Socialism or extinction? Decaying capitalism driving humanity towards (potentially nuclear) third world war

Grossmanite
26 min readJan 27, 2022

Because capitalism is inevitably abolishing itself through the evolutionary replacement of exploitable (commodity-producing) labour — the source of profit — with automated production, competition over assets and dwindling profits between major capitalist (imperialist) nations is intensifying, threatening cataclysmic global conflict.

“Have we entered the period of decisive revolutionary struggles? Has the moment already come when the proletariat, on pain of its own destruction, is forced to take up its task of changing the world?” — Georg Lukacs, 1924

After 700-odd years, it can be said with considerable certainty that capitalism is finally approaching its death throes — but the ruling class threatens to take humanity down with it as the deepest ever crisis of capital accumulation increasingly compels the (nuclear-holding) imperialist powers (the US, Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Russia and China)[1] to square up over the system’s disappearing sources of profit.

Intensifying competition in the energy market between the US and Russia contributed to European gas prices rising by a record 670% in 2021. This hike followed the world-historic development of April 2020 when the price of US oil fell below zero for the first time ever, forcing producers to cut production (or at least withold sales) on the one hand (addendum: a trick repeated in October 2022) to raise prices (centralising wealth into fewer hands to rewiden thinning profit margins) and, on the other, intensify efforts to outdo competitors.

Fossil fuel has been vital to capitalist development — the intensity and non-renewability of its production maximises the exploitability of the labour involved — but its energy return on investment (EROI) has steadily declined from 100:1 in 1930 to 3–6:1 in 2019. Because raising the productivity of labour via innovation makes production increasingly capital-intensive, investing in domestic and crude oil is becoming permanently unprofitable.

Capitalism is thus approaching its final breakdown (and, in fact, the evolution of its economic-technical basis is evolving in such a way that for the first time demands socialism, since what is now state monopoly capitalism is increasingly dependent on monopolisation, central planning (within each private enterprise, e.g. centralised databases, elimated internal markets, stock coding, etc.) and (drying up) public subsidies; making the final logical step in its evolution — revolution being a culmination of a series of evolutionary phases — state monopoly socialism, i.e. a ‘final merger’, central planning of the economy as a whole, and the public ownership of all production.)

Capitalism’s tendency towards monopolisation demands a final (and therefore publicly owned) merger.

As of the start of 2022, the faltering US empire — which has had anti-ballistic missle systems near Russia’s borders for around 15 years and carries out exercises imitating the use of nuclear weapons against the country — is turning to potentially nuclear brinkmanship to prevent the consolidation of Russian gas exports in Europe, in order to secure a market for its own liquified natural gas [LNG]. (In 2019 a delusional US military document said that using nuclear weapons may “restore [US impeialism’s] strategic stability”.)

US sanctions on Russia — transaction blockades via the international banking system, which compels countries to buy energy in US dollars — have been continually rising at an accelerated rate over the past decade or so. In fact, G20 trade restrictions in general hit a then-record high in 2016 — before the election of Donald Trump in the US or Britain’s referendum vote to exit the European Union. US threats to sanction the EU have also increased, with the EU tending to back down due to its relative military weakness, resulting in the US overtaking Russia in 2020 as a supplier of LNG to Europe.

Germany still buys more than 30% of its gas supplies from Russia, but the recently completed Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, running from Russia under the Baltic Sea to Germany, has not been allowed to operate due to threats from the US. Sections of the ruling class in Germany are therefore opposed to any new sanctions on Russia, which will affect the flow of cheap Russian gas (and fertiliser), just the latest in a number of splits emerging in the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the military alliance of western imperialist powers. (In 2019, for example, France President Emmanuel Macron described NATO as “brain dead” after making proposals for the creation of an independent European army.)

For Russia, the problem is not simply the potential loss of a lucrative market, but the fact that NATO has long since built up the biggest military presence on its border since WWII.

NATO expansion

US Secretaries of State agreed in both 1990 and 1993 that NATO would not advance its membership into central and eastern Europe. But since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the socialist bloc in 1989-91 — itself a manifestation of US agression, making Putin and his oligarchic allies their monsters — NATO has brought into membership almost all the former socialist states, including the three ex-Soviet Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania (who had little choice in the matter if they wanted to avoid US sanctions that would starve them of access to energy). Russia now has NATO members and imperialist troops and weaponry up against its western borders. It is unsurprising that it wishes to keep Ukraine out of NATO — and Russia-facing nukes out of Ukraine.

Russia has demanded that neither Ukraine nor Moldova become NATO members and that there should be legal guarantees of a non-expansion of NATO. It also calls for a return of 1997 NATO borders, with the withdrawal of NATO troops and missiles from countries that have joined since then. These demands have been rejected by the US ambassador to NATO.

In 2017, NATO said that it had “enhanced its presence in the eastern part of the Alliance, with four multinational battlegroups in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. These battlegroups, led by the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany and the United States respectively, are multinational, and combat-ready.”

According to NATO itself, its warplanes confronted Russian aircraft 290 times in 2021, most of the time along Russia’s western borders. That means nearly 80% of NATO’s 370 flight missions in 2021 involved confrontations with the Russian air force.

NATO naval exercises also regularly take place in the Black Sea probing Russia’s defences around Crimea. In June 2021 a British destroyer, HMS Defender, was fired on by Russian forces as it sailed close to the coast of Crimea in a deliberate act of provocation.

Ceding ground, after (the largely ethnic Russian) Crimea voted to integrate itself into the Russian Federation in 2014 in response to a US-backed far-right coup that overthrew Ukraine’s democratically-elected and neutral President, Viktor Yanukovych — since when Donetsk and Luhansk have been continually shelled by US-backed Ukrainian forces (including outright fascists), amid a de facto civil war, killing 14,000 people — can only weaken Russia’s political and military security, even if its own capital accumulation depends on increasingly exploiting Ukrainian labour. (Russia has been the largest foreign investor in Ukraine since 2016.)[2]

It is hard to imagine that Russian leaders — unless they are sensing real weakness and have the firm backing of China; or fear relative passivity has emboldened enemies — would want to give NATO any kind of pretext that would ‘justify a response’; that they really want to seize Kiev (the Ukrainian capital), as the NATO powers keep insisting they do.

(Addendum: On 25 February Russia began targeting military facilities in Ukraine and taking over some Ukrainian towns and cities; but as of the 27th, according to a former British ambassador, “we have seen nothing like the simply massive civilian casualties the West inflicted on Libya, Iraq or Afghanistan… Russia has not unleashed anything like the kind of firepower that would need to be unleashed to subdue Ukraine.” Russia, it seems, had not attempted at this point let alone “failed to take Ukraine quickly”, as the BBC claims. A speedy Russian withdrawal from this advance still seemed highly possible if Russia’s anti-NATO-expansion demands were met. Russian troops did destroy a concrete dam, but that was built in Ukraine’s Kherson Region in 2014 to cut off water to Crimea. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s National Guard boasted on its official Twitter account of its actual Nazi fighters killing Russian Muslim ‘orcs’ with lard-covered bullets.

Just as the US and Ukraine agreed to a ceasefire to allow civilians safe passage, the US media began manufacturing public support for a ‘no fly zone’, something most of the mere 831 respondees (who opposed sending in US troops) didn’t understand to actually mean shooting down Russian planes — probably a surefire way to trigger WWIII.)

These are the same NATO powers that lied about ‘Saddam’s WMDs’ to invade Iraq and Afghanistan, killing millions of people; about Gaddafi’s supposed ‘imminent invasion of Benghazi’ to prevent independence from the dollar and the euro and bring chattel slavery back to Libya; and that have lied again and again to wage barbaric wars just recently in Syria, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere. (Western media has already been caught out using false images to sex up Russian offenses.)

While Moscow likely craves a buffer zone between Russia and what it regards as a very NATO friendly power on its doorstep, all capitalists that invest overseas are primarily fighting to expand their own exploitable labour bases at the expense of their competitors. US, British, EU and Russian capital, therefore, all need to expand into new territory. (Indeed, they are desperate to privatise Ukraine’s state assets, something the majority of Ukrainians oppose.) To wage wars to secure new labour, they need the military resources that only nation-states can provide.

Capitalism’s inherent warlust

War has always been a feature of capitalism, not just in its ‘higher’ imperialist/monopoly phase (which developed inevitably out of its ‘free market’/‘lower’ phase in the latter part of the 19th century).

Capital must continually accumulate, since investment is disincentivised without greater (profitable) returns. As capital accumulates, however, it becomes more and more difficult to expand yet further — like a body builder addicted to muscle gain who is increasingly compelled to train harder — since larger proportions of capital overaccumulate, i.e. become surplus, unprofitable to reinvest in; firstly domestically, meaning the frequency of exported capital increases, but increasingly overall, too.

Competition between capitalists on the world market over the right to own and control capital, labour and land therefore tends to intensify — i.e. such competition is symptomatic of capital accumulation itself, not a root cause of political developments — eventually manifesting in war between entire nation-states.

The richest or oldest capitalist powers are likely to be the most aggressive in their competitive and warmongering endevours, since their capital is the largest and most difficult to expand. No wonder the US and Britain are always waging wars.

As the crisis of accumulation deepens, the size and frequency of wars tend to grow. In the wake of 9/11, the author Zoltan Grossman circulated a list, based on Congressional Records and The Library of Congress Congressional Research Service, of 133 US military interventions from 1890 to 2001. The average per year is 1.15 before and 1.29 after WWII. After the Cold War, from late 1989, the figure rises to 2.0 (showing that ‘the-end-of-history’ liberals who said the destruction of the Soviet Union would bring about a more peaceful world either lied or did not know what they were talking about).

The idea that wars are caused simply by human nature, greed or stupidity is therefore woefully inadequate. War between humans did not really exist before the advent of private property — itself a symptom of the agricultural revolution approximately 13,000 years ago and the uneven development and competition it brought about through surplus production and trade.

As private property as an institution has aged and concentrated into relatively fewer and fewer hands, especially under capitalism, the size and frequency of wars has tended to rise. Whereas the Cold War was of a bipolar character, today’s standoff is an increasingly multipolar one — more akin to WWI — since competition over relatively fewer resources has intensified after the end of the post-WWII boom (around 1970) and more nation-states have reached a state of overaccumulation and acquired nuclear weapons. Even if the present situation calms down, such a scenario would not be sustainable.

As the tension mounts, if humanity is to avoid the prospect of nuclear armageddon, we must understand exactly why and how war manifests as a byproduct of and an aid to capital accumulation.

The breakdown tendency vs the counter-tendencies

In short: because the total amount of capital accumulated (the value of capitalist society’s productive forces) tends to grow faster than the amount that capital appropriates from commodity-producing workers’ labour timethe real measure of value and source of profit — capitalism suffers from an intensifying ‘overaccumulation’ of capital. This glut of surplus capital is unprofitable to (re)invest in the commodity production that enables the valorisation (reproduction and expansion) of capital.

(Surplus value/labour time is unpaid labour time — on average, only necessary labour time, covering necessary living costs, is actually paid. This social reality is obscured by the money-wage relation. As capitalism ages, capital tends to appropriate more and more of labour’s labour time to meet the ever-greater demands of accumulation. This is usually offset to a limited extent, from labour’s perspective, by greater production/consumption/falling prices, enabling capitalists to maintain ‘enough’ social peace and class collaboration.)

This overaccumulation of capital is at the same time an underproduction of surplus value/profit, as the bias of capital to labour — through innovation and productive expansion — tends to rise in favour of the former, meaning that the exploitable labour base tends to shrink, at least relative to the total capital that labour needs to expand (yet further).

Debt as a percentage of GDP continually hits record highs.
The value of stocks and bonds on the stock market — where fictitious capital is traded to compensate for the underproduction of surplus value — relative to the value of commodity production hit a record high in 2020.

Recessions — partial breakdowns of capital accumulation — strike as a result of this ongoing process, on average every 10 years (with each one tending to be worse than the last, as has been the case with the stock market crashes of 2000–01, 2007–09 and March 2020, the last of which was the hardest crash ever, amid an ever-greater financial/debt bubble that, for the first time, now engulfs all asset classes). Capitalists are therefore compelled to offset this breakdown tendency in several ways, mainly through the cheapening of labour and the devalution and centralisation of capital and production, so that accumulation is restored on a higher level.

One of the greatest counter-tendencies is the export of capital, i.e. investment overseas, primarily to expand and cheapen the exploitable labour base and secondarily to expand commodity sales. Capital’s dependence on this parasitic social relation becomes increasingly frequent as it ages. As the oldest, Britain is the most parasitic imperialist power, exporting capital equatable to 560% of its GDP in 2015. In bulk, Britain’s capital outflows come second only to that of the US (which became the dominant world power after WWII, having taken over much of Britain’s empire in exchange for military aid as the power of the US dollar usurped Britain’s increasingly devalued pound sterling as the global reserve currency).

The export of capital entails intensified competition on the world market and, therefore, warmongering. Warmongering itself is perhaps the most important counter-tendency:

  • An absolute decline in production that comes with any capitalist recession, compounded or induced by war, initially depresses prices as companies scramble to move on excess stock that no one would otherwise be able to buy, enabling cheaper innovation, productive expansion and mergers and acquisitions (tending towards the monopolisation of production and wealth). War especially helps here in terms of making sure such deflationary turns are sufficient when overaccumulation is particularly high.
  • An ideologically ‘justified’ imperialist war justifies the heaping of more and more national debt onto the backs of the public/working class to subsidise private weapons manufacturers who would otherwise be insolvent.
  • Because the public/working class — via the capitalist state — funds innovation as the arms race intensifies, the burden of innovation is taken away from capital, enabling it to maximise profit margins once those innovations have been privatised, reconfigured and commercialised for the civilian and business-to-business economies.
  • The victors are able to confiscate capital from the defeated nation and put it towards their own capital accumulation. They can also turn the defeated country into a debt colony, generating the further centralisation of accumulation.
  • They are also able to expand their exploitable labour base by taking control of the defeated country’s commodity-producing assets. That war decimates wages further enhances profit margins.
  • Capital destroyed in war is devalued, reducing the glut of surplus capital and thus creating new room for accumulation; creating new profitable opportunities in terms of the rebuilding process (the upfront costs of which are largely shouldered, again, by the state).
  • Alongside surplus capital grows surplus labour that it can no longer afford to employ. Soldiers sent to die in wars (along with civilian deaths) reduce the burden on the capitalist state’s tax base by torching their (future) wages (including benefits/welfare/pensions). This money can instead be dedicated to subsidising capital, rewidening profit margins and centralising wealth.

Exhausted counter-tendencies

The First and Second Imperialist World Wars were thus both symptoms of and (temporary) solutions to overaccumulation. They represented the final birth pangs of lower (‘free market’) capitalism’s inevitable transformation into higher (finance/monopoly/imperialist) capitalism, when industrial capital necessarily merged with/absorbed banking capital, laying the basis for the dominance of today’s parasitic multi/transnational corporations (which are mostly based in the imperialist nations but appropriate most of their surplus value from labour in Eastern Europe, Asia, South America and Africa, as the ever-greater demands of accumulation compel them to expand their exploitable labour bases). Both ended when surplus capital and labour had been sufficiently depleted to restore accumulation; and when the defeated capitalist nations had exhausted their economic capacities to arm, feed and fuel their armies. (This included Britain in the sense that, due to the massive debasement of pound sterling, it had to hand over much of its Empire to the US in return for aid in defeating Nazi Germany.)

The first two world wars effectively saved capitalism — despite inspiring socialist revolutions in one third of the world — or propelled it into its most acute monopoly phase, enabling the postwar productivity boom that breathed another century of life into the system. (Indeed, the socialist nations that eventually exhausted their ability to resist imperialist aggression effectively removed the burden on capital to industrialise huge swathes of the world economy.)

Documentary by Prolekult.

A Third Imperialist World War, though, surely cannot save capitalism this time, and not simply because of the obvious omnicidal and environmental consequences of a nuclear exchange between imperialist powers. (Nor, on the basis of war game simulations, is the US military confident that it could defeat Russia and China; hardly surprising when it could not actually win in Vietnam, Iraq or even Afghanistan.)

Capital’s ever-rising need to raise the productivity of labour — the amount of surplus value and the output of commodities — has now brought about a decisive structural shift whereby the overaccumulation of capital is so high that automating production has become almost entirely necessary.

The pool of exploitable (commodity-producing) labour needed to valorise capital is dwindling. Most of the world’s workforce has now been desindustrialised, moved out of manufacturing and into services, meaning it tends to handle only finished or near-finished commodities and is therefore relatively much less productive (of surplus value). The arms race that comes with war can only accelerate the process of automating labour and therefore centralising capital and wealth into yet fewer hands.

Rates of profit (as we saw above with domestic oil), GDP growth and interest rates are all rapidly approaching zero, along with prices of production. The US dollar and UK pound sterling have lost almost 100% of their value over the past century. The money-commodity are private property are becoming worthless.

War and the other counter-tendencies capitalists must pursue to restore accumulation are surely close to being permanently exhausted.

In the meantime, the US is trying (hardest of all) to stave off this inevitability by trying to expand both its control of capital assets and its exploitable labour base; i.e. to wrest away capital and labour that presently ‘belongs’, in this instance, to Russian capital, and vice-versa.

The economic necessity of socialism

What then should replace capitalism in historical terms? Do we accept that human society has peaked and must now go backwards or even end? Should the technological capacity we have developed over seven centuries not take us forward to a higher, even more productive mode of production? Is world peace achievable?

Just as lower capitalism produced higher capitalism, higher capitalism must produce — in purely successive systematic terms — lower communism (socialism), which in turn must produce higher communism, when nation-states and class have withered away. Once communism is established worldwide, the capitalist competition that manifests in war is abolished.

To explain this in a bit more depth: the commodity is dually characterised by its use value, its utility; and its exchange value, the amount of profit/surplus value it contains. As production has become increasingly quick and abundant — to offest the falling rate of profit, since less and less profit therefore tends to be contained in each commodity (a basic law of supply and demand!), only to intensify the contradiction — exchange value has historically (inevitably) withered away. (Prices of production remain in lower communism, of course, expressed in accounting figures pegged to labour time; but as there is no exchange of ownership between social enterprises there is no exchange value in the capitalistic sense, making trade truly free.)

Private property is becoming valueless and obsolete and must be replaced by a new political superstructure — property owned by the public/society/humanity. (‘Private’ housing will be personal property, like cars.)

Just as feudalism necessarily built capitalism, capitalism itself has necessarily built socialism (lower communism) by evolving a new economic-technical societal foundation that demands a revolution in the political-economic system/superstructure, one based only on use value. Instead of a dualistic and therefore antagonistic system of production, the world is progressing towards a singular, non-antagonistic mode of production.

Automation quite literally means ‘self-action’. Whereas it destroys the basis of capitalism, under the ownership of all humanity it enables humanity’s true self-determination.

Socialism completes what capitalism started but could not finish — the development towards a fully automated and therefore integrated, singular mode of production. The tendency towards monopolisation eventually demands a final merger.

Automated production and the abundant (extremely plentiful) material wealth (and thus increasing economic independence) it goes on to provide for all, as socialism works towards completing the historical trend towards fully automated production, allows us to enjoy increasingly more leisure time and pursue much more creative lifestyles, including the reinvigoration of independent craftmanship.

Instead of the labour-intensive and finite subtractive/extractive production that underpins capitalism (mining, deforestation, etc.), we are fast moving into the epoch of automated and ‘infinite’ additive production (including 3-D printing), with new, advanced forms of microbial production in particular — precision fermentation; cellular agriculture, etc. — increasingly able to augment production exponentially, potentially soon providing unlimited amounts of animal and plant protein at no cost.

This development is bringing history full circle: to a time before industrialisation when humans ate highly fermented and therefore much more nutritious diets (nutritionless processed food being cheaply produced to maximise profit margins); and when the land and property were owned by everybody and nobody.

Capitalism is senile and exhausted — it is bringing itself to its knees, making world socialism an economic necessity for the first time.

Twenty-first century socialism will have the technological capacity to build a world system that increasingly removes the division between (owner-)producer and (worker-)consumer, the real source of all division in the world, until class and the state withers away into (higher) communism; i.e. when production is so abundant that everybody enjoys economic independence to the point that the state becomes irrelevant.

Socialism or extinction?

Capitalism’s final breakdown in the context of potential nuclear armageddon, however, threatens humanity’s survival.[3]

As the preeminent Marxist economist of the 20th century, the Polish-Jew Henryk Grossman, said in the 1940s, his dedication to socialist revolution was fuelled by his understanding of capitalism’s need for incalculable murderous destruction.

“I feel as if I saw a dangerous badly made deadly machine running down the street,” he told a Australian comrade in his broken English. “When it gets to that corner it is going to explode and kill everyone and I must stop it. Once you feel this it gives you great strength. You have no idea, there is no limit to the strength it gives you.”[4]

We must all now find that same great strength.

We have come too far as a species to now throw it all away — and, with fully automated communism, humanity’s greatest experiences and triumphs are yet to come.

Russia’s communist Bolsheviks — only 8,000 strong in memberhip just four months before the October 1917 Revolution — ended the First Imperialist World War. The Soviet Union stopped the march of the Nazis and ended the Second Imperialist World War, at the cost of 27 million lives (compared to the US’s loss of 400,000). Nearly a third of the world became socialist, but the balance of forces remained in capital’s favour.

As of 23 November, 21% of all US dollars in circulation had been printed in 2020, taking the figure to 75% over the past 12 years.

The proletariat, the international working class, is now billions of times stronger in number than it was a century ago; its technical and cultural levels have risen considerably; it is much more communicatively and culturally integrated; and it consumes a far greater number and variety of use values, of a much higher quality. Having already risen from serfdom and slavery, it is finally poised to become the world’s most powerful class. Its blood, sweat, tears and time over the past seven centuries of capital accumulation have built human society a new economic-technical foundation with the capacity to bring wealth, prosperity and therefore liberation from scarcity, exploitation and oppression to all the world’s people. With the rising ‘cost of living’ crisis inside the imperialist nations set to spiral into a hyperinflationary one,[5] the time when the proletariat will be compelled by sheer historical force to take back what is rightfully theirs is coming (a necessity made all the more urgent by the threat of nuclear war). The capitalist class, by contrast, is a dwindling, backwards-looking minority that threatens to annihilate humanity before humanity has emancipated itself from the dark ages and tyranny of private property.[6]

This time socialist revolution must sweep the entire globe.

Imperialist hands off Ukraine! Down with the war![7]
Socialism or extinction! Workers of the world, unite!

[1] Some Marxists argue that the likes of Saudi Arabia, India and Israel are also now imperialist in their own right, even if they still rely heavily on funding from the US and Europe. Some claim that China and Russia are not imperialist.

Capitalist imperialism is not only defined by monopoly ownership and capital exports, both of which existed long before Lenin described capitalism as having entered its higher, imperialist phase, around 1900. The first national monopolies arose in Britain in the 17th century, whereas imperialism is something that arose and hardened in the second half of the 18th century. Imperialism is also defined by an aggressive internationalisation of monopolisation. If a capitalist nation and its monopolies that are based there are frequently compelled to export surplus capital, that which cannot be invested profitably ‘domestically’, in order to expand and cheapen its labour base, it is imperialist.

Regardless of any temporary, partial or tenuous military alliances, all imperialist nation-states compete with each other over outlets for export capital and are therefore economic rivals. Hence the tendency towards deepening splits in NATO. (France, for example, opposed the war on Iraq because it did not want competition for the oil assets it owned there.)

China may be communist in name but having liberalised its economy in the 1980s — opening up to imperialist investment in private production — it now suffers the same problem as other imperialist powers, i.e. an increasingly huge overaccumulation of capital, expressed in slowing GDP growth; rising national debt; enormous housing market and financial bubbles; falling interest and profit rates; and frequent investment overseas. China is in a relatively healthier state than the US and Europe, but only because its capital is younger/its overaccumulation of capital is relatively smaller.

The Communist Party of China claims to be taking a ‘capitalist road’ to socialism. While it is unsurprising that social democratic liberalisers rose to the top of the party in the face of the US’s monopolisation of raw materials in the neighbouring region, the only capitalist road to socialism is that of breakdown and barbarism. In 2020 alone, Chinese billionaires reportedly doubled their share of Chinese GDP from 10 to 20% — an undeniable indication of severe imperialist decay.

Russia is certainly one of the smaller imperialist powers, but its investments in Eastern Europe and Central Asia make it imperialist nonetheless. Russian investment accounts for 55.6% of all investment in Uzbekistan, for example.

The 10 largest Russian companies account for over 41% of the nation’s GDP (calculated from statistics here and here). Capital exports, whilst more complex due to a widespread use of “round-tripping” (investing in tax havens, to then have the money returned as “foreign investment” in Russia on more favourable terms — often mistaken as capital flight), are considerable — accounting for upwards of 30% of the total assets of five of the nation’s 15 largest companies. Russian direct investment abroad increased by 109 times between 1995 and 2007. That has stagnated since the profitability crisis of 2008, since which it has increased by only 1.1 times , indicating a severe crisis of Russian imperialism that can only be resolved on its terms by further expansion.

[2] Yanukovych, once Ukraine’s most trusted politician, had support from backers who wanted friendly trade with Russia, from which Ukraine relied on cheap energy, and EU integration. As Branko Marcetic reports, he rejected NATO membership and reversed his pro-Western predecessor’s move to glorify Nazi collaborators as national heroes in school curricula. But his noncommittal stance on joining a Russian-led customs union of former Soviet republics, even when Putin dangled the prospect of even cheaper gas prices, frustrated Moscow. So did his outright rejection of Putin’s proposal to merge the two nations’ respective state-owned gas giants. A loan from the (US-led) International Monetary Fund forced him to impose brutal austerity measures on the Ukrainian working class. Putin then offered a ‘no-strings-attached’ loan

“the same size as the IMF’s, while squeezing Yanukovych with what amounted to a mini–trade blockade. With the EU failing to offer anything that would match the catastrophic loss of trade with Russia that Ukraine was looking at, Yanukovych made the calculated choice to go with Moscow’s offer. In November, he abruptly reneged on the EU deal, sparking the protests that would topple him from power…. The winner of the 2014 snap presidential election — Ukraine’s seventh-richest man, Petro Poroshenko, soon incorporated the Azov Regiment, a neo-Nazi militia, into Ukraine’s National Guard… Yanukovych’s successor signed off on a round of privatization, raised the pension age, and slashed gas subsidies, urged on by then vice-president [now US president] Joe Biden. Unsurprisingly, angry Ukrainians both voted with their feet and threw him out in a landslide.”

The present Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky remains backed by the western superpowers, however, and “has ceded to neo-Nazi forces and now depends on them as front line fighters”.

[3] While we do not wish to overplay the threat posed by nuclear weapons, it is clear that several nations firing them at each other could escalate very quickly, with incredibly devastating consequences for all life on Earth. The possibility of human extinction cannot be ruled out.

(Addendum: As Stefan Bertram has pointed out, the idea that Russia is planning to use nuclear weapons if Ukraine refuses to stop trying to advance is illogical scaremongreing when Russia is presently mobolising a small fraction of its reserve military forces in order to try to win the war by conventional means.)

Russia does not have a strike first nuclear policy — the US, the only country to have ever deployed a nuclear weapon against another country, does.

Having said that: the US has wanted to nuke Russia since before 1949 and was only stopped by the Soviet Union — thanks to the sacrifices of heroic defectors and spies — acquiring nuclear weapons. The threat of ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ has worked to prevent a nuclear exchange ever since (although the introduction of cyberwarfare and the lack of a rational socialist actor has surely made this more unstable). The situation is precarious but not hopeless. The threat of nuclear war could also potentially provoke major disobedience from rank and file soldiers — and perhaps even higher ranking personnel — on all sides, knowing that their families (and humanity in general) would be put in grave danger wherever they may be.

[4] Quoted in Kuhn, R., Henryk Grossman and the Recovery of Marxism, University of Illinois Press, 2007, p. 202.

[5] Interest rates, having trended downwards for 700 years, are already at zero when recessions — presently being postponed by central bank bond (debt) buying and (digital) money printing — are usually ended by an average interest rate cut of 6%, in order to sufficiently cheapen and incentivise borrowing and lending, buying and selling. Money printing is not simply a policy decision made to postpone a Great Depression but a manifestion of devaluations already brought about by expanded and quicker production.

Negative rates are a very limited option that threaten to make banks unprofitable. It is therefore likely that rates will go up to try to incentivise bondholders not to sell off their otherwise unprofitable government debt, only to make government debt increasingly expensive to pay off. Certain capitalists also use (hyper)inflation anyway to effectively torch wages, taxes and debt.

[6] Because of the extremely precarious situation regarding the potential for nuclear war, the masses’ longing for peace and the natural human instinct for any necessary revolution to be carried out as peacefully and swiftly as possible, we propose that the relatively few remaining capitalists be compensated for the expropriation of their productive property — again, they can keep their housing (with the land rented from the state as a percentage of income and/or according to the amenity of the land), making it personal property — via long-term debt repayments; just as the (extremely rebellious) last slave-owners and their descendents were compensated for the emancipation of slaves, to limit the scope of civil wars. (Marx does say in The Communist Manifesto that one section of the capitalist class will eventually side with the proletariat, just as one section of the nobility sided with the bourgeoisie when capitalists overthrew the feudal establishment.)

Such an arrangement, along with the rebuilding of public property and services, may make general taxation high at first, but this will fall as productivity rises. Obviously capitalists who refuse compensation will have to be expropriated without compensation. Truth and reconciliation tribunals, amnesties and rehabilitation will also need to be applied as widely as possible in order to incentivise mass defections, something that will become increasingly possible either at the end of (especially lost) wars or once the state has exhausted its ability to pay its workers (the two could of course coincide), a fear US Treasury officials have voiced in recent years.

[7] Lenin rightly says that, “… the Socialist of another country cannot expose the government and bourgeoisie [capitalist class] of a country at war with ‘his own’ nation, and not only because he does not know that country’s language, history, specific features, etc., but also because such exposure is part of imperialist intrigue, and not an internationalist duty…. He is not an internationalist who vows and swears by internationalism. Only he is an internationalist who in a really internationalist way combats his own bourgeoisie, his own social-chauvinists…”

Does that mean we are not allowed to point out which other countries are imperilist? No — we need to know which countries are imperialist in order to know which ones have the right to self-determination; i.e. the right to fight against imperialism. Ukraine is not fighting for independence from imperialism as its government and military is funded by NATO powers; Ukraine is therefore acting as a proxy (even though it’s being press-ganged by NATO and its own leadership) of NATO imperialism.

Does it mean that communists ‘cheer on’, support or call for the victory of the imperialists fighting against ‘their’ imperialists? While we can certainly point out that Russia is being ‘provoked’ more than vice-versa precisely because our imperialists have more surplus capital —consider that Russia does not, unlike the US, have a strike-first nuclear policiy, and its military budget is 1/5th of just non-US NATO spending, for example — in order to expose ‘our’ imperialists, it does not.

(Addendum: We are opposed to Russia’s annexations, even if rederendums held on the issue were legitimate, on the basis that Russia is imperialist. We would not hesitate to take this position if the US had done similar. We would not support northern Ireland’s ‘self-determination’ if a majority voted to remain as part of the United Kingdom.)

As Lenin also says:

“Neither Russia, nor Germany, nor any other Great Power has the right to claim that it is waging a ‘war of defence’; all the Great Powers are waging an imperialist, capitalist war, a predatory war, a war for the oppression of small and foreign nations, a war for the sake of the profits of the capitalists, who are coining golden profits amounting to billions out of the appalling sufferings of the masses, out of the blood of the proletariat.”

Communists in Britain, for example, must then oppose Britain’s war on Russia and critically support the anti-war movement in Britain; i.e. form a ‘united front’ with the anti-war movement, calling on its leadership for joint action in opposition to the war on Russia, while retaining the right to criticise the leaders and expose their shortcomings, in order to convince the movement’s rank and file to join with an anti-imperialist, revolutionary socialist leadership.

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Grossmanite

Ted Reese is author of: Socialism or Extinction; Humanising Production; and The Thought of Henryk Grossman (May 2022). linktr.ee/grossmanite