lem_ started two topics based around this question which made me think and lead me to write the below : there are many aspects
Feel free to add your own comments or take it in what you feel is the most imporatant direction.
His question :
... I am perplexed as to WHY his argument works. It seems to follow [the argument not the crisis] almost trivially from the analysis of commodities, but then shouldn't we be pulling the commodity form apart in our thinking? at least if we're going to understand practice.
Has much more in it than a peremptory glance might suggest : it contains many key issues undoubtedly profoundly examined by Marx and developed through his life and onwards through the years by the ICC and other organisations within the milieu: it echoes other contributors genuine questions trying to define/distinguish 'mortal crisis' 'permanent crisis' 'acute crisis' trying to clarify what these mean or imply (or confuse) in changed circumstances.
It brings up many fundamentals:
* Alienation of Labour as exemplified by the mysterious 'commodity': the mother of all mystifications:('pulling it apart in our thinking')
This conceit at the heart of the mode doesn't exactly cause the crises that -whether in ascendance or decadence- are the actuality.
* The inherent unwinnable 'inner fights' of the Capitalist (ir)rational mode do : it cannot escape them.
* The resulting overproduction 'absurdity' as Marx put it: Capital must immiserate The Worker: but it thereby reduces it's market.
But those were 'simpler days' - nontheless pregnant with complex days.
* How these contradictions accumulate, change in quantity and quality as ever enlarged reproduction turns into the impossibilty of its realising its own ends.
Here's a passage which struck me as being such a clear depiction both 'of its time' (1848 : Manifesto)) and yet still so clear today ;
"It is enough to mention the commercial crises that by their periodical return put the existence of the entire bourgeois society on its trial, each time more threateningly. In these crises, a great part not only of the existing products, but also of the previously created productive forces, are periodically destroyed. In these crises, there breaks out an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity — the epidemic of 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.
The productive forces at the disposal of society no longer tend to further the development of the conditions of bourgeois property; on the contrary, they have become too powerful for these conditions, by which they are fettered, and so soon as they overcome these fetters, they bring disorder into the whole of bourgeois society, endanger the existence of bourgeois property.
The conditions of bourgeois society are too narrow to comprise the wealth created by them.
And how does the bourgeoisie get over these crises? On the one hand by enforced destruction of a mass of productive forces; on the other, by the conquest of new markets, and by the more thorough exploitation of the old ones. That is to say, by paving the way for more extensive and more destructive crises, and by diminishing the means whereby crises are prevented."
Marx considered The Proletariat a great productive force: since 1945 there have been at least 43 wars - 37 still ongoing: the most modest estimate of deaths being 10,000,000 : i.e.'destruction of the productive force that is the Proletariat'
This spread of war, famine and death surely = 'more extensive and more destructive crises'
'It is enforced' says Marx because round after round the Bourgeoisie have ever less 'means whereby crises are prevented': they have no solution.
Take 'momentary barbarism' and replace with 'continual barbarism' and Marx could be describing precisely The Decomposition of Capitalism - the accumulation of backfiring 'solutions' have paved the way to worse crises and the 'unceasing catastrophe' of today.