On the Thread of Time
You Can’t Stop Yourselves.
Only the Proletarian Revolution Can.
By Destroying your Power
Battaglia Comunista, issue 1 of 1951
Twice already now, the great human mass has been thrown into a world war with the bestial triumph of the Wolf story, the Energumen doctrine, the joke of the Aggressor and the War Criminal scam. Both times, to support this colossal deception, this immense hoax, the most cretinous legend was drawn on the backdrop of an already long wait: the one that placed the free, civilized and peaceful republic of stars and stripes as the protagonist of general salvation.
This legend has been accredited and is being accredited in the filthy layers of the middle classes and the petty bourgeoisie by means obvious to everyone and in which the hypocrisy, the baseness and the philistinism of the deceived and the deceivers, of the vulgar seducers and of the senile and flaky admirers, fully reign. But this same legend has claimed, not without vast success, to have credence in the proletarian ranks and in the socialist position. The prosperous and blessed republic was an exception in the diagnosis and condemnation of capitalist society and the bourgeois states: Class struggle, oppression on the one hand, misery on the other, were phenomena limited to that old Europe fat with “reactionary” dangers; mainstream socialists would have gladly excepted that gracious island across the Channel as well, if that impossible man Marx had not been so surly in responding to its liberal hospitality by choosing it as the object for his description of the most ferocious capitalism. But America, America! There they had had no Middle Ages, there they had been born with liberty and in liberty and could not backslide through the darkness of obscurantism, nor slip into the pitfalls of “lurking Reaction”; they had had no need of an anti-feudal revolution, egregiously replaced by a simple hunting campaign on a bipedal species, it was alien to Genesis and Christ’s redemption, to the enlightenments of the Reformation as well as those of the philosophical Enlightenment.
It is thus clear: dialectics and class antagonism, socialism, proletarian revolution, all this European paraphernalia does not apply in this New World, to that which lies beyond the Atlantic; and if among our peoples and governments of the old world there is always the danger that the medieval plague will resurface from underground, and give rise to aggressors, militarists, despots and international war criminals, in America, on the other hand, the very soil itself is immune to such infections; it is unthinkable that oppression, repression and the will-to-power could grow there; America always stands on the right side, America can only stand for the right side, America is always right.
Whenever the lamb is about to end up in the jaws of the Wolf, it will require the mighty transatlantic sheepdog, which, yes, has bigger fangs than the wolf, but is vegetarian by tradition and intent.
This has been the case for sycophants for decades now. But let’s look at it as it was and as it is.
We won’t repeat the Marxist description of the birth of the capitalist economy where its technical and mechanical premises were found not in the old scaffolding of medieval society with its natural agrarian economy, but in the virgin and free land under the footsteps of the white settler, with the exception of the aboriginal occupant, whom he hunted down, either exterminating or enslaving his race. Different origin, identical system of arrival; be it England, where it has been fought over in centuries of history hand-to-hand and where three hundred men now live on a single square kilometer, or the United States, where a population with a fifteen times lower average density: twenty per square kilometer, has settled in a way that appears socially peaceful.
Identical program: overthrow of the capitalist system its power.
If, therefore, the analysis of the historical process may have various features, one of them is the inference of the effects of the means and ends of the socialist movement.
From Marx’s major work one could cite innumerable references to America in its successive stages: early patriarchal-type slavery, genocide and slave-owning in the South, small-farmer economy in the North, industrial economy in the East, its rapid cycle from colonial-type capitalism to ever-increasing autonomy: we are now at hegemony.
A telling reference to low population density is this: «A relatively thinly populated country, with well-developed means of communication, has a denser population than a more numerously populated country, with badly-developed means of communication; and in this sense the Northern States of the American Union, for instance, are more thickly populated than India». Today the density in India is nearly one hundred, that is, five times that of the United States, but the latter has the noted 27 kilometers of railroad for every ten thousand inhabitants, India has only 1.6, or a fifteenth of that. The indices underlying the Marxist evaluation lead to good correlations: capitalism born in Europe has occupied those types of colonial possessions, sparsely populated or occupied by disorganized peoples that were easily subject to genocide, much earlier than those populated but of very ancient organization with its own civilization, that is, its own mode of productive economy and social hierarchy. The 150 million Americans that currently exist weight for more to world politics than the 400 million Indians, however much the self-styled representatives of these (self-described as being free from the yoke of 50 million Englishmen, i.e., of the decaying British imperial capitalism) try their hand at masterpieces of two-facing and pose as protagonists of mediating initiatives at the world scale...
The extensive use of black slave labor in agrarian production in the Southern States at first takes place, except for the methods of capture, with a certain humanity. As the numbers of slaves was very small, it wasn’t easy to replace those who died, and it thus convened good treatments for husbandry in order to get young labor-power out of the children of the adult slaves, whether they were obtained by plunder or purchase. A patriarchal standard of living follows, and the slave is part of the master’s family. But when black slaves started to overabound, especially in some Union states, and real markets for it flourish, what was economically expedient to do wass to wring the maximum amount of labor out of the slave in the shortest time period possible, with little nourishment and an average life span reduced to less than thirty years: economists and Yankees pastors cynically stated such norms. In the same way English children were incarcerated for fourteen hours in cotton spinning mills. One should not believe that Marx’s expressions are always harsh. He quotes Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice: «My deeds upon my head! I crave the law, The penalty and forfeit of my bond». “Ay, his breast”, exclaims Shylock, “So says the bond”. In a footnote we read: «The nature of capital remains the same in its developed as in its undeveloped form. In the code which the influence of the slave-owners, shortly before the outbreak of the American Civil War, imposed on the territory of New Mexico, it is said that the labourer, in as much as the capitalist has bought his labour-power, “is his (the capitalist’s) money”».
In the civil war where the Northern states and the Southern states fought over the abolition of slavery, the capitalist form of production is imposed. In texts elsewhere recalled, such as the inaugural address of the First International itself, it is clearly shown that industrial slaveholders deserve no better appreciation than slaveholders.
At the time of the first edition of Capital, immediately after that war, capitalism was already making great strides in the Confederacy, but it was still largely a European, specially English, investment. «The same thing (i.e., as it happened when rich but decaying capitalist powers were lending the new rising powers their capital) is going on today between England and the United States. A great deal of capital, which appears today in the United States without any birth-certificate, was yesterday, in England, the capitalized blood of children».
However, despite the fact that the American Civil War is from the late 18th century and has, according to Marx, provided the wake-up call for bourgeois revolutions in continental Europe, in 1867, after nearly a century of political autonomy, America is in the Marxist sense still a European economic colony. This is repeated in two explicit passages: for Marx colonial economy is one in which the occupation of “free” land is still possible on a large scale, with absorption of masses of labor-power that is not yet all forced to submit to industrial wage slavery. In a footnote to the fourth edition in 1889 Engels noted: later the United States became the second largest country in the world, without having entirely lost its colonial character. In 1912 the editor Kautsky could already add: They are now the first industrial country; they have so thoroughly lost the character of Colony, that they pursue a policy of colonial expansion.
President Monroe’s doctrine: Europe for its own sake, America for its own sake (which should get him one of those Stalinist in the memory ofs) meant a battle to break the last passive colonial relations. Reaching equilibrium became a battle for active colonial relations, as the heated thermometer only reaches zero in order to exceed it.
Returning to Marx’s original writing, the profound analysis and relentless condemnation do not fail to be accompanied by biting derision. Capital seeks insatiable markets for arms; the Puritan Malthus invoked as a remedy for misery depopulation by abstention from procreation; a bourgeois economist so exalts himself at the effects of machines that he compares their effect to that of overpopulation. More naive still, Petty wrote that machinery “replaces polygamy”. This view, laughs Marx, applies at most to a single part of the United States, the obvious allusion being to the Salt Lake Mormons.
But it is precisely the last page of the first volume, so often quoted, that strikes in all its infamy at American bourgeois society, with its heights of hypocrisy and exploitation. It is here that it is said, as a lapidary response to the philistine boast of having no traditions of monarchy and nobility, that the effect of the Civil War, as capitalist production set in motion by leaps and bounds, was, in classical terms, “the creation of a finance aristocracy of the vilest type”.
Our Marxist anthology on America, however, has its strongest piece in what Engels left written, in the March 18, 1891 preface to The Civil War in France, the one that closes with the words, Look at the Paris Commune. That was the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.
Engels just restates the central theory of the state.
«Society, for the protection of its common interests, had provided itself with organs of its own, originally by means of the simple division of labor. But these organs, at the head of which was the power of the state, had been transformed in time, in the service of their own special interests, from servants of society into masters of it. This is evident not only in the hereditary monarchy, but also in the democratic republic».
Engels moves on to a doctrinal example, and he seems very much to want to answer the objection: this parasitic and oppressive function of the State is explained only where the modern bourgeoisie has inherited its police and military bureaucratic mechanism from the ancient feudal regimes that have been overthrown. And so he takes as an example a bourgeois State born “without history”.
«Nowhere do “politicians” form a more separate, powerful section of the nation than in North America. There, each of the two great parties which alternately succeed each other in power is itself in turn controlled by people who make a business of politics, who speculate on seats in the legislative assemblies of the Union as well as of the separate states, or who make a living by carrying on agitation for their party and on its victory are rewarded with positions. It is well known that the Americans have been striving for 30 years to shake off this yoke, which has become intolerable, and that in spite of all they can do they continue to sink ever deeper in this swamp of corruption. It is precisely in America that we see best how there takes place this process of the state power making itself independent in relation to society, whose mere instrument it was originally intended to be. Here there exists no dynasty, no nobility, no standing army, beyond the few men keeping watch on the Indians, (Engels couldn’t have known that it would be his German compatriots sixty years later... who have taken the role of the Native Americans here) no bureaucracy with permanent posts or the right to pensions (memento on this passage: in eight words it contains a volume). And nevertheless we find here two great gangs of political speculators, who alternately take possession of the state power and exploit it by the most corrupt means and for the most corrupt ends – and the nation is powerless against these two great cartels of politicians, who are ostensibly its servants, but in reality exploit and plunder it».
Against all this, Engels says, the Commune applied two infallible means. It’s another argument: the officials of the Paris Commune died in the fire of glory by serving the Revolution – those of the Soviet state applied two other means instead: apologia and alliance.
We don’t want to open another parenthesis when it’s explained that everything is done for the sake of the job post; but judge the effectiveness of the description by this episode: the highest, most learned and philosophical thing that clerk Harry Truman had to say in the election campaign was: if you do not elect me you will have to find me some other job (Job means employment, post, salary, and ultimate outer circle of the universe, in the North American language) or you’ll yet one more unemployed!
Here, then, is what real Marxism’s actual account of American capitalism is like, of American class power, which holds workers and their children, of every race and color under Jack London’s Iron Heel. Was such a judgment ever revised?
Lenin, in The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky, establishes very well in the face of the tendentious thesis that armed revolution may not be inevitable in bourgeois nations without militarism and bureaucracy, that today (1918) one and the other both exist in England and America. Imperialism is all a demonstration of American capitalism taking the lead on the path of monopoly, expansion, and the struggle for the partition of the whole world among industrial trusts and imperialist powers. By the beginning of the century this process had already had its full premises set: so much for the disinterested protection of freedom wherever in the world it is attacked! A single passage is enough: «In the United States, the imperialist war waged against Spain in 1898 stirred up the opposition of the “anti-imperialists”, the last of the Mohicans of bourgeois democracy who declared this war to be “criminal”, regarded the annexation of foreign territories as a violation of the Constitution, declared that the treatment of Aguinaldo, leader of the Filipinos (the Americans promised him the independence of his country, but later landed troops and annexed it (the first man who was made a fool out of in the manner of our partisan fighters, if we may interpolate)), was “jingo treachery”, and quoted the words of Lincoln: “When the white man governs himself, that is self-government; but when he governs himself and also governs others, it is no longer self-government; it is despotism”. But as long, as all this criticism shrank from recognising the inseverable bond between imperialism and the trusts, and, therefore, between imperialism and the foundations of capitalism, while it shrank from joining the forces engendered by large-scale capitalism and its development – it remained a “pious wish”».
Marxists knew all this very well in 1915. They knew, therefore, what to think of the American intervention in World War I and Wilson’s claim to organize international democracy and peace, i.e. that it was obvious stage in a whole march of expansion, conquest and imperial aggression that has lasted for half a century without pause or renunciation.
A delegate (1) to the Second Moscow Congress of 1920 speaks. «The position of the [ten million] negroes especially in the Southern States is a terrible one. They are barred from all political rights. The sixteenth amendment of the Constitution of the United States grants the negroes full citizenship. Most Southern States, however, disenfranchise the negroes. In others in which the negroes may legally vote they do not dare to do so. Negroes cannot travel in the same cars with white men, enter the same hotels and restaurants, or live in the same parts of the towns. The great institution of the Southern white men is the lynching of negroes. This consists in mobbed murder, which commonly takes the form of drenching the negro with oil, hanging him to a telegraph pole, and setting him on fire. The entire population of the town, men, women, and children, come out to see the show, and carry home pieces of the negro’s clothing and flesh as souvenirs». Another delegate followed, in the same session of July 26. «The previous speaker spoke of the negroes as a subject people in the United States, but we have two other kind of subject peoples – the foreign workers and the peoples in the colonies... the atrocities that have been consumed to the detriment of colonials yield in nothing to those to which foreign workers are subjected. The horrors practised upon colonial peoples are not worse than those practised upon foreign workers in the United States. For example, in 1912 there was a miners’ strike in Ludlow; soldiers were used and the miners thrown out of their homes, being compelled to live in tents. One day, while the men were some miles away fighting with the mine-guards, a contingent of soldiers surrounded the tents, set them afire, hundreds of women and children being burned to death... War strategy and tactics must be envisaged in terms of the American Revolution, comprising the whole of the Americas, a fundamental task of the Communist International, the accomplishment of which alone will assure the World Revolution, is the destruction of United States Imperialism».
So, we didn’t know enough about the “unique” characteristics of America’s capitalism? Here is the final Manifesto of the Second Congress. Whoever signed that text, and after apologizing for five minutes for the America that only exists on legend, put the horns on communism.
«The programme of an ascending national capitalism – “America for the Americans” (the Monroe Doctrine) – has been supplanted by the programme of imperialism: “The Whole World for the Americans”... Under the “League of Nations” flag, the United States made an attempt to extend to the other side of the ocean its experience with a federated unification of large, multi-national masses – an attempt to chain to its chariot of gold the peoples of Europe and other parts of the world, and bring them under Washington’s rule. In essence the League of Nations was intended to be a world monopoly corporation, “Yankee and Co”».
It’s with the greatest devilishness that our bourgeois, be them Vatican or Masonic, repeats Turgot’s sentence, “America is the hope of the world”. He, as held against the French bourgeois who repeated it thirty years ago by the mouth of the renegade Millerand, does so in the hope “that his debts will be forgiven, while he never forgives them to anyone!”
President, secretary of state, government, parliament, parties and public opinion (licensed to speak, of course) in America form a complex whose lowbrow character has long been well known to us; but instead of affirming their shames they all stoop to slavish groveling. Even the fascist writers, who filled our eardrums with profanity aimed at the decadent American plutocracy and found themselves delirious with glee when Pearl Harbor was attack, boast today with self-assurance of the conscience, the sensitivity of the people and the public of America to the fate of freedom in the world and the defense of the weak under attack, a moral force that would guide the decisions and energy of Truman and his diplomats and generals. Now this is low comedy!
The Italians who witnessed the war being waged a few meters away in caves among troglodytes, defenseless Italians and partisan fighters of no one, especially of no past or present Italian regime, could calmly talk with German soldiers and officers first, American later. The former did their warfare with cold technique, without momentum or love of risk but also without omission or error. Almost all of them did not question why they carried out their deliveries on time, but held to a convinced protest: I make war, I have no personal interest in it, I gain nothing from it. They seemed to consider it unworthy to make a bargain about war, not to wage war.
The Americans came, cock sure, convinced they were carrying the hope of the world. Why were they waging war? Golly gee, they themselves had ordered their government to do it, being convinced that such was the interest of every citizen. “The President is my servant” or variations of it was their most common phrase. The President, the ministers, the officials, the generals, they are my servants, they are the ones who carry out the orders of the people and of me, the citizen who votes and “pays them”; with taxes, I give them the month’s pertaining to their “job”. So they were interested in war, or dreamed of being interested in it: in a country where everything is trade and commercial advertising and everything is bought, in installments if need be, even war is “ordered” and commission paid: in installments, if the expense is too great.
In any case, this last war was worth paying for. With the Germans out of the way, a mad people, a criminal people, a people who allow themselves to make war even though convinced that they will lose out of their own pockets and without having any interest in it, a people who will immediately think of subjecting themselves to appropriate cures and treatments to inoculate them with civilization and made in America conscience, we shall all be peaceful, free, and masters of our own destiny; we shall elect a committee of our servants who for a modest month will administer on our behalf the government of the free and peaceful world.
We have not had the good luck to lie idle in a ravines in the Korean mountains to compulsorily study the philosophy of war like those who have passed on their way to the South and headed for the North. They too will probably say that they believe they are fighting the last war, or at least the UN soldiers will say so, to whom it is explained that there has arisen of within the ranks of yesterday’s allies the new Wolf, the new Aggressor, the new Criminal.
Truman speaks and says, announcing that tiny bit of forceful measures: the leaders of the Soviet Union have endangered the peace we want, they began a war of aggression in Korea.
The Soviet government spokesmen respond: we are the ones making the movement for peace, and the Washington leaders want war and are preparing to attack. Both counter and counterpose a possibility of immediate understanding and permanent coexistence.
If one voice, taking up the traditions of the communist movement noted earlier, could be inserted into this dialogue, it would draw from these a few simple corollaries.
Truman on the one hand and the leaders of the USSR on the other do not have the ability to provoke war or prevent war. We can also say that Truman, Acheson, Eisenhower, Mac Arthur, or whomever for that matter personally does not want war to break out today or does not find it appropriate to work to hasten it. Their intentions, even if they were otherwise, are of little consequence.
The oligarchy of high capitalism that they represent operates in the economy, in production, in industry, in finance with a practice that leads to war, since to do otherwise would be to diminish their profits and harm their interests in different ways. But even the members of this oligarchy, personally taken, could not even if they wanted to operate in a radically opposite way, and even if they thought of reconciling the protection of their interests with postponing or averting war, they would arrive at the same consequences.
Thus instead of this stupid nonsense, that only matters to publicity and is only worth the bother to shift the partisan forces ratio (if there are many around tomorrow) a bit, of shouting to them, to the leaders of government and business: pace yourselves, live, produce, earn, but don’t go to war, remember that you were the salvation of the world until 1945 so try to not nuke it; they should be told: we know your way better than you do, of imperial oppression over the world; you, as a class, cannot stop yourselves, only the world revolution can, by destroying your power: it will not renounce you if you are in a state of peace, and, if you will be in a state of war, it will seek the ways that this may present to hasten your collapse, and your peace will not be regretted.
It has for you, for the proletarian world, no other way of salvation.