Category: Economic Theory of Marxism
Topic: Has Capitalism entered its Decadence since 1914? (V)
Understanding the Decline of a Mode of Production
(Link, February 28, 2022)
The elaborate reply by C.Mcl. ‘In Defense of Historical Materialism – A reply to Link and Aníbal’, (1) has incited one of the protagonists addressed to a first response that we publish integrally here: ‘Understanding the Decline of a Mode of Production’, by Link.
This first part focuses on “the theoretical issues and criticisms raised by C.Mcl., because these issues are key to an understanding of Marx’s historical materialism”, which he esteems is a rather unilateral one with the latter. According to Link, “both the relations and the forces or production have an impact on the decline of a mode of production, not just the one that C.Mcl. believes” – i.e. the production relations. “There is no question that economic decline as a product of internal contradictions can be and is a feature demonstrated in a period of decadence, but to argue that economic decline is the only factor that demonstrates a mode of production is decaying is a rather narrow, dogmatic approach.”
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Topic: In Defense of Historical Materialism (Part II)
Discussion of Historical Materialism
A Reply to Link and Aníbal – Continued
(C.Mcl., February 2022)
«In general, the dominant historiography “explains” history, the birth and disappearance of civilizations, by the action of “great men”, the fight for ideas, the triumph of certain religions, geophysical factors, external invasions, natural disasters, etc. In short, everything except the recognition that societies are crossed by internal evolutionary dynamics. And if certain historical currents are clearly more interesting insofar as they evoke economic factors or conflicts of interest between social groups, it is never in order to derive a key to the evolution of societies. The reason is simple: if this is the case, capitalism could, like all previous societies, also be crossed by an internal dynamic and not be eternal!
It is quite different for Marxism, if it does not neglect any factor, whether internal or external – even the struggle for ideas, the genius of great men, the influence of certain geophysical factors, etc. – it puts forward three essential elements that articulate them in a hierarchical and coherent whole: (1) societies evolve; (2) their evolutionary dynamics are above all based on issues around material factors (especially economic ones) and (3) factors that are carried and defended by social classes with antagonistic interests. In other words, it is mainly spurred on by the confrontation of the latter (the class struggle) that societies evolve, that is to say by an evolutionary dynamic internal to societies.»
This is the second and last part of an exhaustive reply to contributions and interrogations on the question: Has Capitalism entered its Decadence since 1914? that have been published on this site. The available chapters and paragraphs can be accessed via the hyperlinks below.
Critical comments and contributions are welcome. Please observe the modalities mentioned in the Colophon.
Henry Cinnamon, February 25, 2022.
The translation has been completed. The final two chapters: 6. What are the Real Changes in 1914? and 7. Conclusion have been added on April 9, 2022.
The first part of this reply can be read online here. It can be freely downloaded for offline reading as well: A Free Retriever’s Digest’ Vol.6 Nr.1 Supplement (February 4, 2022)
Continue reading “Topic: In Defense of Historical Materialism (Part II)”
Topic: In Defense of Historical Materialism (Part I)
Discussion: A Reply to Link and Aníbal
(C.Mcl., January 2022)
This is the first part of an exhaustive reply to contributions and interrogations on the question: Has Capitalism entered its Decadence since 1914? that have been published by ‘A Free Retriever’s Digest’.
With this contribution we hope to advance a discussion within proletarian internationalist milieus, and those of the communist lefts in particular, that we esteem of major importance: to achieve a solid appreciation of contemporary capitalism in its historical trajectory, based on the scientific approach of Marx and Engels.
Our translation has been proofread both by the author and the contributor it specifically addresses. We thank Link for his genuine support. Source references have been included in footnotes and with the graphs. Unless mentioned otherwise, quotations from Marx and Engels have been translated directly from German language editions.
Critical comments and contributions are welcome. Please observe the modalities mentioned in the Colophon.
Henry Cinnamon, January 31, 2022.
This contribution is freely available for offline reading as well: ‘A Free Retriever’s Digest’ Vol.6 Nr.1 Supplement (February 4, 2022).
Continue reading “Topic: In Defense of Historical Materialism (Part I)”
Topic: Has Capitalism entered its Decadence since 1914? (IV)
Over the last summer, one of the participants in the discussion on this site has engaged in an exchange at the ICC’s online forum apropos of the character of economic growth (“Growth as Decay”). As he has defended the position and questionings put forward in his text Is Decadence an Economic Phenomenon?, (Link, May 17, 2021), we have asked the author for a brief appreciation of this exchange. His summary can be read in the remainder of this post, on page 2.
In a new discussion text: What are fetters on the productive forces? the latter develops his views on the criteria for discerning whether a historical mode of production is in its ascendancy or in its period of historical decline in a more explicit way. He does so in reply to other contributions on this site, and specifically to C.Mcl’s., in which he seems to miss a due appreciation of the profound transformations of capitalism’s mode of functioning since the beginning of the 20th Century (for instance monopolies, imperialism and state capitalism). The text puts in question a way of conceiving the transformation of the relations of production from “forms of development” of the “forces of production” into their “fetters” – to use the terms of Marx in 1859 – that the author considers as more or less ‘purely economic’, or “economistic”, and which he regards as the underlying, common ground of most adversaries in this controversy, notably of both the ICC and C.Mcl. The text argues that rather factors ‘exterior’ to a mode of production’s core dynamic need to be taken into account to explain its ascendancy or decline.
We hope these new contributions lead to critical reflections and replies by our readers and contributors.
The Editor, December 12, 2021.
On the Bookshelves: “A critique of Luxemburg’s Theory of Accumulation”
Contribution to a discussion on Marx’s accumulation and crises theory of Capitalism
Bibliographic data: Phil Sutton, A Critique of Luxemburg’s Theory of Accumulation. Independently published, 30 May 2021. Paperback, 98 pages. ISBN-13: 979-8733143033. Per copy: £6.23 Ordering information via Amazon-UK.
«From: The Accumulation of Capital by Rosa Luxemburg (1913):
“Capital accumulation progresses and expands at the expense of non-capitalist strata and countries, squeezing them out at an ever faster rate. The general tendency and final result of this process is the exclusive world rule of capitalist production. Once this is reached, Marx’s model becomes valid: accumulation, i.e. further expansion of capital, becomes impossible. Capitalism comes to a dead end, it cannot function any more as the vehicle for the unfolding of the productive forces, it reaches its objective economic limit.”
This pamphlet critically investigates how Rosa Luxemburg justifies her theory of the accumulation of capital and whether the events of the last century of capitalist development confirm or deny her theory.»
Read the Author’s Introduction & the Table of Contents
Topic: Has Capitalism entered its Decadence since 1914? (III)
The Falsehoods of the International Communist Current (ICC) — A critique
Chapter 3: The national question before and after 1914
Extract: “Certainly, the productive forces have developed with the industrial revolution that began in the countries of Western Europe and North America. However, were we witnessing “a step forward in the development of the productive forces on a world scale” before 1914? Not at all, because the first Euro-American countries would limit this development to their geographical area and de-industrialize the rest of the world, destroying all potential for competing economic growth, as the study on the 250 years of capitalism that we have republished clearly shows. To this we add the very telling graph [above], whose data confirm this observation, since in 1750, 80% of industrial production was located in the world outside Western Europe and North America and only 20% in the latter two areas, whereas after a century and a half of ‘capitalist ascendancy’ (1750-1913), we are witnessing a spectacular geographical inversion in this distribution, as production had become almost exclusively concentrated in the Euro-American area (84%) to the detriment of the rest of the world (16%)! In other words, the development of productive forces following the industrial revolution, far from being “a step forward in the development of the productive forces on a world scale…”, remained confined to the Euro-American area to the detriment of the rest of the world. Once again, the reality is strictly the opposite of the idealistic postulates of the ICC. This divergence in geographical evolution is at the origin of the economic bi-polarization of the world between the so-called Developed Countries and what will later be called the Third World.”
Click here to read the complete chapter.
Graph 3.1: Distribution of the Manufactured Production in the World (1750 – 1913)
Source: Les mondes insurgés, Altermanuel d’histoire contemporaine , Ed. Vuibert, p. 13.
The data come from: Paul Bairoch, ‘International industrialization levels from 1750 to 1980’ ,
published in The Journal of European Economic History, n°11, 2, 1982.]
‘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)
Continue reading “‘The economic necessity of imperialism’ (Anton Pannekoek, 1916)”
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.
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?”