Part of this afternoon was spent watching “The Making of Global Capitalism: Sam Gindin & Leo Panitch with Doug Henwood” at Brecht Forum TV. As a résumé of global capitalism since Bretton Woods in particular, and as an expose of Panitch’s thesis that Marx’s contention that working class consciousness would be developed through the rise of the trade unions is fundamentally flawed, it is informative. Otherwise, however, there can be no surprises in the ground that the discussion covers.
Or are we really surprised to hear that the European and Japanese bourgeoise looked to the United States after the war, that American capitalism functions through markets but that America still has to intervene to ensure that areas don’t leave, and that finance is speculative and selling paper assets and not producing anything has become the “norm”?
Nevertheless, Pantich’s contention that Marxist political parties should renounce the thesis that any class is inherently revolutionary, in order that they might proceed and create a “self-conscious revolutionary class of wage earners,”, is sound, even if a reflection of the sort advocated by Gramsci would be required in the first instance by the members of those parties before they could function as “better others”. Unfortunately, when it comes to selling their souls it would appear that the leadership of Marxist political parties have in the past proven especially adept. The “better others” have invariably shown themselves to be at best abject failures.
Furthermore, with the ongoing technological revolution, the increasing demand for services, the appearance of capitalist China in particular, and, yes, the continued hegemony of speculative finance, the belief that a revolutionary class consciousness is on the horizon is almost absurd and, while another Marxist scholar, Slavoj Žižek, might appear to offer something to those of us who realise that there is no such a thing as capitalism with a human face, in his rather incoherent work ‘Living in the End Times’, we should realise that “hope” here is a “maybe” which might arise after a system which advocates infinite demand on a planet with finite resources inevitably collapses.