Capitalism’s limits?

Dear Editors

Capitalism is reaching its expansionary limits and being driven by these limits to substitute saturation for expansion. It is turning inward and “eating out its own guts”. The result is “barbarism”. 

“Normal” capitalism generated profits through expansion (growth). Apart from some margin for maneuver in near-earth outer space, it no longer has room for profitable expansion. This drives the system to “expand” inward, deriving profits from forcing down production costs by cutting wages, forcing more family members onto the labour market, and imposing higher productivity levels on workers (intensified exploitation), thereby increasing the quantity of commodities but degrading their quality. Here again, force is an essential factor.

As Rosa Luxemburg wrote in The Accumulation of Capital in 1913, capitalism always needs an “outside” somewhere. Although material conditions have changed since Rosa’s time, this remains true in a “metaphorically substantive” sense. 

With capitalism expanded to its spatial limits and turned inward, exploitation and profits grow apace. The biosphere, however, is a fixed system of reproduction. It took “time out of mind” to generate the hydrocarbon fuels that production for profit has consumed in the course of less than 200 years. It is true that “biological resources, if rationally exploited, are renewable and therefore practically everlasting” (Standard, November 2010, p. 6). But globalised capitalism does not follow a rational logic and already has a toe in the waters of barbarism. Socialists must be the lifeguards on this shore: there is no alternative to socialism.

Joe R. Hopkins, Florida, USA.

Reply: As we pointed out in a reply to a letter in the September issue, Rosa Luxemburg’s book was based on a faulty analysis of capitalism even if its descriptive parts about the barbaric effect of the spread of capitalism are good. We don’t accept that capitalism does have any “spatial limit” – Editors.

Santa’s New Clauses

Memo to: Little Helpers Team Leaders

To be cascaded to all staff

Dear Colleagues

As we approach our busy season I feel it only fair to remind you of the financial difficulties we find ourselves in as a result of the on-going recession. As you know, the juvenile gratuity market is experiencing heavy turbulence and we are committed to making savings wherever possible. As your Chief Executive I am setting a personal example by reducing my 2.6% annual growth in intake of mince pies and sherry by approximately 0.8%, phased in over the next fifteen years.

Certain scurrilous tabloid newspapers have been spreading unsubstantiated rumours that I have awarded myself a bonus of ten million pounds. Rest assured this is utterly unsubstantiated. In fact it was a modest seven million pounds ‘performance & productivity’ reward – which reflects well on all of us, by the way! – plus one million for the Management Consultation exercise with myself, one million in stress-related compensation for writing this, and one million in shares which may go down as well as up.

Needless to say, our core business strategy still revolves around putting children first, and Management has agreed a bold new plan to ensure our competitiveness in the difficult times ahead:



  •     To enhance efficiency and fairness we must recognise that unfairness is more efficient, and thus end the practice of a Universal Entitlement to Presents..



  •     The work-shy must play their part in maintaining the true spirit of Christmas. It is hardly fair on taxpayers that those on benefits who refuse to work for nothing should continue to expect presents for their children.


  •     We will no longer be delivering free chocolate to children in hot countries – it only melts. Instead we will introduce a fair trade agreement – their arable land in exchange for toy guns, pistols, machetes and napalm.


  •     You may have heard that those spiteful Fire Fighters threatened to go on strike on Bonfire Night, which would have spoiled the fun for so many young ones – obviously it wouldn’t be right to reward their young ones this Christmas!

    Meanwhile, let’s remember that special group who have had a very tough time lately and borne it all without complaint. Our hard-working Cabinet ministers and Captains of Industry in the C.B.I (Collect Bank Interest) have taken courageous and selfless decisions in order to resuscitate our ailing economy – a task which has earned them No Thanks Whatsoever from the ungrateful population – their children deserve our special kindness this Yuletide. With the money saved from the undeserving, we can afford to pay all these children through £9,000 pa college courses!

    With all of us making sacrifices, here’s where you can play your part in making Christmas special for certain children the world over. The great news is that you get to keep your jobs, on condition that you agree to certain new terms and conditions. Your friends in the Reindeer Union have already welcomed these new clauses with open legs and the abattoir sub-provision has not been invoked even once!

    There will be a downward restructuring of wages, holiday and sick pay entitlements to zero while the statutory retirement age will be infinitely extended so that now you work for eternity.

    Failure to accept this generous offer will necessitate the immediate relocation of the Grotto and Workshop to New Zealand where all staff will be replaced by sub-minimum-wage Hobbits.

    Thank you for your cooperation.
    Ho, ho, ho, and have a Merry Austerity,


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