It is a rare occasion to encounter a work which so directly confronts the central problem of our time. The globalization of capital and commodification of every conceivable area of everyday life, along with the worldwide collapse of an array of revolutionary movements, have provided a near-unshakable foundation for the claim that one or another form of capitalism defines our future.
Moreover, the failure of such societies to avoid the defects characteristic of "classic" capitalism has turned masses of working people away from the very idea of socialism itself. Mészâros insists that unless we work out what he calls a "theory of transition" that pinpoints the forms by which the revolutionary seizure of power can lead to the abolition of capital, we will be unable to extricate ourselves from the profound impasse which has been reached in the socialist movement.
The emergence of statified property as a veritable fetish in Stalin's Russia and Mao's China convinced even those opposed to Stalinism (such as the Trotskyists) that the abolition of the market and private property represented an advance upon private capitalism. Marxists dung to the assumption mat the centralization of capital and socialization of labor, even under a totalitarian regime, proved that history was moving inexorably in the direction of socialism. Burdened by this assumption, they felt little need to address the question, "what happens after the revolution?"
The world which underlay these assumptions came crashing down by 1989. The 1980s proved without a shadow of a doubt that the centralization of capital and socialization of labor when held within the integument of the capital-form did not bring humanity closer to a socialist future, but instead dovetailed with the prerequisites of high-tech "free market" capitalism. Mészâros shows that the nature of contemporary capitalism makes it more problematic than ever to presume that the existing material conditions can be directly appropriated for building a non-capital-producing society. For the reproduction of capital today requires a level of destructiveness of environmental resources and human creativity unprecedented in human history. Given its inherent social and natural destructiveness, it would be the height of foolishness to presume that a post-revolutionary society can base itself on the social productivity of capital.
Utilizing the existing material conditions through a mere change of property forms, redistribution of income, or elimination of the personifications of capital can in no way lead to improved conditions of life. The very internal dynamic and social hierarchies which constitute the domination of labor by capital must begin to be broken down in the immediate aftermath of a revolutionary seizure of power; otherwise, not even the most minimal progress can be recorded… Download the full review:
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