Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Lady Gaga: music is not enough




When people who know about pop music ask me my opinion of Lady Gaga, I usually get all snarky and say I haven't listened to it. Or I play dumb [not hard in relation to pop music], and ask if she was a a living and heroinized wallpaper in Andy Warhol's factory, or a groupie of the Velvet Underground, or that woman who used to hand out SCUM literature outside CBGB.


Then I tell them she was the child the Pet Shop Boys never had. [All heads bow as the Pet Shop Boys go by.]


A comrade from India recently asked me [via Face book; I have never been west of Alcatraz or east of Suez] whether Lady Gaga is sending-up the anti-woman sexism at the heart of drag queen culture. My reply was that I doubt it, but that this kind of theorizing is something performance artists usually do post facto, when people realize they [the artist] really aren't progressive and start picketing their performances.


Lady Gaga still has all those reversals and political re-equalizations to look forward to.

A most Lady post-Antebellum

"Reinvention: to become a different person requires profound resources. A dentist from Georgia can no longer Go West and get a reputation as being the lost dauphin of France. "


That note came as a response to a recent piece I posted which mentioned Lady Gaga. Now when I say piece, of course I mean a mean-spirited half-paragraph posted on my Face Book page, where good sense and the laws of reasoned discourse are unknown. [Doc Holiday would find fertile prospects for his extraction work on Face Book, and there are quite a few people using it regularly today who would benefit from the ministrations of a tubercular dentist.] The person who sent me the note is correct.


Lady Gaga's dressing-up and permanent fake masquerade [we always know it is She] epitomizes a whole period of post World War II history in the imperialist centers. Young men and women of all races were repelled by the class reality they swam within: lawful capitalist values in action. No ascending working class resistance against the Washington-Wall Street consensus existed as inspiration within the limited political horizon of these young people. After the last great revolutionary year, 1979, they were offered only accomplished facts to worship: austerity, ego, prisons, racism, and union-busting. Who would not crave and extol the retreat represented by masquerade, an ad hoc community of solidarity with underground rebel status?


None died of heartbreak

With the globalization of capitalism after 1991 came the globalization of the Washington-Wall Street consensus. This was summed up in Margaret Thatcher's dictum, "There is no alternative."


Part of this globalization was, after the all-defining export of capital from imperialist center to semi-colonial second- and third-world periphery, the export of culture. For the last two decades there has indeed been no alternative.


When even permissible alternatives are ruled out of order by the market's logic and the state's armed and legal authority in defending the market's judgment; when there are no alternative poles of attraction in the class war with the fecundity to produce our own cultural and aesthetic basis and coterie, what options are left for creative youth? Those fortunate enough not to sink immediately into destitution, but to find their way into employment by the industrial/cultural complex, must negotiate on their own a terrain shaped over decades by the big guns of necessity, profit, and accommodation.


Here resides the permanent pressure toward novelty. At the same time, however, budgetary entrenchment and the weight of a globalized world market cuts against an avant garde definition of the new. In its place, we receive not the new, but the nouvelle. In popular culture, all the acts become Second Acts; despite what Amy Winehouse's mourners might justifiably feel, there are no more initial tragedies, just a parade of secondary farces.


Such desperately close-to-the-bone calculations take their toll. The masquerades of Lady Gaga are on a DeMillean scale compared to this tendency's initiators: David Bowie, Boy George, Michael Jackson, Madonna, and the Pet Shop Boys. Because of this question of scale, of the bottom-line push to achieve the largest gross initially, a permanent inflationary pressure on the spectacle of masquerade is established for each new artist. Mis en scene, costume, persona are all judged by the razor's pitiless edge. Stakes for the individual artist at each stage are also magnified by the preponderant weight of social media as a metabolic regulator of wagers entertainment corporations place on the continued profitability of a given talent.


Listening for the "melancholy long withdrawing roar"








Lady Gaga and Britney Spears on the stage of the 2011 MTV VMAs



For Marxists long waves are retrospective summations. They are conditioned by more than their own internal necessities. Great superstructural conjunctures of war, revolution, and counter-revolution play pivotal roles in determining both modes and relations of production, and the galaxy of actions and reactions they bring forth.

Eventually the consumer market requires its own "shock and awe" campaigns to drive demand even in periods of profound unemployment and immiseration. Aesthetic shock and awe comes in the form of a Michael Jackson or a Madonna or a Lady Gaga, and must also be summarized retrospectively at each conjuncture of industry skin-shedding.
As individual artists the Michael Jacksons and Madonnas and Lady Gagas eventually succumb to unwholesome traits germinating within the bourgeois ego, and their individual collapses become commodities when the artists are incapable themselves of reproducing the reliable cavalcade. Happily for her fans and probably herself, Lady Gaga has not yet reached this "cash for clunkers" end-of-career moraine. From the beginning she has embraced the profoundly accelerated rate the market demands, however. Perhaps best epitomizing this furious rate of development, she appeared at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards as a stereotypical Italian-American man to introduce a "career tribute" to that old trouper, Brittany Spears.

Ms. Spears in 29 years old.


To this, they tell us, there is no alternative.

CBC inflates rhetoric to stampede voters to BHO



Does the Tea Party Really Want to Lynch Black Folks? Why Andre Carton was Wrong, But Not for the Reasons You May Think




In a talk about the economy earlier this week, Representative Andre Carton (a member of the Congressional Black Caucus) suggested that the Tea Party are the same people who in another time would have loved to see black people "hanging on a tree."

Such language is by its very nature controversial. It is also overwrought because an allusion to lynching and the "strange fruit" of this country's recent memory conceals more than it reveals. In much the same way that black conservatives and their white handlers deploy the horrid language of "the plantation" and "run away slaves" to describe African Americans who make a choice to support the Democratic Party, an appeal to lynching as a means to describe the motives of one's political foes has to be handled with great care and precision.

For those reasons, Carton's suggestion was problematic. But perhaps not in the ways that many would assume.

Let's begin with a simple question. What do we know about the Tea Party? Who are its members? What do Tea Party members believe? What is their rhetoric? What are their dreams and goals for the country?

From recent public opinion research, we know that the Tea Party is comprised of older, almost exclusively white folks, and that they want to "return" the country to "Christian values" and "the Constitution." We also know that their animus and upset did not take full form until the election of Barack Obama, America's first Black President. Moreover, public opinion data has revealed that Tea Party members are more likely to believe that blacks are not hard working, are lazy, and complain too much about racism. Tea Party members, as a function of their Conservative political orientation, are awash in racially resentful attitudes.

The Tea Party uses the language of secession and the neo-Confederacy. They also advocate violent solutions to removing an "illegitimate" and "Socialist" President: these are the Tea Party's dreams of civic virtue and justice.

In all, the Tea Party is largely comprised of white folks who feel "oppressed" because of their race and that they are victims of prejudice in the Age of Obama.

The signs at their rallies which depict the President as a monkey or witch doctor, the statements of their leaders, as well as the private emails and other documents which have come to light, are all plain in the face types of evidence for the role of bigotry and prejudice as driving factors in the Tea Party movement.

A second question. What do we know about the lynching of black Americans?

Thousands of black Americans were lynched between the 1880s and the 1930s. In fact, the last lynching occurred in 1981. Lynchings took place all over the country and not just in the South. They were a form of racial terrorism by Whites against blacks that was intended to maintain their dominant position across the colorline. No one--children, women (some who were pregnant) and men--was spared the threat of death by rope, bonfire, gun, pipe, truncheon or other foul weapon.

Lynchings were a type of ritualized violence. This is a critical fact that cannot be overlooked. Lynchings were festive civic events, where whites would buy souvenirs (often human body parts from the victims), take photos, and circulate said images on postcards all over the country. In total, racial violence was a way of creating White community in a White supremacist society. Take for example the oft cited lynching of Sam Hose:

The train carrying Hose to Newnan was packed with people who were eager to witness the man's execution. As soon as Hose was off of the train, a huge mob crowded around him and marched him to the jail, cheering and shouting along the way.

Plans were made to take Hose back to Palmetto for his execution; however, several prominent members of the community spoke out, pleading with the mob to allow justice to take its course. Governor Candler ordered even ordered out the troops. Upon hearing this, the mob decided that the execution needed to take place immediately and within minutes, Sam Hose was hanging from a tree.

Hose's execution was extremely brutal. Hose initially refused to confess, but after his ears were cut from his head, he claimed responsibility for the crimes. The Atlanta Constitution reported that 2000 witnesses watched as he was burned alive and his body cut and mutilated.

Peculiarly, the man responsible for dousing Hose's body and clothes in kerosene was a stranger from the North, who was reported as saying that, though he did not know how people from his part of the country would respond to this, he felt the need to avenge the terrible crimes that had been committed. "For sickening sights, harrowing details and bloodcurdling incidents, the burning of Holt is unsurpassed by any occurrence of a like kind ever heard of in the history of the state'. Even Hose's bones were taken from the scene as souvenirs.
To the eyes of 21st century "post-racial" Americans, this description of barbaric violence seems like something out of a dark, anachronistic past. The participants were "bad" people, outliers, and most whites were "good" people who would never do such a thing. The reality suggests otherwise.

In a Jim and Jane Crow America, with its sundown towns, and rites and rituals of both formal and informal white supremacy and racism, lynchings were a relatively common event. In a post-Civil Rights moment where white savior movies such as The Help flatten history by depicting an America where most whites were decent, and only a few bad people were racist villains, it is hard for many in the public to accept a painful truth: the thousands of white people who attended Sam Hose's lynching thought that they were doing patriotism's work; they represented the silent majority.

In the context of an unapologetically racist America, where whiteness was the very definition of "American" and "citizen," they indeed were.

In the White imagination of Jim and Jane Crow, the lynching of black people was an act of civic virtue. Its rhetoric and ritual was centered around white men protecting white communities (and in particular white women) from the "violence" of blacks. Ultimately, lynchings were opportunities to create a sense of white community. It was a physical representation of us vs. them and the necessity of the colorline.

The counterfactual of the Tea Party equals the white supremacist violence of lynching and the hanging tree is a difficult one because we cannot transport individuals through time. But, there is an eerie resonance and echo of continuity between an America where Sam Hose and others were carved up as human souvenirs for the the delight of a debased White Soul and the often mouth frothing rage and hostility by the Right and the Tea Party towards Barack Obama, the country's first black president.

If Carton were more nuanced and precise he would have instead suggested that the Tea Party and the lynching crowd come from the same political wellsprings and share the same political imagination. Of course, white supremacy has changed and evolved over time. Consequently, the expression of such white rage will most certainly be altered.

The Tea Party's language of "we want our America," the naked pandering to white resentment and fear, their abuse of patriotic rhetoric and symbols, overt racial appeals, and how symbolic racism and anti-black sentiment drive their ideology are part of a long lineage reaching back to the John Birch Society, the White Citizens' Councils, and Jim Crow.

And yes, this does include the heinous and evil legacy of lynching where thousands of black folks were burned alive, disfigured, dismembered, and hung from trees.

The Tea Party and its white populist foot soldiers would likely not have held the rope at the lynching party. But, like the many thousands who attended Sam Hose's murder, the Tea Party's members would have dressed in their finest Sunday clothing and brought the kids along on a picnic. The more blood thirsty would have howled and cheered as the victim was torn asunder and their genitals mutilated. The shy and cowardly would have stood on the edge of the crowd catching a peek of the ritual, satisfied that "their" country was safe and that the blacks were being taught to know their place.

History is not fair. It is often ugly. It can be uncomfortable. Nevertheless, the racist origins of White Conservative populism are an uncomfortable truth that must be accepted if we are to truly understand the dynamics of race in the Age of Obama.




Trumka: satire from Товарищ Х


I see that Trumka has announced "a new jobs program."

Based on his history in such matters I am guessing that the program consists of UAW workers building cars directly for WalMart.
 
Obama has negotiated stimulus provisions in exchange for a one time payment to WalMart of $15 trillion. The program will guarantee a "significant number of new hires." Both of them will be employed at the same rate WalMart pays its workers in Bangladesh (about $0.02/hour).

Trumka has vowed that if Obama does not make good on this pledge, the UAW will advise each of its members to vote for him only once in the 2012 election.

 
 

US capitalism and revolutionary prospects circa 1970

Martin Nicolaus

The Universal Contradiction

Messengers of revolution are always welcome. Ernest Mandel's thesis in 'Where Is America Going?' (NLR 54) that a socialist revolution within the United States is on the agenda of the next decade or two is an important corrective to the more gloomy theses being advanced from other quarters. Nevertheless, false hope is as wrong as false despair. The grounds for confidence which Mandel outlines are not tenable. They must be exposed to criticism so that those who occupy them do not fall into disillusion. Beyond hope and despair there are better premises. The most important of Mandel's theses is contained in his points six and seven, in which he holds that the impact of European and Japanese competition on the world market will precipitate a major structural crisis in United States industry. This question will be discussed at length below. The article also commands attention, however, for its first five points, which outline an equal number of 'forces or contradictions' arising, Mandel holds, from 'forces which are at work inside the system itself.' by which he means, within the domestic sector of the us capitalist economy. Since most of the content of these five points will be more or less familiar to people in or around the us movement, I don't propose to deal with them here separately or in detail. The more important problems of Mandel's viewpoint lie not within each of these five points separately, but in the manner in which he attempts to tie them together.

1. Technology and Inflation: Ether and Phlogiston

The experience and literature accumulated over the last decade regarding radicalization of blacks, students, technicians, state employees and the industrial working class are considerable. To a greater or lesser extent, each of these groups, categories or classes of people seems to have become radicalized spontaneously, and except for blacks and (white) students—where ties existed almost from the beginning—independently of one another. So, for example, the great majority of wildcat strikes or of intra-union protest waves have occurred and still occur without the knowledge or participation, much less initiative, of student radicals or of revolutionary black organizations; such radicalism as exists among technicians and scientists moves in virtual ignorance of the militancy of municipal employees; and so on.

Arriving in the us with more or less fresh eyes, Mandel's view was not tied down, as can happen, within the horizon of one or the other sphere of specific movement work, nor (despite his position as leader of the Fourth International, with which the Young Socialist Alliance in the us is affiliated) was he a gut-level participant in the factional infighting of the last year. Ernest Mandel has almost naively—in the good sense—hit upon an important truth, namely that these five forces are—or ought to be—part of a single movement. He has omitted a couple of the strongest forces, the women's movement and the movement within the Army, but has nevertheless drawn an unmistakable circle around a number of hitherto apparently separate phenomena and pointed out that they are in some way related to one another.

This is a step forward. Mandel's often perceptive summary brings these forces together on paper in an easily accessible form. But anyone who has had the experience of making contact with radicals in a different segment, for example, a student trying to talk to workers, or a technician trying to talk to black revolutionaries, knows that bringing these forces together by listing them on paper one-two-three-four-five and actually making contact, even if only on the talking level, are very different things. Even so apparently simple a step as identifying a common enemy can prove difficult.

One usefulness of good theoretical writing is to make this process of making contact easier, by showing and explaining the common roots of separately experienced oppressions. Unless he gets drafted, and not necessarily even then, the college student doesn't know from his own experience that the causes of his discontent and the causes of the nlf's fight have a common root; the young white factory worker doesn't know from his own experience that he and the black street organizer are fighting against the same system. It has to be shown and explained. On that level, it has to be noted, Mandel's article does not go very far forward; in some respects, it even goes backward.

What are the common roots of these separately-experienced oppressions? In Mandel's view, the first three (blacks, students, technicians) are jointly derived from 'an accelerated process of technological change' which he calls 'the third industrial revolution.' Thus he claims automation has thrown black workers out of unskilled jobs; it has further created a demand for more educated people and thus led to the use of industrial methods in education; and finally, it has led technicians into conflict with financiers. As for points four and five (industrial workers, government employees), their problems are rooted, he says, in 'inflation'.

Not one common root, but two separate ones. And neither of them, unfortunately, extremely enlightening. For nearly a decade, the entire official spectrum of analysts, critics and columnists has been pointing to 'technology' and 'inflation' as the root causes of one or another troublesome phenomenon. These are the 'ether' and 'phlogiston' of contemporary socio-economic criticism, the residual, fictional categories into whose murky depths escape all those who fear the sunlight of critical, radical thought. There are a dozen analyses of 'technology' and its social and political effects; at least that many of 'inflation'. They range from right to left. The problem with 'technology and inflation' is that as explanations they include too much; they can be used to explain everything, and therefore end up explaining nothing.

Imagine a conference called to assemble forces for an attack on the oppressive effects of 'technology'. Who would not be able to participate? Imagine another conference to protest 'inflation'. Whom would it exclude? Now put the two conferences together and you have a committee to draft a platform for both the Democratic and the Republican parties. Whatever these 'common roots' may sprout, it is not a revolutionary movement.

Especially when both of these common roots are themselves internally split. A closer examination of Mandel's theory of his 'third industrial revolution' and of 'inflation' yields some curious statistical and logical problems within each of them.

In point number one, for example, the 'third industrial revolution' has allegedly eliminated 10 million unskilled Industrial jobs from the fabour market. Since their occupants presumably did not all become students or emigrants, this massive exodus from industry should have made a sizeable bulge in the unemployment figures. Although Mandel is right to accuse the unemployment statistics of being notoriously unreliable, they are not so unreliable as to dip downward consistently if there is a 10 million-strong upsurge in reality. A countercheck on the side of the employment figures—percentage of people in given occupations—shows only a minute decline in the proportion, and no decline at all in absolute numbers, of people employed as 'operatives' or 'labourers other than farm and mine', the chief 'unskilled industrial' categories. In short, either there is a massive conspiracy by the Bureau of Labour Statistics, or these 10 million unskilled industrial jobs disappeared only in Mandel's imagination.

Leaving the statistical question aside does not end the problem, for the contradiction goes further. Whereas there was, in point one, a massive exodus from industry, which 'hit hardest' at the black population, suddenly in point number seven there is 'a tremendous influx of black workers into large-scale industry'. Since we knew that the great majority of black workers are not being employed as skilled workers, this is an impossible contradiction. Either there is an exodus or there is an influx. Black workers in the millions cannot be coming and going at the same time.

Mandel's analysis of 'inflation' is hardly more satisfactory. Responsibility for this phenomenon, he writes, lies mainly with the huge military establishment. This is true but superficial. On what does responsibility for the huge military establishment lie? Responsibility further lies, he says, with the vast increase in private indebtedness, i.e., on instalment buying. This is not even superficial, it's slanted. Inflation doesn't happen because people go into debt; people go into debt because of inflation. At the very least, there is a circular process. The net effect of Mandel's analysis is to deposit blame for inflation courageously on the doorsteps of Pentagon wastefulness and consumer recklessness, precisely where we see it deposited almost daily in the editorial pages of the average metropolitan newspaper. And as for the corporations: they do not have a stake in the inflationary process one way or the other, they are merely 'interlocked' with it. As they, of course, claim themselves.

This is what calls itself Marxist political economy? Incredible. The high respect which Mandel's work has earned makes such lapses particularly astonishing. These are not merely 'technical problems', as Mandel, retreating, claims. They are very much on the political agenda of the movement, and their correct solution is one of the tasks to which Marxist political economy ought to be contributing. These are problems, moreover, which cannot be understood by drawing a dividing line between forces or contradictions 'within the system itself'—meaning within the domestic sector of us capitalism itself—and forces or contradictions of an 'international' character, as if the latter were outside the system. They have to be understood as 'international' problems from the beginning—as problems arising from imperialism— if they are to be understood at all. Unfortunately, Mandel's view of the international scene, next to be examined, only adds to the problem.

2. USA, Europe and Japan

We come then to 'the final and most important moment of a Marxist analysis', points six and seven, which feature the subversion and overthrow of us capital by the bourgeoisies of Europe and Japan. These latter powers, Mandel holds, have risen from their position of almost complete dependence on the us immediately after the war to a condition of near-equality with the us in the commercial sphere. The growth in scale and productivity of European and Japanese industry, combined with the relatively lower wages which they enjoy, permits the exports of these nations to compete favourably against us exports on the world market, and even allows an increasing degree of penetration into the us domestic market.

Mandel foresees that sooner or later (and his formulations vary widely) the commercial superiority of European and Japanese export products will provoke a 'huge structural crisis' in us industry. Presumably— Mandel's formulations are not conceptually clear—this 'huge structural crisis' will provide the major impetus for 'deneutralization' of the trade unions on the side of revolution.

There is no denying that the last decade has brought an increase in export competition between us industry and those of Europe and Japan, and a steep rise in the level of friction in nearly every other sphere of these inter-capitalist relations as well. Particularly has this been the case in us-European relations, and not only in regard to France under DeGaulle. The formation of the six-member European Economic Community (Common Market) with the express intent of creating a European economy comparable to that of the us in scale and power, has forced us capital to reconsider its global strategy in a number of respects. The fortification of the 'free world' which this measure promises on the European front has permitted a relative reduction of us military strength there, and a correspondingly greater us potential in the Pacific, a development finalized with the retreat of Britain from 'east of Suez'.

On the other hand, the notion of an independent European capitalism, an ideal which has agitated Europeans of a variety of political persuasions for many years, provokes anxiety among us 'Atlantic' strategists, who fear an eventual alliance between Europe and the ussr. It appears that no clear consensus on the question of strategy has yet emerged in the us ruling class, nor among the national bourgeoisies of the European states or the 'European' bourgeoisie proper. There are sharp divisions on all aspects of the problem, which deserve close attention in the future.

The aspect of Mandel's thesis to which objection must be taken is the cause-and-effect relationship he tries to establish between these phenomena of trade competition and the 'huge structural crisis' awaiting us industry. It is possible to challenge this thesis on two levels. One method would be to show empirically that the competition is not as significant as he claims, that it is restricted to certain non-vital industries, that additional us labour is employed in processing or finishing some types of imported goods, that the productivity gap is widening rather than diminishing, as he claims, that the wage gap, instead of widening, as he claims, is actually narrowing, and that in any case, foreign trade is of far less importance to the us economy than to those of Europe and Japan.

Mandel has assembled some of these data in a longer work addressed to a German audience, [1] whose conclusions, interestingly enough, do not always coincide with those of his NLR article. He writes there, for example, that us-Japanese competition is negligible, and that competition between Japan and Europe is sharper than competition between either or both of them and the us. These divergences illustrate the extreme complexity of the question, which involves the whole of world relationships, and point to the need for further systematic empirical research.

A second line of objections to the thesis, however, arises on the basis of structural information which Mandel leaves out of account, and on the basis of historical experience which he chooses to ignore. While granting an increase in trade competition as an established fact, I regard the analysis which sees this phenomenon as the cause of a crisis in us industry, a crisis with revolutionary implications, as mistaken and misleading on the following grounds:

1. The predominance of US banking capital. In order to provoke a 'huge structural crisis' in us industry, European capital would first have to provoke a huge crisis in us banking. The role of banks in competitive battles is crucial, and becomes more so as the production advantages of one antagonist over the other diminish. Given parity in wages and productivity, such as obtains, for example, between the major us auto producers, the outcome of sales wars is decided by financial strength. That side which can afford to make the largest new investments, spend the most on distribution costs, and hold out longest in the face of losses, will win. The internally-generated reserves of individual corporations also weigh in the outcome, but ultimately the volume of credit which can be obtained through banks is determinant. The ability of European industry to force a crisis on us industry thus depends on the relative strength of the respective privately-controlled capital reserves and credits.

While Mandel acknowledges, indeed underlines, the importance of the financial sphere in the domestic sectors (in point three), he is guilty of neglecting, indeed obfuscating it with some fancy footwork as regards the international sector. In point four he suddenly introduces the anonymous figures of 'international bankers', who appear at the side of the chief executive of the us and urge decisions with worldwide consequences upon him, and then disappear never to be heard from again. Unless Mandel wishes to resurrect on the finance level the capitalist unity which he denies on the industry level, an alternative which is open to him but which would require a serious modification in his analysis, he must be more specific as to the identity of these figures. Of course the major banks all operate internationally, and none of them can be accused of patriotism, but through their ties and interlocks with major corporateclients, the banks nevertheless retain a national base. In the capitalism of which nation are these international bankers grounded?

In the German book already referred to, Mandel provides fairly persuasive evidence for the conclusion that these financial powers are based in us capitalism. He points out that (a) us firms operating in Europe are treated as preferred customers by European bankers, with the result that us firms raise nearly all the capital required for operation and investment in Europe itself, instead of importing it from the us. This produces the further consequence that European firms find themselves at a disadvantage, singly, in borrowing back the capital which they themselves generated collectively. They thus turn to the branch offices of us-based banks in Europe, who are eager to acquire new customers, with the consequence (b) that an increasing amount of European capital falls under the control of us-based banking houses, who then use their domestic reserves to purchase increasing degrees of control in European banks, (c) thus completing a cycle of financial takeover.

The evidence on this score, which is supported by Harry Magdoff in his book The Age of Imperialism, tends to the conclusion that in case of a serious export crunch, it is European industry which will in the long run be forced to undergo the more severe crisis. The 'international bankers' to which Mandel refers are Chase Manhattan, Bank of America, Morgan Guaranty, etc.

In this connection, the question of the recurrent monetary crises deserves brief consideration from two aspects. First, it is clear that the European states find the vast holdings of inflated us dollars which they have been forced to accept to cover the us payments deficit a burden, and that they have been bringing a variety of pressures on the us to make good the deficit and redeem the undesirable holdings in trade or gold. The us dollar is thus acknowledged as a weak currency, and an official devaluation is repeatedly suggested and as repeatedly denied by us authorities; the political consequences of such a move domestically are unforeseeable.

But (and this is, in the midst of all the crises, even more important to keep in mind) the dollar remains the international capitalist monetary unit, as was the pound sterling in the era of British imperial supremacy, and hence a devaluation of the dollar (not to speak of its collapse, which is what a major structural crisis in us industry would mean) would create the profoundest shocks in the entire structure of world capitalist finance and trade. The chief overseas victims would be precisely those European and other states and banks who are stuck with huge dollar holdings. If the dollar poses dilemmas for us capital, therefore, it poses even greater problems for the European bourgeoisie. They would like to cut the dollar down but find themselves sawing the branch on which they sit.

Thus, partly unwilling and almost wholly unable to bring the dollar down, such European giants as France and Britain have been forced into repeated devaluations of their own currencies. While such moves improve their chances in the export trade by cheapening their products relative to dollar products, devaluations also weaken their domestic economic sovereignty, since, by lowering the relative price of their capital assets, they permit us corporations to buy into and buy out their domestic firms at bargain rates.

2. The role of US direct investments in Europe, Japan and the Third World. By direct investments are meant those which consist of ownership of and control over productive installations, as opposed to, e.g., portfolio investments, which give the right only to participate in yields. The point is that direct overseas investments by us corporations are a form of 'export'—which is, however, a misleading term, as the capital is raised locally—through which whatever disadvantages us capital may suffer in export trade are bypassed.

Mandel's procedure of equating the economic sphere of us capital with the territorial area of the usa is highly misleading. The impression is created that us-European competition is analagous to two grocery stores on opposite corners. The fact is that one of the 'grocery stores' also owns a very large interest in the other. The sphere of us capital is not confined to the territorial nation, but of course extends in varying degrees throughout Canada, Japan, the states of Europe, and the Third World. The terra 'third Europe' has been coined by European capitalistindependentists to signify that sector of the European economy which is neither socialist nor European capitalist, but under us-capital control. By some estimates, that sector is now larger than any of the European states' economies singly.

It follows that the wage-comparisons Mandel makes to show the alleged growing disadvantage of us capital in the export trade are not very relevant to phenomena on the order of 'huge structural crisis'.

The major us capitals have no need whatever to 'compete' against European and Japanese capitals on the basis of us wage rates; on the contrary, through their direct investments, they compete against European capital on the basis of European wage rates, and against Japanese capital on the basis of Japanese wage rates. In other words, us capital is not merely national, it is imperial; and a comparison of wage rates which confines itself to the us domestic or national sector tells little; what needs to be compared is the prevailing wage rate within the entire us imperial sphere, on the one hand, and that prevailing within the entire European-Japanese 'imperial spheres'—but that measurement would be very largely redundant.

It should further be pointed out that at least some of the 'competition' now faced by us industry originates not with 'foreign' capital, but with the imperial branches of us corporations themselves. This is particularly graphic in the auto industry, where major us producers own major European producers (GM-Opel; Ford-Vauxhall; Chrysler-Simca) whose products they then import into the us to compete not only against European-owned imports (e.g. Volkswagen) but also against us-domestic economy models (e.g. Ford's Maverick). Similar 'foreign' competition which is actually competition among us capitals themselves occurs to an as-yet-undetermined extent in other branches of industry. Since there is no first-glance way of telling which 'foreign import' is actually a us-imperial 're-import', caution should be exercised in drawing political-economic conclusions from 'made in Japan' or 'made in Germany' labels.

This phenomenon of imperial re-imports, or 'captive imports' as they are also referred to, suggests that a serious conflict of interests exists between the giant us corporations (and their banks) on the one hand, and the lesser manufacturers on the other. The latter cannot afford to 'compete' on the basis of direct overseas investments; if they wish to enter the European market, they must stick to the by now old-fashioned mechanisms of the export trade in finished goods, where indeed they may be at a disadvantage. The major corporations, on the other hand, because they enter overseas markets through direct investments, are not so hampered.

There is emerging in us politics a revival of the debate between 'freetraders' and 'protectionists', in 'which the latter represent the us domestic manufacturers who do not operate on an imperial scale. The 'competition' thesis with all its nationalist overtones, alas, fits perfectly into the latter's public relations outlook. While opposed to protectionism in practice, us imperial capital is not averse to borrowing pages from the protectionist ideology for domestic social purposes, inasmuch as 'foreign competition' is a convenient scapegoat explanation for a rise in unemployment. We should at all costs avoid getting sucked in by these manoeuvres.

A further misleading implication of Mandel's wage-comparisons surfaces when it is kept in mind that the us imperial corporations not only operate on the basis of European and Japanese wage levels, but can take advantage of even lower wage levels than these in their Third World operations. An example is the Singer corporation, which competes successfully against Japanese products—on the basis of Taiwanese and South Korean wages. Again it must be emphasized, in the face of Mandel's theoretical retreat into capitalist-nationalist analysis, that the us economy in its dominant sectors has a thoroughly imperial structure; that the average wage level in the useconomy as a whole, i.e., in the us imperial economy, is far lower than it is in the metropolis, and is probably one of the lowest in the world; and finally that the contradiction between 'Europe' and the 'us' which Mandel outlines is to a very great extent a contradiction not between capitalisms but within us imperialism itself. This becomes a little more graspable when we turn to the military question.

3. The role of the US military. No major power of whatever internal economic structure sits idly by while another power masses its forces for an attack on its industry. The threat of a 'huge structural crisis in us industry' which Mandel sees emerging from the growth of European and Japanese capital, if it were real, would necessarily provoke on the us side the most energetic reaction. On the two previous occasions in this century when major national capitalism have entered into major export conflicts, the 'competition' between them necessarily rapidly escalated into protectionism, embargos, financial blockades, colonial wars, and finally the First and Second World Wars. (The 'huge structural crisis' which us industry suffered in the 1930's, incidentally, was decidedly not due to foreign competition.) The threat which Mandel depicts, if it had the magnitude he ascribes to it, would clearly be a casus belli.

Or, put in other terms, European and Japanese capital would be in a position to follow through on such a threat only if they were prepared to contest the matter also on the military level. It is axiomatic that a nation which cannot prevail militarily cannot maintain or achieve commercial hegemony. But there is little question at present or in the foreseeable future that Europe and Japan are in no condition whatever to cut themselves off from the control which the us imperial armed forces directly and indirectly exercise over their respective military postures.

There is, however, a further dimension. The one undoubted commercial advantage which European and Japanese capital enjoy over us capital is in their relationships to the ussr, Eastern Europe, and China. The trade which they maintain with these countries, particularly the eec-Eastern Europe-ussr sector, is a significant expansion of the capitalist market which accounts for much of the dynamism and hence the competitive capacity of European capital. Even here us capital begins to enter behind the scenes, as part-owner of the firms which carry on this trade, but it is probably justified to regard this as still largely a European capitalist preserve.

These commercial relations, because mutually profitable, have so far led to a significant reduction in 'East-West' tensions in Europe, from which the us has been able to draw benefit by being able to display a relatively stronger force in the Pacific, as mentioned. But, should these tensions relax too far, then the entire us military presence in Europe would be from the European capitalist standpoint a useless burden, and popular grounds would exist for the disbanding of nato. The 'pacification' of the ussr, which us policy has allegedly been pursuing for several decades, would then reveal its other face: a peaceful Soviet Union implies an independent European capitalism. Extend this line of reasoning, which of course bears the Gaullist stamp, into a military alliance between European capital and the ussr, so that European industry would in effect 'compete' under the Soviet umbrella, and then the Mandel thesis makes sense! But that the head of the Fourth International and the sworn opponent of the Old Nose would agree to this extension of the conditions of his argument, I doubt. That, nevertheless, is what his explanation of the origins of the threat to us capital presupposes. Beneath the appearance of the 'competition' doctrine lies the very essence of 'peaceful coexistence'; beneath the appearance of Mandel's European 'internationalism' lies De Gaulle. Is it not proverbial that we learn most from our enemies?

The export trade in manufactured commodities is only one aspect of European-us-Japanese relations; and these relations are only one aspect of the power and contradiction of capital. When he places the responsibility for the collapse of us capital on 'foreign competition', on this aspect of an aspect, Mandel is looking at the world not through a telescope, objectively from afar, but through a microscope. The consequences are necessarily regressive.

Either we understand the structural crisis confronting capital as a general crisis, as rooted in the entire system itself, as an international system with an imperial structure, or we have to abandon the Marxist endeavour and relapse into the methods and concepts of Adam Smith. What happens when we make a cut between 'forces of an international character' and 'forces which are at work within the system itself', between world developments on the one hand and the 'objective stimuli which have grown out of the inner development of American capitalism itself' on the other? These Mandelian phrases mentally reconstitute a universe divided into independent and mutually hostile national capitalisms, each of which behaves toward the other as individual manufacturing firms behave toward one another in Adam Smith's economic theology: the same image on a larger screen. Suddenly the stuff of empire evaporates; banking, currency, investments and war count for nothing; imperialism is merely an idea, a figment; history crawls the seas in the holds of freighters; neither China nor the ussr are so much as conceived of; and Commodore Perry has not yet set sail.

3. The International Limits of Capitalism

We will not get a socialist revolution out of a capitalist world divided into petty-capitalist nationalisms. Instead of viewing the changes upon us through the narrow eyes of the smaller capitals on either side, who are given to sudden enthusiasms alternating with spells of nervousness—and whose reasons for wishing a socialist revolution upon the other are, incidentally, transparent—we should chart the process as it affects Capital with an upper-case C. If we are to make a theoretical case for the objective possibility of socialist revolution in the us, we must grant the opponent the strongest possible hand. 'No social order ever disappears before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have been developed' (Marx).

Assuming the dominance of the giants of capital, an attempt to chart the revolutionary process wonld have to take the following into account:

1. The integration of capitals. From the viewpoint of the major corporations in industry and finance, national boundaries have long ceased to be obstacles. Although the different rates of profit obtaining in different national spheres guide their investment behaviour, and while they engage in exchange-rate speculation with portions of their liquid capital—and thus benefit from national divisions—they cannot send their factories, mines and lands similarly chasing across the boundaries. They themselves created, and depend on, the integration of the capitalist world. They naturally resist the pressures toward protectionism and capitalist nationalism emanating from the non-imperial or backward industries, chiefly from the smaller manufacturers among them.

Capitalist integration of the industrial capitalist nations has already advanced so far in the spheres of banking, currency, investment and war that a 'huge structural crisis' in any of the major capitalist nations would entail a huge structural crisis in all of them. This was already the case before the Second World War, as the 1930's depression showed: the crash in the us brought every other capitalist industrial economy down with it. Today, any major national sector of capitalism could embark on a course of provoking a huge structural crisis in another sector, particularly that of the us, only as a suicide measure. Whether in banking, currency, investment or war, a serious crisis in the us becomes a serious world capitalist crisis.

In Mandel's own terms, in which the export market in finished commodities counts for everything, this is clearly visible. A us crisis would deprive European and Japanese capital of a major market, and thus immediately entrain their own collapse.

2. The impossibility of further capitalist expansion. The present boundaries of the capitalist world, already greatly reduced from what they were before 1917, cannot move further outward. Both the ussr and China having become nuclear powers, and the Third World having been thoroughly penetrated already, there remain no further areas into which capitalist-imperialist expansion could drive by military conquest. A degree of peaceful penetration into the states of Eastern Europe and into the ussr itself is apparent, but short of a general Soviet capitulation to capitalist investment penetration, and short of a collapse of the Chinese revolution, both improbable, capitalism has reached its limits and has no place to go but inward, in the direction of greater intensification of all exploitation within its boundaries. In the face of increasing Third World attacks, the cost of maintaining the existing boundaries of the capitalist world rises steeply.

3. Development of a general crisis of over-production. The backlog of unfulfilled demand created by the devastation of the Second World War having been exhausted, the limits of imperial expansion having been reached, no epoch-making technological innovations on the order of railroads and automobiles having materialized, and the ratio of profits relative to wages having risen, the entire capitalist world finds itself presently in the initial stages of a slowly-unfolding general crisis of overproduction. The long—unprecedently long—period of postwar capitalist growth is over.

In every capitalist nation, general productive capacity far exceeds output; military and other governmental expenditures, instead of spurring business growth, have begun to exhaust both people and governments, reducing private demand on the one hand and state fiscal power on the other, without yielding major new areas of investment; in nearly every country, technological advances have improved upon previous capital only quantitatively, without rendering major sectors obsolete, and thus providing a new major field of investment; in all capitalist industrial countries, while the long-term rate of profit is both equalizing internationally and levelling off historically, it has been out-accelerating wages at a pace where both investment and demand become problematic without the artificial and necessarily temporary stimulus of inflation; nearly all industrial capitalist nations face a rise in unemployment and various degrees of recession.

4. Concentration and centralization of capital on an international scale. In times of crisis within a 'national' sphere, the marginal, weaker, financially shallower enterprises get shaken out of the market; they either merge with others to save themselves, or are bought out at a bargain price by the larger, financially more solid concerns. Given the interdependence, and even more, the interpenetration and integration of all national capitalisms since the Second World War, the same process repeats itself on a worldwide scale.

Corporations operating internationally have a serious advantage over nationally-confined firms in this shakeout process. The additional strength they derive from imperial investments gives them the edge in the struggle against domestic competition. At the same time, the homeoffice backing received by their overseas branches gives the latter an edge against competition in the foreign sphere. The result is the familiar process of 'huge structural crises' confronting the smaller, nationally-confined, and marginal or backward industries in all countries, who then fall prey to the imperially-organized capitals who are strong in all countries.

The wave of mergers, bankruptcies, acquisitions and other forms of concentration and centralization of capital which has been visible within Europe, Japan and the us, as well as between them and among them, for a number of years, is only the prelude. The higher interest rates obtaining throughout the capitalist world are a further part of the process, since they hinder small capitals more than large. The us produced drain on European capital-markets is one international aspect of the process, as is the increasing voluntary flight of European capital to the us.

Instead of increasing capitalist independence in Europe and Japan, we are likely to see their increasing subjection to us capital. The examples of Britain and France, whose economies are virtually subject to us financial dictates, rather than that of the Federal Republic of Germany, which still displays at least a vestige of economic autonomy if no other, are likely to become more typical. The re-opening of the Japanese door to us investment capital, probably dictated to Japanese capital via the Pentagon (Japan depends vitally on trade, but has no independent navy), although ostensibly on a 50–50 basis with Japanese management, is reminiscent of French-Algerian or us-Venezuelan arrangements. Whether through its military monopoly or through its control of the international monetary system, through banking or investments, us capital seems likely to concentrate and centralize an increasing proportion of the entire capitalist world's business in its hands, thereby reducing the other industrial capitalist states to the status of satellites, junior partners in imperialism but themselves imperialized; colonized metropoles.

A line of continuity is thus drawn between the states of the Third World and the smaller industrial nations, even while the contradictions between them sharpen. Official British actions toward the people of the Third World, as an example, have never been as openly hostile and racist as they are today; yet never in modern history has British capital been as thoroughly under foreign control, and Britain itself as thoroughly colonized, as it is today. The Third World shows the way to the smaller capitalist powers; as exploitation sharpens in intensity throughout the capitalist world, the line of military coups stretching from Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, etc., to Ghana, Indonesia, etc., has drawn its knot around Greece, seems coiled and ready to tighten on Italy (birthplace of the eec), and (in the form of the emergency laws) is visible even in the Federal Republic of Germany and elsewhere. Capital 'socializes costs' (Mandel) not only on a domestic but also on an imperial scale; each step in this monstrous 'socialization' reduces the peripheral bourgeoisies further to the rank of vice-consuls, and the peripheral working classes to the condition of colonial working classes; relative impoverishment is followed by absolute impoverishment.

5. 'Import' of colonial conditions into the US metropolis; re-emergence of the contradiction between capital and labour. The process of intensification in all exploitation, of imperial 'socialization' of costs, of reduction of all labour to the status of colonial labour, does not stop at the us boundaries, but spreads from its established base among black, brown and Asian internal minorities to engulf the working class as a whole. The return of absolute impoverishment (decline in real wages) is only part, and only the beginning of the process. The probably increasing proportion of the working class which is black, brown or Asian, also noted by Mandel, is another. Here we are still dealing with developments which would fall within the economistic and civil-libertarian purview of trade-unionism, if the union power structure had the desire or the political credibility to organize effectively around them. But the process goes farther in the usa.

First, impoverishment comes not via the traditional path of reduced paychecks from the direct employer, which allows wage-disputes to be confined within the 'private' economy up until the critical moment of open confrontation when federal troops enter against strikers. Rather, impoverishment comes from the beginning via the State, as taxation, and from Capital in general, as inflation; thus a wedge is driven from the beginning between workers and the State—the wage conflict acquires from the beginning a political dimension. Neither able nor willing to fight on this front, the trade unions themselves get driven into reaction by this wedge.

Second, the increasing insecurity and instability of employment undermines unionism's entire base and invalidates its operating procedures, leading to a widespread working class search for alternative forms of organization with an a priori political content.

Third, the increasingly involuntary conscription of us workers during their youth into foreign wars polarizes the ranks of the army into an outright fascist officer corps and a growingly anti-imperialist, internationally-educated element among the common soldiers.

Fourth, the repression against internationally-conscious elements of the student movement drives 'theoreticians, propagandists, agitators, organizers' (Lenin) down into the working class to leaven the political ferment.

Fifth, as the spread of poverty forces more women to work, the male's domestic lordship, hearth of imperialist consciousness, is subverted and eliminated.

Sixth, the increasing internationalization of the labour process, visible in runaway shops as well as in imported materials, advances the international consciousness of part of working-class leadership.

Seventh, the erosion in governmental and trade-unionist legitimacy requires increasing resort to police and army power in the settlement of labour disputes, as well as all other conflicts, and raises the question of self-defence to the fore.

Eighth, a long process of political education by welfare authorities at all levels of government makes the army of the unemployed and unemployable less amenable to becoming unwitting instruments of reactionary manoeuvres.

Ninth, the absence of a politically credible and nationally organized Social Democracy in the post-1914 sense, thanks to the total bankruptcy of liberalism since the New Deal, removes a number of illusions from the path of consciousness and permits a more rapid development.

Tenth, the virtual disappearance of the small family farm removes a traditional base both of reaction and of Populist-chauvinist tendencies.

Eleventh, the industrialization of the South and the improvement of imperial communications equalizes political conditions in all regions of the States, gradually creating a firmer base for truly nationwide organizations.

Twelfth, the collapse of municipal, state, and other intermediate fiscal authorities increasingly polarizes all political conflicts directly against the federal (national and imperial) government.

Thirteenth, the links between the all-sided impoverishment of the us working class and the maintenance of the capitalist empire become increasingly visible in concrete manifestations such as runaway shops, special taxes, and the import of coffins.

Fourteenth, the impossibility of further capitalist progress drives the ruling class and all its hangers-on farther into political, moral, cultural and intellectual rot, severing the last bonds of respect and legitimacy...

It is possible to continue the list, but better halt and summarize.

4. Conclusions

In this day and age of imperialism, more than in any previous epoch, the contradiction between labour and capital emerges in a universal form. The days when it was possible for that contradiction to show itself only within a national, much less regional, local, or single-shop sphere, are far behind us; only the most withered mind could imagine it as arising from purely local causes and merely in the boundaries of a dispute over wages. Contrary to what many writers think, working people—in the us as elsewhere—are not merely a peculiar kind of nickelodeon that will play any tune so long as coins are fed into the slot; capitalism is not merely a scattering of microscopic islands, each governed by a separate Robinson Crusoe and his bag of nickels; and the contradiction of labour v capital is not merely what happens on any one island when the nickels run out.

The entire world has had to be explored, charted, crisscrossed, paved, railed, mined, sown, flown, piped, riveted and wired; every human being upon this earth has had to be uprooted, transplanted, educated and re-educated, pushed and pulled, organized and reorganized; every idea and invention has had to be thought and invented, tested and discarded, picked up and reformulated, sifted through a hundred languages and applied a million different ways—before one single person could insert bolt A into nut B for the 479th consecutive time in one day and say 'Basta! Enough of this!' There are no more 'local' contradictions, and no more 'economic' contradictions, in the sense that is usually meant; all of our contradictions, and the deeper they are, the truer this is, have universal causes and universal effects: one baby in one room in one town who cries from hunger throws the entire history of the world into question.

It takes a peculiarly arid perspective, then, to imagine the re-emergence of the contradiction between labour and capital as a re-run of some textbook accounts of the contract-bargaining sessions between Reuther and gm. This contradiction has (a) penetrated the entire capitalist world, (b) fought and lost the battle for ultimate expansion, (c) turned in upon itself, sharpening every discord within it, (d) overthrown and subjugated every nationality, including the former imperial sovereignties. When it finally comes home to roost again, the whole world comes with it, not as a single beeping of a tin whistle, but as the tutti fortissimo of a mammoth intercontinental orchestra.

Let others speculate whether a decade or two, or three or five, are required before a recognizable facsimile of the stereotyped image of what might have been a revolutionary situation in times and conditions past and gone will show its face again. The course of history over the past quarter century inspires the profoundest revolutionary confidence. No longer does capital labour in narrow confinement at its dissolution; it has made the whole world into the workshop of its overthrow. If we are to assist in the process, we cannot retreat into the provinces of our nationalist or disciplinary specialties; our analysis and our action must be at the least—at the minimum—as universal as the power of Capital itself.




[1] Ernest Mandel, Die EWG und die Konkurrenz Europa/Amerika (Europäische Verlagsanstalt, (1968). Shortly to be published in English, as Europe versus America?—Contradicitons of Imperialism. NLB.

Uneven Development in Marxist theory and practice

Ernest Mandel

The Laws of Uneven Development

Before answering Martin Nicolaus's critique of 'Where is America going?', the origins and intended function of that article should be explained. It is the transcript of a speech given to a seminar of Finnish students at Helsinki, in the framework of a symposium on 'American imperialism today'. It was not intended to be a global analysis of the contradictions of American imperialism, still less a broad outline of American or world perspectives, in the coming decades. I do not consider myself an expert on us capitalism; there are Marxists who are much better equipped to tackle such an analysis, among them close friends of mine in the usa. It is sufficient to recall the origin of this transcribed speech to understand the limitations of the subject with which it dealt, arising out of the needs of an elementary division of labour. Other speakers, in the first place Perry Anderson, dealt at that same symposium with the phenomenon of American imperialism, its industrial-financial-military infrastructure and its repercussions at home and abroad. To myself fell the task of outlining trends inside American society which were slowly eroding its previous relative social and political stability. It was taken for granted that the worldwide activity of American imperialism, and its contradictions, had been analysed by previous speakers and assimilated by the audience. For this reason I mentioned them only in passing. [1] Surely, even the harshest critic could not believe that I 'underestimate' the stupendous effects of the Vietnamese war on social political and ideological developments in the usa.

What was the political purpose of my speech? It was, obviously, to oppose the fallacies of that 'Third Worldism' which, from Franz Fanon and Lin Piao to Baran and Sweezy's Monopoly Capital and Herbert Marcuse's One-Dimensional Man, writes the American working class off any medium-term revolutionary perspective. [2] It is clear that only the most mechanistic and undialectical 'marxists' would deny that the national liberation movements in colonial and semi-colonial countries, and their potential development into socialist revolutions (under adequate proletarian leadership), are part and parcel of the process of world revolution as it has unfolded for 40 years, since the second Chinese revolution of 1925–27. [3] This mean that the inter-relationship between the colonial revolution and the socialist revolution in the West (as well as the inter-relationship between the colonial revolution and the political anti-bureaucratic revolution in the so-called socialist countries) is complex and manifold.

The difference between revolutionary Marxists and supporters of 'Third Worldism' does not lie in the fact the first deny this inter-relationship and the second uphold it. It lies in two basically distinct approaches to the nature of that inter-relationship. Revolutionary Marxists do not believe in a fatal time-sequence, whereas 'Third Worldists' do believe that imperialism has first to be overthrown in all, or the most important underdeveloped countries, before socialist revolution is on the agenda again in the West. Lin Piao's famous thesis that the 'countryside' will have to 'encircle the cities' is the most striking expression of this idea. Revolutionary Marxists do not believe that the loss of an important or even a decisive part of foreign colonial domains will automatically create a revolutionary situation inside the imperialist countries; they believe that these losses will only have revolutionary effects if they first trigger off internal material changes inside imperialist society itself. Between world politics and revolution in the West there is a necessary mediation: changes in the function of the economy, changes in the relationship of forces between classes, changes in the consciousness and militancy of different social groups.

It is now possible to clear up a misunderstanding which permeates all of Nicolaus's critique. When I spoke of 'internal' developments as against 'external effects' upon us society, I did not have a geographical but a social context in mind. The very argument which Nicolaus attacks most strongly—our thesis that inter-imperialist competition is already and will be increasingly one of the forces upsetting the relative internal stability of us imperialism—should have shown him this. After all, 'geographically', competition from Western European and Japanese imperialism is not an 'internal' but an 'external' factor in the usa. Why did I treat it the way I did? Because I was looking for effects of world developments on social forces, on classes and layers inside imperialist society. Without this necessary mediation, historical materialism ceases to be a 'guide to action' and becomes an empty economism and fatalism.

1. The Universal Contradiction and Concrete Class Struggle

From this point of view, to speak of the world as one society, as one single framework for political action, is an impermissible metaphysical abstraction. It is quite true that imperialism has woven all countries and societies of the world into a single net of world market and world exploitation (with the exception of those countries which, through a socialist revolution, have been able to break out of this net). It is also true that monopoly capital of the imperialist countries exploits in various forms and to various extents the workers of 'its own country'; workers of foreign imperialist countries where it invests capital; workers of underdeveloped countries; poor and middle peasants of these same countries; peasants and artisans of 'its own country'; nonmonopolized sectors of the capitalist class of 'its own' and foreign imperialist countries; and practically the whole ruling class of underdeveloped countries. But to draw from this the conclusion that the differences in form and degree of this exploitation have become secondary and insignificant or to argue that because exploitation is universal, it is also homogeneous, is to have a completely lopsided view of world reality under imperialism, yesterday as well as to-day, and to open the road to disastrous analytical and political mistakes.

The historical specificity of imperialism in this respect lies in the fact that although it unites the world economy into a single world market, it does not unify world society into a homogeneous capitalist milieu. Although monopoly capital succeeds in extracting super-profits, directly or indirectly, out of most of the people on earth, it does not transform most people in the world into industrial producers of surplus-value. In short: although it submits all classes and all nations (except those which have broken out of its realm) to various forms of common exploitation, it maintains and strengthens to the utmost the differences between these societies. Although the United States and India are more closely interwoven today than at any time in the past, the distance which separates their technology, their life-expectancy, their average culture, the way of living and of working of their inhabitants, is much wider today than it was a century ago, when there were hardly any relations at all between these two countries.

Only if we understand that imperialism brings to its widest possible application the universal law of uneven and combined development, can we understand world history in the 20th century. Only if we understand this law of uneven and combined development can we understand why, because of an integrated world market, the first victorious socialist revolutions could break out in three underdeveloped backward countries, Russia, Yugoslavia and China. Only if we understand how this same law continues to operate today can we understand that the decisive battle for world socialism can only be fought by the German, British, Japanese, French, Italian and American workers.

'In this day and age of imperialism, more than in any previous epoch, the contradiction between labour and capital emerges in a universal form. The days when it was possible for that contradiction to show itself only within a national . . . sphere, are far behind us,' writes Martin Nicolaus. Permit me to point out the mistake in the first sentence, and the non-sequitur of the second one. The contradiction between labour and capital emerged in a universal form, tendentially from the beginning of the capitalist mode of production (see in this respect the significant passages of Marx's Grundrisse, well-known to Martin Nicolaus), and factually from the beginning of the age of imperialism, more than three-quarters of a century ago. In that sense, neither the Russian Revolution, nor the Spanish Revolution, nor the Chinese Revolution (to cite two victories and one defeat) were any more 'national' than the Vietnamese Revolution; all of them were both expressions and focal points of the 'universal contradiction', which did not manifest itself only 'in this day and age'. But to conclude from the universal character of class contradictions to the necessary universal form of class struggle is to presume immediate and total correspondence between objective socio-economic developments and human action, i.e. to eliminate from the picture the whole problem of national pecularities, political forms, social relationship of forces, varieties of consciousness and rôle of organizations, in other words, Lenin, Trotsky, Luxemburg and a lot of Marx and Engels too!

Polemicizing with Bukharin precisely on this subject, Lenin had this to say during the 8th Congress of the Russian Communist Party: 'In order to understand in what situation we find outselves, it is necessary to say how we marched, and what led us to the socialist revolution. It is imperialism which led us to it, it is (also) capitalism in its primitive forms of (simple) commodity economy. It is necessary to understand all this, for only if we take reality into consideration, will we be able to solve questions like, for instance, that of our attitude towards the middle peasants. In fact, whence did this middle peasant arise in the epoch of a purely imperialist capitalism? For he didn't even exist in the properly speaking capitalist countries. If we connect the question of our attitude towards this nearly medieval phenomenon of the middle peasantry exclusively to the point of view of imperialism and of the dictatorship of the proletariat, we shall never arrive at making ends meet, and we shall only get bruises and bumps. If, on the contrary, we have to change our attitude with regard to the middle peasant, please make the effort to say, in the theoretical part of the programme, whence he arises and what he is. He is a petty commodity producer. This is the A B C of capitalism which we have to state, because we have not yet got out of it.' [4]

Lenin summarizes his position by stating that 'imperialism is a superstructure of capitalism', and when it crumbles, the whole capitalist foundation still subsists. Imperialism, in other words, is a combined form of social development, locking together the most backward and the most modern forms of economic activity, exploitation and sociopolitical life, in variable forms, in different countries. For that reason, socialist world revolution, under imperialism, cannot be an instantaneous, simultaneous, synchronized event in all or most countries of the world. It can only be a process in which the imperialist chain is broken first in its weakest links. In order to determine what link is the weakest in each determinate phase of development, it is necessary precisely to study the economic, social, political, cultural, historical differences between various countries—in the last analysis: the different correlations of socio-political forces in these countries—which survive in spite of the 'universal form of contradiction between labour and capital'.

2. Class Consciousness and Socio-Economic Contradictions

Martin Nicolaus writes: 'There are no more "local" contradictions, and no more "economic" contradictions in the sense that is usually meant; all our contradictions and the deeper they are, the truer this is, have universal causes and universal effects; one baby in one room in one town who cries from hunger throws the entire history of the world into question.' This is quite true, and nicely said. It is not new, for it was true also a century ago. But it begs the real question. For the question which I was discussing, the point of view against which Nicolaus polemicizes is not whether the world economy has objectively been united and 'socialized' (this is ABC for Marxists, and I have myself written this dozens of times). The question which I was asking is this: when, why and how will the great majority of the American working class (the white working class) revolt against all these infants crying from hunger in the world, and will stop that hunger by making a socialist revolution.

To refer us back, in answer to that question, to the objective causal relations, is misleading. After all, infants have been crying for many decades, and have not American workers let them cry? Have not most of the American New Left argued, till very recently, that the American working class would never revolt against capitalism, for various reasons (because it was 'corrupted'; because it was 'integrated'; because of the 'mass media'; because of its 'lack of revolutionary tradition')? Nicolaus should admit that even for somebody who agrees entirely that capitalist exploitation and alienation have 'universal causes and universal effects', this question has still to be answered, by something more than mere pious incantations ('When (!) this contradiction finally comes home to roost...') or blind faith.

Now in the history of the world socialist movement, there are only three fundamental answers to this question. One is the answer given by utopian socialists, and various propaganda sects of very different colours and origins, who all agree on one basic point: that the working class (or mankind for that matter) will never move towards socialism as long as it has not 'seen the light'—i.e. let itself be persuaded by the particular creed of the particular sect in question. The second answer, diametrically opposed but parallel to the first one (and as fundamentally wrong) is that 'when objective conditions are ripe' (when 'the productive forces have ceased to grow'; or when 'misery has become unbearable'; there are many variations of fatalism), the 'workers will become socialists' and 'make a revolution'. The third and correct answer, that of the classical socialist movement, perfected by Lenin, says that workers will make a revolution when (a) socialist consciousness has been introduced in their midst by an organized vanguard; (b) this consciousness merges with a growing militancy of the whole class, which is a function of growing social contradictions, and (c) that militancy emerges into an objective situation of sudden and extreme instability of the ruling class (a 'prerevolutionary situation', a 'revolutionary crisis').

Attempts to introduce socialist consciousness into the American working class have been manifold and uninterrupted for a century now. Sometimes they were broader, sometimes they were more limited; sometimes they were effective and sometimes miserably inadequate, but they never ceased. What has obviously declined since the period of the great upsurge of the cio and the sit-down strikes (or, if one prefers, since the postwar strike wave) is the militancy of the American working class, i.e. the objective class struggle itself. In order not to stumble into the dual pitfalls of utopianism and fatalism, one has to ask the question: what factors could determine a new rise of proletarian class militancy and struggle, after more than two decades of relative quiescence in the usa? [5] What factors are already upsetting and will increasingly upset the relative social and political equilibrium which the American capitalist class enjoyed between the Second World War and the mid-sixties?

When we examine the question of the relative quiescence of the working class in the richest imperialist country of the world, we have at least to take that basic fact into consideration. It cannot be an accident that the leading imperialist country has the weakest development of socialist class consciousness in the working class. The precedent which inevitably leaps to the mind is that of 19th century Britain. The comments of Engels and of Lenin on that situation are well-known. It may be useful to reproduce Engels' opinion in full, in order to examine whether there is an analogy between the English situation of that time and the us situation to-day: 'As long as England's industrial monopoly lasted, the English working class has participated to a certain degree in the benefits of that monopoly. These benefits have been divided among it in a very unequal way; the privileged minority appropriated the largest part, but even the great mass received at least temporarily sometimes its part. That is the reason why there has been no socialism in England since the withering away of Owenism. With the collapse of the monopoly, the English working class will lose this privileged position. It will find itself one day reduced—including the privileged and leading minority—to the same level as their working colleagues of foreign countries. That is the reason why there will again be socialism in England.' [6]

'Industrial monopoly' means of course a monopoly in advanced industrial productivity of labour; there was no absolute industrial monopoly of Britain, either in 1885 or even in 1845. Once we refine Engels' reasoning in this sense, the analogy with the situation of the usa since the Second World War is evident. It is hard to deny that American workers 'participated to a certain degree' in the benefits of us imperialism's monopoly of advanced industrial productivity (technology). It is even harder for a Marxist to deny that there is at least a partial causal link between this participation—i.e. the fact that the American working class enjoys the highest standard of living of the world proletariat— and the absence of socialist class consciousness of that same class.

Now when Martin Nicolaus himself examines the probable causes for the 're-emergence of the contradiction between capital and labour' in the United States, he enumerates 14 factors, no less than 10 of which are of a subjective nature, i.e. concern phenomena of superstructure, and are therefore obviously begging the question. To give only one example: why should growing involvement of conscripted young soldiers in reactionary wars abroad automatically lead to an opposition of a socialist nature? Were not these soldiers also conscripted during the Korean War? Did this involvement lead to a powerful socialist mass movement of soldiers, to a rise of proletarian class consciousness of the American working class? Of the four remaining factors, only two, the growing industrialization of the South and the rapid decline of the farmers, are objective processes which change relations of forces to the advantage of the proletariat, but which do not lead directly to increasing socialist class consciousness either. So there only remain two basic factors on which Nicolaus can count fundamentally to upset the relative social and political quiescence of the white proletariat in the usa: 'absolute impoverishment' and increasing insecurity and instability of employment.

But these two factors suddenly fall from the sky, completely unrelated to the economic analysis which preceeds them. They are even in opposition to the main thesis of Nicolaus's article, i.e. the thesis that the absolute superiority of us imperialism in the capitalist world is growing, and not declining. Surely, if this were so, monopolist super-profits flowing to us capital would increase and not decrease—and its capacity to 'corrupt' the American working class would grow, and not decline. Surely, if us imperialism were all-powerful in the realm of international capital, it would endeavour to 'export' instability of employment first to its weaker competitors, and unemployment would consequently be lower in usa than in, say, Germany, Britain and Japan.

Nicolaus speaks darkly about 'an import of colonial conditions into the us metropolis', and 'a process of intensification of all exploitation, of reduction of all labour to the status of colonial labour'. Let us leave aside the obvious exaggeration and over-simplification contained in this sentence: long before the American working class saw its standard of living depressed to the level of 'colonial labour', it would undoubtedly be ready to make a socialist revolution! What is missing in this sentence, and in the reasoning based upon it which involves all the 'fourteen points', is the socio-economic rationale of us monopolists' behaviour. After all, they do not 'intensify exploitation' out of sheer wickedness, or because they are secretly conspiring to make America ripe for communism. If, after having enjoyed for three decades a situation of relative political and social stability in their country, these monopolists suddenly act in a way to upset that equilibrium, one cannot seriously assume that they do this without being compelled to act in that sense. Now what compels them to behave in that way? Once we formulate that question, we are happily back where we started in the first place—and where Nicolaus assumed lightmindedly we should not have started: the specific inner contradictions of US imperialism in a given span of time, i.e. in the new phase of postwar development opened up somewhere around 1965 and not the 'universal contradiction between capital and labour, or the 'general contradictions of the epoch of imperialism'.

3. The Laws of Motion of Capitalism in This Century

There is only one basic driving force which compels capital in general to step up capital accumulation, extraction of surplus value and exploitation of labour, and feverishly to look for profits, over and above average profit: this is competition.

It is true that there is not only competition between capitalists, but also competition between capital and labour as well, i.e. the attempt of capitalists to replace living labour by 'labour-saving' equipment, whenever there is full employment and the rate of exploitation (of surplus-value) starts to decline as a result of a more favourable relationship of forces between wage-labour and employers. But capitalists' attempts to stop this decline in the rate of surplus-value is again not caused by their fundamentally 'evil' or 'anti-labour' character, but by the compulsion of competition. If they let labour get away with 'excessive' wage increases, their own rate of capital accumulation will decline, they will fall behind in the competitive race and be unable to introduce the most modern technology and finally be destroyed by their competitors.

Today's world is no longer a 'purely' capitalist world, and politicalmilitary considerations have played an important rôle in motivating some of the key decisions of us imperialism during the last decades. Imperialism feels threatened by the spread of social revolution and wants to stop it by all means, including open warfare as in Korea and Vietnam. On the other hand, a purely politico-military explanation of the world involvement of us imperialism misses two important economic points: first, that the very nature of capital accumulation, under monopoly capitalism even more than under 'laissez-faire' capitalism, creates an economic compulsion to world-wide expansion for capital; second, that the emergence of a capital surplus, inevitably linked with monopoly capitalism itself in the leading imperialist nations, creates a strong economic compulsion for building up a powerful arms industry and military establishment. The existence of noncapitalist states and of a powerful revolutionary upsurge in the colonial world gave these processes a specific form; but in themselves, they existed before the Second World War, and before the October revolution at that.

Two questions related to our subject arise from this summary repetition of some of the basic origins and features of imperialism. What are the effects of international capital accumulation upon imperialist competition and rivalry, under the specific circumstances of present-day world developments? What are their effects on class relations inside the usa?

The answer to the first question can be read in all statistics relative to basic international capital movements since the end of the Second World War. For 20 years now, capital export has been larger and more powerful than ever before, but it has been flowing primarily between imperialist countries, and not from imperialist to under-developed countries. [7] The worldwide upsurge of liberation movements in the colonial and semi-colonial countries has created a risk of loss of capital, which apparently more than offsets the still higher rate of profit which foreign capital enjoys in these countries. [8] Inasmuch as the world domain of imperialism has been shrinking and not expanding, such a powerful international flow of capital, and in general the stepping up of capital accumulation during the past two decades (or, what is the same thing under capitalism, the higher rate of economic growth) could only lead to an intensification of competition, as well as to its necessary corollary, an intensification of capital concentration. The emergence of the 'multinational corporation', as the leading form of organization of monopoly capitalism to-day, testifies both to stronger international competition and greater international concentration of capital.

The answer to the second question is less obvious and more controversial. But the inner logic of capitalism leads us to the inescapable conclusion that as long as competition clearly and unilaterally operates in favour of us imperialism, it can neither threaten the standard of living of the working class, not shatter the relative stability of employment. It is just not true to write, as Nicolaus does: 'Short of a general Soviet capitulation to capitalist investment-penetration, and short of collapse of the Chinese revolution, both improbable, capitalism has reached its limits and has no place to go but inward, in the direction of greater intensification of all exploitation within its boundaries.' Nicolaus, after seeming to forget that 'the Third World has been thoroughly penetrated' not just since 1965 or 1945, but since 1900; after seeming to forget that this penetration is still far from complete, however, and that even in imperialist countries, there is even today a powerful movement of 'industrialization' going on, is carried away by his manipulation of the abstraction 'capitalism', and loses sight of the most important form of expansion of imperialist powers since the beginning of this century: their attempt to expand at the expense of their competitors. After all, that is why two World Wars have broken out, and why the history of the 20th century has been what it is.

Thus us monopolists would much sooner conquer their competitors' markets and undermine employment there, than to have huge overproduction and unemployment inside the usa. If a point is reached where the us is forced to intensify exploitation of American workers, it can only be because this alternative course of action is being increasingly closed to it. Yet this again can only be explained because the correlation of competitive forces has become such that 'export' of intensified exploitation is increasingly impossible.

Nicolaus introduces a few additional facts to explain the need of intensified exploitation of American workers by reasons other than those emanating from increased international competition. He mentions inflation and taxation [9]. But here again, he is begging the question. Inflation has been present in the usa since the mid-'thirties. Why hasn't it prevented a rise of the standard of living of the American workers, before it started to lead to a decline? Taxation has been steadily increasing for a long time; why has it had to be stepped up the the point where it starts cutting down real wages? Surely these two questions are interrelated, aren't they? Surely the pressure of foreign imperialists to cut down the deficit of the us balance of payments has something to do with them? Surely the relative decline of the competitive position of us imperialism is expressed in the fact that, whereas for a whole period (including that of the Korean war) us imperialism could pay itself the luxury of a large deficit in its balance of payments, a huge military establishment, and large-scale military and economic outlays abroad, while keeping a strongly positive trade account, today the mutual effects of inflation at home and military outlays abroad have reduced the trade surplus to the point where it might disappear altogether?

Nicolaus correctly mentions the rising 'cost of maintaining the existing boundaries of the capitalist world', and the rising trend to 'socialize' (i.e. impose upon the backs of the American workers) the costs of interventions and wars abroad. But he forgets that again we are dealing here with relative and not with absolute aggregates. An imperialist country can have a rising military budget and a rising cost of living, while at the same time real capital accumulation and real income of the workers are still increasing instead of being reduced (this happened in the early forties, the early 'fifties and the early 'sixties in the usa). What is needed for this conjunction is a rise in real output and national income making possible all these increases simultaneously. Only if the rate of economic growth declines (or the rate of inflation and military outlays increases in a much greater proportion than real output) does military intervention abroad imply increased exploitation of workers at home. This again depends on how the capitalist world economy behaves, and what share of its international market accrues to us imperialism. Even with a stagnant world market, increased military outlays in the usa do not automatically mean a declining standard of living for American workers, as long as us imperialism has the possibility of receiving a growing share of that market, at the expense of its competitors. By eliminating inter-imperialist competition, Nicolaus takes all logic out of his assessment of increasing exploitation of the American working class.

4. Back to the Fallacy of Ultra-Imperialism?

In order to deny any major role for inter-imperialist competitions today, Martin Nicolaus has to contend:

(a) that 'from the viewpoint of the major corporations in industry and finance, national boundaries have long ceased to be obstacles. . . . They naturally resist the pressures toward protectionism and capitalist nationalism emanating from the non-imperial or backward industries, chiefly from the smaller manufacturers among them.'

(b) that 'no major of whatever internal economic structure sits idly by while another power masses its forces for an attack on its industry.... On the two previous occasions in this century when major national capitalisms have entered into major export conflicts, the "competition" between them necessarily rapidly escalates into protectionism, embargos, financial blockades, colonial wars, and finally the First and Second World Wars. . . . The threat which Mandel depicts, if it had the magnitude he ascribes to it, would clearly be a casus belli.'

(c) that 'Mandel's procedure of equating the economic sphere of us capital with the territorial area of the usa is highly misleading.... The sphere of us capital is not confined to the territorial nation, but of course extends in varying degrees throughout Canada, Japan, the states of Europe and the Third World.'

(d) that us banking capital is 'predominant'. "The role of banks in competitive battles is crucial, and becomes more so as the production advantages of one antagonist over the other diminish.... The ability of European industry to force a crisis on us industry thus depends on the relative strength of the respective privately-controlled capital reserves and credits.... These financial powers are based in us imperialism.'

At first glance, these arguments are at least partially in contradiction with each other and self-eliminating. If all 'major corporations' systematically and definitively resist pressures toward protectionism and capitalist nationalism, how can one then explain that 'major export conflicts', which Nicolaus modestly assigns to 'major national capitalisms' but in reality have always involved major monopolistic corporations and imperialist powers, could break out at all? Was it perhaps 'smaller manufacturers', and not Messrs. Krupp and Thyssen, Vickers-Armstrong and Deterding, Morgan and Rockefeller, who were responsible for the First and Second World Wars? If the economic spheres of influence of imperialism are not tied up with national state powers (the notion of 'territoriality' is dragged in here by the hair; what is involved is the key role of states in these conflicts!), how can one then explain the very same 'protectionism, embargos, financial blockades, colonial wars and First and Second World Wars' we have been talking about? Is capital export and foreign capital investment a 'new' phenomenon? Wasn't it already well developed before and during the First World War—so much so in fact that innumerable liberal pacifists and opportunist Social-Democrats were convinced that imperialist wars would become impossible? [10] How can us banking capital be 'predominant'—i.e. us imperialism control most of the financial resources of the world—and at the same time, firstly be forced to 'neutralize' the reduction of productive advantage of us capitalists (where did the European and Japanese capitalists get the capital for financing their huge outlays of productive investment? They didn't borrow them from us bankers!) and secondly be increasingly dependent for borrowing capital on the European capital market?

Nicolaus also alleges that the wage-costs of American corporations should be calculated on 'world averages', given the fact they transfer a growing part of their operations abroad. In this, he seems to have lost his sense of proportion. What is the fraction of total output of us industry produced abroad in competition withus units of production at home— excluding activities complementary to domestic production, such as oil extraction? Obviously, only a marginal proportion. What is the fraction of total manpower employed by us industry beyond the frontiers of the usa? Again, only a marginal one. Indeed, if us monopolies were ever to succeed in transferring 30, 40 or 50 per cent of their output of, say, automobiles, computers, airplanes and turbines, this could only lead to a massive increase of unemployment in the usa itself. What would be the consequence (and purpose) of this unemployment? To erode the wage differentials between the usa and Europe (or even the usa and Japan) by lowering the standard of living of the American working class. Why would us monopolies ever embark on such a course in the first place, if not under the compulsion of international competition?

The methodological toots of Nicolaus's mistakes lie in an inability to distinguish quantitative from qualitative changes, relative from absolute superiority, the beginning from the final outcome of a process. They are connected with a gross underestimation of the State as the major instrument of defence of the capitalist class interests today (against their class enemies, against foreign competitors, and against the menacingly explosive nature of the inner contradictions of the system).

The relationship of forces between various imperialist powers can develop greatly to the advantage of one and at the expense of another. A massive relative superiority on the European continent was possessed by Germany, in the periods 1900–1916, and 1937–1944, and by France in the period 1919–1923. But that does not transform the competitors of the predominant power into semi-colonial nations, which have lost control over the means of production of their country. Such semicolonial nations only arise when in fact the key industries and banks in the country are owned or controlled by foreign capitalists, and when for that reason, the State itself fundamentally protects the interests of the foreign imperialist class, as against those of the 'native' bourgeoisie. That is the situation in Greece, Brazil, Ghana or Iran today. It is obviously not the situation in France, Britain or Italy, not to speak of Japan or Western Germany. Quantitative changes in the relationship of forces between imperialist powers are one thing; a qualitative change in status, the transformation of an imperialist country into a semicolonial country (as could have happened in France, if Germany had won the Second World War, or as could have happened in West Germany, if the 1945–47 trend had been maintained and the 'Cold War' had not broken out) is quite another thing. There is not the slightest evidence to show that us imperialism controls more than 10 per cent of the industrial means of production, and much less of the financial means of exchange, of any other imperialist power (with the exception of Canada, which is indeed a border case). There is for that reason not the slightest evidence that these powers have lost their basic independence as imperialist powers, and have become us semi-colonies.

In fact, if one studies the evolution of the inter-relationship of forces between us imperialism and its main foreign competitors, one has to conclude that the usa reached the zenith of its power at the end of the Second World War, and that its hegemony has ever since been in decline. Of course, it still retains a great relative superiority. This relative superiority might even increase again, if there is no sufficient international interpenetration of capital on a European scale, if 'European' multinational corporations are not established for systematic competition with us-based 'multinational corporations' on relatively equal terms. But independent ownership of capital, independent control of the 'internal market' and independent use of State power, are still basic characteristics of European and Japanese imperialists. [11]

But what about us military superiority? What of the possibility of new inter-imperialist wars? us military superiority over its main competitors is, indeed, much more striking than its relative economic superiority. But precisely because there has come about a contradiction between the resurgence of independent financial and industrial power of Western European and Japanese imperialism, and their continuous military dependence on the usa, the nato and Nippo-American alliances are in deep and permanent crisis. There is only one way in which this crisis can be solved, in the long run (inasmuch as imperialism survives and the present trend in relationship of forces is not fundamentally altered): an adaptation of the military relationship of forces to economic reality, the re-emergence of independent military strength in Western Europe and Japan—in the last analysis, the emergence of independent 'nuclear deterrents' in Western Europe (Franco-British, or Franco-GermanBritish, or even on a broader scale) and Japan.

As for new inter-imperialist wars, which the late Joseph Stalin predicted in his political testament, they are indeed extremely unlikely to break out, but not for reasons of us supremacy, but because all imperialist powers are threatened by a much more deadly menace then inter-imperialist competition: the menace of the non-capitalist part of the world expanding through new victorious revolutions. Against the so-called 'socialist countries' and new revolutions, imperialist powers indeed have an attitude of collective solidarity, which makes the nato and Nippo-American alliances real alliances, in the common interest of the capitalist class everywhere, and not simply stooge sets for us expansion.

Imperialist competition continues, and will continue, including some very ruthless developments indeed; but it will unfurl within the framework of that collective solidarity towards the common enemy. Yet within that framework, the law of uneven development continues to operate inexorably, causing the relative decline of previously supreme powers and the emergence of newly strengthened imperialist forces. The fate of us imperialism's supremacy will be decided neither on the battle-field nor in the 'Third World'—at least in the coming years. [12] It will be decided by the capacity of Western European imperialists (and Japanese imperialists) to set up colossal corporations, equivalent in financial power and industrial strength to that of their us competitors. I do not say that this development has already taken place on a sufficient scale or that it is inevitable. I have elsewhere made clear the obstacles and resistances towards that process. I only state that, if it takes place, it will force us imperialism greatly to intensify the exploitation of the American working class, under the pressure of competition.

The discussion on 'ultra-imperialism' is, in fact, an old one. It was initiated by Kautsky after the outbreak of the First World War, and received at that time a scathing reply by Lenin. It was revived during the mid-'twenties by various Social-Democrats (Hilferding, Vandervelde and others), celebrating the constitution of the world steel cartel as a triumph of 'ultra-imperialism' and 'peaceful development'; the rebuff which history inflicted a few years later to that illusion is still well known by everybody.

Lenin's answer to the fallacy of 'ultra-imperialism' can be summarized in one formula: the law of uneven development. 'It is sufficient to pose the question clearly to see that the answer can only be negative. For one couldn't conceive, under capitalism, any other basis for the division in zones of influence, of interests, of colonies etc., than the strength of the participants of that partition, their economic, financial, military strength etc. Now among these participants of partition, that strength changes in a different way, for under capitalism, even development of enterprises, of trusts, of industries, of countries, is impossible.' Lenin adds: 'But if one speaks about the "purely economic" conditions of the epoch of finance capital, as about a concrete historical epoch situated in the beginning of the XXth century, the best answer to the dead abstractions about "ultra-imperialism"... is to oppose to them the concrete economic reality of the present-day world economy. Kautsky's theory of ultra-imperialism is completely void of meaning and can only, among other things, encourage the deeply mistaken idea . . . that the domination of finance capital reduces the inequalities and contradictions of the world economy, whereas in reality it strengthens them.' [13]

The developments of the last year—to go no further into the recent past—are a perfect illustration of the fact that the law of uneven and combined development, 'strengthening the inequalities and contradiction of the world economy', operates today as it operated 50 years ago. In 1958, West-Germany's exports of machinery and transport equipment amounted to $3.9 billion, those of the United States amounted to $6.3 billion, 62 per cent more than the West-German figure. In 1968, West German exports of machinery and transport equipment had risen to $11.3 billion, as against $14.5 billion by usa; the difference had declined to less than 30 per cent. In 1969, the two figures will practically meet at somewhere near $15 billion. Total West German exports were half of us exports in 1958; in 1969, they will amount to more than two-thirds of that figure.

This industrial power is by no means without relation to capital accumulation and financial strength. The revaluation of the Deutsche Mark (in fact: the devaluation of the dollar compared to the main European currency) is correlated with a tremendous export of German capital. Net long-term private capital export was $1 billion in 1967; $2.4 billion in 1968 and probably more than $5 billion—at the new exchange rate— in 1969, i.e. already more in absolute figures than us capital exports! In fact, during the first semester of 1969 there were more bonds issued in dm (including by us corporations) than in dollars, on the international capital market.

The sapping of the dollar's strength by foreign military outlays has so changed the financial relationship of forces in favour of other major imperialist powers, that the us government now undertakes systematic efforts to force them... to spend more on rearmament (i.e. to redivide and so the speak 'internationalize' the common burden of defending the 'borders of the capitalist world'). But this is inconceivable without a military strengthening of these powers (the strengthening of Japan is now on the agenda, after that of Western Germany), which again shifts the inter-imperialist relationship of forces at the expense of us imperialism.

5. The Politics of the Debate

The most astonishing passages of Martin Nicolaus's polemic are these in which he accuses me of 'making sense' only if I assume the 'pacification' of the Soviet Union, a military alliance between European capital and the ussr, and 'peaceful coexistence'. In other words, he seems to imply that 'beneath Mandel lies de Gaulle'. Here we have again a typical example of how Martin Nicolaus is led astray by operating too much with metaphysical abstractions, instead of understanding real, contradictory social forces at work and in conflict with each other.

The competition between Western European and us imperialism is a fact, visible for anybody who studies not only trade statistics but polemics and debates in all capitalist circles on both sides of the Atlantic. What did 'Gaullism' represent in this debate? An attempt to 'strengthen' Western European imperialism by outmoded techniques of 19th-century diplomacy (18th-century dynastic diplomacy would perhaps be a more correct, if more severe assessment, at that). The attempt to establish 'European independence' under the hegemony of one of its economically weakest imperialist powers, France, was condemned to fail, 'independent' deterrent or not, as I pointed out in the early 'sixties. It could only lead to a deterioration of the relative position of French imperialism as compared with German and Italian imperialism, for the capital squandered by De-Gaulle in his force de frappe determined a growing antiquation of French industrial equipment compared to Italian and German plant and a growing exacerbations of social tensions in France itself. His attempt at a diplomatic and economic flirtation with Moscow was equally condemned to failure, because over and above the obvious importance of commercial expansion towards Eastern Europe, common to all European capitalists (and for which German, British and Italian groups were often better equipped than their French competitors), there was the staunch class consciousness of the French bourgeoisie, which could not but consider the Soviet Union, in spite of all the conservatism of its leaders and the reformism of the French cp, as a class enemy with whom no alliance was possible in the present world context.

In fact, the only durable change which occurred in the French economy under de Gaulle, occurred in spite of de Gaulle: it was the constantly growing integration of France into the Common Market. Today, 45 per cent of French exports are directed to these countries, as against 22 per cent before 1958. This economic fact was strong enough to create so much opposition inside the French bourgeoisie against de Gaulle's particular views on capitalist Western European integration that it actually caused his downfall. I predicted this years ago in the same way as I predicted that de Gaulle was blindly working pour le roi de Prusse, for German hegemony in a Common Market limited to six countries.

Now what is the main social and political ideology of the advocates of 'European independence' in Western European capitalist and pettybourgeois circles? Is it Mandel's thesis of inter-imperialist competition? Not at all! It is an ideology very close indeed to that of Martin Nicolaus and the thesis of 'ultra-imperialism'. Europe is 'in danger of being colonized by the usa'. This colonization is 'irresistible', unless Europe unites. In my book on the Common Market, shortly to appear in English, I have exposed the ideological function of this propaganda: it is to use the endemic 'anti-Americanism' of the European working class as a means to tune down the class struggle in Europe, to disarm this working class against capital concentration and capitalist rationalization, and to collaborate with its own exploiters against the 'common enemy': us imperialism.

The idea of complete us imperialist supremacy on a world scale, and the idea of Western Europe and Japan being slowly but surely reduced to the status of semi-colonial powers, logically leads to such conclusions. For after all doesn't Marxism-Leninism teach that there is a basic difference between an inter-imperialist conflict, and a conflict between an imperialist power and an oppressed and exploited semicolonial bourgeoisie? So it is the theory of absolute us hegemony which leads to capitulation before the class enemy and to class collaboration, and not at all the classical Leninist concept of inter-imperialist competition, which I continue to uphold. This theoretical prediction has already been borne out in practice, at least twice: in the early 'fifties, when the French cp (and, to a lesser degree, other cps in Western Europe) were making a block with Gaullists and speaking on the same platform with them against 'us imperialism' and the 'abandonment of national sovereignty', as if France were a semi-colonial power, and not one competing gang in the international brotherhood of robber barons and imperialists plunderers; and in the early 'sixties, when, starting from that very same assumption, certain Maoist groups proposed to support De Gaulle in the Presidential elections against Mitterrand, using the justification that de Gaulle was 'more anti-American than Mitterrand'.

Our theory, at the contrary, does not lead to the subordination of any sector of the international working class to any sector of world capitalism. We stand for independent class struggle of the working class in all capitalist countries, We stand for independent organisation of the working class, defending its own class interests and bent upon a socialist revolution. We do not preach to American workers that they should 'ally' themselves with any sector of the ruling class, nor do we propose anything of the kind to European workers. To say that bourgeois ideas lie underneath such a clear strategy of independent working-class struggle is somewhat preposterous.

There is a lot in Martin Nicolaus' article with which we can agree. There is no doubt that we are living in an epoch of tremendous 'socialization' and 'internationalization' of productive forces, on a scale unexpected even by Lenin or in Lenin's time. [14] There is no doubt that the basic contradiction in such an epoch is the contradiction between capital and labour, in the process of production itself, and that the direct road of the working class towards a socialist revolution in the industrialized imperialist countries will be not through a fight for wages, but through objective challenges against capitalist relations of production. We have been writing this for many years, and there is no reason to assume that this will not be true in the United States too.

It is also evident that the very supremacy of us imperialism at the end of the Second World War tended to involve the ruling class of the usa with all world contradictions of imperialism, and tended to introduce all these contradictions in some form into American society Itself. In spite of all its accumulated wealth and reserves, even us imperialism has proved itself unable in the long run to pay, at one and the same time, the costs of playing world gendarme, of introducing 'reforms' into us society in order to avoid an exacerbation of social tensions, and of financing a constant modernization of equipment to assure a rate of productive capital accumulation which would enable it to maintain its technological advance on all its competitors. It is obvious that the origin of all the strains and tensions, increasingly visible in us society since the early sixties, are linked to world developments. We ourselves have pointed out many times how great the impact of the colonial revolution and of the Vietnamese war has been on the formation of a new revolutionary youth vanguard in the usa, on the politicization of the Blacks, on the emergence of a new radicalism among intellectuals, technicians and public service employees. So we see no reason suddenly to deny these evidences now. One should add that a new wave of objectively revolutionary militancy of the West European working class, as well as militant struggles of Eastern European workers, students and intellectuals for socialist democracy—not to speak of a parallel rise of political revolution in the ussr—could not fail likewise to strengthen the rise of a new revolutionary vanguard and an upsurge of mass radicalism in the usa.

All these factors—as well as many of those which Nicolaus cites—contribute to shake the relative political and social stability of the usa, to stir up against class consciousness in advanced American workers, and to facilitate the eruption of a sweeping radicalization and massive class struggles of the proletariat in that country. But all these subjective factors, reacting from the social superstructure on class relations, cannot be the main cause of a new mass radicalization of that working class. The main cause can only be found in a change of material conditions. The growing crisis of American imperialism can only transform itself into a decisive crisis of American society through the mediation of a growing instability of the American economy. This is our key thesis. In this growing instability of the American economy, the loss of us suzerainty over the whole imperialist world, the relative decline of us economic superiority vis-`-vis its imperialist competitors, and the sharpening competition and redivision of the international capitalist market—of which the internal market of the usa is the most important single sector—will play an important role.

In 'Where is America going?' I did not predict that the 're-emergence of the contradiction between labour and capital in the usa' would present itself 'as a re-run of some textbook accounts of the contractbargaining sessions between Reuther and G.M.'. I only predicted that the American working class, which today has trade-unionist but not socialist class consciousness, would become radicalized from the moment the capitalist system showed itself less and less able to 'deliver the goods', i.e. to guarantee regular increases in real wages and a high level of employment. For I argued that the relative stability of American society during the past 30 years was basically not due to some ideological factor (the alleged anti-communism of the working class) but to this capacity of the system to 'deliver the goods'. Nicolaus agrees with me that this capacity is now declining, and that the roots of that decline are to be found in the deterioration of the world situation of American imperialism. It is hard to deny, under these conditions, that the weakening of the competitive position of us imperialism on the world market has something to do with that deterioration.

December 5 1969




[1] In the first paragraph of 'Where is America going?'—nlr 54, p. 3.

[2] The latest attempt to give a supposedly Marxist rationalization to 'Third Worldism' has been offered by Pierre Jalée in his book L'imperialisms en 1970 (Maspero, Paris 1969). This is based on the assumption that the contradiction between imperialism and the peoples of the Third World is the 'main contradiction' today (one can see here the havoc this undialectical formula of Lin Piao has caused among sincere and capable Marxists), while workers' actions in the West remain 'reformist', both because of the capacity of the system to guarantee for a long time to come a high rate of growth (declining fluctuations of the industrial cycle and a low level of unemployment) and because of the predominance of rightist forces in the labour movement. How this theory can be reconciled with the reality of the class struggles in France May 1968 and Italy 1969, which obviously tend more and more to outgrow the limits of reformism and to challenge capitalist relations of production, or with the reality of the world economy, characterized since 1965 by a declining rate of growth, an increase in unemployment, and the appearance in nearly all key sectors of industry of growing over-capacity of production, is hard for me to understand.

[3] It is useful to stress that Trotsky rejected any notion that the peoples of the underdeveloped world had to 'wait' till the Western proletariat made its revolution, just as he opposed any 'Third-World' illusions. In his political testament, the May 1940 Manifesto of the Fourth International on The Imperialist War and the Proletarian Revolution, he wrote: 'The perspective of permanent revolution in no case signifies that the backward countries must await the signal from the advanced ones, or that the colonial peoples should patiently wait for the proletariat of the metropolitan centres to free them. Help comes to him who helps himself. Workers must develop the revolutionary struggle in every country, colonial or imperialist, where favourable conditions have been established, and through this set an example for the workers of other countries.' It will interest our readers that this was not a new position of Trotsky's, only acquired after the sad experiences of European working-class defeats in the 'thirties. As early as August 5th, 1919, in a secret message to the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party, he wrote as follows: 'There is no doubt at all that our Red Army constitutes an incomparably more powerful force in the Asian terrain of world politics than in the European terrain. Here there opens up before us an undoubted possibility not merely of a lengthy wait to see how events develop in Europe, but of conducting activity in the Asian field. The road to India may prove at the given moment to be more readily passable and shorter for us than the road to Soviet Hungary. The sort of army which at the moment can be of no great significance in the European scales can upset the unstable balance of Asian relationships of colonial dependence, give a direct push to an uprising on the part of the oppressed masses and assure the triumph of such a rising in Asia.' (The Trotsky Papers, I, 1917–22, p. 623, 1964, The Hague).

[4] Lenin, Oeuvres, tome 29, pp. 167–8, Editions Sociales, Paris, 1962—my own translation.

[5] When I speak of relative quiescence I do not deny that there have been strikes during these decades. But obviously, nothing occurred on the scale of the post-war strikes, not to speak of the 1936–37 sit-down wave.

[6] Engels: 'England 1845 and 1885', article published in Commonweal March 1, 1885—I quote from Marx-Engels 'Werke', vol. 21, p. 196–7, Dietz-Verlag, Berlin 1962, and have retranslated the text myself from German into English.

[7] This applies of course only to private capital outflows. I do not have to deal here with the phenomenon of the so-called 'public help to Third-World countries'—in fact the creation, by the imperialist states, of purchasing power for the heavy industry export monopolies of their own countries.

[8] According to figures quoted by E. L. Nelson and F. Cutler in 'The International Investment Position of the United States in 1967' (Survey of Current Business, vol. 48, no. 10, 1968, pp. 24–25), the rate of profit calculated by capitalist firms on usa direct capital investment in 1967 amounted to 12·3 per cent in Latin-America, 14 per cent in Asia and 19·7 per cent in Africa, as against only 10·1 per cent for direct capital investments in imperialist countries (Canada, Western Europe, Australia).

[9] It should be noted that, after having poked fun at me in the beginning of his article for using the categories of 'technological revolution', and 'inflation' to explain some of the causes of growing instability in American society, Nicolaus comes back to exactly the same factors when he projects, in part IV of his article, the 'development of a general crisis of overproduction'. We can easily drop the 'backlog of unfulfilled demand created by the devastation of the Second World War'; by no stretch of imagination can this explain a seven or eight-year boom in the us economy in the 'sixties. He is then left with only two explanations: (i) 'No epoch-making technological innovations' have materialized, which would imply that the high rate of expansion of the last two decades was due after all 'epoch-making technological innovations' in the electronics, nuclear energy, petrochemical and computer industries as I contended. (ii) 'Both investment and demand become problematic without the artificial and necessarily temporary stimulus of inflation'. Let's not start a dispute as to the 'necessarily temporary' character of inflation. But its key role in attempts to avoid a major crisis of over-production I pointed out long ago (see Marxist Economic Theory, vol. II, pp. 526–36, London, Merlin Press, 1968).

[10] 'While imperialism necessitates a war of capitalists of one country against those of all (?) other countries, it is unable to realise such a war. The imperialists of each big power were forced . . . to arrive at an understanding with the imperialists of another, or several other big powers, and to conclude an alliance with them. But by doing so, they have already started on the road of a very important modification of imperialism itself. . . . It is not at all excluded that the present war will end with an understanding between the leading big powers of both camps for the partition and exploitation of the world. We have even to take into account the possibility that the world will see the spectacle, of which we should be ashamed, that the imperialist International will become a reality sooner than the International of the socialist parties.' Karl Kautsky, Die Neue Zeit, February 16th, 1917.

[11] All this is explained in much more detail in my forthcoming Europe versus America?—Contradictions of Imperialism (nlb).

[12] I mean by this that the economic repercussions of Third World liberation movements in the coming years cannot by themselves cause a major upheaval in the us economy. In fact, during the last 20 years these movements, which implied the loss for capitalism of the biggest country in the world—China—as a field of capital investment, coincided with a big increase in the rate of growth of the imperialist economy. This does, not of course, mean that the political, social and subjective effects of Third World liberation struggles do not make a very important contribution to shaking the equilibrium of imperialist society.

[13] Lenin: Oeuvres Choisies, I, pp. 874, 852–3, Editions en Langues Etrangères, Moscou, 1946.

[14] But Nicolaus is mistaken when he assumes that national boundaries and nation States have ceased to be obstacles for this movement of internationalization of capital. On the contrary: the more this movement increases, the stronger becomes the contradiction between the survival of the nation state and the tendency of productive forces to outgrow it. Nicolaus shows a similar inability to understand the contradictory, dialectical process of social change, in his polemic on the question of black employment. My figure of the reduction of unskilled jobs in the usa comes from Secretary of Labour Wirtz, (quoted in Baran-Sweezy: Monopoly Capital, p. 267, Monthly Review Press, 1966). The official statistics of black employment in 1960 3·6 million employed. Of these only 1 million were unskilled labourers (among which a quarter of a million farm laborers), as against 887,000 semi-skilled workers, 357,000 craftsmen and foremen, and 292,000 technicians, professionals and clerically employed. The basic process in American industry has been to displace labourers by semi-skilled operatives. But at the same time, in the American economy clerical jobs, and jobs of technicians and professionals, have risen even more quickly (the number of professional, technical and clerical jobs increased from 11·7 million in 1940 to 21 millions in 1965, whereas the number of 'semi-skilled operatives and kindred workers' only rose from 9·5 to 14 millions). So it is perfectly possible that, at one and the same time, there are many fewer jobs as labourers, there are many more blacks employed in industry and services as semi-skilled operatives, there are proportionally many more black unemployed than white and there is a growing inter-racial income gap and occupational segregation, which has a powerful radicalizing impact on the black population.

New Left Review I/59, January-February 1970