Re: [OPE-L] highest, last, latest, or no longer existing stage of capitalism?

From: Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM
Date: Fri Jan 28 2005 - 17:57:33 EST

----- Original Message -----
From: "Jurriaan Bendien" <>
Sent: Friday, January 28, 2005 5:00 PM
Subject: highest, last, latest, or no longer existing stage of capitalism?

 You asked: what are we looking  for on world markets?

It is possible using price data to examine the patterns, movements and
volumes of imports and exports with regard to different classes of goods
and services as well as flows of funds over a long time-span, e.g. 150-200
years. From an analysis of that you could draw some conclusions about when
the turningpoints or breaking points in world development really were, and
thus delineate "stages". But it's a lot of work. Long-run GDP series are
already available for most countries, but world trade patterns are not so
well analysed. Point is that the concept of a "stage" in history assumes a
periodisation, and this periodisation must not be speculative, but be
grounded in empirical facts.

You wrote:

 Well, I guess that returns one to long standing debates on whether
 what was meant by imperialism in early capitalism is what Lenin meant
 by imperialism.

I think that Lenin emphasized that imperialism was a necessary consequence
of industrial capitalism, not merely a state policy that could be changed
by political will. In this he was surely correct, even although the ultimate
beneficiaries of imperialism might have been different from what you might

It is just that Lenin never explicated any law of motion of imperialism in
terms of the forms of capital, beyond noting the influence of monopolies
and finance-capital, i.e. he offered no substantive analysis of market
development or foreign trade or the world market based on the analysis of
Marx's Capital. His work was a short, abbreviated political pamphlet
designed to meet the requirements of the censor, based on extracts from 148
books and 232 articles in four languages, mainly German - and not a
scholarly treatise.

In its general meaning, imperialism refers to the domination of a people or
nation by another people or nation, politically, militarily, economically,
culturally. Lenin also adopts that concept, especially with reference to
the national question, except that he sought to specify the forms it took
under conditions of industrial capitalism.

"Imperialism in early capitalism" was clearly different from imperialism in
 industrial capitalism, I don't think anybody would deny that, but it was
 nevertheless imperialism, i.e. the expansion of international trade went
 hand in hand with the conquest of foreign territories, and international
 trade was part of the very origins of industrial capitalism.

 You wrote:

  In  any class conflict, a key element in the
  formulation of strategy and tactics is to know the 'game plan' of your
  enemy for with that knowledge it allows you to better map strategic
  responses and answer the question "what is to be done?".

I think it is pretty clear what the game plan is, you only need to read IMF
reports, Trilateral Commision reports and other thinktanks  etc. for that -
it is the integration of all countries into a global capitalist marketplace
with standardised rules for trade, and the removal of obstacles to that

I think that for the purpose of "what is to be done" we ought to keep the
valid insights of people like Marx, Lenin etc. but drop Marx-ism in order
to focus on the meaning of modern socialism. When we drop the idea of
Marxism qua theoretical system which defines all of the answers to all of
the questions in advance (in Lenin's own words, "omnipotent because it
is  true"), we are no longer bothered by the pitfalls of rigid orthodoxy,
so that theoretical renewal and intellectual creativity can take place - we
can begin to critically examine and theorise the relationships between
planning, democracy, bureaucracy, technology and markets, in order to
understand the  kind of social organisation we should really positively be
aiming for.

To some extent that is already happening I think, and in outline I think
most of the answers are really already there, there is nowadays a big
literature on it. We can say where planning is or is not appropriate, and
what it can and cannot achieve. We can specify the benefits and limits of
democracy. We can explain the sources, benefits and problems of
bureaucracy.  We know a lot about how technologies develop and how
they interact with  social systems. And we can also specify the advantages
and limitations of markets.

Once we drop the idea of "Marxism as the ideology of the party" etc. we can
begin to develop an intelligent social alternative grounded in real
experience, and based on a cogent appraisal of the current state of
knowledge about these things, to inform the socialist movement.
Essentially, the larger socialist parties of our time are much like the
social democratic  parties in Lenin's time, i.e. to the left of the modern
social democratic parties where the "social" dropped out of social
democracy. Socialist science can provide social alternatives for them to
aim for, and insightful analyses. Until revolutionary crises occur again,
causing political splits  between reformist and revolutionary wings,
socialist parties will be essentially reformist or centrist. If all Marxists
have to say is that the Left is reformist rather than revolutionary,
Marxism has no future at all.


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