[Marxism] Novack and US capital accumulation

Philip Ferguson philip.ferguson at canterbury.ac.nz
Fri Feb 16 21:00:35 MST 2007

Dave Walters wrote:
>Yes, Novak was attacking the Pragmatism of the first half of the 20th
century popular among liberals and reformists. I understand that. But if
you look at Novak's books, you'll the approach to "history' that
explains much in what you seek, but without what you think is the need
"delving into" of the accumulation of capital. Like I said I think this
has do with the obviousness of US capitalism and the unity on what
needed to be done, generally, by most Marxists.

Novack's books are interesting, but they are NOT a substitute for an
analysis of the accumulation process in the USA.

Funnily enough, a Trotskyist did produce quite a good book on the
subject, but it was a British Trotskyist: Tom Kemp.  His "Climax of
Capitalism" is very useful.

Dave, your comment about "the obviousness of US capitalism" mistakes
what I'm talking about.  British capitalism was "obvious" in the 1850s
and 1860s.  Did that mean Marx wasted his time all those years in the
British Museum and producing 'Capital'?

I'm not talking about the "obviousness" of capitalism I'm talking about
the specific accumulation process and the stages it goes through and
where it is at at particular points in time.

The most important thing for the SWP to have produced on the
accumulation process would not have been a general history of US
capitalism, but a specific analysis of the accumulation process during,
say, the postwar boom.  The postwar boom meant a rising organic
composition of capital - more capital relatively being invested in
plant, machinery, raw materials etc than in labour-power.  While this
raises the mass of surplus-value, the mass of profit (and the rate of
surplus-value) it depresses the rate of profit until it eventually
reaches a point where a round of accumulation is brought to a halt and
serious attacks on the working class are necessary.  

If the US SWP had have had a serious analysis of capital accumulation
during the postwar boom, they would have seen the tendency of the rate
of profit to fall actually being played out and been able to see the end
of the boom and adopted political tasks accordingly.

As it is, they didn't have any such analysis.  They simply responded
pragmatically/spontaneously to what was happening, so they were behind
the eight ball.  By the time they made their turn to industry they were
about a decade too late (not to mention that the leadership perceived of
the turn in a workerist and politically absolutist manner anyway).

In NZ, as well as failing totally to understand what kind of Labour
government would come to power in 1984, the American SWP's water
carriers down in NZ could not explain how it was that a government that
was so 'new right' in economic policy could be so liberal in social and
foreign policy - the same Labour government that launched the most
cut-throat attack on workers since the Depression also oversaw
liberalisation of laws on homosexuality, more available abortion, a
Treaty process for the settlement (or partial settlement) of Maori land
and compensation claims, and also banned US warships from NZ waters.
How could such a government be?

Well, you need an analysis of the accumulation process to answer that.

Just like you need an analysis of the accumulation process in South
Africa to *fully* understand the transition from apartheid capitalism to
"non-racial" capitalism (I put that in quote marks, because whites are
still overwhelmingly at the top economically in South Afrcia).  


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