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Sternberg vs. Karl Marx

Myra Tanner, Fourth International

Winter 1954

From Fourth International, Winter 1954, from Tamiment Library microfilm archives
Transcribed & marked up by Andrew Pollack for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

REVISION of the basic program and theories of Marxism invariably begins with a softening attitude toward its enemies. Such was the case with the Pabloite faction in the Fourth International. This faction is marked by theoretical and political conciliation to Stalinism. They have revised the basic Trotskyist concepts in favor of a species of neo-Stalinism, which bears remarkable resemblance to the theories of Isaac Deutscher, a petty-bourgeois advocate of the theory of the self-reform of the Stalinist bureaucracy.

On the other hand, the anti-Marxist social-democrat, Fritz Sternberg, also received a friendly reception from the Pabloites. But Sternberg, whose position can be seen in the title of one of his recent books: How to Stop the Russians Without War, is now a U.S. State Department “socialist”—a petty-bourgeois theorist for the American and British labor bureaucracy, of the “enlightened” Stalinophobe variety.

The conciliatory attitude of the Pabloites toward Deutscher, a Stalinophile, and Sternberg, a Stalinophobe, is not so strong a, paradox as it might seem at first appearance. To “junk the old Trotskyism” means to junk the whole body of Marxist theory. In this enterprise, Sternberg, the Stalinophobe, as well as Deutscher the Stalinophile, are natural allies. Petty-bourgeois revisionism in the ranks of the revolutionary movement cannot begin with a crass anti-Marxist program. It develops its revisionist doctrines piecemeal. It begins by displaying receptivity to “new” alien ideologies. Step by step it empties the “old” program of its content. The first problem of revisionism is to overcome Marxist orthodoxy. It tackles this problem by a combination of growing hostility to the representatives of orthodoxy, matched by increasing friendliness to the theoretical and political opponents of Marxism.

In a letter to the Editorial Board of Fourth International in September, 1952, I criticized the treatment accorded Sternberg by Harry Frankel, one of the leaders of the American Pabloites. I was fully aware that I was also taking issue with Pablo, who concluded his review of Sternberg’s book, Capitalism and Socialism or Trial, with: “Such as it is, and read critically by revolutionary Marxists, this work constitutes—thanks to its abundant and serious documentation and to its methodical presentation of facts—a precious working tool which facilitates a better understanding of the future of our epoch.” (Quatrieme Internationale. Feb.-March, 1952. My emphasis.)

George Clarke, the leading American disciple of the Pablo cult, summarized our differences at a meeting of the Political Committee of the Socialist Workers Party Sept. 9, 1952, as follows: “There are two different conceptions involved here as to how to handle this book. The conception we have used and I think the committee should maintain that, is to view this book as an aid to the study of Marxism and the understanding of American imperialism with a necessary critique of those ideas clearly stated (!) to be in opposition to Marxism. Or, on the contrary, to warn against this book as being a renegade’s book and belonging in the arsenal of anti-Marxist literature.” Thus it is clear: the Pabloites wanted to give Sternberg a “critical” but friendly reception. Sternberg, to them, is not a “renegade” or an enemy to be “warned against.”

Pablo begins his review with the following paragraph: “In a thick volume of about 600 pages, Fritz Sternberg, former (?) Social Democrat and former German Communist, living in the United States since before the war, has summarized the conclusions of thirty years of work. His book is a grand mural of the evolution of capitalism from its beginnings until today.”

Let us take a look at this “grand mural” to see if Sternberg is aiding Marxists or if Pablo is merely providing Sternberg with a left face.

1. Slows Down Tempo Of Capitalist Development

To make the history of capitalist development fit the Social Democratic program of “critical” support to capitalism, to justify its continued existence, Sternberg slows down the tempo of capitalist accumulation. By identifying capitalism with industrialization or the urbanization of the population, he puts the capitalist conquest of the world into the future. In the opening section of the first chapter, in contradiction to its title “Capitalism Becomes the Dominant Form of Production,” Sternberg says:

“At the beginning of this big period of development (1850-1914) capitalism was an island in a pre-capitalist world, but at its end it had become the dominant form of production for almost one-third of the world’s population. . .However, even at the end of this big period of capitalist expansion the majority of the world’s population still did not produce under capitalist conditions. Capitalism embraced the vast majority of the population of Great Britain, the United States and the western parts of the continent of Europe. But even at this peak point of its development, pre-capitalist—chiefly feudalist—forms of production still dominated in Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa. In this period of capitalist expansion, in which capitalism demonstrated its economic superiority over pre-capitalist methods of production, it was generally assumed that the advance of capitalism would continue, until in the end the majority of the world’s population would be living and producing under capitalist conditions. This did not come about.” (Capitalism and Socialism on Trial, p. 20.)

At the very point, 1914, where Lenin placed the culmination of the growth of capitalism and the beginning of its decline, Sternberg has two-thirds of the world’s population yet to be absorbed in capitalist production. How is this great divergence of views possible?

If capitalism is synonymous with industrialization then obviously the colonial world is not capitalist. However, long before imperialism had developed in the industrialized capitalist nations, commercial capitalism had destroyed the pre-capitalist economic life of the colonial peoples. The penetration of capitalist England into India, for example, transformed the colonial Indian labor product into commodities. The old self-sufficient way of life was destroyed. Production for exchange supplanted production for consumption with exchange of only the surplus labor product.

Industrialization did not immediately follow this capitalist transformation. Capitalism does not automatically spell industries. On the contrary, as Sternberg points out elsewhere in his book, British penetration into India brought with it a diminution of the urban population. The trade of artisans, the highly developed handicraft industries of India were destroyed and a landless peasantry was created. This made it all the easier for industrialized power to develop a world division of labor which has been so profitable to the imperialists that several wars and more to come have been fought for its maintenance.

However, if the colonies were non-capitalist then, by the same criterion they are non-capitalist today. Capitalism can still expand to these areas if the imperialists would only be reasonable, thinks Sternberg. In Part III of his book he blames the capitalist stagnation between the two world wars on the “errors” of the capitalists:

“Quite clearly tremendous possibilities were present here (in China), and if, despite the halt in industrial development in the colonial empires (China was not legally a colony) a process of industrialization had gone on in China, say at more or less Russian tempo (what a big word that “if”—M.T.), world capitalism would have found a gigantic market to help it out of its difficulties. The tremendous possibilities were not taken advantage of.” (Ibid. p. 223.)

Sternberg scolds the capitalists for missing a chance to make more profit. But the capitalist knows better than Sternberg where, when and how to invest his capital for the biggest grab. The capitalists are not interested in helping the colonies meet their own need for industrial products. Not only markets would be lost (a demand for means of production would be only temporary) but more competitors would arise. And most important, a source of cheap raw materials would be gone.

In the inter-imperialist competition, possession of cheap sources of raw material constitutes a big advantage. The rate of profit which serves as an absolute limit to the rate of accumulation, varies inversely with the price of raw materials. Furthermore, with the growth of capitalism comes an ever-increasing demand for raw materials. The role played by this part of the means of production in the determination of the rate of profit constantly increases.

Thus Sternberg’s “grand mural” depicts capitalism as a “youthful” system, with new frontiers to conquer if only the capitalists would realize it. He can try to convince the workers that it is realistic to confine their struggle to pressure on the imperialists to follow a non-imperialist foreign policy.

2. Rejects Lenin’s Theory Of Imperialism

We can see the same end served of class conciliation in Sternberg’s attack on Lenin’s theory of imperialism. He attacks Lenin’s conceptions by separating monopoly capitalism from imperialism. In a section titled “Imperialism Not the Same As Monopoly Capitalism” Sternberg says:

” . . .The imperialist drive of Great Britain and France began decades before there was any considerable monopolist concentration. On the other hand, of course, monopolist concentration was already predominant in the United States before the question of imperialist expansion began to play any noteworthy role there.” (Ibid. p. 146.)

We can assume that Sternberg read Lenin’s book, Imperialism. It is listed in the bibliography. Then why this shabby argument? Lenin never claimed that colonial conquest began with monopoly capitalism. Lenin’s point of departure was the appearance of a new stage in the internal structure of industrial capital. The laws of capitalist accumulation, disclosed by Marx, had resulted in the domination of finance capital over industrial capital and the growth of monopoly. With this internal transformation, world capitalism assumed a new character -imperialism.

Sternberg recognizes that monopolization occurred simultaneously in Germany, U.S., Great Britain and France, despite differences in colonial conquest. Sternberg also notes that the period of monopolization witnessed the most rapid rate of capital growth. Lenin’s analysis of the internal changes in the economy explained this growth. Sternberg, rejecting the scientific analysis of Lenin, describes it falsely.

Lenin showed how the export of capital, monopolization, and international cartelization supplanted commercial-relations of the pre-monopoly period with imperialist domination of the colonial world.

Sternberg’s fraudulent representation of Lenin’s theory of imperialism serves to obscure the specific monopoly-capitalist, exploitive relation between imperialism and the colonial people. Sternberg says:

“To a very considerable extent colonial empires had already been carved out before the opening of the nineteenth century—that is to say, at a time before the development of modern industrial capitalism—but it was not until the second half of the nineteenth century that they began to assume their main function as exporters of foodstuffs and raw materials to the metropolitan centres and as markets for the industrial products of the latter.” (Ibid. p. 45.)

The colonies from the beginning, insofar as trade instead of plunder was developed, “assumed.” this function that Sternberg wants to place in the second half of the last century. The first American revolution of 1776 was fought primarily in order to stop “assuming this function.” By the end of the 19th century this function was developed into a fixed division of labor as a result of the direct domination of colonial production by foreign capital.

If one confines his treatment of imperialist-colonial relations to the commercial level, the exploitation of the colonies is obscured, and this is what Sternberg, as an apologist for imperialism, does. On the market all men and countries appear as free and equal.

Sternberg tells us that the colonies “exported foodstuffs and raw material to pay far the imports of industrial products from the metropolitan centers.” (Ibid. p. 44.) This is typical of Sternberg’s formulations. They had to “pay for” their purchases like all honest men. Only, behind this lovely world of equal exchange is the hot and sweating world of production where inequality and subjugation exist. It is here that the imperialists squeeze an extra lush rate of profit out of the blood and bones of the colonial people.

In the pre-imperialist stage of relations between industrialized and colonial countries, the colonial people produced raw materials for the industrial nations. The latter manufactured the raw materials into finished goods. The colonial countries may have sold the raw materials at value, but they also had to pay for the production cost and profit of the manufactured goods as well as transportation of the goods both ways. But this was not bad enough for the colonies, nor good enough for the industrialized nations. When the latter began to export their capital the colonial people were subjected to capital-labor exploitation in the production of raw materials as well as the earlier commercial disadvantages.

Sternberg wants to dissociate monopoly and imperialism in order to transform imperialist-colonial relations from necessary and inevitable relations under capitalism into a question of state policy to which alternatives can be posed. However, Lenin’s answer to Kautsky on the concept of imperialism as a state policy is still sufficient to answer Sternberg:

” . . .Kautsky detaches the policy 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 to be possible on the same basis of finance capital. It would follow that monopolies in economics are compatible with methods which are neither monopolistic, nor violent, nor annexationist, in politics. It would follow that the territorial division of the world, which was completed precisely during the period of finance capital and which represents the main feature of the present peculiar forms of rivalry between the greatest capitalist states, is compatible with a non-imperialist policy. The result is a slurring-over and a blunting of the most profound contradictions of the newest stage of capitalism, instead of an exposure of their depth. The result is bourgeois reformism instead of Marxism.” (Imperialism, p. 84.)

3. Theory of the Crisis

Pablo says of Sternberg: “Influenced by his Social Democratic past, it frequently occurs to him to ’criticize’ Marx, Lenin, Bolshevism with arguments . . . which damage the scientific solidity and the objectivity of several portions of his work.” (My emphasis.) I agree that if it only “frequently occurs” to Sternberg to attack Marxism, the “scientific solidity” of the work might be only “damaged.” But in addition to identifying with capitalism only its more progressive features of industrialization, and rejecting Lenin’s theory of imperialism, Sternberg rejects the Marxist conception of the crisis, an ever-present feature of the capitalist system and today, a dominating one. If the other matters only “damaged” the “scientific solidity” of the work, surely this would destroy it.

Sternberg’s theory of the crisis is the well-worn vulgar theory of under-consumption. This is made clear in his contrast of capitalist crises with pre-capitalist crises. According to Sternberg, before capitalism we had crises of under-production. Now we have crises of under-consumption. This “profound” contribution is even presented to us in a diagram on page 48 and 49. It is based on the entirely superficial observation that the hunger that stalked the land from time to time in pre-capitalist society was evidence of natural or social disasters that interfered with production. Thus, crises of under-production. Under capitalism, under-consumption follows peak production. Hence, crises of under-consumption. This doesn’t bring us one jot closer to understanding the obscure reasons for interruption of production. We are left with the tautology that under-consumption causes under-consumption. Furthermore, he attributes this nonsense to Marx.

In periods of prosperity, commodities are consumed. The fact that workers under-consume is beside the point. The capitalists, whether in productive consumption or in individual consumption, are glad to compensate for this deficiency. As Marx put the problem:

“But if one were to attempt to clothe this tautology (i.e., the idea that crises are caused by a lack of paying consumers) with a semblance of a profounder justification by saying that the working class receive too small a portion of their own product, and the evil would be remedied by giving them a larger share of it, or raising their wages, we should reply that crises are precisely always preceded by a period in which wages rise generally and the working class actually get a larger share of the annual product intended for consumption. From the point of view of the advocates of ’simple’ (!) common sense, such a period should rather remove a crisis. It seems, then, that capitalist production comprises certain conditions which are independent of good or bad will and permit the working class to enjoy that relative prosperity only momentarily, and at that always as a harbinger of a coming crisis.” (Capital, Vol. II. p. 476.)

The “certain conditions” referred to by Marx are analyzed by him in Volume III of Capital. The continuously changing organic composition of capital results in the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. Sternberg once tried to explain economic phenomena with the use of this theory. His earlier German economic work, while not fully Marxist, still represented an attempt at serious Marxist analysis. But in his contemporary work you will not find a single analysis based on Marx’s theory of the crisis.

Along with the American labor bureaucracy, Sternberg belongs to the left-Keynesian school of economic theory. The trade-union officialdom, wishing to see a prolonged future for itself, thinks that all that is necessary to save capitalism is to raise wages. And they can’t see why the capitalists, for their own sake, can’t agree. If this theory were correct, the workers could never hope to escape from the exploitation of the capitalists. As production increased, living standards could also increase and everyone would get richer. While it might not be right for the capitalists to remain idle while everyone else worked, still things wouldn’t be too bad.

But the history of capitalism, as well as Marxist theory, has proved that this is not the case, nor can it be. A wage increase is a precipitating factor in the development of the crisis. Increases in wages will always act to decrease the rate of surplus value, which in turn accelerates the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. When other factors that could compensate are closed off, the crisis cannot be allayed. The under-consumption theory of Sternberg and the labor bureaucrats suits their wishful thinking but it doesn’t change the reality.

4. Polarization of Wealth

The polarization of wealth, the result of the accumulation of capital, is of cardinal importance. It is the cause of the intensification of the class struggle, the guarantee of the proletarian struggle for power, and the premise for Marx’s theory of the inevitabilty of socialism. Marx’s formulation of this tendency as a law of capitalist society is one of the main targets of all his opponents. They don’t want to admit that hand in hand with the accumulation of capital at one pole goes the impoverishment of the masses at the other.

Sternberg tries to refute this with figures that show an increase in the real wages of the working class in the period of the expansion of capitalism, roughly 1850 to 1914. To make it appear that he is battling Marx, Sternberg misrepresents Marx’s position. He shows that the average income increased during this period. Then he triumphantly says:

“Now of course the ’average income’ could also increase if the rich got richer and the poor grew poorer and poorer—if ’the accumulation of capital’ on the one hand was matched by an ’accumulation of misery’ on the other. In other words, the ’average income’ could increase, whilst at the same time the broad masses of the people, and the working class in particular, grew more and more impoverished. But, in fact, this did not happen.” (Op. cit. p. 27.)

Then comes the statistical proof. Real wages increased:

“If we take the level of real wages in 1913 as 100, then wages in Great Britain stood at 57 in 1850, but by 1855 they had risen to 63, and further increases, with setbacks, followed until the end of the century: 1860, 64; 1865, 67; 1870, 70; 1875, 89; 1880, 90; 1895, 88 and 1900, 100.” (Ibid. p. 27.)

Very neatly done. You see the rich can get richer and the poor can get richer, too. Both profits and wages can increase, as Sternberg likes to point out several times in his book. (This is true; but other things being equal, wages and profits can increase or decrease only at the expense of each other.)

But wait a minute! Marx never said accumulation excluded an increase in real wages. What he did say was that exploitation increased with accumulation.

“The result is,” Marx said, “that, in proportion as capital accumulates, the condition of the worker, be his wages high or low, necessarily grows worse. . . Thanks to the working of this law, poverty grows as the accumulation of capital grows. The accumulation of wealth at one pole of society involves a simultaneous accumulation of poverty, labor torment, slavery, ignorance, brutalization, and moral degradation, at the opposite pole—where dwells the class that produces its own product in the form of capital.” (Capital, Everyman edition, p. 714. My emphasis.)

Relative to the wealth produced, wages did fall. Elsewhere in the book, Sternberg supplies the statistics that prove Marx was right even in this period of greatest expansion of capitalism. Wages in Great Britain increased from an index of 64 to 100. In that same period, industrial production, according to Sternberg, increased from 34 to 100. In other words industrial production increased 194% while wages increased only 56%. It would seem that the workers were getting a smaller and smaller part of the wealth they produced.

Later on Sternberg will explain to us that the increase in real wages in the period of imperialist expansion was made possible by the super-exploitation of the colonies. But Sternberg does not, then, correct his “refutation” of Marx’s law of polarization of wealth, which like all economic laws applies most concretely in the most general phenomenon, i.e., world economy. On a world scale the law of polarization of wealth was confirmed even in this period of capitalist expansion.

Since 1914, the law of polarization has been confirmed absolutely even in the industrialized countries. The working class must include in the calculation of its standard of living the periods of unemployment as well as the years of labor. For Europe that means nine years of soldier’s pay plus years of unemployment between the wars. American labor too must calculate its pay with war and depressions included.

Since Marx’s time the law of polarization of wealth has been tragically demonstrated: (1) Between the classes within the nations. (2) Between the colonial and industrialized nations. (3) Between debtor and creditor imperialist nations.

Marx’s description of future reality almost a century ago was more accurate than Sternberg’s description of past and present reality. “Mass degradation” is not a matter of a few industrial cities during the period of the rise of capitalism. Today it is the degradation, pauperization, and mass extermination of the people on whole continents. Fascism, with its tens of millions of victims, imperialist wars, with the decimation of whole populations, have written Marx’s theory of polarization into the living history of our own epoch.

Bernstein’s revisionist attack on Marx’s theory of polarization of wealth and poverty had some semblance of superficial reality during the period of uninterrupted capitalist growth. But Sternberg’s rationalizations are merely crude Social Democratic apologies for a diseased and senile capitalism.

5. The Revision of History

The re-writing of economic history requires the re-writing of political history. With the softening of the crisis, comes the slowing down and softening of the class struggle. In a section, “Socialism Underestimated Capitalist Strength,” Sternberg tells us that increased living standards of the working class had so softened the class struggle that the “capitalist system revealed itself to be much stronger than socialists had thought, and although it was badly shaken, it was still strong enough to survive the period between two world wars.” (Op. cit. p. 153.)

Capitalism did not survive the interim between the two world wars because of inner strength. Sternberg’s “grand mural” of capitalism paints the mortal crisis of the post-World War I period in rosy colors. Actually it was a period of revolutionary storm in which capitalism survived only because of the treachery of the Social Democratic and Stalinist leaders of the workers organizations.

Out of the war grew the revolutionary crisis that brought the Russian workers to power under the leadership of the Bolshevik Party. Sternberg says, “... the spark of the Russian November revolution did not cause any sympathetic conflagration elsewhere.” (P. 171.) And on page 191 he says: “There was no German revolution.”

This is a lie.

In 1918 the revolution swept the Kaiser from power and brought German capitalism to the brink of the grave. The workers of Germany rallied to their socialist organizations and trade unions in the hope of a revolutionary victory. They were betrayed by Social Democratic leaders of the Noske, Scheidemann stripe. And now they are betrayed by the Social Democratic historian, Sternberg, who would efface the German revolution with a stroke of his pen: “Thus the war was ended, as it had been begun, from above and not from below.” (P. 189.)

The German revolution involved the strongest proletarian force in the entire history of the working class up to that time. As the victory in Russia was the positive confirmation of Lenin’s theory of the need for a revolutionary party, so Germany’s defeat furnished irrefutable negative proof of the correctness of his views.

By saying “there was no revolution in Germany,” Sternberg is relieved of the odious task of explaining its defeat under Social Democratic leadership. It is much easier just to deny it ever took place. He is then able to turn against Lenin who led the only successful revolution and denounce him as a splitter. “... the bolshevists deliberately perpetuated the disruption of the German working class.” (P. 302.) What infamy! On the trail of the Social Democrats lay tragic defeat, incalculable suffering, and eventually Hitler’s’ concentration camps. If the workers were to win their freedom they had to follow an entirely different road. Lenin was a splitter. But in order to break with the capitalists one had to break with their lackeys as well.

6. Capitalist Decline

In Pablo’s haste to embrace the anti-Marxist, Fritz Sternberg, he misrepresents Sternberg’s views so as to make them a little more palatable to Trotskyists. Pablo says: “Among the most interesting aspects, and also the most positive (!) of his work, one must consider the last chapters which treat of the changes produced by the second world war, the present situation, and its perspectives . . . He sees in a ’united socialist Europe’ the best way of preventing the war and of facilitating the socialist evolution of all mankind. But he is afraid that Washington and Moscow would try to prevent such an eventuality even by war.”

Now what can be wrong with that? Put in this abstract form Sternberg indeed appears to be an ally. But if Sternberg’s views are presented more concretely, and therefore, accurately, we have an entirely different picture. Sternberg is for a united capitalist Europe, with capitalist state planning along the lines of England, which will “evolve” toward socialism,, under the initial protection of U.S. militarism.

Sternberg says, “As far as the situation in Europe is concerned, the danger of war will decline, only if Europe finds a progressive solution—and today that means a democratic socialist solution—to its crisis.” (P. 564.) And further, “If such a federation came about, and were protected from Russian military attack,” after a while it would be secure and in a position to compete successfully with Russia for the allegiance of the working class. The pattern is set by England: “. . . after the second world war, for the first time in Great Britain and for the first time in the history of any big power, the political party of the working people obtained an absolute majority of the seats in parliament and proceeded to carry out a program which aimed at a socialist transformation of the British economic and social system on the basis of political democracy.”

Sternberg confuses capitalist planning with socialist planning in order to justify to the working class a non-revolutionary perspective. Pablo helps him in this by passing on Steinberg’s “socialist” demagogy as good coin.

By 1914, world economy had reached the peak of the primary curve of the development of capitalism. Further accumulation and expansion would take place but, except for a brief decade in the United States, it would occur only with the direct subsidizing of large sectors of industry by the State. “Free enterprise,” even in its monopolized form, was dead. The process of accumulation was no longer self-propelling. The historic need for socialism asserted itself, even when the proletariat failed to take power, by the fact that “planning” became a necessity even for the capitalist state.

This “planning,” however, has nothing in common with socialist planning, In the essence of the matter, the capitalist state plan is dictated by the laws of capitalist economy, not by the needs of society. This is a greater difference than may be apparent at first. All plans are the work of man’s brain. But the laws of capitalist economy operate beyond man’s control and dominate him as long as capitalism exists. The need which the plan must serve therefore is a blind unconscious force. For this reason there can be no real planning. In socialist economy the plan is freed from capitalist economic laws. The socialist plan is based solely on society’s needs.

The relatively easy passage from the Attlee government to Churchill’s, which involved no fundamental social or economic change, demonstrates the basic capitalist character of the Labor Party’s policies.

7. Conclusions

In my letter criticizing the treatment accorded Sternberg’s work by the Pabloites, I said: “The early part of the book is devoted to ’refuting’ Marx’s law of accumulation . . .” To this Harry Frankel replied: “Comrade Tanner apparently refers to Part I of the book, which does contain such an effort. But the inaccuracy here is the word ’devoted!’ I fear that comrades who read the book may now skip this part on the strength of Comrade Tanner’s remark if it remains uncorrected. Part I, covering the period up to the first world war, is about 120 pages long. Of this section, only a few scattered pages are ’devoted’ to the attacks on Marx, Engels and Lenin, while over a hundred pages give a very good statistical review of the rise of capitalism from 1848 to 1914.”

Let me remove from the discussion the question of statistics and whether the book should be read or not. Statistics are always valuable to Marxists whether compiled by Sternberg or the U.S. Department of Commerce. But .the selection of statistics always serves the theoretical views of the economist. Sternberg’s statistics are on the whole drawn from the surface phenomena of the market, and deal with results rather than causes. Lenin in his book Imperialism presents statistically the internal changes in industrial capital that operated as a cause for the phenomena that Sternberg only describes. By divorcing the result from its cause Sternberg draws a false picture of the result. Thus, describing capitalist expansion up to World War I we get an avoidable crisis instead of an inevitable one; a “stable” capitalism just on the eve of its world collapse, etc.

The Pabloites, by painting up Sternberg’s book, assist him in this attack on Marxism. Frankel, for example, tells us that “only a few scattered pages are devoted to the attacks on Marx, Engels and Lenin.” Clarke calls it an “aid to the study of Marxism.” And Pablo, the head of the cult, calls it a ’precious working tool.”

It is not true that Sternberg explicitly polemicizes with Marxists in “only a few scattered pages.” The underlying method and the whole edifice is built on reformist anti-Marxist theories. Sternberg doesn’t consciously “refute” Marx’s law of polarization in a few pages and then write 100 pages unconsciously showing how this law is demonstrated as the essential trend of capitalism in its 100-year history. Sternberg doesn’t consciously “refute” Lenin’s theory of imperialism, which explained the first major result of the laws of accumulation and then unconsciously demonstrate that imperialism is a necessary outgrowth of capitalist accumulation. Sternberg doesn’t even bother to refute explicitly Marx’s theory of the crisis, but every chapter of his book flows from the anti-Marxist, reformist theory of production-consumption relations.

Moreover, I haven’t taken up his attacks on the “errors” of Marx and Engels on such questions as revolutionary optimism, colonial development, capitalist agriculture, the theory of the inevitability of socialism; nor his anti-Marxist view on the class nature of the Soviet Union, his Menshevik attack on the Bolshevik “dictatorship of the party,” and his characterization of Lenin as a “modest dictator.” I haven’t answered his jingoistic support of “democratic” imperialism in the Second World War and his Rooseveltian “New Dealism“; nor his miserable cover-up of the Moscow Trials; and a host of other questions. I have dealt only with theoretical and political fallacies in Sternberg’s work that are sufficiently fundamental to establish that the book has no real claim to “scientific solidity” and “objectivity.”

For Pablo, the break with Trotskyism meant that a new atmosphere had to be created. Defenders of Marx against Sternberg, Deutscher and all other revisionists had to be denounced in advance as sectarian, doctrinaire or as Cochran called it, “Talmudic.” Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky are old-fashioned, out-moded by the “new reality.” Pablo’s haste to dump the orthodox doctrines of Marxism is so great that he refers contemptuously in quotes to the Marxist classics.

We orthodox Trotskyists see in the new reality the confirmation of Marxist theory. For us the validity of the theoretical system of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky is demonstrated in the essential line of historic development.

Revisionist Pabloism on the other hand, disoriented by the “new reality,” becomes receptive to alien anti-Marxist currents flowing from the circles of reformist petty-bourgeois radicalism of both Stalinophobe and Stalinophile varieties.

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