Marx and Engels Were Right!
(Quote of the Week)Taken from Workers Vanguard 993
As Leon Trotsky observed during the 1930s Great Depression, the understanding laid out by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in the 1847 Communist Manifesto that capitalism is a system of crisis and immiseration has been borne out time and again. The following is taken from Trotsky’s introduction to the first Afrikaans translation of the Communist Manifesto, which was prepared by his South African comrades.
The anatomy of capitalism, as a specific stage in the economic development of society, was given by Marx in its finished form in Capital (1867). But even in the Communist Manifesto the main lines of the future analysis are firmly sketched: the payment for labor power as equivalent to the cost of its reproduction; the appropriation of surplus value by the capitalists; competition as the basic law of social relations; the ruination of intermediate classes, i.e., the urban petty bourgeoisie and the peasantry; the concentration of wealth in the hands of an ever-diminishing number of property owners, at the one pole, and the numerical growth of the proletariat, at the other; the preparation of the material and political preconditions for the socialist regime.
The proposition in the Manifesto concerning the tendency of capitalism to lower the living standards of the workers, and even to transform them into paupers, had been subjected to a heavy barrage. Parsons, professors, ministers, journalists, Social Democratic theoreticians, and trade union leaders came to the front against the so-called “theory of impoverishment.” They invariably discovered signs of growing prosperity among the toilers, palming off the labor aristocracy as the proletariat, or taking a fleeting tendency as permanent. Meanwhile, even the development of the mightiest capitalism in the world, namely, U.S. capitalism, has transformed millions of workers into paupers who are maintained at the expense of federal, municipal, or private charity.
As against the Manifesto, which depicted commercial and industrial crises as a series of ever more extensive catastrophes, the revisionists vowed that the national and international development of trusts would assure control over the market, and lead gradually to the abolition of crises. The close of the last century and the beginning of the present one were in reality marked by a development of capitalism so tempestuous as to make crises seem only “accidental” stoppages. But this epoch has gone beyond return. In the last analysis, truth proved to be on Marx’s side in this question as well.
—Leon Trotsky, “Ninety Years of the Communist Manifesto” (1937)