The Present Crisis | by István Mészáros

The Present Crisis | by István Mészáros

To be sure, the Western capitalist countries—partly due to the internal contradictions of their own economies and partly because of their heavy dependence on American commodity and financial markets—will continue to participate with their financial assets in safeguarding the relative stability of the U.S. economy and, thereby, of the global system. For the adventurist dominance of finance capital is, in general, the manifestation of deep-seated economic crises rather than their cause, even if, in its turn, it greatly contributes to their subsequent aggravation. Thus, the tendency to destroy certain industries and to transfer much of the financial assets thereby generated to the United States is by no means accidental. (Though, of course, it is utterly grotesque that Britain, for instance, which leads the capitalist world in the process of “de-industrialization,” should also be one of the principal creditor countries today.) Nor should it be surprising that once the assets of a country are deployed in this way, the pressure for protecting them against the danger of a disastrous financial chain-reaction and ultimate collapse—by transferring further funds, supporting the dollar through the manipulative intervention of central banks, and so forth—becomes quite irresistible.

Written in August 1987 and first published in the Brazilian periodical Ensaio 17/18: número especial, 159–71. Republished in István Mészáros, Beyond Capital (London: Merlin Press, 1995), 952–964.

Transcribed by V. S. Conttren, February 2019.

 

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A Crise Atual | por István Mészáros

A Crise Atual | por István Mészáros

Aqueles que se referem ao alegado declínio dos EUA como potência hegemônica, atribuindo a isso muito significado, parecem esquecer que tais possibilidades—isto é, as várias formas de impor a astronômica insolvência dos EUA ao restante do mundo, desconsiderando suas inevitáveis implicações negativas para as outras sociedades capitalistas avançadas—estão disponíveis apenas para um único pais, em virtude de seu poder hegemônico praticamente incontestado (e incontestável, exceto no caso de um grande terremoto socioeconômico) no seio do mundo capitalista.

In the Present Crises. Trad. de J. Roberto Martins Filho; rev. técnica de Ester Vaisman. Fonte: CHASIN, José (org.). Ensaio 17/18: edição especial. São Paulo: Ensaio, 1989, pp. 159-172.

Transcrito por V. S. Conttren, fevereiro/2019.

 

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Por que Marx e Engels criticaram a ideologia liberal? | por Georg Lukács

Por que Marx e Engels criticaram a ideologia liberal? | por Georg Lukács

Quando visualizamos a obra à qual Marx dedicou a sua vida, vemos a posição central que ocupa a denúncia do liberalismo e dos liberais: de Palmerston a Cobden, de Odilon Barrot a Ledru-Rollin, de Camphausen a Vogt, etc.—os “heróis” do liberalismo são mostrados de tal como são: homens que—consciente ou inconscientemente—ocultam os grandes antagonismos sociais, que inventam, para os objetivos de classe estreitos e infames da burguesia, justificações “ideais”, fundadas na eficácia retórica e cuja influência sobre as forças verdadeiramente progressistas vai no sentido da desagregação e da desmoralização.

Fonte: CHASIN, José (org.). Ensaio 17/18: número especial. São Paulo, 1989, pp. 173–180.

Transcrito por V. S. Conttren.

 

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Florestan Fernandes: Constituinte e Revolução

Constituinte e revolução | Florestan Fernandes


 

O fato é que os militares, tratando-se de uma questão de poder, desempenham papéis inequívocos no processo, de tal maneira que, queiram ou não, têm de se movimentar, estão em movimento e vão se movimentar crescentemente — ou perdem sua supremacia tecnocrática no seio do governo. Esta aparente neutralidade militar perante as eleições é uma balela, não têm nenhuma consistência. Mesmo que o candidato vitorioso seja um candidato inesperado, mas “compatibilizável”, a saliência militar continuará e aumentará como um cancro. O problema da República reside em como a burguesia poderá recolher a sua “mão militar”. Ela quer usar luvas de pelica, não quer ser tolerante e compreensiva, e todas as composições acabam sofrendo um impacto militar profundo.

 

Entrevista de Florestan Fernandes à Editora Ensaio, organizada por José Chasin, em 1989. Fonte: CHASIN, José (org.). Ensaio 17/18: edição especial. São Paulo: Ensaio, 1989, pp. 123-158.

Transcrito por V. S. Conttren, janeiro/2019.

 

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The limits of industrialization | by Raúl Prebisch


 

From The Economic Development of Latin America.

Raúl Prebisch, 1950. Translated by ECLA.

 


It is obvious that the economic growth of Latin America depends on the increase of the average income per inhabitant (which in most countries is extremely low) and on an increase in population.

An increase in the average income per inhabitant could be achieved in only two ways: first, through an increase in productivity; and second, assuming a certain level of productivity, through an increase in income per man engaged in primary production, in relation to the income of the industrial countries which import part of that production. This readjustment, as already explained, tends to correct the disparity in income brought about by the way in which the benefits of technical progress are distributed between the centres and the periphery. We shall now consider the increase in productivity in relation to the existing population. There are two aspects of the question.

On the one hand, the adoption of modern technique will allow production per man to increase, making labour available to increase production in the same activities in which it was already employed, or directing it to others. On the other, the index of productivity will also be raised by the diversion of persons ill-employed in activities where the very low productivity cannot be increased to any notable extent, to others where technical progress makes such improvement possible.

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From here to the past.

From time to time, the hands make use of blood to carve out words, without meaning. But sometimes – when moons collide under God’s breath – blood suddenly craves the word, forgetting both hands, and even the brain.

Of sewer rats, of flesh-eating vultures. The skies remain as blue as they could be, residing over the polluted clouds. However, trees now lay dormant, sleeping and decomposing, on the ground. Floored and demented; flawed and remitted. Sentience of horror which disavows the dis-continuity of terror. Large rats, embedded with their own blood, attack and maul all they can find: no distinction must be made; no selection must be done. Their purpose is to decimate. Through it, vultures survive. Life? No. Friend, the terror is a force, not natural, but unnatural: means to no-end. To freeze the purpose in the sphere of perpetuity, to ossify the flesh on the puddles of blood. Thought distresses under the acting reality. The vultures fly low, waiting and resting their energies for the acts that only rats can be carefully responsible for. Organized terror, if only! In reality, rivers of blood can only flow towards the sea. The blood flows, engulfing all; terror assimilates itself into nothingness over the unknowable. Rivers that have no purpose nor conception, nevertheless remain passively convening the terror under its wings. And the trees are their enemies.

It is in the ground, and not the sea, where the programmed use of terror seeps into existence. Violence that the soil has known to be truthful, by each trunk which resonated with its ground after being felled. Redirected from the soil to the trees; indirected through the seas to the freezing cold of terror. The terror has been maintained and expanded with increasing violence – organized, outside of the mere legal and institutional demeaning – but now overarching the spheres of personality. What was once hidden on the peripheral and limited vision of the trees (Oh, Furtado, the writing on the walls were truthful!) is now brought as an official line of action.

That rats and vultures are careless… Well, carelessness under the skies mean nothing. The black clouds remain exposed, for good or better; soil that seeps into the mind, crushed onto the ground by the feet of yellow birds. Rats and vultures to birds and mammals. How many more carcasses shall be used for the sacrifice they require? Burning fires shall be erected for the cleansing for a corrupted ground. But, not one less disregard. The priests, now, remain untold – unbelieving of the wave that sweeps the terror into this; the priests, then, will remain told – believing the believers who acclaim for salvation. But they will be there; but they will be there.

We write this hoping that mind does not fetter under pressure; hoping that action does not hinder under fear; hoping that lie does not triumph over will. Hope persuades the passions – eluding and never refuting.

Please, send news from the past, for the present continues to be the future’s graveyard.

II. Economic aspects of the Cuban Revolution | by Celso Furtado


From Economic Development of Latin America,  1970

Translated by Suzette Macedo


Redistributive stage of the Revolution

The 1959 revolution precipitated the course of events and impelled the country towards the second alternative at a spectacular pace. The reaction of the United States and the subsequent economic blockade of the island imposed by the Washington government, together with the support given to the new Cuban government by the Soviet Union and other socialist countries, caused events to move with incredible speed, changing the very essence of the range of options arising out of the country’s previous evolution. The revolution must be regarded as part of the formative process of the Cuban nation-state, a process that had begun with the country’s struggle for liberation from Spanish power. But the later course of the revolution cannot fully be understood without taking into account the fact that the last act of this liberation process was played out against the United States at the critical time when the balance of nuclear power called for a strict demarcation of the spheres of influence of the two super-powers. Thus, the international circumstances surrounding the Cuban Revolution came to play a decisive role in the course it was to follow.

From an economic point of view, the evolution of post-revolutionary Cuba can be divided into two periods. The first is marked by a policy designed to change the power structure and the distribution of income; the second by a concerted effort to bring about the country’s economic reconstruction.

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The latest triumph over Marxism| by Georg Lukács


First published on the Kommunismos magazine, n. 05, in 1920.

From «marxists.org». Translated by Conttren. September, 2017.


 

It is difficult for a year to go by without Marx being “triumphed over” by some associate professor or some fashionable philosopher. The deadly struggle that bourgeois society must carry out also developed in its ideological terrain. To the keen observer, these “triumphs” always present the same face. The demonstrated content is changed, the gnosiological or metaphysical arguments appear as new, but the essential character, the starting point and the destination point, are always the same. They find its origin in the petite-bourgeois-parasitic nature of the intellectual’s class situation. As faithful petite-bourgeois, the intellectuals are in no position of correctly observing the reality of class struggle, and therefore even less able to value it. They gravitate to, as Marx has said, the established institutions, such as “not to abolish the two extremes, capital and wage labour, but to mitigate its contradictions and lead them to live together in harmony.” Given that intellectuals are parasitic beings within the capitalist State, the latter is presented to them as an absolute being, or even as the Absolute. They contrast to Marxist theory a utopia that, more or less deprived of seductive phrases, rests over the adulation of the existing State.

This series’ last great representative is the popular philosopher Oswald Spengler, whose work The Decline of the West, though creative but amateurish in nature, recently achieved this success which in reality should have happened with the profound work by Ernst Bloch, The Spirit of Utopia. The new book by Mr. Spengler, Prussianism and Socialism,¹ wishes to “liberate German socialism from Marx.”  It seems Marx dodged a great philosophical problem of the modern epoch—that our philosopher outlines as such: “[T]hree Western Peoples have embodied socialism in this larger sense: Spain, England, and Prussia. Florence and Paris were the sources of the anarchic antithesis to socialism: Italy and France.” Because of this, Marx was in no condition to make the following fundamental discoveries: first, that there was no class struggle in the French Revolution; however “every true Frenchman was then and is today a bourgeois. Every true German is a worker”; there are no real classes in France.

The second discovery is that in England there is no State; that only England knows capitalism in its true sense; that, consequently, class distinction only exists in England. Thus, the superficial Marx, who distinguishes class according to one’s position on the process of production, was strengthened and overcome; class division would arise from the distinct possession of goods, as the antagonism between rich and poor. Poor Marx, to whom all this escaped and could not but fail to understand that socialism had already been realized long ago, in the Kingdom of Prussia. For this reason, Marx was not in position to understand the problem of the State; this follows his “amateurish” compliment to the Commune of 1871; because of this he was not able to cherish the system of councils (Rätesystem) that Baron von Stein had designed years before. Superficial socialism is recovered in this manner, by such philosophically detailed socialism. This socialism is an order of authority, “it is bureaucracy’s principle in technical terms.” Thus, it is only natural that Marx was not able to see the existing socialization “introduced by Frederick William I and incessantly developed until Bismarck.” Corresponding to such profound philosophy, the concept of Imperialism is too renovated: “The true International is Imperialism.” Therefore the Conservative and Socialist parties, who represented this “profound” socialism, belong to the same group “… in which the Conservatives made better officers, the Socialists better troops.” The reconciliation of brother-enemies is the objective of such philosophically rediscovered socialism. Is the critique of such work worth it? Considered as a symptom, it is interesting. The fact that Mr. Spengler’s only citation is from Mr. Lensch does not only show his ignorance regarding Marxism, but also shows where the right-wing socialists’ theory and praxis necessarily lead to. And the rest of this pamphlet differs in nothing from many other “triumphs over” Marxism that have been written since Dühring’s days, who already was the front rank of worship of the Prussian State. What is new is the proof that Revolution can not cure the Germans “of their servile spirit, rooted in national conscience,” as once Engels said.

 


  1. N.T.: SPENGLER, Oswald. Preußentum und Sozialismus, 1919.

I. Economic aspects of the Cuban Revolution | by Celso Furtado

From Economic Development of Latin America,  1970

Translated by Suzette Macedo


Singularity of the traditional Cuban economy

Cuba displays a number of peculiarities worth analysing separately in an overall study of the Latin American framework. Along with Puerto Rico, the island remained under Spanish rule until the beginning of this century, the colonial period having lasted almost a century longer in this area than in the rest of Latin America. When the Cuban people’s struggle to win their independence created impediments to US trade, the United States government used the conflict as a pretext for taking over the remnants of Spain’s former Empire in the Americas and Asia. Consequently, the Cuban National State started its independent life under the occupation of United States forces. This occupation has not yet entirely come to an end—the United States government still has a base on Cuban territory—and up to 1934 it could have been extended to the whole island at any time, ‘in the interests of the Cuban people’ as adjudged by the President of the United States, in accordance with the provisions of the famous ‘Platt Amendment’. The delay of almost a century in starting the process of building a nation-state, and the particular circumstances attending its emergence under the tutelage of a powerful neighbour, make the Cuban process unique in the Latin American context. However, Cuba’s singularity lies even deeper and its roots are to be found in the economic evolution of the island within the framework of the Antillean region.

The Spaniards first used the Caribbean islands as defence bases for their lines of communication with the mainland colonies. The indigenous populations, living at a rudimentary cultural level, were practically wiped out and extensive stock farming was established on the larger islands to supply the metropolitan fleets. From the seventeenth century, the smaller islands were occupied by the French and the English, who wanted to secure a foothold for an assault on the mainland. With a view to eventual penetration of the Spanish Empire, they encouraged white colonization of the islands they had occupied, founding settlements of small planters who combined the growing of subsistence crops with the production of tobacco and indigo for the European market. These settlements, which had been of political value to the metropolitan countries because they could provide colonial militiasto be mobilized against the rich Spanish Empire, underwent profound changes during the latter part of the seventeenth century when the cultivation of sugar-cane was introduced into the islands by the Dutch settlers who had been driven out of the Brazilian Northeast. In fact, Dutch interests were responsible for developing sugar production in the Antilles. They financed sugar mills and the importation of slaves, provided technical assistance and guaranteed markets.

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Revolution, the unexorcised ghost | by Florestan Fernandes


Article available at marxists.org.

Translated by Conttren, 2017.


 

 

In a provocative and intelligent book, Hobsbawm sought to demonstrate that the drama of Europe consisted in the combination (or tradition) of revolutionary intellectuals and a society that repels Revolution. The historian, who lived through the post-Bolshevik period, was felt subtly dealing with internal convictions and justifying the Soviet Union’s intra-party errors, within both its borders and its international policy of concessions, during the “Cold War.”

In Brazil, we were not even able do this. Leftist parties saw themselves forced into tortuous opportunism, compensated with moments of pure theoretical glorification, having only come into practice once with the Aliança Nacional Libertadora [National Liberation Alliance], in 1935. This “subjective revolutionism” began to suffer rectifications exactly during the decadence of the “cold war” by proclaiming the new bourgeois belief of  the “death of socialism.” Intellectuals, in general, prefer to save their own skin when disconnected from practice as a way to not sacrifice their own consciousness… There was an incoherent and veiled shift towards social-democracy, which would not be an evil in itself. Evil proceeds from the disposition of conceding space without any struggle in Social-Democracy’s orchestration as the bourgeois left-hand. Such process continues and threatens us with the loss of the few partisan alternatives for the establishment of a new society.

I would like to deal with the theme as a sociologist. At PUC [Pontifical Catholic University], for example, where I have lectured in the last quarter of 1977, I was faced with the richness of the courses available. There was one focused on social organization. In an automatic impulse, I questioned why there was no course that dealt not only with social change, but specifically with social revolution. There, the two poles are given: order and its reproduction; order and its radical, or inverted, transformation. My postgraduate colleagues, who were open to critical thinking, soon agreed to this necessary addition.

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