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The Iliad, or, The Poem of Force (Simone Weil, 1940)

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The Iliad, or, The Poem of Force was written in the summer and fall of 1940, after the fall of France .. It may thus be read as an indirect commentary on that tragic event, which signalized the triumph of the most extreme modern expression of force. It was originally published, under the acrostical pseudonym “Emile Novis,” in the December 1940 and January 1941 issues of the Marseilles literary monthly, Cahiers du Sud. The present translation is by Mary McCarthy. The quotations from Homer were first translated from the French manuscript by Miss McCarthy and then checked and revised by Dwight Macdonald in accordance with the Greek text. “The Iliad” appeared in the November 1945 issue of Politics and was later issued in pamphlet form.

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The true hero, the true subject, the center of the Iliad is force. Force employed by man, force that enslaves man, force before which man’s flesh shrinks away. In this work, at all times, the human spirit is shown as modified by its relations with force, as swept away, blinded by the very force it imagined it could handle, as deformed by the weight of the force it submits to. For those dreamers who considered that force, thanks to progress, would soon be a thing of the past, the Iliad could appear as an historical document; for others, whose powers of recognition are more acute and who perceive force, today as yesterday, at the very center of human history, the Iliad is the purest and the loveliest of mirrors…. [PDF]

See also:

Simone Weil – An Anthology-Penguin Books (2005)

Simone Weil – Oppression and Liberty-Taylor and Francis (2004)

simone weil, the need for roots: prelude to a declaration of duties towards mankind

simone weil, gravity and grace

simone weil, waiting for god

Simone Weil – Lectures on Philosophy (1978)

Russell Jacoby (b. 1945) – Selected Works

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Academic Marxism is hardly the whole of the political Left. Recent symposiums on the Left have stressed that the goals of the past decades have not been met: racism, poverty, discrimination, remain current realities; the 80s will see groups trying to survive in the teeth of government retrenchment and recession. This is undeniable. The struggle to survive cannot be criticized; yet it has little to do with the fate of a political Left. Nor is this an insult. The Left has often confused oppression with revolution; the most oppressed were the most blessed. Yet it belongs to basic Marxism that there is no automatic link between suffering and revolutionary activity. Marx never argued that the working class suffered more than the peasantry. The specific conditions of the working class prompted the hope of revolution. That various socioeconomic groups and minorities are in for a bad deal in the coming years, cannot be doubted. It can be doubted that they will cross the line separating the struggle to eat from the struggle for emancipation. Those who are sound in body and mind will not fight the revolution; those who are mutilated beyond repair cannot: this is the curse which has bewitched the revolutionary project.

The next years will be the era of partial struggles. Groups will enter the political arena to do battle for separate rights and interests: rent control, health care, environment, and so on. It would be arrogant to write any of this off. A wildcat strike to preserve a coffee break which is being eroded away is surely justified. Yet the struggles are fragmentary, local and transitory. The whole is elusive. If the strength of contemporary radicalism is its localism, this is also its weakness. As always the danger is in self-righteousness and self-mystification: the confusion of better garbage collection with revolution. Apart from any ends which are achieved, partial struggles keep alive an arena for political activity and commitment; for many individuals this will be critical — and more: a renaissance of political activity is unthinkable without the participation of individuals. When the conditions change, those who have remained in the daily fray may be able to show the way. To be sure, in the rat race of daily politics they may also forget the way.

– Russell Jacoby, “Crisis of the Left?” (1980)

Books:

Russell Jacoby – The end of utopia_ politics and culture in an age of apathy-Basic Books (2000)

Russell Jacoby – The Last Intellectuals_ American Culture in the Age of Academe, 2nd edition (2000)

Russell Jacoby – The Repression of Psychoanalysis

russell jacoby – dialectic of defeat: contours of western marxism

russell jacoby – picture imperfect: utopian thought for an anti-utopian age

russell jacoby- social amnesia: a critique of contemporary psychology from adler to laing

 

Essays and Reviews:

Real Men Find Real Utopias _ Dissent Magazine

Argument_ Michael Burawoy and Russell Jacoby _ Dissent Magazine

jacoby class symposium

jacoby crisis of the left

jacoby laing cooper and the tension in theory and therapy

jacoby marcuse and the new academics

jacoby narcissism and the crisis of capitalism

jacoby politics of crisis theory II

jacoby postscript to authoritarian state

jacoby reply to slater

jacoby review of adorno

jacoby review of braverman

jacoby review of reich book

jacoby review of slater

jacoby review of the political philosophy of the frankfurt school

jacoby the politics of objectivity

jacoby the politics of subjectivity

jacoby towards a critique of automatic marxism

jacoby what is conformist marxism

jacoby –  Review of Shulamith Firestone – 1971

jacoby -Review of Jay’s Dialectical Imagination – 1974

Karl Marx and the Iroquoi (Rosemont, 1989)

by Franklin Rosemont, 1989, in Arsenal: Surrealist Subversion

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There are works that come down to us with question-marks blazing like sawed-off shotguns, scattering here and there and everywhere sparks that illuminate our own restless search for answers. Ralegh’s so-called Cynthia cycle, Sade’s 120 Days, Fourier’s New Amorous World, Lautremont’s Poesies, Lenin’s notes on Hegel, Randolph Bourne’s essay on The State Jacque Vaches War letters, Duchamp’s Green Box, the Samuel Greenberg manuscripts: These are only a few of the extraordinary fragments that have, for many of us, exerted a fascination greater than that of all but a very few “finished” works.

Karl Marx’s Ethnological Notebooks[1] -notes for a major study he never lived to write, have something of the same fugitive ambiguity. These extensively annotated excerpts from works of Lewis Henry Morgan and others are a jigsaw puzzle for which we have to reinvent the missing pieces out of our own research and revery and above all, our own revolutionary activity. Typically although the existence of the notebooks has been know since Marx’s death in 1883, they were published integrally for the first time only eighty-nine years later, and then only in a highly priced edition aimed at specialists. A transcription of text exactly as Marx wrote it- the book presents the reader with all the difficulties of Finnegan’s Wake and more, with its curious mixture of English, German, French, Latin and Greek, and a smattering of words and phrases from many non-European languages, from Ojibwa to Sanskrit. Cryptic shorthand abbreviations, incomplete and run-on sentences, interpolated exclamations, erudite allusions to classical mythology, passing references to contemporary world affairs, generous doses of slang and vulgarity; irony and invective: All these the volume possesses aplenty, and they are not the ingredients of smooth reading. This is not a work of which it can be said, simply, that it was “not prepared by the author for publication”; indeed, it is very far from being even a “rough draft?’ Rather it is the raw substance of a work, a private jumble of jottings intended for no other eyes than Marx’s own-the spontaneous record of his “conversations” with the authors he was reading, with other authors whom they quoted, and, finally and especially, with himself. In view of the fact that Marx’s clearest, most refined texts have provoked so many contradictory interpretations, it is perhaps not so strange that his devoted students, seeking the most effective ways to propagate the message of the Master to the masses, have shied away from these hastily written, disturbingly unrefined and amorphous notes.

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William Morris (1834-1896)

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This is a brief sketch of what I am looking forward to as a Communist: to sum up, it is Freedom from artificial disabilities; the development of each man’s capacities for the benefit of each and all. Abolition of waste by taking care that one man does not get more than he can use, and another less than he needs; consequent condition of general well-being and fulness of life, neither idle and vacant, nor over burdened with toil. All this I believe we can and shall reach directly by insisting on the claim for the communization of the means of production; and that claim will be made by the workers when they are fully convinced of its necessity.”

William Morris Archive / wiki / News from Nowhere [PDF] / William Morris’s Utopianism [PDF]

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Paul Lafargue (1841-1911)

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For the end of the social revolution is to work as little as possible, and to enjoy as much as possible.”

Paul Lafargue (1841-1911), Karl Marx’s son-in-law, was a leading member of the French socialist movement and played an important rôle in the development of the Spanish socialist movement. A close friend of Friedrich Engels in his later years, he wrote and spoke from a fairly orthodox Marxist perspective on a wide-range of topics including women’s rights, anthropology, ethnology, reformism, Millerandism, and economics.

Biography
Bibliography

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Statistics and Socialism (Paul Mattick, Jr., 2016)

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On Otto Neurath

Paul Mattick Jr. (presentation at Anton Pannekoek conference, Amsterdam 2016) PDF

One of the preconditions of the creation of socialism, Otto Neurath wrote in 1925, is that society ‘must know from which conditions it starts at a certain moment and what it can undertake.’ To have such information, ‘above all the labour movement needs a statistics of the conditions of life. Its object should not be to establish total consumption or average consumption—these are of little significance—but the ‘standard of life’ of the main social groups and classes.’[1] Of course, it is not ‘society’ that will create this new order: ‘Socialism in practice … will be brought about by the political victory of the proletariat …’[2] hence ‘Statistics is a tool of the proletarian struggle! An element of the socialist economy, the delight of the advancing victorious proletariat and, not least, a foundation for human solidarity.’[3]

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A Few Clarifications on Anti-Work (Astarian, 2016)

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by Bruno Astarian, Dec 2016, hic-salta

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The text below is a translation of my post Quelques précisions sur l’anti-travail initially published online by ediciones ineditos . This translation included several errors, some of them having me stating the opposite of what was meant. The translation below has been corrected accordingly, and is thus the only one being valid. 

For an episode of its program “Getting Out of Capitalism,” Radio Libertaire asked me to do a presentation on anti-work, based on the pamphlet I published with Echanges et Mouvement in 2005. Upon re-reading it, I realized that there was a need to correct or clarify certain points of view expressed at the time. A few paragraphs in italics are reproduced without any change from the 2005 brochure.

Introduction:

There is some confusion about the notion of anti-work. My brochure, “On the Origins of Anti-Work” (Echanges et Mouvement, 2005), did not escape this fate. The confusion arises from a lack of precision in defining the notion of anti-work. On the one hand, it groups in the same category as anti-work certain behaviors such as a worker’s laziness, when he or she tries normally to do the least amount of work, or a preference for (compensated) unemployment or living on the margin. Such practices of refusal of work, of resistance, are as old as the proletariat itself and do not define modern anti-work. On the other hand, the confusion lies in classifying as anti-work forms of resistance to exploitation that are in actual fact pro-work, e.g. Luddism. I believe that we should save the term anti-work for the struggles of our time (since ’68) which demonstrate that the proletariat is no longer the class that will affirm itself in the revolution as the class of hegemonic labor, nor is it the class that will make work mandatory for everyone or replace the bourgeoisie in managing the economy.

To better understand the specificity of the term anti-work, it has to be placed in a historical perspective. It should be noted that what we are interested in here are struggles in the workplace, against the usual characteristics of the relationship between workers and their means of labor (absenteeism, sabotage, lack of discipline in general).

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Marxism: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow (Mattick, 1978)

"Iconographic encyclopaedia of science, literature, and art."

by Paul Mattick (1978)

From Marxism: Last Refuge of the Bourgeoisie? by Paul Mattick, edited by Paul Mattick Jr., published by Merlin Press, 1983

In Marx’s conception, changes in people’s social and material conditions will alter their consciousness. This also holds for Marxism and its historical development. Marxism began as a theory of class struggle based on the specific social relations of capitalist production. But while its analysis of the social contradictions inherent in capitalist production has reference to the general trend of capitalist development, the class struggle is a day-to-day affair and adjusts itself to changing social conditions. These adjustments find their reflection in Marxian ideology. The history of capitalism is thus also the history of Marxism.

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Obsessions of Berlin (Mattick, 1948)

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by Paul Mattick, Partisan Review, Vol.15 No.10, October 1948, pp.1108-1124. [PDF]

As against the terror of the bombs, the actual conquest of Berlin was of lesser significance to its inhabitants. Nevertheless, the artillery tore new holes into the ruins, shot away parts of the surviving buildings, killed many people running for food and water. The spray of machine guns is visible almost on every house, every floor, every apartment door. The tanks ground down the streets and sidewalks. The battle was fought section by section, street by street, house by house. It is said that sixty thousand Russians died in the struggle for Berlin. The estimate may be incorrect, but it reveals the ferocity of the struggle. There are no guesses on the German losses. They lost everything – particularly, however, their illusions about the Russians.

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Marx and the Utopian Wilhelm Weitling (1948)

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by Hans Mühlestein, Science & Society, Vol. 12, No. 1 (Winter, 1948), pp. 113-129

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The most important proletarian representative of “equalitarian communism” in the earlier nineteenth century was undoubtedly the tailor Wilhelm Weitling, who was born in 1808, the illegitimate son of a French officer of the Napoleonic army of occupation and a working girl of Magdeburg. Weitling’s relative historical importance was that, along with Auguste Blanqui, he represented the most active element of the revolutionary tendency of the continental proletariat throughout the first period of his life; that is, until the first communist trial in Zurich, in 1843. At that time he was a leader in that phase of the proletarian movement which developed immediately before the first published works of Marx and Engels. If he has a place in history, it is because he was the first real proletarian (besides the weak Pierre Leroux) who proved to be a revolutionary writer, and the only proletarian who ever built a consistent and complete Utopian system of communism. Etienne Cabet, his contemporary Utopian, had been general procurator of Corsica and advocate at the royal court, and was certainly not a proletarian. 

A Capitalism Pure and Simple / Counter-Revolution Against a Counter-Revolution (Tamás, 2004/2007)

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by Gáspár Miklós Tamás (interview / words from budapest / truth about class)

A Capitalism Pure and Simple  (2004) PDF

The symbolic and historic importance of Eastern Europe for the left is beyond dispute. It was, after all, in Eastern Europe where the socialist experiment has been allegedly attempted. The fall of the East Bloc régimes in 1989 has meant for most people that there is nothing over the horizon of global capitalism. Although it is by no means certain that what failed was socialism, institutions, organizations, currents of the Western left collapsed, as if what they represented would have been identical with the dismal heap of ruins which was the empire of Stalin’s diadochoi. However inglorious, drab, scary and tedious that empire was,  today’s  inmates believe that  it was  far superior in all respects to the new dispensation. Socialists appear to be disavowed by the general belief that capitalism is all there is, and democrats seem to be told that, compared to this new liberal democracy, dictatorship was a picnic.

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The Test of Communism (Bernes, 2021)

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by Jasper Bernes (2021) PDF

Communism is an old idea in the world. Let’s call it ancient, for it may as well be our antiquity. We need not track down its origins in the alleyways of insurrection, only know that millions have struggled and died in its name. In this sense, it is not just an idea but a real force in history, product of and factor in a proletarian movement that has for at least two centuries now posed the overcoming of capitalism by classless, stateless, moneyless society. In fact, what’s remarkable about the history of the workers’ movement of the last two centuries is that this real ideal has until recently not only seemed inevitable but obvious. Even where they disagreed, violently, about how to achieve such a state of affairs, anarchists, communists, socialists, Marxists, syndicalists, and even some liberals, all stood joined by a common vision of a future classless society.

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Conspiricism in General and the Pandemic in Particular (TC, 2021)

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Théorie Communiste, January 2021

Originally published in French at dndf, translated by Cured Quail

They hide everything from us, we are told nothing
The more we learn, the more we know nothing
We aren’t really informed about anything
Did Adam have a belly-button?
We are hiding everything, we are told nothing […]
The John Doe case and the Jane Doe case
Whose murderer cannot be found
They hide everything from us, we are told nothing
We are hide-and-seek and hide-the-thimble
Blindfolded and John Doe
They are the kings of information

– Jacques Dutronc, 1967

Imagine that we’ve been lied to for centuries and centuries / That certain high-ranking communities know the recipes / The secrets of life, not that which we are allowed to see.

– Keny Arkana

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A world without money: communism (Les Amis de 4 Millions de Jeunes Travailleurs, 1975-76)

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Un Monde Sans Argent: Le Communisme was originally published in three parts, as three separate pamphlets, in France, between 1975-6. It was produced by Dominique Blanc, shortly after the dissolution of the Organisation des Jeunes Travailleurs révolutionnaires. The name Quatre Millions de Jeune Travailleurs was apparently ‘adopted’ from a 1971 PSU youth publication (Parti Socialiste Unifié – a French Socialist Party), presumably to satisfy French publishing laws, and texts continued to be published under this name through the 1970’s including the widely distributed tract A Bas Le Proletariat/Vive Le Communisme.

PDF: English / French

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Some Stories About Communization

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by Jasper Bernes, Nov 2020-Jan 2021, via Substack

(see also Planning and Anarchy (2020), and Belly of the Revolution (2018))

Part 1, Nov 26, 2020

I want to do a series of posts on the theory of “communization” as it has developed since 1968, because it seems to me there is a great deal more interest in the term and desire than there is comprehension. There are many reasons for the abuse the word has suffered, but foremost is that, in France, from whence it derives, “communization” never at first served to name a tendency or a coherent theory. It was simply a term of art that a loosely connected network of communist projects used to explain their vision of communist revolution.

Even as the term courant communisateur – communizing tendency, or communizer current–began to be applied to these groups retrospectively, many questioned and resisted the term, drawing attention to the way that it conflated advocates of communization, who can exist in the world here and now, with those who practice communization, that is with people who do not yet exist.

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The New Movement (Henri Simon, 1974)

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Dec 1970, Szczecin

Influential in its day and expressing the optimism of its times, this text describes the characteristics of the New Movement of class struggle of the 1960s and 70s and its relationship to the Old Movement. Published in English translation from the original French by Solidarity, London 1976.

by Henri Simon

1. The struggle against capitalist domination, which, in its various modern forms occurs in every country in the world, exhibits new tendencies, which are in complete contrast with what occurred before the beginning of the 20th century.

2. The common and essential feature of these tendencies, is the way in which those who struggle manage the totality of their affairs by themselves in all circumstances of their lives, in the field of action as well as thought.

3. The signs of what could be a radical transformation of social relationships are to be seen in the upheavals of capitalism itself in its crisis and its attempts to adapt itself. These signs can erupt in isolated explosions rapidly destroyed by the dominant interests or they can be traced through their slow progress and more or less stemmed by reforms.

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The End of Utopia (Marcuse, 1967)

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Herbert Marcuse, lecture at FU West Berlin 1967, published in Five Lectures

Today any form of the concrete world, of human life, any transformation of the technical and natural environment is a possibility, and the locus of this possibility is historical. Today we have the capacity to turn the world into hell, and we are well on the way to doing so. We also have the capacity to turn it into the opposite of hell. This would mean the end of utopia, that is, the refutation of those ideas and theories that use the concept of utopia to denounce certain socio-historical possibilities. It can also be understood as the “end of history” in the very precise sense that the new possibilities for a human society and its environment can no longer be thought of as continuations of the old, nor even as existing in the same historical continuum with them. Rather, they presuppose a break with the historical continuum; they presuppose the qualitative difference between a free society and societies that are still unfree, which, according to Marx, makes all previous history only the prehistory of mankind.

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The Principles of Communism (Engels, 1847)

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by Friedrich Engels

Written: October-November 1847;
First Published: 1914, Eduard Bernstein in the German Social Democratic Party’s Vorwärts!
Translated: Paul Sweezy
MECW 6: 341-357

— 1 —
What is Communism?

Communism is the doctrine of the conditions of the liberation of the proletariat.

— 2 —
What is the proletariat?

The proletariat is that class in society which lives entirely from the sale of its labor and does not draw profit from any kind of capital; whose weal and woe, whose life and death, whose sole existence depends on the demand for labor – hence, on the changing state of business, on the vagaries of unbridled competition. The proletariat, or the class of proletarians, is, in a word, the working class of the 19th century.[1]

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Three Agricultural Revolutions (Clegg & Lucas, 2020)

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By J. Clegg and R. Lucas (Endnotes) SAQ (2020)

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There is tenderness only in the coarsest demand: that no-one shall go hungry anymore.  

— Adorno, Minima Moralia

Critique of Revolutionary Reason

It’s safe to say that there is today no particularly obvious consensus about what the overcoming of capitalism might look like. Surveying the field of imagined scenarios, we find everything from neo-social-democratic bids to gradually legislate capitalism away, to apocalyptic visions of social breakdown marked by the spontaneous redistribution of goods. Nor is there a simple, uncontentious definition of communism. It could in principle be anything from some classical Sparta’s helot-exploiting collectivism, to a recapitulation of hunter-gatherer lifestyles; from the perfected bureaucratic state, to federated worker’s councils; from Stanford Beer’s cybernetic visions, to a return to pastoral commons. Marx, of course, was famously reticent about giving the term any positive content, displacing its meaning instead onto the historical unfolding of the movement of the same name. He claimed to prefer “critical analysis of actual facts” to “writing recipes for the cookshops of the future” (Marx 1976: 99). And Marxists of various stripes have often appealed to that precedent in one way or another to justify a focus not on the speculative future, but on the “real” present. In Endnotes’s broadly “ultra-left” milieu, a passage from Marx’s German Ideology often functions as a kind of mantra: “communism is for us not a state of a airs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things” (Marx 1970: 56). READ PDF

State Capitalism: Its Possibilities and Limitations (Pollock, 1941)

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by Friedrich Pollock (1941)

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We start from the assumption that the hour of state capitalism approaches when the market economy becomes an utterly inadequate instrument for utilizing the available resources. The medium-sized private enterprise and free trade, the basis for the gigantic development of men’s productive forces in the 19th century, are being gradually destroyed by the offspring of liberalism, private monopolies and government interference. Concentration of economic activity in giant enterprises, with its consequences of rigid prices, self-financing and ever growing concentration, government control of the credit system and foreign trade, quasi-monopoly positions of trade unions with the ensuing rigidity of the labor market, large-scale unemployment of labor and capital and enormous government expenses to care for the unemployed, are as many symptoms for the decline of the market system. They became characteristic in various degrees for all industrialized countries after the first world war.

See also: