Marx proved right

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The worst crisis in capitalism's history

As capitalism undergoes the most serious crisis in its history, all the defenders of the established order proclaim incessantly the death of Marxism: the only theory which is able to understand this crisis' reality, and which foresaw it. They are wringing the last drop out of that old and vile lie which equates Marxism and Stalinism, revolution and counter-revolution. The ruling class aims to dress up the bankruptcy of Stalinist state capitalism as the bankruptcy of communism, and of its theory: Marxism. This is one of the most violent ideological attacks that the working has been subjected to for decades. But no amount of hysterical exorcism by the bourgeoisie's hired hacks can change the bare truth: their theories have shown themselves completely incapable of explaining the present economic disaster, while the Marxist analysis of capitalist crises finds itself strikingly verified.

The impotence of bourgeois 'theory'

It is remarkable to see the most lucid of the ruling class' "thinkers" and "commentators" merely observe the extent of the disaster which grips the planet, without being able to of­fer even the beginnings of an explanation for it. They occupy hours of television, fill pages in the newspapers, on the rav­ages of poverty and disease in Africa, the destructive anarchy which is threatening the old "soviet" empire with famine, the ecological devastation of the planet which is putting the very survival of the human race in peril, on the damage done by the drugs trade, which has reached the same scale as trade in oil, on the absurdity of sterilising cultivable land in Europe while famine proliferates throughout the world, on the des­peration and decomposition eating away at the suburbs of the major countries, on the all-pervasive feeling that society is going nowhere... All their "sociological" and economic studies, in every field, make not a jot of difference: the why and the wherefore of it all remain a complete mystery.

The less shortsighted of them vaguely perceive that at the heart of it all lies some kind of economic problem. Without saying so, without even realising it, they are coming round to that old discovery of Marxism: that, to this day, the economy has always been the key to the anatomy of social life. But this merely adds to the puzzlement. In the mish-mash which serves as their theoretical framework, the blockage of the world economy remains a complete mystery.

The dominant ideology is founded on the myth of the per­manence of capitalist relations of production. The little that is left standing of its philosophical edifice would be laid low for good, were it to be though even for an instant that these relations - wage labour, profit, nations, competition - not only are not the only possible form of economic organisation, but have become the one calamity at the source of all the scourges that have befallen a suffering humanity.

For twenty years, the economists have used a more and more incomprehensible language to try to "explain" the constant decline of the world economy. These "explanations" all have two characteristics in common: the defence of capitalism as the only possible system, and the fact that reality has made a laughing stock of each in turn, no sooner than they had been announced.

As the "prosperity" of the post-war reconstruction drew to a close at the end of the 60's, there were two recessions: in 1967 and in 1970. Compared to the economic earthquakes that we have experienced since then, these recessions seem insignificant enough,[1] but at the time they were a rela­tively new phenomenon. The ghost of the economic crisis, which had been thought exorcised for good since the slump of the 1930's, returned to haunt the bourgeoisie's economists.[2] Reality spoke for itself: with reconstruction finished, capitalism was plunging once again into economic crisis. Decadent capitalism's post-1914 cycle was verified: crisis -war - reconstruction - renewed crisis. The "experts" ex­plained that this was quite untrue. These tremors were due to nothing but "the rigidity of the monetary system inherited from World War II", the famous Bretton Woods agreement based on the dollar-standard and fixed exchange rates. And so a new international currency was created (the IMF's Spe­cial Drawing Rights - SDRs) and exchange rates allowed to float.

But only a few years later world capitalism was once again hit by two new recessions, much longer and deeper than those before them: 1974-75, and 1980-82. The "experts" found a new explanation: scarce energy supplies. These new convulsions were called the "oil shocks". Twice, it was ex­plained that the system had nothing to do with these new dif­ficulties. They were the result of the greed of a few Arab sheiks, or even of the revenge of a few under-developed oil producers. And as if they wanted to convince themselves of the system's eternal vitality, the economic "recovery" of the 1980's was baptised a return to "pure" capitalism. "Reaganomics" would restore to private businessmen the freedom and authority that the state had supposedly confis­cated, and this would at last allow the full creative power of the system to burst forth. Privatisation, the merciless elimi­nation of unprofitable businesses, destruction of job security the better allow the "free play of the market" to regulate labour power, the naked affirmation of "unrestrained capital­ism", were all supposed to show that the foundations of the capitalist system remained healthy, and indeed offered the only perspective possible. Yet already, at the beginning of the 80's the economies of the Third World were in collapse. In the mid-80's, the USSR and the countries of Eastern Eu­rope set off down the road to "liberalism", trying to break free from the most rigid forms of their ultra-statified capital­ism. The decade came to an end with a still worse disaster, as the ex-Soviet bloc plunged into unparalleled chaos.

At first, the Western democracies' ideologues presented all this as a confirmation of the truth of their gospel: the USSR and the Eastern bloc countries were collapsing because they had not managed to become really capitalist, and the "Third World" countries because they managed capitalism badly. But the beginning of the 1990's revealed the economic crisis striking violently at the most powerful nations on the planet, capitalism's very heart. And right in the forefront of this new plunge into crisis stood the champions of liberalism: the countries which were supposed to serve an example to the rest of the world of the miracles accomplished by the "market economy" - Great Britain and the USA.

At the beginning of 1992, we saw the fine flower of Western capitalism, the best-managed companies in the world, an­nounced that their profits were melting away and that they were preparing to shed tens of thousands of jobs: IBM, the world's biggest computer manufacturer, which has never had any losses since its creation; General Motors, the world's biggest industrial company, whose power could be summed up in the saying that "what is good for General Motors is good for America", announced the biggest losses ever recorded in the history of capitalism, at $4 billion; United Technologies, one of America's most modern industrial groups; Ford; Mercedes Benz, the symbol of the power of German capital, which boasted of being the only car manufacturer to take on workers during the 80's, Sony, the champion of Japanese dynamism and efficiency... As for the banking and financial sectors, which had experienced the greatest "prosperity" during the 1980's and which had bene­fited most from the most gigantic level of speculation and indebtedness ever seen in history, it has been struck to the heart by the recession, to the point where it is even in danger of collapse, worn out by its own abuses. Some economists seem only to have "discovered" these abuses today. In real­ity, they have been world economy's lifeline for the last two decades: headlong flight into credit. The "machine for pushing problems into the future" has broken down, crushed by the weight of accumulated debt.[3]

What is left of the explanation that the crisis was caused by the "rigidity of the monetary system", when the anarchy of exchange rates has become a major factor in world economic instability? What is there left of all the chatter about "oil shocks" when oil prices are drowning in an oil-slick of over­production? What is left of the speeches about "liberalism" and "the miracles of the market economy" as the economy collapses in the midst of a bitter commercial war for the planet's shrinking markets? And what can they be worth, these "explanations" that the crisis is the fault of debt, when it is precisely this suicidal debt that, alone, has kept this dy­ing economy alive?

In decadent capitalism, the economists have become high priests of the absurd. They can no more explain the crisis, than they can give any perspective for the medium or long term.[4] Their job is to defend capitalism and this prevents them, however "intelligent" they may be, of understanding this most elementary reality: the problem with the world economy has nothing to do with this or that country, this or that way of managing capitalism. It is the system itself, cap­italism, which is the problem. All their "reasons" and "ideas" will undoubtedly go down in history as some of the most sinister examples of the blindness and stupidity of a decadent class.

Marxism: the first coherent conception of history

Before Marx, human history appeared generally as a series of more or less disparate events, evolving at the mercy of bat­tles, or the religious or political convictions of the world's great men. In the final analysis, the only logical thread in history had to be sought outside the material world, in the ethereal spheres of divine Providence, or at best in the development of Hegel's Absolute Idea.[5] Today's ruling class economists and "thinkers" have got no further. There is even one who, since the collapse of what they call "communism", has repeated a caricature of Hegel's thought and announced the "end of history": since all countries have now reached the most developed form of liberal, "democratic" capitalism, and since there can be nothing after capitalism, we have reached the end of the road. With such "ideas", today's chaos, the blockage of the economy, the generalised disintegration, can only remain a mystery... of Providence. Those who believe that nothing can exist after capitalism must be struck with stupor and despair in humanity as they contemplate the terri­ble bankruptcy that is the result of several centuries of capi­talist domination.

But for Marxism, today's events are a striking confirmation of the historic laws which it first discovered and formulated. From the viewpoint of the revolutionary proletariat, capital­ism is no more eternal than any of the other modes of ex­ploitation that went before: feudalism, slavery, and so on. Indeed, Marxism is distinguished from the communist theo­ries which preceded it precisely by the fact that it bases the communist project on an understanding of the history's dy­namics. Communism becomes historically possible because capitalism has created both the material conditions which make it possible to achieve a true society of abundance, and the class which is capable of undertaking the communist rev­olution: the proletariat. The revolution has become a neces­sity because capitalism has reached a dead end.

The more this dead end disconcerts the bourgeois and their economists, the more it confirms the Marxists in their revo­lutionary convictions.

But how do Marxists explain this "historic cul-de-sac"? Why should capitalism not develop into infinity? One sentence of Marx and Engels' Communist Manifesto sums up the answer:

"The institutions of bourgeois society are too narrow to com­prise the wealth created by them".

What does this mean? Is it confirmed by reality?

'The institutions of Bourgeois Society'

One of the traps of bourgeois ideology, into which the economists fall themselves, is to think that capitalist relation­ships are "natural". Egoism, greed, hypocrisy and the cynical cruelty of capitalist exploitation are only the most refined forms attained by the always "bad", "human nature".

But whoever so much as glances at history can see that this is nonsense. Today's social relationships have only lasted some 500 years, if we, like Marx, place the beginning of their domination in the 16th Century, when the discovery of America and the explosion of world trade which followed allowed the capitalist merchants to begin definitively impos­ing their power on the economic life of the planet. Humanity had known other class societies, such as slavery or feudalism, and before them it lived for millennia under various forms of "primitive communism", in other words classless societies without exploitation.

"In the social production of their life" Marx explains,[6] "men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will, relations of production which correspond to a definite stage of development of their material productive forces. The sum total of these relations of produc­tion constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political super­structure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness".

The institutions of bourgeois society, capitalist relations of production and their "legal and political superstructure", far from being eternal realities, are nothing but a particular, temporary form of social organisation, which "correspond to a definite stage of development of (...) material productive forces". Marx used to say that the hand mill stood for slav­ery, the water mill for feudalism, and the steam mill for capitalism.

But what do these relationships consist of? In the mythology that identifies communism with Stalinism, it is common to define capitalist social relations in opposition to those which reigned in the so-called communist countries, like the ex-USSR. The determining criterion was supposedly the question of ownership of the means of production by private capitalists, or by the state. But as Marx and Engels has already shown in their battle against Lassalle's state so­cialism, the fact that capitalist state owns the means of pro­duction, only makes this state the "ideal collective capitalist".

Rosa Luxemburg, one of the greatest theoreticians since Marx, insists on two main criteria, two aspects of social or­ganisation, in determining the specificities of one mode of exploitation relative to others: the aim of production, and the relationship that ties the exploited to the exploiters. These criteria, defined well before the Russian revolution and its defeat, leave no doubt as to the capitalist nature of the Stal­inist economies.[7]

The aim of production

Rosa Luxemburg sums up the specificity of the capitalist mode of production thus: "The slave-owner bought slaves for their usefulness, or for his pleasure. The feudal lord extorted payment in kind from his serfs with the same aim: to live well off his inheritance. The modern businessman does not make workers produce food, clothing, or luxury goods for his own enjoyment: he makes them produce goods for sale, in order to make a profit".[8]

The aim of capitalist production is the accumulation of capi­tal, to the point where, in its early radical days, the puritan bourgeoisie condemned the spending on luxuries of the ex­ploiting classes. Marx speaks of such spending as a "theft of capital".

The bourgeois bureaucrats claim that in their regimes, they do not pursue capitalist objectives, and that the income of the "leaders" comes in the form of "wages". But the fact that revenue is distributed as fixed income (falsely called a "wage" in this case) and privileges, rather than as share divi­dends or individual savings, is quite irrelevant in determining whether the mode of production is capitalist or not.[9] The revenue of the high state bureaucrats is nonetheless made of the workers' sweat and blood. The Stalinists' "planning" pur­sued the same objectives as the investors on Wall Street: feed the god National Capital with the surplus labour extracted from the exploited, increase the power of capital and ensure its defence against other national capitals. The hypocritical "Spartan" face put on by the Stalinist bureaucrats, especially when they have just seized power, is no more than a degener­ate caricature of the puritanism of capitalism's stage of primitive accumulation, a caricature deformed by the gan­grene of decadent capitalism: bureaucracy and militarism.

The link between exploited and exploiter

The specific capitalist relation between exploited and ex­ploiter is no less important, nor less present in Stalinist state capitalism.

In ancient slave society, the slave was food just like the ani­mals belonging to his master. From his exploiter, he received the minimum necessary for him to live and reproduce. This quantity was relatively independent of the amount he pro­duced. Even if he did no work, or the crop was destroyed, the master would feed him, just as he would feed a horse to avoid losing it.

Under feudal serfdom, though less strictly, the serf remained like the slave, attached personally to his exploiter, or to a property: a chateau would be sold with its lands, its cattle, and its serfs. However, the serf s revenue was no longer truly independent of his labour. He had a right to a share (a percentage) of what was actually produced.

Under capitalism, the exploited proletarian is "free". But this "freedom" which is so vaunted by bourgeois propaganda in fact comes down to the fact that their is no personal tie be­tween the exploited and his exploiter. The worker belongs to nobody, he is attached to no land or property. His ties with his exploiter are reduced to a purely commercial transaction: he sells, not himself, but his labour power. His "freedom" is to have been separated from his means of production. It is the freedom of capital to exploit him anywhere, to make him produce whatever it wants. The worker's share of what is produced (when he has any right to it at all) is independent of the product of his labour. His share is equivalent to the price of the only commodity that he possesses and reproduces: his labour power.

"Like any other commodity, 'labour power' has a definite value. The value of any commodity is determined by the quantity of labour required to produce it. To produce the commodity 'labour power', a determined quantity of work is also necessary: the work which produces food, clothing, etc for the worker. A man's labour power is worth what it costs in labour to maintain him in a state to work, to maintain his labour power".[10]

This is wage labour.

The Stalinists claim that there is no exploitation under their rule, because there is no unemployment. It is true that, gen­erally speaking, in the Stalinist regimes the unemployed are "put to work". The labour market is a state monopoly, where the state buys everything that comes on the market, in ex­change for miserably low wages. But the state, the "collective capitalist", is no less buyer and exploiter for that. The proletariat pays its guaranteed employment in the ban on any demands, and wretched living conditions. Stalinism is not the negation of wage labour, but its totalitarian form.

Today, the Stalinist countries' economies are not "turning capitalist". They are merely trying to jettison the most rigidly statified forms of decadent capitalism.

Production exclusively for sale in order to accumulate capi­tal, workers remunerated by wage-labour: obviously this does not define all the "institutions of bourgeois society", .but it highlights the most specific of them, and in particular those which allow us to understand why capitalism is condemned to go nowhere.

'The wealth created by them... '

At the twilight of feudal society, capitalist production rela­tions - the "institutions of bourgeois society" - made possible a gigantic leap forward in society's productive forces. At a time when the labour of one man could barely feed more than himself, and when society was still divided up into a multi­tude of virtually autonomous fiefdoms, the development of "free" wage labour and the unification of the economy through trade were powerful factors of social development.

"The bourgeoisie (...) has been the first to show what man's activity can bring about. It has accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts, and Gothic cathedrals (..) The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and colossal pro­ductive forces than have all preceding generations together".[11]

Contrary to pre-Marxist communist theories, which thought that communism was a possibility at any moment in history, Marxism recognised that only capitalism creates the material means for such a society. Before becoming "too narrow to comprise the wealth created by them", bourgeois institutions were capable, "in blood and filth", of creating two vital con­ditions for the erection of a truly communist society: a worldwide productive network (the world market), and a suf­ficient development of labour productivity. As we will see, these were to become a nightmare for capital's survival.

"Modern industry has established the world market, for which the discovery of America paved the way... The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. It must nes­tle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections ev­erywhere... It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilisation into their midst, ie to be­come bourgeois themselves. In a word, it creates a world af­ter its own image".[12]

This unification of the world economy was both a stimulant and a product of the greatest progress ever seen in labour productivity. The very nature of capitalist relationships, the competition to the death between different fractions of capi­tal, whether nationally or internationally, forces them to a permanent race for productivity. Lowering production costs to improve competitivity is a condition for survival on the market.[13]

Despite the destructive weight of the war economy, which became quasi-permanent after World War I, and despite the irrationality introduced by its increasingly difficult, contra­dictory, and militarised functioning since the definitive for­mation of the world market at the beginning of this century,[14] capitalism has continued to develop the technical pro­ductivity of labour. It has been calculated[15] that around 1700, a French agricultural labourer could feed 1.7 people: in other words, he could feed himself, and provide three quarters of the nourishment for one other person. In 1975, an American farm worker could feed 74 people as well as him­self! In 1708 in France, the production of one quintal of wheat cost 253 hours of labour; in 1984, it cost 4 hours. Progress has been no less spectacular on the industrial level: to produce a bicycle in France in 1891 cost 1500 hours of labour; in the USA of 1975, it cost 15 hours. The production time of an electric light bulb in France was divided by more than 50 between 1925 and 1982, that of a radio by 200. During the last decade, marked by an unrestrained exacerba­tion of trade wars - which have only become still more bitter with the collapse of the Eastern bloc[16] - computerisation and the increasing introduction or robots into industry have accelerated still further the development of productivity.[17]

But these conditions, which make it possible consciously to organise production worldwide for the benefit of humanity, and which would in a few years make it possible to wipe hunger and poverty from the face of the earth forever by giving free rein to the development of science and the other productive forces - in short, the material conditions which make communism a possibility - are, from the bourgeois point of view, a veritable torment. And from the point of view of humanity, the survival of bourgeois production rela­tions becomes a nightmare.

"Institutions which are too narrow..."

"At a certain stage of their development, the material pro­ductive forces of society come in conflict with the existing relations of production, or - what is but a legal expression for the same thing - with the property relations within which they have been at work hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters".[18] In the case of pre-capitalist exploitative societies, as in capitalism, this "collision" between the "development of the productive forces" and the "property relations" are concretised by scarcity and famine. But whereas, in ancient slave society or feudalism, when production relations became "too narrow", society found itself materially incapable of pro­ducing enough goods or food from the earth, in capitalism we find a quite new kind of economic blockage: "over-pro­duction".

"Society suddenly finds itself put back into a state of mo­mentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence; industry and commerce seem to be destroyed; and why? Because there is too much civilisation, too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much com­merce" (Communist Manifesto).

What Marx and Engels described in the mid-19th century in analysing the commercial crises of ascendant capitalism, has become a virtually chronic situation in decadent capitalism. Since World War I, the "over-production" of armaments has become a permanent disease of the system. Famines are de­veloping in the under-developed countries at the same time as US and "soviet" capital compete in space with the most costly and sophisticated technology. Every year since the cri­sis of 1929, the US government has devoted part of its farm support subsidy to pay farmers not to cultivate land.[19] At the end of the 80's, as the UN Secretary General announced more than 30 million deaths from starvation in Africa, almost half the American orange crop was destroyed (intentionally!) by fire. At the beginning of the 1990's, the EEC began an enormous plan to take 15% of cereal lands out of cultivation. The new open recession, which is only a worsening of the crisis in which the system has been mired since the end of the 60's, is hitting every sector of the economy, and all over the world the sterilisation of land is being accompanied by the closure of mines and factories.

Between humanity's needs and the means to satisfy them, there is an "invisible hand" which forces the capitalists not to produce but to lay-off, and the exploited to exist in poverty. This "invisible hand" is the "miraculous market economy", the capitalist relations of production which have become "too narrow".

Cynical and merciless as the capitalist class is, it does not create such a situation voluntarily. It could ask no better than to have industry and agriculture running at full capacity, to extort a constantly growing mass of surplus-value from the exploited, to sell without limits and to accumulate profit into infinity. If it does not do so, this is because it is prevented by capitalist relations of production. As we have seen, capital does not produce to satisfy human need, not even that of the ruling class. It produces to sell. But since it is based on wage labour, it is incapable of giving its own workers, and still less those it does not exploit, the means to buy all that it is able to produce.

As we have also seen, the share of production which goes to the worker is determined not by what he produces, but by the value of his labour power, and this value (ie the work needed to clothe and feed him, etc) is constantly diminishing as the overall productivity of labour increases.

By reducing the value of commodities, increases in productivity allow one capitalist to seize the markets of another, but it does not create new markets. On the contrary, it reduces the market which is constituted by the producers themselves.

­­"The workers' power of consumption is limited partly by the laws of wages, and partly by the fact that they are only employed as long as their employment is profitable to the capitalist class. The sole reason for all real crises, is always the poverty and limited consumption of the masses, faced with the tendency of the capitalist economy to develop the productive forces as if their only limit were society's absolute power of consumption".[20]

This is the fundamental contradiction which condemns capital to a dead end.[21]

Capitalism has born this contradiction - the inability to create its own outlets - since its beginnings. At first, it could be overcome by selling to feudal markets, then through the conquest of colonial markets. The search for outlets drove the bourgeoisie to "invade the whole planet". Once the world market was formed, and shared out amongst the great powers, it led to the First, then the Second World Wars.

Today, twenty years after the 'respite' provided by the recon struction of the gigantic destruction during World War II, after twenty years of flight into debt, pushing back the dead­line with credit after credit, capitalism is once again faced with its old contradiction: but with a year and a half of debts into the bargain.

The narrowness of bourgeois institutions has finally made the world economy into a monster, where less than 10% of the population produces 70% of the wealth! Contrary to the hymns of praise to the future "miracles of the market economy" that the bourgeoisie is singing solemnly over the grave of Stalinism, reality has revealed in all its horror the barbaric scourge of humanity that is the continued existence of capitalist social relations. More than ever, the very survival of the human species demands the emergence of a new society. To overcome the dead-end of capitalism, this society will have to be based on two essential principles:

  • production exclusively for human need;
  • the elimination of wage labour, and the organisation of distribution first of all as a function of existing wealth, and once material abundance is achieved worldwide, as a function of the needs of each member of society.

More than ever, the struggle for a society founded on the old communist principle "From each according to his abilities,to each according to his needs", opens up the only way out for humanity.

The economists' attachment to the capitalist mode of exploitation blinds them, and prevents them from seeing and understanding its bankruptcy. The revolt against exploitation, by contrast, pushes the proletariat towards a historic lucidity. By looking from the viewpoint of this class, Marx, and the real Marxists, have been able to rise to a coherent historical vision. A vision which is capable not only of grasping what is specific in capitalism relative to past societies, but of understanding the contradictions which make this mode of production as transitory as those of the past. Marxism places the possibility and necessity of communism on a scientific footing. Far from being buried, as the defenders of the established order would like to think, it remains more current than ever.

RV 6/3/1992



[1] In 1967, it was above all Germany that was marked by the recession. For the first time since the war, its GDP stopped growing. The "German mira­cle" was replaced by a 0.1% drop in GDP. In 1970, it was the turn of the world's most powerful economy, the USA to suffer a 0.3% fall in produc­tion.

[2] In 1969, the cover of the French economic review L'Expansion titled "Can 1929 begin again?"

[3] Some estimates put total world debt at 30,000 billion dollars (Le Monde Diplomatique, February 1992). This is equivalent to seven years of Amer­ica's GNP, or of the EEC's, or a year and a half of labour (under present conditions) of the whole of humanity!

[4] In December 1991, the OECD presented its Economic Perspectives, to the press: they announced an imminent economic recovery, encouraged amongst other things, by the drop in German interest rates. The same day, the Bundesbank announced a substantial increase in rates, and the OECD immediately revised its forecasts downwards, emphasizing how great were the unknowns which dominate the epoch....

[5] See the article in this issue "How the proletariat won Marx to commu­nism"

[6] In the Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, ed. Lawrence and Wishart)

[7] Economists have difficulty understanding that the capitalist nature of these economies can in fact only be understood from a Marxist viewpoint.

[8] Rosa Luxemburg, Introduction to Political Economy, Chapter 5, Wage Labour"

[9] By contrast, this difference is important for an understanding of the dif­ference in efficiency between Stalinist state capitalism and so-called "liberal" variety. The fact that the leaders' income is irrespective of the production for which they are supposed to be responsible has made them veritable monsters of irresponsibility, corruption, and inefficiency (see "Theses on the economic and political crisis in the Eastern countries" in In­ternational Review n°60).

[10] Rosa Luxemburg, op, cit.

[11] The Communist Manifesto, "Bourgeois and proletarians"

[12] idem

[13] In the case of a country like the USSR, where internal competition is blunted by the state monopoly, the constant pressure to improve productiv­ity appears at the level of international military competition.

[14] See our pamphlet The Decadence of Capitalism .

[15] The data on productivity are drawn from various works by Jean Fourastié La Productivité (ed. PUF, 1987); Pourquoi les prix baissent (ed. Hachette, 1984); Pouvoir d'achat, prix et salaires (ed. Gallimard, 1977)

[16] See the article in this Review: "Trade wars: the infernal mechanism of capitalist competition".

[17] We can get some idea of the increase in labour productivity from the evolution of the number of "unproductive" people supported by truly productive labour (productive in the general sense of the term, ie useful to hu­man existence). The farmworkers, and the workers in industry, services, and building who produce goods or services destined for consumption or the production of consumer goods, allow an ever-growing number of people to live without doing any really productive work: the military, the police, workers in all the industries producing weapons or military equipment, a large part of the state bureaucracy, workers in the finance, banking, mar­keting and advertising sectors, etc. The share of truly productive labour is constantly diminishing in capitalist society, to the benefit of activities which are vital to the survival of each national capital, but useless if not downright destructive from the point of view of the needs of humanity.

[18] Marx, Preface to The Critique of Political Economy.

[19] From the purely technical viewpoint, the USA alone could feed the en­tire planet.

[20] Marx, Capital, Vol III

[21] This is not the only contradiction that the Marxist analysis uncovers within capitalist relations of production: the law of the falling rate of profit, the contradiction between the need for ever more massive investment and the demands of capital circulation, the contradiction between the worldwide character of production and the national nature of the appropriation of cap­ital, etc, are all among the essential contradictions which Marxism has shown to be both motive power and brake in the life of capital. But all these other contradictions only become a real barrier to the growth of capital once it comes up against the most fundamental reason for the crisis: capital's in­ability to create its own markets.