By Brian JowellsIn a serious admission the Financial Times, which cannot be accused of pro-socialist bias, has set out the facts on how capitalism, at least in the imperialist economies, now makes you worse off. In an article under the title ‘Spectre of stagnating incomes stalks globe’ it notes:‘In the postwar years, there was a belief in developed economies that each generation could expect to have materially better living standards than their parents. Yet the outlook for income growth has rarely looked worse than it does today…
First published: Autumn 1991
This article was first published in Socialist Action in Autumn 1991. Its prognosis – that the reintroduction of capitalism would devastate those economies, reduce hundreds of millions of people to poverty and result in steps towards capitalist dictatorship – has been amply confirmed by events. The text is reproduced in full with only stylistic corrections.
Economic catastrophe is sweeping Eastern Europe and the former USSR with the reintroduction of capitalism. It is bringing the rise of racism, reactionary nationalism, and moves to capitalist dictatorship. Stalinism in Eastern Europe, by repelling the working classes from socialism, brought these countries to the brink of disaster. However, the subsequent assault on the working class and the violent moves of these societies to the right, which have accompanied the re-introduction of capitalism, completely discredited those in the West who believed that the events after 1989 in Eastern Europe – the introduction of capitalist governments – represented a way forward. Instead they confront the working class with the threat of the greatest defeats in its history and the unfolding of a period of unparalleled reaction in Europe – and internationally. In fighting the consequences of this for Eastern Europe and the former USSR the left, above all, needs an economic programme that both opposes the reintroduction of capitalism and is a planned alternative to the course launched by Stalinism. The most important of these historically was Trotsky’s economic policy for the Soviet Union – put forward directly against Stalin. This supplement outlines the economic positions of the Left Opposition in the USSR.
[Continued from Part 1]
From the fact that it was not possible to resolve all contradictions within the Soviet economy on the basis of the economy of one country, however, did not follow that nothing could be done in the USSR itself. Quite the contrary, from the difficulties it flowed that everything possible should be done. The point was simply that socialism in one country and the classic Marxist analysis outlined by Trotsky led to diametrically opposite conclusions as to what should be done. As Trotsky noted: ‘In general, within the boundaries of a single nation, it is impossible to completely overcome the difficulties resulting from the delay in the world revolution. This should be said clearly, firmly and honestly, in a Marxist and Leninist way. But although the fate of the revolution is a function of its international character, it does not follow that the party in each country is relieved of the duty to do the maximum in all areas. On the contrary, this obligation only increases, because the economic errors made in the USSR not only retard the building of socialism in our country, but strike in the most direct way at the world revolution.’ 
He noted: ‘A [genuine] left course could not promise to build “full socialism” by our efforts alone. It could not even promise a complete triumph over the contradictions within the country, as long as world contradictions exist. But it could gradually establish more correct control over the domestic class contradictions – more correct from the standpoint of socialism under construction. It could quicken the rate of growth, through a more correct policy of distributing the national income. It could consolidate in a more systematic and serious way the proletariat’s hold on the commanding heights of the economy.’ 
[Continued from Part 2]
It was from the angle of proportions in the economy, not micro decision-making, self management, that the issues of the relation of democracy and economics were most fundamentally posed. Democratic resolution of the plan, to decide the allocation of resources, was the decisive issue. As Trotsky noted: ‘The problem of the elements of production and the branches of the economy constitutes the very heart of socialist economy.’ 
First published: July 1996‘The completion of the socialist revolution within national limits is unthinkable. One of the basic reasons for the crisis in bourgeois society is the fact that the productive forces created by it can no longer be reconciled with the framework of the national state. From this follow, on the one hand, imperialist wars, on the other, the utopia of a bourgeois United States of Europe. The socialist revolution begins on the national arena, it unfolds on the international arena, and is completed on the world arena. Thus, the socialist revolution becomes a permanent revolution in a news and broader sense of the word; it attains completion only in the final victory of the new society on our entire planet.’ – TrotskyThe social explosion in France at the end of last year, and the new wave of cuts in public spending planned in Germany, France, Spain, Belgium and other states, show the contradictions in which those on the left who supported the Treaty of Maastricht now find themselves. They endorse the very agreement which is co-ordinating the attacks on the welfare state on a European Union wide level and, in doing so, place themselves on a collision course with every section of the European labour movement acting to defend the welfare state.
First published: May 1993The consideration of inter-imperialist competition is frequently not integrated into the body of Marxist economic analysis, which is too often seen as relating to the study of the workplace or to national capitalism, with inter-imperialist competition running ‘parallel’ to this. This is radically wrong.The starting point of Marx’s analysis is the development of ‘capital in general’ or ‘the capital of the whole society’ . This is sometimes taken to be the capital in a nation state, but this is wrong.  Capitalism is an international system in which the world economy is dominant. The decline in the rate of profit throughout the 1960s and 1970s, from which capital has still not recovered and which is the driving force of the present crisis, was an international decline working itself out in all countries.But capital as it actually exists is not ‘capital in general’. As Marx put it: ‘In their actual movement capitals confront each other in certain concrete forms’.  Capital exists as different firms, and different nations with different companies and trusts, in competition with each other. It exists, as Marx put it, as ‘many capitals’. Competition between these capitals is the ‘essential locomotive force of the bourgeois economy’.  Competition is the mechanism by which the fundamental laws of the capitalist economy work themselves out.
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