Arrigo Cervetto 1989-1995

The Difficult Question of the Times

Source: Internationalism. Journal of Marxist Analysis;
First Published: éditions Science Marxiste, Marxist Science Publications;
Translated: from the Italian, © Éditions Science Marxiste.
This edition is a complete translation of a series of articles that appeared consecutively between June 1981 and June 1984 in the newspaper Lotta Comunista. The article used as the introduction («The Times of Revolution») appeared in the same newspaper in January 1976. These writings were first published as a book in 1990. A second Italian edition was printed in 2000;
First Italian edition: Milan, 1990. First Greek edition: Athens, 1994. First French edition: Paris, 1997.

Publisher’s Foreword

Within Arrigo Cervetto’s vast literary output resulting from half a century of theoretical and political struggles, the writings collected in this volume — beside the fact itself that they face a «difficult question» — are of particular interest, for they penetrate to the heart of the fundamental problems that over one-and-a-half centuries of history have tested the revolutionary movement and Marxist school, that is, problems about strategy and the times of strategy. Cervetto wrote: «In this «difficult question» lies a strategic tangle that few, in Marxism’s generations, have tried to unravel and many have contributed to complicating». For a man who considered that the identity core of all Marxist political tendencies lies in the field of strategy, this way of introducing himself is undeniably the most effective.

In these pages of high theoretical density, the reader is offered the elements to understand Cervetto’s place within the Marxist school, the strategic character of his support of Leninism, and his evaluation of the limits of Lev Trotsky’s, Amadeo Bordiga’s, and Rosa Luxemburg’s views.

It is this distancing that makes Cervetto’s thought original and fruitful. In fact, his different perspectives on capitalist development’s features and paces enabled him to have a broader strategic view. This view only can make the radical criticism of Stalinism go beyond the narrow limits within which minority leftism fixed it.

With regard to man as a biological individual, time is set by the experience of generations — childhood, adolescence, youth, middle age, and old age succeed each other and provide time with a rhythm. Tragic events, whether individual or collective, can take place, socio-economic changes can extend the average life (as occurred in the 20th century), but in any case the significance of biological time is a stable element.

Political time, on the contrary, is a historical time subject to the dialectics of accelerations and decelerations. «There are days that are worth twenty years — Cervetto reminds us, citing Marx — and yet, in the movement of matter, one day is one day». The strategic divide of , that sanctioned the end of the East-European State-capitalist regimes that had been passed off as socialism, was a remarkable evidence thereof.

Biological time and historical time merge in the psychologies of the individuals who are the protagonists of class struggle. This is difficult terrain, because it is subject to the inevitable commingling of rationality and emotions. A revolutionary, a Marxist, anticipates the paces of social changes in his heart. It should not surprise, therefore, that the class movement, through the voice and understanding of its best representatives, has often imagined faster paces than the actual ones. At the end of the , during a phase of full capitalist expansion, August Bebel did not realize it, and affirmed at the convention of the Social-Democratic party in Erfurt (): «Indeed, I am convinced the realization of our goals is so close at hand that few of you in this hall will not live to see it».

Science only can emancipate us from the ascendancy of present time, that almost inevitably leads to mistakes about the reality of today perceived as absolute reality, independent of any evolution — and thence prepares the disappointments of tomorrow.

This emancipation, this freedom, does not pursue any abstractly predicted aims, but practical objectives. Cervetto wrote: «Revolutionary strategy is based on the analysis of times, not to arrange the future, a task for which an objective real movement doesn’t have any need, but rather to establish time deadlines that can act as references in defining immediate tasks in the present, the tasks of tactics. (…) Tactics address temporary situations that are multi-faceted combinations, to take up Lenin’s definition, of long-term historical processes». The more solid the strategy, the more flexible can tactics be. The «question of times» finds its place in practice, in the daily struggle: «Science is freedom, and it is such because it is not a theory detached from practice. Instead, it is practice guided by theory».

Solving day-to-day problems, understanding, for example, the reasons behind a defeat — this is where Marx’s Capital was born, in the awareness that a new revolution was impossible in the short term. For Marx, the time needed for a new revolution to appear was connected to the time needed for a new crisis to come into being, and that depended on the development of the world market. In , Marx and Engels stated that the discovery of gold mines in California was more important than the Paris revolution of . The way was open to development in the Pacific region, and this tendency would show consequences much more remarkable than even the discovery of America.

This prediction has now proven true: Asia’s capitalist development in the second half of the deeply upset the relations between powers. If the same unit of measure is adopted to calculate the world market’s shares, it appears that about one fifth of the global relative economic strength changed hands. One half of this, about one tenth of the world output, was to China’s and Japan’s advantage. This is why Asia’s crises were «crises of internationalization», for they exactly showed the effect of new Asian developing countries entering the world market, e.g. Korea, Thailand, and Indonesia.

Those who have approached Marxism, even from a critical point of view, couldn’t fail to acknowledge its ability to perceive the underlying tendencies of capitalist development. Raymond Aron said he agreed fully with Schumpeter about the fact that, «all those who write about society would indisputably like to achieve the same predicting degree as Marx’s, because his analyses — even if they include not an inconsequential number of mistakes — offer an exceptionally high number of positive confirmations» (La Philosophie critique de l’histoire, Paris, ).

The idea of the Pacific region’s future development should be clearly listed among this meaningful positive confirmations. What remained was the question of times. It took roughly a century and a half for the trend illuminated by Marx and Engels to be completely fulfilled.

Between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the , the question of times found no strategic solution. In the gradualist evolutionism that characterized the Second International’s reformism, the whole dialectic of change, break, and revolution, disappeared. Time was reduced to simple chronology. Heinrich Cunow even maintained that, «capital has not accomplished its historical mission yet», and that the imperialist stage was «a necessary transition stage towards socialism». And it wasn’t a matter of theory only. Practice followed consequently, with the support of colonialism and the Second International’s helplessness in the face of the massacres of the First World War. Neither Karl Kautsky in the reformist camp nor Rosa Luxemburg in the Marxist school were able to solve the general strategic problem of the nature of capitalist development underlying the question of times. Kautsky perceived a trend towards the peaceful creation of a «super-imperialist» cartel.

His view was soon to be denied by history. Rosa Luxemburg’s Accumulation of Capital, a valuable contribution to the critical history of colonialism, predicted a quick collapse of capitalism through the exhaustion of backward, pre-capitalist areas that were considered as indispensable to the extraction of surplus-value.

Luxemburg’s view was wrong, not only because the economic reasons used to explain colonialism did not correspond to reality, but above all because there is no such a thing as the «point of no return» in capitalist development. That would be too easy. It would suffice, for example, to wait for the tendency to the fall in the rate of profit to finally impair the system. On the contrary, a series of countertendencies, which Marx described in Capital, act in the opposite sense. Now, one of the most significant countertendencies to the falling rate of profit in the past fifty years was exactly capitalism’s penetration into backward areas with higher profit rates. The historical development of the world economy denied Rosa Luxemburg’s view as well as her considerations on the reproduction schema Marx offered in the second book of Capital. Capitalism suffers cyclical crises, but it doesn’t «collapse» definitively.

In their own way, the reformists also accepted the theory of «collapse», and projected it to an indefinite future that ideologically disguised their reformist practice. On the other hand, Rosa Luxemburg attempted to use this theory in a revolutionary perspective. Cervetto paid homage to her when he wrote: «She gave her blood for the flag of communism, but she could not give it the strategy».

In the «long times» of capitalist development, Lenin saw an acceleration in the imperialist stage that started a cycle of wars and revolutions. For him, there was neither stagnation nor slowing down; the factors at stake were the dialectic of development, the acceleration in the revolutionary strategy’s pace, uneven capitalist development, and the impossibility of reaching long-term agreements on the division of the world market. The soundness of this strategic view is more than obvious: the entire , which Cervetto qualified as the «century of the long war», and the beginning of the new century stand to confirm it. The end of the Yalta world division, the rise of Asian powers, and the re-emergence of Europe — an upsetting that was accompanied by wars in the former USSR, Bosnia, and Kosovo, as well as in the Gulf and Afghanistan — show the intrinsic instability of every balance of powers. European imperialism, with its merging of monetary powers and the adoption of the euro, has taken definitive steps in its process of unification.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Lenin found himself faced with the breakdown of the European balance. The October Revolution was a gleam that drove back the darkness generated by the first inter-imperialist slaughter. But the revolution remained isolated. The Bolshevik vanguard seized power in backward Russia: the «weakest link» had yielded, but it would remain only in the hands of those who had broken it. Then, this region of the world located between developed Europe and semi-feudal Asia had inevitably to face the issue of the pace of capitalist development. In a realistic perspective Lenin was obliged to choose the path of capitalist development. State capitalism was the greatest acceleration possible. «The assault on the sky — we could say the assault on time — was forced to pause», Cervetto commented.

It is not surprising, therefore, that in a discussion was opened on the question of times. Amadeo Bordiga, quoted by Cervetto, summarized it thus: «Stalin said: if full socialism is impossible here, then we must give up power. Trotsky proclaimed his faith in the international revolution, and that he was ready to wait for it while in power for another fifty years. He was answered that Lenin had spoken of twenty years for isolated Russia». A few months later, the debate was over. In , Stalin misappropriated Trotsky’s views on forced industrialization and resolved the «theoretical» problem in the «simplest» way — he made State capitalism pass as «full socialism», he drowned all the dissident voices in blood and massacred several million people. The counter-revolution triumphed.

Forced into exile, Trotsky tried to resume his work of strategic formulation. His general mistake was to neglect the analysis of capitalist spread on the world scale and of its pace. He considered imperialism as a manifestation of stagnation, and not of development, in the world’s productive forces. This development favors social parasitism and brings the seeds of crises and wars. Moreover, Trotsky didn’t resolve the theoretical problem of the social nature of the USSR. He didn’t perceive its State-capitalist nature and developed the idea of a «degenerated workers’ State» — a State in which a socialist economic base supposedly coexisted with parasitic bureaucracy. In , when the war broke out, he believed that in the absence of an international proletarian revolution, monopoly capitalism would suffer a further decay, tending towards «a regime of decline, signalizing the eclipse of civilization». Trotsky also maintained that democracy, wherever it still survived, would be replaced by totalitarian regimes.

Things went otherwise. But unfortunately Trotsky couldn’t see them, and he couldn’t compare his point of view with the world dynamics of the war and post-war period. In , he was murdered by a hired killer under Stalin’s orders.

During Second World War’s long night, the working class struggled against fascism and nazism throughout Europe, but it lacked an independent political guide. Its struggle, though necessary, was destined to remain within the strategic framework of the inter-imperialist clash. In the immediate after-war period, the situation required an evaluation. Amadeo Bordiga made the attempt, but a miscalculation led him to overestimate the destruction of the forces of production due to the conflict. He imagined economic «wastelands» produced by the war, in which the winners’ «billiondollar» would rule for a long time. He predicted long years of «an international totalitarian government of capital».

The implied practical conclusion was demoralizing: there was nothing to do, or very little to do, except a revolution in Washington. «For Bordiga, — Cervetto remarked — the destruction of capital prevented the struggle between classes, between bourgeoisie and proletariat, and between the various bourgeoisies». Bordiga’s estimations were excessive, and his predictions were erroneous. In the present volume, the reader will find multiple sources cited, including econometric studies, that confirm this view.

Bordiga went even further. During the , he referred to a single study by American economists about the world trade dynamics, and formulated an imaginary prediction in which the year would represent «a critical point in the current market rush». This event, again according to Bordiga, could be preceded during the twenty years that were to pass before the «mythic deadline» by «a great crisis in the world industrial production and trade cycle, similar to the American crisis». Cervetto commented that this prologue had never occurred: «As a consequence, the crisis in the 1970s was entirely different from the one expected».

The crisis of the , that Cervetto qualified as a «restructuring crisis», was in fact the result of three decades of world development. This period’s features, already brought to light in the Theses on Imperialist Development (), are here summarized as follows: «The particular characteristic of the cycle of capitalist accumulation during the last thirty years on which our forecast did and does base, is exactly its global extension. Consequently, our thesis, which places the contradictions arising from this extension in the forefront, is a strategic thesis. It is such because it takes the social struggles determined by a general trend into consideration».

Peasantry disintegration and massive proletarization in «developing» countries, significant migratory flows, the reorganization of old industrialized economies through a complex economic (industrial and financial) and social restructuring process — these were the fundamental trends that characterized this historical stage. In the the cycle suffered an interruption in the imperialist metropolises only. In the periphery, there was widespread development that made it possible to speak of a single long expansion cycle.

Ultimately, Cervetto’s valuable contribution to the «difficult question of times» was his analysis and characterization of the post-war cycle. Within the Marxist school, later generations have the means of checking the results obtained by the previous generation’s scientific research and strategic formulations. During the long cycle of the second half of the , Marx and Engels’ forecast on the shift of the world’s center of gravity towards the Pacific has come true. Lenin’s view that imperialism is the manifestation of uneven development has been fully confirmed.

In Trotsky, just like in Bordiga, while in different ways, a failure to characterize the capitalist cycle was the origin of actual strategic limits. Trotsky’s subjectivism and voluntarism, with the overestimation of the resulting tactical tasks, as well as Bordiga’s objectivism and wait-and-see approach, that were a negation of those tasks, can find their place and be explained in such a context.

Finally, the «question of times» can’t neglect the problem of the time required to develop a class organization. In front of an impetuous process of world proletarization and of an objective need for internationalism, the delay reached in class organization may be defined as «historical». Cervetto remarked: «Organized strength can’t be improvised, and requires decades of anonymous, patient, incessant work to be selected, built, trained, and tested». It is not enough to provide a correct strategic analysis. This must be translated into «a psychological behavior of the organized class minority», which is different from that of the majority of the class and for which the maturation times are inevitably longer.

The bourgeoisie itself has a long history of centuries-old struggles. Augustin Thierry, in his Histoire de la formation et des progrès du Tiers État, described the Parisian bourgeoisie’s revolutionary attempts in , , and when the Bastille was taken for the first time. With regard to the decade between -, he commented: «The bourgeoisie, in a certain way, anticipated the times to come. Having lost the dominant position it had previously achieved, the Third Estate patiently submitted to its secular task».

In comparison, the Communist Manifesto has only one-and-a-half centuries of history. , the Paris Commune, — these were the precursors of the proletarian revolutionary experience.

Marxism is a young science.

The Times of Revolution

Over the years, our party developed from a revolutionary strategy based on the forecast about the spread of the capitalist mode of production.

Capitalist uneven development, in its intensive and, above all, extensive forms was the keystone of our scientific analysis. Only our party defended this theory of Marx’s, Engels’, and Lenin’s against all the bourgeois, opportunist, and «under-development» tendencies, even when everyone attacked it. With a series of variations, these tendencies agreed on considering the world market divided into two or more parts. We, on the contrary, defended the validity of Marx’s theory, which Lenin took up, on the global market’s unity and, therefore, on economic laws’ universal nature.

This basis for the revolutionary strategy has profound meaning for our party, just as the thesis on the inevitability of capitalist development and modern classes in Russia, formulated at the end of the , did for the Bolshevik party. For the Bolshevik party, this meant building the proletarian party during a phase of capitalist rise. It meant working with the prospect that an industrial working class would inevitably form and that the peasantry would inevitably disintegrate. For us, it is a question of building the proletarian party during a phase of imperialist maturity, and in an imperialist metropolis participating in capitalism’s general trend to global extension. An extension trend, therefore, which is not merely intensive, the latter being neither specific, nor particular, but, rather, typical.

The particular characteristic of the cycle of capitalist accumulation during the last thirty years on which our forecast did and does base, is exactly its global extension. Consequently, our thesis, which places the contradictions arising from this extension in the forefront, is a strategic thesis. It is such because it takes the social struggles determined by a general trend into consideration. From this thesis we derive the analysis of social movements, of the Italian structure and superstructure, that is determined, to varying degrees and according to different contingencies, by the general global trend.

If we don’t start with the specific determination that characterizes Italian phenomena in order to analyze them, we lapse into flat empiricism. To forget what determines them specifically means to lapse into eclecticism, because this would imply to attempt a mediation between all the factors deemed to be equally influencing. Also in this case, we can make a comparison with the strategic Bolshevik thesis. For us, like the Bolsheviks, the conclusion is that it is necessary to prepare the theory, by restoring Marxism, and the practice, by building the party organizationally, to the inevitable outcomes of capitalist development.

If capitalism develops according to the general trend analyzed, and, largely, predicted, the practical conclusions will have to fall in line with the theory: a workers’ party and not a peasants’ party during the first quarter century in Russia; a workers’ party without alliances with other classes during the last quarter century in Italy. The revolutionary party’s action is only effective to the extent that it anticipates and prepares for the actual movements of social reality.

What are the times, what are the marching paces, what are the deadlines for the general trend on which the strategy is based and for which the party equips itself? It is impossible to predict the deadlines because the general trend operates over decades and not years, and because, to the extent that it is general, as it is in the case of capitalist extension, infinite factors act within it. Of these factors, it is possible to recognize the common traits, but not the different unfolding.

Uneven development is, precisely that: capitalist factors (firms, industries, countries) have a common trait, but they show uneven unfolding and cannot be individually predicted. Since the factors are mutually and interdependently related, the general trend that we define as the law of uneven development can be inferred from their relationship, which has a specific connotation, i.e., the difference in the paces of the factors that make up the relationship itself. Since the general trend is determined by capitalism’s nature, it cannot change without changing the nature of capitalism itself.

While it is scientifically possible to identify capitalism’s general trend, or evolution as Lenin calls it, and to foresee the inevitability of its outcomes or results, it is impossible to predict its deadlines. This explains Bordiga’s mistake, if it may be called that. In , he calculated that the critical point of the world’s trade dynamics and the conquest of markets would occur in twenty years. This deadline was connected to the discussion on the times of revolution between Stalin, Trotsky, and Bordiga himself. Bordiga connected back to the fifty years Trotsky had predicted and calculated a twenty-year period in which an enormous crisis in world industrial production and in the trade cycle, comparable to the American one experienced in , would prepare the economic and political conditions for a new spark of permanent revolution with its epicenter in central Europe. Quite rightly, Bordiga raised the question of times. The deadline, however, more than being calculated badly, should not have been calculated at all; and the same applied to those of us who took a different position and limited ourselves to conceiving a twenty-year period of industrialization in backward areas.

Ultimately, our theory that sees restructuring as the essential feature of world capitalism’s present crisis derives from analysis of uneven development. The restructuring process confirms that a law of unevenness and disproportionate economic development is at work in various sectors and areas. Over the course of at least two decades, this process has accumulated a series of contradictions that, added together, have brought about a serious crisis. Undoubtedly, typical contradictions, such as overproduction, come together in this crisis, but this is not the characterizing element on a global level because in the imperialist metropolises where overproduction occurs there is also a strong tendency to export means of production and capital to developing areas of the world. The characterizing element of the crisis, is not, therefore, the typical element of overproduction. Rather, it is the specific one of the world market’s outlets.

We have said that capitalism’s development trends operate over decades and not years; they operate over the long and medium-term, and not in the short-term since temporary junctures can form from momentary and superficial combinations and complications. They cannot, obviously, be considered strategic junctures in which the classes’ relations can determine decisive changes.

The Leninist party, a strategic party, is not fatalistic and mechanistic; rather, it is dialectical-materialist. It is an active factor in the long, medium, and short-term development trends. Therefore, it outlines long-term timeframes, but above all, it outlines strategic moments or junctures that are the formats of the classes’ foreseeable relations, and these relations are conceived more in the social dynamic that substantiates them than in the political institutions that express them.

Lenin based the revolutionary strategy on the long-term trend and foresaw, while actively working, a strategic moment in the development of the relationship between the proletariat and the peasantry. This class relationship, whose social dynamic is the bourgeois-democratic revolution, found a political institution in the democratic dictatorship of the workers and peasants. But the Russian democratic dictatorship, as the political institution of the class relationship between the proletariat and peasants on the Russian market, was seen as an accelerator of the Socialist revolution in the Western metropolises. It was viewed thus since, both objectively and subjectively, the Russian class relationship actively intervened to sharpen the class relationship between bourgeoisie and proletariat in Europe. In Lenin, this is an initial formulation of the concept of the weak link in the imperialist chain.

Only further development of the long-term trend on which the revolutionary strategy is founded can highlight and concretely determine the weak link in the international class relationship, i.e. the relationship between the international bourgeois and proletarian classes. At this point in the development, the international relationship between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat creates a strategic juncture that, thanks to the party’s action, can change into the political institution of the proletarian dictatorship.

But this possibility of changing a strategic juncture into a class revolution appears because the party instrument develops with the daily work of organizing and educating the proletariat and does not entrust itself to the waves of spontaneity and the expectation of myriad and exceptional combinations.

What could be a comparable moment for our party? It could be the class relationship between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat that was emerging in an imperialist metropolis such as Italy, following a world cycle that determined the Italian cycle of the 1960s. Due to a series of combinations of factors, on the basis of capitalism’s general expansion trend, the labor-power market recorded a low level of unemployment. This brought about a wave of economic claims, that was essentially trade-unionist, a kind of economic .

The twenty-year period of expansion provided an initial result that was neither a crisis such as that of nor the start of permanent revolution, i.e., a radical shift in the bourgeoisie-proletariat relationship. Instead, it was a temporary situation, a favorable moment for the labor-power in its economic negotiating. The Leninist party’s task was that of intervening politically within this wave of claims, acting more on the class relationship that was objectively weakening opportunism, than on the institution, the trade union, that could reinforce opportunism in a new form. The main aim was to reinforce the party’s organization because this corresponded to the general task and because, in particular, it was inevitable that the situation would reverse.

The trend to increase real salaries, accelerating the fall in the rate of profit, became one of the factors in the restructuring crisis that, among its consequences, would produce a change in the labor market’s conditions.

The Russian reinforced Bolshevism. The «economic 1905» reinforced Leninism in its historical restoration. Does this recent past of struggle make it possible to see the future? Does it make it possible to further define the question of the times of revolution which Trotsky and Bordiga raised? Does it make it possible to more thoroughly study an issue we have been examining for years now? If we raise the question of times in its historical meaning of identifying the strategic trends, and we put aside deadlines that are impossible to set, we can say yes. We can say that the past experience is precious because it has shown us all the limits as well as all the opportunities of a temporary situation.

With this experience, our Leninist party is now able to face its daily work in the short times of the present workers’ struggles and to more closely analyze the long times of strategy, the general trends of capitalism and of class antagonisms.

First Chapter


The Question of Times

In , in his article A Caricature of Marxism, Lenin argued that the majority of the world population had not yet reached capitalist development: «the majority of the Earth’s countries and populations are not even at the capitalist level, or they are only at the beginning of that level of development».

In sixty-five years, the overwhelming majority of the Earth’s population has fully reached the capitalist level of development. The history of these sixty-five years is the history of this passage. It is a social phenomenon of enormous proportions. Never before in history has the capitalist mode of production spread so extensively and so quickly. It took Western Europe and North America much more time with a much slower process to reach the capitalist level of development.

On various occasions, Amadeo Bordiga, recalled the Communist movement to a fundamental debate: «During the great discussion of , the question of times arose, and we basically clarified it. Stalin said: if full Socialism is impossible here, then we must give up power. Trotsky proclaimed his faith in the international revolution, and that he was ready to wait for it while in power for another 50 years. He was answered that Lenin had spoken of 20 years for isolated Russia. We documented that Lenin meant 20 years of good relations with the peasants, after which, class struggle would break out — in a Russia that was not economically Socialist — between workers and peasants to eliminate rural micro-property and private agrarian micro-capital, the burden of the revolution». The «question of times», as Bordiga called it, raised periodic discussions that, as such, could not provide solutions.

The importance of the question lies precisely in the fact that Marxism systematically raised it and raises it. The debate is only a moment and an opportunity to focus the theoretical and political work on an integral part of the work itself, on a constant of both theoretical formulation and practice that, sometimes and for a series of objective causes, decreases in intensity.

When the reference to the question of times is lacking in the theory and the practice; when the solutions of the revolutionary proletariat’s immediate problems are attempted in the momentary framework where such problems appear as immediate; when the need prevails to find the solutions to problems that arise in the momentary framework simply because they are historically determined and simply because they do not have a temporary nature, the practical impossibility of a solution to the immediate problems becomes dramatically clear.

The question of times, when it is neglected in theoretical formulation, becomes practical inability to properly frame the immediate problems and, therefore, to resolve that part of them that can objectively be solved. In the abstract, all problems are immediate and unsolvable since, if they are real problems and not false ones, they represent the manifestation of a contradiction and, therefore, of a dynamic process. This is the case because what is static is neither a contradiction nor a problem. Consequently, there is no problem that does not have a past, present, and future.

What we define as an immediate problem for a class is, in reality, a group of aspects connected to each other; a group of mutual connections that influence each other; a group of dialectically intertwined relations. Seen in their static situation, these aspects or connections take on equivalent priority, that is, they all seem primary. Since it is their sum that constitutes the problem and given the impossibility of resolving them in full — otherwise they would never accumulate into a problem — the outcome is the objective impossibility of untying the knot created.

But, if these aspects are seen in their dynamic, they also change in their arrangement, and that which was primary yesterday, no longer is today and becomes primary again tomorrow. The problem, which is a group of aspects, cannot be dissected arbitrarily. Rather, it must be unraveled through scientific analysis, and, therefore, in the corresponding practical political action. If the science is correct, and the practice is consequential, the knot can be released. It is the tactics that derive from the strategy that can do this. This is why the question of times is a constant in Marxism.

This point makes it possible to analyze problems in their historical course and to follow the dynamics of their formation, development, and maturity. Marxist science studies development, and therefore, the time dynamic. More than a question of times, it is a method for time and space that, if applied with all the specific criteria available, transcends the particular question of times by fully encompassing it.

If this question arises periodically, regardless of the fact that the dynamic’s study was neglected in analysis, it is also due to the difficulty of the study itself, to the lack of material selected or the insufficiency of technical tools.

Identifying the development trend and the dynamics of movement still does not mean that the quantities that comprise it are fully realized. The measure of time is the measure of pace, and the measure of pace is quantity. The quantity of social movement that leads to revolutionizing the capitalist mode of production and to the proletarian revolution is as vast as the movement itself. Social, economic, and political life is an infinite quantity of acts and, consequently, is quantifiable.

The capitalist mode of production, based on profit and the calculation of profit, develops the measure of quantity to the utmost with the exchange of equivalent values. This offers Marxism the opportunity to increasingly use social statistics, but the Marxist school has not made full use of this possibility. Lenin’s pioneering work on the agrarian question, on the development of Russian capitalism, and on imperialism has not yet had the necessary continuation. Also in this field, too many years have elapsed. This delay has negatively affected the framing and understanding of the question of times as it was debated during the Russian revolution.

The Theory of Times

The question of times is at the center of every strategic vision of the revolutionary movement because it is a question of theory and adequate technical tools. From this Marxist point of view, along with the other aspects, we must consider Lenin’s statement that without a revolutionary theory, there can be no revolutionary movement.

Without a revolutionary theory of historical time, there can be no revolutionary movement in the present. The revolutionary theory that concerns the times of social processes and the resulting political movements is, ultimately, an application of Marx and Engels’ fundamental theory of capitalist development.

This theory had one of its intense creative moments after the failure of the revolutions. In , Marx took refuge in London where he would spend most of his life. In , he revived the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, Politisch-ökonomische Revue with a circulation of 2,500 copies. Only a few issues were published before it closed due to lack of funds. Marx, with the Revue, planned to use the truce time to study the revolution’s timeframe more closely. That is, he planned to make an assessment of the years -, and to trace the future prospects.

Marx’s intention was, «…to provide a complete scientific handling of the economic relations that comprise the base of the overall political movement».

And that is what he and Engels did in their first year in London. In the last issue of the Revue, in , the conclusions were drawn: «Given this general prosperity, in which the productive forces of bourgeois society are developing as luxuriantly as it is possible for them to do within bourgeois relationships, a real revolution is out of the question. Such revolution is only possible in periods when both these factors, the modern forces of production and the bourgeois forms of production, come into conflict. The various bickerings in which representatives of the individual fractions of the continental party of Order presently engage and compromise each other, far from offering occasion for new revolutions, are, on the contrary, only possible because the base of relationships is momentarily so secure and — what the reactionaries ignore — so bourgeois. All reactionary attempts to hold back bourgeois development will crumble against it as will all the ethical indignation and all the inspired proclamations of the democrats. A new revolution is only a consequence of a new crisis. The one, however, is as sure to come as the other».

In , Engels, producing a new edition of The Class Struggles in France. -, added parts of the article from the last issue of the Revue as a fourth chapter. He affirmed that they were «a true conclusion to the whole story», thereby showing that, almost fifty years after the events, he still considered that article valid.

As a result, the evaluation drafted in was not merely a consideration of the revolution of . Instead, it was above all a theory for the revolution of the future. The «complete scientific handling of the economic relations», that culminated in Capital, analyzed «the base of the overall political movement»; by analyzing the world market, the question of the times of the «overall political movement» was scientifically framed. It did so in every sense and for all the classes, not just for the proletariat.

When Marx established the crisis as the objective basis for revolution, he underlined the helplessness of reactionaries and democrats in the face of the productive forces’ development. The struggle between the ruling class’ fractions consequently became not an occasion for crisis, but a possibility for bourgeois evolution.

In the second issue of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, Politisch-ökonomische Revue, dated , Marx and Engels anonymously published a «Review» of international politics that, in addition to an infinite number of meaningful evaluations, contained some critical passages. «While the Continent has been occupied for the last two years with revolution and counter-revolution, and the inevitable torrent of words which has accompanied these events, industrial England has been busy with quite another commodity: prosperity». The February revolution removed the «competition of continental industry» and «helped the English to weather a crisis year quite tolerably».

Only revolutionary passion and cold scientific genius could lead the two combatants to seek and find the causes behind the continental political movement’s failure — a movement in which they had actively participated. This also led them to the causes behind the failure of their own «permanent revolution» strategy, based on deadlines and timeframes that objectively could not come true. The strategic format for the move from the bourgeois-democratic revolution to the Socialist-proletarian revolution did indeed correspond to the class struggles’ dynamics. It did not, however, correspond to «a complete scientific handling of the economic relations» that determined the overall dynamics of the classes’ political struggles. The revolutions on the Continent had favored English capitalism and postponed its crisis.

Such a consideration inevitably led to look across the ocean.

The Times of the Pacific Ocean

In the Revue article, Marx and Engels move on to deal with America: «The most important fact that has occurred here, still more important than the February revolution, is the discovery of gold mines in California. Already, after scarcely eighteen months, it can be predicted that this discovery will have much greater consequences than the discovery of America itself… A coastline which stretches across thirty degrees of latitude; one of the world’s most fertile and beautiful areas, and hitherto more or less unpopulated, is now being visibly transformed into a rich and civilized land; densely populated by men of all races, from the Yankee to the Chinese, from the Negro to the Indian and Malay, from the Creole and Mestizo to the European. Californian gold is pouring in torrents over America and the Asiatic coast of the Pacific, and it is drawing the reluctant barbarian peoples into world trade, into civilization. For the second time, world trade is experiencing a helm’s stroke».

After predicting — with remarkable foresight — California’s role in the development of the American and Asian markets, Marx and Engels write that New York and San Francisco will «soon» replace London and Liverpool as the «emporia of world trade».

But they say even more: «The cornerstone of world trade — Italy in the Middle Ages, England in modern times — is now the southern half of the North American peninsula. Old Europe’s industry and trade must exert every effort if they don’t want to end up in the same decadence that Italian industry and trade experienced from the 16th century onward, and if England and France don’t wish to reduce themselves to what Venice, Genoa, and Holland are today… Thanks to Californian gold and the Yankees’ inexhaustible energy, soon both of the Pacific Ocean’s coasts will be as populated, open to trade and industrialized as the coast from Boston to New Orleans currently is. Then the Pacific Ocean will have the same function that the Atlantic has now and that the Mediterranean had in the Middle Ages. It will be the great maritime path for world trade, and the Atlantic Ocean will be reduced to the role of an inner sea, as the Mediterranean is now».

In the light of these clear statements, one certainly may not say that Marx and Engels had a narrow view of the world market and that they limited its potential to English capitalism’s possibilities for expansion. Therefore, they couldn’t imagine a capitalist collapse brought about by the exhaustion of English capitalism’s potential on the world market, nor by the shriveling of European capitalism’s opportunities. On the contrary, they believed that also European capitalism, in addition to the English, and in general, capitalism connected with Atlantic trade were destined to decline in the face of the impetuous development of capitalism around the Pacific Ocean.

If we consider what was, for more than a century, the development of the American West Coast, Japan, and Asia, we can only admire such great historical vision derived from the scientific discovery of the laws of motion of the capitalist mode of production and applied to the identification of some essential development trends. This vision, moreover, was inevitably not yet supported by the mountain of concrete facts and data that only time and perfection of technical tools would supply.

Various revisionist tendencies have talked a great deal about the particularities of American capitalism that would invalidate Capital’s analysis for the United States, an analysis taken from the English experience. Earl Browder’s tendency, for example, claimed that, because of these particularities, some objective laws of capitalism that acted in England could not be considered to operate in the American market. The crucial problem, however, was the one that Marx and Engels indicated, i.e. the capitalist future of the Pacific region. The fact that this issue has been largely overlooked, if not even misunderstood, is already a factor in and of itself that helps understand many strategic shortcomings and mistakes.

Lenin, on the other hand, was aware of this crucial problem in his analysis and strategy, from his considerations on the Russian-Japanese war to the role he assigned Asia in the international revolution. The fact that capitalism was destined to accelerate its development in Asia was, for Lenin, an inherent aspect in imperialism’s dynamics. Here again, he returned to Marx and Engles’ true thought which was distorted by the Second International’s tendencies.

Instead, a misunderstanding arises for other reasons. Marx and Engles believed that capitalist development embraced the entire world, but they also felt that this development’s contradictions were provoking, in the meantime, a proletarian revolution in Europe.

They openly hoped for this in the article we quoted: «The only way for civilized European countries not to fall into the industrial, commercial, and political dependence that Italy, Spain, and Portugal find themselves subjected to now is a social revolution. While there is still time, this revolution must change the production and transportation systems according to the needs of production that come from modern productive forces. This will make it possible to create new productive forces, that maintain European industry’s superiority and that offset the disadvantages of its geographic position».

Ultimately, only a social revolution can prevent Atlantic Europe’s decline in the face of Pacific American-Asian capitalism’s rise, because only a social revolution can maintain the superiority of the European forces of production and, consequently, that of the new European socio-political form in the face of capitalism’s rise in other areas of the world.

The course of history has followed the trend that Marx and Engles identified. Capitalism’s extension to the Pacific region has really had «much greater consequences than the discovery of America itself». The «helm’s stroke» has been terrific and even the revolutionary movement has felt it. By neglecting Marx and Engles’ formidable discovery of capitalism’s extension trend, the movement was not strategically able to use all the contradictions, starting with the worldwide extension of wars, that this process provoked.

Only Lenin’s party, which made the Marxist discovery its strategic premise, was theoretically, politically, and organizationally equipped to attempt the great battle. But it remained isolated.

The «Difficult Question» of Times

In the issue of the Revue, Marx and Engles connected capitalist extension to the Pacific area with the crisis in Europe, particularly in English industry and trade. The English crisis could be the only possibility for a social revolution to block the capitalist mode of production’s world rule, which was otherwise inevitable. «While there is still time», the two authors warned.

It was precisely the rise of capitalism outside of Europe that provoked the crisis. Not so much in France or Germany, as had occurred in , as in England which had prospered with the Continent’s crisis.

Marx and Engles wrote: «As a result of the colossal productive forces that English industry added in the years , , and particularly to those that already existed in the period -, and that it still continues to add to, the remaining markets, in particular in North and South America and Australia, will be likewise saturated. And with the first news of their saturation «panic» will ensue in speculation and in production simultaneously — perhaps as early as the end of spring, at the latest in or . However, as this crisis will inevitably coincide with great clashes on the Continent, it will bear fruit of a very different type from all preceding crises. Whereas hitherto every crisis has been the signal for further progress, for new victories by the industrial bourgeoisie over the landowners and financial bourgeoisie, this crisis will mark the beginning of the modern English revolution, a revolution in which Cobden will assume the role of Necker».

It may seem from some passages that Marx and Engles believed that the crisis expected for England — that, given its coincidence with a great war on the Continent, should have led to a modern revolution — was caused by the saturation of the American and Asian markets. But, keeping the preceding statements that we quoted in mind, any misunderstanding disappears. Saturation must be seen as a temporary fact and not as the final outcome of capitalist development in the non-European world, a development considered to be at its very beginning. Marx and Engles would come back to this topic repeatedly over the following years. One needs only recall their articles on India and China.

Even if one wished to single out the erroneous forecast about the causal link between world market, crisis, and revolution, it would still be possible to see that the crisis was conceived of as a coincidence between productive-financial crisis and war. In this, Marx and Engles continue with their positions in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung of , which was so engaged, especially with Engels, in forecasts on the war factor. If the forecast was wrong, it was not because of the economic crisis: rather, because there was no coincidence with the continental war. The Crimean War of remained an isolated episode. Almost twenty years passed between and Sadowa and Sedan, but again, England and Russia stayed out, and the continental dimension of the Napoleonic Wars was not repeated, just to make a historical analogy.

In any case, in Marx and Engles’ thought, the concept of crisis includes the economic and political cycles, and, in particular, the war cycle. Attempting to extract a specific crisis theory from the theory of capital’s cycle and extended reproduction, without keeping the military question in mind is a mutilation of Marx and Engles’ thought. Such an attempt would render it unrecognizable. Lenin, by restoring Marxism, restored the war component to the crisis theory. Reading the Correspondence of Marx and Engles is a contribution to this restoration.

In his letter dated , Marx wrote to Engels: «We cannot deny that bourgeois society has experienced its sixteenth century a second time — a sixteenth century which will, I hope, sound the death-knell of bourgeois society just as the first one thrust it into existence. The particular task of bourgeois society is the establishment of the world market, at least in outline, and of production based upon the world market. As the world is round, this seems to have been completed by the colonization of California and Australia and the opening up of China and Japan. The difficult question for us is this: the revolution is imminent on the Continent and will also immediately take on a Socialist character. Is it not bound to be crushed in this little corner, considering that in a far greater territory the movement of bourgeois society is still on the ascendant?»

In this «difficult question» lies a strategic tangle that few, in Marxism’s generations, have tried to unravel and many have contributed to complicating.

Long Times in Cunow, the Revisionist’s, View

In the turn-of-the-century debate begun by the revisionist E. Bernstein, the so-called «theory of collapse» occupied a place of its own. The author attributed this theory to Marx and Engels. K. Kautsky denied that Marx and Engels’ works contain a theory of capitalism’s «collapse». Heinrich Cunow, on the other hand, in his essay on «The Theory of Collapse» published in the Neue Zeit starting from -, affirmed that this theory existed in Marx and Engels’ thought and, after defending the two authors, he proceeded to criticize their presumed errors.

In this context, we are not so much interested in dealing with the controversy on the «theory of collapse», and its advocates’ arguments, as we are in considering an aspect derived therefrom that can be seen from three different angles: in Cunow, Luxemburg, and Lenin. For Cunow, capitalism’s development trend, as identified by Marx, was correct; the mistake lay only in the evaluation of its development time since «the accumulation did not roughly take place with the rapid pace that Marx and Engles had predicted at the end of the and which the former still thought could be assumed when the first volume of Capital was published».

That is, almost twenty years later. Why did Marx continue to predict a rapid pace of accumulation? Cunow did not say, and believed that: «The reason why Marx’s diagnosis did not prove correct lies, nonetheless — as shown by considering the path taken thus far by that development — not in the fact that he was wrong in interpreting the capitalist economic system’s trends. Rather, it lies in the fact that he erroneously assumed that the future outlet market would be the same as the one existing at his time, with the specific traits that its limits entailed, and that this would be the field of action for those trends. Consequently, he conceived the subsequent development somehow to be a mere extension of the process going on before he eyes».

Nor did Henryk Grossmann, in his book The Law of Accumulation and Collapse of the Capitalist System published in , reveal in his criticism the contradiction in Cunow’s interpretation of Marx’s thought. Grossmann summed up Cunow’s thesis as follows: «Marx was only fooled with regard to the development pace because in his time,hehad considered the existing outlet markets as given. In fact, capitalism in the previous decades had aimed to constantly conquer new markets for capital and industry, and this had worked as a mitigating factor on the trend towards capitalism’s collapse».

And yet, this interpretation holds H. Cunow’s initial error; the error that necessarily led to the subsequent error on the rapidity of the so-called «collapse of capitalism». Cunow wrote: «Thus, Marx and Engles took on the «world market» of the time — and the contrast between the rapid increase in productivity and the market’s consumption capacity that resulted from the limitations of that outlet market itself — as something given without examining whether the effect of that contrast was subjected to modifications; without examining whether the outlet market also expanded and differentiated itself with capitalist accumulation and through the forces of production». And again: «When Marx and Engles wrote the Communist Manifesto, capitalist development was still experiencing its heroic period, and both evaluated it based on a relatively short period of development and within the framework of a narrow field of observation».

We have already seen how Marx and Engles faced, in and thereafter, the strategic issue of the world market’s development and the resulting timeframe. They clearly saw the rise of capitalism in the Pacific area at its outset, and when it could not yet produce all the effects that they had predicted. It is amazing that H. Cunow did not consider this analysis, thus thwarting all of his criticism. But it is even more amazing that the majority of the debate on the «theory of collapse» overlooked Marx and Engels’ original thought.

It would be simplistic to attribute this to poor knowledge of the texts because, as Lenin later commented about Kautsky, this was not what the theoretical leaders of the Second International were lacking. On the contrary, if there was a time in which the sum of theoretical knowledge was great, that was it. It is no coincidence that Lenin’s revolutionary generation grew, from a theoretical point of view, in dialectical opposition to the supporters of revisionism, and not in a vacuum.

The question of times can also be viewed in this sense: the higher and more elaborate is the theoretical platform of revisionism and opportunism, the more intense is the theoretical maturation of the Marxist revolutionary generation that is forced to fight and corrode that platform, on pain of its extinction. It is in this selection of the theoretical species that the social dialectic proceeds and that a Marx succeeds a Hegel, an Engels a Ricardo, a Lenin a Plekhanov. The battle against windmills can provide some generous Don Quixotes, but not strategic geniuses.

The Second lnternational’s gradualist evolutionism was ill-adapted to restoring Marx and Engles’ theory on the development of the world market. This theory raised the question of times in the cycle of revolutions and wars in Europe. In the Second International, the question of times was, yes, considered important, but in a perspective of gradual evolution. Evolutionism is reduced to schematic gradualism where every dialectic of change, break and catastrophe in the development of the modes of production and the socio-economic formations disappears. Consequently, time becomes mere chronology; it is no longer, as in Marxism’s founders, a unit of measure for the decelerations and accelerations of historical development, for the classes’ evolution, transformations, and struggles. K. Kautsky, who even criticized H. Cunow, demonstrated such incomprehension of the dialectic of historical times.

We even find this lack of understanding in Rosa Luxemburg’s thought, who was not a gradualist and who always had in mind the process of revolutionary break in capitalism’s trend to spread throughout the world market. Yet, in a letter dated to Leo Jogiches, she had nothing more to say on H. Cunow’s essay than: «In terms of Cunow, I think that you have already calmed down a bit, and we realize that he has not eaten «the best morsels». We could say that he touched some ideas, but in such a faded and superficial manner that I can justifiably develop the same topic my own way. In general, he has disappointed me».

Rosa Luxemburg will develop the topic in her Accumulation of Capital that brought the Marxist school to meditate and debate at length. However, unfortunately, she also only touched the question of the times of an overall dialectic of history and strategy.

Tactics in the Strategy of Long Times

Tadeusz Kowalik, in his work on Rosa Luxemburg and the Economic Thought, traced the German debate on revisionism back to the earlier Russian controversy of the 1890s between Populists and Marxists over the market question. The Populists Vorontsov and Daniel’son’s theory of markets provoked the intervention of Plekhanov, Lenin, and the so-called «legal Marxists», S. N. Bulgakov, P. Struve, and M. Tugan Baranovskij.

Tugan Baranovskij had published the book Periodic Industrial Crises: History of the Crises in England and General Crisis Theory in . In this book, by harking back to the reproduction and accumulation schemas that Marx formulated in Capital, he concluded that the thesis that states that insufficient demand with respect to increasingly accelerated output leads to commodity overproduction, and hence to the breakdown of capitalism, was very close to Sismondi. In subsequent editions of his book, Tugan Baranovskij saw in K. Kautsky’s, H. Cunow’s, and C. Schmidt’s writings the most complete formulation leading to the theory of markets’ insufficiency.

Translated into German, the book opened a discussion that encompassed Cunow’s stand on capitalism’s long times. According to Cunow, the expansion of foreign markets, «created not only an outlet for the unending surpluses», but it also «weakened the crises’ tendency to arise». Without foreign markets, England would find itself, «exposed for some time now to a conflict between its domestic and outer market’s consumption capacity and the gigantic increase in its capitalist accumulation».

Cunow said that this could be a temporarily advantageous situation for the entrepreneurs and the workers themselves — even if not to the same extent. He scolded Bernstein, who «attributes general validity to the effects of the economic trends that manifest themselves in a given stage of the development process, and presumes that they remain stable at all stages». So, Bernstein did not consider «whether the outlet market also expanded and differentiated itself with capitalist accumulation and through the productive forces».

H. Cunow again made the issue of capitalism’s collapse a question of times, and even if he criticized E. Bernstein — who did not connect the working-class conditions in the metropolises to the world market’s actual tendency — he basically accepted Bernstein’s gradual evolutionism, even if tempered by a preoccupation about cycles.

If it is right to connect the analysis of the working-class conditions to an examination of the cycle, and, therefore, not to assign general validity to temporary effects; if it is correct, then, to consider the consequences of the world market’s cycle on capital and wage in terms of times, it is a revisionist approach not to draw all the political conclusions of this process. The theory of capitalism’s collapse, which is unacceptable on a scientific level but could be included in a class revolutionary attitude, becomes a screen for reformist practice in Cunow’s approach.

The question of the long times, which Cunow had already erroneously posed, is changed from a scientific need — with all of its hard attempts to find a solution and with all the inevitable technical and forecasting mistakes — into an indefinite future, into an abstract and nebulous time-to-come, into a convenient alibi for the present practice. From science, it lapses into ideology and rummages, along with old religions and other ideologies, in the courtyard of false consciousness.

If Communism is not an ideal society invented from a utopian idea but instead, as Marx says, a real movement, and if Marxism is the science that unveils the real social movement, the times are the outcome of the science’s analytical abilities. They are not ideological categories of the perennial flow of time. Revolutionary strategy is based on the analysis of times, not to trace the future, a task for which an objective real movement doesn’t have any need, but rather to establish time deadlines that can act as references in defining immediate tasks in the present, the tasks of tactics.

Tactics are not indispensable to strategy. Strategy is indispensable to tactics. It may be said that without strategy there is only opportunism or, in the best of cases, tacticism, i.e., inconclusive bustling that is often damaging to the search for a class stance in the face of the immediate problems that the present poses. Strategy does not allow an impossible, automatic solution to tactical problems. Instead, strategy offers a solid solution to the inevitable attempts to take tactical stances. Tactics address temporary situations that are the multi-faceted combination, as Lenin defined it, of long-term historical processes.

For example, the industrialization process that crossed Russia and on which Populists and Marxists confronted each other through the market question, was a question of long times. In this sense, the valid strategy — such as Lenin’s was the one that, using scientific analysis, identified the trends that were leading Russian society to develop the capitalist mode of production. This latter presented the same fundamental features as that developed in England and studied by Marx.

By denying the uniqueness, affirmed by Populism, of capitalist development in Russia, Lenin was able to elaborate a long-term strategy that covered several decades. This strategy dealt with the classes’ struggles in the Russian area and established, in exact terms, the role of the revolutionary party that was supposed to organize the vanguard of a working class that capitalist development would inevitably create.

The long times of the market question were not, consequently, an abstract theoretical dispute; instead, they were a theoretical battle for political and organizational fighting because, if long-term historical trends followed their course with constancy, temporary situations would come up in the most unexpected situations, in multi-faceted combinations.

And the stronger the strategy, that was made of the hard steel of Marxist science, the more flexible the tactics would be — that is, the possibility of choosing the class contents and class lining-up in each multi-faceted combination as well as the ability to operate concretely without being dragged, without being overtaken, without being forced into helplessness. Even in the most unpredictable multi-faceted combinations, tactics do not become an expedient in the wait for the long-time’s expiration. Rather, they are the relevant temporary acting of long-term strategy.

This is the only way for the question of times to become a strategic question. This is the only way that the question of times and strategy can live every day, that they can be tested and perfected. Otherwise, they end up, as we shall see, in Cunow’s social-imperialism.

H. Grossmann wrote: «Fifteen years later, Rosa Luxemburg literally took up this theory again and tried to examine it more thoroughly on a theoretical level». While Cunow will bring his theory to favor imperialism, Rosa Luxemburg will bring it to a revolutionary outcome. She gave her blood for the flag of Communism, but she could not give it the strategy.

Materialist Conception in the Policy of Long Times

H. Grossmann, in his work from , maintained that the law of breakdown of capitalism was the consequence of the law of capital’s accumulation. According to him, a pure, isolated capitalist system could exist and develop without requiring a not-yet capitalist economic area.

Consequently, the breakdown of capitalism was intrinsic to the development of pure capitalism; moreover, it did not derive from the exhaustion of the non-capitalist market as, instead, H. Cunow, R. Luxemburg, and F. Sternberg variously sustained.

In his polemic against the theory of collapse provoked from the outside, Grossmann wrote: «Cunow himself, later, during the World War, renounced his theory of collapse: capitalist expansion still has such a large reserve of «third parties» available that only utopians can speak of proletarian revolution. What has collapsed is not capitalism but the faith in an upcoming victory for Socialism. Capital has not accomplished its historical mission yet, and the end of capitalist development can’t be predicted».

In , H. Cunow published an essay in which he brought what lay unexpressed in his turn-of-the-century stance to its extreme consequences. It was precisely the practice of the World War that made his theory explicit and consequential: «…the new stage of imperialist development is a period that has matured from contemporary capitalism’s new, internal needs. It is a necessary transition stage towards Socialism, just as the previous stages of development, such as the formation of large-scale machinery industry, were. It is nothing more than advanced, reinforced capitalism in which the primary role is no longer carried out by industrial capital as such but instead by the new power of finance capital».

If imperialism was «a necessary stage on the road of capitalist development that leads to Socialism», it was «foolishness» to wish to prevent its advent. Just as it would be foolhardy to wish to prevent the advent of large-scale machinery industry. Before Socialism could be accomplished, there was a historical stage in which production was concentrated «in the hands of large capital companies»; «production’s management is separated from the ownership of the means of production»; and «the process of expropriation accelerates and concentrates, thereby creating certain organizational preconditions for the Socialist mode of production».

For H. Cunow, imperialism, «seen as an economic phenomenon», was «a stage of capitalist development that is historically and economically conditioned; it is a historical-social necessity». H. Cunow insisted: «a necessity», and not «a possibility». And here he clashed with K. Kautsky, for whom imperialism was a possibility that could be overcome «through another kind of policy by the same finance capital».

As we can see, both Cunow and Kautsky began with the same «finance capital» category to reach different — but not opposing — conclusions. For the former, the question of the long times was projected into an indefinite time of progressive imperialism that prepared the advent of Socialism. For the latter, it opened into an era of ultra-imperialism with the agreed-upon and peaceful, yet centralized, subdivision of the world market which the proletariat could only oppose with a struggle to return to democracy. Democracy being the only forum in which the proletariat could increase its organized ability for leadership. The dominated class’s struggle, the times’ historical accelerator, was subordinated, in both versions of social-imperialism, to the ruling class’s needs.

In Chapter 7 of his work on imperialism, entitled «Imperialism as a Special Stage of Capitalism», Lenin dealt with Kautsky’s argument against Cunow’s, «the German apologist of imperialism, who clumsily and cynically argues as follows: imperialism is modern capitalism, the development of capitalism is inevitable and progressive, therefore imperialism is progressive; therefore we should bow down before it and chant its praises. This is something like the caricature of Russian Marxism which the Populists drew 1894-95. They used to argue as follows: if the Marxists believe that capitalism is inevitable in Russia, that it is progressive, than they ought to open a public-house and begin to implant capitalism!»

Kautsky objected to Cunow that imperialism was not modern capitalism, but rather one form of the policy of modern capitalism, and that the proletariat had to fight against this policy. For Kautsky, the struggle against imperialism reduced itself to the struggle against one of the forms of this policy. Rightly, Lenin might say that: «The reply seems quite plausible, but in effect it is a more subtle and more disguised (and therefore more dangerous) form of propaganda for conciliation with imperialism, for unless it strikes at the economic basis of the trusts and banks, the «struggle» against the policy of the trusts and banks reduces itself to bourgeois pacifism and reformism, to an innocent and benevolent expression of pious hopes».

Against the objectivism of opening up shop for capitalism and against the subjectivism of pious hopes for peace on behalf of capital, Lenin re-established the main road of materialism in class policy both for long and short times.

Lenin’s Restoration of the Question of Times

Raised in terms that inevitably left no solution or that, with revisionism, ended up turning it upside down, the question of times was to find Lenin as the theorist and revolutionary who restored it to its scientific and strategic foundations.

By restoring the materialist conception of politics, the question of times in its original framework given by Marx and Engles had to return to the forefront. The two founders had, in their passage from democracy to Communism, to take into account the rationalist Enlightenment’s concept of time as atemporal progress, and the Hegelian dialectical concept of time as the absolute idea’s contradictory movement.

Marx and Engles, on the other hand, made time a unit of measure for the movement of the socio-economic formation, of its cycles, of its crises, of its accelerations and slowdowns. Time became measurement of the productive forces’ development. Time became measurement of the dynamics of social relations. Therefore, time became measurement of the movement of the superstructure, political institutions, political struggles, and political upheavals. Lastly, time became measurement of the class struggles and social upheavals. Marx said that there are days that are worth twenty years, and yet, in the movement of matter, one day is one day.

By placing the analysis of society’s anatomy at the base of their materialist conception of politics, Marx and Engles established the conditions to study the movement of social human beings with the «precision of the natural sciences». This movement can be measured with the unit of time. They discovered what determines this movement and, consequently, they could take the concept of acceleration and slowdown away from the subjectivism of reason, idea, and passion, and deliver it to science.

Time becomes the time of the productive forces and these can be analyzed with scientific qualitative and quantitative criteria. Acceleration or slowdown of politics are such in relation to the productive forces’ time. Reason, idea, or passion are such in relation to that. Awareness or a delay in awareness are also such in relation to that time.

In Marx and Engles, the strategy which is calculation of time and not an ideal project arises from this consciousness. The revolution in permanence, the process of change from democratic revolution to proletarian revolution: this was Marx and Engles’ strategy that was calculation of time in .

Only by studying in more detail the productive forces’ time would Marx and Engles be able to recalculate in the time of their revolutionary political strategy which, in , had underestimated the development of the productive forces in the Pacific region. Until the end of the century, in , their work was an inexhaustible mine of material on the question of times raised in the scientific terms of strategy.

And when Engels’ old hand lay down his pen forever, already Lenin’s agile and powerful fingers seized it on Russian soil. The market question, capitalist development in Russia, and the strategy for , restored, with Lenin, the question of times in the founders’ original formulation.

Lenin added an «American pace» and a «Prussian pace» to the hands of strategy’s clock and marked their beats with the plan to build the Bolshevik party. Capitalism’s long times thus became the acceleration in the imperialist stage that opened the cycle of wars and revolutions.

Lenin’s theoretical discussion in Imperialism is also, in various ways and sometimes explicitly, an answer to the question of times. In Chapter 7 he wrote that Kautsky took a step backward «compared with the social-liberal Hobson», who «more correctly» considered «two historically concrete features» of modern capitalism: «1) the competition between several imperialisms, and 2) the predominance of the financier over the merchant».

Lenin said that the dispute of words raised by Kautsky was not serious: «whether the latest stage of capitalism should be called “imperialism” or “the stage of finance capital”. Call it what you will, it matters little. The important fact is that Kautsky detaches the politics of imperialism from its economics, speaks of annexations as being a policy “preferred” by finance capital, and opposes to it another bourgeois policy which he alleges is possible on this very basis of finance capital».

In Chapter 9, «The Critique of Imperialism», Lenin demolished Kautsky’s theory of «ultra-imperialism». Let’s presume, he said, that «all the imperialist countries conclude an alliance» to peacefully share out India, China, and Indochina. This would produce the «internationally united finance capital» that Kautsky assumed. But this can’t be «more than temporary» because the «sharing out of spheres of influence, of interests» is based on «a calculation of the strength… of their general, economic, financial, and military strength, etc».

Since the development of different companies, branches of industry or countries is «uneven», the relative strengths change. In ten or twenty years’ time the relative strengths of the imperialist powers do not remain unchanged.

Here, Lenin used the concept of «time», not in indefinite or Messianic-waiting terms regarding capitalism’s collapse, but in the scientific terms of trend analysis and evaluation of the «time» needed to mature the contradictions that made tendencies up. Thus, the «long times» become the ground on which the tools of scientific analysis can be tested as well as the very instruments for the analysis. They are not, nor may they be, the solution to revolutionary strategy, but they are a condition for which theoretical consciousness and political will organize concretely and specifically according to a plan of class utilization of the contradictions that are going to explode in the «long times».

In , Lenin said that 50 years earlier Germany could not be compared with England, nor could Japan with Russia. Over the long time of half a century, capitalist uneven development provoked a clash between powers that was impossible when the development of the productive forces had provided England with industrial primacy and allowed it to impose its pax.

The Times of the Productive Forces and the Party

If we examine Lenin’s theory on imperialism’s decay, we can find an important answer to the «question of times». For Lenin, imperialism’s decay is a tendency that becomes increasingly clear with the exporting of capital and the formation of the «rentier State». It is the result of capital’s centralization, of the concentration of the means of production, of the merger of industrial capital with banking capital, and of the formation of finance capital. It is a tendency that can, therefore, run into counter-tendencies that slow it down. However, the phenomenon that Lenin identified in the century’s second decade, was fully developed in two directions.

The first direction was the enormous mass of interest that arose from capital’s growing export. The second was the rapid growth of capitalism with respect to its previous pace. For Lenin, decay and acceleration of capitalist development are two aspects of the same phenomenon, two sides of the same coin. Capitalist maturity in the old metropolises brings about the imperialist exporting of capital to new areas. Importing capital accelerates the development of young capitalisms. In this dialectic, Lenin sees an acceleration of the time of the productive forces, and, consequently, an acceleration of both history’s and strategy’s times.

If imperialism’s decay had led, as many commentators of Lenin’s theory believed, to capitalist stagnation in the world, we would not have had an acceleration in the time of the productive forces, but, rather, its slowing down. As a result, we would have had a slowdown in the revolutionary strategy’s times.

There is a contradiction between capitalist stagnation and revolutionary crisis that Trotsky wasn’t able to resolve in his study of the explosive junctures in the 1930s. The point is not only to find the contradictory and historically irreconcilable quality in a situation of class struggle. In this regard, every situation has such a quality. Rather, one must find the quantity of accumulated social and political contradictions in a given situation that make it irreversibly explosive.

Certainly, Trotsky saw the preparation of the second imperialist World War in the . And this was undoubtedly the capitalist system’s greatest contradiction. As such, it had to and could establish the objective ground on which the strategy could act to transform war into revolution. The tool for this act, however, was missing. There was no party, due to the historical delay in its formation that the October revolution was unable to bridge and that the counter-revolutions accentuated. But it is not only the lack of an internationalist party during the second World War that explains the subsequent period’s delay. If we were to reason this way, every temporary situation would have to be explained with the previous one, and a historical justificationism would take the place of the exact indication of the tasks that each revolutionary generation must perform.

The historical-materialist method is that of inferring — through specific analysis of a given situation — the characteristics and possibilities for revolutionary action linked with the proletariat’s historical tasks. As Lenin said, it is necessary to seize the chain’s link in every situation. In the case we are addressing, the case of the party’s time of formation and development, the causes of what is defined as a delay must be analyzed. In fact, this delay is nothing other than an extremely slow pace with respect to the time of the productive forces.

This is the only way, and not by chasing the thousand contradictions that every situation contains without a strategy of general times, that one can seize the link of the party’s historical delay and work concretely to decrease its negative impact. From this point of view, the «question of times» is translated into the constant work of educating and organizing the proletariat, day after day, without impatient waiting for exceptional opportunities. Even exceptional situations require organized strength to face them and avoid bringing grist to opportunism’s mill. Organized strength can’t be improvised, and requires decades of anonymous, patient, incessant work to be selected, built, trained, and tested.

Lenin faced the party’s historical delay in the situation of his own age by working on «long times». By analyzing the time of development of capitalism’s forces of production in Russia, he established the development time for the revolutionary forces and for the party. In this way, the «question of times» also became an organizational question. It went from a difficult to a less-difficult question, because organizational work made it daily practice with which it was possible, by improving it, to accelerate the party’s development time so that it could approach that of the productive forces.

When the imperialist World War’s acceleration provoked a crisis in the productive forces and the political superstructure in Russia, the party was able to use it. It was able to do this not because any party with a Marxist program is mechanistically able to transform a social and political crisis into a revolutionary crisis, but because its program had become concrete in the organizational development connected to the productive forces’ development and that of the main productive force, the working class. Without development of the working class, the Bolshevik party could not develop, and without the rapid development of the first, the second could not develop rapidly either.

However, the historical lesson does not lie in this simple correlation. Instead, it lies in the party’s ability to keep pace with the working class’s growth in particular, and with the increase in the number of wage workers in general, without lapsing into reformism and opportunism, and without abandoning or diluting any strategic aims. The ability is, precisely, that of translating strategy into tactics. Ultimately, it is the strategy that calculates the time of the productive forces, and also directs the time of action, the time of tactics.

At this point, the scientific evaluation of the time of imperialist decay becomes decisive. If one mistakenly evaluates that decay implies capitalist stagnation, one falls into tacticism that raises each action to an action that resolves every manifestation of crisis. If one scientifically evaluates that imperialism’s decay implies an acceleration in capitalist development, one can actively favor the time of the party’s organizational development that corresponds to the time of development of the productive forces and their inevitable crisis.

Acceleration in the Imperialist Time

For Lenin, imperialist decay accelerates capitalist development because the development itself accentuates the uneven pace of the world economy’s various components.

It is helpful to recall a passage from Imperialism, to which we referred in our «Theses of 1957»*. Lenin wrote clearly: «It would be a mistake to believe that this tendency to decay precludes the possibility of the rapid growth of capitalism. On the contrary. In the epoch of imperialism, certain branches of industry, certain strata of the bourgeoisie, and certain countries betray — to a greater or lesser degree — one or other of these tendencies. On the whole, capitalism is growing far more rapidly than before, but it is not only that this growth is becoming more and more uneven; this unevenness manifests itself also, in particular, in the decay of the countries which are richest in capital».**

When Lenin says that on the whole, capitalism grows more rapidly than before, he is not shortening the times within a new theory of collapse. Nothing could be further from Lenin than this theory. Development’s rapidity accentuates the unevenness, and this manifests itself, as we have seen, in the decay of capitalist metropolises. While young capitalisms grow, decay in old metropolises feeds opportunism and extends imperialism’s life.

Acceleration multiplies the inter-imperialist clash and the financial, commercial, and war conflicts. It makes it impossible to have a long-standing agreement on how to divide the world market. As we shall see, it makes the peaceful ultra-imperialist cartel that Kautsky theorized impossible.

The transition period, opened by the definitive success of finance capital, can last a long time since it is the period of wars and revolutions. Lenin states this very clearly: «… the private economic relations and private property relations constitute a shell which is no longer suitable for its contents, a shell which must of necessity begin to decay if its destruction be postponed by artificial means; a shell which may continue in a state of decay for a fairly long period (particularly if the cure of the opportunist abscess is protracted), but which must inevitably be removed».**

For Lenin, there is no mechanical relationship between imperialist decay and its end in the short term. Decay may take a long time. History has shown the correctness of Lenin’s prediction, and it has given the revolutionary party the task of adopting a strategy appropriate to the long persistence of imperialist decay. In this field, every oversimplification is an obstacle to understanding the Leninist party’s task and its ability to perform it. If immediatism, as Trotsky understood, is always a source of opportunism, then it is doubly so with regard to the long time of imperialist decay.

Social dialectic manifests itself in the contradiction between acceleration in capitalist development in the world and prolonged decay in the metropolises. This contradiction exacerbates the conflict and provokes an acceleration in the wars to divide the world market. Peaceful division, even if always possible, has an ever-shorter lifetime. Uneven development changes the relative strengths of imperialist powers more quickly. Capitalism’s entire economic, social, and political life is the basis for an accelerated dynamic in the classes’ struggles.

To scientifically analyze this dynamic, the materialist conception of politics is increasingly indispensable in order to identify the economic determination. Far from simplifying the dynamic, the concept of economic determination of political struggles and military wars makes it possible to reconstruct the dynamic with its full complexity.

And, to the extent that it is possible to be aware of imperialism’s overall dialectic, it becomes possible to face it with a suitable revolutionary strategy. For the same reason, the need to operate strategically imposes itself since this is the only way that the proletariat can use all of the decay’s contradictions without being imprisoned by them.

In Chapter 10 of Imperialism, Lenin wrote: «The extent to which monopolist capital has intensified all the contradictions of capitalism is generally known. It is sufficient to mention the high cost of living and the tyranny of the cartels. This intensification of contradictions constitutes the most powerful driving force of the transitional period of history, which began at the time of the definite victory of world finance capital».**

Time is now marked by the definite victory of world finance capital, and, with all of the contradictions that it provokes, it is now this capital that accelerates time. Only theoretical consciousness of what marks the time of imperialism can make this acceleration a revolutionary acceleration.

* The «Theses on Imperialist Development, Duration of the Counter-Revolutionary phase, and Development of the Class Party» were presented by our comrades Cervetto and Parodi at the conference of the Movement of the Communist Left, held in Livorno, Italy, in .

** V.I. Lenin, "X. The Place of Imperialism in History." Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism

Alliances in the Imperialist Time

In imperialism’s time, the paces of the alliances between the powers also vary. «Therefore, “inter-imperialist” or “ultra-imperialist” alliances are inevitably nothing more than a “truce” in periods between wars, no matter what form these alliances may assume, whether of one imperialist coalition against another, or of a general alliance embracing all the imperialist powers. Peaceful alliances prepare the ground for wars and, in their turn, grow out of wars; the one is the condition for the other, giving rise to alternating forms of peaceful and non-peaceful struggle out of the single basis of imperialist connections and the relations between world economics and world politics».* Thus, in Imperialism, Lenin criticized Kautsky’s argument and established its duration.

Inter-imperialist alliances are only a «truce». They arise from war and prepare the ground for it. They can’t stop imperialism’s time because they are themselves the manifestation of the accelerated pace of its development. Lenin wrote that, «Instead of showing the vital connection between periods of imperialist peace and periods of imperialist war, Kautsky puts before the workers a lifeless abstraction solely in order to reconcile them with their lifeless leaders».* Kautsky «separates one link of a single chain from the other; he separates the present peaceful alliance… from the non-peaceful conflict of tomorrow, that will prepare the ground for another “peaceful” alliance on the day after tomorrow».* The chain is made of links that alternate agreements and conflicts at an ever-faster pace where the powers themselves establish peaceful alliances for one area while they clash over another.

«Behold the living reality of peaceful “ultra-imperialist” alliances in their indissoluble connection with ordinary imperialist conflicts!»*

Capitalist extension to new areas intensifies contrasts and reawakens great masses. Lenin cited a passage from Hilferding: «The old social relations become completely revolutionized. The age-long agrarian incrustation of “nations without a history” is blasted away, and they are drawn into the capitalist whirlpool. Capitalism itself gradually procures for the vanquished the means and resources for their emancipation and they set out to achieve the same goal which once seemed highest to the European nations: the creation of a single national State as a means to economic and cultural freedom».*

This is another factor that determines the duration of imperialist agreements and provokes their conflicts. The generalized creation of national States, as a product of capitalist spread throughout the world, exacerbates the phenomenon. This dynamic makes it impracticable for imperialist agreements on the subdivision into spheres of influence to last a long time in a single area. And it actually makes these agreements impossible when they are intended to regulate all the areas. Agreements and conflicts blend into the same time-link in the imperialist chain.

More than fifty years of history have raised the scientific purity of Lenin’s theory on the imperialist alliances’ time to the highest brilliancy. Kautsky theorized a period of peaceful imperialist alliance which has not yet occurred. Agreement and conflict are the sequential and simultaneous manifestation of unitary imperialism.

The law of motion of the imperialist alliances, which Lenin identified the first time it manifested itself, has by now revealed all of its fundamental traits. In this sense, it followed the evolution of the law of concentration of capital, of which it is, ultimately, the result within the superstructure in the field of international relations and relations between the States.

Capital’s concentration has not led to a super-cartel, rather it has produced agreements that are constantly violated by the competition between economic-financial giants. Imperialist development has not led to ultra-imperialism but, instead, to agreements that are constantly violated by the struggle between great, medium, and small powers. The monopolist agreements on a market or a product are witness, at the same time, to the contracting parties who tear each other to pieces in other markets and over other products. The same holds for the alliances.

Opportunism gets by, for this process, by using the expression «interlocking». But, Lenin said: «What does the word “interlocking” mean? It merely expresses the most striking feature of the process going on before our eyes. It shows that the observer counts the separate trees without seeing the wood. It slavishly copies the superficial, the fortuitous, the chaotic. It reveals the observer as one overwhelmed by the mass of raw material and utterly incapable of appreciating its meaning and importance».**

Lenin said that interlocking is not casual: «But, the underlying factor of this interlocking, its very base, is the changing social relations of production».** He concludes: «… it becomes evident that we have socialization of production, and not mere “interlocking”; that private economic relations and private property relations constitute a shell which is no longer suitable for its contents…»**

The contradictions in the imperialist alliances; the successions of agreements and conflicts that characterize these alliances; the manifestations of compromises in the heart of the alliances and the clashes that accompany them mark the time in the highest stage of capitalism, the time of socialization of the productive forces.

* V.I. Lenin, "IX. Critique of Imperialism." Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism

** V.I. Lenin, "X. The Place of Imperialism in History." Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism

The Time of Aggregate Social Capital

«The subject of political economy is not by any means “the production of material values”, as is often claimed (that is the subject of technology), but the social relations between men in production. Only by interpreting “production” in the former sense can one separate “distribution” from it, and when that is done, the “department” of production does not contain the categories of historically determined forms of social economy, but categories that relate to the labor process in general. Usually, such empty banalities merely serve later to obscure historical and social conditions (for example, the concept of capital). If, however, we consistently regard “production” as social relations in production, then both “distribution” and “consumption” lose all independent significance. Once relations in production have been explained, both the share of the product taken by the different classes and, consequently, “distribution” and “consumption” are thereby explained. And vice versa, if production relations remain unexplained (for example, if the process of the production of the aggregate social capital is not understood), all arguments about consumption and distribution turn into banalities, or innocent, romantic wishes».*

We quote in full this and other passages from Lenin’s essay written in the spring of , A Characterization of Economic Romanticism, because it neatly describes the problem of analyzing the «process of the production of the aggregate social capital». Consequently, the question of times can only be analyzed in these terms, since it is not a matter of production, distribution, and consumption but, instead, a matter of the aggregate social capital.

The question that Lenin raised may seem an abstractly theoretical one. In reality, it is a strategic question because it directly concerns the Marxist revolutionary movement’s practice. The aggregate social capital’s production process occurs with a cyclical movement. The social relations between men in this production process follow a similar cyclical movement. To say it better, the social relations between men constitute the cycle of the process of the production of the aggregate social capital.

Marxist strategic analysis faces the contradictions in social relations, their manifestation through clashes, their manifestation through struggles, their intensity, their reach. The revolutionary strategy establishes the times for the proletariat’s action in the classes’ struggles, struggles that follow a cyclical movement just like the reproduction of social capital, even if they manifest themselves in the distribution and consumption relations of the social product. But, if distribution and consumption of social product, of total income, are not viewed as aspects within the process of social capital’s production, one unavoidably lapses into economic romanticism and political subjectivism. One phase in the cycle of social capital is confused with the cycle itself. A subjective conception of time is confused with the objective time of the crisis of social capital.

Lenin quotes a few extremely important passages from Capital, III: «Scientific analysis of the capitalist mode of production demonstrates… that the distribution relations essentially coincident with these production relations are their opposite side, so that both share the same historically transitory character… The wage presupposes wage-labor; and profit presupposes capital. These definite forms of distribution thus presuppose definite social characteristics of production conditions and definite social relations of production agents. The specific distribution relations are thus merely the expression of the specific historical production relations… Every form of distribution disappears with the specific form of production from which it is descended and to which it corresponds». For Marx, «The view which regards only distribution relations as historical, but not production relations, is, on the one hand, solely the view of the initial, but still handicapped criticism of bourgeois economy».**

Lenin identified a characteristic of economic romanticism in this conception that reaches Russian Populism from Sismondi’s criticism of Ricardo. The influence of this view would continue in positions, such as Trotsky’s, that separated production from distribution in the analysis of the USSR’s social nature, and even saw different and contradictory bourgeois distribution relations with respect to presumed Socialist production relations. Thus, there was a step back with regard to Marx’s discovery of the process of the production of the aggregate social capital. In terms of strategy, a step back means delaying the time of action with respect to the time of the theory that scientifically identified the time of social capital, of the productive forces, and their contradiction.

Lenin quoted the Critique of the Gotha Programme where Marx wrote: «Quite apart from the analysis so far given, it was in general a mistake to make a fuss about so-called distribution and put the principal stress on it. Any distribution whatever of the means of consumption is only a consequence of the distribution of the conditions of production themselves… Vulgar Socialism (and from it in turn a section of the democrats) has taken over from the bourgeois economists the consideration and treatment of distribution as independent of the mode of production…»***

Rightly, Lenin says that «the problem was solved only by [Marx]. Not only that. The very solution of the problem consisted of an analysis of the reproduction of social capital. The author did not make a special problem of either consumption or distribution, but both were fully explained after the analysis of production had been carried to its conclusion».*

Let us add that there can be no strategic solution that doesn’t start from analysis of the reproduction of social capital.

* V.I. Lenin, "A Characterisation of Economic Romanticism."

** K. Marx, "Part VII. Chapter 51. Distribution Relations and Production Relations." Capital Vol. III

*** K. Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme

The Times of Lenin’s NEP

From the point of view of the world process of social capital’s reproduction, the October revolution represented a momentary (in time) and partial (in space) break in the organic unity between production and consumption. In the Russian area of the world market, an isolated and violent alteration occurred between the conditions of production and the conditions of distribution in the capitalist socio-economic formation.

Did this perhaps mean that Marx’s theory, according to which «any distribution whatever of the means of consumption is only a consequence of the distribution of the conditions of production themselves» was no longer valid? Did it perhaps mean that Marx’s solution needed to be revised?

On the contrary, «war Communism» was its complete confirmation. The violent modification of the «distribution of the means of consumption» carried out by the dictatorship of the proletariat was not, in essence, very different from the «war economy» established in Germany with the intervention of State capitalism intended more as control than as ownership.

On various occasions during the civil war, Lenin analyzed German State capitalism and pointed out the need for the proletariat’s political power to imitate it in order to establish control over private capitalism, and, in particular, over small capitalism. Many Bolshevik leaders, theorizing an impossible Communism of production through the «war Communism» of consumption, did not keep Lenin’s words in mind. Economic paralysis came to restore the validity of Marx’s theory on the reproduction of social capital.

The NEP represented the end of the alteration in the relationship between production and consumption provoked by «war economy», and the recovery of a more balanced relationship between the conditions of production and the conditions of distribution in the reproduction of social capital.

It is extremely interesting reading how Lenin explained the new stage of the international proletarian revolution. He did this by referring to, also in his terminology, examples taken from military history. In the report on the NEP he explained what he defined as the «strategical retreat»: «If Communists deliberately examine the question of the New Economic Policy, there cannot be the slightest doubt in their minds that we have sustained a very severe defeat on the economic front. In the circumstances it is inevitable, of course, for some people to become very despondent, almost panic-stricken, and because of the retreat, these people will begin to give way to panic. That is inevitable».*

Lenin added that also the Red Army had been retreating. However, «Its flight before the enemy was the prelude to its victory… On each occasion, once we had been badly battered (and sometimes more than once) we proved the truth of the proverb: “A man who has been beaten is worth two who haven’t”. After being beaten we began to advance slowly, systematically and cautiously».

«Of course, tasks on the economic front are much more difficult than tasks on the war front, although there is a general similarity between the two elementary outlines of strategy».

From the retreat, revolutionary strategy must prepare a new advance that is more systematic than the previous one. This is the first lesson we learn from Lenin’s point. In this sense, it is entirely true that he who has been beaten once is worth double. As long as he consciously analyzes the reasons for his defeat.

In this way, the times of strategic battles take on a more specific connotation. They are accelerated because, in strategic consciousness, the reasons for the defeat are, at the same time, the reasons for a new advance.

This comes across clearly in the following passage of Lenin’s mentioned report: «The peasants constitute a huge section of our population and of our entire economy, and that is why capitalism must grow out of this soil of free trading.

«That is the very ABC of economics as taught by the rudiments of that science, and in Russia taught, furthermore, by the profiteer, the creature who needs no economic or political science to teach us economics with. From the point of view of strategy the root question is: who will take advantage of the new situation first?»

The dialectic of strategic battles is dialectic of defense and attack, of retreat and offensive. From this dialectic, a specific goal emerges that characterizes every individual stage and that must be scientifically inferred from an accurate analysis of the dynamic of relative strengths.

It is important to overcome all «ideologies» that each struggle inevitably produces and always and in any case bring the theoretical and practical study back to the Marxist method and to the materialist conception of politics. Lenin observed that, «During the past four years we have fought many hard battles and we have learnt that it is one thing to fight hard battles and another to talk about them — something onlookers particularly indulge in. We must learn to ignore all this ideology, all this chatter, and see the substance of things. And the substance is that the fight will be even more desperate and fiercer than the fight we waged against Kolčak and Denikin. That fighting was war, something we were familiar with. There have been wars for hundreds, for thousands of years. In the art of human slaughter much progress has been made…»

«It was, of course, much easier to solve war problems than those that confront us now; war problems could be solved by assault, attack, enthusiasm, by the sheer physical force…»

Four years of proletarian battles in the face of thousands of years of military experience: by capitalizing on the long historical period, Lenin tried to accelerate the times of the revolutionary strategy in the unprecedented war of class utilization of the time of the productive forces in Russia and of the reproduction of social capital in the world.

* V.I. Lenin, "The New Economic Policy and the Tasks of the Political Education Departments."

The Times of an Unprecedented Struggle

«Is this the last fight?», Lenin asked himself in the title of a paragraph in the report given on , and he answered: «The dictatorship of the proletariat is fierce war. The proletariat has been victorious in one country, but it is still weak internationally».

He concluded by saying: «Never before in history has there been a struggle like the one we are now witnesses of; but there have been wars between peasants and landowners more than once in history, ever since the earliest times of slavery. Such wars have occurred more than once; but there has never been a war waged by a government against the bourgeoisie of its own country and against the united bourgeoisie of all countries. The issue of the struggle depends upon whether we succeed in organizing the small peasants on the basis of the development of their productive forces with proletarian State assistance for this development, or whether the capitalists gain control over them. The same issue has arisen in scores of revolutions in the past; but the world has never witnessed a struggle like the one we are waging now. The people have had no way of acquiring experience in wars of this kind. We ourselves must create this experience and we can rely only on the class-consciousness of the workers and peasants».

The new tasks placed before the proletariat during the Russian revolution are, as Lenin says, unprecedented because they have never occurred before in history. This field has no time of experience because there can be no experience of what has never happened.

Without the time of experience, the revolutionary class can only rely on consciousness to create the experience of the social and political war that history has yet to witness. The question of times, when the revolutionary present poses it in such terms, becomes arduous to the point of skimming the unknown. But, being a great materialist dialectician, Lenin firmly grasped the only available link, that of theoretical consciousness, to master the chain of the unprecedented event.

He managed to use Marxism’s theoretical consciousness of military history to analyze the new tasks: «We thought that production and distribution would go on at Communist bidding in a country with a declassed proletariat. We must change that now, or we shall be unable to make the proletariat understand this process of transition. No such problems have ever arisen in history before. We tried to solve this problem straight out, by a frontal attack, as it were, but we suffered defeat. Such mistakes occur in every war, and they are not even regarded as mistakes. Since the frontal attack failed, we shall make a flanking movement and also use the method of siege and undermining».

Lenin managed to reduce the revolutionary strategy’s new tasks to the basics: with the concepts of frontal attack and siege, he placed the unprecedented social and political war in a general framework where theoretical consciousness can exercise the power derived from the accumulation of science accomplished over the class struggle’s long time. Translated into military terminology, the new strategic tasks become clear.

In a report dated , Lenin returned to the problem of the NEP. To clarify it, he referred again to military examples. The episode of the capture of Port Arthur by the Japanese General Nogi during the Russian-Japanese war, «will enable us to obtain a clearer picture of the relationship between the various systems and political methods adopted in a revolution of the kind that is taking place in our country».

The capture of Port Arthur was accomplished «in two entirely different stages». The first was characterized by «furious assaults that ended in failure and cost the celebrated Japanese commander extraordinarily heavy losses». The second stage witnessed the passage to «the extremely arduous, extremely difficult and slow method of siege, according to all the rules of the art».

The first mode of operation was mistaken, but «it is easy to understand that in solving a problem in which there are very many unknown factors, it is difficult without the necessary practical experience to determine with absolute certainty the mode of operation to be adopted against the enemy fortress, or even to make a fair approximation of it. It was impossible to determine this without ascertaining in practice the strength of the fortress, the strength of its fortifications, the state of its garrison, etc».

Lenin added another consideration: «Without this it was impossible for even the best of commanders, such as General Nogi undoubtedly was, to decide what tactics to adopt to capture the fortress. On the other hand, the successful conclusion of the war called for the speediest possible solution of the problem. Furthermore, it was highly probable that even very heavy losses, if they were inevitable in the process of capturing the fortress by direct assault, would be more than compensated for by the result».

But when General Nogi reached the conclusion that, in spite of the assaults, the fortress would not be conquered, he had to recognize that the tactics had proven to be wrong and move on «resolutely, definitely, and clearly» to the siege tactics.

From this page of military history, Lenin can reach the blank page that the Russian revolution has yet to write: «I think this analogy can serve to illustrate the position in which our revolution finds itself in solving its Socialist problems of economic development». Thus, the times of international revolution are placed into the historical process.

The Time of Lenin’s Clarity

Again in his report at the Seventh Party conference, Lenin returned to a polemic that had arisen three years earlier and that the entire organization had not taken adequately into consideration given its critical importance: «When in the spring of , for example, in our polemics with a number of comrades, who were opposed to concluding the Brest peace, we raised the question of State capitalism, we did not argue that we were going back to State capitalism, but that our position would be alleviated and the solution of our Socialist problems facilitated if State capitalism became the predominant economic system in Russia».

As Lenin said, the question of State capitalism did not imply a retreat. Rather, it meant a solution to Socialist problems. The historical process raised the question of the times of the proletariat’s international revolution in those terms. The revolution’s spread to Germany could have united Russian political power with German productive forces and resolved the Socialist problems of production and distribution. Russian political time would have blended with German economic time to make the hands on the watch of social evolution click forward.

Since Germany missed the appointment, in Russia time adjusted to the pace of the Russian productive forces. State capitalism could be the greatest acceleration possible. The assault on the sky — we could say the assault on time — was forced to pause. Lenin saw this clearly, and as revolutionary leader he should be duly credited for being an inflexible and passionate combatant as well as a scientist who coldly read reality: «By the spring of it became evident that we had suffered defeat in our attempt to introduce the Socialist principles of production and distribution by “direct assault”, i.e., in the shortest, quickest, and most direct way. The political situation in the spring of revealed to us that on a number of economic issues a retreat to the position of State capitalism, the substitution of “siege” tactics for “direct assault”, was inevitable.

If this transition calls forth complaints, lamentations, despondency and indignation among some people, we must say that defeat is not as dangerous as the fear to admit it, fear to draw all the logical conclusions from it».

This quote from Lenin contains all the teachings of historical materialism. In a few simple, clear words, said by a Marxist who did not hide behind wordplays, but who, with head held high, faced the struggle through adversity, lies the complete lesson of history.

The history of every revolutionary class, today the proletariat as yesterday the bourgeoisie, can be nothing other than a history of defeats. And it can be only this because it is a succession of advances and retreats, when it has conscious political directions, or of spontaneous explosions and disorganized defeats when it doesn’t.

A conscious revolutionary movement can’t be afraid of defeat and, therefore, it can’t be afraid of recognizing it as such. It must be afraid, as Lenin carefully pointed out, of the fear of recognizing its own defeat. That is, it must be afraid of times when human passions such as discouragement, indignation, and subjectivist pride slow, if not impede, drawing every conclusion from the events that have occurred.

When a revolutionary movement falls prey to such infantilism, its future is compromised because without analysis of the defeat — of the causes that led to it, of the real relative strengths within which it occurred, of the points that favored the enemy, of the weaknesses that undermined the movement, of the mistakes that both sides made — it is impossible to create the subjective conditions for recovery, for a new offensive.

If a revolutionary movement is unable to perform this kind of scientific analysis, it remains paralyzed. Even its time of evolution becomes stagnant. Thus, the party pays for its historical delay dearly. Not having drawn the conclusions that Lenin delivered to the revolutionary movement so distinctly cost decades of historical delay.

There can be no mistake — Lenin was ruthlessly explicit. In the issue of Pravda, he wrote: «Our revolution has completed only its bourgeois-democratic work. And we have every right to be proud of this. The proletarian or Socialist part of its work may be summed up in three main points: 1) The revolutionary withdrawal from the imperialist world war… 2) The establishment of the Soviet system, as a form of the dictatorship of the proletariat… 3) The creation of the economic basis of the Socialist system».

In creating the economic basis, «the most important, most fundamental, has not yet been completed». It is in the form in which the dictatorship of the proletariat was established that the revolutionary work etched over time. Creating the economic basis would become the time, still in progress, of State capitalism.

The form in which the dictatorship of the proletariat was established, even if history then assigned it a temporary defeat, on the other hand inaugurated a new phase in the time of the classes’ struggle, that is, the phase of imperialist wars and proletarian revolutions. Lenin saw this distinctly: «An epoch-making change has been made. The era of bourgeois-democratic parliamentarism has come to an end. A new chapter in world history — the era of proletarian dictatorship — has been opened».

The Times of Class Tradition

In the time of the classes’ struggle, scientific knowledge of the content and form of the struggle itself is not shared by the classes and classes’ fractions concerned. The times of awareness, the time of consciousness of the social processes and their dynamics are, therefore, different and, in general, related to practice. It is ultimately from social practice that the theories that constitute the «material of thought», as Engels defined it, are subjected to that modifying, breaking, and overcoming development that leads them to knowledge of reality by approximation. This development, which is determined by the material base and pushed by social practice, constitutes path of science.

The bourgeoisie has centuries of social practice during which it conducted an economic struggle, in the first place, a political struggle, in the second, and, lastly, a theoretical struggle against the predominant feudal class, against the aristocracy, against absolutism, against the Churches. The bourgeoisie’s long times have witnessed long series of alternating stages: frequent and prolonged periods of stagnation and compromise, periods of retrocession and catastrophic retreats, and short and infrequent periods of revolutionary advance. Consequently, also the bourgeois theoretical front reflected these alternating stages even if, over the centuries, it has reached the point of developing fundamental tools for the scientific knowledge of social reality. Likewise, in some of its tendencies it has represented the highest science possible at the given time.

The discoveries of class struggle and of the law of value marked the reaching of science in bourgeois theory. They also underlined the need to know the economic-political system against which the bourgeoisie fought in its practice. Having become the ruling class, the bourgeoisie used its wealth of theoretical and practical experience, accumulated over dozens of generations throughout its long times, against the new class that it subjugated, the proletariat, a class that did not and does not have similar practical experience, but that can have its own theoretical experience, culminating in the scientific victory of Marxism over the bourgeois theories that regressed to ideology for self-preservation.

In The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte from , Marx wrote: «Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the minds of the living. And just when they seem engaged in revolutionizing themselves and things, in creating something that has never yet existed, precisely in such periods of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service…»

Marx was referring to the French revolution, but his page can also be useful to read the chapter on the Russian revolution in the history of the classes’ struggle and their times of consciousness. A great deal of the debate that preceded and followed the three Russian revolutions explicitly referred to the political tendencies and the political processes of the French revolution by evoking «the spirits of the past», from Girondism to Jacobinism, from Hebertism to Babouvism. One of the great protagonists of the October revolution, Lev Trotsky, would have twenty years to theoretically meditate on the era of revolutionary crisis in which he had participated in the collective work, «in creating something that has never yet existed». He would widely and continually conjure up «the spirits of the past» — Thermidorus, Bonapartism, and the Restoration — until the final day of his heroic battle against Stalinism and State capitalism.

Even if Trotsky tried to substantiate these political categories with new social contents, by analyzing the modern classes that emerged from capitalist industrialization, they still weighed like a nightmare on his meditation. He cloaked social phenomena that now belonged to the mature stage of capitalism, to the imperialist stage, with those political forms. It would be an even lesser evil if this did not prevent Trotsky from seeing that democracy was no longer the appropriate political form for a Jacobinism that couldn’t be revived, except as a degenerated caricature, in the imperialist metropolises. Instead, democracy had become the most appropriate political form for imperialist concentration, it had become, in short, imperialist democracy.

Men, said Marx, make their revolutionary history in the circumstances that they find in the immediate and that have already been determined by facts and tradition. Men can’t choose these circumstances since they can’t choose facts and tradition.

This reference to tradition is extremely important because tradition is put on the same level as the facts. Tradition is a fact and not an abstract and arbitrary idea even if, in most cases, it wears the ideological clothes of false consciousness, of myth, of the misunderstanding of the real facts of the past, of the overturning of the causes that determined them, of the fantastic historical reconstruction of the facts themselves, and of the inexact measurement of the times that regulated them.

Tradition is a fact because it is the social practice of the past. It is, ultimately, the experience that each class or class section has accumulated. Often, the tradition factor is not accorded the necessary scientific attention; it is thought that the new can obliterate it or make it secondary. Thus, «the tradition of all the dead generations» becomes a nightmare that weighs «on the minds of the living» instead of being the inevitable and necessary wealth of experience in the struggle and the creation of «something that has never yet existed». Instead of becoming the indispensable accelerator of the times of revolutionary consciousness, it becomes a braking factor.

Lenin, who raised class tradition to a propelling aspect of science by cleansing it from all the ideological encrustations that favored opportunism, identified the accomplishment of «an epoch-making change» in the Russian revolution. Time was projecting into the future. The revolutionary movement’s immaturity made it fall back into the past.

Second Chapter


The Times of the Science of Revolution

Through its multi-century social practice, in some of its tendencies and individual thinkers, the bourgeoisie was able to develop and take over theoretical tools that were suited to a truer vision of society and to its consequential analysis. Having to fight against ideologies and myths that the aristocratic class manipulated to maintain the political rule over a society where the capitalist mode of production was increasingly gaining space in the economic sphere, the bourgeoisie — in order to impose itself politically and culturally — was forced to address the issue of analyzing society scientifically with the method long-since refined in studying nature. The pathway to science applied to society was, for the bourgeoisie, a long time that was sprinkled with short, flowery seasons and plagued by interminable droughts; it was dotted with a few days of courage and covered by years of cowardice; it was highlighted by flashes of revolt and by stagnant, unending compromises. The development time of the productive forces of bourgeois society, for the society being formed in the womb of the old one, was a long one. Yet, this society was even slower in gaining consciousness of itself.

But, when the tortuous march through the centuries ended, and the bourgeoisie, through its most audacious and unconditioned representatives, reached the threshold of science applied to society, it immediately withdrew. It withdrew because it had become the ruling economic and political class. It had reached scientific analysis of social relations precisely when it became most interested in their mystification. It had everything to lose by exposing the naked truth of these relations. The ruled class, on the contrary, has nothing to lose and, consequently, has every interest in scientific knowledge of society, but it doesn’t have the theoretical tools needed for this knowledge.

The time of social evolution is divided into a series of different times that mark the paces of the productive forces, the classes, the classes’ consciousness, the economic, political and theoretical clashes between the classes. Ideologies and myths are intertwined with this uneven development of history, where this latter’s components proceed at different rates, some accelerating, some slowing down, still others withdrawing. The objective social relations impose themselves in the times of men’s consciousness — men who are separated in the production of material life, in intellectual and manual labor, and in the property of the means of production themselves. What is divided in the economy can’t be united in culture.

Social evolution, with its divisions into classes defined by men’s objective places in the process of production and distribution, brings out the contradiction of culture and science. It is a contradiction that can’t be resolved in the field of ideas, however, it can be overcome in practice starting with social antagonism and reaching its resolution in men’s unification. History has produced a situation in which men in the objective condition that would allow them to have a scientific view of the world don’t have the specific background to develop such a view. On the other hand, the men who can acquire this specific background are in the objective situation that forces them to deny the scientific view of the world in order to preserve the social world with its class divisions.

Marxism is, on the one hand, the consequential development of the science that does not stop in the face of the discovery of social contradictions, and, on the other, it is the application of science to society. It is scientific practice by those with nothing to lose and everything to gain by applying it. Marxism is, inasmuch as it is consciousness of real movement, the science of revolution. The unsolved issue of culture is resolved — starting with Marxism’s scientific discoveries — in the real movement. The issue goes from theory to practice.

If freedom is awareness of necessity, science is freedom, and it is such because it is not a theory detached from practice. Instead, it is practice guided by theory. It is not sufficient to affirm that science and freedom will be only fully unified in practice in a world Communist society that overcomes the differences in men’s development — differences that are determined by social, and, therefore, political and cultural, division. This is only an ideal affirmation. It is still an expression of an idealistic conception of reality, of the world, of society, of politics. It is a step backwards in the time of consciousness.

A component of the materialist conception is the awareness that science is freedom only if it is the real class movement’s practice. So is the awareness that freedom is science only if practiced in the choices of action, in its verifications, its tests, in the experience accumulated and handed down generation to generation through a suitable tool, i.e. the party. The party is the organization in time, it faces the question of times, but it is time itself.

In a letter dated , F. Engels wrote to C. Schmidt: «Here economy creates nothing absolutely new, but it determines the way in which the existing material of thought is altered and further developed, and that too for the most part indirectly, for it is the political, legal and moral reflexes which exercise the greatest direct influence upon philosophy». Thus, Engels specified an important aspect of the question of times. Economy indirectly determines the present form of thought by transforming and developing the past’s material of thought.

Consequently, economy determines the way in which class consciousness founded on a scientific view is formed, by transforming and developing the existing material of thought. It determines this, however, indirectly, and herein lies the analytical difficulty. Engels himself pointed this out in a letter dated to Joseph Bloch: «Otherwise the application of the theory to any period of history one chose would be easier than the solution of a simple equation of the first degree».

The Times of History

In his letter to Joseph Bloch dated , Engels wrote: «According to the materialist conception of history the ultimately determining element in history is the production and reproduction of real life. More than this neither Marx nor I have ever asserted. If therefore somebody twists this into saying that the economic element is the only determining one, he transforms that proposition into a meaningless, abstract and absurd phrase». Engels clearly specified that «the production and reproduction of real life» can’t be confined to the economic element alone, and, much less, may this element be regarded as «ultimately determining» since, in this sense, the determining element is precisely «the production and reproduction of real life».

Engels continued: «The economic situation is the basis, but the various elements of the superstructure — political forms of the class struggle and its results; constitutions established by the victorious class after a successful battle, etc., juridical forms, and then even the reflexes of all these actual struggles in the brains of the participants: political, juristic, and philosophical theories, religious ideas and their further development into systems of dogma — also exercise their influence upon the course of the historical struggles, and in many cases preponderate in determining their form. There is an interaction of all these elements, in which, amid all the endless host of accidents (i.e., of things and events whose inner connection is so remote or so impossible to prove that we regard it as non-existent, as negligible), the economic movement finally asserts itself as necessary».

There can be no analysis of the interaction of all these elements without the dialectical method. «What these gentlemen lack is dialectic. They never see anything but here cause and there effect. That is a hollow abstraction, that such metaphysical polar opposites only exist in the real world during crises, while the whole vast process proceeds in the form of interaction (though of very unequal forces, the economic movement being by far the strongest, most elemental and most decisive) and that here everything is relative and nothing is absolute — this they never begin to see. Hegel has never existed for them». So wrote Engels to C. Schmidt in the aforementioned letter dated .

Also in this passage, Engels clearly addressed the question of times. The «vast process» of the time of the productive forces and the social movement — in all of its aspects as economic struggles, political struggles, and theoretical struggles that develop with different paces, evolutions, and involutions — occurs in an interaction of unequal forces. And it is precisely because the forces are unequal, and because the economic force is the «strongest, most elemental and most decisive» that the «vast process» of time is a dynamic movement. It is for this reason that it does not stagnate in a paralysis provoked by equal and not-decisive forces. In the latter case, the only time would be geological and biological time, and historical time would be so identified with the former that it would be cancelled out as a specific time. The history of men would be only the history of nature, and not the history of the transformation of nature by the conscious natural component.

In the «vast process», the unequal forces of economy and politics, of structure and superstructure, move incessantly in their interaction. The immediate outcome is always a multi-faceted combination of factors. In this sense, nothing is absolute and everything is relative. This dynamic determines, in a particular point in time, a crisis situation where the clash between unequal forces thickens into tremendous polar opposites that change from hollow abstractions into the expression of disrupting causes and catastrophic effects in the real, and not the imaginary, world.

At that point, men’s history imposes its time. A day is worth a century. That day has been determined by a century of interactions where the time of theoretical consciousness of the revolutionary reversal of practice accelerates, decelerates, and re-accelerates compared with the time of the productive forces, until the former becomes the crisis’ resolving element. That day is also the effect of a century, but it is, above all, the cause of a new one.

On , Engels wrote a letter to the geologist, George William Lamplugh. This letter deserves to be almost completely quoted: «Nature is grand, but history seems grander to me than nature. Nature has taken millions of years to generate conscious beings, and these conscious beings now need thousands of years to act consciously together — that is, with the consciousness not only of their actions as individuals, but also of their actions as a mass — cooperating and pursuing a common goal that was chosen in advance. We have almost reached this situation. Observing this process, the approaching of something that has never existed before in our Earth’s history, I see a show worth watching. Throughout my entire life, I have never been able to take my eyes off it. But it is exhausting, especially if one believes that he is called to cooperate in this process. And so, the study of nature reveals itself to be a great relief and a tonic. Since, in the end, nature and history are the two elements in which we live, work, and exist».

The past, present, and future times of class struggle, of the overthrow of class rule, of the classless society are projected in the grand history of conscious, collective action.

The Times of Struggle

History is the history of class struggles; social time is the time of class struggles. As Engels said, being «called to cooperate» in the historical process that leads men to act «with the consciousness not only of their actions as individuals, but also of their actions as a mass», means actively intervening in the historical process itself. It means pushing it in one direction and confronting everything that obstructs it; it means taking sides, favoring and opposing, and fighting.

When Marx died, Engels, on , could say of his friend and comrade who was lowered into his grave: «For Marx was before all else a revolutionist. His real mission in life was to contribute, in one way or another, to the overthrow of capitalist society and of the State institutions which it had brought into being, to contribute to the liberation of the modern proletariat, which he was the first to make conscious of its own position and its needs, conscious of the conditions of its emancipation. Fighting was his element». In this lofty and noble definition of the revolutionary, Marx, there is more than dutiful homage. There is a historical judgement, a judgement of the times of Marxist theory.

Marx’s struggle was also that of making the modern proletariat conscious of its position. Marx contributed to the emancipation of the proletariat because he provided the times of social movement with a time for theory, or consciousness of time. The only way he could do this was by fighting. By criticizing the utopianism and the dogmatism that ruled the Socialist movement, he cleared the road to emancipation from an obstacle that blocked it and that slowed the time of theoretical consciousness.

Dogma, seen through the materialist conception of history and politics, is a concept that misrepresents the connections existing between a series of phenomena that make up objective reality and social reality with false consciousness. Dogma is not so much a mistake because it is a false representation of the unknowable reality as much as because it prevents and obstructs relative consciousness — i.e. consciousness by approximate levels — of the connections between the phenomena of objective and social realities. Developing science means, specifically, not only knowing material and social phenomena and conceiving of their connections, their determinations, or their inter-dependencies, or even their autonomies in various ways. Any ideology, from the philosophical to the political to the religious, does this in both a deterministic and a relativistic version.

Developing science means analyzing the mutual connections existing in reality and establishing hypotheses on the mutual influence of the various elements or components, and their dynamic. In testing the hypotheses, social and theoretical practice develop science and improve its circulation.

Scientific Socialism developed in opposition to utopianism and dogmatism. In , in their critique of Kriege’s democratic tendency, Marx and Engles pointed out its dogmatic nature: «But it is a completely coherent conclusion for this new religion, that, just like all the others, it hate and persecute all of its enemies to extinction. The enemy of the party is changed, coherently, into a heretic. From an enemy of the party that really exists, an enemy to struggle with, he is transformed into a sinner who offends humanity — that only exists in the imagination — and who must be punished».

For Marx and Engels, those who act in the name of imagination, i.e., of the product of their imagination, are dogmatic. This not only holds for religions — that the non-religious democrat considers dogmatic simply because they proclaim that some articles of faith can’t be questioned. It also holds for the democrat who has just as many articles of faith in «democracy», the «people», and the «people’s will». That is, it holds for all those who have faith in something that does not exist in reality. The democracy that really exists is imperialist democracy. The people who really exist are the population made up of classes and social strata. The people’s will that really exists is the will of the class that dominates the economy which is the population’s material base.

Consequently, only Marxist science opposes dogmatism because it has had to overcome the dogma of the non-existent to develop. Marxism is accused of dogmatism because it openly affirms the battle against the enemies of the modern proletariat’s really existent emancipation movement. Class struggle is an objective phenomenon and not a subjective choice. Therefore, Marxism takes a stand on a phenomenon that exists regardless of its will. And this is precisely why it is anti-dogmatic.

Anti-dogmatism means struggle — and not passive acceptance or indifferent tolerance — against the objective enemy of the real movement. The «enemy» is not the invective produced by dogmatic invention; rather, it is a term scientifically founded on the discovery of class struggle and its political conclusions. The passion expressed in the hate of the heretic in all the ideologies, which are all based on one or more dogmas, evolves into science in Marxism because it becomes passion for the revolutionary struggle and the necessary uncompromising attitude to the enemy.

The Times of Revolutionary Preparation

The Paris Commune had not yet fallen, and Marx was already writing to Kugelmann on : «The struggle of the working class against the capitalist class and its State has entered upon a new phase with the struggle in Paris. Whatever the immediate results may be, a new point of departure of world-historic importance has been gained».

In the Marxist view of the times of the classes’ struggle, there is not just one decisive battle, but a series of time-and-space battles of varying intensity and complexity, in which the proletariat, with its vanguard organized into a party, evolves in alternating motion, descending and rising, towards its emancipation as an independent and organized class. Theoretical, political, and organizational independence allow the proletariat to become united and compact. Consequently, it can face the multiplicity of struggles, on all fronts, while preserving its revolutionary preparation and augmenting it with the experience it gains in the struggles themselves.

It is precisely the class’ revolutionary preparation that allows it to change the acute and catastrophic economic, social, and political crises that invest capitalist structure and superstructure into revolutionary processes. In these processes, the underlying issue of power is raised as an inevitable condition for the crises’ resolution into various forms of bourgeois dictatorship, or into dictatorship of the proletariat. However, it is the quantitative and qualitative multiplicity of the struggles that the class must face at various times and under various circumstances that makes it possible for the revolutionary preparation to materialistically develop within a social practice that is bound to, tests and improves theory. Once again, the whole of the proletariat’s struggles comes down to a question of times.

Revolutionary preparation is preparation for social practice. Theory discovers this practice, it discovers the tendency to its historical outlet; theory orients practice’s development, it precedes, stimulates, and helps practice, but it can’t replace it. The times of theory and practice have different paces. Sometimes they diverge, and sometimes they converge. They are, in fact, the times of revolutionary preparation.

For a quarter century, Engels took responsibility for placing the «new point of departure of world-historic importance» represented by in a broader perspective that connected the revolutionary struggle’s past with the outlook for the future. Throughout a series of writings that concerned the history of wars, revolutions, and the workers’ and Communist movement, Engels set the coordinates for a historical time that would make it possible to fix the «new point of departure» of the world’s social dynamic. This point marked the start of the political form that was «finally discovered»: the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The attempt made by the modern, ruled class to raise itself from revolt and economic struggle to the practice of a specific and original political power, that is exhausted while it is deploying, is not and can’t be a historical coincidence, an accident in the challenging path of the classes’ struggles. Instead, it is a fundamental shift in the long times of history. It shows that the proletariat has risen to the highest point in the struggle and has concretely raised the issue of its political power.

The circumstance that led and forced the proletariat to this test is only relatively important. Likewise, it is of little scientific importance that the proletariat was unable to pass this test because of the specific set of relations of force, or that it didn’t fulfill its task completely, because of a series of strategic and organizational shortcomings, in the short period of time that it was given. A new species has risen to its feet in society’s evolution; it has launched its «assault on heaven», and finally walks upright. It will fall back, it may fall back, but it has shown that it can walk with its feet on the ground and its head high.

In , Marx and Engles had already written this in The Holy Family when they chose to criticize the tendency «that substitutes “self-consciousness” or the “spirit” for the real, individual man». The proletariat’s struggle is social practice; it is not the application of an «invented» ideal and a doctrine «invented» by a few minds. Proletarian struggles «… are no ideal figments of the brain but very practical, very objective products of men’s self-estrangement, and therefore they must be abolished in a practical, objective way for man to become man not only in thinking, in consciousness, but in mass being, in life…».

The practice of the proletarian struggles is, therefore, a practice that must start from the highest point conquered. It can do this because, in its evolution, it has already shown that it can do so. The theory holds this historical evidence, even if temporary practice is not and can’t be aware of it. But, the times of revolutionary preparation, which is a demanding and long task, are not the times of a myth and an abstract ideal. They are the times of a discovery in history that is yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Determined Times of Political Will

The question of times is also a question of political will, of its formation, evolution, advancing or retreating in the superstructure’s complex fabric.

Individual wills are determined by the general socio-economic situation. This latter reflects on the consciousness of social individuals, that is almost always false consciousness. But, it is from the movement and changing of this situation that individual actions coalesce into political tendencies with more or less defined proposals for action. A tremendous variety of reflections are determined by the socio-economic situation within the classes themselves, given the range of production and distribution in a specific socio-economic formation and the resulting social stratification.

Just as many economic actors operate in the market, and the result of their actions is produced independently of their individual wills, the same is true for political struggles. That is, the result is not what each individual and each participating tendency wanted. Ultimately, the question of times is a question of political wills, but it is above all, a question of their objective results.

Marx and Engles wrote in The German Ideology: «Since the State is the form in which the individuals of a ruling class assert their common interests, and in which the whole civil society of an epoch is epitomized, it follows that the State mediates in the formation of all common institutions and that the institutions receive a political form. Hence the illusion that law is based on the will, and indeed on the will divorced from its real basis — on free will». Marxism shows us, then, that will is not free of the interests’ determination.

In the Introduction to A Critique of Political Economy, written between and and not published in the edition of the work, Marx criticized the bourgeois political economists’ view of a self-standing production; of a production given by nature but not determined by historical development. In this perspective, he saw «a reversion to a misconceived natural life». Bourgeois political economy has an idea of natural life that does not correspond to true natural life. «Nor is Rousseau’s contrat social, which by means of a contract establishes a relationship and a connection between subjects that are by nature independent, at all based on this kind of naturalism».

Smith’s and Ricardo’s theories also rested on these hypothetical individuals. «This delusion has been characteristic of every new epoch hitherto». In contrast, for the materialist conception of history, «Thus when we speak of production, we always have in mind production at a definite stage of social development, of production by individuals in a society».

For Marx, social individuals are the real individuals produced by historical development. They are discovered by scientific analysis applied to society. This makes it possible to overcome the imaginary representation that ideologies have of the individuals belonging to the human species. This does not mean that individuals and production don’t have any constant, common elements throughout the ages.

Marx wrote: «All periods of production, however, have certain features in common; they have certain common categories. Production in general is an abstraction, but a sensible abstraction in so far as it actually emphasizes and defines the common aspects and thus avoids repetition. Yet, this general concept, or the common aspect which has been brought to light by comparison, is itself a multifarious compound comprising divergent elements. Some elements are found in all epochs, others are common to a few epochs». Finally, Marx gave the following definition: «Production is always appropriation of nature by an individual within and through a definite social organization».

Insofar as political will is determined by the interests that originate in the production given by social development, it will have «common features» in all periods and different features characteristic of capitalist production. The materialist conception of politics must keep the «common features» in mind if it wishes to examine the question of times more closely.

Revisionism, at the turn of the century, didn’t keep this in mind given its presumptuous desire to deny, quickly, some of the capitalist developments Marx had foreseen. Lenin, in a writing from , specified this. «It was said that crises had now become rarer and weaker, and that cartels and trusts would probably enable capital to eliminate them altogether. It was said that the “theory of collapse” to which capitalism is heading was unsound, owing to the tendency of class antagonisms to become milder and less acute».

Lenin continued: «Reality very soon made it clear to the revisionists that crises were not a thing of the past: prosperity was followed by a crisis. The forms, the sequence, the picture of particular crises changed, but crises remained an inevitable component of the capitalist system. While uniting production, the cartels and trusts at the same time, and in a way that was obvious to all, aggravated the anarchy of production, the insecurity of existence of the proletariat and the oppression of capital, thereby intensifying class antagonisms to an unprecedented degree».

The forms, the picture, and the sequence of individual crises change, Lenin stated. Science is what can analyze this social process and its historical paces.

Long Times in Karl Marx’s View

«His name will endure through the ages, and so also will his work!» Karl Marx’s mind had only stopped thinking a few hours, and Friedrich Engels was already handing it over to the future.

A century has passed, and so have a few generations of militant Marxists. Of Karl Marx’s many adversaries, critics, slanderers, and grave-diggers, history’s dust has not left a trace. Nor will it leave a trace of their present followers, professionally intent on declaring Marxism’s invalidity every day.

Marx’s work, on the other hand, lives and is preparing to continue its long march through its second century accompanied by old Engels’ serene certainty. It lives because men can stop, but history can’t. It lives because it has yet to reveal and deploy its full power of scientific understanding and revolutionary transformation of the world.

Engels said that, «Just as Darwin discovered the law of development of organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of development of human history, … that the production of the immediate material means, and consequently the degree of economic development attained by a given people or during a given epoch, form the foundations upon which the State institutions, the legal conceptions, art, and even the ideas on religion, of the people concerned have been evolved, and in the light of which they must, therefore, be explained, instead of vice versa, as had hitherto been the case».

Marx’s work lives because it is the scientific discovery of what determines history’s movement. The enormous amount of factual material from the last century; the infinite amount of social relationships established and acted out by billions of men; the unending map of objective results; the giant cemetery of ideas, of wills, of desires, of the individuals’ and classes’ passions, testify that history has been determined by constant elements that Marx’s genius discovered and defined as a law of development.

Marx’s critics maintain that his work is utopian and millenarian because it entrusts history with an end that it can’t have. The materialist conception of history can’t attribute ends to the human species’ development. This development is also one aspect of the dialectics of nature. When Engels compared Marx to Darwin, he was perfectly aware of this. Instead of wasting time in boring disputes on what doesn’t exist, Marx’s critics should try to demonstrate that a century of history took a course other than the movement that Marx discovered. But they can’t.

History developed according to the law that Marx discovered. The creation of a world market; the extension of the capitalist mode of production throughout the planet; the centralization of capital and the concentration of the means of production; capitalism maturing into imperialism; parasitic decay; bureaucratization; militarization; enlargement of the State — which, in its various political forms, represents capital’s dictatorship — are all aspects of a social evolutionary process. In light of Marx’s scientific discovery, the complexity of this evolution can be grasped and its essence understood.

In Marx’s work, this process of social evolution is analyzed, and its trends are shown. Our century has not experienced a single important social phenomenon that Marx’s science did not predict. Only those who do not know Marx’s work can deride the law of development of man’s history since they don’t know how much specific analysis of each, individual aspect of social life starts from a general law hypothesis. This latter is finally proved by the analysis itself through a series of scientific criteria that are methodologically founded. Cyclical economic crises, political crises, World Wars, revolutions — they all demonstrate and confirm Marx’s relevance.

With regard to Bernstein’s book, Antonio Labriola wrote on : «There are, in truth, those who incessantly debate the theory of value, dialectics, historical materialism, class struggle, the catastrophic hypothesis, the world’s fate, and society’s future. But are we really obliged to carry out a critical revision every day, hour after hour, of the whole encyclopedia?»

Why then is the science of revolution, that by its own nature can’t be questioned again every day, the victim of a fate that other branches of science could escape?

Antonio Labriola himself accurately explained this: «In truth, underlying all this noise of dispute, there is a serious and fundamental question: the ardent, living hopes, that were precocious a few years ago — the expectations with details and edges that were too sharp — now clash with the most complicated resistance of economic relations and with the political world’s trickiest machinations. And those who can’t attune their psychological time (that is, their patience and spirit of observation) to the paces of the time of things, stop halfway down the path and deviate. Proletarians alone can rely on indefinite time, and their number alone increases indefinitely. The capitalist world, no matter how much it complicates itself, can’t avoid making them multiply and educating them».

The time of things is the time of the classes. Psychological time must be the time of ongoing constancy and of long, revolutionary passion.

Psychological Time

From the point of view of Marxist science and revolutionary strategy, «psychological time», as Antonio Labriola calls it, can be considered the subjectivist distortion of the «question of times». A «psychological time» that reflected the real movement of economic and social processes would be attuned to the «time of things» and would represent the correct attitude of the subjective element within the dialectic of the class struggle and the reversal of practice. But, although the movement of thinking is the reflection of the movement of reality, and, ultimately, even psychological behavior is a particular form of this dynamic reflection, all this is not, however, a linear, mechanical, and immediate phenomenon. If it were, Antonio Labriola would have no reason to talk about «psychological time» with reference to political problems instead of — as would be the case — physiological and biological problems.

If there is a problem of «psychological time» in political activity, it is because the «question of times» in the revolutionary movement can’t be resolved by merely adjusting strategy to a proper scientific analysis of the real movement. Revolutionary strategy is action and will and, therefore, it is the psychological behavior of both the organized class minority and the majority of the class. They have different times that are also different with respect to «the time of things».

At the end of the century, Antonio Labriola saw the «psychological time» of impatience, of the inability to observe, of precocious hopes. A few years later, in during a hard counter-revolutionary period, Lev Trotsky saw another aspect of «psychological time». He began his writing with a quote: «I love my century because it is the homeland that I possess in time». He continued with one of the best definitions of internationalism in terms of psychological behavior: «I love it because it allows me to greatly expand the borders of my homeland in space… I love my homeland in time, this twentieth century born amidst tempests and turmoil. It contains unlimited possibilities. The world is its territory».

Time has now become the world in motion: «Before our eyes, insular Japan has risen from its non-being and has presented itself as a pioneer of capitalist culture before the great Asian continent, just as in its day its teacher, insular England presented itself before the European continent. Japan has celebrated its historical debut while giving the Aryans a hard lesson, that has propagated in concentric circles throughout Asia».

Trotsky’s «psychological time» does not walk on the clouds of an impatient wait. Rather, it is rooted in the ground of factual material: «At the start of the last century, England was Europe’s factory. At the end of the century Europe had become the world’s factory. Now, England, having been forced to retreat by American and German industry, is nothing else than the strongbox of world capitalism. And soon, perhaps, all of Europe will retreat in the face of Asian industry, that is leaving its decrepit state for a new youth and is preparing to change rich, rickety Europe into its bank-house. These are not far-off and murky prospects. The shifts and changes that, based on old criteria, would have taken centuries, are now completed in decades, even years. History has become rushed, much more rushed than our thought».

Trotsky was right: rushed history does not wait for lazy thinking just as it does not chase after inconclusive and ephemeral impatience. The century’s gigantic transformations foreseen by Trotsky marched forward at a speed of decades and ran over continents and billions of men.

The delay of the subjective element of revolutionary transformation has accumulated with devastating effects that mankind is paying with unending wars. Trotsky accurately commented: «Reactionary gentlemen believe that psychology is the most destructive element: thought, that is the culprit! Nothing could be more wrong. The mind is the most conservative element. It is lazy and adores the hypnosis of routine». Lenin would speak of the conservative role of habits. But, if that is the case, how can the masses react and overthrow the situation?

Trotsky’s answer is inscribed in the materialist conception of politics: «And if there were no turbulent facts, the inertia of thought would be the best guarantee of order. But turbulent facts have their own internal logic. Our slothful thought insists on not recognizing them until the last minute. It trades its presumptuous limitations for greater clarity. Poor thought! It always ends up splattered against the wall of facts… Great events — the ones that like milestones show the turns in the path of history — are created at the intersections of great causes. And the latter, regardless of our will, are formed in the course of our social existence. And this is where their insurmountable force lies. We don’t make events. It is already a lot if we foresee them».

The Time of Communism

In his preface to Literature and Revolution dated , L. Trotsky wrote: «To believe in the omnipotence of the abstract idea is naive. The idea has to flesh itself out to become a force. On the contrary, social flesh, even if it has completely lost its own idea, still remains a force. A class that has been historically surpassed is still able to hold itself up for years and decades with the power of its institutions, with the inertia of its wealth, and with a conscious counter-revolutionary strategy. The world bourgeoisie is now the class that has been surpassed, that fights against us, armed with every means of defense and attack».

The materialist conception of history developed in the critique and refusal of the idealist view of a progressive course of history that is characteristic of bourgeois reformism. This idealist view is so strong that it has managed, for a century-and-a-half, to influence the workers’ movement. It also establishes the ideological climate in which all forms of opportunism and bourgeois control over wage-labor prosper.

There is an explanation for this. The idealist and progressive view of history was the ideological weapon that accompanied the bourgeoisie’s rise in its victory against the aristocracy. It also marked its psychological time over the course of the centuries. It was only natural that this view spread in the petty-bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The irony of history is that it circulated most when, torn by two World Wars, the international upper bourgeoisie increasingly lost faith in its own progress and reached the cynicism of imperialist democracy.

Psychological time in the idealist view of history rests on the individual in bourgeois society; therefore, it rests on the bourgeois or potentially bourgeois individual. Psychological time in the materialist conception of history, on the other hand, rests on the social individual.

Marx, in the Grundrisse, wrote: «Society does not consist of individuals, but expresses the sum of interrelations, the relations within which these individuals stand». For Marx, society is not the sum of individuals but the sum of social relations. We can deduce that the times are not those of individuals but, instead, those of social relations.

Already in The German Ideology, Marx and Engles had reached the conclusion that, «The production of life, both of one’s own in labor and of fresh life in procreation, now appears as a double relationship: on the one hand as a natural, on the other as a social relationship. By social we understand the cooperation of several individuals, no matter under what conditions, in what manner, and to what end».

For Marxism, production and reproduction of life are the result of the cooperation of several individuals. Indeed, they are the outcome of social individuals. There is no clash between the natural and the social relationship in the production and reproduction of life. The contradiction lies between the development of the productive forces, that is determined by the individuals’ cooperation, and the development of social relations from the division of labor to division into antagonist classes.

«In history up to the present it is certainly an empirical fact that separate individuals have, with the broadening of their activity into world-historical activity, become more and more enslaved under a power alien to them, a power which has become more and more enormous and, in the last instance, turns out to be the world market». The world market, the highest result of cooperation between individuals, for Marx and Engles becomes the greatest power that dominates the individuals themselves. But it also creates the conditions for the real movement to overcome this contradiction that can lead society and its productive forces to paralysis and decline.

Communism is not, therefore, the utopian version, developed by Marx, of the idealist and progressive view of history. Precisely because he opposed every version of this view, already in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, Marx was able to overcome every utopia and to discover Communism in the real movement originated by the contradictory development of the productive forces. Communism, «… as fully developed naturalism, equals humanism, and as fully developed humanism equals naturalism; it is the genuine resolution of the conflict between man and nature and between man and man — the true resolution of the strife between existence and essence…, between the individual and the species. Communism is the riddle of history solved».

The time of Communism is man’s time in nature, it is the social individual’s time. Communism is the time that solves the riddle of history. In Marx, the science expresses itself with epic passion: «Communism is the necessary form and the dynamic principle of the immediate future, but Communism is not as such the goal of human development — the form of human society».

The Times of Communist Consciousness

For Marx and Engels, capitalist development and the creation of the world market are two facets of the same historical phenomenon. For the first time in human history, the economic relations that link separate individuals took on a universal quality and universal quantitative dimension. These relations are the molecules of a single, universal social body: the world market.

Time has managed to make the discovery of Marxist science clear and obvious. This science, when first formulated, could seem an abstract enunciation of the principles of the materialist conception of history and politics. That the infinitesimal unit could be determined by the totality of the world could appear as a philosophical postulate and not, as it was, a scientific discovery. How could an individual be determined, both in his practice and ideas, by an entity that is the whole of the social individuals’ multiple relationships, as, in fact, the world market is?

The development of capitalism and its contradictions had already demonstrated this, and it would do so more in the future. The principle of that scientific discovery was also the principle of scientific Communism.

In -’s German Ideology, Marx and Engles pointed out the tendency to the reversal of practice: «…universal dependence, this natural form of the world-historical cooperation of individuals, will be transformed by this Communist revolution into the control and conscious mastery of these powers, which, born of the action of men on one another, have till now overawed and governed men as powers completely alien to them». The capitalist world market, created by the cooperation of individuals, governs and dominates them to the point that it originates the Communist revolution of the dominated individuals themselves.

That is, the individuals of the dominated class par excellence, the proletariat. «It is a question of what the proletariat is, and what, in accordance with this being, it will historically be compelled to do. Its aim and historical action is visibly and irrevocably foreshadowed in its own life situation as well as in the whole organization of bourgeois society today». So wrote Marx and Engles in The Holy Family, in .

The proletariat will be compelled to carry out the Communist revolution. This critical point in the materialist conception of history and politics has given rise to an infinity of subjectivist and mechanistic misunderstandings in interpretation. And yet it is crystal clear.

The proletariat does not carry out the Communist revolution because it wants to place the idea of Communism against other ideas. It is compelled to carry out the Communist revolution, and it is compelled to do so not because it is not aware of it, but precisely because it is compelled to become conscious of what it must do. It is not a mechanical process where there is no consciousness. Rather, it is a dialectic process where consciousness is determined by the dynamics of social reality.

In The German Ideology, Marx and Engles stated: «Morality, religion, metaphysics, all the rest of ideology and their corresponding forms of consciousness, thus no longer retain the semblance of independence. They have no history; no development; but men, developing their material production and their material intercourse, alter, along with their real existence, their thinking and the products of their thinking. Life is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by life. In the first method of approach the starting point is consciousness taken as the living individual; in the second method, which conforms to real life, it is the real living individuals themselves, and consciousness is considered solely as their consciousness».

It is real life that determines the real, living individuals’ consciousness. They are not individuals «invented» by ideologies or by «false consciousnesses»: «… all forms and products of consciousness cannot be dissolved by mental criticism, by resolution into “self-consciousness” or transformation into “apparitions”, “specters”, “fancies”, etc. but only by the practical overthrow of the actual social relations which gave rise to this idealistic humbug; that not criticism but revolution is the driving force of history, also of religion, of philosophy and all other types of theory».

Ideologies, and their corresponding forms of consciousness, have no history because they are not independent and because they are determined by specific social relations. It is not the criticism of ideologies that produces crisis in the corresponding forms of consciousness. It is the crisis of social relations that brings about this crisis, even if this happens at different times and with no mechanical correspondence.

Communism is the science of the historical necessity of the proletariat, «… a class which forms the majority of all members of society, and from which emanates the consciousness of the necessity of a fundamental revolution, the Communist consciousness». Communist consciousness: science, awareness, consciousness of the necessity of history.

Third Chapter


The Times of Capitalist Development

The reproduction of social capital is the foundation both of capitalist development and the relationships between classes. Reproduction of social capital means reproducing the class that holds the means of production and the class that holds labor-power.

To the economic romanticism that survives in a subjectivism incapable of analyzing the process of social capital, we can repeat the observation Lenin made to Sismondi and the Russian Populists: «Do not make an outcry at the cynicism of it! The cynicism is in the facts and not in the words which express the facts!».

Sismondi attacked Ricardo because he had stated: «… the net revenue, that is, the amount of profit, is the only thing of importance to “society”. But Ricardo spoke the absolute truth: actually everything is exactly as he says». Lenin gives the following definition: «The gross income of society consists of wages + profit + rent. The net income is surplus-value». And he quotes Capital, III: «Viewing the income of the whole society, national income consists of wages plus profit plus rent, thus, of the gross income. But even this is an abstraction to the extent that the entire society, on the basis of capitalist production, bases itself on the capitalist standpoint and thereby considers only the income resolved into profit and rent as net income».

Lenin comments: «Thus, the author fully sides with Ricardo and his definition of the “net income” of “society”, sides with the very definition which evoked Sismondi’s “celebrated objection” …: “What? Wealth is everything and men nothing?” (II, p. 331). In modern society — yes, certainly».

If, for Marx, the process of producing aggregate social capital equals capital’s reproduction, the question of times equals, in essence and in this sense, the time to reproduce aggregate social capital. Separating production and distribution, not so much as aspects of the cycle’s process but as permanent conditions of the capitalist mode of production, means preventing the objective possibility to provide a scientific analysis of the times of the production process of aggregate social capital. It means placing the question of times in subjectivist terms that make a proper revolutionary strategy impossible.

At the end of , Lenin makes an important consideration in an article on the «Capitalist System of Modern Agriculture». that was first published in . «Social statistics in general, and economic statistics in particular have made tremendous advance during the last two or three decades. A series of problems, moreover those most fundamental concerning the economic system of modern States and its development, which were previously decided on the basis of general considerations and approximate data, cannot nowadays be analyzed at all seriously without taking into account the mass of data about the whole territory of a given country collected according to a definite program and summed up by expert statisticians».

Lenin made extensive use of social and economic statistics, and often re-elaborated them. These statistics had been advancing with capitalist development and capital centralization followed by the concentration of the means of production. Lenin used them starting with the debate on the «market question» to reach the agrarian question, and the issues concerning strikes and imperialism. He resolved various problems this way, no longer «on the basis of general considerations and approximate data», but based on a quantification of the phenomena that specified the movement of the general development tendencies and, above all, made it possible to more precisely check their speed, acceleration or slowing down.

This use of technical tools was only partially available to Marx and Engles. They were only partially available because, as Lenin says, social and economic statistics only made great progress at the turn of the century. This must be taken into consideration when analyzing Marx and Engles’ thought on the development of the world market. This warning is even more valid today, so we may repeat, with Lenin, seventy years later, that many problems can’t be seriously analyzed without keeping in mind the statistical data accumulated in ever-vaster proportions.

At this point, it becomes increasingly necessary to perfect the technical tools available to Marxist theory. This way, the analysis of development tendencies needs not be based on general considerations and approximate data — as was inevitable in other periods in history — but should be compared, reinforced, and, lastly, verified, based on ever-more accurate quantities and sizes.

The Question of Times in Trotsky’s View

«In our troubled times, the predictions that come true are more often than not the improbable ones», Trotsky stated. This was true, but not in the way he meant it.

The troubled 1930s ended with the beginning of the second imperialist World War. The prediction that came true was not improbable: capitalism’s crisis turned into war as Lenin, and Trotsky himself, had linearly predicted. Even Trotsky’s inevitable imperfections and mistakes in the specification of paces were no greater than those made on previous occasions by Marx, Engels, and Lenin. On the contrary, in this regard Trotsky’s analysis was exemplary and is now an integral and irreplaceable part of the Marxist school’s invaluable heritage.

Instead, the basic error lay in the analysis of the broad outlines of world capitalism’s development. This is where the prediction that came true was the most improbable to the revolutionary movement of the time. The Second World War did not mark the decline of imperialism, but a new impetuous and contradictory leap forward in its world expansion. The analysis of the 1930s’ crisis, detached from an analysis of the broad outlines of capitalism’s development in the long time, only exacerbated the inability to comprehend the «improbable prediction».

Outside of historical coordinates, the question of times was inevitably a prisoner of false alternatives. Faced with the second imperialist World War, Lev Trotsky raised a false alternative when, in The USSR in War dated , he wrote: «If, however, it is conceded that the present war will provoke not revolution but a decline of the proletariat, then there remains another alternative: the further decay of monopoly capitalism, its further fusion with the State and the replacement of democracy wherever it still remained by a totalitarian regime. The inability of the proletariat to take into its hand the leadership of society could actually lead under these conditions to the growth of a new exploiting class from the Bonapartist fascist bureaucracy. This would be, according to all indications, a regime of decline, signalizing the eclipse of civilization».

As we can see, Trotsky considers the further decay of monopoly capitalism as an alternative to the international proletarian revolution. Since he does not address the issue of the times of world-wide capitalist extension, he reaches conclusions on the development of the political forms that are foreign to the materialist conception of politics.

A subjectivist arbitrariness comes forth in the following passage: «The second imperialist wàr poses the unsolved task on a higher historical stage. It tests anew not only the stability of the existing regimes but also the ability of the proletariat to replace them. The results of this test will undoubtedly have a decisive significance for our appraisal of the modern epoch as the epoch of proletarian revolution».

In essence, for Trotsky, the appraisal of the epoch of proletarian revolution depends on the proletariat’s subjective ability: «If, contrary to all probabilities, the October Revolution fails during the course of the present war, or immediately thereafter, to find its continuation in any of the advanced countries; and if, on the contrary, the proletariat is thrown back everywhere and on all fronts — then we should doubtlessly have to pose the question of revising our conception of the present epoch and its driving forces. In that case it would be a question not of slapping a copybook label on the USSR or the Stalinist gang but of re-evaluating the world historical perspective for the next decades if not centuries: Have we entered the epoch of social revolution and socialist society, or, on the contrary, the epoch of the declining society of totalitarian bureaucracy?» Once again, the idea of declining capitalism led Trotsky to overlook the objective bases for the long-term revolutionary strategy.

And yet, at a certain point, his own comment on the question of times should help him: «A quarter of a century proved too brief a span for the revolutionary re-arming of the world proletarian vanguard, and too long a period for preserving the soviet system intact in an isolated backward country. Mankind is now paying for this with a new imperialist war; but the basic task of our epoch has not changed, for the simple reason that it has not been solved. A colossal asset in the last quarter of a century and a priceless pledge for the future is constituted by the fact that one of the detachments of the world proletariat was able to demonstrate in action how the task must be solved».

Well said. A quarter of a century can be too short a period to equip the world revolutionary movement. But it is also too short a period for formulating a final judgement on the historical tasks of a class. Trotsky’s hypotheses could be only hypotheses without a foundation. But they were also a demonstration of the negative influence exerted by the lack of scientific analysis of the capitalist world cycle. As the great revolutionary he was, however, Lev Trotsky’s resources were inexhaustible.

Before perishing under the blows of the Stalinist counter-revolution, Trotsky was able, on February 14th, , to project himself in the long time that connects him with our tasks: «The alternative posed by the present war is whether the world economy will be reconstructed based on a plan or the first attempt in this sense will be suffocated in a bloody convulsion while imperialism benefits from another deferment until the Third World War, which could become the grave of civilization».

Long Times of Imperialism

In a writing dated what would appear to facilitate Trotsky’s projection in the long time was precisely what hindered it, i.e. the development of the productive forces in the Slavic region.

Trotsky thinks that: «The Second World War has begun. It attests incontrovertibly to the fact that society can no longer live on the basis of capitalism. Thereby it subjects the proletariat to a new and perhaps decisive test. If this war provokes, as we firmly believe, a proletarian revolution, it must inevitably lead to the overthrow of the bureaucracy in the USSR and regeneration of Soviet democracy on a far higher economic and cultural basis than in . In that case the question as to whether the Stalinist bureaucracy was a «class» or a growth on the workers’ State will be automatically solved. To every single person it will become clear that in the process of the development of the world revolution the Soviet bureaucracy was only an episodic relapse».

Trotsky, the internationalist, remained confined to a partial view of the world market. The crisis of the 1930s, which produced the imperialist war and turned this latter into a new revolutionary test for the proletariat, invested Western developed countries but not the entire world. The capitalist mode of production, in the form of State capitalism, was meanwhile spreading with a rapid pace to the Slavic region. It is not a question that only concerns the definition of Russian bureaucracy; it is an issue that concerns scientific analysis of the development of the world’s forces of production.

Quantitatively speaking, the productive forces of capitalism increased in spite of the crisis in the West. They grew with the contribution of an additional share of means of production in the Slavic and, in general, Asian region.

From a qualitative point of view, this additional share of capital was mature for an imperialist leap. At that point, Russian State capitalism, with its quick pace of development in contrast with the drop in Western capitalism’s development, became one of the elements that contributed to precipitating imperialism’s contradictions into the general war.

The dynamic of the global system did not follow the timeframe of the ideological dispute on the definition of the «inflammable material» that had been added to the explosive mixture. It dragged them into the vortex of the world outburst. Under the fire of war, Russian State capitalism matured into imperialism and participated in a new partition, that was led by the dominant American imperialism, and derived from the defeat of the Japanese, German, and Italian imperialists as well as from the weakening of the English and French.

Put to the test, the international proletariat found itself in front of a global imperialism strengthened by the Russian power that compensated for the vacuum created by the defeated powers and, consequently, acted to prevent the war from changing into revolution as it did in . Stalinism mutated from a national force into an international, counterrevolutionary one. With their relentless progress, the long times of imperialism solved the «Russian question».

The times of reality have a rationale that is often different from that of thought’s times. A specific issue, such as the Russian one, could not be congealed in historical limbo. However, for Trotsky, the times of the World War and the international proletarian revolution could also be the times of the solution to the «Russian question» and the USSR’s «social nature».

Trotsky’s - writings are connected, under this specific aspect, to the debate mentioned by Amadeo Bordiga. Lacking a proper analysis of long-term capitalist development, the «question of times» feeds the oscillation in the prediction about a future that does not envisage proletarian revolution: Will imperialism’s fate be a «declining society of totalitarian bureaucracy» or a «deferment until the Third World War»?

The forces that determined the Second World War already bore in their wombs the «deferment until the Third World War» because they were the forces that had overcome the Versailles division and were preparing the partition at Yalta. Capitalist uneven development, that accentuated in the period between the two Wars, provoked a conflict that was of vaster dimensions than the previous one and prepared another clash of proportionally increasing dimensions. Only a «declining totalitarianism» with balanced development could ease such destructive escalation of the increasing productive forces in a society where the ruled class would be so for an indefinite period of time.

Pre-war, war, and post-war are, on the contrary, links in an uninterrupted chain of uneven capitalist development. Thus, also of uneven proletarian development.

In the article «The Retreat and Sunset of the Bolshevik Revolution», Bordiga wrote: «It is not grave that a revolutionary sees the revolution closer than it is. Our school itself has expected it many times: , , . Distorted views expected it in . It is grave when the revolutionary sets a deadline within which he must obtain historical evidence of the revolution. Here opportunism has always found its origins; opportunism has never conducted its adulterating campaigns otherwise, and of these, the most poisonous is about Socialism in Russia». This is true: it is not grave that a revolutionary moves up the date, it is only a mistake.

The Times Between the Two Wars

If, for a revolutionary, it is a mistake to set a deadline for obtaining historical evidence of the political cycles of the classes’ struggles, it is a still more serious mistake to set a deadline for the long times of capitalist development that determines the economic and political cycles of production and distribution.

Capitalist uneven development is the basis of the imperialist maturity in whole departments of the world economy in which there is centralization of capital and concentration of the means of production to such a great extent that an excess of capital is the result. Meanwhile, other departments are at a backward level in the accumulation process and lack capital.

Lenin, in his analysis of imperialism during the First World War, discovered that, in the imperialist stage, the law of uneven capitalist development would lead to a more extensive and rapid spread of the capitalist mode of production around the world. By acknowledging the validity of Marx’s scientifically-formulated law of uneven development of capitalism also during the imperialist stage, Lenin was not only countering other scholars of imperialism who denied this law, who did not take it into account, or who no longer considered it valid — he also reconfirmed Marx’s prediction on the Pacific region’s development.

Insofar as imperialist maturity, which had provoked the First World War, not only did not prevent capitalist development but actually accelerated it, capitalist development would continue its march into the Pacific region, that is, into the world’s most populated area. Here, the fate of the international proletarian revolution was to be played out.

Thus Marx’s prediction was concretely placed within the timeframe of the history of class struggles. If, on the contrary, as some purported, the imperialist stage entailed stagnation of the productive forces, the march of capitalism into the Pacific area could be considered an abortive process, similarly to what occurred several centuries ago in the Mediterranean basin.

Lenin’s argument was a powerful political statement against every form of social-imperialism, that is, on the one hand, against those who supported pacifist reformism in order to develop the productive forces that imperialism would no longer develop, and, on the other, against those who maintained that imperialism, by developing the forces of production, in any case performed a progressive task.

In opposition to these forms of opportunism, Lenin demonstrated that imperialism develops the forces of production in the world, but that this development is not progressive because it prepares and extends even more parasitism and greater destruction in crises and wars. Not having picked up Lenin’s strategic indications meant worsening the defeat of the revolutionary proletariat between the two wars, during and after the Second World War.

In spite of the crises in the imperialist metropolises in the Atlantic area, capitalist development proceeded in the Pacific basin since the 1930s.

G. C. Allen, one of the best-known historians of Asian economy, in his work on Japan published in Great Britain in , drew the conclusion that at the end of the 1930s, Japan’s real domestic income was more than 14 times greater than at the start of the Meiji era, and that it had progressed at a 4.5% rate during the previous 40 years. Specifically during the 1930s, that is, in the years of the great crisis, Allen stated that: «At the end of the decade, Japan’s economy was more developed than it was in . It had higher technological and business potential, and it had various triumphs on export markets to its credit».

At the end of the great crisis’ decade, two powerful areas of growing industrialization demonstrated that Lenin’s prediction correctly interpreted uneven development’s longtime trend. Russia and Japan became two fundamental components in the war’s explosive mixture. Lenin’s theoretical success, however, did not find a real movement to transform it into political victory. The same thing had happened many times to his masters, Marx and Engles, both during their lifetimes and after their deaths.

At the end of the war, A. Bordiga outlined the prospects for the post-war period and published them in Prometeo, in . «Proletariat’s revolutionary vanguard clearly understands that for now, the war situation has been succeeded by a situation of world dictatorship by the capitalist class. This dictatorship is guaranteed by a body connecting big States, that have deprived the smaller States — as well as many of those that were counted among the “great powers” before — of all independence and sovereignty. This great world political force expresses the attempt to organize the relentless dictatorship of the bourgeoisie into a single plan while masking it under the formula of the “United Nations Council” and “Security Organization”. Should this goal be achieved, it would mean a triumph for the directives that traveled under the name of fascism and that, according to history’s real dialectics, the losers left the winners as their heritage».

Bordiga saw a kind of ultra-imperialism ruling the world. Thus, capitalist uneven development was, at least for a certain period, annulled in a time that no longer had contradictions. Even Lenin’s view of time, in Bordiga’s doctrine, was inadvertently relegated to being a prisoner in the UN dungeons.

The Question of Times in Bordiga’s View

In addition to being annulled, Lenin’s view of time, according to Bordiga’s argument, is forced to run backwards. Obviously, dialectic is not outraged — as flat progressivism is — if the historical development of the productive forces and of social and political class struggles experiences harsh relapses and retreats for decades or even centuries. Nowhere is the diagram of unending rise written in the tables of historical materialism. Long time is, precisely, the graph of high and low peaks.

But this graph must be the result of quantitative and qualitative scientific analysis and not the mere expression of a general methodological consideration. It was legitimate to assume that an imperialist world war could so destroy the forces of production that it could reduce fixed capital in whole economic regions — such as Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and Japan — to extremely low levels. Such an assumption, however, had to be demonstrated as well as posited before drawing political conclusions.

Regardless of the possible inexactness of calculations and evaluations available, Bordiga clearly demonstrated excessive overestimation of the United States’ power, of Europe’s weakness, and the destruction of world fixed capital.

We can see Bordiga’s calculations in his article «America», published in Prometeo in : «The war’s devastation, based on one calculation, amounts to 150 billion dollars». And Truman declared, «that the war cost the United States 341 billion dollars». According to Truman and Henry A. Wallace’s plans, this «investment» should give a profit through investment loans for the production of what was destroyed. Wallace «assumes that it should be possible to find 50 billion dollars in local capital for investment, while America will lend the remaining 100 billion dollars to the rest of the world».

This is how Bordiga explains Wallace’s line: «The guarantees will be strictly legal. In the process of building the Superstate, the mortgage system will be put into operation internationally. This Superstate will have the same functions for citizens and private bodies on a worldwide level that the State does, which is sovereign in its territory. Factories and plants in the debtor countries will guarantee the payments to refund loans with their values and activities». In this way, with 100 billion dollars, American imperialism would purchase the labor of 200 million productive people.

Europe would receive 50 billion dollars, of which Russia would get 10 to 17. And, if this money «could, which is certainly impossible, be immediately advanced and invested, in two years Europe would rebuild its plants. But all the profit that these would produce would be “forever” two-thirds American by right».

Bordiga himself warns that, «the numbers are highly questionable», but his approach is more meaningful than his objection. In this light, the contents of his article become clearer: «The possibility of a more or less long-term prospect of an international totalitarian government of capital is linked to the economic opportunities available to the winners’ nearly intact structures — first and foremost the American one to make profitable investments for many years, in a crazily progressive capitalist accumulation in the wastelands created by the war and in the countries that the war’s destruction plummeted from the highest levels of capitalist development to a colonial level».

In short: the war’s devastation reduced a series of developed imperialist countries to colonial levels and made a long period of investment possible for American imperialism under the watchful eye of a totalitarian Superstate. Even before taking the possibility of such a long-term prospect into consideration, the premise should have been questioned, i.e. the economic opportunity of long-term investment.

The World War was the result of imperialism’s irreconcilable contradictions. The end of the war was not the end of these contradictions, but their continuation in a new situation. The materialist conception of politics could not be reversed.

The Post-War Times

In A. Bordiga’s - argument, the duration of the political cycle of an «international totalitarian government of capital», that is, a kind of American ultra-imperialism, was determined by the «economic opportunities» of «many years» of «investments in the accumulation» of capital destroyed by the war in Europe and Asia. We find ourselves faced with a particular interpretation of the «question of times». An international cycle of capital accumulation is supposed to correspond to an international cycle of imperialist policy characterized by a new kind of domination. This latter should in fact temporarily obliterate the sharpness of the inter-imperialist clashes that, five years earlier, had provoked the World War.

The imperialist World War being over, in Bordiga’s view, the «question of times» became a question of «many years» of economic and political domination by the American victors. There was also a danger that the «many years» could be interpreted in the most negative sense.

Bordiga felt the need to specify that: «The fundamental perspective of Marxist revolutionaries is that this combined plan of bourgeois organization can’t have definitive life: the same dizzy pace that it imposes on the management of human activities and resources, with the relentless subjugation of the productive masses, will lead to new clashes and crises, to conflicts between the opposing social classes and, in the sphere of bourgeois dictatorship, to new inter-imperialist conflicts between the giant States».

This specification was necessary because, first of all, the «many years» could not have «definitive life», and, in the second place, because they could not prevent the future return of «conflicts between the opposing social classes».

For Bordiga, the destruction of capital prevented the struggle between classes, between bourgeoisie and proletariat, and between the various bourgeoisies. Theoretically, such a social catastrophe and class regression cannot — as we have already said — be excluded, even if the dynamics of social struggles are not destined to mechanically follow the general course, as F. Engels demonstrated in his masterful historical reconstruction of the 1500s in Germany.

Political cycles are determined by economic cycles, but the former do not duplicate the latter’s short-term oscillations. The Second World War’s economic cycle was no exception. Alfred Sauvy, in his La vie économique des Français de à 1949 writes that: «The intensity of destruction was not as disastrous as one could believe». France had been a theater of war, in general, and of great battles, in particular. Pasquale Saraceno, one of IRI’s (the Italian Institute for Industrial Reconstruction) top executives, evaluated that for Italy, which had also been struck by five years of bombardments and three years of military fights, «the Italian economy came out of the war with an industrial system that was only partially destroyed». His evaluation was that 10% had been ruined.

Even if one takes Germany into account, the war destruction did not create capital «wastelands». In fact, capital reconstruction was accomplished within five years in Western Europe. The destruction amounted to tens of millions of men, and no one could reconstruct them.

While denying «definitive life» to capital’s «combined plan», Bordiga calculated that: «Nonetheless, it can’t be predicted that, the war now being over, this complex cycle will develop at an extremely quick pace…» The difference between a «dizzy pace» and an «extremely quick pace» is, perhaps, literary, but it is irrelevant to the «question of times». The fact is that the ultra-imperialist political cycle that Bordiga imagined did not even rest on an economic cycle with tremendous destruction of capital.

The gross product of Western capitalism, including Japanese capitalism, which overall reached its peak in to fall in and to the same level as it showed in , almost regained that peak in , and then surpassed it in .

The economic cycle of the Second World War sharpens all of imperialism’s contradictions and harbors surprises for a careful scientific analysis. The times of structural movements and political dynamics are accelerated, just as Lenin had predicted.

The Times of a Mythic Deadline

On various occasions, in the twenty-year period following the end of the second imperialist World War, A. Bordiga tried to connect the future prospects with the aforementioned discussion on the «question of times». In , in «The Retreat and Sunset of the Bolshevik Revolution», he picked up Trotsky’s argument on the fifty-year period before a new international revolution and fixed in the year of the future possible advent of capitalism’s great and generalized crisis.

In , in his article «Forty Years for an Organic Evaluation of the Russian Events», Bordiga referred to Lenin’s idea about two possible decades of good relationship with the peasants before the outburst of class struggle in an economically non-Socialist Russia. Bordiga commented that, «Stalinism is still further behind what Lenin predicted as a far-off result. Not twenty years have gone by, but forty…»

Bordiga concluded that: «The Western proletarian revolution didn’t arrive, forty years after and approximately thirty since Trotsky evaluated fifty years as being a tolerable period in power, taking us roughly to 1975». He also placed the prospect in this light: «A recent study by American bourgeois economists on the world dynamic of trade calculates that will be a critical point in the current market rush, which is based on the harsh Puritanism of American rescuers after the end of the Second World War. Twenty years would therefore separate us from a new outburst of permanent revolution in international framework, and this fits with the conclusions reached in the debate held in just as it does with our research in recent years».

A critical point in the long cycle of the capitalist world market and a new revolutionary outburst coincided in Bordiga’s perspective. He set a preliminary Marxist «theoretical restoration» of the «world party» as a condition for avoiding «a new proletarian defeat» when that moment would come. But this condition concerned the result of a process while, on the contrary, the theoretical restoration should be the premise for analyzing the process itself.

One unquestionable point in strategy is that a serious crisis in the global capitalist system can’t change into permanent revolution without a party that has a correct revolutionary theory. This, however, is only the premise of revolutionary strategy and is not yet the scientific development of strategy.

Quite rightly, Bordiga comments that a theoretical restoration must occur before the «Third World War arrays the workers under all of its damned banners». Theoretical restoration, however, means analysis of the economic and political process that can lead to that result and to identifying the chances class action has to influence the general course of events. Bordiga did not agree with this: «During the twenty years under consideration, a great crisis in the world industrial production and trade cycle, similar to the American crisis, but that will not spare Russian capitalism, can be the basis for returning definite but visible proletarian minorities to Marxist positions».

Here we do not find the analysis of a process and its contradictions that can produce different results for the conflicting classes. Rather, we find an imaginary — although brilliant and bold — projection of a prologue that has never occurred. As a consequence of this, the crisis in the 1970s was entirely different from the one supposed.

In Bordiga’s view of times, we are left with a great anticipation, which however lacked a strategy for action. Nonetheless, it remained an anticipation that was a ray of light that split the dark times of the counter-revolution.

And there is another ray of light that reached even further: «Can a pattern for the future international revolution be ventured? Its core will be the area that responds with a powerful rise in the productive forces to the Second World War’s destruction, and especially Germany, including East Germany, Poland, and Czechoslovakia. The epicenter of the proletarian insurrection, that will follow the relentless expropriation of all popularized capital, should be between Berlin and the Rhine and soon attract Northern Italy and Northeastern France. To demonstrate that Stalin and his successors revolutionarily industrialized Russia, while, in a counterrevolutionary manner, they castrated the world proletariat, Russia will be the reserve of productive forces for the new revolution. Only afterwards will it supply revolutionary armies. At the third wave, either politically and socially Communist continental Europe exists or the last Marxist has disappeared».

The revolutionary strategy’s path may also benefit from the glow that announces the end of the night. But this path requires something more: it requires a study of the times that specifies the main features of imperialist crises and the basic elements of class struggles. It is only through this long, hard work that the times — although they may be correctly anticipated — become exact and concrete moments of struggle and not a mythic deadline.

The Times of the Fifties

In the 1950s we were faced with a problem that first Trotsky and then Bordiga had not resolved. The «question of times» had strongly affected the thought of these two revolutionaries and accentuated their voluntaristic and fence-sitting traits, respectively. While these traits are, in and of themselves, compatible with and even necessary and inevitable in the dialectical development of political action as well as in the corrective balancing of tactical initiative and dialectical consideration, they are nonetheless destined to be negatively turned into absolute elements when reference to deadlines lies on the arbitrary reconstruction of reality’s development. Voluntarism and fence-sitting become Communism’s growth disorders if there is no scientific analysis of reality’s movement because, ultimately, there is no strategy.

Thus, the «question of times» inevitably takes on subjectivist forms and contents since it lacks an objective terrain where verifications can be made with scientific tools that make the indispensable corrections to and closer analysis of the initial strategic hypotheses possible. Subjectivism, both in form and content, emphasizes absoluteness, i.e., the process that leads to perceiving merely one aspect or trend in a given situation and not seeing how this aspect or trend is such only because it has links with other mutually-interacting aspects or trends.

The science’s task, on the contrary, is to define the relative and temporary predominance of a given aspect or trend. It can do this only if it considers all aspects and trends in a dialectical and contradictory whole. On this specific condition, the scientific method can and must single out a given aspect or trend and analyze its sheer development and influences; however, this is the method of scientific abstraction which has nothing to do with arbitrary, subjectivist absoluteness.

The dialectical-scientific method is all the more necessary the more one tries to predict political consequences and indications — which are almost always mandatory — for action and inaction on the basis of the supposed development of a single aspect or trend within social reality. This method is even more necessary when one tries to predict the correspondent timeframe. Otherwise, subjectivism chases the tail of absoluteness which in turn barks at subjectivism.

The problem that remained unsolved in Trotsky and Bordiga was, essentially, that of capitalist development. It had been dragging on from the 1930s to the post-war years. What did global capitalist development mean in the imperialist stage? The answers were so subjectivist that they did not produce scientific analysis of capitalist development for entire decades.

And yet, the Marxist school had already resolved the problem and provided the tools to continue the analysis. We have seen how Lenin, in , maintained that the majority of the world population had not reached the capitalist level of development.

Amidst the social and political ruins of the second imperialist World War and the post-war period, the revolutionary movement was unable to immediately understand that part of the objective development identified by Lenin was in progress. A link between Lenin’s theoretical and political work and the real movement was skipped. The real movement, with its impatience and fatalistic waiting, had swallowed another generation. But the chain could and had to be welded again.

In our «1957 Theses», we maintained that the world economy was comprised of industrially advanced areas, intermediate, and backward areas. We wrote: «The Marxist theory of crisis finds a valid confirmation in practice. Revolutionary Marxism, on the other hand, should pay greater attention to the theory and problems of capitalist development. As the history of the past decades clearly shows, capitalist development, besides internal technological factors, is determined by the world market. As long as this market covers an enormous area — that includes two-thirds of the world’s population — that maintains conditions of pre-capitalist backwardness, production from advanced countries will find an outlet there and a solution to its own contradictions».

We were aware both of imperialism’s contradictions and the fact that the creation of new States in backward areas also represented the worsening of such contradictions. But, we did not believe that these contradictions, that were expressed socially in the peoples’ struggles in backward areas, could provoke crises in imperialistically-advanced countries capable of shifting their proletariats to revolutionary stances.

Marxism’s position was unmistakably that of supporting the peoples’ struggles in backward areas and the creation of new States. However, this position entailed clear awareness that this was part of capitalist development in the world as well as of the international proletariat’s development, and that it was not the historic opportunity for a socialist revolution in the imperialist metropolises.

This was clearly stated: «Although this important fact weakens certain political superstructures of imperialism, it does not weaken its economic dynamics… On the contrary, it may be said that by entering a new economic stage and by breaking the old colonial immobility, the backward countries expand the world market’s capacity and offer imperialism possibilities for economic expansion. Indirectly, on the one hand, the awakening of backward countries undermines imperialist political positions and provokes some of its typical contradictions, while, on the other hand, such awakening economically favors imperialism’s survival».

Tracing back to Lenin’s theses meant bringing the «question of times» out of the shallows in which it had run aground and leading it to the open sea of history’s storms.

Long Capitalist Development

Marx’s Capital was published in . Since then, world capital has multiplied twenty fold. Just a few years after Marx’s work was published, the Parisian proletariat attempted its revolution and was defeated.

Fifty years later, when Lenin raised the banner of the international proletarian revolution again, world capital had tripled. The increase in capital’s power became an increase in its destructive ability which unleashed, for the first time in history, a World War.

Twenty years went by and the World War was repeated. The world’s value-producing capital was double what had brought about the first global conflict. Capital doubled its destructive ability. Double capital, double war. When the conflict ended, world capital was six times what had been when Marx’s Capital came to light.

Over the past forty years of world non-war, world capital has tripled. This means that it is three times more destructive than what came out of the Second World War, in spite of the destruction it suffered. In short, these have been the paces of world social capital, the social product’s paces.

This is the substance of the «question of times», from the point of view of capital, from the point of view of the productive forces. From the point of view of wage labor, for a series of reasons that we have examined, there was no approach to the «question of times» that followed Marx and Lenin’s scientific approach.

Taking up this approach also means updating its quantitative data. We will examine this aspect in detail. In the third-quarter, issue of «Money and Credit» magazine, Angus Maddison published a historical study on the «Stages of Capitalist Development». In this study, he calculated the annual percentage variation in the Gross Domestic Product for 16 countries between and .

Year Ind. % Var. Year Ind. % Var. Year Ind. % Var.
102 2.2 296 3.7 704 7.1
106 4.2 308 4.2 732 4.0
108 1.6 319 3.6 770 5.2
113 4.7 299 -6.3 780 1.3
116 2.2 305 2.0 833 6.8
116 0.0 328 7.6 864 3.7
118 2.0 325 -1.0 891 3.2
120 2.0 335 3.0 902 1.2
121 0.8 326 -2.5 954 5.8
126 4.1 323 -0.9 1,000 4.8
131 3.4 322 -0.3 1,047 4.7
135 3.1 343 6.3 1,101 5.2
138 2.1 361 5.2 1,154 4.8
139 1.0 379 5.2 1,227 6.3
141 1.7 394 4.0 1,290 5.1
146 3.0 408 3.4 1,361 5.5
150 3.4 420 2.9 1,415 4.0
154 2.6 432 3.0 1,498 5.9
160 3.4 452 4.5 1,573 5.0
166 3.9 426 -5.6 1,630 3.6
169 1.8 402 -5.7 1,692 3.8
175 3.4 374 -7.1 1,783 5.4
173 -1.0 378 1.2 1,894 6.2
177 2.2 403 6.6 1,896 0.1
186 5.2 426 5.8 1,877 -1.0
188 1.4 460 7.8 1,974 5.2
194 3.1 494 7.5 (—) (—)
204 5.1 496 0.4 (—) (—)
213 4.5 524 5.6 (—) (—)
219 2.6 534 2.0 (—) (—)
227 3.7 575 7.6

Note: The index is calculated by making equal to 100. The annual variation is calculated on the previous year. Our calculations from Angus Maddison’s study, in «Money and Credit», third quarter, .

230 1.1 616 7.1
238 3.6 663 7.7
240 1.1 676 2.0
249 3.7 634 -6.3
266 6.7 543 -14.4
273 2.7 553 1.9
264 -3.2 587 6.2
281 6.1 607 3.4
285 1.6 657 8.2
GDP - in 16 Industrialized Countries and its Annual Percentage Variation ( = 100)

[[FIGURE 1. p. 125]]

[[FIGURE 2. p. 125]]

Our calculations from Angus Maddison’s study, in «Money and Credit», third quarter,

From to , the countries considered were: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, Norway, the United Kingdom, the United States, Sweden, Switzerland. From to , there were the same countries as above plus Finland and Holland, while Belgium was excluded. From to , all 16 countries were included. Except for Russia, the main imperialist metropolises are included. It is an important study that is worth special attention because it shows a statistical summary selected from an enormous quantity of material spread throughout a thousand sources.

As with every statistical summary, this one could be perfected and corrected. Given the source, we feel that this can’t occur in the near future. As a result, we are reproducing Angus Maddison’s historical series. We have also added an index column in the middle of the table.

The annual arithmetic average increase in GDP is 2.91% for the entire period between -. Divided by decades, it becomes: -, 2.38%; -, 2.76%; -, 2.83%; -, 2.71%. We are slightly below the century trend, but close to a remarkable invariance.

The decade between - has an annual arithmetic average of 1.34%, far below the century trend. This is the only case. We then have three decades, that are fairly regular even if they fall below the century trend: -, 2.86%; -, 2.41%; -, 2.34%. Lastly, we have two and a half decades of intense acceleration: -, 4.31%; -, 5.01%, and -, 3.28%.

Engels said that each historical phenomenon is configured, in a century, as a straight line while year by year it is a zigzag. What better image to help us?

We can start from to establish the trend of capital’s world cycles and the long-term tendencies that embrace more than a century. This is the only right way to raise the «question of the times» for a strategy of proletarian revolution.

As an index we will take the GDP of the 16 most-industrialized countries, that include the main imperialist metropolises, except the USSR. We will also use the historical series compiled by A. Maddison, one of the leading international specialists, as our primary source. Other indexes and other sources could be chosen, both as replacements and as complements, but the result would not change much because, over the long term, the trend is so clear that it imposes itself on the specific aspects of statistical calculation.

Adding data and sources would only weigh the point down; a point that is already pedantic enough even if it is necessary. The regularity of long capitalist development is already marked enough so that it does not require additional quantification.

Long Capitalist Development in the First Decades

Long capitalist development over more than a century is accurately depicted in the table. The index allows us to follow it clearly.

So, let’s make 100 the starting year, . We have 126 in with a low point in and a peak in ; we have 166 in (minimum in and maximum in ); 219 in (minimum in and maximum in ); 285 in (minimum in and maximum in ).

marks the first standstill, with zero growth and the index stable at 116. The second one comes along in , with a 1% drop in GDP and an index decrease from 175 to 173.

Historians described this first twenty-year period as a «great depression». In reality, we find ourselves faced with constant capitalist development characterized by an overall slow but fairly regular pace. It varied from year to year, moving from below 1% to over 4, with an annual average around 2%. The only real drop was experienced in , after twenty-three years. In , the GDP doubled, after twenty-eight years.

The next doubling, when the index went from 204 to 408, occurred in , exactly twenty-eight years later. AI- most the same number of years was needed to reach the next doubling point, when the index reached 833 in , after twenty-nine years. Finally, the last doubling took place after only sixteen years, in , with an index of 1,692.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the pace of capitalist development almost doubled with respect both to the long previous period and the century trend. We are faced with an exceptional period: after the crisis of , twenty-nine years must elapse before , when we meet a drop in GDP. Drops in GDP, on the contrary, characterized the trend in the four previous decades, when they frequently interrupted the periods of recovery and the economic cycles showed significant oscillations.

However, for better describing the nature of the cycles that stretch from the 1910s to the 1940s, we can go back to the 1890s. Clearly, the period that starts with the first imperialist World War in and terminates with the end of the second imperialist World War in shows the most frequent drops in GDP, the largest oscillations, the greatest instability and capitalism’s most acute crises in the 16 industrialized countries considered and, therefore, in the world capitalist system.

While fifteen years elapsed between the crisis of and that of (this latter marked by a 3.2% drop) — as against the twenty-three years that went from to the crisis (but they were only seventeen years if we start from ’s zero growth) — in , when there was a 6.3% drop, a period began in which the longest time between one crisis and another was that between and , i.e., just thirteen years.

By including , a year of crisis, and (with its 14.4% decrease), we have a timeframe of thirty-three years, slightly less than one-third of the century taken into consideration.

In the forty-three years prior to the period in question, there are two crisis years. In the thirty years that follow, there is one year of crisis (, with a 1% drop), twenty-nine years after the crisis. This lapse of time between and is the longest period of time without a drop in GDP. In the thirty-three years between and , on the other hand, there are nine crisis years (ten, if we include ).

The index also confirms this. shows 299; to double this figure, we have to wait until , one of the most intense years of the Second World War, when the index marks 616 and there is a 7.1% increase. It is likely that 600 was reached in the first half of . Twenty-eight years have gone by.

However, if we consider what we said about the doubling of GDP, we can see that this doubling also occurs according to a century trend, that is, twenty-eight or twenty-nine years. It is moreover to be taken into account that we calculated the doubling of GDP by isolating the period in which the most serious capitalist crises took place, and, therefore, by shifting the figures of reference (from 300 to 600, instead of from 200 to 400, for the index) and the years of reference (-, instead of - and -).

By observing the GDP index, and leaving aside the annual percentage variations regardless of whether they are positive or negative, we can more closely follow the dynamic trend. The index is given in parentheses, again with equal to 100.

(299) showed a step back with respect to (319). (305) remained behind, and only (328) moved forward. However, (325) again stayed behind (328). reached a peak (335), but in (326), (323), and (322) the figures fell below the level (328) once again and remained only slightly above (305).

It was only in (343) that ’s (335) peak was surpassed. This began an uninterrupted series of eight positive years that had their peak in (452).

Essentially, , , and were crisis years in which the GDP stayed below the level. In these years, that include the greatest deterioration provoked by the World War’s military, political, and economic deadlock, the revolutionary movement spread and reached its fullest expression in the Russian October.

The Russian Revolution broke out during the cycle of crisis in long capitalist development.

Long Capitalist Development During the Great Crisis

From the point of view of Marxist theory, the crisis that assailed capitalism starting in confirmed the long-term analysis. The Communist movement’s conclusions, however, were often erroneous because they were mechanistic and not dialectical. The crisis was conceived of as an irreversible crisis. In vain, Lenin called for the study of the contradictory movement of social reality which rests on restoring Marx and Engles’ thought. There is no irreversible crisis, there is no automatic collapse of capitalism. Concentration that leads to crisis recreates, along with the crisis itself, the conditions for small production’s and small capital’s resurrection. Imperialism that provokes war and, consequently, crisis, at the same time spreads capitalism throughout the world. The contradictions that this world process generates are such and so many that they provoke economic and political crises that can only be turned into revolutions as long as there is a Communist party capable of doing this and the masses of workers are objectively pulled into the struggle.

This is what Marx and Engles thought in .

Likewise, for Lenin, the «question of times» did not so much concern the world market and the fate of capitalism as it was linked to the assessment of the number and nature of the contradictions and to the subjective ability, i.e., his vanguard party’s ability, to exploit such contradictions.

From to there were five years of crisis in which the GDP was below the level. The theory about a crisis induced by decline and stagnation of capitalism began to take hold.

Development in (335; 30 points above ), however, showed that capitalism still had a chance. was, in fact, 13 points above . The fact that the crisis spanned over a six-year period (of which one was of intense development), and that it mainly hit some of the major imperialist metropolises, nourished the theory about decline and stagnation of the capitalist mode of production. Such decline, moreover, was not properly understood as a stage of history; rather, it was actually viewed in cyclical terms.

In (343), there was a huge leap (21 points in the index over ). The index surpassed the previous peak by 8 points; the previous level by 38 points; that of by 15, and that of by 18 points.

The 1920s, of so-called «relative stabilization», ended with a peak of 452 in . The index multiplied by 4.52 as against .

Sixty years of capitalist development had elapsed since , that is, since the definite formation of three great powers: the United States, Germany, and Italy. It was already possible to attempt to evaluate the situation to see whether the decline and stagnation theory corresponded to the long-term trend. This wasn’t done. Now it can be.

In , fifteen years had passed since the start of the crisis that inaugurated the phase of imperialist wars and proletarian revolutions. Capitalism, in the imperialist metropolises considered, had grown by half.

Since the start of the «relative stabilization», it grew by a fourth in eight years. On the whole, the 1910s and the 1920s, were years of capitalist growth.

The 1930s witnessed the great crisis. The lowest point was . The index value shows 374 and lies in the middle between the and figures (361 and 379, respectively).

The fall as against the previous high peak, (452), was extremely severe (78 points) and can give the impression of a collapse. In fact, it meant a nine or ten-year setback. A backward pace of such proportions had never been seen before, and it also can give the impression of a catastrophic collapse. But it is nonetheless meaningful to note that it stopped around the level of the first quarters of , i.e., a level higher than both ’s (335) and ’s (322). Though the fall of was ruinous, that year’s GDP was still 49 points higher than ’s; 48 higher than ; 51 higher than , and 52 points higher than .

In other words, capitalism in the imperialist metropolises, at the height of crisis in , still showed a growth by a sixth against capitalism, in the same countries, at the height of crisis ten years earlier, in . This means that, in the face of crisis, capitalism was strengthened due to increased production.

The 1930s crisis, therefore, has this objective feature. Even taking the lowest point as a reference, it is not possible to speak of decline and, even less, of stagnation.

On the threshold of the second imperialist World War, capitalism had almost doubled in comparison with capitalism just before the First World War. As a result, its destructive ability, its actual destruction, and its slaughters were to be double. Let us compare the indexes: (319) and (299); (496), (524), and (534).

Indeed, in the 1930s, whatever the years we decide to compare, capitalist development continued.

Let’s take the high peak in the 1920s, (452). marked 496. For six years, from to , ’s level was not reached, and this gives the impression of an irreversible crisis. But even these six years fit above , that is, the year that had represented the overcoming of the First World War’s crisis.

was 74 points below , but 35 points above . was 49 below, but 60 above; was 26 below, but 83 above. In (460), ’s level was surpassed by eight points. The trend continued in (494) by 42 points, in (496) by 44 points, and in (524) by 72 points. But, at that moment, the war, which represented a leap forward, had begun.

The second half of the 1930s was, therefore, a new period of capitalist expansion. To say that the 1930s were the years of the great crisis means, consequently, to generalize one aspect of the contradictory process of capitalist development process and to completely neglect another aspect.

Long Capitalist Development in Historical Perspective

The 1930s were years of «great crisis» and drop with respect to the previous high peak, but they were also the years in which that peak was surpassed and a new one was reached in . If, then and afterwards, the entire development process had been examined — a process that accentuated as never before the irregular, oscillating and contradictory trend — instead of only paying attention to what could seem the weak links in the imperialist chain, it would have been possible to theoretically and politically set up a long-term revolutionary strategy that was appropriate for the chaotic, but not catastrophic trend in capitalist development which would characterize the decades to come.

Such strategy had to be focussed on a time formulation, not entrusted to impossible calculations (given the lack of technical tools), but rather to the consideration possible on the development of past trends. This development had to be accounted for in its long-term variations and not in its short oscillations.

Instead of continually waiting for recurring catastrophes, on the basis of partial and insufficient data often simplistically interpreted with disconcerting mechanistic approach, it was and is necessary to dip into the rich heritage of Marx and Engles’ theory on capitalist development, a theory that Lenin used with such brilliant results.

In the end, the theoretical field of capitalist development was left to the brighter bourgeois economists, some with Social-democratic, Menshevik, and legal Marxist backgrounds. They often found ideas and solutions in our classics that were missing in their own.

Instead of analyzing the development process, the emphasis was laid on predictions. Or, as some used to say, prognosis was preferred to diagnosis. Given its nature, given the fact that it concerns the subjectivity of the classes and class fractions, prognosis about capitalism has always been and will always be subject to a more or less broad margin of error.

Predictions, often necessary in political work, about the class ability to use the contradictions determined by a global social process, could be pronounced. But this was not the point that Bolshevism and the Communist movement had to emphasize in order to reconsider Lenin’s lesson. It would have been more useful if his theory on the world market had been assimilated.

While still alive, Lenin saw his theory fully confirmed. Those who had theorized an irreversible crisis of capitalism, now improvised a theory about its «relative stabilization». The correction was strictly formal, since the mistaken underlying view on capitalist development was the same — a view that would cause so much damage in the decades to come.

The theory about a «relative stabilization of capitalism» did not consider capitalist long development. It was only concerned with defining a transitory circumstance in the irreversible crisis of capitalism. This latter’s life is, at the same time, development and crisis precisely because it is chaotic development that provokes crisis. Therefore, its is always a «relative stabilization».

The problem posed to analysis is that of identifying the long development time, and this is the only way in which the breadth and duration of the crisis can be understood. Consequently, the prediction’s validity depends on the correctness of analysis. Analyzing the development of capitalism means analyzing the intensity and extension of this mode of production and, ultimately, the intensity and extension of its growth and depression cycles. These are closely correlated, as we tried to demonstrate by analyzing the deepest depression cycle.

This latter’s brevity can be explained through the course of previous cycles, and, at the same time, it also explains the cycles that would follow. Ultimately, capitalist long development is the time measure of its world expansion. Time and space meet in the time zone of history and mark the heartbeats of development, of crises, wars, and revolutions in the classes’ struggles.

Index of Names

Allen, George Cyril, 109

Aron, Raymond, X

Bebel, August, VIII

Bernstein, Eduard, 25, 29, 30, 87

Bloch, Joseph, 72, 73

Bordiga, Amadeo, VII, XII, XIV, XV, 5, 8 , 11, 12, 106, 107, 110-112, 114, 115, 117, 118, 120, 121

Browder, Earl, 9

Bulgakov, Sergej Nikolaevič, 29

Cervetto, Arrigo, VII-IX, XI, XII, XIV, XVI, 44 n.

Cobden, Richard, 22

Cunow, Heinrich, X, 25, 26, 28-30, 32-35

Daniel’son, Nikolaj Francevič, 29

Darwin, Charles, 85, 86

Denikin, Anton Ivanovič, 55

Engels, Friedrich, IX, X, XV, 3, 15-23, 25-27, 36, 37, 63, 71-77, 80-82, 85, 86, 92, 94, 95, 101, 102, 110, 115, 126, 131, 135

Grossmann, Henryk, 26, 32, 33

Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, 27, 74

Hilferding, Rudolf, 48

Hobson, John Atkinson, 37

Jogiches, Leo, 28

Kautsky, Karl, X, 25, 27-29, 34, 35, 37, 38, 45, 47, 48

Kolčak, Alexandr Vasil’evič, 55

Kowalik, Tadeusz, 29

Kriege, Hermann, 77

Kugelmann, Ludwig, 79

Labriola, Antonio, 87, 88

Lamplugh, George William, 75

Lenin (Ul’janov), Vladimir Ilič, IX, XI, XII, XV, 3, 5-7, 11, 14, 15, 20, 21, 23, 25, 27, 29, 31, 34, 35-42, 44-62, 66, 84, 90, 99-102, 108-111, 116, 117, 121-123, 131, 135, 136

Luxemburg, Rosa, VII, X, XI, 25, 28, 32, 33

Maddison, Angus, 123-127

Marx, Karl, VIII-XI, XV, 3, 15-23, 25-27, 29-31, 36, 37, 51-53, 64, 65, 73, 76, 77, 79, 81-86, 92-95, 100-102, 108, 110, 123, 131, 135

Necker,Jacques, 22

Nogi, Maresuke Kiten, 58, 59

Parodi, Lorenzo, 44 n.

Plekhanov, Georgij Valentinovič, 27, 29

Ricardo, David, 27, 52, 83, 99

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, 83

Saraceno, Pasquale, 115

Sauvy, Alfred, 115

Schmidt, Conrad, 29, 71, 74

Schumpeter, Joseph Alois, X

Sismondi, Jean Charles Léonard, 29, 52, 99, 100

Smith, Adam, 83

Stalin (Džugašvili), Josif Vissarionovič, XII, XIII, 5, 11, 119

Sternberg, Fritz, 33

Struve, Pëtr Berngardovič, 29

Thierry, August, XVI

Trotsky (Bronstein), Lev Davidovič, VII, XII, XIII, XV, 5, 8, 11, 40, 41, 52, 64, 65, 88-91, 102-106, 117, 120, 121

Truman, Harry Spencer, 111

Tugan Baranovskij, Mikhail Ivanovič, 29

Vorontsov, Vasilij Pavlovič, 29

Wallace, Henry Agard, 111, 112

With regard to man as a biological individual, time is set by the experience of generations childhood, adolescence, youth, middle age, and old age succeed each other and provide time with a rhythm. Tragic events, whether individual or collective, can take place, socio-economic changes can extend the average life (as occurred in the ), but in any case the significance of biological time is a stable element.

Political time, on the contrary, is a historical time subject to the dialectics of accelerations and decelerations. “There are days that are worth twenty years — Cervetto reminds us, citing Marx — and yet, in the movement of matter, one day is one day.” The strategic divide of , that sanctioned the end of the East-European State-capitalist regimes that had been passed off as socialism, was a remarkable evidence thereof.

Biological time and historical time merge in the psychologies of the individuals who are the protagonists of class struggle. This is difficult terrain, because it is subject to the inevitable commingling of rationality and emotions. A revolutionary, a Marxist, anticipates the paces of social changes in his heart. It should not surprise, therefore, that the class movement, through the voice and understanding of its best representatives, has or en imagined faster paces than the actual ones. At the end of the 19 century, during a phase of full capitalist expansion, August Bebel did not realize it, and affirmed at the convention of the Social-Democratic party in Erfurt (): “Indeed, I am convinced the realization of our goals is so close at hand that few of you in this hall will not live to see it.”

Science only can emancipate us from the ascendancy of present time, that almost inevitably leads to mistakes about the reality of today — perceived as absolute reality, independent of any evolution and thence prepares the disappointments of tomorrow.

This emancipation, this freedom, does not pursue any abstractly predicted aims, but practical objectives. Cervetto wrote: “Revolutionary strategy is based on the analysis of times, not to arrange the future, a task for which an objective real movement doesn’t have any need, but rather to establish time deadlines that can act as references in defining immediate tasks in the present, the tasks of tactics. (…) Tactics address temporary situations that are multi-faceted combinations, to take up Lenin’s definition, of long-term historical processes.” The more solid the strategy, the more flexible can tactics be. The ’question of times’ finds its place in practice, in the daily struggle: “Science is freedom, and it is such because it is not a theory detached from practice. Instead, it is practice guided by theory.”