To H. Rodwell on the postwar, etc.

Bradley Mayer concrete at
Sun Feb 18 02:36:48 MST 1996

> This is a great contribution - I didn't have the heart to excise any of it.
> My first thought was: Brad's right. I take his point - 'foundation' not
> 'counterweight'.
> My second thought was: hang on - if this was the case, why did the
> bureaucracy junk it? I mean, we can't get away from imperialist economic
> hegemony in the postwar period. I think Brad's right when he writes 'the
> proletariat was now, effectively, the sole historical agency for the
> advance of the productive forces' - this doesn't mean that the workers'
> states were 'at the *foundation* of the postwar imperialist world
> order'. I think the process was something like this: instead of leading the
> world revolutionary upsurge at the end of WWII to the overthrow of
> imperialism and the establishing of a worldwide dictatorship of the
> proletariat, the Stalinists used this threat to imperialism as a bargaining
> chip to reinforce their control of their own patch and ward off future
> attacks as far as possible. Once the sellout had taken place, capitalism
> was able to expand once more *on its own foundations*, exploiting the new
> opportunities presented to it by the Stalinist sellout and kept to a
> minimum of unwelcome but health-promoting stability (they didn't like it
> but it was good for them) by the working class presence in the postwar
> imperialist regimes. Marx went on about the bourgeois democratic regime,
> with its recognition of labour as a free social agent (free to sell its
> labour power on an 'equal' legal footing with the buyer capital), as the
> most adequate regime for capitalist development.
> So in fact I think 'counterweight' expresses it better than 'foundation'.
> The workers' states were instrumental in initiating the postwar boom, they
> were essential to it, in that it would not have taken place without them,
> as Brad says, but this was a superstructural, political primacy, not an
> economic one. And the controlling position of imperialism in the world
> economy meant that over time not even the unprecedented advance of the
> productive forces in the workers' states was able to withstand the double
> onslaught of imperialist pressure and Stalinist mismanagement and political
> antagonism to the interests of the international working class.
> In other words, the political foundation of the postwar boom, the relations
> between the regimes of imperialism and of the workers' states, was laid by
> Stalinism, but the economic foundation of the boom, along with hegemony in
> the world market, was capitalist.
> It is impossible to overestimate the importance of this debate. If we
> understand the relative prosperity of the working class in the advanced
> imperialist countries in the postwar period as *temporary concessions* by
> the imperialists made to buy off revolution, we can understand the
> processes now in train in the new period initiated in 1989. The
> imperialists need to take back the concessions. They can't afford them any
> more. They are being pressured into 'picking up where they left off' by the
> immensity of their own crisis. Too much capital is being produced. Too
> little profit is being made. There is nowhere to expand.
> It's possible to imagine that a stable bourgeoisie could be established in
> the ex-workers' states, and it's possible that China will see a smoother
> transition to a bourgeois state than the Soviet Union, and this might
> provide another few years of respite to the capitalist system. To imagine
> this, however, you have to abstract from the social and political responses
> of the working class nationally and internationally to the processes of
> impoverishment, enslavement, expropriation and oppression necessary to pull
> it off.
> In my view, the big struggle is just starting. Only this time the agents of
> counter-revolution no longer have a position of self-evident authority at
> the head of the big batallions of the working class. The working class is
> freer and better equipped to choose leaderships adequate to its needs than
> almost ever before. Once this happens, history will start moving so fast,
> it'll leave the lightning in the dust.
> Cheers,
> Hugh

Thanks for your response. Alas, for the next four days I am simply not
going to have the time to give a response adequate to your posting.

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