Is Capitalism Doomed? – Part IV
Implications for the Future
In general, Marxists believe the economic laws that govern capitalism make it inherently flawed – dooming it to eventual failure. They also see a grave risk that the collapse of capitalism will bring down civilization with it. Which is why they argue for workers to hasten its demise and prepare to replace it with some other form of social organization.
Many of the predictions John Strachey made in 1933 in The Coming Struggle for Power have come to pass: the consolidation of multinational corporations into ever bigger monopolies; the merging of banking and productive monopolies; the export of jobs to the Third World; the growth of fascism, and our current perpetual state over world resources.
Obviously his prediction that capitalism would collapse by 1950 didn’t come to pass. However I think Strachey can be forgiven for his inability to anticipate the immense boost World War II would give the global economy; the rise of Communist China; the end of the Soviet Union or the massive financialization of the US (and ultimately the global) economy.
How Workers Take Over Society: Strachey’s View
As a Marxist, he understandably advocates for the end of class society – and for workers to run their own government and own the companies where they work. Moreover he makes some general statements how this should come about. Many, I believe, still have relevance in 2010.
First he argues that the workers’ “revolution” cannot be worked out on paper in advance. In his later life, Strachey believed this was the great historical mistake of Marx and Lenin, and ultimately the Soviet experiment. They were too prescriptive in creating an enlightened “vanguard” to work out all the details of the Revolution on behalf of working people. As history shows, this vanguard only served to replace the capitalist elite it overthrew (not only in the USSR, but in China, North Korea and Cuba), producing some of the most despotic totalitarian regimes in history.
Will the Revolution Be Violent?
Secondly Strachey makes it clear that dismantling class society, enabling workers to genuinely take over government and their work sites, is unlikely to be peaceful. As with the great revolutions that made capitalism possible, the violence doesn’t originate with the reformers but with the old elite that refuses to give up power. Like Marx and Lenin, Strachey believes workers’ most powerful tool is their ability to organize and bring society to a standstill by withdrawing their labor (a general strike, like recent ones in Greece and currently in South Africa). However in most capitalist countries (including the US), this is unlikely to be accepted by capitalist elites without violent retaliation. In other words, it’s very likely to get leaders and many workers who participate in these actions killed or imprisoned.
Thirdly Strachey also stresses that any violence associated with workers taking over society is unlikely to kill as many people as the continual unremitting violence capitalism imposes on the world. In the last decade our current capitalistic system has caused millions of deaths in the Middle East alone – in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Palestine – to say nothing of the other counterinsurgency wars (employing US troops, CIA mercenaries or the troops of proxy dictatorships that we fund) in Columbia, the Philippines, Latin American and Africa. Or the millions that have died from floods, droughts, famines and other climate change related extreme weather events.
To be continued, with predictions from contemporary Marxists and End of Capitalism Theory