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Joseph Carter

Twilight of Capitalism

(February 1936)

From New International, Vol.3 No.1, February 1936, pp.30-31.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Bolshevism, Fascism and the Liberal-Democratic State
by Maurice Parmalee
xii+430 pp. New York, John Wiley.

Farewell to Poverty
by Maurice Parmalee
xvi+488 pp. New York, John Wiley.

Mr. Parmalee, former professor of economics, sociology and anthropology, has presented us with a summary indictment of capitalism and various efforts to save this doomed system.

Farwell to Poverty, though a sequel to Bolshevism, Fascism and the Liberal-Democratic State, furnishes the preliminary analysis of capitalism which forms the basis of the author’s criticism of the “rival political systems”.

In the first section, A Critique of Capitalism, the author skillfully utilizes the latest statistics to depict the poverty of the workers, the contrast between the poor and the rich, the debt structure of American capitalism and the development of monopoly capitalism. With this as a background he traces the inevitability of the business cycle, unemployment, imperialism and war. The final chapter of this section summarizes the contradictions of capitalism which reveal its reactionary character.

The Second section, Evolution of the Social Commonwealth, commences with an expose of the futility of the Roosevelt New Deal and other attempts at “planned economy” under capitalism. The experiences of the Soviet Union in planning economy are discussed and utilized for an examination of the workings of a socialized economy.

Gradualism as the means of attaining this society is rejected by the author. In his chapter on the Technique of Revolution he discusses the problem of a peaceful, legal revolution in the United States and concludes that the socialization of economy will have to be achieved by a political transformation which will assume the form of a violent conflict and result in a temporary dictatorship of the “Left”.

He further states that while objective conditions in the United States are ripe for a socialized society the working clas is not yet revolutionary. Economic conditions today are leading to the rapid proletarianization of the middle class “creating a new factor for a revolutionary situation. The professional class also is becoming in part proletarianized. The intellectual class in general is drifting towards the Left. But without a revolutionary proletariat the intellectuals cannot bring about a revolution.” (p.315.)

Will the intellectuals lead the revolutionary proletariat, or will they follow the proletariat? How is the class consciousness of the proletariat to be developed? The failure to answer these questions is a reflection of the author’s lack of contact with the movement struggling for a “social commonwealth”.

Fascism as the political means of monopoly capitalism to prevent its downfall is examined in Bolshevism, Fascism and the Liberal-Democratic State. The well known facts of the rise of the Italian Black Shirts and the German Brown Shirts are repeated. Nothing is added to our understanding of these phenomena. Sufficient attention is not paid to the complex features of Fascism as a mass movement of the middle class or the relation between its rise and the failure of the workers’ parties.

Only a few paragraphs are devoted to the liberal-democratic state (though an entire section is entitled Liberal-Democracy: Europe and America). Liberal-Democracy is seen as corresponding to competitive capitalism and completely outlived and Utopian for a period when monopoly capitalism dominates.

By far the most inadequate section of the book is the section on Bolshevism. Though obviously sympathetic, Mr. Parmalee fails to understand it either as theory or practise. He accepts the erroneous view that the Russian revolution of November 1917 “was not made by the people”, that “the masses were not revolutionary. Lenin himself was under no illusion on this score” (p.30).

Proof? A section of the workers, the railroad men, were against the Bolsheviks. The peasants supported the Left Social Revolutionists – which merely showed the limited revolutionary character of the peasantry at the moment. Compromise was necessary with the Social Revolutionists and Mensheviks – as part of the further education of the peasants who had already undertaken revolutionary action against the landlords.

The reference to Lenin is based on a speech he made six months before the insurrection, on May 10, 1917 in which he stated that “the proletariat is not yet sufficiently organized and enlightened; it has still to be instructed” (p.31). A task which the Bolsheviks took seriously and therefore accomplished by November!

Mr. Parmalee, in another chapter, agrees with those who contend that the dialectic should be buried among the ancient fossils. Nor would anything be lost.

“Marx and Engels themselves and the two greatest Bolshevists, Lenin and Trotsky, have made comparatively little use of the Hegelian-Marxian dialectic in their analysis and interpretation of historical and social phenomena.” (p.47.)

This makes sense only if one has the most grotesque picture of what the Marxian dialectic method is. Which is precisely the picture that Mr. Parmalee has ... and bolsters up by reference to the Russian Stalinist “philosophers” and “scientists” whose studies are dependant on the mometary needs of the Soviet bureaucracy.

What Mr. Parmalee and others have failed to understand is that the struggle between “Trotskyism” and Stalinism is the struggle between Bolshevism, (Marxism) and anti-Bolshevism in respect to fundamental theory as well as practise. Trotsky is recognized by the author as one of the two leading Bolshevik theoreticians. He quotes him on several occassions, including an attack on Stalinism.

Yet he does not appreciate the full import of the struggle against Stalinism. He writes that as a result of the acceptance of the theory of socialism in one country alone “Trotsky was exiled, and Russia withdrew temporarily from attempting to arouse a world revolution in order to develop itself internally” (p.170). However, “it is expected that if and when the appropriate time comes, it [the Soviet Union] will resume the offensive in behalf of a world revolution” (p.171).

Here the author abandons even the semblance of a critical approach and presents the aims and achievements of the Communist International as they are presented in the official publications. A rather naive treatment which results in a distorted picture of the Comintern.

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