2. The impossibility of national liberation

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It is the objective development of the world market that has made genuine national liberation struggles an impossibility in this epoch. The capitalist system has reached an historic impasse. Having socialised the productive forces to an unprecedented degree, having unified the world economy more than any other historical mode of production, capital has reached a point where the contradictions inherent in its mode of production preclude the completion of that unification. The world human community has been made a potential reality by the movement of capital but the realisation of that community can only result from the destruction of capitalist social relations, and the inauguration of communist relations by the revolutionary working class. The perpetuation of capitalism, indeed, does not merely hold back the development of the productive forces, but actually threatens to drag humanity to ruin. The global saturation of markets since 1914 has meant that capitalism has only been able to survive by enacting a barbaric cycle of crisis, war, and reconstruction. And with the opening up of a new phase of the crisis since 1967 the only way forward for capitalism today is towards a new imperialist world war. Only the proletarian revolution, the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat on a world scale, can prevent capital from perpetrating this final crime on humanity.

Capitalist social relations – generalised commodity relations centred on the commodity character of labour power – have entered into permanent conflict with the productive forces. The historic crisis of capitalism is precisely the imprisonment of the productive forces by their commodity form, which prevents the collective, associated character of capitalist production from serving as the basis for a truly socialised mode of production. Since humanity can advance through the establishment of such a socialised system, the only progressive project today is the liberation of the productive forces from their commodity form and the creation of communism, which is only possible on a world scale. As capitalist social relations become decadent, so the legal and property forms that are an expression of these relations become a direct factor in the ‘blocking’ of the productive forces. The nation state was once progressive because it provided an arena for the free play of commodity relations and thus for the growing unification of social reproduction, as against the atomisation imposed by feudal relations of production. But though today capitalism has more and more tended to eliminate direct economic competition within each nation state, the phenomena of state capitalism and of imperialism demonstrate that capitalism cannot go beyond the form of competing blocs of national capital.

Thus, far from serving to unite the process of social reproduction, the nation state today stands in the way of its genuine unification. In a world that cries out for the establishment of a rational, planned system of production and distribution on a world scale, the nation state has become an anachronism. Its absurdity becomes clearer and clearer, as the historic crisis of capitalism grows deeper. Each nation state attempts to draw in on itself; demanding its own industrial-agrarian infrastructure; its own currency; its own frontiers. The efforts of national capitals to become self-reliant, which lead to an insane duplication of productive activities, express the immense waste of productive capacity which characterises capitalism in decay: while the inevitable sharpening of competition between national capitals leads to the most terrible waste of human and economic resources ever known: imperialist wars.

All the events of this century prove that the bourgeoisie cannot act as a truly international class. Attempts at regulating capitalism on an international scale (which in any case are efforts towards the establishment of cartels to fight other more powerful capitalist blocs) are possible only for transient periods, as is shown by the collapse of international monetary agreements and of the European Economic Community in the face of the crisis today.

 It is because capital as a world social relation has entered into its epoch of decline that there can be nothing progressive in the establishment of new nation states anywhere. As a world class, the bourgeoisie has played out its historic role and has become a reactionary obstacle to human progress. And if the bourgeoisie of the powerful, highly industrialised capitals is unable to be a factor in the progressive development of the productive forces, this is even more impossible for the bourgeoisie in the backward countries whose economies remain firmly in the grip of the large imperialisms, and who lack any possibility of ‘catching up’ with the advanced capitals.

Even in the period of post-World War II reconstruction, in which the major capitalist blocs underwent an unprecedented phase of economic growth, one could always point out the misery and backwardness of the ‘Third World’ (see footnote 1) to contradict those who babbled about a ‘consumer society’ and a crisis-free capitalism. Throughout the period of reconstruction the vast majority of the Third World countries were falling further and further behind the economies of the advanced capitals. Economic stagnation; a ‘population boom’ which in the absence of sufficient industrial development produced millions of starving landless peasants all over Asia, Latin America, and Africa; official corruption and overproduction of intellectual strata which could not be integrated into the economy; the perpetuation of diseases long since vanished in the advanced countries; ruthless exploitation by native and foreign capitals; wars, coups, and general political instability: all these daily realities of life in the under-developed regions were doleful reminders of the fictional nature of the so-called ‘consumer society’. And today as the advanced capitals flounder in the onset of .a new generalised crisis, the backward countries can only fall further and further into decomposition. Because of their dependence on world imperialism, these countries can only go down with a crash when the big capitals totter. Already the crisis is hitting some Third World countries in a truly catastrophic way, especially those that have no vital raw materials with which to counter the pressures exerted by the efforts of the main imperialisms to save their own skins (the attempt to push the effects of the crisis onto weaker capitals has already begun and can only intensify as the crisis deepens). Countries like Ethiopia and Bangladesh have been hit by crop failures, famines, floods, inflation, war and recession all at once. Bangladesh is a particularly good example of the impossibility of national liberation today. The regime of Sheikh Mujib, established by a ‘national liberation war’ with the indispensable aid of Indian and Russian imperialism against their American, Pakistani, and Chinese rivals, was totally incapable of doing anything but adding to the general crisis of the Bangladesh economy. According to the official figures (Le Monde, 18 December 1974), 27,800 people died of starvation in the last two months of 1974. And the only response of a glaringly incompetent regime was to repress all its political rivals. After a bewildering series of coups and counter-coups, the regimes that followed Mujib’s have merely continued along this inexorable path.

The deepening of the world crisis has also silenced those who advertised the splendid ‘development’ that appeared to be taking place in isolated pockets of the Third World. Brazil, for example, was often described as an ‘economic miracle’ by bourgeois savants, while many ‘marxists’ who denied the saturation of the world market would point to Brazil as proof of the fact that capital could still find many outlets in the ‘development’ of the Third World. In fact, even during the time of its boom Brazilian expansion took place at the cost of ferocious repression of the working class by the ruling military junta, continued poverty of millions of peasants and lumpen-proletarians and the literal enslavement or massacre of Indian tribes. The Brazilian economy was regulated in the interests of the equally rapacious imperialisms of the USA, Japan, Germany, and others, whose main concern was to suck it dry as quickly as possible. Now that the crisis has dispelled the mirage of expansion the Brazilian finance minister has admitted that all the growth of the Brazilian economy in recent years has been fed by entirely fictitious capital. The economy will therefore stand up as long as other capitals continue to make-believe in the reality of that capital. (This situation is actually a microcosm of the world economy which depends to a great extent on faith in the dollar.)

Development in the Third World has, of course, taken place but only on the same decadent and wasteful basis as capital accumulation everywhere in this epoch. Small pockets of growth take place in each country (usually for the benefit of a foreign imperialism), while the traditional economic forms are driven to collapse with no replacement being offered for them or for the strata who lived by them. Thus, for every new factory and industrial worker in the backward countries there are many more slums, lumpen-proletarians, unemployed intellectuals, and landless peasants. Though the absolute number of proletarians has increased during the period of decadence, their proportional weight in the world population has decreased, and remains smallest of all in the Third World.

In his book, The Working Class is Permanently Expanding (published by Spartacus), Simon Rubak has shown convincingly that the industrial proletariat is growing in an absolute sense on a world scale. But by taking his own figures, we can draw up an approximate chart that will support what we are saying:

GROWTH BETWEEN 1950 AND 1960

 POPULATION   
  WAGE LABOURERS*
 Advanced Countries: +117,000,000
(Europe, USA, USSR, Japan)
 +34,000,000
 Backward Countries: +360,000,000
(Asia, Africa, Latin America)
+13,300,000
 * Refers to workers in industry and transport 


                                              

 

 

During this period, for each new employee created by capital in the advanced countries, three people are born; in the backward countries, the proportion is one to twenty eight!” (Quoted from M. Bdrard, Rupture avec Lutte Ouvrière et le Trotskysme)

In general, the Third World countries emerge as pitiful and second-rate copies of the decaying advanced capitals. Each one must have its own huge bureaucratic state apparatus, gigantic military and ‘prestige’ expenditure (statues of national heroes, national airlines, etc). Nigeria, for example, spends 220 million pounds a year on its army, which represents 22.4 per cent of the entire capital budget of the Federal Government. Other ‘blessings’ of capitalist accumulation in the advanced countries are also ‘enjoyed’ in the Third World: wholesale pillage of the natural environment, pollution, and the general dehumanisation of social life often intensified by the trauma of the collapse of traditional cultures. Indeed, many of the basic tendencies of decadent capitalism – such as state capitalism – are even more brutally ‘advanced’ in these countries than in the old metropoles. All these phenomena express the fact that far from being ‘rising’ or ‘young’ capitalisms, these countries are in fact the weakest sectors of a senile world capitalism.

Footnote

1. The very phrase ‘The Third World’ was invented by bourgeois commentators to describe this phenomenon in which two—thirds of humanity appeared to be left behind by the marvellous ‘boom’ of the post—war years.