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Fourth International, December 1949


Editorial Review

The Quest for Capitalist Stability


From Fourth International, Vol.10 No.11, December 1949, pp.326-327.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Paris, November 1949

When the first session of the Strasbourg European Assembly came to a close last September and its deliberations were made public, the capitalist press was unanimous in observing that it was “still far from its aims” and that the “big problems – the creation of a European currency and of a European central reserve bank, the development of the Ruhr, etc. ...” (that is, everything that could contribute to a capitalist “unification” of Europe) had been “tabled.” This was so because the antagonisms between the capitalist powers manifested themselves in the Assembly itself and because, even if a solid capitalist front could have been created, the problems involved do not lend themselves to capitalist solutions.

The problem, in effect, is one of resolving the economic imbalance between Europe and America which expresses itself on the monetary plane by the dollar shortage of Western Europe. Western Europe has shown itself incapable of paying for its vital imports from America, imports which exceed by far its exports to the dollar zone. Theoretically there are three ways out of this situation:

  1. To continue the financing of imports with American credits, that is to prolong the Marshall Plan even after 1952.
  2. To offset the deficit in dollars by conquering a corresponding sector of the American market.
  3. To offset the deficit by conquering a sector of the colonial and semi-colonial market which would have the same relation to Europe that Europe has to America; in other words to conquer a sector which purchases more from Europe than it sells to it and has a deficit equal to Europe’s deficit to America.

The first solution is not a solution: it does not grapple with the problem and, on the other hand, weighs down the American budget with a burden it cannot carry indefinitely. The third solution is unrealizable because it does not take into consideration the contraction of the colonial market resulting from the upheavals which have occurred after World War II particularly in the Far East, and because of the grabbing of a more and more important sec-tion of what remains of the colonial domain by American imperialism, obviously at the expense of all the other imperialist powers.

There remains only the second solution. But here also the difficulty turns out to be of an organic character rather than merely commercial, financial, technical. The conquest of an important sector of the American market, to use the expression of a French journalist, entails raising the European productive machine from its present low stage to the next and higher stage, equivalent to the potential, technology and productivity of the American productive plant. The attainment of such an objective would require time and fundamentally different economic and political conditions than now prevail in Western Europe. Essentially it would require a real unification of European economy to allow for rational planning which is the only way to enable it to effectively compete with the American economy. But here it encounters the insurmountable difficulty of its capitalist structure whose antagonistic, competitive character rebels against all planning and exists on the international plane as well as internally in each country.

The force of these antagonisms expressed itself as strongly in the discussions held in the European Assembly at Strasbourg between the representatives of England and of Continental Europe in particular, as it had in the devaluation of the pound. In reality what has happened since the inauguration of the Marshall Plan can be summarized as follows: each European bourgeoisie, far from inclining to unification of Europe, has utilized its share of American credits (a share which it has constantly endeavored to increase at the expense of its European partners) to reconstruct its own productive apparatus and to conquer the largest possible part of the world market, in an unremitting struggle against all the others.

Up to now England has excelled in this race of autarchy and competition for two reasons:

  1. because it has benefited from the resources and customers of the Empire in an attempt to sustain the effects of American pressure within the framework of Empire possibilities;
  2. because, it would run the risk, in the event of Ihe failure of this attempt, of losing everything and of being reduced to the status of a second-rate power.

The devaluation of the pound was a unilateral attempt by Britain to temporarily check the drain of its currency and gold caused by its dollar deficit, and by means of the new “combat rate” of the pound to capture a part of the world market from all the other capitalist powers including the United States. The ruthless devaluation of the pound has caused an almost general devaluation of all other currencies. In the disorder and confusion which followed in the wake of this “earthquake,” the shaky scaffolding of the European Union erected in Strasbourg collapsed pitifully. They then laid the blame on “Perfidious Albion” who had suddenly “deserted” the continent and had begun to engage in secret deals for privileged treatment; from the United States.

However, it is not very likely that the devaluation of the pound will give England more than a breathing spell and, it will be demonstrated that it is in reality waging its last “fight” as a great capitalist power. Devaluation alone will not give England or the other capitalist countries any real advantage if it is not accompanied by wage-freezing ond higher productivity. And even in this case, devaluation will result in a redivision of the world market in the interests of the most favored competitor and not at all in an enlargement of the market.

Up to now, everything that has happened since the institution of the Marshall Plan, has in reality benefited only American imperialism. The economic and military assistance which the capitalist countries were compelled to accept actually enabled trie US to gradually remove the barriers to the free circulation of its goods and capital throughout the world. England was the only capitalist power in a position to continue its resistance and to defend its Empire. It too had to yield. Before the advent of devaluation, it had been obliged, during the tri-partite parleys in Washington, to make a series of economic and military concessions in South-East Asia, in the Middle East and in India, which are nothing else in the “final analysis than the transformation of the British Empire into an American empire.” (Le Monde, October 29)

At present, when the most serious organs of the capitalist press in the Atlantic Pact countries are unanimous in recognizing the “crisis of Europe and the Marshall Plan” (a crisis now manifesting itself in the collapse of European unity and of the European balance of payments), American imperialism, brandishing the threat of a wholesale reduction of credits and even of their suspension, will tfy to smash the last bulwarks which keep continental Europe and England itself from falling into its clutches.

It is not a matter of trying to “realize the Utopian dream of the United States of Europe.” (Le Monde, October 28) The countries involved would be satisfied merely with concluding “regional treaties” within the general framework of the Strasbourg European Assembly with the aim of facilitating “trade and exchange.” Thus instead of a genuine economic unification of Europe which would permit rational planning, they substitute the shoddy alternative of European cooperation on the plane of trade and payments. What will happen to Europe in this situation?

The transaction will be made once more to the exclusive benefit of American imperialism which will find the means, as the champion of liberalism, to comfortably circulate its goods and especially to fruitfully place its abundant capital in the most solvent spots of European and world economy. An American satellite – with or without the label of “the 49th state,” a label which European politicians and journalists no longer hesitate to apply – liiat is the capitalist future of Europe which will inevitably create a “social disequilibrium,” which will make it necessary to appeal to “police authority” and to the “strong state” in order “to maintain social order.” (Conclusions of the poll in Le Monde, September 29: Does Europe want to exist?) In the meantime the masses are required to pay at orice by a new and drastic reduction of their standard of living, the consequence of currency manipulation and the raising of productivity.

In reality, the disequilibrium they speak of is not a problem of the future but already exists and becomes more acute. It involves the totality of the capitalist world because it is basically an organic disequilibrium caused by the unequal development of capitalism and by the structural changes which have occurred particularly during the last war and the upheavals that followed. The American productive plant had far ‘outdistanced tha’t of ruined, impoverished, divided Europe while a number of colonial and semi-colonial countries have thrown off the direct yoke of imperialism and have entered the road of industrialization. On the other hand, the USSR has extended its control over a large part of Europe and Asia, thus removing an important sector of the world market from imperialist penetration and further aggravating the crisis of markets which constantly confronts every capitalist country in its attempt to expand.

The consequence of these changes is expressed in a fundamental and organic disequilibrium which capitalism will not be able to overcome. For the present, American imperialism can still allay the disastrous effects of this situation on its own economy by crushing the other capitalist powers, by expropriating them for its own benefit. But on this road it destroys at the same time those economic and social foundations on which its power in Europe rests .and prepares the explosions which will blow up its own system.

In the face of a capitalist world ravaged by such disorder and such contradictions, the example of the USSR and the so-called “people’s democracies” could have served by its very presence as the most powerful lever for the revolutionary struggles of the masses of the capitalist countries and the colonies. Unfortunately the policy of exploitation of the masses and the police terror practised by the Soviet bureaucracy in the USSR and in its zone of influence discredits communism and prolongs the death agony of capitalism. Desiring to perpetuate the exploitation of the countries under its influence for its own interests, the Soviet bureaucracy has opposed up to the present any unification of their economies and rational planning. Eastern Europe, aligned with the economy of the USSR could have constituted a living example, an irresistible attraction, a demonstration of what the unification of Europe would mean, and of the immense and immediate possibilities of a socialist economy.

More than ever is it necessary for every independent revolutionary organization to propagate among the broadest masses the urgency and realism of the revolutionary program of the Socialist United States of Europe against the disintegration and decay of capitalist Europe and against the perpetuation of a divided and exploited Eastern Europe under the heel of the Kremlin.

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