In the aftermath of World War II, the ruling capitalist class within the core capitalist countries countered the universal aspiration of the people for a world without war by launching the Cold War. They also responded to the economic goals of organized labor within the core capitalist countries by conceding to workers a limited right to union organization and collective bargaining, but on condition that union action be limited to wages and working conditions. In the case of Canada and the United States the limitation against political action even included the removal of communists from union leadership.
However, neither the launching of the Cold War nor concessions made by organized labor in the core capitalist countries solved the inherent contradictions within capitalism. Once again facing a decline in profit rates by the end of the 1960s, the capitalist class in the core capitalist countries took advantage of the weakened position of organized labor to find solutions to the profit crisis by means of globalization, characterized by increased freedom of movement of capital across national boundaries and neo-liberal austerity policies for the working class at home.
In consequence, the period from the 1970s to the present has witnessed the wasteful transfer of vast financial and material resources from the so-called developing world to the already wealthiest capitalist countries. This process was facilitated by a vast global network of US military bases, military interventions against recalcitrant countries, and the creation of international financial agencies, such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, and trade organizations, such as the World Trade Organization, and various international “free trade” treaties.
The main challenge to US imperial ambitions came from the Soviet Union and its alliance with those countries in which communist governments were formed in the aftermath of WWII, embracing 1/3 of the world’s population, including eastern Europe, China, and Cuba, among others. This circumstance was portrayed in the core capitalist countries as an equal balance of forces between good (the US and its allies) and evil (the Soviet Union and its allies) in order to gain public support for a succession of anti-communist military adventures and an ever-expanding arms race.
The fall of the Soviet Union and most of its allied communist governments in the late 1980s and early 1990s opened the door for relatively unchallenged global hegemony by US imperialism, which subsequently concluded economic agreements with China and some of the other remaining or former communist led countries. But none of these successes by US imperialism and its allies led to an economically and ecologically stable capitalist world order. Instead, humanity now faces an existential crisis on two fronts: namely the current threat of use of weapons of mass destruction and an increasing ecological crisis, each caused by the needs of a social system, capitalism, motivated by mere profit-taking busyness on a planet with finite natural and human resources.
Multipolarity – the equal right of every nation, and within each nation every person, to share the benefits of human productivity and the biosphere’s capacity to support human life – is an essential strategic perspective, undermining hegemonic ambitions. But that aim, by itself, is not enough. Multipolarity between capitalist countries is not a solution to the crises created by the very nature of capitalism.
Capitalism has not only created the existential crises humanity now faces. Capitalism has also created the conditions for their solution:
- Global solidarity - The existential crises humanity now faces are being resisted by re-emergent global solidarity of the peoples’ social and political movements, using advanced and ever improving digital technology for communication, coordination, and collaboration.
- Revolutionary theory – The level of education and shared knowledge necessary for creating an alternative to capitalism continues to develop.
- Revolutionary renewal – The increasingly evident inability of the capitalist class and its representatives to meet the people’s needs and demands is being met by a renewal of the revolutionary movements of the people.
Among the further advances arguably needed for the renewal of the revolutionary movements of the people are understanding and action based on the following:
I.The knowledge that capitalism is characterized by the following fundamental laws of its behavior, first comprehensively studied by Karl Marx.
The source of profit from capitalist production is the exploitation of productive labor.
A result of capitalist production is the private accumulation of capital (wealth available for private investment or use in further production for private profit).
Capitalism’s historical tendency is towards a fall in the rate of profit, a consequence of the increasing employment of machinery in place of labor to produce goods and services.
II.Capitalism is a dynamic system.
Defined by the exploitation of productive wage and salaried labor, capitalism as the dominant social system retains as subordinate subsystems every form of social relationship known to human history, including communal, slave and feudal relationships. As the propertied classes experience declining opportunities for private profit from investment in industrial and agricultural production, they turn to increasing reliance on feudal forms of exploitative social relationships, including landlord-renter and creditor-debtor relationships.
The ruling capitalist class endeavours to privatize what remains of the commons, in the process threatening the very sources of human existence, namely a sustainable natural environment and human capacity for creative, productive labor. Increasingly prominent is the private appropriation of socially produced knowledge, achieved through patents and copyright, dividing those who “own” this knowledge and those who need it
The aim of revolutionary struggle must therefore be to defend and expand communal relationships among people and commensal relationships with the rest of nature, ultimately achieving an end of private ownership of any part of nature, including human labor power.
III.The capitalist class practices a divide and rule strategy both within and between nations.
This divide and rule strategy is a source of superprofits for the capitalist class as well as a means of undermining the solidarity needed for effective struggle for the labor and national rights of the people. Working class solidarity within and between nations and with the struggles of all the oppressed is thus essential to the victory of the people over the capitalist oligarchy and for a more just, democratic, peaceful, and sustainable future for humanity.
IV.Democratic functioning of people’s organizations is an essential means of preparation for a world beyond capitalism.
Those who participate in decision-making are most likely to translate decisions into practice. Given that knowledge is socially constructed, drawing on the collective knowledge of participants strengthens the prospects of success for revolutionary initiatives. The practice of democratic decision making under conditions of capitalist rule also prepares for successfully addressing ecological and social problems once capitalism is removed as a barrier.
The variety across geographical location and time of social and ecological problems can only be addressed by the highest levels of collective deliberation and engagement. A future for humanity necessitates the liberation of all the latent talent and ability it possesses in order to defeat capitalist class rule and achieve a healthier relationship between human productive activity and human need for a healthy sustainable natural environment.
V.Effective political and economic power must be held by the grass roots level.
This is the primary difference between a more just, ecologically sustainable human society, and the hierarchical relationships which have characterized every class-divided, ecologically destructive human society. The emergence within human societies of surpluses beyond the immediate needs of its members historically led to the formation of hierarchical relationships, including control over the products of the labor of the whole community and inequality. Revolutionary action is in the opposite direction, towards restoring the democratic red-green heritage of humanity, where red = communal relationships between people, and green = commensal relationships of people with the rest of nature.
VI.A revolutionary transformation of social relations between people for making our way through nature is not an event, it is necessarily a systemic change accomplished across time and geographical location.
The historical change now needed, if there is to be a future for humanity, is unprecedented. It is a change from the last in a comparatively short historical period of class-divided social systems for exploiting nature to a classless system of relations between people and commensal relations between people and Earth’s biosphere. Our starting point is a global capitalist system in which each nation-state and its population is dependent on participation in a global capitalist market economy. If we want to end the cause of the current existential crises we face, our end point is the replacement of the current system by a technologically advanced global form of the formerly geographically isolated and smaller communal societies which once characterized all of humanity.
VII.Governing institutions created by the propertied classes are not likely to serve well, if at all, as means for transforming class relationships into classless ones.
These institutions serve primarily the reproduction of the capitalist system, including opportunities for remunerated employment of those willing and still able to defend that system. While rejecting electoral politics as a principal focus for a revolutionary political party, revolutionaries face related tasks, namely, facilitating the independent education, mobilization and organization of those exploited and oppressed by capitalism. The limits of capitalist electoral struggle are learned by most people through their participation in it. At the same time, priority must be given by revolutionaries to the organization of the people. Some of that organizational work needs to include the creation of alternative governing institutions to those created by the capitalist class. Examples include revolutionary political parties, educational and cultural organizations, and people’s assemblies and townhalls.
Finally, revolutionary political renewal means continuous updating of knowledge of the class forces in the communities and countries in which we live, and the challenges each of these forces faces. Engagement in revolutionary renewal is the antidote to the despair spawned by a dying capitalist order. Such engagement has the potential to release the latent talent of a global working class in possession of an historically unprecedented level of knowledge that can be better put to use in the more just, democratic, peaceful, and ecologically sustainable future humanity urgently needs.