From the June 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard
There is a tendency to attribute the spectacular events transpiring all over the globe to some special political activity on the part of individuals or groups; the economic aspect is relegated to the background or ignored altogether.
Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Roosevelt, Stalin or Chamberlain say or do something, and in the criticism or approval of their actions, the factor (the undertow of material need) which compels the ship of state of a nation to move in a certain direction or change its course is often not considered; not being visible, it is not generally observed.
A full and clear understanding of present-day events cannot be obtained by a perusal of the columns of the daily Press or the frothy literature of the Left; the best guide is Marx, particularly the third volume of Capital.
On page 300 he points out that: —
“If capital is sent abroad it is not done because there is absolutely no employment to be had for it at home. It is done because it can be employed at a higher rate of profit in a foreign country. But such capital is absolute surplus-capital for the employed labouring population and for the home country in general. It exists as such together with the relative over-population, and this is an illustration of the way in which both of them ; exist side by side and are conditioned on one another."
When the late War ended, certain groups of capitalists in the United States, Great Britain, and even France, eagerly advanced the means of exploitation to the bankrupt ruling class of Germany, and the aftermath, when studied in the light of Marx’s statement, helps to guide us to an understanding of the general situation. Foreign capitalists who still consider they have “interests" in Germany hope to realise on them some day; the cry of “Germany for the Germans” is not a pleasing sound to their ears, especially when it is accompanied by acts of expropriation that bid fair to eliminate all chances of obtaining a return on investments.
Hitler was and is backed by German capitalists who strongly object to the results of the exploitation of the German people going to any but German exploiters; it is from this that the policy of “National Socialism” arises, and if the wage slaves of the fatherland fall for it, we should condemn them no more harshly than we do those wage-slaves of Britain who are being seduced by the catch-phrase of “Democracy ”; the working class of both countries support their masters because they are ignorant of the fundamentals of their economic condition.
To return again to Marx, page 310, of the same volume:—
“The growing accumulation of capital implies its growing concentration. Thus the power of capital, the personification of the conditions of social production, in the capitalist, grows over the heads of the real producers. Capital shows itself more and more as a social power, whose agent the capitalist is, and which stands no longer in any possible relation to the things which the labour of any single individual can create. Capital becomes a strange, independent, social power, which stands opposed to society as a thing, and as the power of capitalists by means of this thing. The contradiction between capital as a general social power and as a power of private capitalists over the social conditions of production develops into an ever more irreconcilable clash, which implies the dissolution of these relations and the elaboration of the conditions of production into universal common social conditions. This elaboration is performed by the development of the productive powers under capitalist production, and by the course which this development pursues ” (italics mine).
The thought is often expressed that the coming of Fascism and Nazism is going to impede or prevent altogether the establishment of the social-order that Socialists are striving to bring into being. The above quotation, if studied closely, should dispel any gloomy view of the future.
Capitalism is an inverted pyramid, the base of which is continually getting narrower: concentration becomes more painful and the ruling class more ruthless in their struggles with one another.
The Jews are expropriated in Germany, the reason being that the capitalist class of another group saw an opportunity; the end is not yet.
Capitalism cannot go back. We are aided by invincible economic forces that are grinding into powder all opposition to the common ownership of the means of life.
War is in the air.
Why do the ruling class fear to take the plunge ?
"Force is the midwife of an old social order pregnant with a new one.”
What may follow the next war is something our masters do not like to contemplate. Let the voice of old Dietzgen reassure us: —
“Forward is our watchword, whether we like it or not.” . . .
“The political events are but the surface, but a ripple of what is raging in the depths of history, at the bottom of social life. He who has eyes to see, sees how every rising tide of freedom has in the last decades been thrown back by an ebb tide twice as strong. In all leading countries of Europe every political step forward is followed by a forcible reaction. The tri-coloured freedom alternates with Caesarism, Republics with Empires, lively enthusiasm with flabby apathy, each new era of liberty is followed by a Bismarck.”
" . . . France, in the person of M. Olliver, shows a strange attitude. Standing fast on one leg, she moves the other forward and backward, as if working the spinning-wheel of time. The wheel is diligently kept in motion, but no yarn comes out of it. Neither in Paris nor in London, neither in Madrid nor in Naples, neither in Berlin nor in Vienna.”
The above words were written before the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, and the likeness to the present situation can in some respects be traced.
"O, ye short-sighted and narrow-minded, who cannot give up the fad of the moderate organic progress. Don’t you perceive that all your great liberal passions sink to the level of mere trifling, because the great question of social salvation is on the order of the day?
"Don’t you perceive that struggle and destruction must precede peace and construction, and that chaotic accumulation of material is the necessary condition of systematic organisation, just as the calm precedes the tempest, and the latter the general purification of the air? . . . History stands still, because she gathers force for a great catastrophe.”