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The nature of World War II

1st October 1995 Socialist Action 0

First published: October 1995

World War II, the fiftieth anniversary of which has been celebrated recently, set the entire framework for current world politics. It was incomparably the greatest armed conflict in human history. But it was also something more. It was the greatest class struggle in the twentieth century.

The first problem in approaching World War II is its sheer size. With fifty million dead – thirty million of them in eastern Europe – with war on three continents, with the greatest number of people under arms in human history, it bears the same sort of relation to a strike that the Himalayas do an anthill.

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Women, the family and the welfare state

1st July 1995 Socialist Action 0

First published: July 1995    

Since the Second World War the position of women in society has progressively advanced. The driving force of this was the mass entry of women into the workforce. But its consequences spread into all spheres of society – the education system, rights to divorce, abortion and contraception, equality legislation, legal, economic and property rights and the massive expansion of social provision via the welfare state. Today women face the first sustained attempt to roll back these gains, not by driving women out of the workforce, but by dismantling the welfare state.

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Which class will organise an international economy?

1st January 1995 Socialist Action 0

First published: January 1995

The most important strategic debate in the international labour movement since Marx and Engels was that which took place between Stalin, Bukharin and Trotsky in the Soviet Union in the 1920s. The fundamental issue at the core of that debate was Stalin and Bukharin’s strategy of ‘socialism in one country’. Although Stalin resolved the debate by liquidating his opponents, he could not liquidate the real contradictions which gave rise to the conflict. Those remain the fundamental driving forces of the crisis which has unfolded in Russia since Yeltsin came to power in August 1991. As the Russian working class faces a struggle with capital today as desperate as 1917 and 1941, the starting point for a theoretical understanding of that struggle remains the issue of socialism in one country.

The issue of ‘socialism in one country’ is the most fundamental question of socialist strategy in the twentieth century. Trotsky regarded this issue – not, for example, democracy or the popular front – as the fundamental point of divide between Stalin and Bukharin; between what he called ‘national reformism’ and Marxism.

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Marx on hegemony

1st September 1993 Socialist Action 0

First published: September 1993

Socialist Action gives tremendous emphasis to the international class struggle, the struggle of women, the black community, and all sections of the oppressed as part of working class politics. But it does not treat these simply as individual questions, vital as each is separately. Socialist Action seeks to integrate them in a hegemonic strategy – that is, one in which the labour movement champions the demands of all the exploited and oppressed. Such an emphasis is not a peripheral question but at the core of Marxism. We consider the origins of the idea of hegemony in the views of Marx and its place in socialist strategy.

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How the United States, Japan and Germany are crushing the EEC

1st May 1993 Socialist Action 0

First published: Spring 1993

The electoral collapse of the French and Italian Socialist Parties signals the demise of Euro-socialism, the dominant current in the West European labour movement for the last decade. This is simply the latest symptom of the crisis of the European Community. The EEC is being ground between the external competitive pressure of the United States and Japan, and the internal dominance of the unified Germany. Rather than offering reforms, Maastricht proposes to dismantle the welfare state in Western Europe. The rise of the extreme right and the collapse of Euro-socialism are logical results.

In Europe imperialism is suffering its first substantial reverses since Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union. At the beginning of 1992 imperialism recorded an historic triumph with the installation of a capitalist government under Yeltsin in Russia. But a year later Yeltsin had lost his majority in the Congress of People’s Deputies. George Bush failed to secure re-election in the United States, Japan faced financial crisis and the European Monetary System came apart at the seams. Thus the re-charged imperialist system, which delivered Washington’s triumphs at the end of the 1980s, has started to exhaust itself.

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Marxism and inter-imperialist competition

1st May 1993 Socialist Action 0

First published: May 1993

The 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’ [1]. This is sometimes taken to be the capital in a nation state, but this is wrong. [2] 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’. [3] 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’.  [4] Competition is the mechanism by which the fundamental laws of the capitalist economy work themselves out.