Reform or revolution

Barry Brooks durable at
Sat Jul 26 17:28:01 MDT 2003

There is general agreement that various problems of capitalism are permanent features across a broad range of political type from Marxists to republicans.  One generally accepted problem of capitalism is its trouble producing as much as possible because of its tendency to have a low level of effective demand.   It seems that reforms which are acceptable to our gang of leaders will not solve this problem.

While holding their noses, the plutocrats in control have adopted Keynesian policies to raise demand sufficiently to provide a compromise between their desire to dominate labor with the reserve army of the unemployed and their desire to increase production.   Their version of limited Keynesian policy has served capitalists well.  It has provided enough income for enough workers to quell the cries for revolution without imposing any threat to the wealth of the super-rich.   

The republicans benefit from capitalism and are against revolution, much preferring reform, on their own terms.   Reform under republican control is seen as a bad thing by Marxists, because it will never provide workers with security or ever be allow to raise demand and income to the level where workers become too expensive, capable of accumulation, or worse yet independent and uncontrollable.  In order to dominate labor it is believed that plutocratic policy has to perpetuate a level of poverty and insecurity among the masses which will surely breed discontent and thus require propaganda and repression.

Naturally, Marxists want to get on with the revolution to replace capitalism. It's clear that while the system is under the control of the present uninformed gangs they will not tolerate the election and control by reformers who want to provide real security for the masses.  Media control makes election of such types unlikely, and when they do get into office extraordinary measures have been taken to remove them.  

Although this points to the necessity of revolution to achieve a really good life for the masses, for those on the fence, our partially reformed system and its evils seem to be preferable to revolution, which is believed to necessarily entail violence and injustice. Their cynical view is that revolution will only to lead to a different gang of rulers.

There is no technical economic reason why capitalism can't grow faster, provide security for the masses, and even become sustainable.   Perhaps, if it weren't for the incompetence and fear of the plutocrats reform could reach the level of revolution and still leave the rich just as rich as they were before.  Clever as they are it seems they are not that clever.  Unfortunately, it is an article of faith among the rich that fundamental scarcity requires the existence of poverty to maintain the rich in their luxury.  This has helped prevent any efforts by the plutocrats to out-revolution the revolutionaries by means of open-ended reform.  False theories make good decisions unlikely.

Why should they yield, or take a chance of greater reforms, so long as they believe its impossible to have reform without losing their privilege as the wealthy few.   Even those plutocrats who can conceive of acceptable methods of effective reform have little motivation to press their plans forward because the specter of revolution has already been reduced sufficiently by reform and propaganda, for the present.

This is the impasse that Marxists are up against today, but as the situation is unfolding it appears that capitalism is facing limits to the effectiveness of limited reform and propaganda.  The problem of maintaining the desired level of demand is growing more difficult for capitalism due to two growing and closely related trends, rising productivity  requiring growth in resource consumption and the the need to stop the waste of resources requiring a shrinking level of resource consumption .

As part of the process of maximizing profit capitalism has used technology to increase productivity, thus reducing their wage costs.  As worker output has increased, growth in consumption has been able to consume that additional output.  Economic growth has been the basis of limited reform, but the limits to growth are going to make that solution unworkable rather soon.  Not if but when growth can't keep consumption high enough to allow highly productive workers busy the Keynesian reforms will fall short of quelling unrest among the masses.

Also, when insecurity and poverty rise too high propaganda will not stop unrest, although it may prevent effective opposition.  People know when they don't have enough.   The crisis of capitalism is caused by the many limits to growth, and to only reforms capable of addressing this situation are revolutionary.   The plutocrats will be forced, by circumstances no one can control rather than an uprising of the masses, to adopt revolutionary reforms.

If the plutocrats choose to end wage dependence to allow economic security and conservation in an automated economy without any need for growth in consumption the dominance of workers through fear of unemployment will end.  It's not clear that the present gang of guardians would loose their control if they allowed the masses to have economic security, because the power of propaganda would seem sufficient.   If so we might expect to see adoption of revolutionary reform by those who have historically resisted significant changes, not due to any demands, but due to self-preservation once events make the denial of the limits to growth un-denialable.  Of course, if they choose near-revolutionary reform it would stop short of taking their monopoly ownership away, thus exposing any reforms to reaction. Only the backward opinions of the plutocrats are stopping them from ending the wage dependence of the masses as a means of protecting their prerogatives.  If they continue in their denial of the crisis of productivity and growth we will all face much greater poverty and insecurity.  In that situation civil order will require a police state.  A policy of foolishly induced poverty and total oppression make-up the most advanced plan the plutocrats seem to have.

This failure of reform will finally breathe new life into the desire for some kind of revolution, even among fearful and poor republicans.  


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