profit rate falling!

Charles Brown CharlesB at
Wed Mar 17 11:44:58 PST 1999

>>> <Apsken at> 03/17/99 01:40PM >>>
Charles Brown wrote:

"But I think the objective factors, the infrastructure for socialism and socialist revolution have been ready in the U.S. and Europe (not just Russia) since 1917 at least but really before."

KL: Capitalism has been historically reactionary since at least 1848 (i.e, the world has been capable of giving birth to socialism), if not earlier. But that is not to say capitalism has reached its outer limits; obviously it hasn't. By definition, it could not exist beyond its outer limit. The declining rate of profit, below a rate sufficient to sustain the system, IS an outer limit, if that prediction of Marx's is accurate.


CB: My thought on this is that capitalism regularly, through creative destruction, destroys a lot of capital to restart increasing the rate of profit. The tendency of the rate of profit to decline is periodically counterbalanced by crises. Capitalism can destroy and restart, destroy and restart forever , until the workers put an end to it.. For example "total wealth" must have dropped some with the world wars, but they were just restart up crises. As economist George Krikorian put it in 1990:

"Marxi's concept of "crisis" views crises s processes which not only demonstrate the historical limits of capitalism, but are also part of capitalism's renewal...We need at all times to distinguish what we mean by the term "crisis". A crisis for what and for whom? When we speak of a crisis for the working class, we need to distinguish between sections of the class. They are not all affected equally, and, in fact, some do well when others don't. In some cases, like the restructuring of basic industry, etc. ( in the 1980's U.S.), what we call a "structural crisis", is a crisis for the communities and workers affected, but not a crisis for the system or the companies involved. Indeed, I would argue that the structural crisis was, in fact, a process of renewal for capital. It allowed for the destruction of obsolete capital adn obsolete labor power ! It therefore allowed for a significant increase in the rate of profit, and hence a long period of accumulation , 1983 -1990."

CB: We have seen enough of capitalism's outer limits - crises and wars ,. permanent mass unemployment, poverty, crime, racism, etc., etc. -to get the hint that it has got to go.

KL: Those are terrible things, but they are not outer limits.


CB: What are examples of outer limits ?

((((((((((((((((((((((((((((( CB: There is no qualitatively different capitalist crisis than the ones and types we have seen already that Marx predicts will come and automatically be the one that people can't resist and then make a rev. or blow the whole world up into barbarism and ruin of the two contending classes.

KL: Not true, in my opinion. Alfred Sohn-Rethel's description of the difference in quality between capitalism based on relative surplus value ("free" wage labor) as against [Nazi] capitalism based on absolute surplus value (slavery), in his discourse on the relative powerlessness of Siemens and other modern industrial trusts as against the flourishing power of Krupp and other historically backward sectors in Weimar Germany, is one example of the distinction.

CB: But Nazism was not an outer limit of capitalism. Nazism has been gone for 55 years, and capitalism is still going.


CB: The objective factors and crises are overripe. It is refusal to see that the solution is socialism and the teachings of Marxism that stands in the way.

KL: I disagree. By this standard, the proletariat needs only to read Marx and agree; and revolution is an act of will. This is refuted best in Marx's Introduction to Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, as well as in Gramsci's insights on hegemony.

CB: In the main, political economy is only as exact as a natural science, to paraphrase the Intro to the Contrib. , in the sense that capital goes through its exploitation, accumulation circuits exactly as described in _Capital_ and then in history, the oppressed classes have been objectified and act object like. NOW, with the proletariat, it is class conscious workers who make the rev. Class conscious workers are distinguished by their subjective state from unconscious workers. It is true that if the proletariat did read Marx and agree this would probably be sufficient to make capitalism reach it's outer limit. However, since that is not likely, we have to think of other ways to get them the idea. Revolution is an act of collective consciousness of the masses.

Gramsci's theory has not resulted in a revolution yet.


CB: Yes, Lenin's formula is elementary. But not being able to live in the old way is subjective and objective. There is no mechanical formula as to the level of poverty or deprivation that people will not put up with.

KL: That isn't the distinction. These are not mystical categories. Whether one is or isn't subjective is determined by whether the parties to the condition do or do not have choices. When the choice of continuing in the old way no longer exits -- which today is not the case -- that reflects a qualitative change in objective reality.

CB: The lack of existence of the choice of continuing in the old way does not arise by a mechanical , objective formula. There is a significant subjective element as to when a particular group of people decides they're so mad they can't take it anymore, including having some faith in the new way that they will take on. The latter especially requires political economic education or propaganda. There are no (and Marx and Lenin described none) objective circumstances that just automatically give rise to a state of mind that "we can't live like this anymore."


CB: But at this point in history the objective factors have been ripe for many,many decades.

KL: Not such as to deny the choice of continuing "normal" capitalism.

CB: The "choice" has a subjective dimension


CB: The subjective factors have actually atrophied while the objective factors are more ripe than ever, overripe. What in the objective factors do you see that might arise that is new and more likely to generate revolution ? We have seen it all, haven't we ?

KL: No. Sohn-Rethel's (objective) example is just one.

CB: This can't be an objective example. There was no successful revolution in Germany in the period you describe.


KL: At the opposite (subjective) example, Gramsci's observation of the worker (and following on this insight, the class), often individually and subjectively incapable of articulating class interest, nevertheless after being firmly convinced once, doesn't require renewed confirmation, and thenceforth can only be denied by total defeat. Today's workers have not been vanquished, but haven't yet been "convinced" in the Gramscian sence. Gramsci's "organic intellectuals" are convinced by the ideas themselves, but his masses are convinced only by the exercise of class power, thus the essential subjective ingredient of dual power (as in Gramsci's pamphlet Soviets in Italy), and the need of Marxist strategy to aim at that above all else. All the rest is simply (continuing) defensive or offensive class struggle, but not revolutionary struggle.

CB: Well, yes, the convincing you mention is of the subjective factor by communists, not by the objective economic conditions. But also, Gramsci's theory has not been proven in practice yet, although I am not sure he is saying something different than I am on the issue we are discussing. Hegemony is significantly subjectively determined.

We have to win hearts and minds :>) .



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