The capitalist class so tightly dominates the media that when, once in a great while, there appears in the press what appears to be a serious criticism of the capitalist system, it becomes nothing less than a cause célèbre.
Progressives welcome it with open arms. And since a critical piece on capitalism is such an extraordinary event, its essence is often not really analyzed.
Take for instance the opinion piece that appeared in the New York Times of May 23 headlined, "Is Capitalism Doomed?" Certainly this has much attractive force for those in the working-class and progressive movement. The fact that it is written by one Benjamin C. Schwarz, described as a foreign policy analyst, may add to its prestige. He is from the Rand Corporation, a reactionary thinktank for the Pentagon.
Capitalism is understood by millions of workers throughout the world as a system of extensive oppression and exploitation of the workers. Its servants are dedicated to advancing the cause of the capitalist class.
But this article is not about capitalism at all. It is about geopolitics, or more accurately, the geopolitics of the Pentagon.
A stable of Pentagon intellectuals
What Schwarz has to say is not nearly as important as who sponsors him. The Rand Corporation is a reactionary grouping of intellectuals, scientists, ex-lawmakers and the like who spend their time thinking up all sorts of schemes and apologies in order to strengthen the stranglehold that U.S. capitalism has on the masses.
All this would not really merit a commentary except that he goes to considerable lengths to remind his readers that sometime in 1992 the Pentagon issued a draft Defense Planning Guidance.
We subjected this statement to considerable analysis when it appeared. At that time, it struck us as one of the most bombastic, jingoistic and chauvinist statements to appear in what has all the earmarks of an official document. It was given the full treatment in the New York Times of March 8, 1992.
The so-called Planning Guidance was full of both veiled and open threats to the imperialist allies of the U.S. Allies, mind you, not adversaries. In a passage that should have astonished anybody reading it, the Pentagon analysts said that the U.S. must continue to dominate the international system by "discouraging the advanced industrialized nations from challenging our leadership or even aspiring to a larger global or regional role."
They shouldn't even aspire to challenge the Pentagon! Such a statement must have attracted public attention in the U.S. as well as the rest of the world. Yet until now, we never saw it referred to again.
Perhaps the Pentagon's threats of 1992 either had no effect or in their view needed to be reemphasized to make sure that the point is brought across in no unmistaken terms to the allies and to the world as a whole.
So Schwarz repeated this section of the Pentagon draft statement in his article. That's the sum and substance of it.
However, all this has to be dressed up or camouflaged in such a way as to give it the appearance of a learned thesis. Actually, it is nothing but rubbish. But we are compelled to go through at least some of it.
`Protector of the global economy'
Take, for instance, the call-out which summarizes the main point of the article. It reads, "Global prosperity depends on U.S. hegemony." In this briefest of all sentences, the writer arrogates to the U.S. and the Pentagon not only the role of protector of the global economy but also the dispenser of prosperity.
How could such an arrogant statement be made without the slightest attention to plain, blunt facts? There could be many questions raised about this statement. We would like to ask just one: Did the Wall Street crash of October 1929 dispense prosperity throughout the world?
Not that we want to attribute the nature of the capitalist crisis to the evil machinations of Wall Street bankers or shady capitalist politicians. Capitalist crises, Marx and Engels pointed out as long ago as 1848 in the The Communist Manifesto, grow out of the nature of the system.
"Modern bourgeois society with its relations of production, of exchange and of property," they wrote in a famous passage, "a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer, who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells.... In [capitalist] crises a great part not only of the existing products, but also of the previously created productive forces, are periodically destroyed. In these crises there breaks out an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity--the epidemic of over-production."
The burden of being world police
It's not difficult, of course, to arrogate to the Pentagon the role of world police. But what interests us is the novel way in which it is now posed.
Schwarz's thesis is that high technology is driving forward the development of a global economy, which requires a "hegemonic state"--the U.S.--to assure global "peace and prosperity." But, says Schwarz, the tremendous cost of "imposing a protectorate over two-thirds of the world economy" means that the U.S. "must spend more on national security than the rest of the world combined."
The result, he says, is that the U.S. has had to "divert capital and creativity from the civilian sector, even as other states, freed from onerous spending for security, add resources to economically productive investments.... America's declining advantage will spur the emergence of great power rivals, requiring the U.S. to spend more on defense to maintain its preponderance, which only further deteriorates its comparative advantage."
He warns that this unmitigated disaster can lead to the destruction of capitalism.
The blame for the impending bankruptcy is put not on the U.S. capitalist class but on the shoulders of its imperialist allies, who are taking advantage of the U.S. preoccupation with military expenditures.
The phrase "two-thirds of the world" is a way of obliquely assigning China the role of principal opponent of the U.S.
To take some of this from the beginning, we must ask why high technology has to lead to world domination by a hegemonic state, or for that matter by any state at all? Why can't it lead to a peaceful world?
A state is an instrument of suppression of one class by another. Schwarz cannot conceive of the development of high technology without an instrument of suppression, that is, without a state to defend the interests of propertied classes as against the propertyless.
Echoes of the Fourth Reich
Glorifying the domination of the world by one state was also the obsession of the Czar of Russia, of Hitler and of Tojo. Didn't the czarist regime in Russia always regard itself as the one hegemonic state that could secure peace in Europe? But in reality it was the hegemonic state of the czarist nobility and landlord class, whose objective was to garner profits by oppressing the peasants and workers.
Wasn't this also Hitler's doctrine, so much so that he said the Fourth Reich would impose a peace lasting 1,000 years? And Tojo wanted to bring all Asia into a Japanese-dominated Co-Prosperity Sphere.
While Schwarz seems to be saying that all is doomed, he is really threatening the allies. They have to shape up and obey the dictates of the Pentagon. Moreover, the workers here have to accept the burden of supporting U.S. hegemony over the rest of the world.
He concludes his analysis by saying, "Seventy-seven years ago, Lenin argued that international capitalism would be economically successful but, by growing in a world of competitive states, it would plant the seeds of its own destruction. Although the empire he built is in ruins and his revolution discredited, Vladimir Ilyich may have the last laugh."
This is reminiscent of the tone taken by some virulent reactionaries in the 1930s, like the Hearst columnist Westbrook Pegler. He wrote that the unions, which he characterized as corrupt and "subversive," had already taken over everything. It was only a literary device, but it was dramatically endorsed by some of the bourgeois pillars of reaction.
For example, Sewell Avery, then head of Montgomery Ward, refused to recognize the union, saying that meant it would be taking over his company. When the Roosevelt administration ordered him to recognize the union, he threatened to stand in the doorway and resist federal troops. He was actually dragged away and the union was eventually recognized, but his dire predictions did not come true.
The Pentagon thinkers must have burned the midnight oil hard and long to think up this article by Schwarz. First, he connects Lenin with empire. Actually, Lenin spent most of his life in the struggle against the czarist empire and for the socialist revolution.
Furthermore, it is not the Russian Revolution that has been discredited. The revolution was the greatest achievement ever made by the working class anywhere. It is still a symbol of revolutionary struggle against capitalist exploitation and imperialist oppression.
Lenin, like Marx, predicted the downfall of capitalism, but not in the way Schwarz describes it. Lenin saw chaotic and anarchic capitalism giving way to socialist planned production as a result of the revolutionary intervention of the working class and the seizure of the means of production.
Competition among capitalist states, which Schwarz refers to, is itself the effect of the class antagonisms between the working class and the bourgeoisie and the effort of the bourgeoisie to divert the class struggle into a chauvinist one. Capitalist competition is the driving force of the capitalist system because of the search for super-profits, especially in the present epoch.
Within each capitalist country there is competition among the various enterprises. This grows to formidable proportions even after many are converted into monopolies, which effectively govern over the capitalist states.
Schwarz very carefully neglects to mention that the struggle among national states is actually a struggle among national bourgeoisies, the exploiters and oppressors.
He deliberately talks about states as though they were suspended in mid-air, without a material foundation based on an economic structure. But each state is a representative of a specific class. If it represents the bourgeoisie, it is a bourgeois state and its function is to struggle for the material interests and privileges of the bourgeoisie as against others.
Schwarz has it backwards
Baron von Klausewitz, the greatest military theoretician in European history, said that war was merely an extension of politics by other means. Marxism shows that politics is the expression of economic interests. The struggle of states is a struggle over the material interests of the ruling classes, which in essence are economic.
Schwarz puts the cart before the horse, saying that "international politics drives states to insure that economic power is distributed in their favor at the expense of their rivals." But the reverse is true. What drives bourgeois states is not politics; it is the economic struggle for super-profits. Politics is just an expression of economic interests.
He leaves out what the driving forces of capitalist competition are: the search for profits and super-profits.
He says further that "a genuinely interdependent economy is extraordinarily fragile" and that today's emerging high-tech industries are possible "only in an integrated world economy" dependent upon a "Pax Americana."
Why should interdependence in itself make the world economy more fragile? With planning based on socialized rather than private property, interdependence flowing from high technology could immeasurably strengthen the world economy. People all over the world are already dependent on one another for resources and a multitude of products.
With his final phrase, "Vladimir Ilyich may have the last laugh," Schwarz reveals something the bourgeoisie try assiduously to hide. Despite the collapse of the USSR, they still cannot contemplate the future without expressing a deadly fear of the revival of communism.
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