NEWS & LETTERS, July 2002 

From the Writings of Raya Dunayevskaya: MARXIST-HUMANIST ARCHIVES

Nuclear war and state-capitalism

Editor's Note

The current standoff between India and Pakistan can escalate at any moment into nuclear war, the threat of which did not end with the Cold War. Raya Dunayevskaya had discussed the superpower preparations for nuclear war in the capitalist epoch in July 1961, in "Ideas and Organization," the draft of that year's perspectives report for News and Letters Committees. We selected excerpts from that report as a contribution to the discussion about the present nuclear threat and other crises and revolts, in the feature that begins on page 1 of this issue, "Permanent war or revolution in permanence?" We welcome your thoughts on both analyses. Readers can find the original in THE RAYA DUNAYEVSKAYA COLLECTION, 3153.


[July 1961]

The very intensification of war preparations and the urgency of the times compel a return not only to principles of anti-war struggle but to the fundamentals of the new in world production…. We must concretize this new stage of automated production that seems to have made a "discontinuous" leap.

Leaps into space with Sputniks, vanguards, Luniks, orbital and sub-orbital manned flights as well as ICBMs abound; and there are plunges into the depths of the oceans with the Polaris. But yet to be seen is any serious industrialization of the underdeveloped economies or any "newer life" in the technologically advanced lands. On the other hand, just as both the Hungarian Revolution and the African Revolution opened a new stage of WORLD-CONSCIOUSNESS, so the lateness of the hour must mean the PRACTICING of Marxist-Humanist philosophy in organizational work. Nationally and internationally, the relationship between ideas and organization has ended the near-standstill in the continuity of Marxist thought, compelling regroupment….


As distinct from the Industrial Revolution at the end of the 18th century which produced our machine age, the Scientific Revolution in the mid-20th century got its spurt from the war and is wholly dominated by it. The "new weapons system" is not just a new form of "blitzkrieg." Rather it threatens the extinction of civilization altogether. Between 1949 and 1954, when Russia first broke America's A-bomb monopoly, and then achieved "parity" with her in H-bombs, it has become clear that while such "parity" becomes a minor deterrent to nuclear war today, it is a major stimulus to war tomorrow.

The "tomorrow" has moved ever nearer since October 1957 when Russia shot out front with the launching of the Sputnik. Thereby, however, hangs a tale, the TRUTH of capitalistic production—its exploitation, its "production for production's sake," its contradictory growth while degrading the worker to an appendage of a machine, and its never-ending development of the means of production at the expense of the means of consumption. For while the Sputnik shows indeed an impressive mastery of the techniques of Automation, automated production in Russia has no different CLASS content than it has in the United States. In both the conditions of labor have worsened; speed-ups in production have heightened tensions and increased industrial accidents.

The shortage of labor that continues to characterize Russian production expresses in no uncertain terms the workers' opposition to automated production. Productivity of labor, which remains THE decisive factor in the determination of a new social order, spells out Russia's industrial backwardness more definitively than its spectacular space achievements spell out its military "first-edness." To single out ICBMs, or even machine tools in order to claim the opposite is indeed what has been called "misplaced concreteness"—AND total blindness to the class content of WORLD production in the age of state-capitalism at the quintessential turning point in history called the Second Industrial Revolution.…

The radical who wants to begin arguing on capitalistically laid ground as the "rate" of industrial development in this or that country should be prepared to laud "the miracle" of West German production on the ruins of World War II. War destruction achieves overnight what the relentless process of technological revolutions and depreciation of existing capital take years to do. And the country that is modern enough to respond in terms of the latest developments in the production process—as Russia, Germany, and Japan were, but China was not—experiences "miracles." German production, Russian science, and Japanese goods are flooding the Western markets now.

On the other hand, in China, where there was no heavy industrial structure, the vastness of the land and the 600 million humans could not produce a modern steel industry, despite the State Plan. Both poles of world capital pour millions, if not to industrialize seriously the underdeveloped economies, then certainly to win the minds of men. But those lands are poorer than ever. After capitalist world domination, two-thirds of the world is still starving! Above all, the atomic age cannot promise either advanced or backward economy any "miracles" of production; a nuclear holocaust can destroy the greatest of all productive forces—humanity itself…

As the African Revolutions showed, no forces on earth can stop humanity's development forward. Where the people in the technologically backward countries dared and won independence against all odds and with the greatest speed, there you have a creative upsurge of millions of people who CAN easily master the "techniques" of industrialization PROVIDED these are available, and they will be available to them, NOT under capitalism, but when workers control production and thereby give a totally new impulse to its development.

The development from competition through monopoly to state control is only a manifestation of the INNER development of capitalist production from cooperation to manufacture through machinofacture or "the automaton." That is why Marx's analysis of capitalist development remains valid for our day. Marx discerned that the dialectic of the concentration and centralization of capital would lead, at one and the same time, to "centralization of capital in the hands of one single capitalist or one single capitalist corporation" and the unemployed army, unless "new forces and new passions" would undermine the system and build a new one.

Lenin summed up the entire difference between the Second and the Third Internationals, between those who talked socialism and those who were building it, by the sole distinction of THE CONDITIONS OF LABOR. Since old radicals no longer base themselves wholly on the proletariat, they do not stop to ask questions either as to the conditions of labor of the proletariat, or as to the "accumulated wealth" of Russian production. Consequently, they see neither that of all the industrially developed countries Russia is still backward, both in industry and in agriculture. It is the only industrially developed country that still has over 40% of its population working in agriculture. Khrushchev admits that in PER CAPITA production, the United States has a 3:1 superiority. The super jets fly above muddy roads, and housing is so scarce that the best a paternalistic Khrushchev could do to reward the first Cosmonaut was to give him a four-room apartment.

In a word, Russia may be superior in the thrust of its rockets and jet bombers and the other paraphernalia of war, but that is distinctly CAPITALISTIC. Production, continuous or "discontinuous," is following no new path in Russia, much less in China, that differs fundamentally from its development under private capitalism.

The challenge, the greatness, the maturity of our age is due to the fact, AND ONLY TO THE FACT, that the masses are so highly developed, so audacious in their challenge of the mighty, so talented in the ability to use the latest technological inventions in the remotest bushes that they need not follow the capitalist path to industrialization, provided power remains in their own hands....


…If the hallmark of our state-capitalist age is that everybody wants to lead, nobody to listen, it is no less true that many who had broken with the concept of "the party to lead" share with the "vanguardists" the disdain for the Hegelian roots of Marxism. It is not only that the inter-relationship of philosophy and politics which gave birth to Marxism as theory and the PRACTICE of theory had so long been stored away as a mere "heirloom." It is, above all, that they are blind to "the masses AS REASON."

It becomes necessary therefore once again to repeat our ABC's:

Over 100 years ago Marx saw that the very degradation of the laborer to an appendage of the machine would produce in him a "striving for univeralism." The Marxian theory of liberation, which was born out of the actual struggles of the proletariat of his time, was so deeply rooted in Hegelian philosophy—is, in fact, ORGANICALLY inseparable from it—because it was that which supplied the "missing link" between history as "accident" and history as a totality of the past and present actions of men which determines their future.

Marx's concept of revolution was likewise "total"—the old torn up by its roots in depth and in breadth and new dimensions created. The "negation of negation" was not merely the abolition of capitalism but the abolition of all that stems from it: the division between mental and manual labor, between science and philosophy, between work and life.

Marx developed his theory of the unity of thought and action, philosophy and revolution, because he held a vision of a new world, or "positive Humanism," which involved the unfolding of the world's greatest historic live drama of human liberation, a self-creation by millions of human beings who would reshape history "not out of whole cloth," but as they found it in fact, in the class struggles, a world they had not created, though they had [produced] all its material goods. To him history was not for contemplation: it was for the knowledgeable building of the future.

It was not a "hereafter"; it was to begin this very day in the struggles which would unite theory and practice, release the untapped creative energies of ever new millions, thus ending the "pre-history" or CLASS history of man, and beginning his true, HUMAN history.

The grandeur of this vision was lost by the "Marxists" after Marx of the days of the Socialist International (1889–1914) which had torn Marx from his Hegelian moorings, stripped him of his humanism, and transformed him into an economic determinist.

The one grain of truth which accounted for this vitiation of Marxism was the fact that Marx could not have discovered "historical materialism" had he not stood Hegel "right side up." The one grain of truth became the Big Lie long before the Russian Communist Party—after the death of Lenin—grabbed hold of it in order to arm vulgar materialism with state power, thereby establishing the counter-revolution WITHIN the revolutionary movement itself. The only new element in this post-Marxist "Marxism" was the manner in which the counter-revolution, having lost its old, private capitalistic foundations, HELD ON LIKE A VAMPIRE TO THE NEW FORMS--FROM THE SOVIET POWER TO THE STATE PLAN, INCLUDING THE VERY LANGUAGE OF MARXIST-LENINISM.

Theoretically a valuable contribution was made by us when we made public what Lenin had kept private—his PHILOSOPHIC NOTEBOOKS—written at the time he broke with established Marxism and returned instead to the origins in Hegelian philosophy, especially Hegel's SCIENCE OF LOGIC.

As we showed in MARXISM AND FREEDOM, all of Lenin's works and actions from then on were permeated with the new sense of contemporaneity of "the dialectic"—the self-movement, the self-activity, the self-organization, the self-development of those who would reconstruct society on new beginnings through a unity of thought and action.

This never meant to us that there was nothing left for our generation to do but to repeat Lenin. Our own return to the dialectic, though based on Marx and Lenin, had entirely new foundations: 1) the American workers, who, in their battle with Automation, raised the questions of alienated labor and the question of a new relationship between thinking and doing; 2) the East European revolts, beginning in East Germany in 1953, going through the ferment in Poland, and coming to a climax in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Since the publication of MARXISM AND FREEDOM we added the third new foundation opened by the African Revolutions....

Our generation has witnessed a total transformation into opposite of the Soviet state (into a state-capitalist society). But at the opposite pole, we witness at the same time the complete maturity of the masses even in the most underdeveloped countries—Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa above all. When the African Freedom Fighters made themselves heard, they did so not only as fighters against oppression, but as builders of a totally new philosophic foundation—the universalism of technology becoming the basis for a new humanism which will embrace the whole world...

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