The Capitalist Class. By Karl Kautsky (continued)

Specially translated for the Socialist Party of Great Britain and approved by the Author.


While the ground landlord cuts to an ever larger extent into the share of the capitalist in the surplus-value—either indirectly or directly— the State is active in a similar direction. The modern State has grown up with and through the capitalist class, and was the most powerful agent in advancing the interests of that class. Each has assisted the other. The capitalist class cannot dispense with the State. They are in need of its protection both at home and abroad.

The more the capitalist mode of production develops the keener becomes the antagonism of interests and the more conspicuous grow the contradictions produced; but the more complicated also becomes the entire system, and the greater, too, grows the dependency of one individual upon another, and the greater also grows the need of an authority standing above and charged with making each fulfil the duties arising from his economic function
Far less than the previous methods of production can a system so sensitive as the present bear the prosecution of antagonisms and disputes by the autonomy of those immediately interested in the fray. In the place of self-aid enters “Justice,” which is watched over by the State.

Capitalist exploitation is by no means the product of certain rights ; it is its needs that have brought forth and given domination to the rights prevailing to-day. That “justice” does not cause exploitation, but sees to it that this process, like others in economic life, proceeds as smoothly as possible. While we have before described competition as the motive power of the present mode of production, we may regard “State justice” as the “machine oil,” which has the effect of minimising the friction in the capitalist system. The more this friction grows, the more intense the antagonism becomes between exploiters and exploited, between property owners and propertyless ; the larger, more especially, is the slum proletariat; the more does each single capitalist become dependent upon the prompt co-operation of numerous other capitalists for the undisturbed conduct of his concern. So the desire for “justice” for this purpose grows stronger, and the greater grows the need to requisition its organs—law-courts and police, and a strong State force capable of supporting “justice,” if need be.

But the capitalists are not only concerned with being able to produce, buy, and sell undisturbed within their own country. From the start the commerce outside plays an important part in capitalist production, and the more this method becomes the predominating one, the greater appears to be the need for securing and extending the outside market in the interest of the whole nation. But in the world market the capitalists of one nation meet competitors belonging to other nations. In order to oust these they call in the aid of the State, which is expected to demand, by means of the armed force, respect for their claims, or—what is better still—to crush the foreign competitors altogether. As States and monarchs become evermore dependent upon the capitalist class, so the armies cease to serve merely the personal ends of the monarchs, and are utilised increasingly for purposes of the capitalist class. Wars are less and less dynastic, and more and more commercial and national, which in the last instance can only be traced back to the economic conflicts between the capitalists of the various nations.

The capitalist State, therefore, is not only in need of an extensive army of officials for the purposes of law and police (besides, of course, for the administration of its finances), but it requires also a strong military force. Both armies are ever on the increase in capitalist States, but in recent times the military force grows more rapidly than the army of officials.

So long as the application of science had not begun to play a part in the technicalities of industry, the technical aspect of war changed but slowly. As soon, however, as machinery came to dominate industry and subjected the latter to continuous evolution, war machines ceased to be stationary in development. Every day brings new inventions and discoveries, which, scarcely examined and introduced, at great expense, are already superseded by a new revolutionising improvement or addition. And the war machinery constantly increases in extent, complication and costliness. At the same time the progress in the means of transit makes it possible to concentrate an ever larger number of troops on the battlefield ; hence armies are continually increased.

In these circumstances the State expenditure for purposes of war (in which the greater portion of national debts is included) have with all great European powers grown within the last twenty years to an absolutely maddening extent.

The State grows ever more expensive, and its burdens become always more oppressive. The capitalists and large landowners naturally seek (having everywhere the law in their own hands) to transfer the burdens as much as possible from their own shoulders to those of the other sections of the community. But as time goes on there is ever less to be obtained from those sections, and thus in spite of all the trickery of the exploiters their surplus-value has to be encroached upon for the benefit of the State.

[To be continued]

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