Did the SPGB get it wrong?

July 2024 Forums General discussion Did the SPGB get it wrong?

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    Karl Marx wrote that industrial capitalism had to spread across the world before socialism was possible. The SPGB claimed that this happened around the turn of the 20th century. But did it?

    Wouldn’t the world have had to have waited until Russia & China, along with other parts of the world, became industrialised before socialism was possible?


    Theoretically Capitalism got going around 1820 globally. But as you say Russia & China took longer to move from Semi-Feudalism to Capitalism.


    Karl Marx wrote that industrial capitalism had to spread across the world before socialism was possible.

    Any citations for that? In his later work about the Russian Mir, it actually looks like he thought otherwise.

    Either way, is this not an academic question for us now?


    Academic questions – needn’t be answered. No one knows why.

    We could generalise this question without going off thread. For example, the SPGB at one time argued that a rise in unemployment would follow from the introduction of a minimum wage. This hasn’t happened. Or has it?


    – DJP

    No particular citations, other than in the Communist Manifesto, when Marx & Engels acknowledged that socialism couldn’t exist in just the more industrialised countries of that time (1848). Capitalism had to spread over the globe to make socialism possible.

    All I know about the minimum wage is that rich ‘journalists’ lose their minds, and say it will destroy the economy, every time it’s slightly raised.


    DJP wrote: “In his later work about the Russian Mir, it actually looks like he thought otherwise.”

    In relation to this issue, I can recommend “Marx and Russia: The Fate of a Doctrine” by James D. White.

    Of course, even looking at this issue, raises the question of Marx’s ‘materialism’, and the development of his views.

    A development that clearly diverged from Plekhanov and Lenin (and arguably Engels, even Marx’s own earlier views).

    • This reply was modified 4 months, 1 week ago by LBird.
    Bijou Drains

    I don’t think the SPGB was wrong from 1904. Although large areas of the world were not industrialised (parts of China and parts of Russia actually had moved over to capitalist production), large areas of the world had (most of Northern Europe, North America, parts of South America and AUstralia, New Zealand, etc).

    At that point a very large proportion of the goods being produced in the world were being produced either as part of capitalist production or directly by capitalist producers. Raw materials may well have been produced in underdeveloped countries, however the ways in which they were produced was based on the key elements of waged labour, as opposed to peasant production.

    If in the early 20th Century the working class of the countries of the capitalist countries wished to institute a system of production for use, within the then existing scope of the areas where capitalism existed, this would not have been “Socialism in one Country” but Socialism in very many countries, within which practically all of the goods and services required in this area of the world were produced within the same area. Therefore those living within those parts of the world, production for use woud ahve been possible.

    Yes, there would have been challenges facing such as situation in terms of industrialisation of large areas of the world, but I am pretty sure that this wouldn’t have resulted in the catastrophic slaughter that came as a result of the state capitalist system in places like China and Russia, or the private capitalist system in India and other areas of the world.


    This is similar to what you’re writing about Bijou Drains: it’s from the booklet – ‘Questions of the Day’ (’78 edition), under the title – ‘Socialism and the less developed countries’:

    “In view of the fact that the bulk of the world’s wealth is produced in the capitalist parts, we can say that capitalism is the predominant social system in the world today.

    “The Socialist Party of Great Britain rejects the suggestion that the workers must wait for capitalist production to predominate everywhere [which it has done by now] before trying to establish Socialism. A socialist society has been possible for many years now, for as many in fact as its industrial basis has existed. As soon as the workers of the world want to, they can establish the common ownership of the means of production and distribution and bring planned production to meet human needs.


    “To sum up, we can say that the less developed countries might present Socialism with a few problems, but they do not constitute a barrier to the immediate establishment of Socialism as a world system. Nationalism and colonial independence are not matters that ought to concern workers. Everywhere, in the less advanced as well as the more advanced countries, the workers should be striving for Socialism.”

    • This reply was modified 4 months, 1 week ago by Moo.

    The Socialist Party wrote a four parts articles on Globalization which explain all that process about capitalist expansion and world development. The Socialist Party was not wrong, the Leninist/Trotsyist/Maoist were the ones that were wrong and specially the so called theory of the Permanent revolution which was also adopted by Lenin


    Yet the “less developed” countries still have some class consciousness, which the countries longer under capitalism appear to be rather thin on, with Marx being considered a “has been”, together with all Marxist vocabulary.


    From the March ’84 Socialist Standard article: Transition Period to Socialism?:-

    ‘The further development of capitalism did eventually create the material basis for world socialist society, as Engels recognised in 1891 when, in contrast to what he said in 1847 about the impossibility of establishing socialism then “at one stroke”, he now spoke in terms of socialism being possible “perhaps after a short transition period”. In the same introduction to the republication of Marx’s 1847 talk on Wage Labour and Capital Engels referred to the technological developments of his day and wrote of the productivity of human labour increasing “day by day to an extent previously unheard of”.

    ‘Engels was writing in the middle of a period which had been called the second industrial revolution which saw the invention and application to industry and production of the electric motor and the internal combustion engine. These and other technological advances showed that it had become possible to produce enough to eliminate want throughout the world and to satisfy people’s needs, as Engels put it, “in ever-increasing fullness”. At the same time the imperialist expansion of the European powers into the other continents meant that capitalism had come to embrace the whole world in its system. Then in 1914 came the aptly-named first world war which marked the clear emergence of capitalism as the unchallenged and predominating world system.

    ‘From this time on world socialism could have been established at any time, without society passing first through a period of state capitalist development of the means of production. The means of production had become sufficiently developed for society to pass directly from capitalism to socialism, once the political conditions for the establishment of socialism were fulfilled.’

    Source: https://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/socialist-standard/1984/1980s/no-955-march-1984/transition-period-socialism/

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