Published in "Strategy for Socialism" (Vol. 1), The Campaigner, 1973.
Unless socialist governments are established in the U.S.A. and key sectors of Western Europe during the next several years, the coming capitalist depression means an end to the existence of humanity as we know it. From the standpoint of theoretical economics, the predicament of the entire advanced capitalist sector coming depression will be like that of the economy in 1933. The continuation of the capitalist system into the latter part of this decade means fascism. Fascism, in turn, means nuclear holocaust by the end of the 1970's, unless the U.S.S.R. and China are prepared to permit the foreign enslavement their populations without a struggle.
This need not be a cause for pessimism. The capitalist class cannot simply decide to institute fascism at any instant it chooses. The precondition for fascism is a process of exacerbated social crisis, in which now miniscule and embryonic socialist forces can secure leadership of the majority of the population in North America and Western Europe.
In the U.S.A. itself, provided that the present Left parties are swept aside during the next year or so, and on the condition that the best socialist cadres from all organizations are brought together either in a common organization or a united front with a competent perspective and program, socialism can be established before fascism has the opportunity to consolidate itself.
However, if we fail to destroy the present obstacles of the CP and Barnesite-SWP hegemonies during the period immediately ahead, those centrist groups will gain an unshakeable hold over the majority of emerging radicalized layers of the population, as the CP did during the 1930's. If we do not commit ourselves to the ruthless destruction of such groups' hegemonies during the months ahead, and unless sectarian opposition to united fronts is overcome, there is no hope for the future of humanity. Everything else we might accomplish as second or third-rate influences would be an isolated if noble glimmer of light in the night of general catastrophe.
The experiences of the 1920's and 1930's, in particular, warn us that most working people will initially brush aside our warnings. Not on grounds of reasonable contrary evidence: they will pooh-pooh the force of reason for the sake of the more persuasive arguments of wishful thinking. As long as possible, they will hide their heads from the unthinkable reality, as within a barrel lined with pretty pictures.
No matter: historical precedent also warns us that the problems of immediate popular credibility must not deter us from telling it as it is. Those who have the mental and moral resources to face the truth now are the potential revolutionary intelligentsia from the ranks of educated socialists, trade unionists, oppressed minorities, unorganized and unemployed. Provided that we now proceed to win over these exceptional potential leaders, we shall have the indispensable nucleus of socialist leadership to which the masses of people will later turn, at the most critical points in tomorrow's social crises.
To understand why fascism is the only capitalist alternative to early socialist transformation, we need consider three interrelated sets of facts. The first of these describes the processes leading up to the depths of the coming depression. This initial phase simultaneously produces the conditions for mass socialist struggles, and also "educates" the capitalist class and its potential allies in the "need for fascism." The second set of processes is that confronting capitalism in the depths of the coming depression. The third topic is complementary to the first; it is the present emergence of popular, characteristic elements of fascist ideology among both radical-conservative and certain "left-radical" strata. It is this present appearance of fairly wide-spread fascist ideas which creates the subjective possibility for the sudden growth of mass fascist movements during the crisis ahead.
The most basic forces at work for fascism now are economic. This has two aspects. The first is reflected in the U.S. wage-freeze and in austerity programs in Western Europe. The second is the emergence of imminently genocidal policies toward a "final solution" of the welfare question.
The wage-freeze campaign reflects the explosive discrepancy between the rate of fictitious capital accumulation and the much lower rate of social reproduction (S'/(C+V)). In order to maintain the "price-earnings"-structure valuation of existing masses of stocks, bonds, mortgages, etc., in a period of relative stagnation and decline in useful production, the total mass of profits, debt-service, and rents required can be obtained only by driving down real wages.
This capitalist solution to the problem for today merely worsens the same problem tomorrow. Wage-austerity without massive expansion of productive employment reduces the mass of Circulating Capital for useful production. This lowers the rate of production of useful wealth. At the same time, the profits, debt-service and rents collected at the expense of real wages increase the mass of non-productive capital holdings. As a combined result of these two developments, the mass of required profit, debt-service and rent increases during a period of decline in real production. Thus, the increased demand for profits can be met only by driving real wages down much lower.
In this fashion, the magnitude of the problem and the rate of depression of workers' real incomes tend to increase geometrically. The productive base becomes constantly narrower, while the mass of fictitious values grows cancerously.
This means that mere trade-union methods of resistance fail. The trade-union organizations are threatened with liquidation, since no section of that movement can even minimize the wage gouging by simple trade-union methods. Even rear-guard defense of living and working conditions demands political mass strikes by alliances oforganized and unorganized workers with unemployed generally, oppressed minorities within the working class, and socialists per se. The union that keeps out "outside agitators" in such a period is cutting its members' throats.
So, ironically, as only political mass strikes can defend the existence of unions from total destruction, so the relative value of unions as self-contained fighting organizations rapidly evaporates. In any case, the capitalists reach the point that they will no longer tolerate even a George Meany, let alone serious unionists or political mass strikes.
The welfare issue is the other side of the attack on the unions. As unemployment increases, and as capitalists resort with increasing frenzy to every possible trick to reduce the costs of maintaining the working-class population as a whole, that section of the working class thrown onto the scrap-heap by reduced production and employment becomes the obvious expendable item for programs of cost-cutting.
Already, in Reagan's schemes, in Rockefeller's slave-labor welfare law, in the thinly-veiled overtones of genocide from Nixon's recent address to the congress, we see the Hitlerian idea of a "final solution" to the problem of the oppressed-minority unemployed beginning to emerge in the mind of the capitalist class generally.
The complementary threat to the existence of oppressed minorities is located in the various "Community Action" or "community control" schemes previously developed by the British Colonial Office for efficient subjugation of colonial populations. These techniques have been knowingly adopted by such capitalist agencies as the Office of Economic Opportunity the Ford Foundation, and the Prudential Life Insurance Company.
"Community control" has two complementary objectives. Its immediate value to the capitalists is the mobilizing of sections of the oppressed minorities as scabs and union-busters around fascist scoundrels like LeRoi Jones. The only benefits actually passed out to the oppressed for such services are the porkbarrels given to the handfuls of wretches like Jones and his paid goon squads. For the mass of oppressed minorities swindled in supporting "community control" schemes, the real pay-off is a deepened estrangement between the employed and unemployed, making it more difficult to mobilize forces among the employed workers to come to the aid of oppressed minorities threatened by genocide in the months and years just ahead.
Apart from trade-union and welfare-movement resistance to these economic repressions, crisis-ridden capitalism finds an important short-term resistence to draconian measures in the political anarchy of existing capitalist parliamentary machines.
The various parochialist interests represented within the Democratic, Republican, and Conservative parties each fight for special privileges and exemptions contrary to the general interest of capitalism as a whole. The "liberal" factions of these special-interest groups within the parliamentary parties attempt to strengthen their particular interests by various alliances with duped trade-unionists and other workers who have been suckered into the "two-party system." At this juncture of economic crisis, the parliamentary parties represent a reservior of "parliamentary cretinism," of sabotage and footdragging against the sort of police-state executive programs which collective capitalist interests so desperately require. It begins to become increasingly clear even to pragmatists like Nelson Rockefeller that capitalist democracy is something they could better do without.
A most important special contribution to future mass support for a fascist machine is being provided now by the CP and SWP, in their role within the "Popular Front" organizations such as NPAC and PCPJ. In these organizations, the goon squads of such centrist parties function to defend their allies, the capitalist politicians (e.g., Senator Vance Hartke) from embarrassment by references to working-class interests or socialist politics. To the extent that the CP and SWP manage to gather most of the mobile "left" forces into such assemblies, and prevent these assemblies from becoming organizations for independent working-class politics, the centrists effectively sabotage the emergence of a serious political alternative in a period of crisis. When Communist and other reformist and centrist socialist parties carry such treachery to its logical next step, of "Popular Front" electoral alliances between capitalist and socialist politicians, the pathway for fascism is virtually cleared.
Any alliance between socialist and capitalist forces assures that working-class interest must be sold out completely, and yet that basic capitalist interests cannot be competently served. For this reason, the "Popular Front" is never more than a brief, imbecilic charade, which discredits the leading socialist organizations, and, in a crisis-period, discredits the last vestige of capitalist democracy.
The vile treachery of leading socialist groups, like the Communist parties, in attempting to establish or work within alliances between labor and capitalists (as the SWP's role in NPAC), virtually ensures the victories of the Bruenings and Hitlers in the following period.
Superficially, it might appear that a depression removes the immediate monetary pressures pushing society toward police-state rule and fascism, by devaluing the greatest portion of fictitious values in stocks, bonds, mortgages, etc. This is absolutely not the case.
To re-start real production requires that the rate of for a comparable rate of profit. Or, lacking this, that the capitalist system must have open to it some new area of primitive accumulation outside capitalist production (looting of new natural resources, of previously-accumulated wealth, of farmers, or wars of conquest, etc.)
Under depression conditions, the rate of social reproduction is negative, such that the possible rate of capitalists' profit based on real social reproduction (alone) would also be negative. At a time when production is running way below the levels of existing capacities, as in a depression, capitalists do not productively invest (realize) surplus value. This fact itself would suffice to reduce the rate of profit to zero. For the same reason, masses of idled capacity, capitalists do not productively invest even the major portion of constant capital; on this account, the resulting rate of social reproduction is negative.
The possibility of re-starting a depressed capitalist economy depends on primitive accumulation.
In part, such a possibility always tends to exist during a depression, because of the opportunities for primitive accumulation against existing productive capacities and the working class itself. When idle existing plants can be purchased for a fraction of their cost of production, and when wages are depressed below the cost of reproducing existing qualities of labor-power, a depressed capitalist economy can slightly raise the level of production from the absolute bottom of the crash by cannibalizing the wealth (productive capacities and labor-power) produced during the preceding period of development. However, this cannot provide a basis for recovery, since this discounting of previously produced wealth means that production must be proportionately way below the level of output and employment during the pre-crash period.
This problem is demonstrated by the cases of the U.S.A. and Nazi Germany from 1933 onwards, with the introduction of statist war-economy forms by F.D.R.'s NRA and the Nazi steps introduced under Schacht. In the U.S., a modest increase in production from bottom levels occurred because wages had already been driven down below the cost of reproduction of labor-power. Similarly, in Nazi Germany, fascist labor laws had fixed nominal wages at depression-bottom levels, and rapidly-reduced real-wage levels fell precipitously under pressures of Nazi inflation. Germany, unlike the U.S. of that period, began to reach "full employment" conscription of the unemployed for C.C.C.-type projects. However, this more rapid development of the Nazi war-economy simply impelled Hitler to undertake the most desperate military looting adventures, gambling his regime's existence (between 1936-38) on such facts as the French army officer corps' corruption by sympathy for fascist regimes.
In the U.S., under F.D.R., full employment was not realized, nor did real employment-recovery begin, until 1940. The delay was not caused, as some have suggested, by Roosevelt's slowness to recognize the potentialities of war expenditures for recovery. On the contrary, the U.S. was able to finance the gigantic debt of war-spending only in anticipation of the primitive-accumulation revenues to be squeezed out of ally and conquered alike at the end of that war.
In Nazi Germany, the process was accelerated and carried much further. Schacht's efforts to "bootstrap" Nazi Germany out of the depression brought the economy to the brink of monetary collapse again at about the mid-1930' s. Lacking the foreign sources of primitive accumulation available to the U.S.A. and other World War I victors, Germany was impelled by the nature and situation of its "independent" capitalist economy to embark on successive conquests of its neighbors, in pursuit of the loot with which to meet payments overdue on the account of an inflated mass of Nazi capital.
As the Red Army finally established geographic limits for Nazi looting, the fascists were impelled toward more intensive cannibalizing of the previously-conquered region and its subject populations. In addition to the secondary, longer-pull measures, such as settling German farmers in depopulated slavic regions, the main source of new capitalist wealth for Krupp et al. was the super-exploitation of "Gastarbeiter" and slave labor; the latter was ground up for the stored wealth of its very bodies and then subjected to cost-reduction, the depleted slaves sent to the gas chambers and ovens along with the "non-productive culls." The practice of collecting clothing, hair, gold fillings, and so forth from the bodies of these " culls" epitomizes the character of every capitalist economy in its final stage.
The present "ecology crisis," the abysmal material conditions of life below the Tropic of Cancer, and related phenomena symptomize the fact that the past quarter century of the Dollar Empire has depended on depleting those remaining natural and human resources on which a non-fascist form of capitalism could continue in the advanced sector. In short, the coming depression confronts the entire advanced-capitalist sector with the same general form of problem facing the Nazi economy during 1933-45: the early attempted conquest of the non-capitalist sector (USSR, China, etc.) and the cost-reduction elimination of the "useless" (unemployed) human beings of the entire world
The most conspicuous, widespread element of fascist ideology rampant in the U.S. today is the radical-conservative impetus toward a "final solution" for the "welfare question." The same philosophy is also wide-spread in a liberal-radical guise as a movement not-accidentally partly initiated by John D. Rockefeller III, the "Zero Population-Growth" cult, whose "rational goals" could be attained only by genocide on a world scale.
A related fascist ideology is found in another branch of the "radical" "ecology movement," the "People Pollute" madmen, whose filth is subsidized by corporations, foundations and advertising agencies. These wretches insist that "people," not capitalism, cause the "ecology crisis" by "over-consumption." In this we see a resurrection of the anti-labor arguments which used to be heard from the now-defunct proto-fascist "Praxis" cult of Carol Nieman, Greg Calvert, Dave Gilbert et al.
In addition, we already have in the U.S. (and Western Europe) a cancerous ferment called the "rock drug counter-culture" movement, a mass of alienated potheads identical in every essential feature with the German Youth Movement from which ex-bohemian Adolf Hitler recruited the worst scum for his Nazi S.S. The process of fusion of the radical right with this "rock drug counter-culture" has already begun in an embryonic way, as luminaries Ti-Grace Atkinson and Bob Dylan have moved into support of the fascist alliance organized by Rabbi Meir Kahane, Joe Colombo, and Dr. ("Black Capitalism") Matthews.
As for Nazi-type academics, it is guaranteed that many logical positivists and behaviorists will soon be lisping fascist tunes. We have already a foretaste of that development as the dean of U.S. behaviorists, B.F. Skinner, proposes a "1984" nightmare, seconded by his co-thinker, chief proponent of "community control." Dr. Kenneth Clark.