Response to John Enyang

Carrol Cox cbcox at
Tue May 8 09:02:15 MDT 2001

Julio Huato wrote:
> Make your case, John.  What do you say?  Are precapitalist modes of
> production superior to capitalism?

_Either_ response to this carries us into ahistorical moralizing,
contrary to the spirit and letter of Marxist thought. It can only be
answered in terms of some Platonic abstraction of the "ideal state,"
against which one can measure all actual states according to their
degree of approximation to that ideal. By a quantitative measure
grounded in a metaphysics of suffering, the amount of suffering in the
world today is immensely greater than it was 3000 years ago, if only
because there are so many more people to suffer.

Marx & Engels never claimed that capitalism was "better" (nor did they
ever say that it was worse), they only noted that the social relations
and productive possibilities created by capitalism had opened up certain
potentialities for struggle. Some place in _Capital_ I Marx refers to
the plains of India being whitened with the bones of cottagers driven to
starvation by the competition of imported textiles. Was capitalism
"better" for them?

Now, _given_ that capitalism _is_ here, it is rather fruitless to argue
over would it have been better or worse if capitalist competition had
never come into existence. Capitalism is what we must deal with -- and
(unfortunately) not only capitalism of the present but capitalism as it
will become in the years before we can bring it to an end.
One really does not have to become a cheerleader for the
'glories'/horrors of capitalist 'progress' to reject a politics based on
nostalgia, no more than rejecting a mindless 'progressivism' need commit
one to a politics of nostalgia.


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