Epochal trajectories

wpc at cs.strath.ac.uk wpc at cs.strath.ac.uk
Tue Mar 7 03:06:38 MST 1995

Chodos wrote
Alan Carling's attempt to combine the insights of G. A. Cohen and Robert
Brenner (in his "Social Division") yields the assertion that the transition
from feudalism to capitalism was probabilistically necessary. As I
understand him, he means that given enough time and enough variations of
models of feudalism, some society somewhere was going to come up with
I am fully in sympathy with this approach. Any developmental process
of things as complex as societies is bound to be goverened by
probabalistic laws. But for there to be a direction to history
all that one requires is that the transition probabilities in
one direction - summed over time and social ensembles - are
greater than the reverse transition probabilities.

>It seems to me that we cannot base our activity or our convictions on the
>hope that capitalism will someday reach the end of its tether. Human needs
>are remarkably malleable and capitalism has found ways both to shape them
>and to deny them. I see no reason to believe that there has to be some
>crisis that will prove insurmountable.

The question is whether there are tendancies in the development
of capitalism that make transitions to socialism more likely as
time goes on. The experience of European society up until the
1980s certainly seemed to justify that assumption.

One saw the growing scale and concentration of production,
the progressive growth of state capital at the expense of
private capital, a declining rate of profit, a growing political
weight of the labour movement, the politicisation of
decisions over income distribution, the growing recognition
of the principle of payment according to need through the
social welfare system. All of this was the maturing of socialism
within the confines of the capitalist mode of production.

These social gains have gone into reverse, but the reason for
it is, I think, the fact that Europe was unusually advanced
in economic development relative to the rest of the world.
With the growing freedom of capital movement, the mean
maturity of the population of capitalist economies has regressed -
i.e., a greater percentage of the proletariat is now employed in
countries with a large latent reserve army of labour, where
more intensive exploitation is possible. The effect
is to literally rejuvenate the mode of production, in that
its mean state moves back to an earlier state of development.

However, as Marx said 'de te fabula natur', the processes which
lead European capitalism towards social democracy, socialisation
of production and economic crisis in the post war period will in
due course be worked out in Asia and the rest of the world.
Capital accumulates more rapidly than the natural growth
of the population and progressively proletarianises the greater
part of the labour force. At this point, the terms of struggle
between labour and capital are reversed. Trades unions become
easier to organise, mass working class movements become politically
influential etc. I think that with the growth of the workers
party in Brazil one is seeing the sort of growth of social democracy
that one would expect from past experience. This process means
that with time the conditions of class struggle internationally
will swing back to favour labour.

>A brief tengent. I think that the idea that we should not try to work out a
>relatively developed blueprint for socialism on the grounds that this would
>be trying to predict the direction of future movements is no longer valid
>(if it ever was). The difference between Marx's day and now is that we are
>the heirs to the failed experiments in socialist construction, and we
>therefore have a responsibility to analyse them, and it is only on this
>basis that we will ever be able to convince people that future attempts can
>do better.


     --- from list marxism at lists.village.virginia.edu ---


More information about the Marxism mailing list