The Trouble with Economic Growth

by Gabriel Levy on October 2, 2012

Part 1 of an edited version of a talk given at the Communist Party of Great Britian’s Communist University, August 26, 2012.

The point of the talk is to consider what a socialist response to discussions about “economic growth” and “sustainability” might consist of.

Ideas about “economic growth” and “sustainability” not only figure prominently in discussions between governments, companies and mainstream economists, i.e. the ruling class. They are also widely used in the labor movement and other anti-capitalist movements. The Trades Union Congress (TUC) protest march last year, the biggest in recent memory, was for “jobs, growth and justice”; the TUC leadership advocates a “green economic policy”; and there is a campaign supported by much of the left wing of the labor movement for “one million climate jobs.”

But these ideas thrive far beyond the trade union bureaucracy. Since the economic crisis began, in all the very varied social movements – from north Africa, and Spain, to the student protests and “occupy” movement here – discussions have been heard about types of economic growth that favor equality and sustainabilitity, or on other hand about prospects for “no growth” capitalism.

The impact on these movements of socialist ideas has been minimal. This is not so surprising, not because people are not interested in socialist ideas, but because of gaps and contradictions in those ideas and in the ways they are often presented.

One of the big gaps concerns the socialist response to environmentalism. In most cases, the response has been at a crude political level. Socialists either attack environmentalists for believing that something can be done about environmental issues under capitalism, or try to convince environmentalists that such issues can only be resolved by overthrowing capitalism.

However such responses do not address the underlying theoretical issues – in the first place, that the word “environmental” is applied to a range of problems, many of which are not environmental at all, phenomena that are better understand as ruptures or disruptions in the relationship between human society and nature – a subject about which socialist theory has a great deal to say.

For example: a company digs a coal mine and somehow poisons people, animals and plants living nearby. This is commonly described as an environmental problem. But what is going on is a human activity that in some circumstances and on some levels might be 100% reasonable – getting fuel resources from nature to produce heat and light – being conducted in an alienated, inhuman way under capitalist social relations.

The problem is that labor, that is the human activity of taking things from nature for sustenance and to provide the basis for culture, has for several thousand years been conducted under alienated, and alienating, social relationships.  Karl Marx very clearly saw humans’ alienation from each other, from the products of their labor, and from nature – three different types of alienation – as being integrally connected. I think he was right. But many socialists today do not take this approach.

My basic argument is: what is required is not somehow to incorporate so-called environmental arguments into socialist ideas –the approach often adopted – but to develop our understanding of social relations and the way that they deform the labor process and the relationship between people and nature.

Obviously the talk will not put all this right. But it will identify some of the gaps in socialist thinking, with particular reference to “economic growth” and “sustainability”. The second part of the talk will refer to the discussion of “limits to growth”, and what these “limits” mean for energy and agriculture.

“Economic growth”

Here are three points to start with.

1. About “economic growth” as defined by governments, international financial organizations and mainstream economists. We probably agree on:

  • (a) The indicator they use, Gross Domestic Product (GDP), more accurately reflects capital accumulation than physical economic activity, let alone people’s well being;
  • (b) The universal association by politicians of people’s well-being with economic growth and rising GDP is completely ideological;
  • (c) The so-called “green new deal”, i.e. state support e.g. for renewable energy and other technologies that reduce carbon emissions, solves nothing fundamentally.

2. There are various economists who advocate “no-growth” strategies for capitalism. The most recent is Tim Jackson. The most original and significant is Herman Daly, a former chief economist at the World Bank, who has been writing for many years about what he calls “steady-state economics”. These writers take as given capitalism and the capitalist market; they want very wide-ranging regulation to send it down a “no-growth” path. I will not discuss these in detail unless someone wants to come back to them.[1]

3. What is more important in a meeting such as this is so-called socialist “growth”.  I will argue (a) that twentieth-century socialism has been dominated by assumptions about so-called socialist economic growth, and (b) that in the twenty-first century such ideas should be junked, i.e. there is no such thing as “socialist economic growth” and socialists should not go round talking about it.

Prior to the 1920s, ideas about economic growth – in the sense of the expansion of industry and of other forms of economic activity – played almost no part in the socialist or workers’ movements. Ideas about “socialist growth” were developed by social democratic parties who participated in, or led, governments in capitalist countries, and by the Stalinist leadership of the Soviet Union. A very good article explaining this history was published recently by Gareth Dale in the International Socialist Journal.

In the Soviet Union, the prioritization of economic growth was justified in Marxist terms, and throughout the 20th century was seen as a model, both in Maoist China and by many other nationalist governments in developing countries.

Obviously, in the period after the Russian revolution of 1917, the capitalist economic development of Russia was way, way behind that of western Europe. Scarcity was overwhelming. Economic policy discussions centered on the need urgently to industrialize the country. The strategy of putting the economic burden on the peasantry, in order to make this industrialization possible, was rationalized by Evgeny Preobrazhensky with his theory of “primitive socialist accumulation”.

For the purposes of this discussion, the issue is not what alternatives there were in that impossible situation, but the fact that as a result of this historical process socialist ideas became completely distorted – and that was even before we got to the victory of Stalinism and the five-year plans, which involved the destruction of millions of human beings and the use of slave labor in the name of so-called socialist construction.

The question now, I repeat, is the deformation of socialist ideas. The Communist Manifesto defines communism as “an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all”; by the time we get to the early 1920s, it had become “Soviet power plus electrification” (Lenin). The idea of state-owned industry as the basis for socialism was all-pervasive – be it among social democrats who supported nationalization in the capitalist countries, among Stalinists, or among Trotskyists who denounced Stalinism and the policy of “socialism in one country” but still hung on to the idea of this “degenerated workers’ state” as a stepping-stone to socialism.

We can argue about the extent to which “primitive socialist accumulation” or “Soviet power plus electrification” might have been relevant to the circumstances of the time. I will not do so now. Now, I want to give three reasons why those discussions are very much in the past:

First. capitalism is at a very different stage of its history. The expansion of industry and of capitalist economy, which Preobrazhensky believed the USSR had to replicate on the backs of the peasantry, has now gone far further than anyone in the 1920s could have contemplated. The socialists at the time all believed that, by the 21st century, capitalism would either have descended into forms of barbarism, or that it would have been overthrown internationally. It has not been overthrown; barbarism continues to develop within it. Certainly none of the socialists of that time would have believed that capitalism could have gone so far without producing a successful socialist revolution.

One consequence of this: we have to redefine the role of scarcity. In the Russian revolution, clearly, scarcity played a big part in cutting down the options available. Today, while many countries still suffer from terrible scarcity, I think the character of scarcities has changed.

Measured in terms of urbanization (which is related to but not the same as proletarianization) more than 50% of the world population now live in cities, i.e. a higher proportion across the whole world than there was in western Europe – let alone Soviet Russia – in the 1920s. Across almost all of Africa, Asia and Latin America, urbanization has now gone far farther than it had in the Soviet Union in the 1920s. Measured in terms of technology, millions of people in the poorest countries have access not only to electricity but also to mobile phones, computers and the internet.

Think about Marx’s proposition that the productive forces – that is the labour applied to the natural resources and the instruments used – as they develop, increasingly come into conflict with the social relations of production. Clearly that tension is today far greater than ever before. For young people in north Africa in the 2010s – who are spearheading the struggle for social change – ideas of socialism that start with the conceptions around in the 1920s about socialist growth, or socialism “completing the tasks of bourgeois development”, are irrelevant and counter-productive.

Second. The rapid expansion of the capitalist economy in the decades since the 1920s has increasingly brought it up against natural limits within which it operates – the limits e.g. to the amount of air available into which you can pour carbon dioxide generated by burning fossil fuels, or to the amount of freshwater in the places where it is needed for agriculture. (I will return to this in the second part.) The amount of material stuff used by the economy, and the consequent impact on the natural environment, really started increasing exponentially in the 1950s; these problems did not exist in anything like this form in the 1920s. To my mind this is a type of scarcity – different from that in the early Soviet Union, in that it does not pose the type of immediate threat to life and well-being, but poses a potentially greater threat over the long term. This needs to be theorized.

Third. While the Soviet Union has collapsed, Stalinist state socialism in China has evolved into an essential support – perhaps the essential support – for capitalist domination internationally. This is a result in practice of so-called “socialist growth”.

Some different starting points

So those are arguments against the idea of “socialist growth” as a starting point. What then are the starting points? In my view, these have to do with reappropriating Marx’s view of the productive forces and social relations of production. We have to work out a view of the transition to communism as: a transition that completely remakes the relationship between human beings not only in terms of the social relations of production, or the ownership of the means of production, but also in terms of (i) the way that the productive forces – that is, both people, and the instruments of labour (tools and machines) that they use to take what they need from nature – are developed, and (ii) types of consumption. This is a side of communist thought that has largely been lost sight of during the twentieth century.

Marx, in a chapter of Capital about the impact of capitalist production on agriculture, including the division between town and country and the disruption of the nitrogen cycle, wrote:

In agriculture as in manufacture, the transformation of production under the sway of capital, means, at the same time, the martyrdom of the producer; the instrument of labour becomes the means of enslaving, exploiting, and impoverishing the labourer [my emphasis, GL]; the social combination and organisation of labour-processes is turned into an organised mode of crushing out the workman’s individual vitality, freedom and independence.[2]

Marx is arguing that we not only have the tension between productive forces and social relations containing the potential of revolutionary change – that tension is not something static, it’s not a spring waiting to be let go in an explosion of socialist revolution – but also under capitalism the instruments of labor “enslave, exploit and impoverish” the laborer.  There is nothing intrinsically good, intrinsically progressive or pro-socialist, about those instruments of labor and their development through technology. Engels, in Socialism Utopian and Scientific, makes similar points:

In making itself the master of all the means of production to use them in accordance with a social plan, society puts an end to the former subjection of men [and women, we would add, GL] to their own means of production. It goes without saying that society can not free itself unless every individual is freed. […] productive labor, instead of being a means of subjugating men, will become a means of their emancipation.

He was arguing that the relationship between people and the tools they use must be transformed.

The socialist writer Andre Gorz took this discussion further. I think that, although some of what he wrote in his later life was problematic, his work in the 1970s and early 1980s on people, the tools they use, and nature, is important. In his essay “Ecology and freedom”, he wrote:

Growth-oriented capitalism is dead. […] The development of the forces of production, which was supposed to enable the working class to cast off its chains and establish universal freedom, has instead dispossessed the workers of the last shreds of their sovereignty, deepened the division between manual and intellectual labor, and destroyed the material and existential bases of the producers’ power.[3]

This view of the productive forces is clearly at odds with the idea that they are somehow inherently progressive, the basis for socialism. This is a development of Marx’s argument that we should think about. Gorz continued:

Societal choices are continually being imposed upon us under the guise of technical choices. […] capitalism develops only those technologies which correspond to its logic and which are compatible with its continued domination. It eliminates those technologies which do not strengthen prevailing social relations, even where they are more rational with respect to stated objectives. Capitalist relations of production and exchange are already inscribed in the technologies which capitalism bequeaths to us.

This is a quotation from a longer work, which I hope you will all read – and I am using it to emphasize one particular aspect of the problem of labour in capitalist society. I am not suggesting – and I don’t think Gorz was either – that the development of technology is somehow uniform. For example the internet, arguably the biggest innovation of the last 20 years, supports democracy, in the widest sense of the word and is potentially at odds with capitalist social relations. But there are many other technologies that are best explained along the lines of Gorz’s argument. For example, technologies employed in agriculture clearly favor big agribusiness and are used to dispossess – by the hundreds of millions – small farmers; and any number of industrial technologies prioritize types of production that produce profit, that produce unneeded consumer goods, and that further smother workers’ creativity.

There have been Marxist writers, classically Harry Braverman, who looked at the labor process in capitalist society. But Braverman’s book[4] was published 38 years ago, and I wonder how far socialists, collectively, have really taken these issues since then. There were discussions in the 1970s and 1980s – for example I have recently discovered for myself material that was published at that time in Radical Science Journal, about science, technology and socialism – and these need to be reworked for the present.

Here’s some more by Gorz, that I hope we will all think about:

The struggle for different technologies is essential to the struggle for a different society. […] The inversion of tools is a fundamental condition of the transformation of society. The development of voluntary cooperation, the self-determination and freedom of communities and individuals, requires the development of technologies and methods of production which:

– can be used and controlled at the level of the neighborhood or community;

– are capable of generating increased economic autonomy for local and regional collectivities;

– are not harmful to the environment; and

– are compatible with the exercise of joint control by producers and consumers over products and production processes.

Without this transformation of technology, Gorz argues, people calling themselves socialists can seize state power but will not fundamentally change “either the system of domination or the relations of men and women to each other and to nature”.[5] And as well as these issues about the instruments of labour, there are issues about consumption: the use of workers, particularly in the richer countries, as consumers of piles of pointless stuff, the production of which is driven by capitalist accumulation.

Conclusions 

• I see no evidence for the assumption that socialism implies an expansion of the economy or an expansion of production. It may well imply more production of some stuff, and less production of other stuff. But the main point now is that it certainly implies the overthrow not only of the ownership of the means of production, but also of the relationship people have with these means of production.

• There are no quick fixes at the level of politics. Some socialists campaign for “one million climate jobs” as a means of trying to push capitalism to minimize its impact on people and on the environment. I think this is based on a view of socialism in which real struggles by real working-class people play no part. We can support workers who take action to defend their jobs, without pretending that the road to socialism is opened by the creation of so-called “climate jobs”.

• A picture of the transition to socialism needs to be developed that includes a critique of the labor process – not just at the workplace level, but at the level of society – a critique of the way that capitalism distorts the instruments of labor and destroys the creative potential of people who use those instruments.

• A critique needs to be developed of the way in which the capitalist economy confronts the natural limits. I consider this to be a form of potential scarcity, but a very different type of scarcity that socialists were dealing with in the 1920s.

Discussion

Among the questions asked, there was one about: should we always support workers who are fighting to defend jobs that are damaging and dangerous to their health and to their lives? The example was given of steelworkers in Italy, who have engaged in strikes and blockades to prevent the shutdown of steel production that is damaging to workers’ lives and health, and to the lives and health of their families, in order to defend workers’ jobs.

Response: Similar issues arose during an environmentalist demonstration at the Kingsnorth power station some years ago. Representatives of the mineworkers’ union were invited to a discussion with the demonstrators, who were opposed to coal-fired power. It was a dialogue of the deaf that I found very depressing. I think it’s absolutely possible, and absolutely right, for communists, for young people who want to change the world, to understand that in a future society nobody will have to work in dirty, dangerous holes in the ground, but at the same time to support struggles such as the strike of 1985, in which the state wanted to destroy the miners’ union.

Many of the young miners, who were at the forefront of the battle with the police on the picket lines, had no intention of working in mines for the rest of their lives, didn’t see that as their future, had a very different view of the world from their fathers and grandfathers and older people in their communities. I see no reason why people like those who are here could not go on picket lines and join in such struggles with the state, and at the same time work out – together with those workers – a view of the future: of socialism, which means not more people working in coal mines but a much, much greater change. Many miners are probably well ahead of many on the so-called “left” in understanding how this will develop.

There were questions and comments about the ideas of abundance and scarcity, and about hunter-gatherer societies that live in great abundance despite having few material goods.

Response: Abundance and scarcity are socially-formed conceptions that develop and change. Abundance is not just about having more material stuff. And there is an enormous amount to learn from hunter-gatherers people about how to live. Clearly there is no simple return to the past. The equations about abundance and scarcity change through history. With each development of agricultural technology – starting with the very use of settled agriculture as opposed to gathering and hunting, which came 9000 years ago – there follows a big increase in population. That is a cause and effect. I am opposed to the idea that increases in population are bad – but these increases do change the parameters. We need to look at abundance and scarcity at different stages of human development.

[1] See Tim Jackson, Prosperity Without Growth (Earthscan, 2009). The Steady State Economy (1972) by Herman Daly is usually considered the founding work of ecological economics. His more recent book (1996), still available in paperback, is Beyond Growth: the economics of sustainable development. The on-line journal Real-World Economics Review in 2010-11 published a socialist critique of Daly’s work: Richard Smith, “Beyond growth or beyond capitalism?” (RWER no. 53), a response by Daly and rejoinder by Smith (RWER no. 54), and a further comment by Smith, “Green capitalism: the god that failed” (RWER no. 56)

[2] Marx, Capital volume 1, chapter 15, section 10.

[3] Andre Gorz, Ecology as Politics (Pluto Press, 1987), p. 11

[4] Harry Braverman, Labor and Monopoly Capital: the degradation of work in the twentieth century (Monthly Review Press, 1974)

[5] Gorz, Ecology as Politics, pp. 19-20

  • Aaron Aarons

    Finally an article on The North Star that I am in general agreement with! I’ve been arguing since the 1960’s with various leftists with whom I worked against the idea that producing more and creating more jobs were in themselves good things. I’m looking forward to the discussion on this one, hoping I can take a break (just while I’m on this page, anyway) from giving you all a hard time.

  • Arthur

    This stuff has been dominant in the “left” for more than 3 decades. It still breathlessly presents itself as some “new” development despite resting firmly on the reactionary romanticism represented by the Narodniks in Russia and more extreme forms of reaction such as Malthusianism.

    The virulent hostility of the pseudo-left towards basic aspirations of the overwhelming majority of humanity and especially working people is perfectly expressed by the rabid demand for stagnation – precisely what any genuine progressive denounces capitalism for.

    Purely demagogic lies like the absurd poster claiming that capitalism has been “bringing you lower quality and fewer choices since the 16th century” are supposed to make this stuff sound “militantly” anti-capitalist.

    In reality nothing could suit a ruling class heading into a major world depression better than putting a positive spin on their inability to continue delivering economic growth and even praising reduction in living standards.

    Here’s a response to this drek written when it first became dominant more than three decades ago:

    http://www.lastsuperpower.net/Members/anita/altechandprog/

  • patrickm

    This post is unreadable dreck. I can’t even imagine why anyone could put up a graphic on the net that is captioned ‘Capitalism: Bringing you lower quality and fewer choices since the 16th century.’ unless they were mocking the whole green idiocy that produces people that can and do think like this. I hoped for a moment when I saw the graphic that it was a spoof BUT this thread is not a send-up!

    As an alternative to such a ‘communist university’ course have a look at this;
    http://home.vicnet.net.au/~dmcm/red_politics.htm

    There are very useful short articles here for anyone who wants to think about issues like a critique of Baverman’s de-skilling or just why red and green don’t mix.

    This level of green stupidity (and there is no more precise definition) presented as a form of communists thinking is well beyond any worthwhile discussion and has been done far better even at sites like Kasama in threads such as
    Jensen: Getting Off the Road to Extinction « Kasama

  • Aaron Aarons

    It’s noteworthy that the two most consistently pro-imperialist commenters on this site are also the first two to come to the defense of capitalist ‘progress’. Since such ‘progress’ has always depended on the forced incorporation into the capitalist economy, and often the outright slaughter, of massive numbers of ‘backward’ humans, along with other life forms, these guys are logically consistent.

    The rest of us can seriously grapple with the question of how to improve the quality of life for the majority of human beings who are low consumers of resources without destroying the ecosystem that life depends on. Part of that will necessarily involve cutting the material consumption of resources by roughly the highest-consuming ten percent or so of the global population, including a substantial percentage of the populations of North America, Europe and Australia.

    And, no, I don’t support the capitalist austerity drive that has nothing to do with reducing wasteful consumption and everything to do with shifting the right to consume even more in favor of those who already consume way too much.

  • http://www.peoplenature.org Gabriel Levy

    Thanks for reposting this. It was originally published on my site, http://www.peoplenature.org, where there is more on similar subjects, articles attempting to develop a socialist response to neo-malthusianism, etc.

  • Brian S.

    I’m broadly sympathetic to these views, and certainly don’t share Arthur & Patrick’s enthusiasm for the joys of capitalist globalization, but I’m a bit tied up at the moment and I don’t want to jump in with an ill-considered reflex response. Once I’ve read the post carefully I’ll be back. In the meantime – let the debate unfold!

  • Arthur

    Admin, please check moderation queue. A comment from me was waiting for moderation more than 24 hours ago.

    • admin

      As Tony was told some time ago, sometimes they get randomly held up. Kasama Project has the same problem.

      • Arthur

        I understand that but its STILL missing. Please check.

        • admin

          Not sure what to look for. Don’t see anything in the spam or trash threads. Perhaps you lost internet connection as you were posting? That would be most unfortunate.

  • Arthur

    Reconstructing comment lost in moderation:

    “Prior to the 1920s, ideas about economic growth – in the sense of the expansion of industry and of other forms of economic activity – played almost no part in the socialist or workers’ movements. Ideas about “socialist growth” were developed by social democratic parties who participated in, or led, governments in capitalist countries, and by the Stalinist leadership of the Soviet Union. A very good article explaining this history was published recently by Gareth Dale in the International Socialist Journal.”

    In response to this blatant lie and the even more pathetic attempts to link this stuff with Marxism in the linked International Socialist article, I cannot resist quoting these especially brutal contrary views from Lenin and Marx (both well before the 1920s):

    vvvvvvvvvvvvvv

    “Ricardo regards the capitalist mode of production as the most advantageous for production in general, as the most advantageous for the creation of wealth, and for his time Ricardo is quite right. He wants production for the sake of production, and he is right. To object to this, as Ricardo’s sentimental opponents did, by pointing to the fact that production as such is not an end in itself, means to forget that production for the sake of production is nothing more nor less than the development of the productive forces of mankind, i.e., the development of the wealth of human nature as an end in itself. If this end is set up in contrast to the welfare of individuals, as Sismondi did, it is tantamount to asserting that the development of the whole human race must be retarded for the sake of ensuring the welfare of individuals, that, consequently, no war, we shall say for example, can be waged, because war causes the death of individuals. Sismondi is right only in opposition to those economists who obscure this antagonism, deny it” (S. 309). From his point of view Ricardo has every right to put the proletarians on a par with machines, with commodities in capitalist production. “Es ist dieses stoisch, objektiv, wissenschaftlich,” “this is stoicism, this is objective, this is scientific” (S. 313). It goes without saying that this appraisal applies only to a definite period, to the very beginning of the nineteenth century.

    http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1897/econroman/i8ps.htm

    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

    vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv

    As regards insecurity and instability, and so forth, that is the same old song we dealt with when discussing the foreign market. Attacks of this kind betray the romanticist who fearfully condemns precisely that which scientific theory values most in capitalism: its inherent striving for development, its irresistible urge onwards, its inability to halt or to reproduce the economic processes in their former, rigid dimensions. Only a utopian who concocts fantastic plans for spreading medieval associations (such as the village community) to the whole of society can ignore the fact that it is the “instability” of capitalism that is an enormously progressive factor, one which accelerates social development, draws larger and larger masses of the population into the whirlpool of social life, compels them to ponder over its structure, and to “forge their happiness” with their own hands.

    http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1897/econroman/ii8i.htm

    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

    Re Harry Braverman’s romanticisation of craft labor I’ll also throw in:

    vvvvvvvvvvvvvv

    The author of this article is himself a worker in one of London’s tailoring shops. We ask the German bourgeoisie how many authors it numbers capable of grasping the real movement in a similar manner?

    Before the proletariat fights out its victories on the barricades and in the battle lines it gives notice of its impending rule with a series of intellectual victories.

    The reader will note how here, instead of the sentimental, moral and psychological criticism employed against existing conditions by Weitling and other workers who engage in authorship, a purely materialist understanding and a freer one, unspoilt by sentimental whims, confronts bourgeois society and its movement. Whereas craftsmen resist the collapse of their semi-medieval position and would like to unite as craftsmen, particularly in Germany and to a great extent also in France, the subjection of craft labour to large-scale industry is comprehended here as a step forward and celebrated, while at the same time, in the results and productions of large-scale industry, the real preconditions of the proletarian revolution, generated by history itself and daily generating themselves anew, are recognised and revealed.

    http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1850/10/eccarius.htm

    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
    PS Admin, the original version of this comment showed up on the thread with a note that it was “awaiting moderation” so it was definately not lost as a result of an internet disconnection but must have been in the database at some point. Usually these sort of problems are related to being placed out of chronological sequence in a spam or trash folder.

    • admin

      Not sure what the heck is going on then. Best to save worthy comments in a notepad file just in case.

    • Aaron Aarons

      […] in the results and productions of large-scale industry, the real preconditions of the proletarian revolution, generated by history itself and daily generating themselves anew, are recognised and revealed.

      Too bad 162 years hasn’t been enough time for the proletarian revolution, whose preconditions were apparently being generated already in 1850, to actually happen in any country that Marx was writing about. (We can argue about the nature of the revolutions in Russia, China, Cuba, etc., but their preconditions were not being generated by the development of large-scale industry in Europe in 1850, nor, for the most part, by such development anywhere else at any time.)

      Marx in 1850 also believed that British imperialism was a good thing for India and for Ireland, so the above-quoted praise of capitalist development shouldn’t surprise us. And, no, large-scale industry isn’t inherently bad, but, in the real world, such industry based on the virtual enslavement of dispossessed European peasants working the raw materials provided by more directly and brutally enslaved Africans, Asians, and Turtle Islanders, was not something anybody concerned with any kind of human liberation should support or have supported.

    • Aaron Aarons

      Arthur quotes translated Lenin:

      Attacks of this kind betray the romanticist who fearfully condemns precisely that which scientific theory values most in capitalism: its inherent striving for development, its irresistible urge onwards, its inability to halt or to reproduce the economic processes in their former, rigid dimensions.

      “Scientific theory” does not value or devalue anything in capitalism or any other real-world phenomenon. Scientific theory and method can help us, to a limited extent, understand the consequences of various actions, but only those who convert “science” into a secular religion can believe that value judgments about those consequences can be derived from ‘scientific theory’. Such people, unless their worship of “science” is just a rationalization for their own murderous capitalist greed, are little different from those who have, for millennia, carried out or supported genocidal and ecocidal actions for the greater glory of “god”.

      • Arthur

        Its nice to see that our resident pseudo-left troll now openly admits his hostility to both Marx and Lenin as well as working class living standards and democratic rights anywhere.

        BTW Lenin’s use of the term “scientific theory” was for the benefit of the Tsarist censors who could led marxist polemics against narodnism (populist reactionary romanticist seen as the main revolutionary opposition to Tsarism) through, provided they did not refer to Marxism or its well known equivalent, “scientific socialism”.

        • Aaron Aarons

          I’ll ‘thank’ our resident pseudo-person, ‘Arthur’, for his caricature of what I have been saying on this site. It shows that he pretends to have no understanding of the points I have been making, since admitting to understanding them might put him in the position of having to deal with them. For example, he accuses me of “hostility to … Marx” but doesn’t answer my point that what Marx wrote 162 years ago about the alleged generation of the conditions for proletarian revolution has been proven false. I don’t claim to be smarter than Marx, but I, like ‘Arthur’ and everybody else reading this, have the advantage of that extra 162 years of real-world experience that ‘Arthur’ chooses to ignore.

          BTW, that reminder about Tsarist censors does help explain the apparent incoherence of parts of the Lenin quotes. If Lenin meant by “scientific theory” the doctrine of “scientific socialism” as he interpreted it, then he was basically expressing an opinion, rather than a mystification.

          • Aaron Aarons

            When I referred to ‘Arthur’ as a ‘pseudo-person’, it hadn’t yet been revealed that he is Arthur Dent, né Albert Langer, a fairly well-known Australian political activist. But he has never explained why, given the lack of any security concern, he continues to use the rather non-specific handle, ‘Arthur’, in his posts. It makes it rather hard to search for what he has written in the past.

  • jim sharp

    arfur lad
    fair suck of the sav!
    coz we all know now
    ye are but a puritanical
    “genuine” pseudo-lefty-relic
    who see all but himself
    as impure monkeys

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