[Marxism] Re Capital accumulation, the US and philistinism,

robert montgomery ilyenkova at gmail.com
Mon Feb 19 09:03:41 MST 2007


 Phil F wrote:
"Instead, the SWP was left trailing in the wake of the end of the
postwar boom and taken by surprise by its consequences (not least, the
retreat of the new social movements). Shane Mage actually wrote a very
good PhD right at the start of the 1960s on the falling rate of profit
in the US.  Let me guess - neither you nor 99 percent of the rest of
the SWP ever heard of it much less
read it."
 I'm unfamiliar with the context of this discussion but based on
reading Robert Brenner's recent article in NLR: Structure vs.
Conjuncture: The 2006 Elections and the Rightward
Shift.(http://newleftreview.org/?page=article&view=2652), I'll jump in
anyway for what it's worth.
 Brenner insists that the balance of class forces as reflected, no
matter how remotely at the level of electoral politics, can't be
effectively understood without a grasp of the process of capital
accumulation both in the long term, and in the present conjuncture.
His standpoint, as is well known, is the secular fall in the rate of
profit since the mid-70s. The oscillations of the two parties of
capital can only be understood within that determinate context. In
specific relation to Phil's points above, Brenner points to the
origins of political realignment as early as the period following the
recession of 1957 when US capital 1st came under serious competitive
pressure from key sectors of Japanese and European industry. But this
pressure, mediated by the epochal 1959 steel strike fought over USW
work rules on the one hand, and the last gasp of Post-War New Deal
liberalism in the 1960s on the other, set the stage for a longterm
realignment of class forces in the US which continues today. The
convergence of the end of the postwar boom with the Vietnam War and a
new radicalization that extended from the ghetto and barrio to young
workers, and the expansion of major new social welfare programs within
the same conjucture posed very thorny problems for American
capitalism.  By the mid-1970s the US ruling class embarked on a
political turn Brenner sees as crystallizing an antistatist, right
populist movement rooted in the hardening of racist reaction and
geographically centered in the dynamically urbanizing, industrial
South. I don't want to further repeat or butcher Brenner's whole
thesis here. Suffice it to say that US marxists, and especially the
SWP, were caught as off guard by these developments, as the party was
by the restabilization of world capitalism after WWII. Would it have
helped to have taken Mage's thesis seriously? Had the SWP leadership
made analysis of the accumulation process a central part of its work,
rather than dismissing it as economistic (and leaving the economics to
Mandel), then cadre might have been sent into SNCC and into selected
sections of the labor movement. Instead the party confined its
understanding of the new radicalization to the campuses.




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