by Tom Watts

Revolution advances in waves, and between these are periods of reaction. After the upsurge of the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s, we went through a long period of reaction. The capitalists won the “Cold War,” and they proclaimed their “New World Order.”

Those who expected the revolution to move straight ahead from victory to victory were disillusioned, while those who proclaimed the class war over and done were greatly mistaken. The victory of capitalist-imperialism in the “Cold War” only served to accelerate its decline and hasten the unfolding of the crisis inherent in the system. Capitalism is outmoded and dysfunctional. It cannot solve the problems it creates. Instead of general prosperity it is creating world poverty, mass unemployment, economic crisis, debt crisis, food crisis, health crisis and environmental crisis.

The Amerikan Dream unfolds as a nightmare of stolen and broken hopes and possibilities; a chaotic mix of violence, greed and decadence; false religion and fake reformism. People get ground down and fed to the dogs. Pigs fly and drop shit from helicopters. Rats gnaw on the bones of ghetto saints in the alleys where homeless children play. Everywhere there are false promises and fake sincerity as the pitchmen promise packaged satisfaction, recovery to be around the next corner and pie in the sky when you die.

The anarchy of production leads to a cycle of boom and bust – but even more fundamentally to a permanent downward cycle of declining rate of profit, overproduction, speculation and soaring debt. Fewer and fewer people can be profitably exploited by the capitalists as workers and more and more become marginalized and cut off from a “normal life” of work, raising a family and saving for retirement. The end of this epoch must come soon, because all that capitalism has left to offer is the “New Slavery” of the prison industrial complex, unending imperialist wars, a climate of fear and a fascist police state.

Half the people in the world are trapped in dead-end, grinding poverty so severe many mothers feed their children mud-cakes to quell their hunger pains. Continents rich in resources and fertile land lie caught in the web of imperialist finance and dollar diplomacy and can only create zones of liberation by the gun: Building for the future by breaking away from imperialism’s grip through people’s war. Surrounding the cities with the countryside, they march on forest trails with AK rifles and homemade bombs to place on roadsides, while the imperialists blow the tops off mountains to get at their mineral resources. While jn and around the cities masses of poor live in shanty towns trying to scrape together the scratch to survive another day and not be swallowed by the abyss of depression and hunger.

The end of this epoch must come soon, because all the needless suffering of humanity demands it. The needs of the many must overcome the greed of the few. Reason must overcome oppression and institute social justice. The people must prevail by building unity, organizing and refusing to be slaves anymore. Only a revolutionary people can make the future bright.



History is not linear but more like a spiral, history advances in waves. Each stage has a beginning, a middle and an end, wherein quantitative changes give rise to qualitative leaps, taking us from one plane to another, or one epoch of history to another.

All things exist as a unity of opposites and derive their character from the aspect that is principal within them. When, through struggle, the secondary aspect becomes the principal one, a revolution takes place, redefining the character of the thing. Thus do things transform into their opposites and the new replaces the old. Things evolve as quantitative changes shift the balance between the opposing aspects of a thing leading to a radical rupture with the past and a new beginning.

A counter-revolution takes place when the old overpowers the new and there is a qualitative leap backwards, or de-evolution. Revolution is the main trend in history, but reactionary forces work to retard the advance and set back history while they are able. This in essence is the struggle between Left and Right. None-the-less, the trend is for things to develop from lower to higher forms and for the new to replace the old. How torturous and violent this process will be depends upon the reactionary forces.

This process can be defined as Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis, wherein each new synthesis becomes the new thesis and the process repeats itself until there is a resolution of the contradiction. Each wave of change advances the struggle creating quantitative changes. Waves vary in size, intensity and duration. Prolonged periods of reaction are generally followed by intense waves of revolution.

Thus was the case in the Great October Revolution in Russia and the Chinese Revolution, where centuries of reaction that held back progress were swept away by the masses of the people under Communist leadership. The great waves of the World Proletarian Socialist Revolution were harbingers of a still greater wave that will sweep away the system of capitalist-imperialism and bring to an end the long Epoch of Class Exploitation.

In the history of human social evolution, the primary period of Primitive Communalism, which lasted tens of thousands of years, was negated by the advent of the division of society into exploiting and exploited classes—in the Epoch of Exploitation. This epoch has proceeded from lower to higher forms, beginning with chattel slavery, passing through feudalism to capitalism. Monopoly Capitalism—or capitalist-imperialism—is the highest and final stage of this epoch.

Between this epoch and the next, that of World Communism, there is necessarily a transitional stage of proletarian socialist revolution. We might have proceeded directly from the successes of the Soviet and Chinese revolutions to the victory of the World Socialist Revolution. But that didn’t happen, instead a wave of reaction in the form of modern revisionism swept the “Socialist Camp” undermining socialist reconstruction and leading to capitalist restoration and the victory of U.S. imperialism in the “Cold War.”

The “negation of the negation” that ends the Epoch of Class Exploitation was thus postponed. While capitalist pundits proclaimed the “End of History” and that “Socialism doesn’t work,” all it really demonstrated was that history does not advance in a straight line. But Marxism already knew this.

The victory in the “Cold War” made U.S. Imperialism the sole imperialist superpower, but it has since been unable to consolidate its global hegemony. Instead, it has accelerated the decline and decay of the Monopoly Capitalist system. For one thing, the high cost of maintenance of its military superiority and of its unsuccessful military adventures has transformed the U.S. from the biggest lender to the biggest debtor in the world. As Mao predicted, “all military bases of the United States on foreign soil are so many nooses round the neck of U.S. imperialism. The nooses have been fashioned by the Americans themselves and by nobody else, and it is they themselves who have put these nooses round their own necks, handing the ends of the ropes to the Chinese people, the peoples of the Arab countries and all the peoples of the world who love peace and oppose aggression. The longer the U.S. aggressors remain in those places, the tighter the nooses round their necks will become.”

Today there is much talk of the U.S. preparing for a war with Russia and China, not because they represent socialism but because they represent potential rivals for global capitalist-imperialist hegemony. But the whole system of capitalist-imperialism is in crisis. China owns the bulk of U.S. debt and a crash in the U.S. economy will crash the economies of China and Russia as well. Nuclear war will wipe out life on this planet. The alternative of World Proletarian Socialist Revolution is the only possible resolution of the “perfect storm” of crises conjured up by dying monopoly capitalism that leads to a bright future for humanity.

Such a solution can only come from the independent action of the masses on a global scale. The Theory of Revolutionary Intercommunalism, put forward by Huey P. Newton, the Minister of Defense of the original Black Panther Party outlines a new strategy for globalized revolution, one in which the oppressed people themselves can seize the reigns of power and transform the Monopoly Capitalist Empire into its opposite to end the Epoch of Exploitation and create a worldwide dictatorship of the proletariat.



From: Marxism and the theory of “Long Waves”

By Alan Woods (2005)

Lenin once remarked that politics is concentrated economics. It is the cornerstone of historical materialism that, in the last analysis, the viability of any socio-economic system depends upon its ability to develop the means of production. This was already explained by Marx in his Introduction to the Critique of Political Economy. Marx explains the relation between the productive forces and the “superstructure” as follows: “In the social production which men carry on they enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will; these relations of production correspond to a definite stage of development of their material powers of production… The mode of production in material life determines the general character of the social, political and spiritual processes of life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but, on the contrary, their social existence [which] determines their consciousness.”

However, Marxism has nothing in common with the well-known caricature which asserts that Marx and Engels “reduced everything to economics”. This patent absurdity was answered many times by Marx and Engels, as in the following extract from Engels’ letter to Bloch: “According to the materialist conception of history, the ultimate determining element in history is the production and reproduction of life. More than this neither Marx nor myself have asserted. Hence, if somebody twists this into saying that the economic element is the only determining one, he transforms that proposition into a meaningless, abstract and senseless phrase.”

Historical materialism has nothing in common with fatalism. Our fate is not predetermined by economic laws, nor are men and women merely puppets of blind “historical forces”. But neither are they entirely free agents, able to shape their destiny irrespective of the existing conditions imposed by the level of economic development, science and technique, which, in the last analysis, determine whether a socio-economic system is viable or not. To quote Engels: “Men make their own history, whatever its outcome may be, in that each person follows his own consciously desired end, and it is precisely the resultant of these many wills operating in different directions and of their manifold effects upon the outer world that constitutes history.” (Ludwig Feuerbach).

Thus, Marxism by no means reduces history to economics. It does not eliminate the subjective factor – the conscious activity of men and women, shaping their own destiny. In fact, Marx explained that although the development of the productive forces was decisive in the last analysis, this did not at all signify that the relation between the economic base and the “superstructure” was automatic and mechanical. Nor is it a one way process. The superstructure of politics, ideology, diplomacy and even religion, dialectically interacts on the economic base and affects its development.

In a marvelously profound letter which he wrote to Conrad Schmidt in October 1890, Engels points out that all kinds of factors can influence the development of the productive forces: “In the last analysis production is the decisive factor. But when the trade in products becomes independent of production itself, it follows a movement of its own, which, while it is governed as a whole by production, still in particular cases and within this general dependence follows its particular laws contained in the nature of this new factor; this movement has phases of its own and in turn reacts on the movement of production.” And he cites the discovery of America “due to the thirst for gold which had previously driven the Portuguese to Africa”. The latter may be considered under the heading of historical accidents, and could not have been foreseen. Yet it had the most profound consequences for the development of capitalism. Likewise, as Engels explains, the conquest of India by the Portuguese, Dutch and English had entirely unexpected results. They intended to import goods from India, and nobody even dreamed of exporting anything there. But by carrying out a military conquest they created the conditions for developing a market in India: “They first created the need for exports to these countries and developed large-scale industry.” (Marx and Engels, Selected Correspondence, pp. 778-9.)

Thus, elements which are external to the normal workings of the capitalist cycle can profoundly modify it. Wars, military conquests, scientific discoveries, even accidents – all play a role. The same is true of the state, as Engels explains in the same letter: “Society gives rise to certain common functions which it cannot dispense with. The persons selected for these functions form a new branch of the division of labour within society. This gives them particular interests, distinct too from the interests of those who give them their office: they make themselves independent of the latter and – the state is in being. And now the development is the same as it was with commodity trade and later with money trade; the new independent power, while having in the main to follow the movement of production, also, owing to its inward independence (the relative independence originally transferred to it and gradually further developed) reacts in its turn upon the conditions and course of production. It is the interaction of two unequal forces: on the one hand the economic movement, on the other the new political power, which strives for as much independence as possible, and which, once having been established, is also endowed with a movement of its own. On the whole, the economic movement gets its way, but it has also to suffer reactions from the political movement which it established and endowed with relative independence itself, from the movement of the state power on the one hand and of the opposition simultaneously engendered on the other.” (Ibid., p. 480.)

In the same letter Engels explains that even such things as religion and other ideological manifestations play an important role in the development of society and even the economy: “As to the realms of ideology which soar still higher in the air, religion, philosophy etc., these have a prehistoric stock, found already in existence and taken over in the historic period, of which we should today call bunk. These various false conceptions of nature, of man’s own being, of spirits, magic forces, etc., have for the most part only a negative economic basis; but the low economic development of the prehistoric period is supplemented and also partially conditioned and even caused by the false conceptions of nature. And even though economic necessity was the main driving force of the progressive knowledge of nature and becomes ever more so, it would surely be pedantic to try and find economic causes for all this primitive nonsense. The history of science is the history of the gradual clearing away of this nonsense or of its replacement by fresh but already less absurd nonsense. The people who deal with this belong in their turn to special spheres in the division of labour and appear to themselves to be working in an independent field. And insofar as they form an independent group within the social division of labour, in so far do their productions, including their errors, react back as an influence upon the whole development of society, even on economic development. But all the same they themselves remain under the dominating influence of economic development.” (MESC, pp. 482-3.)

What a difference there is between these carefully qualified and precise statements of Engels and the vulgar caricatures of mechanical “Marxism” which seeks to reduce the richness of dialectics to simple and barren formulae!


1. Life has its ups and downs and so do mass movements. There are times when the masses are passive and times when they are politically active and in motion. Dialectics teaches us that quantitative change gives rise to qualitative leaps. How can we contribute to the quantitative build-up to mass activism?

2. George Jackson raised the question: ““So what is to be done after a revolution has failed? After our enemies have created a conservative mass society based on meaningless electoral politics, spectator sports, and a 3 percent annual rise in purchasing power strictly regulated to negate itself with a corresponding rise in the cost of living. …What can we do with a people who have gone through the authoritarian process and come out sick to the core!!!”?

3. Alan Woods states: “It is the cornerstone of historical materialism that, in the last analysis, the viability of any socio-economic system depends upon its ability to develop the means of production.” How does Trump’s trade war with China to block cheaper solar panels, stack up from this perspective?

4. What is “Modern Revisionism” and how does it correlate with bourgeois idealism particularly “Pragmatism” and “Post-Modern Idealism”?

5. What did Engels mean by “historical accidents” and how do these mitigate the normal laws of capitalism?

6. Why is dialectical materialism not reducible to a set of formulas?

7. What is the dialectic between Science and nonsense?

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