Will capitalism 'self-destruct'
Louis N Proyect
lnp3 at columbia.edu
Mon Aug 8 11:58:18 MDT 1994
Steve Keen refers to 'marxists' who accept the idea that capitalism has a
built-in self-destruct mechanism. The only Marxists I know who have such
an apocalyptic understanding are the followers of Daniel DeLeon in the
Socialist Labor Party. Perhaps it can be found in 3rd period Stalinism as
But most people today who identify with Marxist thought have a completely
sober and realistic understanding that there is no 'self-destruct'
mechanism at work.
Keen cites Meek's effort to use the labor theory of value as a way of
explaining monopoly capitalism's continued existence. Keen takes the
opposite stance: by upholding a counterposed doctrine, he would
explain why capitalism has persisted.
But Marxism is not economic determinism. A much better way to understand
why capitalism has persisted, despite 2 horrible world wars, the
impoverishment of the third world, the despoliation of the environment,
etc., is to look at the failure of the socialist movement to achieve
decisive victories in those countries that Marx thought it would
first triumph in: England, Germany, France, the US and others.
There have been ample opportunities, but the socialist parties have
fallen short. A correct or incorrect understanding of LTV has nothing to
do with these failures. Hitler was able to take power, not because the
German socialists were hung up on the labor theory of value, but because
they succumbed to sectarian madness.
Finally, I want to commend the participants in this LTV debate for making
the discussion interesting. A similar discussion took place in the
Progressive Economists List (PEN-L), but I always was under the
impression that they were talking about the bankrupt aircraft company
Ling-Temco-Vought. Now that I realize that it's about something so
important, I intend to study Sraffa as soon as I've completed a course or
two in Advanced Calculus to help me wade through all of the writings
based on his ideas.
On Sun, 7 Aug 1994 Steve.Keen at unsw.edu.au wrote:
> As for terminal crises--and the inevitability of socialism--
> capitalism has had plenty of crises since Marx died, but none
> of them has proved terminal. Meek, when he began the first
> edition of the _Studies in the Labor Theory of Value_, explained
> the need for the book because in part he had a desire to prove
> that the Labour Theory of Value was still "good science today
> ... because we have tended to be over-optimistic about the probable
> duration of the monopoly capitalist period." (p. 8.) How much longer
> can that optimism last before marxists accept that, however flawed
> it may be, capitalism does not have a built-in self-destruct
> mechanism? And that however much socialism may be desired, it is
> much more difficult to keep such a society "on track" than it is
> to bring it about in the first place?
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