N.I. Bukharin: Imperialism and World Economy


Chapter 15: Conclusion

History moves in contradictions. The skeleton of historic existence, the economic structure of society, also develops in contradictions. Forms eternally follow forms. Everything has only a passing being. The dynamic force of life creates the new over and over again-such is the law inherent in reality. Hegel's dialectics, which Marx placed on its feet, is valuable for this very reason that it grasps the dialectics of life, that it fearlessly analyses the present without being disturbed by the fact that every existence hides within itself the germ of its own destruction.

In its mystified form, dialectic became the fashion in Germany because it seemed to transfigure and to glorify the existing state of things. In its rational form it is a scandal and abomination to bourgeoisdom and its doctrinaire professors, because it includes in its comprehension an affirmative recognition of the existing state of things, at the same time also, the recognition of the negation of that state, of its inevitable breaking up; because it regards every historically developed social form as in fluid movement, and therefore takes into account its transient nature not less than its momentary existence; because it lets nothing impose upon it, and is in its essence critical and revolutionary in spirit.

Thus Marx in his foreword to the first volume of Capital. Many years have passed since; we already hear a new future knocking at history's door. Present-day society, which developing productive forces to a gigantic degree, while powerfully conquering ever new realms, while subjugating nature to man's domination on an unprecedented scale, begins to choke in the capitalist grip. Contradictions inherent in the very essence of capitalism, and appearing in an embryonic state at the beginning of its development, have grown, have widened their scope with every stage of capitalism; in the period of imperialism they have reached proportions that cry to heaven. Productive forces in their present volume insistently demand new production relations. The capitalist shell must inevitably burst.

The epoch of finance capital has made all the elements of maladjustment of the capitalist organisation stand out in the boldest possible relief. In former times, when capitalism, as well as its class sponsor, the bourgeoisie, appeared as a progressive force, it was in a position partly to conceal its inner defects by comparing itself with the backwardness and maladaptation of pre-capitalist relations. Large-scale production, equipped with gigantic machines, ruthlessly crushed the handicrafts with their poor technique. This painful process was nothing but the collapse of precapitalist production forms. On the other hand, the very existence of those forms, of those various "third persons" in the capitalist production process, allowed capitalism to extend its power "peacefully," without exposing the limits put to economic evolution by its capitalist shell. This is why the general features of the contradictions inherent in capitalism as such, and forming its "law," appeared in the sharpest possible form only at a stage of economic development when capitalism had outgrown its swaddling clothes, when it had not only become the prevailing form of the socioeconomic life, but had even become the general form of economic relations, in other words, when it had appeared as world capitalism. It is only now that the inner contradictoriness of capitalism is expressed with dramatic force. The convulsions of the present-day capitalist world that is drenched in blood and is agonised in mortal pain, are the expression of those contradictions in the capitalist system, which in the long run will cause it to explode.

Capitalism has attempted to overcome its own anarchy by pressing it into the iron ring of state organisation. But having eliminated competition within the state, it let loose all the devils of a world scuffle.

Capitalism has attempted to tame the working class and to subdue social contradictions by decreasing the steam pressure through the aid of a colonial valve. But having accomplished this task for a moment, it thus prepared the explosion of the whole capitalist boiler.

Capitalism has attempted to adapt the development of productive forces to state limits of exploitation by resorting to imperialist conquests. But it proved unable to solve the problem even through its own methods.

Capitalism has increased the power of militarism enormously. It has brought to the historic arena millions of armed men. The arms, however, begin to turn against capitalism itself. The masses of the people, aroused to political life and originally tame and docile, raise their voices eves higher. Steeled in battles forced upon them from above, accustomed to look into the face of death every minute, they begin to break the front of the imperialist war with the same fearlessness by turning it into civil war against the bourgeoisie Thus capitalism, driving the concentration of production to extraordinary heights, and having created a centralised production apparatus, has therewith prepared the immense rank: of its own grave-diggers. In the great clash of classes, the dictatorship of finance capital is being replaced by the dictatorship of the revolutionary proletariat. "The hour of capitalist property has struck. The expropriators are being expropriated."