back

Contents

Principles of Arbeitsgruppe Marxismus

  forward 

1. Capitalism and Imperialism

In the 20th century capitalism has adopted an increasingly destructive character. Admittedly the spawning and enlargement of capitalism up to the 19th century has already been connected with exploitation, oppression and ecological devastations. At the same time, competition (as central impetus of the capitalist mode of production) pushed feudal and other pre-capitalist forms of dependency or exploitative conditions aside and implied technological, medical and social progress.

The laws of motion of capitalism which, through their dynamics, established the foundation for an improvement of the living conditions of mankind, led to tremendous expansion which approached its limits at the end of the 19th century. Capitalism has - as later defined by Marxists – entered the stage of imperialism. The industrial capital had merged with bank capital to financial capital. Big companies and their allied countries had shared the world among themselves. Export of goods had lost importance in favour of capital export.

More and more sophisticated technological methods led to production of more and more goods and more capital was accumulated. This capital had to be employed profitably in order to prevent the destruction of capital, or economical crises - a goal which became increasingly difficult because of the planet´s limits. As a consequence, the inner contradictions of capitalism became more severe. The 20th century has been marked by economical and military wars for zones of influence between major imperialist powers as well as by destruction of capital through wars and crises.

But this has shown that for capitalism - contrary to assumptions by certain Marxists - there is no situation without solution. Although over-accumulation of capital and falling rates of profit lead over and over again to huge economic crises, this does not automatically lead to collapse of capitalism - contrary to the expectations of parts of the Left. Without the conscious intervention of a revolutionary working class movement towards the overthrow of capitalism, the destruction of capital through wars and enormous collapses of companies will be the result. To impose the succeeding disastrous social consequences on a political level, it is necessary to take brutal actions against the working class movement (or sometimes even against minimal democratic rights). That is the way which allows capitalism to survive over and over again.

But the effects of the ongoing market economy will become increasingly dramatic for mankind and planet. Capitalism has not only survived two imperialist world wars but additionally achieved to limit the proletarian revolution to Russia, then to push it towards degeneration and finally to defeat the Stalinist states. But despite the long boom period after 1945, based on destruction of capital in the war and the international leading position of US-imperialism, and despite the recovery of productive forces, the capitalist motor started to stutter since the late 1960s. Too large amounts of capital had been accumulated. The profit rates fell. Still it was possible for the capitalist class to stabilise the rates of profit at the expense of the working class in eighties and early nineties and also to defeat the former Stalinist states to a large extent. But the underlying trend could only be slowed down rather than stopped.

At the turn of the millennium, a decade after the collapse of „real socialism'', and after the fading of the connected bourgeois ideological offensive, the destructiveness and absurdity of the capitalist system, which has shaped the whole century, becomes plainer and clearer again. Technological progress which would have the potential for many positive advancement for mankind, is turned, under the conditions of capitalism, against the majority of people. New machines lead to unemployment. Under inhuman (and unhealthy) working conditions, goods are produced that cannot be sold afterwards. A lot of products remain unused or have to be destroyed - manufactured goods as well as agricultural goods. At the same time, a huge part of mankind suffers from lack of goods and services such as housing, food, health care etc. The labour power of hundreds of millions of people remains unemployed (while others suffer from increased stress). The human resources of millions of people are being wasted in the parasitic bureaucracy of capitalism like in banks and insurance companies, advertisement sector, governmental and private armed forces of capital). At the same, time there would be innumerable socially and ecologically useful activities which are not done because they are not profitable. For great capital the increased international competition makes ecological considerations (inspite of their contrary assertions) a marginal topic and leads to a continued destruction of the ecological system. A fraction of the amount spent on production of arms would be sufficient to make infant mortality, epidemics, and famine disappear to a large extent on a world-wide scale. On the contrary, misery, hunger and diseases based on poverty are increasing on all continents. The social gap between a small upper class and the majority of people becomes wider and wider.

In the struggle for the crumbs left on the table of multinationals and banks, more and more people are driven into nationalistic, „ethnic'', or „religious'' wars. Their real aims are often nothing more than a re-definition of spheres of influence among groups of capital. At the same time, in semi-colonial countries it has become obvious that bourgeois-nationalistic liberation movements, trying to implement their own „national"-oriented policy within capitalism, are doomed to fail due to the pressure exerted by international financial capital and IMF/World Bank. Again and again, the anti-imperialism of bourgeois forces in the semi-colonial countries has proved half-hearted and wavering. They occasionally tried to improve their profit prospects even against imperialist powers. However they shrink back from a consequent mobilisation of the masses because they fear the possibility of anti-imperialist struggles resulting in a social revolution which could be directed also against the capitalists of semi-colonial countries.

After the neo-liberal offensive in the eighties and nineties, today market forces penetrate all sectors of society on a world-wide scale even more than before: Starting with the political system to cultural life and even private relations. The alienation of people does not stop at the solidarity-lacking condition of the working process but expresses itself in ever more humiliating and absurd forms of psychic pauperisation. But in spite of the predominant fight of everybody against everybody (in the world market, the labour market, and the market for private relationships), which has been accepted by many as natural, capitalists do not rely only on the forces of the free market. Additionally, they use ideological preparation of the population through schools and mass media which deepens and secures the division of the population into men and women, compatriots and foreigners, white and blue collar workers, heterosexuals and homosexuals, old and young.

In this context the capitalist class can rely on the established social structures and traditions of gender-specific, national/racist, sexual and age-linked oppression, which have existed in different forms in former class societies as well. They did not disappear through capitalism but have been modified in a way that is suitable for bourgeois class interest. Within capitalism the oppression of women has reached its most developed form because in tendency it does not appear as inequaliy before the law any more. Hence its foundation in social oppression becomes more evident. Of utmost importance for the securing of social oppression, building of hierarchies and disciplination of the population generally and the oppression of women, children and teenagers in particular, is the traditional bourgeois (petty-) family. Nationalism and racism also play a central role for the securing of capitalist rule. They have evolved in their 'modern' form only through capitalism and systematically generate an identification of the people with the projects of specific groups of capital mostly organised in the form of national states.

Members of all classes are victims of various forms of social oppression. However, the oppression of e.g. wealthy foreigners or bourgeois women is less severe due to their privileged economic situation. Immigrant workers or female workers feel the racist or gender-linked oppression with full impact. Since the capitalist class gains from the social oppression and as the capitalist system is strongly based on the division of the people, specifically the working class, even the 'democratic' version of capitalism has not been capable (and will never be) to overcome the oppression of women, racism, etc. On the contrary, all forms of social oppression are reproduced again and again.

But the ruling class does not feel secure with the ideological indoctrination alone when it comes to ensuring the capitalist exploitation and oppression, because the contradictions of the system result in repeated opposition, organisation, resistance and revolt of the oppressed classes. To keep these forces under control and to maintain the daily functioning of class society, capitalism employs a state apparatus essentially consisting of police, military and judiciary. This machinery is obliged to secure the existing ownership relations, and to be separated from the majority of the people.

Such specific armed formations do not represent an innovation of capitalism. They have existed since the beginnings of class society - since a product surplus is available which a part of the population can acquire with the help of state structures. The particular form of the state apparatus was always based on the particular mode of production and exploitation (slavery, Asian mode of production, feudalism, capitalism). Within capitalism, they typically have the forms of national states which express the capitalist need of a single market and homogenous legal framework. Those national states have been the basis and instruments for the world-wide expansion of capital. At the same time however, national borders were obstacles to expansion. Hence imperialist states have started to create spheres of influence, free-trading zones and blocks.

In this respect, the European Union constitutes a capitalist project for unification which became necessary in order to improve profit opportunities on the national markets that had already become too narrow. Nationalism linked to national states is partially replaced by a mentality of a European fortress, and there is a tendency of Euro-nationalism directed against immigrants from poorer regions of Eastern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. But the mechanism remains the same: the disguise of class differences and a method to sell the interest of the ruling class (hence, the creation of blocks in order to give the European imperialism more emphasis in world policy and economy) as an interest of the whole „people".

However, all attacks against the living standard of the population, the world-wide spread of misery and the state-run apparatus of violence employed by the capitalist class cannot resolve the inner contradictions of the capitalist mode of production. Capitalism inevitably has to reach the limits of its expansion and over-accumulation will continue to increase. The forces leading to a new economic and/or political-military crisis can – in the framework of the system - only be delayed but not prevented. Given the capitalist potential of destruction developed to present, the following alternatives are posed: a new, intensified round of capitalist barbarism possibly leading towards extermination of entire mankind, or the victory of a revolutionary working class over the ruling system.

  back

Contents

  forward