‘The economic necessity of imperialism’ (Anton Pannekoek, 1916)

From: ‘De Nieuwe Tijd’ (Vol.21 #5, May 5, 1916)

By way of an introduction

For a critique of the theory of the decadence of capitalism, Pannekoek is important because he has always opposed the view that capitalism would automatically and irreparably collapse. In “The Economic Necessity of Imperialism” (1916) he summarizes his critique of Luxemburg’s underpinning of the saturation of the markets at the hand of Marx’s reproduction diagrams. We will not go into this further, but do point out that the ICC’s theory of decadence relies on Luxemburg’s argument. Further, Pannekoek has taken down the tendency of the rate of profit to fall as a theoretical underpinning of Grossman’s and Mattick’s crises theory as well. Instead of an automatic and irreparable collapse of capitalism and an economic necessity of imperialism, Pannekoek argues that the periodic crises arise from the imbalance between economic factors inherent in capitalism. Instead of an economic necessity of imperialism, he posits a social and political necessity that follows from the power of big capital. Only at the margins of his reflections Pannekoek speaks of an end to capitalism in a then – in 1916 and 1946 respectively – distant future: through the exhaustion of the “material” conditions for the expansion of production. In 1916 these are “unlimited quantities” of raw materials in nature; in 1946 he already speaks of “the raw adventurous methods of capital – which on all continents are in the process of destroying the fertility of the earth”. Not unimportant, and even highly topical in the light of the current environmental and health crises. The second material condition mentioned by Pannekoek that capitalism would no longer be able to fulfill, is that of a labor force in “sufficient” quantities to expand production.
F.C., January 2021

(Last edited: March 15, 2021)

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250 years of modern Capitalism: A reconstruction of its dynamics (Part 2)

“I pre-suppose, of course, a reader who is willing to learn something new and therefore to think for himself. […] Every opinion based on scientific criticism I welcome.” (Karl Marx, Preface to the First German Edition of ‘Capital, critique of political economy’, 1867).

Taking up a longstanding concern of Marx’s that he was unable to fulfill, this work in progress treats the development of modern capitalism over the past 250 years, with special attention to the classic country of its origin: Great Britain/the UK, at the hand of examined statistic sources and according to criteria developed by Marx.

With its third chapter: “An economically polarized World” now available in the topics section of this site, our translation is up to date with the work’s version of March 17, 2020 at ‘Capitalisme & Crises Économiques’.

We invite our readers to consult the article through its Table of Contents.

The editor

Topic: Has Capitalism entered its Decadence since 1914?

The Falsehoods of the International Communist Current (ICC) — A critique (Ch.1 & 2)

The following contribution challenges a fundamental programmatic position shared by several groups of the contemporary communist Left, in continuity with the beginnings of the III. (or Communist) International, namely that capitalism has entered its phase of decline as an historical mode of production since the outbreak of World War 1. It does so following the method that Marx applied in his (unfinished) magnum opus ‘Capital’, comparing the evolution of capitalism before and since 1914 at the hand of documented empirical data. These are summarized in a series of graphs and contrasted with the affirmations by one of the most outspoken protagonists of this position.

Continue reading “Topic: Has Capitalism entered its Decadence since 1914?”

‘250 years of modern Capitalism’ (Project Update)

“I pre-suppose, of course, a reader who is willing to learn something new and therefore to think for himself. […] Every opinion based on scientific criticism I welcome.” (Karl Marx, Preface to the First German Edition of ‘Capital, critique of political economy’, 1867).

Taking up a longstanding concern of Marx’s that he was unable to fulfill, this work in progress treats the development of modern capitalism over the past 250 years with special attention to the classic country of its origin, Great Britain/the UK, at the hand of examined statistic sources and according to  criteria developed by Marx.

The original text is published in French language on the ‘Capitalisme & Crises Économiques’ website. Our translation is up to date with its actual version of August 10, 2019, and can be read on this blog:

Continue reading “‘250 years of modern Capitalism’ (Project Update)”

250 years of Capitalism: A reconstruction of its dynamics (Part 1)

A Work in progress

I pre-suppose, of course, a reader who is willing to learn something new and therefore to think for himself. […] Every opinion based on scientific criticism I welcome.” Karl Marx, Preface to the First German Edition of Capital.

Taking up a longstanding concern of Marx’s he was unable to fulfill, the following presents the first part of an article series treating 250 years of Capitalism at the hand of examined statistic sources on its economic dynamic, in order to draw out its perspectives.

Updates and the subsequent parts of this series will be published on  special pages on this blog and announced on the blog roll. The original version in French language is published at the ‘Capitalisme & Crises Économiques’ website.

The editor

Continue reading “250 years of Capitalism: A reconstruction of its dynamics (Part 1)”

The Dilemma’s of Capitalism apropos of ‘Trump’ and ‘Brexit’

Crisis– Conflicts – Struggles – Populism (I.)

In A Free Retriever’s Digest Vol.2#4 (August – September 2018) we have published the introductory section of this article: “Trump and Brexit: A new economic and imperialist orientation?” that sets out the question treated. Hereafter you’ll find the integral article, including its main dish: an introduction into the concept of capitalism’s successive “productive orders”. From this angle of attack reflections are developed on the characteristics of the present period and its perspectives. As the author has revised his overview table of capitalism’s four main productive orders, we include the updated version as an annex.

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