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The Cunning of History in Reverse Gear

The Cunning of History in
Reverse Gear
Istvan Meszaros
1. ‘Llst der Vernunft’ and the ‘Cunning of History’

The Marxist notion of the ‘cunning of history’ was formulated as a ‘materialist standing on its feet’ of Hegel’s ‘cunning of Reason’ (Ust der Vernunft). According to Hegel, the
latter is: ‘an artful device which, whlle seeming to refrain
from activity, looks on and watches how specific determinateness with its concrete llfe, just where it belleves it is
working out its own self-preservation and its own private
interest, is, in point of fact, doing the very opposite, is
doing what brings about its own dissolution and makes itself
a moment in the whole’ .

In the Hegelian conception a positive outcome to this
clash of particular interests – through their fitting subsumption in the divinely unfolding whole – is a priori assured,
since:

The rational, the divine, possesses the absolute power
to actualize itself and has, right from the beginning,
fulfilled itself; •.• The world is this actualization of
divine Reason; it is only on its surface that the play
of contingency prevalls.

The apologetic character of Hegel’s conception of ‘being
active on Reason’s behalf’ is brought out with particular
clarity in his Philosophy of Mind, in his discussion of the
ages of man. Hegel’s treatment of this problem graphically
displays the conservative nature of the llberal theory of
‘transition’. For, the moment we reach ‘clvll society’ – the
structurally unalterable domain of bourgeois interests – the
‘dialectical movement’ becomes a pseudo-progression whose
meaning resides in preserving all the ‘essential’ (i.e., structurally unalterable) conditions:

He (the adult man) has plunged into the Reason of
the actual world and shown himself to be active on
its behalf • •.. If, therefore, the man does not want to
perish, he must recognize the world as a self-dependent world which in its essential nature is already
complete, must accept the conditions set for him by
the world and wrest from it what he wants for himself. As a rule, the man belleves that this submission
is only forced on him by necessity. But, in truth, this
unity with the world must be recognized, not as a
relation imposed by necessity, but as the rational ….

therefore the man behaves quite rationally in abandoning his plan for completely transforming the world
and in striving to reallze his personal aims, passions,
and interests only within the framework of the world
of which he is a part • ••. although the world must be
recognized as already complete in its essential
nature, yet it is not a dead, absolutely inert world
but, llke the life-process, a world which perpetually
creates itself anew, which whlle merely preserving
itself, at the same time progresses.

In accord with the standpoint of polltical economy, Hegel
uses the organic model of the ‘life-process’ (which operates
with a time-scale radically different from that of the soclal
world) so as to be able to project the semblance of an advancement whlle constantly reiterating the necessary conservation of the conditions which are said to be ‘already
complete in their essential nature’. As we can see, in the
framework of such an ‘organic’ conception which takes ‘civll
society’ for granted, the real ‘must’ of ‘necessary submission’ is transubstantiated into the fictitious ‘must’ – in truth
an impotent ‘ought’: a mere Sollen – of ‘advancement’, culminating in the apotheosis of the phllosophies of right,
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ethics and religion:

It is in this conservation and advancement of the
world that the man’s work consists. Therefore on the
one hand we can say that the man only creates what
is already there; yet on the other hand, his activity
must also bring about an advance. But the world’s
progress occurs only on the large scale and only
comes to view in a large aggregate of what has been
produced…. This knowledge, as also the insight into
the rationallty of the world, llberates him from
mourning over the destruction of his ideals. .•• the
substantial element in all human activities is the
same, namely, the interests of right, ethics, and
rellgion.

Thus, the organic character of the ‘life-process’ fits doubly
well into Hegel’s scheme of things. First, because it is
cyclic-repetitive; and second, in that it exhibits the almost
timeless temporality of natural history if measured on the
dramatic time-scale of soclal/political events and transformations. On both counts the model of the ‘life-process’ can
only serve the ‘eternallzation’ of the established conditions.

Accordingly, for Hegel it would have been quite absurd
to suggest that the ‘cunning of Reason’ might bring about a
clash of antagonistic interests of such severity whereby it
outwits not just the confllcting parties, but sir.nultaneously
itself as well, by bringing about the destruction of the
‘whole’, rather than the ‘actuallzation of divine Reason’

through the rational integration of all contradictions as
happlly interlocking ‘moments of the self-sustaining whole’

(Hegel). True to the llberal/apologetic ‘standpoint of poll tical economy’, the conflict of interests was indeed both acknowledged and eternallzed in this Hegellan conception. For
it assigned to the mere surface what it called ‘the play of
contingency’, thus categorically excluding the possibllity of
structural changes in the divinely prefigured and permanent
whole.

As to the materiallst transformation of the ‘cunning of
Reason’, we must be aware of another inherent difficulty:

namely, the appllcation of an individuallstic model to fundamentally non-individuallstic processes and transformations.

For Hegel this problem did not exist, for two main reasons:

(1) The time-scale of his organic model was perfectly in
tune with the individualistic framework of his conception of
interactions, in that he did not have to produce real historical progression out of the chaotic-anarchic interplay of individual wills. Far from it, since the necessary ‘outcome’

was anticlpated from the very beginning as ‘already given’

and ‘already complete’, whlle the interplay of the infinity of
individual wllls on an infinite time-scale was destined merely
to act out what was ‘notionally’ required by the predeterminations of ‘Divine Reason’;
(2) The difficulty involved in making the transition from
the disparate individuals to the all-embracing universallty of
the historic process was easlly resolved: (a) by a priori postulating the individuals’ ‘unity with the world’; and (b) by
stipulating a simllar unity between the human individual and
humanity as such. (In Hegel’s words: ‘The sequence of ages
in man’s llfe is thus rounded into a notionally determined
totallty of alterations which are produced by the process of
the genus with the individual’ . As we can see, the mystify ing concept of ‘genus-individual’ mentioned in Marx’ s
Theses on Feuerbach is not confined to materiallsm. It characterises the entire phllosophical tradition that shares the

‘standpoint of polltIcal economy’ .)
Thus, the historlcally relevant individuals were the
genus-individuals who necessarlly/rationally acted out the
divinely prefigured destiny of the species on the corresponding time-scale of the ‘perpetually self-renewing life-process’, in relation to whIch the aberrations of the ‘play of
contingency’ could only produce a mere ripple on the
surface.

There are no such avenues open to a mat,erlalist conception of history. It is therefore rather perplexing to see how
Engels uses the ‘cunning of history’ – the ‘resultant’ of the
many conflicting individual wills – to explain historIcal
movement:

That whIch is wllled happens but rarely; in the
majorlty of instances the numerous desired ends cross
and conflict with one another. ••• Thus the confllcts
of innumerable individual wills and individual actions
in the domain of history produce a state of affairs
entirely analogous to that prevalling in the realm of
unconscious nature. The ends of the actions are not
intended; … Men make their own history, whatever
its outcome may be, in that each person follows his
own consciously desired end, and it is precisely the
resultant of these many wllls operating in different
directions and of their manifold effects upon the
outer world that constitutes history.

If this is an accurate account, it is somewhat mysterlous

why some kind of an order (history) rather than total chaos
should result from the many wills relentlessly pushing in ‘innumerable different directions’.

The ‘cunning of history’ as the lawful resultant of mlllions of self-oriented centrifugal forces is not a very plausible explanation of history. For if there is no cohesion or
dlrecti~m of some sort already in the individual wills themselves (though, of course, not in their every momentary or
caprIcious fluctuation), then one would either need some
magIc power to account for the ultimate cohesion and movement, or one would be forced into a position that tends to
underestimate the importance of conscious individual determinations in favour of some ‘inner general laws’ and separate ‘historIcal causes’. As a matter of fact, there are times
when Engels’s formulations fall into the second category.

(As, for instance, when he insists that: ‘the course of history is governed by inner general laws …. the many individual wills active in history for the most part produce results
quite other than those intended – often quite the opposite;
their motives, therefore, in relation to the total result are
likewise of only secondary importance…. What are the historlcal causes whIch transform themselves into these motives
.in the brains of the actors?’ .)
~, The genus-individual and the ‘cunning of Reason’ represent Hegel’s way of avoiding the conclusion of anarchy and
chaos whlle conveniently retaining the individualistIc framework of eternalised ‘civll society’ in whIch fundamental
social antagonisms are mystifyingly transubstantiated into
individual conflicts. Neither the genus-individual, nor the
‘cunning of Reason’ are suitable to be assimllated into a
materiallst conception of history, because they represent
two sides of the· same coin. Together with Hobbes’s bellum
omnium contra omnes (war of all against all), they belong to
a certain type of theory with whIch Marx’s conception of
the social individual ‘- orlented and motivated within a
framework of a specifIc social consciousness – has really
nothing in common.

The fundamental difference between a speculative and a
materlalist conception of history is not established by renaming the ‘cunning of Reason’ as the ‘cunning of history’,
but by identifying the dynamIc constituents of actual historIcal development in their radIcal openness: i.e., without
any preconceived guarantee of a positive outcome to the
clash of antagonistic forces. This is why in the Marxian conception the ‘new historIc form’ can only be intimated
(Grundrisse), since its actual constitution involves the neces-

sity (the one and only ‘inevitabillty’ in these matters) of
traversing the nuclear minefield of capital, with its far from
happy implications for history itself. Marx firmly stated
that:

A social order never perishes before ~ the productive forces for whIch it is broadly sufficient have
been developed, and new superior relations of production never replace older ones before the material
conditions for their existence have matured within
the womb of the old society. Mankind thus always
sets itself only such tasks as it can solve, since
closer examination wlll always show that the task
itself arises only when the materlal conditions for its
solutions are already present or at least in the process of formation.

The actual historIcal development is, thus, by no means
closed here, notwithstanding the vulgar-fatalist view attributed to t1arx by some followers and adversarles alike. For
he only talks about the process of formation of the materlal
conditions of a possible solution (whIch is ‘necessary’ in the
non-fatalist sense of being required, as well as in the equally non-fatalist sense of predicating the ultimate maturation
of the contradIctions themselves, but in no way the ~
solution of these contradIctions). And though the sentence
that follows the last quote – ‘The prehistory of human society therefore closes with this social formation’ – might
create the impression of a closure, even there the issue is
simply to stress that inasmuch as the process is successfully
accomplished, it marks a qualitatively new phase in the development of mankind.

To claim that Marx guarantees the ‘inevitablllty’ of
socialism, on the sole ground of the ongoing (and far from
finished) formation of the material conditions of a possible
solution – while, in fact, he dedIcated his whole life to the
task of realising some other vital conditions, such as the
elaboration of an adequate socioeconomIc theory and political strategy – is nothing short of preposterous. His statement is concerned with the general tendencies of a certain
~ of social development: one marked by the rather blind
de terminations of ‘prehistory’ in whIch the ‘cunning of history’ is allowed to run riot. That is to say, it is not concerned with the tortuous ways, and disconcerting transitional specificities, through which the formation of the materlal
and non-materlal conditions of a possible solution may be
retarded, endangered, and even reversed for a shorter or
longer perlod of time, under the ever-increasing pressure of
capi tal’s global artIculation through whIch ‘alle WidersprUche
zum Prozess kommen’ (‘all contradictions come into play’)
.

2. The Reconstitution of Sociallst Perspectives
How did it come about that the ‘cunning of history’ – whIch
was supposed to help, so to speak ex offIcio, the rlsing historical forces against the old ones, so as to secure the
actuallsation of the new order – instead of doing its job,
went into reverse gear and started to move in the opposite
direction, extending beyond recognitIon the vitality of that
‘socIal anachronIsm’ whIch seemed to be on its last leg (as
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the ‘last possible form of class rule’, etc.) in the middle of
the nineteenth century? And, in view of the fact that these
developments did not take place in the Hegelian speculative
universe but on the real ground of human history, what are
the chances and conditions of bringing to a halt this reckless dr iv ing at full rearward speed towards the preclpice,
with visibility confined to the miserable little rear-view
mirror: a far cry indeed from the claimed totalising vision of
the ‘cunning of Reason’?

The answer to the first question presents itself in two
parts, in that:

(1) since the middle of the nineteenth century the
socialist forces developed some internal contradictions
whose negative impact well exceeded the depressing prospects that already induced 1arx to draw the sad conclusion
in his Critique of the Gotha Programme: dixi et salvavi
animam meam (I said it and saved my soul), ‘without any
hope of success’, as he himself put it; and
(2) in the same period of time capital itself succeeded in
significantly changing its character and mode of operation:

not with respect to its ultimate limits, but as regards the
conditions of maturation of its contradictions as known to
and theorlsed by Marx.

As to the second question, concerned with changing the
present situation for the better, the answer obviously depends on the full maturation of the contradictions themselves.

For only this objective process can block both ‘the line of
least resistance’ and the existing outlets for the displacement of the contradictions, on both sides of the soclal
antagonism.

If it is true that a soclal order never perishes before all
the productive forces for which it is broadly sufficient have
been developed, this truth has far-reaching implications for
the ways in which a particular soclal formation may be replaced by another. For it is not a matter of indifference in
this respect, whether a crisis leads to a total breakdown and
collapse of the soclal order in question – in which case the
productive forces obviously cannot be further developed
within its framework – or, under the impact of a major
crisis, new modalities of functioning are introduced in order
to prevent that breakdown. Once, however, such changes are
introduced, they become more or less consclously adopted at any rate integral – parts of the new set of ‘hybrld’ relations, thus radically redefining the terms in which a subsequent fundamental (I.e., not just ‘periodic’) crisis may be
envisaged. This is because the ‘hybrid’ adjustments have signlficantly extended the potentialities for a continued development of the productive forces within the established
framework, thereby imposing the need for a profound readjustment also in the strategies of the adversary.

In this sense, the old order’s viability is now positively
affected to a degree simply unimaginable before. Nor should
one assume that this is a ‘once only’ option. On the contrary, such changes generate the conditions of their own
self-renewal, by injecting a number of new ‘variables’ – each
with objective characteristics and potentialities of its own whose Interplay becomes yet again the objectIve ground for
generatIng new potentIalities and their combInations, carryIng wIth it the further extension of the earlier limits and
productive powers (though, of course, not the ultimate
limits) of the established soclal order. And since the forces
involved in such interchanges are themselves inherently
dynamic soclal forces, with consclousness (and ‘false consclousness’) of their shifting interests, on both sides of the
fundamental soclal antagonism, these readjustments must be
conceptualised as an ongoing process whose ultimate or
‘absolute’ limits cannot be readlly prefigured, although they
eXIst nonetheless. The more or less expliclt denial of such
llmits produces the futile submissiveness of ‘revisionist’ or
‘soclal democratic’ perspectives (from Bernstein to Anthony
Crosland and his even smaller present-day followers), whlle
theIr voluntaristic direct translation into crlsis-consciousness
assumes equally damaging political form, from varieties of
Stalinism to manifestations of small-group sectarianism

‘+

which Imaginarily act out the ‘permanent revolution’ by
adopting the psychology of a permanent state of emergency.

The ultimate limits mentioned above concern the broadest historical conditions of the process, and not its transient
fluctuations. For so long as these transformations unfold on
an antagonIstically contested terrain, no emancipatory step
is safe from the dangers of retrogression, no matter how
favourable the ultimate historical relation of forces for the
‘new historic form’ might be once the old order fails to develop the productive forces. While the soclal confrontations
effectively persist, the outcome remains fundamentally open.

This is because the stakes in the actual confrontations are
not summarily ‘everything or nothing’ – except in very rare
situations of quasi-apocalyptic crlsis (and even then not for
long) – but the solution of this or that particular set of
problems or contradictions, with the possibility of regrouping
after a partial defeat, or, indeed, of losing out as a result
of the unsuspecting consumption of some indigestible fruits
of victory.

It is in the innermost nature of the confrontation between capital and labour that neither of the two princlpal
antagonists can be simply left slaughtered on the battlefield.

The ‘abolition of capital’ as an act (In contradistinction to a
long-drawn-out process of restructurlng) is just as completely unrealistic as the ‘abolition of the state’ or the sudden ‘abolition of labour’. The three stand and ‘fall’ together. (In fact Marx speaks of ‘Aufhebung’, which is a complex historical process of ‘supersession-preservation-raising
to a higher level’.) ThIs makes the tr ansi tion to soclalism
not only complex but, at the same time, opens up a vast terrain for the manlfestations of the supposedly benevolent
‘cunning of history’ at its worst.

When Malenkov was First Secretary of the Soviet Party,
he summed up his view of history by assuring his audience
that since the first world war resulted in the victory of the
Soviet Revolution, and the second was instrumental in the
emergence of the Peoples’ Democracies and China, the third
world war will produce with historical inevitabllity the victory of soclalism all over the world. The whole thing now
sounds like a macabre joke, although Malenkov was speaking
quite seriously, on a solemn occasion. The point is, though,
that no reassurance can be derlved from the broadest general perspectives of historical development. For the issues
are always decided in their actual context, on the ground of
their shi f tjng social/historical speclficl ties, tr ansi tional
determinations, as well as retrogressions.

Thus, the historical perspectives of a socialist transformation cannot be simply reaffirmed. They must be constantly reconstituted on the basis of fully acknowledging the
actual transformations (by no means always for the better)
of the social forces involved in the changing confrontations.

If we cannot account for the negative aspects of social development since .Marx’s death as they affect the prospects of
a transition to socialism, any amount of faithful self-

reassurance is bound to sound like singing in the dark.

As we know, Marx unequivocally stated that each nation
is ‘dependent on the revolutions of the others’, and, therefore, ‘communism is only possible as the act of the dominant
peoples “all at once” and simultaneously, which presupposes
the universal development of productive forces and the
world intercourse bound up with them’ . Many years
later – in fact as late as 1892 – Engels reiterated essentially
the same position by saying that ‘the triumph of the
European working class ••. can only be secured by the cooperation of at least England, France and Germany’ .

In the same work of 1845 in which Marx spoke of the
simultaneous revolutions of the ‘dominant peoples’, he also
considered, as an exception to the rule, the possibl1lty of a
socialist revolution erupting in an underdeveloped country,
as a result of uneven development. In his view, thanks to
the objective potentialities of the latter, ‘to lead to a collision in a country, this contradiction need not necessarily
have reached its extreme limit in that particular country.

The competition with industrially more advanced countries,
brought about by the expansion of international intercourse,
is sufficient to produce a similar contradiction in countries
with a less advanced industry (e.g., the latent proletariat in
Germany brought into more prominence by the competition
of English industry)’ .

Another important passage of this work explored the
problem of uneven development both internally and in its
broadest international context:

It is evident that large-scale industry does not reach
the same level of development in all districts of a
country. This does not, however, retard the class
movement of the proletariat, because the proletarians
created by large-scale industry assume leadership of
this movement and carry the whole mass along with
them, and because the workers excluded from largescale industry are placed by it in a stl11 worse situation than the workers in large-scale industry itself.

The countries in which large-scale industry is developed act in a similar manner upon the more or less
non-industrial countries, insofar as the latter are
swept by world intercourse into the universal competitive struggle.

Thus, alternative types of development for the eruption of
socialist revolutions were also considered by Marx and
Engels, even if they were not put into the foreground of
their overall strategy.

As it happened, actual historical developments disregarded the rule and produced a complicated variant of the
exception. Naturally, Marx’s adversaries never ceased to
repeat ever since, with self-congratulatory delight, that history refuted Marxism. Let them have their fun while they
can, since they refuse to see the obvious: namely, that what
really matters is the undeniable fact of the eruption of such
revolutions, and not their particular variations under determinate historical circumstances. And in any case, Marx did
not leave this problem in the form in which’ it appeared in
The German Ideology, indicating the possibility of socialist
revolutions in less advanced countries. He developed that
idea further, in his correspondence with Vera Zasulich, with
regard to the specific conditions – and potentiaUties – of
Russia where the anticipated revolution later unfolded.

While reca11lng this, it is nevertheless important to recognise the weighty implications of the fact that once the
exception succeeds in asserting itself on the scale at which
it actually did, from then on it becomes the rule in relation
to which everything else has to adjust itself.-To be sure, ideally ‘it would have been better’, had the
original hopes and expectations prevailed. For such bewildering act of the real ‘cunning of history’, whereby the
exception is turned into the rule, is bound to prolong the
‘birthpangs of the new historic form’. However, actual history does not deal in counterfactual conditIonals. The
emergence of ‘brute facts’, produced by the complex Inter-

play of multi-faceted social/historical forces, always significantly reconstitutes the ground itself on which further
action may and must be carried on.

In this sense, social history is really made of exceptions.

For its ‘laws’ are tendencies actuaUsed by particular social
agencies – which follow conscious aims and, wIthin limits,
constantly readjust their actions in relation to the more or
less successful realisation of those aims – and not physical
laws of the natural universe that carry radically different
determinations, on an incomparably longer time scale. On
the model of the natural sciences, the unexpected occurrence of the exception could be treated as an aberration,
reasserting thus the validity of the original rule. In the
social universe, however, there are no such solutions (or
consolations). There is no way of going back on the world
his tor ical impact of events like the October revolution,
since they create radically new equations for all social
forces, as well as for the original terms of the theory. Once
such monumental ‘exceptions’ consolidate themselves, any
continued insistence on an eventual return to the ‘classical
rule’ would be like ‘waiting for Godot’.

3. The Emergence of Capital’s New Rationality
Today it remains as true as ever that ‘communism is only
possible’ as the sustained action of the ‘dominant peoples’,
but its conditions of realisation have fundamentally altered.

It would be an oversimplification to say that this change
occurred suddenly, in 1917, although the Soviet revolution,
obviously, brought an immense further change in the complex
determinants involved.

The point is that the emergence and consolidation of
several important factors many years earlier pointed in the
same direction. To sum it up in one sentence: the transition
to socialism has become incomparably more complicated in
view of the fact that capital, in response to the, challenge
presented by the development of the socia11st movement,
acquired a ‘new rationality’ as a form of self-defence and a
way of counter-acting or neutralising the gains of its adversary. While this new rationality did not and could not mean
the elimination of its ‘irrationality’ and ‘anarchic character’

noted by Marx, it nevertheless significantly extended the
earlier limits. (It must be stressed though that these characteristics were never treated by Marx himself – unlike
some of hIs followers – as absolute determinations, but as
relative and tendential factors, affecting the relationship of
the parts with the whole, as well as the contradiction between the immediate measures and their long-term consequences. In this sense, partial and short-term rationality was
never denied to capital; only the possibility of a successful
and lasting integration of the partial determinations in a
comprehensive whole, which is evidently a question of
limits.)
Let us have a brief look af some of the most important
aspects of this problematic.

(1) The Marxist theory of class consciousness – includIng
Its treatment by Lukacs – Is In need of ‘slgnificimt modification’ (Lenin). While the concepts of ‘class of civil socIety’,
‘class in civil society’, and ‘class for itself’femaln valld as
far as”they go, they obviously do n'”{}tgo far enough and cannot come to grips wIth a number of serious difficultIes. The
problem is not merely that Marx’s discussion of classes in
Volume III of Capital is broken off at its very beginning, but
that later developments modified in reality itself some important characteristics of the class consciousness of both
capItal and labour. (One might legitimately ask here: is it
purely coincidental that Marx’s analysis of classes in Capital
was interrupted – six years before he died – precisely at the
time when the new complications, arising out of these developments, just started to become visible? Or, could it be,
perhaps, that such new problems added to Marx’s internal
difficulties which are identifiable also in other contexts?)
The ‘latent proletariat’ (Marx), for instance, has been
‘actualised’ in every major country; and by no means always
5

in the sense in whkh it had been antidpated. To mention
only one important aspect of this problem: the proletariat,
through its – however ‘partial’ and ‘short term’ – interests in
the prevailing capitalist order in the countries of some
‘dominant peoples’, has also become a ‘class of civil sodety’, against the original expectations. And unless the timescale of such developments, as well as the conditions of
their reversal, are defined with some predsion, the various
theories of ‘working class integration’ will continue to exerdse their disorienting influence.

Similarly, the limitations of bourgeois class consciousness need a more realistk assessment than we have become
accustomed to. This concerns above all the ruling class’s
ability to unify to a very large extent its fragmented constituents in line with its overall class interests, both internally, vis-a.-vis its indigenous working class, and extemaIfy:

in its confrontation with the international dimension of
labour’S self-emancipation. All these problems directly or
indirectly involve the need for a thorough reexamination of
the relationship between the ruling class and the state, in
its comprehensive international as well as local setting. In
other words, it requires a sober reassessment of the ruling
class’s ability to reproduce, relatively undisturbed, the
totality of state and inter-state relations, despite their
inner contradktions: safeguarding, thus, a vital precondition
to the continued survival of capital in the global framework
of the world market.

(2) Politkally, the ruling class responded to the challenge of its adversary by more or less consdously ‘suspending’ some of its sectional interests and divisions. This trend
came to the fore with dramatk force at the time of the
Paris Commune: brutally suppressed within a short time,
thanks to Bismarck’s complete turnabout, releasing the
French prisoners of war against the Communards and providing thus a most devastating material, politkal and military
proof of bourgeois class solidarity. Nor did it all stop just
there. For Bismarck was busying himself in 1871-1872 with
the establishment of an international framework of action
against the revolutionary movement. In October 1873 his
plan was in fact implemented, through the formation of the
Three Emperors’ League of Germany, Russia and AustriaHungary, with the conscious unifying aim of taking common
action in the event of a ‘European disturbance’ – caused by
the working class – in any partkular country.

At the same time, this shrewd representative of the ruling classes internally did not confine his strategy to repressive measures such as his Anti-Sodalist Law, a fitting equivalent at home to his international scheming. He simultaneously pursued the – complementary – plan of trying to
accommodate the German working class, and by no means
entirely without success. Indeed, one of the main reasons
why Marx truly detested Lassalle was his convktion that
Lassalle was ‘intriguing with Bismarck’ . Furthermore,
certain practkal measures, introduced into the economy by
the ‘Iron Chancellor’, created such confusion among sodalists that Engels had to take them to task in no uncertain
fashion:

Since Bismarck went in for State-ownershIp of IndustrIal establishments, a kind of spurIous sodalism has
arIsen, degeneratIng, now and agaIn, Into somethIng
of flunkeyism, that without more ado declares all
State-ownershIp, even of the Blsmarckian sort, to be
socIalistIc.

In the long decades that followed the defeat of the
Commune, the bourgeoisie on the whole successfully maintained Its claIm to being the ‘national class’, as the fate of
Sodal Democracy during the First World War clamorously
demonstrated. Even with respect to colonIalism, the class as
a whole emerged stronger than ever after the end of Its
direct politkal-military rule, despIte the fact that sectIons
of the BritIsh and French ruling classes suffered a temporary set-back through the dIssolution of their Empires. It dId
so by instItutIng In the form of neo-capitalism and neocoloniallsm an Incomparably more ‘rational’, ‘cost-effectIve’

6

and dynamk system of exploItatIon than the earller versIon
of dIrect colonial! mlll tary dominatIon.

Parallel to these developments, the rullng class as a
whole successfully adapted Itself in international terms to
the loss of vast areas of the planet – the Soviet Union,
China, Eastern Europe, parts of South East Asia, Cuba, etc.

– and internally strengthened its position through the invention and successful management of the ‘mixed economy’, the
‘welfare state’, and the politks of ‘consensus’. And last, but
definitely not least, the institution (again, by the ruling
class as a whole) of a ‘new international order’ whkh succeeded in eliminating – in what was supposed to be the’ Age
of Imperialism and inevitable world wars’ – violent collisions
among the major capitalist powers for more than forty years
now, and, given the existing contraints with regard to the
possible consequences, it looks like doing so indefinitely.

We must remember in this respect that Stalin repeated
as late as 1952 – in a work hailed as his ‘politkal testament’ – his fantasies about the benevolence of the ‘cunning
of history’, by proclaiming his belief in the inevitability of
another imperiallst world war and through it the selfdestruction of capitalism, insisting that the fundamental
contradktion was among capitalist powers and not between
‘capitalism and sodalism’. Thus he assumed a totally antiMarxist position, since Marx always maintained that the
bask social antagonism was between capital and labour,
whlle the contradktions between partkular capitals were
secondary and subordinate to the former. This is how Stalin
‘argued’ his case, in’ a chapter entitled ‘Inevitability of Wars
between CapitalIst Countries’:

Take, first of all, Britain and France. Undoubtedly,
they are imperialist countries. Undoubtedly, cheap
raw materials and secure markets are of paramount
importance to them. Can it be assured that they will
endlessly tolerate the present situation, in whkh,
under the guise of ‘Marshall plan aid’, Amer kan~ are
penetrating into the economies of Britain and France
and trying to convert them into adjuncts of the
United States economy, and Amerkan capital is seizing raw materials and markets in the British and
French colonies and thereby plotting disaster for the
high profits of the British and French capitalists?

Would it not be truer to say that capitalist Britain,
and, after her, capitalist France, will be compelled in
the end to break from the embrace of the U.S.A. and
enter into conflkt with it In order to secure an Independent posItIon and, of course, profIts?

Let us pass to the major vanquished countrIes.

Germany (Western) and Japan. These countrIes are
now languishing In misery under the jackboot of
AmerIcan Imperialism. TheIr Industry and agrIculture,
theIr trade, theIr foreign and home polkles, and theIr
whole lIfe are fettered by the AmerIcan occupation
‘regIme’. Yet only yesterday these countries were
great Imperialist powers and were shaking the foundatIons of the domInation of BrItaIn, the U.S.A. and
France In Europe and AsIa. To think that these countries will not try to get on theIr feet agaIn, will not
try to smash the U.S. ‘regIme’, and force theIr way
to Independent development, Is to believe in mIracles.

What guarantee Is there, then, that Germany and
Japan wlll not rise to their feet agaIn, wlll not
attempt to break out of Amerkan bondage and live
theIr own independent lives? I think there Is no such
guarantee. But it follows frOiTi”thls that the inevitablllty of wars between capitalIst countries remains
In force.

Written at a tIme when German and Japanese ‘economk miracles’ were already In full swing, not to mention the first
major steps for establIshIng the EEC, the logk of these
lines – ‘I think ••• therefore ••• It follows’ – was truly
remarkable, on account of its subjectIvIsm and voluntarlsm.

The relevance of the change in Inter-capItalist rivalry

must be assessed in its broadest context. For as a logical
extension of competition at its most extreme, violent collisions among capitallst states used to constitute an integral
part of capital’s development and normal functioning. Thus,
the change we have witnessed in this respect prov1des a
major proof of capital’s abll1ty to rect1fy some of the most
perverted aspects of 1ts 1rr a t10nal r a t10nall ty, even 1f such
change came about through the nuclear constra1nt, and not
as a result of a pos1t1ve dellberation. ~t the same time it
must be stressed that the quest10n of llmits is all-important
also in this respect. For this forced expansion of capital’s
rationallty simultaneously deprives it of its ultimate competitive weapon: the destruction of its antagonist. This, in its
turn, blocks a formerly vital avenue for the displacement of
contradictions, and thus reactivates some explosive tendencies of the internal social dynamics, with potentially
extreme severity.

(3) In the last hundred years the capitallst order has
gone through some major economic developments whose impact greatly extended its rationality and abllity to cope
with its problems. Whlle the first ‘mainstream’ reaction to
the new tendencies was always rather narrow, the more imaginative representatives of the ruling class tended to prevall
in the longer run. This was because they received powerful
support from the beneficial economic developments themselves, which objectively changed the conditions in favour of
the adoption of – from the point of view of the class as a
whole – more rational policies and measures.

–T-o mention but a few:

– the successful development of the consumer economy
;
– the adoption of Keynesian strategIes in the aftermath
of a disastrous economic crisis;
– the acceptance of nationallzatlon on a substantIal
scale;
– the flexible adaptation of capital to the demands and
straIns of the ‘mIxed economy’;
the establlshment of the InternatIonal Monetary
System and the creation of a large number of multInational
Institutions (from the EEC to EFTA, GATT, IMF, etc.), in
conformity with the overall interests of capital;
– the so far h1ghly successful adaptation of the bourgeoIs national state to the needs of the ‘mult1nationals’ and
to the expanding system of the ‘milltary-1ndustrial complex’;
– the formation of a grow1ng network of h1ghly profItable economIc relatIons wIth postcapltallst societIes;
– the successful operatIon of a global system of domInatIon which maIntaIns the ‘thIrd world’ 1n paralyzlng dependency, supplyIng the bourgeoIsIe not only wIth vast resources
and outlets for capItal-expansIon, but also w1th a revenue
large enough to offset to a slgnificant extent the tendentlal
fall In the rate of profit. And while the aggressIve fantasIes
of a mllltary ‘roll-back’ of ‘actual sociallsm’ proved to be an
utter fallure, the success of neo-capltallst penetratIon
through Its growIng economIc tentacles represents a much

more serIous danger in this respect.

To understand the relatIve Importance of the latter
trend, we have to bear in mInd that the Indebtedness of several East European countries
especIally Poland and
Hungary
to Western capitalism is quite phenomenal.

Hungary, for Instance, Is In debt to the tune of approxImately 1,000 dollars per head of popUlation. (Given the lower
level of Income In these countries In comparIson wIth theIr
Western counterparts, the per capita debt is thus even hIgher than it appears at fIrst sight.) Naturally, such debts must
be serviced, and the sheer magnitude of Interest payments
alone may impose enormous strains – as the Pollsh economy
testIfies – on the countries concerned. Not to mentIon the
Ironic consequences of import1ng InflatIon into the ‘planned
economy’ with the blessings of Western capital. And this is
only one of the many ways 1n which the growing network of
economic relatIons functIons In capital’s favour. Others
Include:

– disproportIonately one-sIded trade relatIons;
– exporting, for the sake of Western currency, goods in
which there Is a shortage at home (includIng food, dIsregardIng even the danger of food riots, as we have seen In the
case of Poland);
– developIng certaIn sectors of the economy primarlly
for the sake of Western markets;
– producIng fInIshed products on behalf of capitallst
concerns, for sale abroad;
– subcontracting for the supply of components to
Western fIrms;
– productIon under capitalist llcence and disbursing the
concomItant royalty payments;
– purchasing entire capltallst plants, InvolvIng, again,
substantIal royalty payments, sometImes for antIquated products and processes;
– highly Inflated ‘unofficial’ conversIon rates for Western currency, In the context of the tourIst trCldeand elsewhere;
– constructIng luxury hotels and even gambllng casInos
(economIc ‘no-go areas’ for the local populatIon) and leasIng
them to Western enterprises on terms highly advantageous to
the latter.

Moreover, we can also IdentIfy some baffllng developments that dIsplay the dIrect negatIve impact of East European socIetIes on the llvellhood and struggles of the Western
workIng class Itself. Thus, three years after this essay first
appeared In Itallan , the Hungarian perIodical Magyar
Hlrek proudly reported that:

–ThIs year 280,000 blue jeans wlll be produced under
the licence of the Engllsh Lee Cooper fIrm by the
Karcag factory of the Budapest Clothing CooperatIve. Th1s quantIty Is more than double the number of
farmer trousers (the HungarIan name for blue jeans)
they made last year.

By coIncidence, the same week it was announced In BrItaIn
that the Levl-Strauss firm – a major competitor of Lee
Cooper’s – was closIng down two of Its ScottIsh factories,
addIng 500 more workers to the already very hIgh number of
unemployed In Scotland. Whlle the date 1s, of course, a mere
coIncidence, the real connection Is very far from beIng accidental. It represents, In fact, one of the many ways in which
Western capitallsm can turn Its ablllty to exploIt even the
relatively underpaId East European workforce to Its own
advantage and use the moblllty of capItal – whlle preachIng
the ‘need for labour moblllty’ as the magic remedy for unemployment – agaInst Its own labour force.

Another sIgnificant, as well as extremely painful,
example has been provided by the doubllng of Pollsh coal
exports to Margaret Thatcher’s BritaIn durIng the miners’

strike. Indeed, to make things worse, this happened under
circumstances where Lech Walesa’s Solldarnosc organisation
(in contrast to some local groups of Pollsh workers) failed to
make so much as a verbal gesture of solldarity towards the
BritIsh mIners.

But perhaps the most ironic case Is the one that raised
7

some eyebrows even in conservative newspapers. As The
Times reported on 11 April 1985:

Mr Eddy Shah, the owner of Messenger Group Newspapers, will print his new national newspaper on
presses leased through the London Subsidiary of the
Hungarian National Bank, it was disclosed yesterday.

The financial alliance has taken unions by surprise,
as the Hungarian International Bank is wholly controlled by Hungary’s Communist Government.

Mr Shah is widely seen as an anti-union employer,
since he defeated the National Graphical Association
in late 1983 in a dispute at his Warrington works
over the closed shops.

Mr Shah said he had approached several British
banks and financers, but they were all ‘scared of the
political implications’. ••• Mr rim Newling, managing
director of Hungarian International, said his Hungarian directors had been consulted and had agreed that
Mr Shah’s plan ‘stacked up very well’.

What is particularly disturbing about such ‘purely financial’

deals is not merely that a socialist country should get involved at all in the business of someone who is ‘widely seen
as an anti-union employer’, but that it should acquire – of
necessity, on account of the ‘risk capital’ which it puts at
the disposal of its curious business partner – a stake in the
success of an enterprise that could not help being intensely
political (and no one has any doubt on which side of the political divide) even if Mr Shah wanted his national newspaper
to stand above politics.

One could go on, but there is no need to do so. For the
trends and measures already listed are more than sufficient
to show that such developments are quite serious as regards
their weight and impact on the societies of ‘actual socialism’ even as things stand today, not to mention their implications for the future.

In view of all these transformations, we may well find
Engels’s optimistic assertion – according to which ‘The
capitalist has no further social function than that of
pocketing dividends, tearing off coupons, and gambling on
the Stock Exchange, where the different capitalists despoil
one another of their capital’ – somewhat premature and
utopian . The problem is not simply that certain
expectations did not materialise. Much more important is the
positive aspect of this issue: namely that the intervening
developments created some objective conditions and
fu~ctions which must be realistically tackled, by devising a
sUItable alternative to the existing – significantly
rationalised – mode of functioning of present-day capital.

For a one-sided negation carries with it the danger of
merely losing the instruments of capital’s undoubtedly
limited, but within its limits most effective, rationality,
finding oneself badly entangled in chronic economic
difficulties of which the societies of ‘actual socialism’

provide many an unhappy example.

4. Contradictions of an Age of Transition
The negative consequences of the same period of
development for socialist forces may be summarised much
more briefly, since the obverse side of capital’s success given in the form of fairly obvious negative implications on
each point mentioned above – need not be spelled out here.

Nevertheless, it is necessary to underline some particularly
important problems.

In the first place, the split of the socialist movement
into radical and reformist branches, as well as its
fragmentation into national particular isms, against the
expectations of a growing international cohesion, remain a
major challenge for the future. Similarly, the institutionally
entrenched opposition between {ineffective} theory and
self-sustaining (manipulative-bureaucratic) political practice
shows very few signs of changing, and thus remains an
equally serious problem for socialists today.

On another plane, the immediate pressures on the
Western working class movement
for securing and
safeguarding employment; for improving or even just
maintaining the attained standard of living; etc. – make it
objectively interested and involved in the continued success
of ‘organised capitalism’, with the concomitant temptations
of complicity in sustaining even the ‘military-industrial
complex’, with the frightening ‘justification’ that the latter
is a major provider of jobs. An equally striking complicity is
manifest in the ‘metropolitan’ working class’s participation,
as a beneficiary, in the continued exploitation of the
so-called ‘third world’: an integral, but structurally
dependent and exploited part of the one and only real world.

As to the ‘societies of actual socialism’, even today we
are still very far from the end of the process of ‘socialist
accumulation’. Which means that for a long time to come we
must continue to suffer the consequences of the ‘brute
historical fact’ that it was not the ‘dominant peoples all at
once and simultaneously’ who initiated th-esocialist
revolution, but a tragically underdeveloped country, under
the . ~tr.ain of massive internal and external pressures,
sacrdIcmg too much – a great deal of its own socialist
forces – in the course of defending itself while trying to
accomplish an aim (the production of the ‘material
presuppositions and preconditions’) which Marx simply – and
from the epochal frame of reference of the overall theory
justifiably – took for granted. Furthermore, under the impact
of the arms race, with its astronomical and still multiplying
costs, every partial socialist achievement is constantly
endangered and potentially nullified. The issue is not only
the staggering, and ill affordable, size of the material
resources themselves which must be locked up in arms
production, instead of developing and satisfying the needs of
Marx’s ‘rich social individual’. It is equally a question of the
overall orientation of the economy, directly or indirectly
linked to the requirements of ‘high technology’ arms
production, in competition with Western capital; not to
mention the type of social control which is suitable to keep
in tune with such an economy.

It transpires, thus, that the ‘cunning of Reason’ today
is, at best, a simpleton, and the ‘cunning of history’ is bent
on terminating history itself.

But even. so, it would be quite wrong to take them too
seriously and draw unduly pessimistic conclusions. For while
time is not necessarily on our side, the objective limitations
of capital as such should not be understated.

This takes us back to the all-important question of the
ultimate limits which remain in operation – this cannot be
stressed enough, precisely because they often slip out of
sight – at all times. They remain operative even when a
successful readjustment and extension of the earlier limits
creates an economically and politically stable and, for the
‘old order’, favourable situation for a relatively long period
of time.

They operate underneath all adjustments by
circumscribing the
range of feasible
options, thus
emphatically preventing the successful reversal of the

8

fundamental trends themselves. In this sense, but in this
sense only, there is a real irreversibllity of historical time,
even if its partIcular moments must be treated with utmost
care and sober evaluation.

On a historically relevant scale, an age of transition is
initiated the moment the dominant forces of the old order
are forced by an acute crisis to adopt remedies which would
be totally unacceptable to them without that crisis,
introducing, thus, an allen body into the original structure,
wIth ultimately destructive consequences, no matter how
beneflclal the immediate results.

To be sure, any self-respecting oyster would strongly
object to the injection of sand – a nasty irritant – into its
flesh. Yet, once it is there, the oyster manages not only to
survive for a considerable time, but even to produce a shiny
pearl which may appear to have solved the problems forever,
by mUltiplying perhaps a millionfold the oyster’s value. As
we know, however, none of the real problems of our world
are solved by pearl production. Nor is it the case, as
reformists think, that the introduction of sand into capItal’s
flesh, and the ensuing multipllcation of its value, turns
capital-oyster into a transitional formation happily on its
way to the Soclal-DemocratIc paradise and its strange
idealisation by the propounders of ‘market socialism’. For an
oyster is an oyster – and eventually a dead oyster – no
matter how inflated its exchange value.

The age of transition to socialism – our inescapable
historIcal predIcament – does not mean in the slightest that
the various countries involved in such transformation all
actually exhibit a determinate degree of approximation to
the sociallst goal on a linear scale. It does not even mean
that we are bound for sure to get there, since the
frightening and ever-increasing accumulation of the powers
of destruction – thanks to the suIcidal inclinations of the
‘cunning of history’

may preClpItate us into Rosa
Luxemburg’s ‘barbarism’, rather than guaranteeing the
socialist outcome.

Nevertheless, we may speak of the age of transition to
soclalism meaningfully in that:

(1) We are beginning to witness a change in the relation
of forces, with a tendency toward diminishing returns for
capital on its adoption of measures and remedies of
increasing severity and ‘foreignness’ in terms of its own
character and fundamental constitution. It is enough to think
in this respect of the qualitative difference between the
ear lier na tionallza tion of certain branches of industry, whIch
could be easily turned into extended support bases and
welcome forms of subsidy for private capital – such as the
transport system and energy production – and the more
recent nationalization of some necessarily competitive
sectors, llke the motor car industry, for instance, which
represented a very mixed blessing indeed. In other words,
the first type of nationallzation produces benefits to the
totallty of capital, reducing its ‘unit costs’ through the
provision of cheap energy and transport (a form of subsidy
out of general taxation), in addition to maintaining in
existence areas of economIc activity whIch are absolutely
vital to the social metabollsm itself, after the disastrous
failure of private capital to operate them the only way it
would and could: namely, in the interest of profit. Besides,
the fact that the substantial losses of many such operations
must be balanced, by definition, from the general tax
revenue also provides the welcome ideological weapon
through whIch private capital can turn its failure into a
propaganda vIctory, by making a meal out of the loss-making
character of ‘publIc enterprise’ as such, when in fact the
very existence of capitallstically nationa!lzed and managed
‘publIc enterprise’ represents the !lving proof of its own
growing structural bankruptcy. At the same time, when the
formerly denounced ‘publlc enterprise’ becomes profitable, it
can be conveniently denationalized, without acknowledging,
of course, the role of the public purse in giving to a
formerly falled private flrm (or even to a falled branch of
industry) a capitalistically viable new lease of life.

By contrast, the second type of nationallzation is inher-

ently divisive – in virtue of its competitive potential – hence
subject to the most intense controversy among various sectors of capital. (We may recall in this respect the bitter
sectional-capitalist denunciation of the ‘waste of money’,
addressed to the Conservative Government, for financing the
‘survival plans’ of both British Leyland and the British Steel
Corporation.)
Naturally, nationalizations of the second type are implemented not for their own sake, but primarlly because the
survival of the firms in question – including some former pillars of British capitalism, like Rolls Royce – directly or indirectly affects the fate of a large number of other capitalist firms. The divisive competitive dimension comes to the
fore with particular intensity at times of recession, when on
the one hand the impact of the nationalized product may
bankrupt other firms, and on the other, the fight for state
funds is greatly intensified by an ever-increasing demand for
a diminishing real revenue. (Endemic inflation has its causes
to a significant extent in these and similar factors.)
(2) Capital is presented with a dangerously narrowing
range of feasible alternatives to the full activation of its
structural crisis. Thus:

– the shrinking size of the world directly controlled by
private capital;
– the sheer magnitude of the resources required for indefinitely displacing its contradictions, within the constraints of an ominously diminishing return also in this
respect;
– the slowly emerging saturation of the global framewcrk of profitable capital production;
– the chronic difficulties encountered in, and generated
by, raising the necessary revenue for keeping in existence
the parasitic sections of capital, at the expense of its productive parts;

– the noticeable weakening of the ideological power of
manipulative institutions – whIch were originally established
under the circumstances of economic expansion and its twin
brother: the ‘welfare state’ – at times of prolonged reces”ion and growing ‘structural unemployment’.

Characteristically, this is the only context in which the
apologists of capital have, at long last, taken notice of the
existence of structural conditions and determinations. But,
of course, the admission that unemployment is now ‘structural’ is stated – with a logic worthy of capital’s ‘analytical’

wisdom – not so as to call for a change in the structure (the
social order) in which such consequences are unavoidable.

On the contrary, in order to justify and maintain the selfsame structure intact, at whatever human cost, accepting
‘structural unemployment’ as the permanent feature of the
one and only conceivable structure.

We can see here, again, the ‘eternalisation of bourgeois
conditions’, even in the face of a dramatically obvious and
highly disturbing historical development.

Yesterday the
oracle said: ‘Full Employment in a Free Society’ (see the
Llb-Labouring Lord Beveridge’s book of the same title);
today it talks about ‘structural unemployment’. But, of
course, nothing has really changed, and especially: nothing
ought to change. For unemployment is ‘structural’, and
therefore it is here to stay to the end of time.

All these trends indicate a very real movement towards
the ultimate llmits of capital as such, and hence they show
the historical actl:’ality of a painful but inescapable process
of transition.

9

2
3
lj.

5
6
7
8
9

10
11
12
13
1lj.

15
16
17
18

Hegel, The Phenomenology of Mind, Allen & Unwin, London, 1966, p.

lllj..

Hegel, Phllosophy of Mind, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1971, p. 62.

Ibid., pp. 62-3.

Ibid., p. 63.

Ibid., p. 6lj..

With regard to the fundamental methodological and ideological
boundaries of this tradition, see Part Two, Chapter 5, of my book, The
Power of Ideology, Harvester Press, Brighton, 1986.

Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy,
in V1arx and Engels, Selected Works, Vot. Il, p. 35lj..

Ibid., pp. 35lj.-5.

V1arx,’ Preface to the Critique of Political Econom y’, in A Contribution
to the Critique of Political Economy, Lawrence & Wishart, London,
1971, p. 21. Unfortunately, in this translation the word ‘always’

(‘immer’) is rendered as ‘inevitably’, thus encouraging a
~atallst7determinist reading.

Ibid.

Marx, Grundrisse, p. 228.

Marx and Engels, Collected Works (henceforth quoted as MECW), Vot.

5, p. lj.9 (The German Ideology).

Engels, Introduction to the English Edition of Socialism: Utopian and
Scientific, Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. Il, p. 105.

MECW, Vol. 5, pp. 7lj.-5.

Ibid., p. 7lj..

See Engels, Letter to Kautsky, 23 February 1891.

Engels, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, Selected Works, Vol. Il, p.

135.

Stalin, Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR, Foreign Languages
Press, Peking, 1972, pp. 3lj.-6.

THESIS
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19 Though it is politically understandable, events and developments which
represent just as much capital’s success as labour’s victory, are often
one-sidedly hailed by sociallsts, overrating their importance for the
.:ldvancement of the movement itself (from the repeal of Bismarck’s
Anti-Sociallst Law and other versions of anti-labour legislation to the
‘welfare state’ and the consumer economy).

To be sure, the working class has a vital share in all such
1Chievements. However, it is more than a mere coincidence that these
conquests become possible at times when capital is in a position not
only to digest them, but also to turn the extracted concessions into
major gains for itself. In other words, these improvements come into
being at times when, as a result of capital’s inner dynamic – of which
its relation to labour is, of course, a key factor – the repressive
posture proves to be not only outdated and redundant, but indeed a
fetter to the further expansion of its power dnd wealth.

Naturally, for exactly the same reasons – which assert capital’s
prevalent interests in these matters – things may move in the opposite
direction for a shorter or longer period of time, under specific
historical conditions and circumstances; as not only the emergence of
Fascism demonstrated, against the background of a massive economic
crisis, but also the recent emergence of the ‘Radical Right’, with its
ruthless legislative measures directed against labour.

20 As part of a longer study. See I. Vleszaros, ’11 rinnovamento del
marxismo e l’attualita storica dell’offensiva socialista’, Problemi del
Socialismo, No. 23, Jan-Aprll 1982, pp. 5-1lj.1.

21 2 February 1985.

22 Ironically – yet another ‘irony of history’? – this judgment is made in a
work entitled: The Development of Socialism from Utopia to Science,
Selected Works, Vol. Il, p. 136.

ELEVEN

Number 12

1985

The self-reproduction of art

Niklas Luhmann
On Burger and the avant-garde

Richard Wolin
Marxism, modernism, post modernism

David Roberts
A political critique of aesthetics

Tony Bennett
The transvaluation of modernism

Blaine McBurney
Literary criticism in Australia and England

A ndrew Milner
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payable to
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Della Volpe’s aesthetics

Franco Schiavoni
Criticism and ideology: an interview

Terry Eagleton
Plus: Vajda, Carlo and Poggi on Soviet -type
societies
Previous issue, number 10/11, includes:

The discourse ethics of Habermas

Agnes Helier
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Thesis Eleven
c/ – Sociology Dept.,
Phillip Institute
of Technology,
Bundoora, 3083,
Australia
10

On ‘rationality’ and ‘development’

Cornelius Castoriadis
The welfare state crisis and work

O//e/Hinrichs/ Wiesenthal
Delegation and Political Fetishism

Pierre Bourdieu
A critical theory of bureaucracy

Michael Pusey

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