The Workers' Struggle Against Fascism

Dora Longo Bahia, Paraíso – Consolação (project for Avenida Paulista), 2019 Acrylic, water-based pen and watercolor on paper (24 pieces) - 29.7 x 21 cm each


The workers, in all their divisions, had a large share in the illusions of commodity production and its political expression, in the illusions of democracy.

“Democracy” – a proper name for the traditional structure of today's capitalist society – is fighting a losing battle against the attacking forces of fascism (Nazism, Phalangism, Iron Guardian etc.). Workers wait. They seem to echo what their predecessors, the revolutionary workers of Paris in 1849, said about the final struggle between the leaders of a self-defeating liberal democracy and the quasi-fascist head of a new Napoleonic imperialism, Louis Bonaparte.

They say (as interpreted by Marx and Engels): “C'est une affaire pour Messieurs les burguois.” (This time, it's a matter to be settled between the bosses).

The “secret” underlying the verbal battles between “totalitarianism” and “anti-totalitarianism” and the most important diplomatic and military struggle between the Axis and the Anglo-American group of imperialist powers is the historical fact that the worst and most intimate The enemy of democracy today is not Herr Hitler, but "democracy" itself.

However, this is not a “split personality” problem, nor can it be explained as an “inferiority complex”, or “father complex”, or any other noble creation of Freudian psychology. It is not even a conflict between old age and youth, or, as Mrs Lindbergh puts it, between "the forces of the past and the forces of the future".

The real facts underlying all these ringing phrases are to be looked for nowhere else than – reinserting Marx – in the material basis of all ideological conflicts, that is, in the economic structure of contemporary society or in the impasse that modern capitalism has reached in current stage of its historical development.

Ambiguities of democracy

We must not, however, jump to conclusions. Before we explain the basic reasons for the ambiguities of "democracy" in its current "struggle" against the fascist challenge, we must deal a little more closely with the phenomenon itself. We must show that the assumed divide, although it does not exist in any psychological, anthropological or cosmic sense, still exists as a very real divide in what, for lack of a better term, we will continue to call the "class consciousness" of the ruling strata of society today. .

We will not waste time discussing the most conspicuous ways in which this condition manifests itself – a world war between two equally capitalist parties of that great capitalist power which rules the world today, and the open division of each of the countries fighting parties into opposing factions. Despite the fact that, in our truly “Chinese” era, all parties and factions strive above all to “save face” by hiding their own loans and borrowing their opponents' slogans and pretending “to not offer any solution”. Today it is clear enough that the same divisions that became visible in the collapse of Norway, Holland, Belgium and France exist and develop in various ways, both in real struggles and in “neutral” democracies. This in itself is enough to prove that the current "war" is fundamentally a "civil war" and will be decided in the future, exactly as it has been hitherto, not by the relative military strengths, not even by the economic strength of the combatant countries. , but with the help that the attacking force of fascism will get from its allies in the “democratic” countries. The main task of the following paragraphs is to deal with the less conspicuous way in which this internal conflict permeates the "consciousness" of every group, of every institution and, as it were, of every member of today's "democratic" society, but with the help that the attacking force of fascism will get from its allies in the “democratic” countries.

The American public today hates and fears the growing threat of fascism. A fervent interest in the various official and unofficial forms of the search for “Trojan horses” and “fifth columnists” is needed. It prepares for the defense of democratic traditions against the onslaught that is brought under our heels by the progress of the Nazi war in Europe, Africa and Asia. At the same time, a growing part of this American public is secretly convinced of the various material benefits that could be derived for the so-called elite and, to a lesser extent, for the mass of the people, from the acceptance of fascist methods in the field of economics, politics and, perhaps even for the promotion of so-called higher cultural and ideological interests. He is able to regard the very institutions and ideals for which he is prepared to "fight" as a kind of "fraux frais" of production, to conduct the business of modern and efficient administration and to fight a modern war. He never seriously considered "democratic" methods as a suitable means of running a major private company or, for that matter, a company-like union. I would prefer, on the whole, to have my cake and eat it too, i.e. to apply these surprisingly successful new methods to gain the greatest possible advantage while maintaining a viable “maximum” of traditional “democratic” amenities.

It is easy to see that this more or less platonic attachment to the great democratic tradition, despite the supposedly superior material advantages of fascist methods, offers little comfort for the real prospects of democracy in times of serious and hitherto unconquerable crisis. Indeed, a growing number of the most prominent spokespersons, the most vociferous "experts" and true friends of democracy are beginning to express serious doubts about whether their unyielding loyalty to the "underlying values ​​of the American democratic tradition" has not yet degenerated into a hobby. cost that the nation may or, in the long run, may not be able to afford. (This sentiment became more evident in the excessive response of most of the American “democratic” public to the Anne Lindbergh booklet.)

There are some definite fields in which even the most ardent opponents of the cruelty of fascist principles admit an undeniable superiority of totalitarian achievements. There is, for example, universal admiration for the splendid work done by Nazi propaganda. There is widespread belief in the complete success of the Nazi attack against the most incurable plagues of modern democratic society. Fascism is supposed to have abolished permanent mass unemployment and, with one bold stroke, released the brakes on free enterprise through wage disputes and labor unrest. There is tacit agreement that a wide-ranging adoption of fascist methods will be necessary in times of war.

an economic pythia

The most impressive testimony to present-day democracy's implicit belief in an overwhelming superiority of fascist methods can be found in an official document published in June 1939 by the Committee on National Resources, which deals with the basic features of The Structure of the American Economy.[1]. We will make full use of this report when we address the main question of our present investigation. For the moment, however, we disregard the important discoveries made by Dr. Gardiner C. Means and his team regarding the current state of the US economy. We will deal exclusively with predicting the chances of survival of the democratic principle which is revealed in the general statements contained in the introduction and conclusion.[2].

The authors of the report start from a striking description of the well-known “failure” of the current economic system to effectively use its gigantic resources: “Resources are wasted or used ineffectively, as parts of the organization become out of tune with each other, or as the organization fails in adjusting to new conditions; how individuals fail to find or are prevented from finding the most useful field of activity; how material resources are not utilized or how their effective use is impeded by human barriers; and how the most effective technology is not used or its use is impeded”.

They try to estimate and imagine the “magnitude of residuals” that resulted from this failure during the depression years and pre-depression years. According to this estimate, the depression loss in national income due to the idleness of men and machines between 1929 and 1937 was "in the magnitude of $200 billion in goods and services." That extra income would be enough to provide "a new $6.000 home for every family in the country." At that cost, “the entire rail system in the country could have been destroyed and rebuilt five times.” It is equivalent to the cost of rebuilding the country's entire existing "agricultural and industrial plant"[3]. Even at the peak of the pre-depression year, 1929, both production and national income could have increased by 19%, just by putting into operation the men and machines that were idle that year, even without the introduction of improved production techniques.[4].

The authors go on to deal with the “impact” of this waste on the community, reflected in the development of a “feeling of social frustration” and in “justified social unrest and inevitable friction”. They begin, however, to show a wavering in their democratic convictions when they proceed, in the next paragraph, to discuss the "tremendous opportunity" and the "great challenge" that this great waste of resources and manpower presents today to the American nation. Democracy's “great challenge” immediately takes on the ominous features of impending tragedy: “How long this opportunity will be open to American democracy is a serious question. The opportunity for a higher standard of living is so great, the social frustration at failure to achieve it so real, that no doubt other means will be sought if a democratic solution is not worked out. The time to find such a solution is not unlimited.” And they reveal their innermost feeling as to the likelihood of a "democratic solution" to this tremendous task by the very language in which they finally "state the problem" arising from the results of their investigation.

This problem, the basic problem facing economic statesmen today, can be stated as follows: How can we make effective use of our resources, yet at the same time preserve the underlying values ​​in our tradition of freedom and democracy? How can we employ our unemployed, how can we use our facilities and equipment to the fullest, how can we take advantage of modern technology? Yet in all this make the individual the source of value and individual fulfillment in society the basic aim? How can we achieve effective organization of resources, but at the same time retain maximum individual freedom of action?

That same defeatist feeling permeates, as it were, this entire otherwise more valuable official document. Nowhere is there an unequivocal attempt to claim for democratic principles any material value or usefulness to restore capitalism to the good old days or to promote a still greater expansion of the productive forces of the American economic community. There is nothing but a sentimental desire for a policy that would not be wholly incompatible with a more or less verbal loyalty to some remnants of the "democratic" and "liberal" traditions and what might still work, as well as the fascist methods, which they never question. Thus the whole proud attempt to conquer a new world of prosperity and full use of the resources and manpower of American democracy boils down to a pronouncement on the outcome of the imminent struggle between democracy and fascism which, in its sinister ambiguity, it rivals the well-known oracle of the priestess of Delphi. “If Croesus intends to conquer the country beyond the Halys, he will destroy a great empire,” said the oracle of ancient Greece. “If the current US government sets out to overcome the problems of unused resources and mass unemployment, it will destroy an important form of government,” echoes the economic oracle of our time.

A new battlefield

It seems from the foregoing observations that the workers are right to think twice before listening to the generous invitations extended to them each quarter, including most of their former leaders, to forget, for the time being, about their own grievances against the capital and unite wholeheartedly in the fight against the common enemy. Workers cannot participate in the “democracy struggle against fascism” for the simple reason that there is no such struggle. Fighting fascism means that workers in hitherto democratic countries are fighting first of all against the democratic branch of fascism within their own countries. In order to start their own fight against the new and more oppressive form of capitalism that is hidden in the various forms of pseudo-socialism offered to them today, they must first free themselves from the idea that it is still possible for current capitalism to “turn back the clock” and return to traditional pre-fascist capitalism. They must learn to fight fascism on its own ground, which, as we said earlier, is totally different from the very popular but in fact self-defeating advice that anti-fascists should learn to fight fascism by adopting fascist methods.

Leaving the ground on which the workers' class struggle against capitalism was waged in the previous era to the ground on which it must be continued today presupposes a complete vision of a historical fact which is no less a fact because it served as a base theory for the claims of fascism. This historical fact that has finally arrived today can be described, as a first approach, negative or positive, in any of the following terms: End of the market, End of competitive capitalism, “End of economic man”; Triumph of bureaucracy, administrative rule, monopoly capitalism; era of Russian four-year plans, Italian battles in wheat, German “Wehrwirtschaft”; Triumph of State Capitalism over Private Property and Individual Enterprise.

The tendency towards this transformation was first seen by early socialists in their criticism of the age-old hopes of the bourgeois apostles of free trade. Later this was increasingly neglected by socialist writers in an attempt to adapt their theories to the needs of progressive fractions of the bourgeoisie. When it was finally revived around the turn of the present century, it was already destined as we see it today – to serve not the purposes of the socialist revolution, but the aims of the imperceptibly growing counter-revolution. We shall now see that today any further denial of the fait accompli has become impossible, even for ardent defenders of the traditional dreams of bourgeois economics.

the corporate community

For a more detailed description and factual confirmation of this general statement, we turn again to the document discussed above, which contains, as far as the writer can see, by far the most comprehensive, most reliable, and at the same time most dramatic information presented on the subject. . When this government report on the structure of the American economy became known to the American public, the main sensation was created by its careful statistical proof that even the wildest estimates made earlier were far below the degree of monopoly concentration actually achieved by the American economy. . According to the statistics provided and explained in Chapters 7 and 9 and Appendices 9 to 13 of the report – which update figures published in 1930 by Berle and Means in The Modern Corporation and Private Property – the top 1935 manufacturing companies in this country in 20,7 employed 32,4% of all labor involved in manufacturing; represented 24,7% of the value of products reported by all factories; and contributed XNUMX% of all value added in manufacturing activity.

While there are some cases where these large companies cover almost the entire sector (steel, oil, refining, rubber and cigarette manufacturing), manufacturing industries, on average, cannot compete with the much higher degree of concentration achieved by railways and public services. Of the total number of the two hundred “largest non-financial companies listed in the report, approximately half are rail and utilities; Railroads included on this list in 1935 operated more than 90% of the nation's rail mileage, while utilities accounted for 80% of electrical power production, for most US telephone and telegraph services, and much of the rapid transit facility. from New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and Baltimore. No less surprising are the figures for the fifty “largest financial companies”, including thirty banks, seventeen life insurance companies and three mutual funds, each with assets of more than $200 million. The thirty banks together hold 34,3% of the nation's banking assets outside the Federal Reserve Banks, while the seventeen life insurance companies account for more than 81,5% of the assets of all life insurance companies. There is an equally high degree of concentration in the field of government activities. The twenty “largest government units” together employ 46% of all labor employed in government, excluding job assistance programs. The largest, the federal government, is by far the largest single "corporation" in the country; the post office alone in 1935 employed almost as many people as the largest corporate employer.

All these numbers, however, do not tell half the story of American business concentration. Much more is shown by a division of the total number into broad industrial categories, and by an investigation of the growth in the relative importance of all non-financial corporations in 1909 to over fifty-four percent in 1933. And the whole picture begins to reveal itself. its true meaning when the report goes to great lengths to show the tremendous degree of interrelationships through which “the managements of most large companies are brought together in what might be called a corporate community” [KK italics]. This is indeed an image that can cure the illusions of the most innocent believers in that "spirit of free enterprise" which must be protected by "all means other than war" from the sinister threat of "totalitarianism". There is very little difference between this economic "coordination" which is achieved, and sometimes not achieved, by the political edicts of victorious Nazism, Fascism and Bolshevism, and this new "corporate community" which has been created by a slow but relentless process in this country through from the system of “linked directorates”, through the activities of the main financial institutions, through special interest groups, through companies that provide legal, accounting and similar services to large companies, through “shareholdings” and various other devices.

After careful study of the workings of all these different devices, the report reaches its climax, revealing that no less than 106 of the aforementioned 250 largest industrial and financial companies and nearly two-thirds of their combined assets are controlled by just “eight or more groups less clearly defined interests. (Even this estimate, as pointed out by the authors themselves, falls far short of reality: “No attempt is made to include the assets of smaller companies that fall within the same sphere of influence, although many may be named.” More important shortcomings will be discussed. below.) To give an idea of ​​the importance of this fact, we must restrict ourselves to some data relating to each of these eight groups of mammoths.

(1) Morgan-First National. It includes thirteen industrial companies, twelve utility companies, eleven major railroads or rail systems (controlling 26% of the country's rail mileage), and five banks. Total assets:

(2) Rockefeller. It controls six oil companies (successors to the dissolved Standard Oil Co.), which represent $4.262 million, or more than half of the total assets of the oil industry, and one bank (Chase National, the largest bank in the country; assets: 2.351 million dollars).

(3) Kuhn, Loeb. It controls thirteen major railroads or rail systems (22% of the country's rail mileage), a concessionaire, and a bank. Total assets: 10.853 million dollars.

(4) Mellon. It controls about nine industrial companies, a railroad, two concessionaires, two banks. Total assets: 3,332 million dollars.

(5) Chicago Group. It controls, based on interconnected directorates, four industrial companies, three public service companies and four banks. Total assets: 4.266 million dollars.

(6) DuPont. It comprises three high-ranking industrial companies and a bank. Total assets: 2.628 million dollars.

(7) Cleveland Group. Mather's interests control, through Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Co., the four so-called independent steel mills; controls two other industrial companies and a bank. Total assets: 1.404 million dollars.

(8) Boston group. It includes four industrial companies, two utility companies, a bank. Total assets: 1.719 million dollars.

In interpreting this list, the reader should keep in mind that it is far from complete. As we have seen, the authors, in principle, considered only interconnections between the 250 largest non-financial and financial companies. Even within these limits, many companies that “are closely related to one or another of these groups” were left out for technical reasons. For example, the giant International Paper and Power Corporation, which is equally closely related to Boston and Rockefeller, was therefore not assigned to the Boston and Rockefeller groups. Ten equally important links between the eight major stakeholders are considered in the appendix but are only lightly addressed in the body of the report.

Even with these constraints, the corporate community described in this report appears as an important concentration of economic power and therefore also political power. The report does not deny the importance of the controls that the corporate community "exerts over the policies of large companies, affecting the entire US economy." It is equally aware of its political significance. Just as the controls exercised by organized interest groups – the large associations of capital and labor, by farmers' and consumers' organizations, operate through government, so do “some of the controls exercised by the corporate community operate through government”. However, the report says: “It is not intended to suggest that these aggregations of capital act as a unit under the rule of individual or oligarchic dictatorships. The social and economic content of the relationships that unite them is much more subtle and varied than that.” It would not be easy to determine exactly what degree of subtlety and variety separates a democratic exercise from a dictatorial exercise of uncontrolled power. Instead, we must trust the judgment of our experts when they tell us that the corporate community that exists in America today is not a dictatorship; it is just a “concentration of economic leadership in the hands of a few”.

the end of the market

The above description of the degree of concentration achieved by American capitalism does not, by itself, answer the crucial question of whether the current structure of this economy still conforms to the traditional principles of “democratic” capitalism, or whether it already assumes the characteristics of the current one. Nazi, Fascist and Bolshevik economics. Recent history has shown that a "totalitarian" form of government could be imposed on the comparatively backward economies of Russia, Italy, Spain and so on, on the most highly concentrated type of capitalist economy that existed in Germany. On the other hand, it would be “theoretically” possible to imagine a development whereby a highly concentrated capitalist economy would still retain, in unaltered form, the entire internal structure of nineteenth-century capitalism.

The real truth which is revealed elsewhere and, to the writer, the most significant part of Dr. Means is that this miracle did not happen and that, on the contrary, the external change in the structure of the American economy was accompanied by an even more incisive transformation in its internal structure and operational policies.

Today, the American economy no longer receives its decisive impulses from the competition of individual companies in an uncontrolled ("free") market, but has become, in general, a rigged system. Goods are still produced as commodities. There is still something called “prices” and there are still the three capitalist “markets” – goods, labor and securities. There are still some considerable areas in which the “price of an article can still act, in a way, as a regulator of production”. “The proportion of cotton and corn planted on Arkansas farms varies from year to year with changing relationships in the prices of these crops, and reflects the operation of markets as an organizing influence.” However, outside of these increasingly restricted areas – agricultural products and listed securities – most “prices”, including labor rates, are no longer set on the free market. They are manipulated by management decisions that are influenced to a varying extent, but no longer – as in the past – rigorously and directly determined by market conditions. This appears, for example, in the wholesale price of automobiles and agricultural implements that are defined and changed from time to time by the respective manufacturers and, therefore, result from “administrative” decisions.

The reader must be careful here to distinguish between those elements of the "managerial" organization of production which have existed for a long time and which have changed only in degree of importance, and this other aspect which is entirely new and is still largely ignored by traditionally minded economists. .

The simple fact that administrative rule replaces the market mechanism in coordinating economic activities within the confines of a single enterprise is nothing new to the Marxist. It is true that even this fact takes on new importance under conditions of modern concentration, as in the case of the largest American company, AT&T. The activities of more than 450.000 people are coordinated in an administrative system. It is also true that there has been a large increase in the extent to which the economic activities of the producing community are coordinated administratively (within individual firms) compared to those in which they are still coordinated through changing prices and the interaction of large numbers of sellers. and independent buyers in the market.

The decisive problem, however, which must be investigated if one is to understand the process which has recently undermined the traditional democratic character of American society is contained in the question of the extent to which this shift in proportion is reflected in the entire structure and operation of the American economy. current. It is to the great credit of the authors of this report that they investigated this critical problem to the fullest and that they are absolutely unequivocal and frank about the results of their investigation. According to them, the American economy as a whole has been transformed “from one regulated by impersonal competition to one in which policies are administratively determined”.

They never tire of repeating this most important result and describing in more impressive terms the "significance of the broad role of administrative prices" which seems to be "inherent in the modern economy" and constitute "an integral part of the structure of economic activity". They repeatedly insist that “as much of a role as price management may have played in the early years of this century, there can be little doubt that it plays a dominant role today.”[5].

There is not space here to describe in detail the 101 methods and devices by which prices, apparently established by the law of supply and demand in an open market, are in fact manipulated and controlled by very defined “price policies” of the decisive strata of “ corporate community”. These controls may originate from one or different foci of control. “The strands of control over labor policy can be divided between the corporation and a union, some with corporate management and others with union officials; lines of control over some aspects of policy may lie with government bodies, as in the case of minimum labor standards or public utility regulations; still other topics may fall to some dominant buyer, or a supplier of raw materials or services, etc.” Furthermore, they can be direct and immediate or indirect and intangible. “They can operate simply by establishing a climate of opinion within which policies are developed.”

They may be entirely informal or they may be carried out in a formal setting, and in many cases the formal and actual lines of control will differ. They arise from three main sources: ownership of one or more of the “factors of production”, ownership of liquid assets and, most importantly, position in relation to a going concern.

The key thing to understand is that the new structure of controls that emerges from these various forms of non-market control (1) is entirely a child of modern times and (2) has been around for a long time.

The controls exercised over prices and markets on a national scale by the main members of the industrial community surpass in importance the known non-market controls hitherto exercised by financial institutions through the management of investment funds – the so-called supremacy of financial capital. Indeed, as demonstrated by recent investigations not yet included in this report, most of today's largest business enterprises are self-funded and no longer dependent on the help of the loan shark and their organizations. The strictly “private” controls exercised by the administrative acts of members of the corporate community are even more important than the old and new forms of non-market control exercised by government (federal, state and local) through its fiscal policies through the protection of ownership and enforcement of contracts, and so on.

Nor can the influence exerted on the market by the action of a few powerful pressure groups be considered a transitory and not “normal” encroachment on the normal activities of commerce – just as the influences exerted on the US Congress by political pressure groups in Washington can be considered an anomaly. The corporate community constitution became the actual US constitution.

There remains the question of how this new system works. How do “management-dominated prices”, which change from time to time, replace the virtually unlimited flexibility of market prices, both in reaction to different phases of the industrial cycle (boom and bust) and to technologically conditioned structural changes? The Doctor. Means and his team are inclined to take a very optimistic attitude about how the new type of management-dominated pricing works. They clearly see certain “violent distortions” that arose during the years of the last depression and the subsequent “recovery” of the differential behavior of the two types of prices that coexist in the American economy: “Between 1929 and 1932, there was a considerable fall in the price index wholesale, but this fall was compounded by a sharp fall in market-dominated commodity prices, and there was only a very small or no fall in most prices subject to extensive administrative control. In the recovery period from 1932 to 1937 much of this distortion was eliminated [perhaps new distortions were created? -KK] by the large increases in market-dominated prices and the relatively small increase in most management-dominated prices.”

However, they do not attribute this disturbance to the new phenomenon of price management control. They prefer to take it for granted that the market, while "in theory" still capable of acting as an organizing influence, in fact no longer acts in this beneficial way. On the other hand, they proved with satisfaction that the degree of flexibility resulting from administrative regulation of most prices for goods, labor and securities seems sufficient to allow the gradual readjustment of price relations to reflect the gradual changes in desires, resources and production techniques, if the level of economic activity were reasonably well maintained [KK emphasis]. Thus, for the authors of this report, “the serious distortions in the price structure resulting from the differential sensitivity of prices to the influence of the depression reflect a disorganizing and non-organizing role that the market can play” (p. 152).

This statement may be acceptable to us, equally convinced – albeit from a completely opposite point of view – of the impossibility of maintaining or restoring the traditional forms of the capitalist economy. It seems, however, that they take too much for granted if they assume that the level of economic activity could be reasonably well maintained under the existing conditions of "democratic" society. They don't tell us in what ways they think this condition will be better served in the near future than in the recent past. It is quite possible that this omission brings, on the part of the authors, an unconscious anticipation of a future dictator who will fill this apparent gap in the structure of the American economy. The only hint of a solution to this crucial problem that we could uncover in the report is its pathetic call for "greater understanding of the problem by business leaders, labor leaders, agricultural leaders, political leaders and other leaders of public thought".

The workers' point of view

We do not intend to discuss the “task” of the workers. Workers have long done other people's tasks, imposed on them under the ringing names of humanity, human progress, justice and freedom, etc. It is one of the redeeming features of a bad situation that some of the illusions, hitherto surviving among the working class of its past participation in the revolutionary struggle of the bourgeoisie against feudal society, have finally been exploded. The only “job” for workers, as for all other classes, is to take care of themselves.

The first thing workers can do is make it absolutely clear to themselves that the old system of “free trade”, “free competition” and “democracy” has come to an end. It doesn't matter so much whether we describe the new system that replaced it in terms of "monopoly capitalism", "state capitalism" or "corporate state". The latter term seems more appropriate to the writer, for the reason that it recalls at the same time the name given to the new totalitarian form of society after the rise of fascism in Italy twenty years ago. There is, however, a difference. The US corporate community still only represents the “economic base” of a full-fledged totalitarian system, not its political and ideological superstructure. On the other hand, it could be said that in backward countries like Italy and Spain there is still only a totalitarian superstructure, without a fully developed economic base.

As for "monopoly", there is no doubt that every increasing concentration of capital amounts to an increase in monopoly. The term itself, however, changed its meaning, as a predominantly competitive economy was replaced by a predominantly monopolistic system. While "monopoly" was considered an exception, if not an abuse, the emphasis was on the "excessive" and "unfair" profits derived from a monopolistic position within a competitive economy. An observation made by Marx in an early critique of Proudhon has recently been unconsciously accepted by a growing number of bourgeois economists. “Competition,” said Marx, “implies monopoly, and monopoly implies competition.” Thus, the terms "monopoly" and "competition" have recently been redefined to refer to the "elements of a situation" rather than the situation itself, which as a whole is neither fully monopolistic nor fully competitive. In a sense, it can be said today that all (or most) profits are essentially monopoly profits, just as most prices have become monopoly prices. Monopoly has become not an exceptional but a general condition of today's economy.

Therefore, it is quite correct to describe the historical process discussed here as a transition from competitive capitalism to monopoly capitalism; but the term monopoly, by the very generalization of the condition to which it refers, has become an entirely descriptive term, no longer fit to arouse any specific moral indignation.

Likewise, there is no serious harm in describing the US economy as a system of “state capitalism”. However, this description does not fit American conditions as well as it does the general pattern of German and other European societies. Despite the special powers of coercion vested only in political officials, administrative decisions emanating from the various economic enterprises controlled by the government have become the most important influences exerted by the government on the functioning of the US economy. They are coordinated with all other forms of non-market controls which, together with the remaining remnants of market controls, constitute the essential features of the “structure of control” of the current economic system. The authors of the report use the terms “administration”, “administrative rules” and so on, with reference to all types of non-market controls, whether they originate from government agencies, from different types of organizations based on commercial interests (or, in this case, in work, farmer, consumer interests) or private companies and combine. There is no doubt that the government's position will be considerably strengthened in the event of war. But even this would not be a decisive reason for calling the existing system of the American economy "state capitalism", since the same condition will hold in all countries at war, whether backward or fully developed, "competitive" or "monopolistic". ”, whether based on a dispersed or concentrated system of capitalist production.

The second thing that workers are expected to do, once the importance of changing the basic conditions of the capitalist economy has been fully experienced and understood by them, is to reorganize their hitherto most cherished revolutionary and class ideas. When Marx described capitalist society as being fundamentally a “commodity production”, that term included for him – and should include for all those who would be able to understand the “dialectical” jargon peculiar to the old Hegelian philosophy – all the suppression and exploitation of workers in a fully developed capitalist society, the class struggle and its ever-increasing forms, up to the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism and its replacement by a socialist society. That's fine, as far as it goes, except that today it should be translated into a language that's less mysterious and a lot more distinct and frank. But Marx's emphasis on "commodity production" included something else, and this time something that may well have become inappropriate for the workers' struggle against the two kinds of "corporate state" that exist in fascist and so-called democratic countries. today.

The emphasis on the principle of commodity production, i.e., production for exchange by an anonymous and ever-expanding market, was at the same time an emphasis on the positive and progressive functions that capitalism was supposed to fulfill in expanding modern “civilized” society throughout the world. world and, as Marx said, “Turning the whole world into a gigantic market for capitalist production.” All kinds of illusions were inevitably connected with that great enterprise which was carried on, as it were, by humanity itself. All problems seemed to be solvable, all contradictions and conflicts transitory, and the greatest possible happiness for the greatest possible number.

The workers, in all their divisions, played a large part in these illusions of commodity production and their political expression, in the illusions of democracy. They shared them with all other suppressed minorities and progressive strata of capitalist society – Jews, blacks, pacifists. All "reformism" and "revisionism" that distracted the workers' energies from their revolutionary goals was based on these illusions. The very advent of fascism in the world and its intrusion into the inner sanctums of traditional democracy finally shattered the force of these illusions. In a later article we will try to trace the positive features of a new program for the workers in their fight against the class enemy in its new and more oppressive form which is at the same time more transparent and more exposed to its attack.

*karl korsch (1886-1961) was a professor at Tulane University (USA). Author, among other books, of Marxism and philosophy (UFRJ).

Translation: Leonardo da Cruz Boesing for the magazine ruthless criticism .

Originally published in the newspaper Living Marxism, winter of 1941.



[1] For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, Washington, DC; vii; 396 pp.

[2] Cf. pp. 1-5, 171. All quotations in the following paragraphs, unless otherwise marked, are taken from these pages. [Emphasis by KK]

[3] Cf. P. 27.

[4] Cf. America's Production Capability, Brookings Institution, p. 422. Quoted – p. 3).

[5] Cf. 116, 145, 155, 333, etc.



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