry but a realisable possibility.

Where humanity survives, its conflict with inhuman forms goes on. Today’s obscenities, the dehumanised forces, cannot remain as permanent fixtures in human civilisation. Human beings can erase them. The Marxist conception can show the way forward.

Acknowledgments: People’s Democracy

Next article – Turkey – Erdogan’s whip hand

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