A World Ripe for Socialism
The world is passing through a period more turbulent and disturbed than any in history—a period of social convulsions, revolutions and wars reaching into every area of the globe. It is also the most complex period in history, because more than ever before the continents of the world are linked together economically and the fate of all human society, with all its diversities, is intertwined.
Yet underlying the complexity and confusion of events is a single, simple fact. There exists an unbearable contradiction between wealth and poverty, between the capacity of modern science and technology to ensure a decent and prosperous existence for everyone and the nightmare of squalor, hunger and privation into which the mass of humanity are sinking.
4 400 million people inhabit the earth, two-thirds of them in countries industrially under-developed (the countries of the former colonial world). Here the over-whelming majority live a life of abject poverty.
An estimated 1 500 million lack basic health care, housing and education. 800 million exist in what the World Bank calls “a condition of life so characterised by malnutrition, illiteracy, disease, squalid surroundings, high infant mortality, and low life expectancy as to be beneath any reasonable definition of human decency.”
These conditions persist—and are growing worse—in the age of the space shuttle, the micro-computer and the automated assembly-line. Humanity has acquired the ability to put people on the moon, to send rockets to photograph the furthest planets, to construct robots which can build cars, to design computers storing whole libraries of information that can be extracted and transmitted instantaneously for use anywhere in the world.
Yet 600 million adults in the world are illiterate, while one-third of primary-school age children have no opportunity to go to school. Despite improvements in education in the poor countries since the Second World War, the number of adults who cannot read or write has risen by more than 100 million.
Modern medical science is constantly achieving new breakthroughs in the battle against disease. Most of the age-old scourges are now curable or preventable. Organ transplantation has become common-place. Limbs which have been completely severed can be stitched back. Doctors have pioneered ‘test-tube’ conceptions which allow women who cannot conceive children naturally to give birth.
Yet even in the richest countries hundreds of working-class patients die for lack of kidney machines and other vital equipment—while in the countries of the former colonial world hundreds of thousands continue to perish like flies from curable and preventable diseases.
Here the average person lives 24 years less than in the industrialised countries, and the annual death rate among children is 20 times as great. One in four children dies before the age of five. Through lack of proper food and medical care, 40 million people suffer from blind-ness, 35 million are threatened by sleeping sickness (generally fatal unless treated early), and 200 million have bilharzia.
One-third of the deaths of children under five result from disease caught through polluted water—because four out of five people in rural areas have no access to clean’ water. Diseases involving diarrhoea kill 5-10 million a year.
The World Health Organisation has estimated that there are 650 million people suffering from roundworm, while over 1 000 million live in areas infested with malaria. Through the effects of malnutrition, 500 million people are anaemic and 200 million have goitre.
The poor countries are desperately lacking doctors, nurses and medical facilities. In Bangladesh, for example, there are 9 260 people per doctor; 5 600 per hospital bed; and 42 080 per nurse—compared with 490 per doc-tor; 80 per bed; 260 per nurse in West Germany.
In Sweden, 1% of deaths are of children under five years old; in Brazil the figure is 48%. Life expectancy is actually falling now in Latin America, and that may well also be the case in Asia and Africa.
This is the unrelieved prospect of unbearable misery facing the majority of the world’s population in the under-developed countries at the end of an unparalleled boom period of world capitalism, which lasted almost thirty years after the Second World War. And the stark gulf between the conditions of the poorest and the richest countries is only an extreme expression of the disparity between rich and poor which is widening also in the industrialised capitalist world.
During the post-war upswing of world capitalism, the employing class in the metropolitan countries presided over an enormous expansion of industry and commerce—greater than any the world had ever seen. In Western Europe, North America and Japan, production multiplied 4,5 times and trade 6 times between 1945 and 1970.
With the fireworks of millions and billions in profit for the bosses, some sparks of social improvement fell also to the working people. In the advanced capitalist, countries, the powerful trade unions and political parties of the working class were able to gain major reforms and important improvements in the general conditions of life and work.
Advances in health and welfare were won from the state. The average working family progressed over the years from lino on the floor and .whitewash on the walls to a carpet, wallpaper, a television and the possibility of a family holiday.
While living standards ‘steadily rose, the number of hours worked by the average worker in a lifetime was reduced by one-third. The bitter memories of mass unemployment and poverty during the world capitalist slump of the 1930s were partly wiped away. A new generation grew up with the advantages of better education, heating, nutrition and health.
At the same time poverty was not eliminated. Even in the strongest of the capitalist countries, the United States of America, one in every five families (more in the case of the blacks) remained in slum housing throughout the boom, Now, however, the upswing of world capitalism has definitively ended and almost without exception living standards of the working peo-ple in the industrialised capitalist countries are once again falling.
In the OECD countries (the OECD is the organisation of the industrial capitalist powers), economic growth averaged 5,5% a year during the 1960s. In the 1970s it dropped to an average of 3,3%. In 1979-80 it was only 1,2%. In 1981 a number of the industrialised countries actually showed an absolute fall in production.
Total unemployment in the OECD is expected to reach 30 million by the second half of this year. In the USA alone, the queues of the jobless add up to 3 000 miles—long enough to stretch from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast. The highest rates of unemployment are among women, youth and blacks.
In the EEC countries of Western Europe, female unemployment is now 31 %, while youth unemployment will soon top 20%.
Recently, even the total number of jobs in most of the industrialised capitalist countries has been falling; in France, Spain, Switzerland and Britain employment is actually lower than in 1975. In Britain one in every six manufacturing jobs has disappeared in the past two years.
While rising prices eat at the wage packet, government spending on welfare services is being cut to the bone. Diseases of malnutrition are beginning to reap-pear on a small scale in some of the advanced capitalist countries. In London there are now more people sleep-ing on park benches, under bridges, etc., than in the nineteenth century.
It is against this background that renewed explosions of the class struggle in the imperialist countries are beginning to occur. The working class is being forced in-to action against the erosion of living standards and democratic rights that have been won over generations.
But if the working people of the industrialised countries are now suffering purgatory, the masses of the ex-colonial world are facing a bottomless pit of hell. Even during the decades of world upswing, the capitalist system proved incapable of uplifting their condition. With few exceptions, their standard of living actually fell.
Monopoly capitalism has tended to strangle the economies of the poor countries at birth. While some industrial development took place, it was concentrated in patches and generally limited to particular fields which suited the multinational companies, based in the imperialist countries.
Drawn inevitably into the magnetic field of the world economy, the people of these countries find their traditional economies penetrated by the advanced products of large-scale industry, and shattered by the pressures of the world market.
Modern industry should be a force for progress and the upliftment of people, freeing them from conditions of backwardness and isolation, and drawing them into the mainstream of world civilisation. Instead, on the basis of capitalism, it becomes a bludgeon against the poor, dispossessing them from their means of subsistence, without being able to provide jobs, homes and a future within a new productive system.
Thus throughout the capitalist countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America, the past decades have seen tens of millions crowding hopelessly into the spreading shanty-towns on the outskirts of the cities. In over-whelming numbers unemployed, compelled to live in filth and degradation, they cling to existence by the fingernails.
Already there are some 750 million people living in urban areas in the countries of the former colonial world, more than double the population of North America and Western Europe put together. This figure in turn is expected to more than double by the end of the century.
The population of Mexico City (to take the most graphic example), now 12 million, is expected to reach 30 million within the next twenty years! By then Bombay and Calcutta, for instance, will each exceed 11 million and Delhi will exceed 9 million.
In Africa, where this process is least developed, Lagos already has 4,5 million people, most of them living in slum conditions without water or sanitation. In Cairo, such is the unbearable overcrowding of the slums that in one place 100 000 people are actually living in a cemetery.
The horrific future facing the peoples of Africa, Asia and Latin America under capitalism is revealed most clearly in relation to food. Here 50 million people die every year from malnutrition. In Africa alone 50 million are at risk within the next few years from famine: In India 20 million are starving.
The conventional teaching of capitalism is that rapidly growing population is responsible for the hunger of the ‘Third World’. But the fact is that world food production has been growing faster than world population.
The World Bank—which exists to promote capitalism and to paper over its evils—inadvertently made a devastating judgment against the capitalist system in its 1980 World Development Report:
The famines in Ethiopia in 1973-74 and Bangladesh in 1974 were not caused by a fall in the average amount of food available per person. Rather droughts caused local declines in farm incomes,. so that people in affected areas could not afford to buy food from the unaffected areas. “At the global level, if income were distributed differently, present output of grain alone could supply every man, woman and child with more than 3 000 calories and 65 grams of protein per day—far more than the highest estimates of requirements. Eliminating malnutrition would require redirecting only about 2 percent of the world’s grain output to the mouths that need it.
Needless to say, the World Bank ‘experts’ give not a hint of the social transformation that would be required for such a solution. Nor in the volumes of statistics and anxious commentaries produced by the United Nations agencies, is any indication given that capitalism lies at the root of world hunger.
Nevertheless, in the daily struggle for survival—for food, clothing, housing, medical care, education and other necessities—the mass of people themselves come into conflict with the capitalist order and are driven to seek the road to change society.
Superiority of Planned Economy
Throughout the post-war period millions of working people of town and country in the under-developed world have risen in revolt against poverty, exploitation and oppression—and in a series of revolutions have succeeded in overthrowing capitalism. In so doing they have decisively proved that it is the social system of capitalism which bars the way to overcoming poverty, malnutrition, homelessness, illiteracy and disease.
A comparison of capitalist India (with 670 million people) and China (with 1 000 million people) where capitalism has been overthrown, demonstrates the superiority of the nationalised and planned economy over the system of private ownership and profit. This has been the case even though the Chinese revolution was isolated in one country, and the regime which developed was bureaucratically deformed, for reasons that will be explained later in this document.
Between 1948 and 1968, the most brilliant period in the development of world capitalism, the absolute standard of living of the masses of India fell by 20%, and since then has continued falling.
170 million Indians eat less than they need to sustain minimum health. The poorest 20% of the population have to spend 80-90% of their income on food, and for this receive less than 1 500 calories a day.
Yet, there is no absolute shortage of food in India. The British capitalist journal, the Economist (28/3/81) itself admits that to provide every person in India with adequate food would have taken only half of the country’s grain surplus in 1980-81. ” ‘Millions starve while grain piles high’ could have been the standard headline about India for the past four years”, reports this hypocritical mouthpiece of monopoly capitalism.
Before the Revolution, China was also a land of perpetual famine. But because landlordism and capitalism have been abolished in China and a planned economy developed, it has been possible to virtually eliminate starvation, despite serious natural disasters like earthquakes, floods and droughts.
In India the evils of monopoly capitalism combine with the suffocating relations of pre-capitalist landlord and caste oppression to heap intolerable miseries on the mass of the working people. Hence the unremitting turbulence of riots, strikes, uprisings, repressions, pogroms and massacres, civil wars, revolutionary movements and counter-revolutions which have been the feature of the subcontinent for more than 30 years.
Only by the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism and landlordism can the working people free themselves from a nightmare existence.
The Chinese Revolution brought the immense advantages of nationalised and planned industrialisation combined with the redistribution of the land and the organisation of collective agriculture. Thus the superiority of the economic system in China over that in India is demonstrated not only in consumption, but in production itself. By 1975 China produced 1 700 pounds of grain per acre, 60% more than India.
In India, while three-quarters of the population live on the land (a proportion that has not fallen at all in 20 years), 120 million of these are landless and 160 million ‘ depend on farms smaller than the minimum necessary to provide a living. In 1961, 40% of farms were below subsistence minimum size; by 1971 the figure had risen to 51% and it has undoubtedly grown since.
In 1971, 15% of landowners owned 45% of the land, and even if the ‘ceiling’ envisaged in the capitalist government’s so-called ‘green revolution’ were applied only 2-3% more land would be released for distribution.
In fact the problem of landlordism on an even more severe scale is endemic throughout capitalist Asia and Latin America. (In Africa the situation on the land is somewhat different, as we will explain later.) In a recent study of world hunger it was found that, in 83 under developed countries, 3% of the landowners hold 80% of the farmland. In Asia the average large holding is 24 times bigger than the average small holding—while in Latin America it is 200 times as big!
Because of the inter-connection between the landlords and the capitalists, it requires a complete social revolution for problems on the land to be solved. The banks have mortgages on the land, industrialists have estates in the country, the landlords invest in industry and the whole is entangled together and linked with imperialism in a web of vested interests opposed to change.
The immense advances resulting from the overthrow of landlordism and capitalism are shown by every basi indicator of human progress, when the situations in India and China are compared.
In the twenty years after 1955, the life expectancy of a child born in China rose by 16 years; in India it rose only half as much. While still a low-income country China’s life-expectancy figure (now 64-68 years) is well above the average for middle-income countries and not far short of the advanced industrialised countries themselves.
By 1975/76 the literacy rate in China had risen to 40%, while in India it was only 33%.
The advantages of an economy on a continental scale have allowed a certain development of industry in India over the past thirty years, to the point where, in absolute terms, it is the tenth largest in the world. Yet the number of people living below the poverty line has risen almost continuously—in fact by 30% since 1960.
In China, after the Revolution, industrialisation took place at twice the rate achieved in India during the same period. In fact China has attained a considerably faster rate of industrialisation than at comparable stages for Japan, the USA, Germany, France and Britain.
In the 1950s, the rate of industrialisation in China was 23% a year, comparable to that during the first 5-year plans in the Soviet Union. In terms of growth of production per head of population, throughout the 1960s and 1970s China achieved nearly double the average rate for the low-income countries.
In this China proved again what the Russian Revolution had already demonstrated—the immense superiority of a planned economy over capitalism, and indeed its vital necessity for the development of the industrially, backward countries in the present epoch.
Capitalism and the Rise of Imperialism
However, the material basis for a planned economy has not always been present. This basis has been laid by the development of capitalism on a world scale. Historically, capitalism has played an indispensable and progressive role in developing the productive forces of society to the point where planned economy has become both possible and essential.
Marx, indeed, found the key to understanding history in the development of the productive forces. Society has advanced and changed over the centuries as human beings have developed their powers over the forces of nature, devising and applying new tools and techniques, combining their labour in new ways, and reorganising their social existence accordingly.
The system of capitalism arose in Western Europe within feudal society, whose disintegration and decay it in turn accelerated. Compared with all previous modes of production, capitalism represented an explosive leap forward.
Such a system became possible only at a point where production, economic intercourse and trade between communities had become sufficiently developed to allow at least a major portion of producers to devote themselves not to the production of their own necessities of life, but to production for the market. In turn, the greater efficiency and productivity of this method brought cheaper, better goods into wider circulation and stimulated the expansion of trade.
Capitalism broke down the narrow limits separating communities and ended the old isolation of self-sufficiency at a more or less undeveloped level. It fuelled the growth of new needs, new wants and new tastes. Lifting the horizons of society above the narrowness of village life, it was a vehicle of civilisation, education, science and progress.
The essence of capitalism was and is the interaction of private producers through the selling and buying of their commodities in the market-place. Blind forces of commodity exchange regulate the system. This is the polar opposite of a system of planned economy, where production and distribution depend upon the organised and conscious cooperation of the individuals in society in collectively supplying each others’ needs.
Marx and Engels pointed to the existence historically of what they called ‘primitive communist’ society. This was on an extremely low basis of productive forces, with society at the level of bare subsistence, sunk in ignorance and defenceless against the ravages of nature. Very early tribal society in Europe, Africa, etc., was of this kind.
But ‘primitive communist’ society dissolved as the very development of production and technique enabled communities to generate a regular surplus, allowed a division of labour to arise, and opened the way for exploiting and exploited classes to crystallize.
Slavery, Asiatic despotism and feudalism were the main forms of ancient society which then evolved. Savagely oppressive and exploitative, they nevertheless reflected a stage in the development of the productive forces and of mankind higher than ‘primitive communism’.
It was in turn the historically progressive mission of capitalism, when conditions for the rise of commodity production had matured, to burst through the barriers of the old society and develop the national market, modern industry and world trade.
`Primitive communism’ had depended on the lowest levels of production and subsistence. In contrast the material possibility today for a transition of society to socialism and communism arises from the highest levels of production, science and technique which the capitalist system has engendered on a world scale.
At the same time, as Marx was the first to explain, the very development of capitalism has brought to a head the enormous contradictions which only a socialist transformation of the entire world can now resolve.
The rise of the capitalist class as the wealthy, private owners of buildings, machinery, – mines, banks, etc., enabled it to concentrate production into large enter-prises, employing numerous wage-workers in each. The improved productivity of labour in bigger factories ex-pressed itself in cheaper goods in the market-place, thus breaking the back of the smaller and weaker producers—the individual craftsmen and workshop proprietors of old—no longer able to compete.
Immensely progressive in its impetus to the development of the productive forces, capitalism has thus at the same time hastened the division of society into the propertied few and the propertyless many; into the bourgeois owners who no longer labour but gather the glittering fruits of industry, and the mass of proletarians whose labour produces everything but who may count themselves fortunate if they can earn their daily bread.
From this division arises the antagonism, the clash of interests, and the unending struggle between the capitalist class and the working class.
Under capitalism the organisation of production within each enterprise has been carried to the heights of the giant assembly plants of modern industry. The big-gest factories cover hectares and even square kilometres, and employ tens of thousands of workers in combined labour in a single place.
But at the same time the private ownership of the means of production means that, as between the various enterprises, in society at large, production is disorganised, anarchic, governed by the blind play of market forces.
The chairman of General Motors wrote in his memoirs that he was in business to produce profits, not motor cars. In this way he summed up the fundamental law of capitalism: that production takes place for the private profit of the owners, and not for the needs of society. The interest of the capitalist lies in the return derived from the product and not the product itself. What is important to capitalism is not the usefulness of a commodity but the value contained in it.
Where does this value come from? The answer that Marxism gives to this question provides the scientific basis for understanding the workings of the capitalist economy.
There is only one source of value in the economy, and that is human labour. The value of a commodity depends on the quantity of human labour which has been spent in its production.
Whether we are dealing with buildings, machinery, materials, cars, food or clothing, we can trace the source of every product back to two things. Firstly, there is what comes from nature. Secondly, there is the work which has been involved in making it.
Society lives by labour—by the work done in extracting, refining, shaping and combining the resources of the earth to satisfy the needs of people. Consequently, the quantity of labour which is necessary to produce the various products which society needs, gives them their value when they are bought and sold.
It also follows that that part of the value of a commodity which is pocketed by the capitalist as profit comes from labour of the workers for which they receive no pay.
If the workers received as wages the full value which they put into the commodities they create, there would be no profit for the capitalist. Thus as a rule it is in the direct interest of the capitalists to reduce as far as possible the proportion of the value created which they pay to the workers as wages.
But the capitalists as a class, while able to unite against the workers, are constantly in competition with each other to sell their commodities and thereby realise their profits. This is a further law arising from the economic system in which the private owners of different enterprises send their products to the market for sale. Only that owner, only that capitalist, can stay in business who can produce as cheaply as the next. The force of competition in the market-place drives out the less efficient producers.
Conversely, the capitalist who produces cheaper pro-ducts than the rest is able to pocket the difference as an additional increment of profit, above the average.
Thus the capitalist system sets in motion a constant struggle between the capitalists to cheapen their respective goods, by constantly increasing the productivity of labour. By reducing the quantity of human labour spent on the production of each product, they lower its value and are able to bring a cheaper commodity to market. The essential means for achieving this is to continually advance and expand the machinery used in production.
Thus, under the domination of the capitalist class, modern large-scale industry has arisen to replace the earlier manual crafts and manufactures. First steam engines were developed in the place of horsepower, and then electricity in the place of steam. The power of the sun and the atom have been tapped. On the basis of assembly lines, railway and air transport, the telegraph, telephone, radio, television and telex, of computers and automation, production has been multiplied and multiplied again.
In repeatedly revolutionising the means of production, the capitalist class has performed an immensely progressive historical role. But reality always has more than one side.
On a capitalist basis, the logic of mechanisation is not to ease the burden of labour on the working people, but solely to secure and advance the competitive position of the owners. Instead of an all-round lessening of work, together with improvements in living standards for everyone, its sole purpose is to displace labour in order to reduce costs.
Workers squeezed out of one job by the introduction of machinery will find alternative employment if the economy is expanding fast enough to absorb them. But if not, capitalism throws them on the stones regardless.
So it is that mechanisation, a force for progress, becomes on the basis of capitalism a threat hanging ever the working class. But the struggle between labour and capital sharpens even more on account of the constant striving of the bosses to depress the real value of the wages paid to labour.
The flesh-and-blood antagonism of the working class and the capitalist class runs parallel with a no less vital contradiction hidden in the mechanism of the capitalist system itself.
The capitalist class produces for the sake of profit; but in order to survive, it must also in the final analysis produce for society’s use.
It is by selling to buyers that the capitalist receives money for the commodity produced, turning production into hard cash. By this means alone can he replenish his capital, employ labour for a further round of exploitation, realise profit and’ expand investment.
The tendency of capitalism to constantly revolutionise the means of production and massively expand the output of goods, ensured its enormous superiority over the earlier modes of production which it replaced.
Expanding production, however, requires an expanding market. But, as already outlined, the necessary drive of the capitalists to replace human labour with, machinery and to depress the real value of wages, gives rise to a tendency for the purchasing power of the mass of society to contract, or not to expand as fast as the expansion of production.
Thus the capitalist class is caught in a contradiction—between the expanding production of the goods and services which constitute real wealth in society, and the narrowing basis of relative consumption under the capitalist system. This contradiction results in repeated cycles of economic and social crisis.
Ninety years ago, Engels’s magnificent summary of Marxist ideas—Socialism, Utopian and Scientific—described the features of the periodic crises which have afflicted the whole industrial and commercial world from the 1820s onwards:
Commerce is at a standstill, the markets are glutted, pro-ducts accumulate, as multitudinous as they are unsaleable, hard cash disappears, credit vanishes, factories are closed, the mass of the workers are in want of the means of subsistence, because they have produced too much of the means of subsistence; bankruptcy follows upon bankruptcy, execution upon execution. “The stagnation lasts for years; productive forces and pro-ducts are wasted and destroyed wholesale, until the ac-cumulated mass of commodities finally filter off, more or less depreciated in value, until production and exchange gradually begin to move again. Little by little the pace quickens. It becomes a trot. The industrial trot breaks into a canter; the canter in turn grows into the headlong gallop of a perfect steeplechase of industry, commercial credit and speculation, which finally, after breakneck leaps, ends where it began—in the ditch of a crisis. And so over and over again.
Each new cycle of expansion is initially reinforced by the fact that only a part of production is for the direct satisfaction of the wants of individual consumers. The other part—the production of capital goods—is for the use of other enterprises, as raw materials, as fuel, as equipment, parts, machinery, etc.
But in the final analysis all departments of the productive system must combine to supply the consumer market. Thus, while every new upturn of capitalism is marked by growing output, employment and trade,’ at a certain point the unplanned rush of capitalist expansion begins to strangle itself on the unplanned limits of the capitalist market.
More than a century ago, Marx explained in detail the workings of the system of capitalism and laid bare its inner contradictions. He also showed how all these contradictions are knotted together in the tendency of the rate of profit to fall.
On the one hand, the motive force of capitalist production is to expand the value of capital in the hands of the owning class. The driving urge of the capitalists is to raise to the highest possible level the rate of return on their investments. But, on the other hand, to survive in business, the capitalists are compelled to mechanise furiously and to constantly displace from productive work a greater proportion of human labour.
As investment rises, the proportion of investment spent on the employment of workers falls. Since living labour is the sole source of value and hence of profit, the underlying tendency of capitalist production is therefore for the rate of profit—the rate of return on the total investment of the capitalists—to fall.
Thus, out of the unplanned rush of the capitalist class to invest in new techniques and expand production, there results the tendency towards ‘over-production’ and a falling rate of profit. These are described as tendencies and not as absolute laws because various economic conditions, especially at the beginning of a new cycle of expansion, may temporarily offset their operation. But whenever—as inevitably it must—the rate of profit begins to fall, it inflames all the contradictions of the system.
As the capitalists experience a decline in the rate of their profits, they are driven to struggle all the harder to increase the mass of their profits—by investing in new machinery, driving down wages, and increasing production at an even faster tempo. This impels society all the faster towards a crisis of ‘overproduction’ in which capitalism chokes itself on the very productive forces which it has brought into being.
Marx explained that capitalist production seeks continually to overcome the barriers inherent in it, “but overcomes them only by means which again place these barriers in its way on a more formidable scale.”
Indeed the course of world history in the modern epoch is summed up in that insight of Marx—for it is the history of repeated, convulsive efforts of capitalism to rise above its own limitations, only to confront those limitations afresh on the basis of higher productive forces, with ever more widespread and devastating results. Today, capitalism encounters its contradictions on a world scale, and the consequence of them is to place the fate of humanity itself at risk.
Part of the progressive mission of the capitalists historically was to break down the feudal barriers to commerce, and develop national markets, under the rule of bourgeois national states. But already in the nineteenth century, large-scale industry erupted beyond the limits of the national economy.
From its nation-state bastions, the bourgeoisie launched into the world market, pushing forward its frontiers, waging competition internationally and laying the basis for the increasing division of labour among countries.
In this process, the banks played a crucial role, transforming themselves from simple money-changing institutions into the central instruments of a financial and industrial oligarchy that bound society in a web of dependent relations to itself.
The rise of finance capital hastened the process of concentration of production in larger and larger enter-prises, in fewer and fewer hands. From this came the giant monopolies which obtained complete supremacy in the economies of the advanced capitalist countries towards the end of the nineteenth century.
The rise of the monopolies rang in the epoch of imperialism, the highest stage in the development of capitalism.
Marx had long before explained that the capitalist accumulation of wealth inevitably meant increasing misery and poverty for the mass of society. Now imperialism demonstrated the correctness of Marx’s view on an international scale—in the effects of monopoly capitalism on the peoples of the colonial world.
Competition was now waged between the monopolies, and between the capitalist powers, as com-petition for world domination. To the former motives for colonial expansion by the great powers of Europe, there was added the need for new sources of raw materials, the need to export capital which could not be profitably invested at home, and above all the need for new markets.
A cut-throat struggle followed between the imperialist states, each’! presiding over an increasing flood of production, each fighting to redivide the markets of the world into new spheres of influence and control.
Relatively ‘peaceful coexistence’ between the great capitalist powers could last only as long as it was a question of dividing between them an expanding treasure chest of spoils. But once new contractions and crises of capitalism set in, now magnified on a world scale, inevitably the powers turned to tear at each others’ throats, like hungry wolves chained to a tree.
Thus in the epoch of imperialism, wars of colonial conquest turned increasingly into confrontations among the powers. The great imperialist ‘Scramble for Africa’ took place from the 1880s. Then, against the background of capitalist crisis, imperialist competition came to a head on the continent of Europe if1 the First World War of 1914-1918. In an unprecedented blood-bath, millions of lives and untold productive resources were destroyed.
The transition to imperialism marked the process of exhaustion of the progressive role of the capitalist system. As the highest stage of capitalism, imperialism is at the same time its last stage.
While still capable of developing production in fits and starts, capitalism had become thoroughly reactionary when compared with the possibilities for socialism which now matured. With the phenomenal expansion and integration of the productive forces on a world scale, with the development of a world division of labour and a world market, capitalism had laid the basis for undreamed-of progress of human society—provided the barriers posed by capitalism itself could be swept away.
A System Ripe for Overthrow
But as Marxism has always taught, capitalism will not fall of itself—it has to be overthrown. The rule of the capitalist class must be ended—and no method short of revolution has so far been discovered to break the power of a ruling class.
Not only has capitalism prepared the conditions its own demise, in developing gigantic productive fora which come in contradiction with the productive system; capitalism has also created its own grave-digger in the form of the working class.
When Marx and Engels argued that only the work; class can carry to completion the overthrow capitalism and organise a socialist society, they were Ili at all motivated by idealistic or romantic notions. Nor were they being arbitrary. This fundamental standpoint of Marxism is based on the position which the working class occupies in production in capitalist society.
The task of the socialist revolution is to replace private ownership with state ownership of the means production; to replace the anarchy of market forces with conscious coordination and planning at every level and to replace inequality, privilege and oppression with the democratic control and management of the state, economy and society by the working people themselves. Only the working class possesses the characteristics and the social capacity needed to carry this transformation through.
Without private property; without any class below in the social hierarchy to oppress; without any inhere interest in defending exploitation in any form; organised collectively by the large-scale concentration of production; carrying on its own shoulders the essential productive functions in capitalist society; having an unparalleled knowledge of the detailed workings of production, circulation and trade—the working class is uniquely equipped to organise the transition of society socialism.
In the Russian Revolution of October 1917, the working class gave the world the most brilliant signal of its ability to carry out the overthrow of capitalism and begin the socialist transformation. But, as we explain in Chapter 2, the victory of the Russian working class was not followed by similar victories in the major capitalist countries.
Defeat followed defeat over a period of two decades leaving the Russian workers’ state isolated in conditions of appalling backwardness and poverty. Out of the conditions rose the totalitarian dictatorship of Stalin which ruthlessly suppressed workers’ democracy and ruled in the interests of a privileged, bureaucratic elite.
The degeneration of the Soviet Union and the deformation of the first workers’ state in turn contributed to international defeats of the working class, and the drawn-out delay of the proletarian revolution in the industrialised countries which dominate the world economy. (The most important events of that period an outlined in the next chapter.)
But the reprieve for bourgeois power in the West did not subdue the inner laws of capitalist crisis, convulsions and wars. The Second World War of 1939-45 was the bloody price eventually paid by humanity for the delay of the world socialist revolution.
Out of the ashes of this devastation, the capitalist system once again revived and for a generation ushered in an unparalleled cycle of growth. In Chapter 3 the basis of the post-war upswing of world capitalism is explained.
This period has seen a phenomenal concentration of productive forces in the hands of fewer and fewer giant multinational corporations. Today about 1 000 capitalist monopolies control a quarter of production on the globe, and conduct nearly a third of world trade among themselves.
The top 100 monopolies together have assets of over $1 000 billion. Just one of them—General Motors—had a turnover in 1979 of $63 billion: roughly one-and-a-half times the value of the entire production of the South African economy, or 18 times that of Zimbabwe!
This extreme concentration under modern monopoly capitalism emphasises the rotten-ripeness of the world for socialist revolution. The idea of breaking up the monopolies and going back to the capitalism of a multitude of petty producers, of 150 or 200 years ago, is a reactionary idea of middle-class dreamers. Today in the United States, half of all small firms disappear within five years of their establishment!
Monopoly outgrows (but cannot cast off) the uniform of private property, competition and the nation-state which was the essence of capitalism in the period of its rise. In that sense, as Lenin put it, monopoly is the transitional form from capitalism to a higher system of production. What is required to complete this transition is to take over the monopolies and, under democratic workers’ control and management, integrate them in a planned world economy.
On a capitalist basis, the concentration of production in the hands of monopolies piles evil upon evil, and contradiction upon contradiction. Instead of ending the anarchy of competition, monopoly capitalism mangles it. For instance, to the extent that they are freed from the constraints of competition, the monopoly capitalists eagerly raise their prices in leaps and bounds, thus stoking the fires of inflation. Through profiteering, speculation, corruption and in every way their parasitic character is manifested.
Through the monopolies a small handful of people own and control stupendous resources. As a result, a rich few can now hold governments to ransom and manipulate the lives of whole populations with their economic power.
Occasionally a small corner is lifted to reveal the immense scale of personal wealth and the staggering abuses which lie at the heart of the capitalist system. In September 1979 a single Texas family, the oil-rich Hunts, tried to corner the world’s silver market by buying up 63% of the entire year’s production. When the silver price suddenly collapsed a few months later, they had to mortgage $3,2 billion worth of properties just to meet their losses. Nelson Bunker Hunt, when questioned on his debts and assets, could not remember whether he owed his stockbrokers $200 million or $350 million!
Motivated by the drive to profit-making and the private accumulation of wealth, the capitalist class is in-capable of responding to the needs of society. Their wasteful extravagance in the face of world poverty and mass starvation is itself proof of this.
The British capitalist, Lord Rothermere—owner of the Daily Mail newspaper—exemplifies the parasitic nature of his class. In a world where millions are homeless, this gentleman owns no fewer than seven luxury apartments in London, Paris and New York, worth nearly R5 million—and has recently bought an eighth mansion in California for R900 000. Meanwhile, Lady Rothermere thinks nothing of spending R170 000 on a party for her daughter. Yet, when workers demand higher wages, Lord Rothermere’s newspaper is the first to attack them as ‘overpaid’ and ‘greedy’.
Even in the most poverty-stricken countries of capitalism, the ruling class has built up a luxurious existence for itself. For example in Haiti, one of the poorest countries—where the average worker earns the equivalent of R1,50 a day—President Duvalier recently celebrated his wedding with an orgy of consumption and waste. Four 40-ton trucks were needed to deliver the food for his wealthy guests to guzzle, off tables decked with jewelled ornaments. Similar revolting examples could be added endlessly to the list.
Ultimately, however, it is not the personal vices of the rich which condemn their system before history. At root it is the incapacity of capitalism to provide for the needs of society which now brings it into mortal conflict with the mass of humanity.
Nowhere is the rotten-ripeness of world capitalism more clearly shown than in its inability to develop the productive forces of the colonial and ex-colonial world. A system of private ownership, with production and distribution governed by profit and not by social need, cannot* in the modern epoch ensure their all-round development.
Instead, to the extent industry has grown, it has merely deepened their dependence and intensified their exploitation at the hands of the ruling classes of the major capitalist countries. Unable to industrialise independently on the basis of their own limited markets and slender capital resources, the under-developed countries are subjected to collective exploitation by the imperialist powers.
Sinking ever deeper into debt to the imperialists, these mainly agricultural countries can no longer maintain even their self-sufficiency in food.
Under landlordism and capitalism, the under-developed countries gear their agricultural production not to the needs of the working people, but to producing export crops which they can sell to the imperialist bourgeoisie. Thus during the 1970s, 36 of the 40 most poverty-stricken countries in the world actually ex-ported food to the USA (where 70% of the world’s marketable foodgrain stocks are now concentrated). At the same time, the US administration pays American farmers to plant less wheat in order to keep world grain prices up!
In the 1950s the under-developed countries were roughly self-sufficient in food; by 1975 they had to import 5% of their staple foods. This proportion is expected to double by 1985, and by 1990 they will need to import 145 million tonnes of cereals a year.
In 1980, food production per head of population fell in 53 of the 107 ‘developing’ countries that sent in figures to the UN. More and more these countries become dependent on emergency food relief, which often costs more in one year than the recipient country spends on agricultural investment in five years.
There is no end to the contradictions. In Africa, 150 million people in 26 countries south of the Sahara are hungry. At the same time, in the EEC, in order to maintain prices, mountains of food are being stored. At the end of 1980 the quantities were: 240 000 tonnes of skim-med milk powder; 190 000 tonnes of butter; 290 000 tonnes of beef; 40 000 tonnes of pork; 7 000 000 tonnes of grain.
The creation of an all-embracing world market; the development of the international division of labour to a high degree—this has been one of the greatest progressive accomplishments of capitalism. But on the basis of private ownership and the continued division of the world into nation-states, this has turned into an in-tolerable burden on the back of the mass of humanity.
The inability of the capitalist class to overcome these contradictions leads to intensified national conflicts, regional convulsions and wars. National antagonisms are festering in every region of the globe; the national question has recently resurfaced even in the advanced capitalist countries where it was long ago thought to have been resolved.
Tribal and religious differences become inflamed, as they are bound together with the impasse of production and society. Archaic, oppressive institutions of a bygone era linger on and are even reinforced. Often capitalism relies on these as an instrument of its rule.
The oppression of women, which persists even in the most advanced countries under capitalism, continues in barbaric forms in the under-developed world. Here, 17 million women are still subjected to the brutality of female circumcision. In a number of Islamic countries, the wearing of the veil either is compulsory, or has been reimposed as reactionary fundamentalists take advantage of the still blind discontent against ‘modern’ capitalism, and the confused striving for change which, is welling up from below.
In this era of ‘world peace’, the earth has never been more persistently plagued by wars. Someone has calculated that, since the end of the Second World War, there has been a total of 17 days of actual ‘peace’ in the world, i.e., when no wars or military engagements have been taking place. This is probably not an exaggeration.
Since 1955 there have been at least 120 major armed conflicts recorded, involving 65 countries and costing 25 million lives. Mainly as the result of war, the number of refugees in the world has risen from 8 million in 1964 to more than 16 million today.
Wars and the preparations for war consume vast resources while most of the world languishes in unrelieved poverty and misery. Even 40 years ago, if military spending was devoted instead to the advancement (society, the whole world could have taken a leap fa ward. The total spending on the Second World War Wi itself enough to build a home for every family on earl and provide a hospital and school for every town wit 5 000 inhabitants.
Today, world expenditure on arms and warfare amounts to over $500 000 000 000 a year.
The industrialised countries spend more on means of destruction than the rest of the world is able to spend on survival. But the under-developed countries themselves spend vast fortunes on arms. They now import about $20 billion-worth a year—an increase of 1 500% over the last 17 years.
Yet the cost of one modern American or Russian tan would finance 1 000 classrooms for 30 000 children and one jet fighter alone would pay for 40 000 village pharmacies.
Half of one day’s military spending would pay for di whole malaria eradication programme of the World Health Organisation. Half of one year’s military spending would pay for all the farm equipment needed to ensure an abundance of food in all the poor countries the world by 1990.
The conflict between the two world super-powers – United States imperialism on the one hand and the Soviet Union on the other—arises inevitably from the different productive systems on which these two states rest. It will persist as long as the carrying through of world socialist revolution is delayed. And the consequence of this, on the basis of modern science and technique, is the heaping up of devilish means (destruction, which now threaten the annihilation of a whole of mankind.
Already ten years ago the nuclear weapons in existence could wipe out the population of the earth 700 times over.
On a capitalist basis the wonders of science an technology cannot be devoted to the peaceful progress of society. In fact because of the impasse of worth capitalism today, the potential of new technique can lei and less be used.
The fantastic possibilities inherent in the invention q the microchip and the computer could themselves transform the conditions of life and work on the who planet within the space of a generation. But the prerequisite for this is the overthrow of capitalism and the completion of the socialist revolution.
The under-use of existing productive capacity in t industrialised capitalist countries is valued $200 000 000 000. The sickness of capitalism is precis0 that machines and workers are compelled to stand idle at the same time. There is an abundance a technical capacity to produce, an abundance of workers to do the jobs, to fill the social needs that are crying on for satisfaction. But the profit system bars this way—decreeing that production and distribution shad take place only when the capitalists can realise in t4 market a profit from sales.
Society has no way out but to take into its hands the common ownership and conscious control of the forces of production, to end the anarchy of capitalism, and to organise and plan the economy in the service of need, not profit.
The reactionary barriers of the nation-state must be dismantled, and a world-wide planned economy introduced. Today in the industrialised countries of capitalism hundreds of thousands of trained teachers, technicians and scientists cannot find work. At the same time in the ex-colonial world the problem of illiteracy mounts, and there is a crying want of technical training.
Studies in the industrialised countries show that 70-80% of young people today feel they have more education and ability than their jobs demand. At the same time one-fifth of all the world’s scientists are devoting their energies to preparations for war.
All this goes to show that it is not absolute or natural shortages which lie at the root of the world’s problems, but the social system which prevails. The same is indicated in relation to every problem to which we could turn our attention.
The world does not face a shortage of material resources. The natural resources of Latin America alone are four times those of Europe. Yet, for example, out of 575 million hectares of land which could be cultivated, only 170 million are cultivated. In fact, on a world scale, only 44% of cultivable land is cropped.
Latin America alone could feed the world. Yet in Latin America itself 40% of the population live in extreme poverty and 20% in conditions approaching starvation. Today the bourgeois are constantly crying about the `world energy crisis’. But again we find that the barrier to the solution of this crisis is not fundamentally a natural barrier, but a social one.
Because of the constraints of the profit system, the capitalists cannot develop the various sources of energy available in nature—and when they do develop new sources, invariably fail to provide adequate safeguards against pollution and other harmful effects.
Today in the advanced capitalist countries there is a growing movement not only against nuclear weapons, but against the dangers of nuclear power itself. Undeniably, nuclear fission power (which is the basis of the present nuclear power stations) constitutes an ever-present danger to millions of people living in the vicinity of reactors.
The dangers are spreading. Western companies have already built 37 nuclear reactors in the under-developed countries, and are currently working on at least another 28. Of course this would also lead in time to a much larger number of countries having nuclear weapons capacity—countries which, for example, already include Israel, South Africa and Pakistan.
Danger from nuclear fission reactors would also, of course, be present in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and China, where nuclear power stations are built.
But the danger is not inherent in the tapping of the atom itself. The progressive possibilities opened up by nuclear science are shown in the prospects for the development of nuclear fusion energy. In contrast with nuclear fission, nuclear fusion would be, so far as is presently known, a safe form of energy, without pollution. By this method limitless power would be obtained from water—one gallon of water would produce as much energy as 300 gallons of petrol today!
A Soviet scientist has described fusion energy as “obtaining boundless energy by burning the waters of the ocean.” However, to develop fusion energy will require massive investment which no single government has been prepared to make. In the United States, for example, while the Reagan administration spends $200 billion on expanding its arsenal of nuclear missiles and bombs, it will allocate only $1 billion to the development of fusion energy.
It is possible that nuclear fusion energy can be produced by 1990; but it is absolutely ruled out that the progressive potential of this can be used by the capitalist system to lift the burdens of the majority of humanity.
In fact, today, the real ‘energy crisis’ is that faced by the two billion people in the world who still depend on firewood or dung to cook their food. To them capitalism has failed to bring the advantages of modern technology.
Over one billion people can get enough firewood only by systematically destroying forests. Forests in the ex-colonial countries are shrinking at the rate of one million hectares a month (over 1% a year). In India, where 75010 of the people rely on firewood for most of their energy needs, they now have to spend eight times as long finding and collecting it as fifteen years ago.
The nightmare conditions of the poor countries grow worse by the year. Such are the pressures, tensions and dangers for the capitalists generated by these conditions that we are now witnessing a flood of ‘Reports’, `Conferences’, ‘Declarations’, and even ‘Summits’ on the problems of world poverty and the ‘division between North and South’.
But all these can amount to no more than empty gestures, public displays of hand-wringing and liberal anxiety, because the fundamental point is deliberately evaded—the necessity for an end to capitalism, and the socialist transformation of society, in order for any of the basic problems of the world today to be resolved.
The ideas of the ‘Brandt Report’ for a shift of resources from the industrialised countries to the ‘Third World’ are utterly utopian on the basis of capitalism. Likewise the ‘Melbourne Declaration’ of the 1981 Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ conference—which the reactionary New Zealander, Muldoon, quite fittingly described as a collection of pious principles, chiefly consisting of platitudes, without any practical proposals.
No less cynical and hypocritical was the display of concern by the leaders of the imperialist powers at the `North-South’ summit conference in Mexico in October 1981. But it is perhaps even more nauseating when these gangsters—like Reagan and Haig for example—read moral lectures to the under-developed world about curbing their population growth and keeping their domestic economies in order.
As even the bourgeois researchers are now compelled to admit, population growth in the ex-colonial countries is itself accelerated by worsening poverty. Of every 10 children born to poor parents, 2 die within a year, another 1 by the age of five, and only 5 reach forty years of age. So a high birth rate is rendered necessary for survival of the family. And in conditions without social welfare, such as pensions, what alternative do parents have, apart from a large family, to provide for themselves in their old age?
Certainly mushrooming population adds enormously to the problems of the under-developed countries. But the most notable successes in controlling population growth have been in countries where capitalism has been overthrown. China, for example, has had distinct success in lowering the birth rate by means of material and moral incentives to families, which are only possible with a planned economy.
In India, by contrast, the regime carries out its population control programme against the will of the mass of the people who are affected—and indeed threatened—by it. Thus of the 20 million people so far sterilised, most have been subjected to intimidation and many to brute force.
In the capitalist countries of the under-developed world conditions will worsen abominably in the coming period. By the year 2000, world population is likely to be over 6 000 million. Africa alone will have roughly 830 million, of which an estimated 517 million will be under 25 years old.
Even the capitalists estimate that, to provide for this increase of population, the economies of the less developed countries would have to grow at more than double the rate between 1965 and 1974—the peak of the world capitalist boom! But there is not a single serious economist who argues today that even the previous rates of growth can be achieved again in the decades ahead.
Thus the masses will be driven again and again to seek the road to change society. The period ahead will be the most stormy in history. Through these storms human society will either find the way to a socialist future of progress, plenty, and the elimination of all forms of oppression and violence—or sink into barbarism and ultimately release upon itself the devastation of nuclear war.
A World Revolution in Progress
In the decades since the Second World War, the titanic struggles of the peoples of the under-developed world have driven back the direct military and political grip of imperialism. In Chapter 5 the general processes of the colonial revolution are explained. Here it is sufficient to summarise the essential developments.
Not only has colonial rule been overthrown in almost every country formerly subjugated. Also in an area covering one-third of the world’s population, the power of the local capitalists and landlords has been broken, allowing society to begin to move forward on the basis of a reorganised economy, with industry nationalised and centralised planning of production and trade.
Since the Chinese Revolution in 1949, North Korea, Cuba, Burma, Aden, Syria, Vietnam, Kampuchea, Mozambique, Angola, Ethiopia, Afghanistan and other countries have followed an essentially similar path. In the next period we will see this process repeated even more frequently.
However, the delay of the revolution in the industrialised countries of the West for several generations, and the rise of Stalinism out of the degeneration of the Russian Revolution, led to the weakening of the forces of genuine Marxism in the international working class movement for a whole historical period. This in turn led to a distortion of the revolutionary process in the colonial world, because of the weakness of the working class in these countries and the absence of a genuinely internationalist and Marxist leadership of the mass parties.
In every one of the countries where capitalism has been overthrown since the Second World War, a nationalist and bureaucratic form of workers’ state has been introduced. Bureaucratic castes have risen to power, entrenching their own privileges, and moving to suppress all elements of workers’ democracy in society.
These deformed workers’ states represent an enormous step forward, because even though it is on a distorted basis, they can take measures to develop the economy impossible on the basis of landlordism and capitalism, and begin to move society forward. Moreover these revolutions contribute to the changing balance of class forces against the imperialist bourgeoisie.
But, despite the nationalisation of the economy and the introduction of a plan, without workers’ democracy these countries cannot effect the transition to a socialist society. Furthermore, for the transition to socialism to be carried through, it is necessary for the productive forces of the modern world economy to be brought under the common ownership and democratic control of the producers.
Thus the socialist revolution can be carried to completion only as a world revolution, whose decisive victories must be accomplished in the imperialist countries themselves.
Although the post-war upswing of capitalism produced a relative calm in the class struggle in the advanced capitalist countries, it served to enormously strengthen the size and weight in society of the working class, and allowed the workers to build the power of their trade union organisations and parties. In the new period which is opening up, in which the capitalist class is compelled to attack the living standards and democratic rights of the working people everywhere, the strength of the working-class organisations provides a vital defence and a tremendous foundation for the revolutionary struggles which will necessarily unfold over the coming years.
But to carry through the overthrow of capitalism in a developed, industrialised country is the most difficult task history has ever posed. This is because of the complexity of the state, economy and society in these countries, every aspect of which has to be brought under the conscious control of the working people.
Not only has capitalist property to be nationalised; all the institutions of capitalist power, first and foremost the state, must be dismantled. New democratic organs of a workers’ state must be created. For these tasks to be carried out, the working class must rise consciously to its full potential.
Moreover, the whole world situation indicates that the tasks of the working class are not confined to the struggle against its own ‘national’ bourgeoisie in each country. National boundaries and antagonisms must be overcome on the basis of the socialist revolution, and the national economies further integrated on a planned and cooperative basis.
Only the working class, which has developed as an international class under international monopoly capitalism; which has repeatedly sought international unity in its struggle against the capitalists; which does not depend on vested national interests—only this class is capable of carrying such a transformation through.
Thus it is that, in all the countries where capitalism has been overthrown without the working class assuming the leadership of the struggle, and where the working class has been unable itself to take control of the new state and manage the planned economy, the national barriers have not been overcome. The same is true in relation to Russia, where the workers’ state, initially on healthy lines, remained isolated and underwent degeneration.
Thus, in all the deformed workers’ states, the national leaders have invariably proclaimed the task of building ‘socialism’ in their own countries alone. In reality this has meant protecting the national interests, positions and privileges of their own bureaucratic caste. The barriers to integrated production remain. COM-ECON (linking the economies of the Stalinist states of Eastern Europe) has scarcely been more integrated than the capitalist EEC. Even tiny Albania tries to build its own ball-bearing industry!
Simultaneously, this nationalist outlook has meant the dumping of true workers’ internationalism and its replacement by a cynical diplomacy. For the Soviet Union this has involved (to give only a few examples) at-tempts at friendship with the Shah’s hated regime in Iran, support for the Gandhi regime in India throughout its reign of terror, aid for a whole series of military dictators in Africa….
The Chinese leaders have even outdone the Soviet bureaucracy, supporting the Chilean junta, Yahya Khan against the Bangladeshi revolution, the counter-revolutionary forces of the FNLA and UNITA in Angola, etc. They even seek a bloc with United States imperialism against the USSR.
So-called ‘socialist countries’ are bitterly in conflict with one another, and even go to war. The Sino-Soviet split has reached the proportions of armed border conflicts on several occasions. There has been war between China and Vietnam, and between Vietnam and Kampuchea. Soviet Russia has invaded Hungary and Czechoslovakia to put down or avert struggles for workers’ democracy; and the invasion threat has only recently hung over Poland.
While the planned economy takes society forward, the ruling elites hold it back through mismanagement, corruption, nationalism, and their fear of democracy in the productive and political processes. The introduction of the one-party state, the privileged elite, the savage political in-fighting and the cult of the individual leader are all reminiscent of the era of Stalin in Russia.
Gradually they begin to choke all the economic and cultural gains which accrue from the expulsion of capitalism. Arbitrary decisions, low-quality goods and distorted cultural development are inevitable when what is produced, and how, is not subject to the management and control of the working masses.
But now, as the case of Poland shows, especially in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union conditions are ripening for the overthrow of bureaucratic dictatorship and the taking of power by the working class itself. This alone will allow the socialist transformation of these countries to be completed, in combination with the social revolution in the capitalist world.
The process of the political revolution against Stalinism is further explained in Chapter 4.
But whether the socialist revolution in the West or the political revolution in the East is carried through first, it requires just one important victory in an industrialised country for the whole world situation today to be totally altered. This is because of the readiness of the mass of people all over the world to change society, once a clear way forward to a better future is shown.
Only on the road of the world socialist revolution can the accumulated problems of humanity be overcome, the stains of past oppression and exploitation be washed away—and mankind pass on to the free and full development of all the marvellous potentialities latent in the human being.