Workers Vanguard No. 1032
18 October 2013
John Bellamy Foster & Co.: Ecosocialism Against Marxism
The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a new comprehensive review of climate-related scientific research on September 27. The authoritative report finds that recent warming of the planet is, in its words, “unequivocal” and that human activity is “extremely likely” to be the primary cause. As the world continues to heat up, sea-level rise and the loss of Arctic sea ice are expected to be somewhat greater than was forecast in the IPCC’s previous report, issued in 2007, although extremes of weather will likely not be as bad as some headlines have suggested.
Predictably, the “climate skeptics” launched a fusillade of anti-scientific drivel in an attempt to discredit the report, whereas the full spectrum of environmentalists read it as sounding the alarm for immediate government action. Among the green missionaries is System Change Not Climate Change: The Ecosocialist Coalition (SCNCC). This lash-up was initiated by the reformists of the International Socialist Organization (ISO), along with the Solidarity group, in the name of “bringing together eco and socialism.” Other endorsers include the fake Trotskyists of Socialist Action, the left-wing intellectuals of Monthly Review, the spiritually minded Ecosocialist Horizons and chapters of the small-time capitalist Green Party.
For young radical activists, it might seem a natural to try to fuse eco-radicalism with socialism. But environmentalist ideology and socialism are entirely irreconcilable. All variants of environmentalism are an expression of bourgeois ideology, offering fixes predicated on class-divided society and the reinforcement of scarcity. Marxists fight for a society that will provide more for the toiling and impoverished masses and ultimately eliminate material scarcity altogether. To this end, it will take a series of workers revolutions across the globe to rip the mines, factories and other means of production from the grip of their private owners, paving the way for an internationally planned, collectivized economy.
Until then, the profit-driven capitalist system—marked by the anarchy of production and the furious chase for markets, the division of the world into nation-states and the accompanying interimperialist rivalries—will remain a fundamental barrier to addressing the unintended human-derived contribution to climate change. Decaying modern capitalism also greatly exacerbates the potential toll of a warming world on mankind. The wretched conditions imposed by the imperialists on Third World countries make their populations especially vulnerable to climate change, not to mention disease, famine and other ever-present ravages. (These issues are taken up in depth in our two-part article “Capitalism and Global Warming,” WV Nos. 965 and 966, 24 September and 8 October 2010.)
In contrast to revolutionary Marxism, for the eco crowd the villain is growth, and their watchword is less. Proposals to limit consumption and cut back production dovetail with capitalist austerity measures. The main political organization of the environmentalists, the Green Party, is open about its defense of production for private profit, simply favoring small-scale enterprise. The 13th-richest person in the world, the union-hating Michael Bloomberg, is an outspoken environmentalist who, after Superstorm Sandy, proposed that New York City “lead the way” in battling climate change. Even if the city rulers take steps to protect Wall Street from storm surges like the one that accompanied Sandy, it will still be hell—and perhaps high water—for those in public housing. Then there are the many large corporations, such as DuPont, not about to be mistaken for a paragon of virtue, that have voluntarily adopted the emissions goals of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
Most SCNCC supporters do not openly subscribe to the primitivism at the core of the environmentalist worldview, preferring to focus on dispensing policy advice to the bourgeoisie. Nevertheless, the ISO and its SCNCC partners proceed from the false equation of capitalism with economic growth. The putative anti-capitalism of these and other eco-socialists is simply another means of arriving at the doorstep of an anti-growth agenda, providing a thin reddish veneer on retrograde green nostrums.
Take one of its foremost luminaries, Monthly Review editor John Bellamy Foster, who has written or coauthored several books published by Monthly Review Press. Foster’s seminal work, Marx’s Ecology (2000), paints Marxism as “deeply, and indeed systematically, ecological.” In a February 2010 interview, Foster opined: “We need a new economic structure focused on enough and not more. An overall reduction in economic scale on the world level, particularly in the rich countries, could be accompanied by progress in sustainable human development.”
Progress in human development, i.e., ending misery and want, will not result from curtailing production but from raising it to unparalleled heights. By lifting the dead hands of private profit and property rights, the proletarian seizure of power would give great impetus to economic growth. In this event, humanity also will be best equipped to consciously marshal its collective resources to meet both known and unforeseen challenges, including climate change.
Our vision of the socialist future accords with that expressed by the great Marxist revolutionary Leon Trotsky in an article titled “If America Should Go Communist,” which was published in the 23 March 1935 issue of Liberty Magazine. In describing the vistas that would be opened by a victorious socialist revolution in the world’s most advanced capitalist country, Trotsky wrote:
“Should America go Communist as a result of the difficulties and problems which your capitalist social order is unable to solve, it will discover that Communism, far from being an intolerable bureaucratic tyranny and individual regimentation, will be the means of greater individual liberty and shared abundance....
“National industry will be organized along the line of the conveyor belt in your modern continuous-production automotive factories. Scientific planning can be lifted out of the individual factory and applied to your entire economic system. The results will be stupendous.”
It should be noted that Trotsky was writing long before U.S. industry was hollowed out by its capitalist owners—a deterioration that itself points to the need for the working class to overthrow the capitalist order.
Intellectual Dishonesty and Opportunism
In 2002, Foster published Ecology Against Capitalism, a collection of essays written between 1993 and 2001. Leaning on sociologist Allan Schnaiberg, Foster described capitalism as “a treadmill of production” that consumes ever greater quantities of limited natural resources while disgorging their waste products into the environment:
“Clearly, this treadmill leads in a direction that is incompatible with the basic ecological cycles of the planet. A continuous 3 percent average annual rate of growth in industrial production, such as obtained from 1970 to 1990, would mean that world industry would double in size every twenty-five years.... It is unlikely therefore that the world could sustain many more doublings of industrial output under the present system without experiencing a complete ecological catastrophe. Indeed, we are already overshooting certain critical ecological thresholds.”
Ecology Against Capitalism in its own way mirrored bourgeois ideological triumphalism in the aftermath of the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union in 1991-92. Communism was declared “dead” and capitalism was trumpeted as an ever-expanding global system. Government policies in the major capitalist countries, especially control of the money supply and interest rates, would supposedly henceforth ensure permanent and steady economic growth. Bourgeois economists coined the term the “Great Moderation” to describe conditions in North America and West Europe: low inflation and relatively shallow and short-lived economic downturns.
But then came the financial crisis of 2007-08, plunging the capitalist world into the deepest and most prolonged economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The Great Moderation gave way to the Great Recession. Mass unemployment, savage cuts in wages and benefits and the slashing of government-provided social programs (fiscal austerity) became the order of the day.
Logically, Foster should have welcomed the current downturn since he identified the expansion of production with increasing environmental degradation. Fewer automobiles manufactured and on the road mean less atmospheric pollution. With less income, working-class families are forced to “conserve energy” by reducing their heating in the winter and air-conditioning in the summer. However, Foster does not argue that the Great Recession has brought certain ecological benefits. To do so would provoke a hostile response from the young left-minded activists—e.g., those who identified with the Occupy movement—to whom he appeals.
So he sings a different tune about what’s wrong with capitalism. Last year, he came out with the book The Endless Crisis: How Monopoly-Finance Capital Produces Stagnation and Upheaval from the U.S.A. to China. It begins:
“The world economy as a whole is undergoing a period of slowdown. The growth rates for the United States, Europe, and Japan at the center of the system have been sliding for decades. In the first decade of this century these countries experienced the slowest growth rates since the 1930s; and the opening years of the second decade look no better. Stagnation is the word that economists use for this phenomenon.”
The “treadmill of production” has disappeared. Instead, we are told that the core countries of world capitalism have been mired in economic stagnation for decades and beset by perpetual crises. Foster continues: “In human terms it means declining real wages, massive unemployment, a public sector facing extreme budget crises, growing inequality and a general and sometimes sharp decline in the quality of life.” Notably absent from this list of ills is environmental degradation. In his speeches, Foster is known to describe capitalism both as a constant growth engine when addressing the “environmental crisis” and as a victim of stagnation when addressing the fiscal crisis, and never the twain shall meet.
From New Left Maoism to Green Radicalism
Foster’s views are conditioned by his longstanding association with Monthly Review. In the 1960s and early-mid ’70s, it was the main journal propagating Maoism (the Chinese variant of Stalinist ideology) in American left-wing intellectual/academic circles. Today a professor of sociology at the University of Oregon, Foster attended Evergreen State College in Washington State as an undergraduate in the early 1970s, when he first came under the influence of Monthly Review and its leading figures, Paul Sweezy and Harry Magdoff.
The Maoist-Stalinist politics expounded by Monthly Review originated as the ideological expression of what Trotsky described as the bureaucratic degeneration of the Soviet workers state in the mid 1920s-30s. Rejecting and fearing the fight for international proletarian revolution, which animated the Bolshevik Party that led the October Revolution of 1917, the ruling bureaucratic caste under J.V. Stalin put forward the doctrine of “building socialism in one country.” This dogma turned Marxism on its head. Socialism is a society of material abundance in which class distinctions are being finally overcome. Despite its possession of abundant natural resources, the USSR could not on its own surpass the material level of the advanced capitalist countries, which exerted economic and military pressures that eventually brought about the destruction of the Soviet workers state.
China experienced a profound social revolution in 1949 that overthrew capitalism and liberated the country from imperialist subjugation. The subsequent establishment of a planned, collectivized economy brought great social gains to workers, peasants and deeply oppressed women. However, the revolution, issuing out of a peasant-guerrilla war, was deformed from its inception under the rule of Mao Zedong’s Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime, a materially privileged, bureaucratic caste resting atop the workers state.
The Mao regime was modeled politically, economically and ideologically on Stalin’s Russia, although China in this period was far more backward than the Soviet Union. Mao’s version of “building socialism”—especially during the so-called “Cultural Revolution” that began in the mid 1960s—glorified the Spartan virtues of self-denial and self-sacrifice. While today’s CCP bureaucrats are not known for professing such nostrums—to say the least—they share Mao’s opposition to the Marxist program of world proletarian revolution. Challenges to the capitalist order would give impetus to the Chinese proletariat to sweep away the Stalinist caste that has politically suppressed it and appeased the imperialists.
To understand the appeal of Maoism as propagated by Monthly Review for critical-minded, young American intellectuals like Foster, it is necessary to consider the outlook and evolution of the self-described New Left. In the late 1950s-early ’60s, a generation of young liberal idealists, mainly college students, was propelled leftward by the mass black struggle against racist oppression domestically and the Cuban Revolution and escalating war in Vietnam internationally. Many of these radicals looked to Mao’s CCP as an alternative to the stodgy conservatism of the Moscow Stalinist bureaucracy.
In this period, the large majority of the American working class, especially its predominant white component, supported U.S. militarism abroad in the name of combating world Communism. In their own way, New Left radicals accepted but then inverted official anti-Communist ideology. The political leaders and ideological spokesmen for U.S. imperialism claimed that capitalism was superior to Communism in Soviet Russia, not to speak of “Red China,” because it provided the American people, including industrial workers, with a much higher standard of living. New Left radicals agreed with the logic of this argument but reversed its conclusion. That working-class families could afford a late-model car, a washing machine and a TV set or two was viewed as the material basis for their support to U.S. imperialist predations in the Third World.
The Monthly Review circle sought to provide a “Marxist-Leninist” rationale for these prevalent New Left prejudices: disdain for the working class in the advanced capitalist countries combined with enthusing over “socialism” in the Third World. Sweezy argued that the working class as a whole in North America, West Europe and Japan constituted a labor aristocracy relative to the impoverished toilers of Asia, Africa and Latin America. In Monthly Review (December 1967), he wrote that Bolshevik leader V. I. Lenin “also argued that the capitalists of the imperialist countries could and do use part of their ‘booty’ to bribe and win over to their side an aristocracy of labor. As far as the logic of the argument is concerned, it could be extended to a majority or even all the workers in the industrialized countries.”
When describing the labor aristocracy, Lenin was explicit that he was not painting the entire working class in the imperialist centers with the same brush. Taking stock of England’s industrial monopoly and rich colonies in the mid 19th century, Lenin observed in “Imperialism and the Split in Socialism” (1916): “It was possible in those days to bribe and corrupt the working class of one country for decades. This is now improbable, if not impossible. But on the other hand, every imperialist ‘Great’ Power can and does bribe smaller strata (than in England in 1848-68) of the ‘labour aristocracy’” (emphasis in original). This well-paid layer can occupy a privileged social position only in relation to the working masses of the society of which it is a part.
While disparaging the working class in the advanced capitalist countries, Sweezy glorified Mao’s China for supposedly building an egalitarian socialist society in one of the poorest countries in the world. Indeed, he considered China’s poverty a socialist virtue while crediting Mao with overcoming and eliminating what he contended were remnants of bourgeois ideology embedded in classical Marxist doctrine: “It was only in China, where of all countries in the world conditions were most favorable for revolution, that Marxism could finally be purged of its (essentially bourgeois) economistic taint” (Monthly Review, January 1975). By “economistic taint,” Sweezy meant the identification of socialism with qualitatively raising the material and cultural level of society.
At the time, we polemicized against those intellectuals like Sweezy and Charles Bettelheim who had revived the anti-Marxist doctrines of primitive egalitarianism and “socialist” asceticism:
“Far more so than Moscow-line Stalinism, therefore, Maoist ideology is a sustained attack on the fundamental Marxist premise that socialism requires material superabundance through a level of labor productivity far higher than that of the most advanced capitalism....
“Maoism’s primitivism and extreme voluntarism—particularly as presented during the ‘Cultural Revolution’ period—have had great appeal for petty-bourgeois radicals in the West. It was the promise of an end to alienated labor here and now, without the whole historical period needed to raise the technological and cultural level of mankind, that enabled many of the followers of [New Left theorist Herbert] Marcuse to transfer their loyalty to Maoist China in the late 1960’s.”
—“The Poverty of Maoist
Economics,” WV No. 134,
19 November 1976
Maoism, however, lost its luster, particularly following the official rapprochement between the U.S. and China signaled by Richard Nixon’s visit to Beijing in 1972 as American bombs rained down on Indochina. By the late 1970s, it was no longer attractive to American student youth of leftist sympathies. So the Monthly Review circle latched on to the burgeoning green radical movement, which also came out of the New Left. Whence John Bellamy Foster, today the journal’s leading figure.
Bolivia and the Fraud of “Ecological Revolution”
Just as his mentors could posit the introduction of socialist relations in China through a “Cultural Revolution,” Foster does the same today in places supposedly in the throes of “ecological revolution.” In both cases, the professed values of the ruling regime are sufficient evidence of socialist achievement. This is despite the fact that whereas capitalism had been overturned in China with the 1949 Revolution, the countries that Foster hails today are unmistakably capitalist.
In the book The Ecological Rift: Capitalism’s War on the Earth (2011), Foster and his coauthors proclaim: “An ecological revolution, emanating first and foremost from the global South, is emerging in our age, providing new bases for hope.” In keeping with Monthly Review tradition, they reject the unique capacity of the working class in both the advanced countries and in the neocolonial world to overturn the capitalist order and collectivize the means of production—a potential based on the proletariat’s role in making the wheels of industry turn. Instead, Foster & Co. posit an “environmental proletariat” consisting of “the third world masses most directly in line to be hit first by the impending disasters,” especially sea-level rise, as “the main historic agent and initiator of a new epoch of ecological revolution.”
Ground Zero for this supposed revolution is Bolivia under Evo Morales, whom Foster hailed in a 2010 interview as “probably the strongest single voice for an ecological relation in the world today.” Environmentalists widely laud Morales for hosting the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in April 2010 as a counter-summit to official United Nations climate negotiations. Foster also finds evidence of his environmental proletariat in “the water, hydrocarbon, and coca wars” that “helped bring a socialist and indigenous-based political movement to power” in Bolivia.
Despite its name, the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS—Movement Toward Socialism) headed by Morales makes no bones about administering “Andean capitalism.” The social turmoil that Morales rode into office as the head of the bourgeois state involved a series of desperate struggles by Bolivia’s impoverished masses to resist imperialist exploitation. For example, the “water war” in 2000 consisted of large plebeian protests that broke out in Cochabamba after the Bechtel corporation took control of the city’s water system and jacked up rates by more than 200 percent.
In much of Latin America, popular revulsion at nakedly pro-imperialist “neoliberal” governments resulted in the election of a layer of bourgeois populists, including Morales and the late Hugo Chávez of Venezuela. This shift has nothing to do with socialism. Posing as defenders of the oppressed and exploited masses, Morales, Chávez et al. sought to co-opt and contain discontent within a capitalist framework, which necessarily means subordination to the world imperialist system. To smash the chains of imperialist oppression requires a proletarian revolution, led by a vanguard party, that shatters the bourgeois state. Such a revolution must have the perspective of spreading elsewhere in Latin America and, crucially, to the United States and other advanced capitalist countries.
The Morales regime showed its true colors this May when it unleashed violent repression against a nationwide strike called by the country’s largest union federation, far from the first time that it had suppressed workers and peasants struggles. The strike had galvanized tin miners, teachers and health care workers in the fight for better pensions. Police repeatedly attacked, gassed and beat striking workers, arresting hundreds. The guns have also been turned on the indigenous population. In September 2011, the government carried out a bloody crackdown on a protest against the building of a new highway through indigenous lands. The brutal assault by paramilitary police reportedly left a three-month-old baby dead.
The anti-proletarian essence of eco-socialism is captured in Foster’s salute to Morales and earlier to Chávez, which also shows how empty his “ecological revolution” is, even on its own terms. The economies of Bolivia and Venezuela are heavily dependent on natural gas and oil, respectively. Both regimes carried out partial nationalizations of their hydrocarbon industry. But it is not as if output has slowed. Indeed, in an attempt to double the production of natural gas by 2015, state-owned Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales Bolivianos is seeking both new foreign partners and new areas for exploration and production. The Bolivian government also plans to harness fossil fuel resources in national parks and protected natural areas.
Marxists defend such nationalizations as a means by which countries under imperialist domination can achieve a degree of economic independence. But these nationalizations do not herald a new socialist era. The hydrocarbon industries of Bolivia and Venezuela are part of national capitalist economies that are subordinate to the world market. In the end, nationalizing the hydrocarbon industry actually benefits the national bourgeoisies, not only at an economic level but mainly at a political level, by tying the masses ideologically to their own exploiters.
Taking a Bite Out of Consumption
There is another important element of continuity between the version of Maoism espoused by Monthly Review in the 1960s-70s and its eco-radicalism of recent decades: the condemnation of American capitalism for creating a society of excessive consumption. For Sweezy/Magdoff, the wide range of goods available to most workers in the U.S. came at the price of the impoverishment of the peoples of the Third World. For Foster, the existing level of consumption of the American populace is destroying the ecological basis for the future survival of the human species and other higher forms of animal life.
The notion that a large part of the living standard of working people in the U.S. and other advanced capitalist countries consists of artificially created wants that serve corporate profit-making has been a recurring feature of left-liberal ideology since the late 1950s. It was explicated in The Affluent Society (1958) by John Kenneth Galbraith, at the time the best known and most widely read liberal economist in the U.S. (He subsequently became an adviser to the Democratic Kennedy/Johnson administration in the 1960s.) A few years later, the identification of American capitalism with consumerism was given a “Marxist” gloss in Sweezy and Paul Baran’s Monopoly Capital (1966), a book that strongly influenced Foster. In Ecology Against Capitalism, Foster declares that “wants are manufactured in a manner that creates an insatiable hunger for more.”
At the same time, Foster criticizes mainstream green intellectuals and activists who appeal to individuals to curtail their personal consumption, i.e., reduce their “carbon footprints.” As a polemical foil, he cites Alan Durning of Worldwatch Institute, who argues: “We consumers have an ethical obligation to curb our consumption, since it jeopardizes the chances for future generations. Unless we climb down the consumption ladder a few rungs, our grandchildren will inherit a planetary home impoverished by our affluence.” Foster responds:
“This may seem like simple common sense but it ignores the higher immorality of a society like the United States in which the dominant institutions treat the public as mere consumers to be targeted with all the techniques of modern marketing. The average adult in the United States watches 21,000 television commercials a year, about 75 percent of which are paid for by the 100 largest corporations.”
Both Durning and Foster accept that the consumption levels of most Americans should be curbed, differing only in the means of accomplishing this goal. Foster worries that appeals for sacrifice in the name of some ecological morality alone would fall on deaf ears. His answer is government action to reorganize the economy. Somebody, then, would have to make decisions regarding the genuine needs of working people as opposed to their supposedly unnecessary wants. This task undoubtedly is meant to fall to Foster and other like-minded guardians of green virtue.
This focus on opulent consumer faddism is above all a petty-bourgeois critique of capitalism. For children of suburbia who turn to individual lifestyle changes to find meaning, the problem might be having too much. But “doing more with less” is not an option for the vast bulk of the population struggling each month to pay the bills and make ends meet.
Rousseauean Moralism vs. Marxist Materialism
Denunciations of the culture of consumerism did not originate in the post-World War II United States. The underlying idea that the striving of most people for higher levels of consumption is driven by artificially created wants conditioned by a competitive society based on private property was expressed in the mid 18th century by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The main intellectual influence in the European radical left before Karl Marx, Rousseau was the intellectual godfather of all later forms of leveling-down egalitarianism. Describing the world after the advent of private property, Rousseau wrote in A Discourse on the Origin of Inequality (1755):
“Free and independent as men were before, they were now, in consequence of a multiplicity of new wants, brought into subjection, as it were, to all nature, and particularly to one another....
“Insatiable ambition, the thirst of raising their respective fortunes, not so much from real want as from the desire to surpass others, inspired all men with a vile propensity to injure one another.... In a word, there arose rivalry and competition on the one hand, and conflicting interests on the other, together with a secret desire on both of profiting at the expense of others. All these evils were the first effects of property, and the inseparable attendants of growing inequality.”
Marx opposed the leveling-down egalitarianism prevalent among the socialist and communist currents in the early 19th century. The goal of communism is not to reduce people’s wants to some preconceived minimum. Rather, it is to realize and expand those wants. In a fully communist society, everyone will have access to the great variety of material and cultural wealth accumulated over the course of civilization. Consider what is required to do research in particle physics or to investigate the archaeological remains of ancient civilizations. We Marxists aspire to a future society in which all can pursue the creative scientific and cultural work hitherto restricted to a privileged few.
For Rousseau, the emergence of private property was the social equivalent of the Christian concept of original sin, the moment when all manner of evils entered into and disrupted mankind’s natural harmony:
“The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying ‘This is mine,’ and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not anyone have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: ‘Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody’.”
In opposition to Rousseau’s moralistic idealism, Marx applied a dialectical materialist understanding to the history of the human species. To reach a communist society, mankind must traverse a lengthy epoch of class-divided societies in which the majority is exploited and oppressed by a small minority of property owners:
“Although at first the development of the capacities of the human species takes place at the cost of the majority of human individuals and even classes, in the end it breaks through this contradiction and coincides with the development of the individual; the higher development of individuality is thus only achieved by a historical process during which individuals are sacrificed.” [emphasis in original]
—Theories of Surplus-Value,
Part II (Moscow, 1968)
In Marx’s Ecology, Foster makes a big deal about upholding dialectical materialism. However, his actual outlook is essentially Rousseauean, not Marxist. Thus, in his earlier Ecology Against Capitalism, he describes the capitalist ruling elite as representing a “higher immorality” and condemns capitalism for bringing about the perversion of humanity and degradation of nature:
“By reducing the human relation to nature purely to possessive-individual terms, capitalism thus represents (in spite of all of its technological progress) not so much a fuller development of human needs and powers in relation to the powers of nature, as the alienation of nature from society in order to develop a one-sided, egoistic relation to the world.”
The left wing of the green milieu—neo-Rousseauean in its basic outlook—is especially incensed by the statement in Marx and Friedrich Engels’ 1848 Communist Manifesto recognizing the historically progressive character of capitalism compared to earlier modes of production: “The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together.” In Marx’s Ecology, Foster offers a halfhearted apology for this statement and then adds: “This leaves open the whole question of sustainability which they did not address in the panegyric to the bourgeoisie in the first part of the Manifesto.”
With the advent of industrial capitalism, there was for the first time a material basis for envisioning an end to scarcity and class divisions altogether. But the private ownership of the means of production increasingly acted as a brake on the further development of the productive forces. The emergence of modern imperialism at the end of the 19th century marked the onset of an epoch of global capitalist decay. The nation-state system, which had served as a crucible for the rise to power of a modern capitalist class, proved too confining to the pursuit of profit. The imperialist powers, having divided the world through bloody conquest, embarked on a series of wars for its redivision, seeking to expand their colonial holdings and spheres of influence at the expense of their rivals. The goal of proletarian revolution is to resolve the contradiction at the heart of capitalism by collectivizing the means of production, thereby making the bounty of society available to all and unleashing the productive forces.
[TO BE CONTINUED]