The Third International after Lenin

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A misanthropic force: capitalism today

The contemporary proletariat is heterogeneous, consisting of the working class of the socialist countries, the capitalist countries and the countries that have shaken off the yoke of colonialism. In this huge army of labour an important place is occupied by the numerically large working class of the capitalist countries, which still has to fulfil its great liberating mission. In this chapter we shall deal primarily with this contingent of workers, with its aims and tasks and with the conditions and difficulties of its selfless struggle against capitalism. Inasmuch as this struggle is being waged under conditions of contemporary capitalism, let us start with an analysis of these conditions and show the essence of contemporary capitalism.

The Crisis of World Capitalism

The socialist world is opposed by the world of capitalism, in which private ownership and exploitation are predominant. The latter world has no historical prospects and is experiencing a deep general crisis caused by the objective laws and the irreconcilable contradictions of capitalist development. The general crisis of capitalism is a state of its decline and disintegration, a state embracing all capitalist countries, the entire capitalist world from top to bottom: its economy and social system, its policy, ideology and culture. Gripped by this general crisis the capitalist world is finding it increasingly more difficult to retain in ils orbit individual countries that prefer to break away from it and take the road of socialist development.

The beginning of this crisis, ils first stage, was sparked off by the October Socialist Revolution in Russia, as a result of which capitalism ceased to be the only and allembracing world social system. Despite all its efforts, it proved to be unable to hinder the formation of the Soviet Union. The world’s first socialist state withstood the military crusades, the economic blockade, the endless slander campaigns and the ideological sabotage of the imperialists, thereby demonstrating its vitality and invincibility.

The second stage of this general crisis began during World War II and the socialist revolutions that took place in Europe and Asia. Today capitalism is no longer the only world system: socialism has stepped across the boundary of one country, and along with the world capitalist system there is now a world socialist system.

The New, Third Stage of the General Crisis

The present, third stage of the general crisis of world capitalism started in the 1950s and its main feature is that there has been a radical change in the balance of world forces in favour of socialism. More and more countries are breaking away from capitalism and the forces working for socialism and social progress are rapidly growing throughout the world. The position of imperialism in the world-wide economic competition with socialism is inexorably growing weaker. The unparalleled upsurge of the national liberation movement has brought about the downfall of the imperialist colonial system. It is important to note that the new stage of the general crisis of capitalism was brought on not by a world war but by peace, by the peaceful coexistence of states with opposing social systems.

One of the features of this new stage is that there has been an acceleration of the inner instability and decay of capitalist economy. The unsteady rates of production growth, the constant underemployment of production capacities and the economic slumps that periodically shake the capitalist world eloquently show that capitalism is steadily losing its ability to make full use of its productive forces, let alone to apply the latest scientific and technical achievements in the interests of the people.

In the U.S.A., for example, there have been several economic recessions since the war. The 1957–58 slump alone cost the country 60,000–65,000 million dollars’ worth of industrial output and pushed industrial production down to the 1953 level. The workers’ loss in wages amounted to 19,678,000 million dollars.

At the close of 1960 only 70 per cent of Canada’s and 80 per cent of Japan’s industrial capacities were in operation. In 1961 industry was underemployed by 12 per cent in the Federal Republic of Germany and by a still higher percentage in Britain and Belgium. Entire industries are being curtailed: shipbuilding in Italy and France, textilemanufacturing and railway transport in Britain, and so forth.

Capitalism is unable to make full use of the main productive force—the working people—thereby dooming the working masses to unemployment, depriving them of the means of subsistence. Official bourgeois statistics indicate that 8,000,000–10,000,000 people are fully unemployed in North America, Western Europe, Japan and Australia. Of this number, at least half are in the United States of America. Instead of serving people, automation and mechanisation, those superb achievements of the human intellect, are used to the detriment of the working man. In the U.S.A. automation and mechanisation are making 1,800,000-2,000,000 people redundant annually.

From this one can infer that in the capitalist countries the conflict between the productive forces and the relations of production has become unprecedentedly acute, that capitalist relations of production are fettering the productive forces.

But this does not mean that the economic development of imperialism has stopped. The desire to win the economic competition with the world socialist system, the demands of contemporary scientific and technical progress and, mainly, the ruthless rivalry within the capitalist system are compelling the capitalists to improve production and utilise the latest achievements of science and technology. This and the need to replace obsolete or destroyed plant as well as the influx of considerable capital from the U.S.A., the vast army of reserve workers, and so on account for the post-war relatively high rates of economic development in a number of capitalist countries. However, these rates are not stable and do not abolish the cyclic nature of the development of capitalist production, under which periods of economic booms give way to periods of decline.

In the present new stage of the general crisis, all the other contradictions of capitalism are becoming more acute than ever before. The struggle between labour and capital is gaining momentum, and the interests of nations clash with the mercenary aspirations of a handful of monopolists, who have gained control of the state machine. Due to the uneven economic and political development of the capitalist countries, the alignment of forces within the capitalist system is changing rapidly, the antagonisms between individual and blocs of capitalist countries are becoming more and more apparent and the competition in the capitalist market is intensifying.

Imperialism’s internal and foreign policy is facing a growing crisis expressed in a reactionary offensive in all spheres, the repeal of bourgeois liberties, the setting up of tyrannical fascist regimes, and the loss by imperialism of its former role in international affairs.

Bourgeois ideology is likewise in the grip of a deeprooted crisis, highlighted by pessimism and fear of the future, by mysticism and a lack of faith in science and in the creative powers and potentialities of man, by denial of progress and slander campaigns against communism, and by defence of the system of hired slavery and oppression. Bourgeois ideology has long ago lost its ability to advance ideas that can attract the masses, for it is an ideology of a class that is leaving the stage of history.

The aggravation of all the contradictions of capitalism and of its general crisis is evidence that the socialist revolution, whose mission is to destroy capitalism with its reactionary policy, ideology and relations of production, is a pressing historical need.

Frequently the question asked is why capitalism still exists in many countries, particularly in highly developed countries, despite the fact that its contradictions ( primarily the conflict between UK; productive forces and the relations of production) make the socialist revolution a historical need.

It should be borne in mind that the conflict in the capitalist mode of production creates the objective possibility for a revolution, but this possibility can be turned into reality only by a social force able to utilise this possibility. That force is the revolutionary alliance between the working class and the non-proletarian masses, an alliance headed by a Marxist party. Such a force has not yet matured in a number of countries due to the rift in the working class and the political resourcefulness of the bourgeoisie, which with whip and cake, a long-standing policy, stupefies part of the working people with bourgeois illusions, feeds bribes to workers’ leaders and does its utmost somehow to ease the antagonism between labour and capital. An important role in preserving capitalism is also played by the bourgeois state, by its huge apparatus of physical coercion (army, police, courts, prisons) and ideological influence (schools, the church, the press, the radio, and so on).

To this it should be added that due to insufficient time, former backwardness and difficult conditions of development the socialist countries have not yet surpassed the developed capitalist countries in per capita production. Naturally, the building of socialism in these countries could not help but be accompanied by difficulties and errors, and this too delayed the drawing of a certain section of the working people of the non-socialist world into an active struggle for socialism.

State-Monopoly Regulation and the Working Class

As the general crisis of capitalism deepens its ideologists and politicians make every effort to embellish capitalist society, camouflage its misanthropic nature and present the processes in it in a false light. They seek to prove that the nature of capitalism has changed, that it is synthesising with socialism into a single “industrial society" with a high level of consumption. To back up this theory they allege that, like socialism, contemporary capitalist society has become completely governable and that the aim of 81 capitalist production is to ensure the masses the highest possible level of consumption.

Capitalism is governed by the capitalist market, by capitalist competition. Once this was the only regulator of capitalist economy. However, the growth of pre– monopoly into monopoly capitalism, and the outbreak of the general crisis made this regulator inadequate for the functioning, let alone the further development of capitalism. The monopolies were forced to invest the bourgeois state with the function of direct intervention in the process of capitalist reproduction, in the process of social life. This is one of the cardinal reasons, dictated by economic pressure, for the rise of state-monopoly capitalism, in which the economic might of the monopolies has merged with the political power of the state. This, it goes without saying, is not the only reason, in the same way as interference in production is not the only aim behind the linking up of the power of the monopolies with that of the stale. The purpose behind this process is to enrich the monopolies, crush the working-class movement and the national liberation struggle, save the capitalist system and unleash wars of aggrandisement. However, these aims cannot be realised without preserving what is basic in capitalism—its economy, founded on private ownership.

The bourgeois state accomplishes its regulating ( programming) role chiefly in the sphere of state ownership, “state economy”, emanating from capitalist nationalisation and representing nothing more than collective ownership by the monopolies. The state directly manages the enterprises and entire industries, transport, banks, insurance agencies and other establishments belonging to it.

However, the programming role of the bourgeois state is not confined to its property and manifests itself in one way or another in the entire economy and social life of capitalism. One of its primary concerns is at least partially to remove indications of the general crisis of capitalism, particularly the crises of overproduction. To counter crises the bourgeois state places ever larger orders, especially orders of a military nature, with the monopolies; artificially holds up the production of consumer goods and thereby reduces the supply; extends economic aid to the 82 monopolies, granting, in particular, non-repayable subsidies to monopolies finding themselves in financial difficulties; creates extra-norm state reserves by purchasing surplus goods from the monopolies, arid so forth. The brunt of this burden is borne by the working masses, through taxes from which, in the main, is formed the state budget used to finance anti-crisis measures. At the same time, the monopolies are ensured with fabulous profits.

Under capitalism, state-monopoly regulation of the economy is no longer reduced to anti-crisis measures. It is also exercised at the ascendant stage of the economic cycle with the purpose of securing economic development for a more or less long period.

The state co-ordinates the government and private investment programmes, distributes orders and critical raw materials, regulates prices (in favour of the monopolies), redistributes the national income (also in favour of the monopolies) through its tax policy, and allocates credits and subsidies for the modernisation of plant. More and more frequently, the bourgeois state plays the role of founder of new branches of production and technology, undertakes the risk of investing capital in branches which at the early stages of development hold out no promise of a profit large enough to satisfy the monopolies, and controls military production and basic scientific research.

It would be wrong, however, to regard state-monopoly programming as something artificial, as a result of the subjective desire of the monopolists. It is dictated by the course of events, by the requirements of modern production, technology and science. The contemporary scientific and technical revolution demands a greater concentration of production, greater integration of material, financial and manpower resources, and a larger scale of research and experimentation, which the monopolies frequently cannot achieve without support and aid from the state. An extremely important factor stimulating state-monopoly regulation is the economic challenge from the socialist system. In order to meet this challenge the bourgeois state seeks to activise production and increase its rate of development.

Yet, no matter how great the role state regulation plays under capitalism, it has nothing in common with scientific 83 regulation of the economy as a whole, with planning, which is incompatible with private capitalist ownership. It neither changes the essence of imperialism nor removes exploitation, chaotic market conditions, competition and anarchy of production.

An eloquent indication of this arc the post-war crises of overproduction in the U.S.A., the currency crises in Britain, the inflation in a number of capitalist countries, the unfavourable trade and payments balances, the stockmarket crashes, the numerous bankruptcies, the flow of gold from the U.S.A., and so on. Regulation has proved to be unable to eradicate the chronic idleness of part of the production capacities and unemployment or to secure stable rates of production growth.

State-monopoly capitalism supplements economic regulation with social regulation. In itself, economic regulation implies social regulation, inasmuch as its purpose is not only to ensure the monopolies with enormous profits but also to safeguard capitalism against political and social shocks, in which a far from unimportant role is played by economic crises, unemployment and other ulcers of capitalist economy. The bourgeois state attaches special significance to the regulation of relations between labour and capital, naturally, in favour of the capitalists. Here the bourgeois state seeks to reconcile something that is irreconcilable within the framework of capitalism, namely, labour and capital, and thereby preserve the capitalist system of exploitation. Now and then it is compelled somewhat to curb the excessive claims of the monopolists, forcing them to make some concession to the workers and thereby either ease or extinguish the conflicts between labour and capital. It frequently manoeuvres and resorts to social demagogy, but this does not prevent it from fleecing the working class economically and non– economically, by sheer force.

Of course, state-monopoly capitalism complicates and impedes the revolutionary struggle of the working class, for now it has to deal with the combined power of the monopolies and the state. Yet one cannot fail to appreciate that nationalisation, the setting up of a state sector in capitalist economy, and economic and other programming reflecting the long-term interests of the monopolies, and 84 their economic and political strategy convincingly reveal the economic and political bankruptcy of capitalism. Socialism is insistently knocking on the door of the capitalist world; the course of events and the development of modern economy are forcing the bourgeoisie to beat a retreat from the “sacred” right to private ownership, to set up a programmable state economy. Although this remains a capitalist economy, the very fact of its emergence indicates that capitalists are not needed as organisers of production, that they are parasites on the body of society. Moreover, “state economy" prepares the material soil for socialism inasmuch as it can be turned into socialist property most easily and painlessly, as a result of a socialist revolution. For that reason, while opposing the monopolies, the working class champions the nationalisation programme on a democratic foundation, seeks to secure economic regulation in the interests of the people and claims the right to direct the economic and social life of society.

Economic and social regulation does not solve the contradictions of contemporary capitalism, particularly the contradiction between labour and capital. On the contrary, these contradictions grow ever more acute.

Capitalism Versus Man

Bourgeois ideologists and politicians maintain that contemporary capitalism is turning into a “people’s capitalism”, that its purpose is to satisfy the needs of man, that it is moving towards a “welfare state" and a high level of consumption. But these very same ideologists and politicians “forget” to specify which man and whose needs and welfare capitalism cares for, for under capitalism there is man who owns means of production (the bourgeois) and man who works (the worker and the peasant).

The big proprietors constitute a tiny minority, yet they are the real masters of the capitalist world. It is with their welfare and high living standard that bourgeois ideologists are concerned. The big proprietors hold the key positions in the economy and in political and spiritual life and they own colossal material and spiritual wealth. Thus, a small circle of rich men, comprising only a hundredth part of the population, own 60 per cent of the national wealth in the U.S.A. and more than 50 per cent in Britain. In the early 1960s there were in the U.S.A. at least 85 families with a private fortune exceeding 75 million dollars. Owners of capital, naturally, have unlimited possibilities for satisfying their needs, which frequently acquire the nature of unbridled whims. The millionaires of present-day America are more extravagant than the monarchs and princes of the past have ever been. They spend enormous sums of money to build and run their residences, on luxury yachts, private railways, trains, aircraft, cars, and so forth. Many of them have turned their wives into walking fortunes: at a ball in Washington, one of the ladies wore jewels valued at several million dollars and was protected by 15 private detectives and a squad of police.

These huge assets cannot be earned by honest work. To build up a fortune rivalling that of the Rockefellers, the Mellons or the Du Fonts, a well-paid worker would have to save his pay for nearly a million years! The only source of the fortunes of the monopolists is the exploitation of the working people which is, essentially, misanthropic and incompatible with the nature of man, with his lofty calling and place in life.

State-monopoly capitalism is intensifying the exploitation of workers. Witness the fact that during the first years after the Second World War the norm of surplus value in the U.S. processing industry reached 260–300 per cent, as against 203.3 per cent in 1939, 186.2 per cent in 1929 and 122.2 per cent in 1889.

To characterise the position of the working class under capitalism we have to take the operation of two antipodal trends into consideration. One of these is the uninterrupted trend towards a worsening of the position of the working class, while the second opposes the first and is linked up mainly with the struggle of the working class, which seeks to contain the capitalist offensive against labour. In some of the developed capitalist countries the working class has bettered its position precisely as a result of a dogged and persevering struggle against the capitalists.

Reactionary bourgeois economists claim that there is no impoverishment of the working class in capitalist society. Facts give the lie to this assertion. In capitalist society we observe absolute impoverishment (growth of poverty among the workers in countries that were exploited by the colonialists for many years; of workers in declining industries, coal mining, for example, in developed countries; the unemployed, the disabled, immigrants, and so on) and relative impoverishment of the working class (a steady deterioration of the position of the workers as compared with that of the bourgeoisie, which is growing ever wealthier).

One of the manifestations of relative impoverishment is that the profits of the monopolies increase while the proletariat’s share of the national income steadily grows smaller. For example in the period 1924–52 the profits of the U.S. monopolies rose 7.7-fold, while the working people’s share of the total social product dropped from 59.7 per cent in 1900 to 45.9 per cent in 1956. In terms of the absolute, i.e., the material, this share is sufficiently high in some developed capitalist countries (U.S.A., the Federal Republic of Germany, Britain, Italy, France and other countries) to ensure a certain section of the working people with a high standard of living. But it should be borne in mind that this high living standard exists side by side with the poverty of another, considerably larger section of the working people of these countries as well as with the appalling poverty, undernourishment and illiteracy of the bulk of the population of countries that have, for one reason or another, lagged behind in economic development. Even in one of the richest of the capitalist countries, the U.S.A., the government has itself admitted that 32 million people are poverty-stricken. What about the standard of living in the undeveloped countries, whose per capita national income is many times smaller than in the U.S.A.? In Latin America 5,500 people daily die of starvation, disease or premature old age. Yet in that area of the world some 5,000,000 dollars daily go into the pockets of the U.S. monopolists.

In the U.S.A., bastion of capitalism, millions of Negroes are exploited and politically and spiritually oppressed. According to rough estimates, the U.S. monopolies received 4,000 million dollars annually in the 1940s from the superexploitation of Negroes.

An existence as miserable as that of the Negroes in the U.S.A. is eked out in some of the developed West European countries by millions of worker immigrants who left their homeland, in many cases without their families and relatives, in search of a livelihood. In these countries they are subjected to exploitation and racial discrimination and denied political rights. Employed on the most arduous and hazardous jobs, they receive less for the same work than local workers and live in poverty, squalor and ignorance.

The millions of unemployed, whom imperialism has ousted from the sphere of production and thereby deprived of the possibility to display their ability to work, which is the most important and profound manifestation of humanity, can only dream of living like real human beings. These outcasts of “affluent” society see nothing before them but hopeless penury, the shrivelling up of their physical strength, and spiritual emptiness.

Driving for maximum profits, the monopolists are intensifying labour, speeding it up. This, too, is adversely affecting the working man—the organism wears out and ages prematurely, the accident and the occupational disease rates grow, and mental diseases have become a social calamity. In the U.S.A., for instance, nearly 2,000,000 industrial accidents, including 14,000–15,000 fatal cases, are reported annually. Half of the patients in the hospitals are mental cases: only 56 per cent of the people falling ill receive medical attention.

Capitalism pays inadequate attention to people’s health. Medical assistance is usually rendered for payment, and the doctor’s fees are extremely high. The average American family annually spends nearly half of a month’s income on medical assistance. In many capitalist countries there is an acute housing shortage and the old-age pension scheme leaves much to be desired.

Through their monopoly of mental work, the ruling classes spiritually enslave the working man, placing education, science and culture out of his reach. They ensure the spiritual development of the working people only to the extent that it dovetails with their own interests, striving to reduce the education of the children of workers and peasants to vocational training so as to make them qualified solely as hired workers.

The misanthropy of imperialism is particularly striking in such an extremely ugly phenomenon of contemporary capitalism as the militarisation of the economy. Enormous assets created by the hands and intellect of the working man are spent not on projects to improve the life of the people but on the production of monstrous weapons of mass annihilation and destruction. In the U.S.A. during 20 post-war years 48 times more money was spent for military purposes than during the 20 years immediately preceding the Second World War. Altogether the capitalist world annually spends more than 100,000 million dollars for military purposes. It is easy to imagine what drastic changes might have taken place in the economic development of the undeveloped countries and in the standard of living of their people if this money had been spent for peaceful purposes. But this can hardly take place under imperialism, where war is the most profitable business of the monopolies.

Modern scientific and technical achievements are opening breath-taking prospects for boosting the living standard and the intellectual level of the working man. Yet, in addition to hindering the utilisation of these achievements in the interests of man, the monopolies frequently turn them against him, converting them into ghastly means of annihilation and destruction.

Most of the complex and expensive research is in the hands of the monopolies, which, naturally, appropriate the results of this research and use them to make certain of monopoly profits and to capture markets. The secrecy surrounding research, due to economic rivalry, creates difficulties in exchanging scientific information and gives rise to duplication in research with the result that money and effort are wasted. The monopolies store away many thousands of important inventions and discoveries until their “commercial value" rises. Take the case of nylon. Its industrial production was started only in 1946–47, i.e., 14 years after it was developed (in 1932).

A particular menace to humanity is the utilisation of science and technology for military purposes. More than two-thirds of the U.S. scientists and nearly threefifths of the scientists in Britain are working on military projects. Of the funds allocated in the U.S.A. for scientific development, 70 per cent are used for research of a military nature.

Contemporary capitalism is thus a misanthropic force. The working people, naturally, cannot reconcile themselves to encroachments on their human rights and dignity. They are doggedly struggling for liberation from imperialism, and this struggle is headed by the working class.


  1. Jay, I write as a former member of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Great Britain. I know the narrative and the analysis farily well. I still agree that the ownership of the means of production is a massive issue. Monopolies need to be broken up. Corporate power needs to be dissolved. Power needs to be devolved, so that people in all aspects of their lives can feel at last that they are truly empowered. But this idea (clear in what you post above) that science and technology will save us (sweeping away the anarchy of the market and liberating the forces of production) strikes me as very, very dubious. If capitalism is inhuman, so is science. When Einstein starting arguing for socialism and peace, he had to step aside from the scientific discourse and talk in other, more human, terms. I feel those are the terms in which we need to talk now. The technocrats have had their day (hopefully).

  2. 1st thoughts:

    To paraphrase Mathew Arnold "Science is a good horse to ride, but to ride somewhere."
    For 200 years the rider has been the capitalist parasite class. The working class has been capitalism's draft horse that they exploited to get to their goal of profit. Science has been the husbandry of capitalism's draft animals, the fencing of their ranch, the geography of their plunder, etc.
    This relation, in the scene of present day capitalism, is Pale Horse, Pale Rider and only in the most ironic sense can we say of such a ride that "Now there would be time for everything."