“…(our task is)…to seek out the causes which irresistibly set in motion the last uprising and which, simultaneously, led to its failure; causes which are not to be sought in accidental efforts, talents, personal faults, errors, or in the betrayals of this or that leader, but in the general social situation and in the conditions of existence of each of the countries affected by the revolutionary agitation.”
F. Engels, Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Germany
I. First Approximations
To begin an essay on the global significance, in the United States, of the relationship of American labor militancy to politics, (and one moreover ultimately focused on the shift from the IWW to the CIO), with a discussion of the role of religion in American history may, at first, seem strange. And while America is certainly one of the most strangely religious countries (1) in the “advanced capitalist world” (to use a certain problematic formulation)(2) , religion as such has never (except in the South) weighed very heavily on the history of the American working class. One might indeed locate the IWW in particular in a “native American” radical tradition that does in fact have roots in Radical Reformation politics(3) . But religion is used here as a symptom of something else that does indeed weigh heavily on the history of the American working class, namely the role of the state, and state formation, in U.S. history. Writers on American workers’ movements in modern industrial capitalism (or even in “post-modern”, “post-industrial” capitalism)(4) do not often consider that pre-modern, pre-industrial history importantly shapes the context in which such movements arise. One need only think of the dynamics of race and three centuries of white supremacy in American history to realize that industrial capitalism (for American purposes, post-1840’s) was hardly a tabula rasa from which class politics appeared (or, more often, were submerged) and that many pre-modern, pre-capitalist developments are “recomposed” for industrial contexts(5) as much as they are obliterated by them, as earlier “modernization” schemas tended to assume. American state formation was in fact deeply influenced, (and not surprisingly), by developments in 16th and 17th century England .(6) The embroilment of religious issues with the establishment of a bourgeois-capitalist society in England in the 17th century had possibly more long-term consequences in America than it ultimately did in England itself. The settlement of the issues posed by the Tudor and then Stuart state(7) , and the established church of that state, before capitalism fully emerged from mercantilism, in England or by extension in America, meant that neither the confrontation with absolutism nor with a state religion was significant in completing the shift from mercantilism to capitalism in the U.S. On the contrary: in contrast to the constitution of a “civil society” through the actions of the absolutist state, as occurred in varying degrees on the continent, civil society in the U.S. had to create a state. The overall result was that the deep anti-clericalism which animated liberal, radical and socialist movements—always within a strictly Enlightenment framework– in Europe through the 19th and into the 20th centuries, never developed in America. Radical Protestant currents (Anabaptists, Mennonites, Quakers) initiated and predominated in anti-slavery agitation in the American colonies and in the newly-independent U.S. well before secular Enlightenment forces become seriously involved. In the Great Awakening of the 1740’s, in the Jacksonian era, in Abolitionism and in Populism, Protestant ideologies played no small role, and hardly a conservative one. Such phenomena had their parallels in working-class Methodism in England, but no continental counterpart. The role of Catholicism similarly weighs significantly (and in this instance in conservative fashion) on the episodic relationship to worker radicalism of many of the Catholic (Irish, Slavic, Italian) immigrants that constituted a growing portion of the urban industrial working class from the 1840’s onward(8) , at the same time that in their countries of origin radical and socialist anti-clericalism was recruiting newly-proletarianized peasants to socialist politics and parties(9).
Having established the very peculiar nature of American civil society relative to its European counterparts in the first half of the 19th century, when British capitalism exercised uncontested industrial hegemony in the (very limited) capitalist world then in existence, the investigation turns to the consequences of the U.S. anomaly in the decade of the 1860’s and especially after the depression of 1873, when for the first time a series of industrial competitors, led by the U.S. and Germany, began to undermine British supremacy. The rise of the U.S. and Germany at the expense of Britain (and to a lesser extent of France) was, moreover, not merely a repetition of early capitalist industrialization, but the passage to a new, “intensive” (or “Taylorized”) form of capital accumulation, succeeding the early “extensive” primitive accumulation by which British industry was built. But of the five major countries—the U.S., Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia—which in the 1860’s revamped their social relations for their respective entries into the world market, the U.S. alone managed to do so with the same “Tudor polity” established in pre- and early industrial days. Thus the emerging working-class movement in the U.S., like the earlier revolution which established capitalism, did not confront so much a central state authority but more diffuse and dispersed local forms of public and private power. In the absence of such a state, the American working class had a far more difficult time defining itself politically on a national (not to mention international) level.
Thus the basic thesis presented here is that no major working-class political party developed in the U.S. in the 20th century because in the U.S., in contrast to all other major capitalist countries, capitalism made the transition to the intensive (“Taylorist” or “Fordist”) phase of accumulation without requiring the participation of a working-class political party in the state.
Beginning in the 1970’s, innovations in historical writing known as the “new social history” raised serious and legitimate questions about earlier treatments of labor movements, focused as they tended to be on institutions such as political parties and trade unions, and on the ideologies and biographies of the more prominent leaders of those institutions. Thus historical research shifted away from the earlier patterns to in-depth monographs treating the reproduction of the daily life of specific groups of workers in specific places and times, with an instinctive mistrust of “histoire evenementielle” as it is called by the French Annales school. But, while accepting the admonitions of the new social history that it is indeed not the millwheel which makes the river flow, the focus here rejects an approach which turns so totally away from a recognition of sharp breaks in the “macro” spheres of society, politics and economics, or the reflection of such breaks in political and social institutions, and in the ideas of those who articulate their aspirations. Certain things seemed possible to English workers before the dispersion of Chartism in 1848 that did not seem possible thereafter, in the same way that the Paris June days of the same year closed certain options to French workers and opened others. The question posed by this essay, namely why a political party espousing Marxian socialism never took root in the United States, leads of necessity to the realm of both institutions and ideas and cannot be answered simply by considering the history of hod carriers in Troy, New York, or by the mere multiplication of similar studies of similar groups of workers, however useful such research might be for answering this question in a meaningful way.
To refer to a “working-class political party espousing Marxian socialism” is neither to advocate institutional history nor, still less, the history of ideas. The focus here is neither a study of the history of American Marxism, nor the history of the American labor movement as such. One can refuse to explain the failure, to date, of socialism in the U.S. or in other countries by the fact that the workers, or their leaders, “had the wrong ideas”, and still insist that ideologies, as expressions of certain kinds of social practice, play a role in history. Bernsteinian reformism in the German SPD from 1898 onward (to take one well-known example) was obviously an ideology expressing a practice already well entrenched within the German party; that practice continued to make headway after 1898 even as it was voted down again and again at party congresses, until August 1914 brought about a day of reckoning. Marx’s analysis of the capitalist mode of production and the possibility of its abolition in a higher form of social relations is a very specific one; its serious espousal within a capitalist society means one kind of practice and program, and its abandonment or relegation to window-dressing by a political movement or party means something else. Marx was very clear in insisting that communism was
“…in no way based on ideas or principles that have been invented, or discovered, by this or that would-be universal reformer…(but merely expressed)…actual relations springing from an existing class struggle, from an historical movement going on under our very eyes.” (author’s emphasis-LG)(10)
Certain types of movements express themselves through certain institutions and ideologies; other types of movements express themselves through other institutions and ideologies. Thus we hardly accord historical primacy to institutions or ideas—indeed, as it will be seen, quite the contrary—by insisting on the importance of the appearance or non-appearance of Marxian socialism as a working-class ideology in a specific country; to so insist is to show at the level of ideology the self- articulation of what a movement is, the depth and limits of its practice within a given society. The capitalist world has known many cases of working-class political parties that are explicitly non-Marxist or anti-Marxist, as in the British and Commonwealth Labour Parties, or the Social Democracies of Scandinavia and the Benelux countries. In the U.S., Marxism has occupied a marginal position in political life and there is no self-styled working-class party whatsoever. By comparing the experience of the American working class to that of countries in which either working-class political parties, or Marxism, or both, were important, one can identify more precisely the practice of the social movement of a specific class in the national specificity of a dynamic that is global, a dynamic that can be seized neither at the level of institutions, nor ideas, nor by local social histories that a priori are indifferent to the existence of such a global dynamic, and ruptures within it. That dynamic, for the purposes of this essay, is constituted by the extensive and intensive phases of capital accumulation, and the transition from one to the other over the period 1870-1945.
What, then, are these national specificities of the United States?
Numerous commentators, beginning with Tocqueville, have noted the unusual importance of religion in American life (11). But few, if any, have pinpointed the reason for this phenomenon, still less underscored its importance for the marginality of socialism in American history. For the perspective developed here, the first key to the nature of the American state and American politics, as they relate to the absence of a working-class party, is this: the foundations of American political culture were laid down, within the larger context of the Anglo-American world of the 17th century, in an historical period—the last—in which the bourgeois-capitalist revolution could still speak the language of religion.
This reality is visible in a persistent thread of American history, from the Puritans of 1620 to the Great Awakening of 1740 to similar cyclical occurrences from the 1820’s, right up to the emergence and consolidation of the Christian right from the late 1970’s to the present. Writers from as divergent perspectives as Lazare and Huntington(12) , it is true, have characterized the American state as a “Tudor polity”, referring to the maze of informal and formal types of countervailing power and the absence of a single strong authority, and many authors have discussed a “dissident Protestantism” that dominated American culture in the 17th and 18th centuries. But few if any of these characterizations fully capture the significance of the timing of the formation of the American polity relative to that of other countries(13) .
To say that the roots of American political discourse are to be found in a period in which the bourgeois-capitalist revolution could still speak the language of religion is of course to refer to the English Revolutions of 1640 and 1688(14) . Of particular interest here is the situation of the radical phase of that revolution in the late 1640’s, within the larger context of European power politics as they were fought out in the final phase of the wars of religion: the Thirty Years’ War in Germany, ending with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, coincided with the consolidation of the Bourbon state after the failure of the Fronde in France and the end of the high tide of the “millenarian” Protestant phase of the English Revolution represented by currents such as the Levellers, Diggers and Ranters. 1648 marked the symbolic end of the Renaissance-Reformation ideologies in Europe; more than a century of warfare under the banners of religion had ultimately undermined absolute claims by any side, so much had the issues of Protestantism vs. Catholicism been sullied by pragmatic affairs of state, perhaps best summarized by Henri IV’s famous 1584 remark that “Paris is well worth a mass”. 1648 also marked the consolidation, for an entire historical epoch, of the hegemony of England, Holland and France at the cutting edge of capitalist development, and the relegation of the previously central German and Mediterranean spheres to the status of underdevelopment relative to the North Atlantic economies. Because of the successful struggle against absolutist proclivities (but never full-blown absolutism in the French sense) in both the English Revolution’s attempt to subdue the monarchy and in the Dutch revolt against Spain, the absolutist-mercantilist state which, after its consolidation in France extended its influence across Europe to Prussia, Austria, Russia, Spain and Portugal, never fully took hold in the two countries—England and Holland—which fought out the battle for world capitalist hegemony in the 17th century, a battle which tilted toward England around mid-century as well. The significance of this combined demise of the total claims of religion on political life and of the mercantilist-absolutist state in economic life was that the new ideologies of Enlightenment emerging from the scientific revolutions of the mid-17th century were never compelled, in England, to do direct battle with the kind of Enlightened absolutist state with which rationalist and then Enlightenment philosophies became enmeshed on the continent. Readers of Marx’s Eighteenth Brumaire remember his summary of the English Revolution:
“…in the same way but at a different stage of development, Cromwell and the English people had borrowed for their bourgeois revolution the language, passions and illusions of the Old Testament. When the actual goal had been reached, when the bourgeois transformation of English societyhad been accomplished, Locke drove out Habbakuk.” (15)
Locke’s epistemological empiricism, with its deep distrust of the supra-sensual domain of conceptual generality, and Locke’s political pluralism (16) were developed directly in the shadow the just-concluded European religious wars and English Revolution, and its subordination of the monarchy to parliamentary controls. A century later, the French revolution was as far from the “language, passions and illusions of the Old Testament” as the deductive-geometric philosophies of Descartes or Spinoza were from Lockean empiricism and pluralism. Yet it was precisely the latter which gave its characteristic stamp to subsequent English, and then American liberal social thought. (In America, moreover, Locke fused with Habakkuk.)
Similarly, when comparing nascent English and French writers on political economy of the late 17th century, what is immediately striking as the difference between the mercantilism of a Petty or a Mun and that of French figures such as Sully and Colbert is that English mercantilism is already preoccupied essentially with the problems of gold, trade and a favorable balance of payments—the classic mercantilist themes—whereas French thought, in addition to these problems, is completely engrossed by the problem of the statist promotion of infrastructure, taxation, and what today would be called the “capitalization of agriculture”(17) . The latter were not, by the late 17th century, problems for England, because these tasks had already been accomplished in the course of English social history from the late 14th century onward (18) . Whereas, in the late 18th century, Adam Smith could advocate as policy the dismantling of mercantilist economic forms to allow English capitalism to emerge in full flower, in France the destruction of mercantilism required a world-historical revolution against both the paradigmatic absolutist state and its established religion. In England, the social stranglehold of both the absolutizing (Tudor and Stuart) state and the Anglican Church had been broken long before. Because, in England, the bourgeois-capitalist revolution was made in the period in which it was still possible, indeed necessary, to “borrow the language, passions and illusions of the Old Testament”; when, later, “Locke drove out Habbakuk”, the English Enlightenment (19) was spared the long agony of the ancien regime on the continent and the battles, both political and ideological, against the absolutist state and its established church. From that situation to Tocqueville’s remark that the absence of a state religion in America paradoxically made religion a far more important force in social life (and more a private affair) than elsewhere, there is only a step.
These realities deeply marked American development. They made it possible (once again), for social ferment (including radical social ferment) to adapt the language of the Old Testament to revival movements from the 1740’s, by way of the 1820’s prelude to Jacksonian democracy, the Abolitionist agitation against slavery to the Populist agitation against urban capitalism and Wall Street finance. (Such language, moreover, was hardly absent from the black civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s). Halevy and Thompson noted similar phenomena, such as the role of Methodism in the early working-class movement, in England, but, once again, this role of religion in 19th century democratic social ferment has no counterpart on the continent. Later, with the formation of an actual industrial working-class in the northeastern U.S., the absence of any anti-clerical tradition in American liberalism and radicalism made it possible for Catholic peasant immigrants to develop local Catholic “island communities”, deeply involved with the church, when their working-class contemporaries in the counties from which they came were going over to the anti-clericalism of liberal, radical and later socialist agitation.
There seems, therefore, to be a deep relationship between the entrenched historical traditions of an absolutist state and state religion and the subsequent rise of Marxism in the working-class movement. Without anticipating the argument, there is a near-perfect correlation, internationally, between the presence of important Communist Parties (leaving aside the somewhat different question of Eastern Europe 1945-1989(20 ), and a deep-rooted tradition of Enlightened absolutisms(21) in such countries as France, Spain, Italy(22) and Portugal, and the presence of non-Marxist Social Democratic working-class parties in all northern European countries where absolutism either did not exist or where it was dismantled relatively early (as in Sweden). Finally, in the United States, where there was never an Enlightened absolutism, early or late, dismantled or entrenched, there was neither a significant Communist or Social Democratic party.
Thus the unusual significance of religion in American life was not the cause of the absence of socialism, but rather symptomatic of a set of dispensations involving the state in the 17th and 18th centuries relative to countries in which socialism did arise. One can thus amend Louis Hartz’s 1950’s formulation of “no feudalism, no socialism”(23) (“feudalism” being a very ambiguous term where 17th century Europe is concerned) to “no absolutism, no socialism”, grasped comparatively and internationally, in both the development of capitalism and of the working-class movement in various countries. For, historically, every working-class movement has borne the birthmarks of the bourgeois revolution in its national sector. This has often been observed, but it is useful to focus on why that should be the case. In every European country from England to Russia, the decisive stamp of a particular country’s working-class movement is determined by the moment at which it separated itself from the bourgeois-liberal movement against the ancien regime(24), that is, when class antagonism within the “Third Estate”became paramount. For this determines the exact point at which the working class stands alone and fights for nothing other than its own demands. It is at this moment that the working class directly confronts the state and the armed forces of the state, and acquires its political ideas. In most countries in western Europe, this occurred in 1848; the Chartist movement in England, but most importantly the uprising of the Parisian working class in the June Days, marked the first time in the history of the movement of bourgeois-liberal emancipation that the working class discovered in practice, on a national scale, that its sole enemy was not the ancien regime. This is not to say that, after 1848, the working class never again fought to realize an extension of the bourgeois revolution; quite the contrary, as will be shown. Indeed, it has been the failure of most 20th (and now 21st) century Marxism to understand to what extent “Marxist” political parties, particularly of the Second International variety, drew their real force precisely from the battle to complete the uprooting of the pre-capitalist ancien regime which has blinded many analysts to the failure of Marxism in different countries (25) . Thus, to more closely approximate the thesis presented here: the historical role of “Marxism” to date has been that of a “substitute bourgeois revolution” in countries where the indigenous bourgeois forces have been too weak to complete the uprooting of the pre-capitalist ancien regime, and that the stronger the pre-capitalist ancien regime forces are, the stronger “Marxism” is(26) .
To put the matter in a slightly different way: aside from the rather special cases of England and Holland, two of the countries which emerged hegemonic from the era of religious wars, in every continental European country the Enlightened absolutist state played a central role in the constitution of a civil (bourgeois) society, just as in an earlier era the Tudor state had played this role in England itself. But in the United States alone, civil society had to constitute a state.
One need only think of the Prussian reforms of 1808-1813, that very mild “French Revolution from above”, in which the Enlightened civil service forced through the capitalization of land, tax reforms and reductions of aristocratic control of the Prussian military, in order to see a prototypical case of a state creating a civil society. In the United States, on the other hand, the “Tudor polity” that emerged from the post-revolutionary effort to create a state (and which was deeply rooted in pre-revolutionary colonial history) made the central political authority far more elusive than it was in continental Europe. Thus, after the Civil War, when the capital-labor antagonism finally erupted in American life, the Federal government never directly confronted the entire working population in a “class against class” situation on a national scale, as occurred in France in 1848 and 1871, or, in less dramatic but still quite antagonistic fashion, in Germany in 1848 or with the Anti-Socialist Laws of 1878-1890. Thus, paradoxically, the European working classes after 1848 became politically independent of bourgeois-liberal currents precisely to further and complete the bourgeois revolutions against the ancien regime, however far it was from their conscious intent, while in the U.S., the working class was politically contained by bourgeois-liberal forces because there was no ancien regime, and hence only capitalists, to combat.
Thus the “specter haunting Europe” on the eve of 1848, which was, in the Paris, Berlin and Vienna working-class actions of that year at least powerful enough to convince the bourgeoisie of the existence of “communism” as a real force, really came to the U.S. only in the 1870’s, when confrontations such as they occurred in St. Louis and Pittsburgh in 1877 could be characterized as an American “Paris Commune” in the bourgeois press(27) . Prior to this period, Marxism was largely if not exclusively the ideology of some of the German “’48ers” who came to the U.S. after the defeat of the 1848 revolutions in Central Europe, and remained until the 1890’s more of an immigrant subculture than a real force in the working class, to the point that Engels, during his visit to the U.S., had to argue with German-American immigrant socialists about the advisability of putting out a newspaper in English(28) . In the case of these German-American immigrants, the Marxist (or more accurately Social Democratic) influence in northern cities like Chicago and Milwaukee laid the foundation for the municipal or “sewer’ socialism (once again borrowed from Central European Social Democratic models) that actually produced a wave of socialist mayors in the 1900-1912 period and which became the social base for the right wing of the American Socialist Party on the eve of World War I(29) . A similar phenomenon recurred with the inability of the Russian Jewish immigrants who embraced Bolshevism after 1917 to ever effectively break out of a later Marxist immigrant sub-culture(30) .
II. Specific Consequences of the Absence of the Absolutist State and Established Church for the American Working-Class Movement
In western European countries, the formation of specific national working classes occurred in tandem with the expulsion of the peasantry from the land and the more general separation of all petty producers from their means of production. This was also true of the United States, but with a difference. A significant part of the dispossessed agrarian populations which arrived in U.S. factories from the 1840’s, and particularly the 1870’s onward, came not from indigenous rural areas but from the impoverished countrysides of Europe. The descendants of these populations, which were recruited from the Catholic peasantry of the most backward regions of western, then of southern and eastern Europe (Ireland, southern Italy, Poland) make up the bulk of the white working-class population in the U.S. today. The industrial cities (or, more accurately, their surviving shells) of the northeastern U.S. constitute a veritable archaeology of successive layers of 19th and early 20th century immigration. Other rural populations were recruited to U.S. industry at different stages of its development: the indigenous Protestant farmer population of the East, Midwest and later the South; German ‘48ers who entered the skilled trades in the Midwest; Jewish workers and artisans from eastern Europe, from the 1860’s until 1924; beginning in the 1890’s, black labor from the deep South. After World War II, the Catholic working class of the industrial Northeast was joined by further influxes of black labor from the South and by Latin American and Caribbean agrarian populations. But, if we consider the groups that made up the industrial working class of 1900, it is striking that while most of the German, Jewish and indigenous Protestant layers, from whom the bulk of the militant organizers, radicals and socialists came, moved through the working class in the course of the 20th century, the Catholic working class remained in industry until the large-scale restructurings and downsizings of the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Any merely “cultural” or cultural-religious theory of the formation of socialist consciousness in the American working class which identifies the Catholic populations as the most conservative must, once again, necessarily founder on the radically different course followed by the working classes in their predominantly Catholic countries of origin. The Irish, Polish and Italian working classes of the 1890-1914 period, in the Dublin general strike of 1913, the Polish mass strikes of 1905, and the Italian “Red Week” of 1914 were each, in their way, at the cutting edge of the international working-class movement of the period. Indeed, the Lawrence (Massachusetts) strike of 1912 and the U.S. Steel Strike of 1919 were notable in their success in mobilizing these same immigrant groups. But, whether one considers the history of the American Socialist Party, the I.W.W., the Socialist Labor Party or the Communist Party, it is immediately clear that the Catholic immigrant groups were never affected by working-class radicalism in more than a transitory way. The internal histories of the SP, CP or even of current which formed the smaller (Trotskyist) Socialist Workers’ Party (currents which played a decisive role in the Minneapolis Teamsters strike of 1934 as well as the Toledo Auto-Lite strike of the same year) reveal important clashes between, first, the Midwestern Populist radicalism and German “sewer socialism” (as it culminated in the battle between John Reed and SP moderates in the debate over the Russian Revolution)(31) and then the same Midwest radicalism and the Russian Jewish working-class tradition, first in the founding of the CPUSA in 1919-1920, and, on a smaller scale, in the split between the Cannon and Schactman factions of the SWP in 1939-1940. But, in these internal battles of organized political parties, it is the Catholic working class that is noticeable by its absence.
The source of the imperviousness of American Catholic working-class populations to Marxist ideas of either the Social Democratic or Communist variety, before and after World War I, must be sought—given the successes of those ideas in their countries of origin—in the specific adaptation of these groups to American life. And any study of that adaptation, which of course goes beyond the framework of this essay, must focus on the Catholic church in organizing the immigrant populations, the absence of any anti-clerical tradition in American radicalism (as discussed previously), and the role of the Democratic Party machines which arose by the 1840’s and established civil service power bases and roads of mobility for Irish and Italian workers in the U.S. Northeast. The cycles of “good government” campaigns undertaken by upper middle-class Protestant Progressives and similar configurations against the corruption of these machines (which was real enough) from New York at the turn of the century to the anti-corruption drives aimed at the Italian machines of northern New Jersey in the late 1960’s might well be understood as a muted class struggle against the bastions of Catholic working-class power, but a class struggle precisely integrated in the structures of the Democratic Party and never fought out as such. The specific ethnic-religious adaptation to American life by successive waves of Catholic immigrants constituted both the “particularist”, quasi-corporatist solution for one or another group, but at the same time bred precisely the vicious parochialism and outright hostility to socialism (e.g. the role of the Catholic Church in the McCarthy period) which has, to date, always prevented these sections of the working class from uniting in a serious way with the white and black Protestant, as well as Jewish working-class strata far more open to radicalism.
In the fate of the Catholic working class in the northeastern U.S., we see in rather sharp fashion the long-range consequences of the two phenomena analyzed as specific to the U.S. in Section I: the special given of religion resulting from the absence of an absolutist experience and an established church. The absence of the first made possible a kind of political solution that deprived the working-class movement of a sharp focus for its political energies in the crazy quilt of American politics; the presence of the latter, in most of Catholic Europe, produced anti-clerical movements linked to radicalism and socialism. A further piece in this puzzle is provided when we consider the historical “archaeology” of U.S. immigration, and that it is precisely from these regions of Europe where the absolutist tradition was weak or primarily associated with foreign occupation—Ireland, Poland, Sicily—that this immigration came. A strange historical symmetry emerges in which the European populations least tempered in the historical experiences that elsewhere produced socialist movements came to a country whose traditions were notable by the absence of those same experiences.
III. The American Civil War in the International Conjuncture of the 1860’s
As with most major periods of American history, most writing on the Civil War sees it as a more or less strictly “American” phenomenon, with other international actors merely serving as a relevant but strictly secondary backdrop. A comparable abstraction of American history from world history ignores the context linking the young republic to the international situation produced by the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, or the location of the Jacksonian period within the larger context of the French Revolution of 1830, the English Reform Bill of 1832, and the post-1830 revival of liberal agitation in Metternich’s Central Europe. But neither of these habitual omissions is quite so distorting as the failure to see the U.S. Civil War within the broader framework of world capitalism in the 1860’s, with important consequences for the subsequent development of the American labor movement.
While Barrington Moore’s characterization of the Civil War as the “last capitalist revolution” may be a bit too grandiose(32) , it certainly captures the significance of the Civil War as the opening of the untrammeled development of capitalism in the U.S. And Moore is unusual, almost singular, in placing, within the larger texture of his book, the American Civil War squarely within the context of a decade that also saw the final unification of Germany (1862-1870), the unification of Italy (1860), the abolition f serfdom in Russia (1861) and the Meiji Restoration in Japan (1868). To Moore’s framework, one might ad another dimension (which falls outside the perspective of his book): the world depression of 1873, inaugurating a quarter century of what various economic historians have called a “great depression”, the “great deflation”(33) , or, in Kontratieff’s language, a period (1873-1896) in which the “tonic” is one of recession and depression in contrast to the worldwide boom period of 1850-1873. For reasons to be enumerated momentarily, the structural reforms of the 1860’s and the depression of 1873 closed one period of capitalist development and opened another one, and the full significance of the U.S. Civil War must be located within this “phase change”.
The deep depression of 1837, which inaugurated the so-called “Hungry Forties” in the U.S. was followed by another international downturn in 1846-1847, the immediate prelude to the European revolutions of 1848. It should first of all be remembered that the industrial world prior to 1848 included little more than England, northern France, Belgium and the northeastern United States. The 1848 revolutions and subsequent boom years of “high tonic” over the 1850-1873 period (interrupted internationally by world slumps n 1857-58 and 1866) changed all that, making the industrial revolution irreversible in Germany and the U.S. in particular. The five major structural reforms in the U.S., Germany, Italy, Russia and Japan in the 1860’s were direct responses to this “capitalization” of social organization for an increasingly unified world market(34) , one which, by 1870, England had already been reduced from uncontested front runner to primus inter pares by German and U.S. competition.
Adding for good measure the Bonapartist industrialization in France in the same decade—one that was aborted after 1870-1871 when the Commune made the French bourgeoisie recoil from the social specter that industrialization had conjured up—what can be observed is a statist response to English industrial hegemony and varying forms for the acceleration of “primitive accumulation” of labor power from agrarian sectors for industrialization. One important statist element of this response in the U.S. was the Northern tariff policy protecting U.S. industries against British competition(35) , in addition to the role of the state in uprooting the slave system in the South in 1865 and thereafter.
After 1873, both England and France, for different reasons, increasingly recede from the front ranks of industrial powers. In England, after 1870, the City of London increasingly recycled capital to more profitable direct investment abroad, and in France, as was mentioned, the bourgeois classes recoiled from the Paris Commune and opted for a patently Malthusian renunciation of large-scale industrialization. This is hardly to imply that England and France were at similar levels of industrialization. But, with the exception of the Bonapartist interlude of the 1860’s, France and England between 1815 and 1873 had in common the classical “laissez-faire” phase of capitalism in which the state, while creating the social and economic conditions for accumulation, receded by comparison with its earlier mercantilist role or with the more directly interventionist role it would play in the 20th century. After 1873 world capitalism, led by the U.S. and Germany, began a transition to what Hilferding and others later characterized as “organized capitalism”. Thus it can hardly be surprising to see, in the five major national restructurings of the 1860’s, the emergence of the five national powers which, in the world crisis of the 1930’s, had recourse to further large-scale uses of the state, over and against England and France, where the earlier, liberal and laissez-faire arrangements hung on more tenaciously(36) .
In parallel fashion, the reorganization of the world economy in the 1860’s also moved the epicenter of international socialism, after the defeat of the Commune, from France to Germany, or from Proudhonism to an approximation of Marxism (more precisely, Lassalleanism).
Finally, it is necessary to complete this overview of the transition from the hegemony of liberal capitalism to the origins of what subsequent analysts, following Hilferding, have called “organized capitalism”(37) (these terms will momentarily be given their precise structural definition as the phases of extensive and intensive capitalist accumulation). A further piece in this puzzle is the world agrarian crisis inaugurated by the depression of 1873. The English Corn Laws of 1846 had marked a milestone in international capitalist development, not only as a triumph of the classes deriving their income from industrial profit over those deriving their income from ground rent, but also as the triumph of an industrialization process that had already freed the national economy from a large involvement of manual labor in agriculture and, most importantly, one that could import food from abroad. But such a state of affairs, like full industrialization itself, remained confined to England in 1846. The U.S., with large-scale industry from the 1870’s onward, was still financing its industrialization as an exporter of raw materials into the 1890’s, to give only one example. But the 1873 depression not only lowered the curtain on the “Anglo-French” phase of capitalist development; it remade the conditions of the world agricultural market from top to bottom. Innovations in both agriculture and transport by the 1870’s allowed the large-scale exporters of the U.S., Canada, Argentina, Australia and Russia to overwhelm the smaller, less productive agricultures of western Europe. By 1890 it was cheaper to bring wheat from Argentina to many European ports than it was to ship it 100 miles over inland transport. Setting aside the obvious impact of these developments on U.S. domestic politics in the 1873-1896 heyday of Populism, one can underscore their more overarching impact on the formation of the American working class: 1) the spur to the immigration of displaced peasants from the depressed agrarian sectors of southern and eastern Europe, and 2) the long-term cheapening of the wage bill of the industrial working class, reducing food as a portion of the worker’s consumption to a steadily lower percentage of the wage for the first time in the history of capitalism. These parallel developments gave American capitalism a reservoir of cheap labor for the entire period of its ascendancy to world hegemony from the 1880’s onward.
This counter-position of two phases of capitalist development, centered on an “Anglo-French” liberal capitalism of the 1815-1873 period and that of U.S. and German ascendancy after 1873, is the axis of the entire argument presented here. For if it is in fact correct to see the decade of the 1860’s of the five states—the U.S., Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia—which managed to emerge as rival industrial powers to England in the period prior to 1914, it can also be noted that these five states constituted the centers of the three major “models” of 1930’s crisis management which were presented as the supersession of the bankrupt “classical liberal” or Anglo-French phase of capitalism: the American New Deal, fascism, and Stalinism. The continuity with our argument about the role of Enlightened absolutism in fomenting conditions for the emergence of a working-class political party resides, first, in the prominent role of such top-down reform in the earlier histories of Germany, Russia and Japan. But most important of all for the question of the fate of working-class politics in the U.S. is the fact that in the U.S. alone, the transition to the supersession of Anglo-French liberal capitalism, carried out institutionally in 1933-1945 but drawing significantly on antecedents from the Progressive era and World War I state economic management, was carried out without the significant participation of a working-class political party in the capitalist state and the use of “socialist” ideology in the legitimation of that state(38) . This happened because in the U.S., capitalism encountering after 1865, no domestic obstacles whatever to its expansion, was able to carry out this transition on its own. By contrast, as already implied in our characterization of the role of Marxism in other countries as far more an ideology of a “substitute bourgeois revolution” serving to eliminate pre-capitalist social forces than in actually implementing socialism, this transition in Germany, Italy, Japan (and, in another fashion, in the special case of Stalinist Russia) had to draw on the support of socialist ideologies and “socialist” political parties of the working class. In the same way that in the U.S. the unusual role of religion in social life and its role even in democratic political movements (Jacksonian period, Abolitionism) pointed to the very special origins of the American polity in the 17th century and the absence of any need to do battle with an absolutist state, the unusual marginality of socialism in American working-class history points to the special situation of U.S. capitalism in the post-1873 international transition to “organized capitalism”.
It is now necessary to ground this transition in a structural-economic theory, however cursorily. For most of the 1815-1873 period of capitalism, the major social role and source of accumulation for capitalism was in the violent process of “primitive accumulation”, the separation of various strata of petty producers (peasants, artisans) from their means of production and their enlistment in labor-intensive industrial employment. The main social impact of this primitive accumulation, in the early industrial centers of capitalism England, northern France, Belgium and the northeastern U.S., was a net transformation of agrarian populations into industrial populations. This was the high phase of what economists and economic historians (39) call the extensive phase of capitalist development; indeed, in various parts of the world, it continues today. But the post-1873 rise of U.S. and German capitalism at the expense of earlier industrial powers, above all England, was not merely a shift in the geographical locus of an industrial process. It was, as alluded to earlier, also the shift to a different, intensive form of accumulation in which surplus generated by the earlier process, while still important, was paralleled and ultimately overtaken, beginning in the 1880’s, by surplus from the qualitative technical intensification of the capitalist production process itself. The most immediate and familiar manifestation of this process was Taylorism, implemented in the U.S. to expunge the still-important role of craft skills in production wherever possible. It was the phase of capitalist development which, in Marx’s terminology, reduced concrete labor to its actually capitalist form of interchangeable abstract labor(40) .
The significance of Taylorism has often been noted in the capitalism that emerged from the 1873-1896 “great deflation”. But this recomposition of the worker at the point of production, though central, is only one aspect of a deeper structural change then emergent, namely the recomposition of the total working-class bill of consumption within capitalist accumulation. What characterizes the intensive phase of capitalist development is not merely Taylorism at the workplace, but the appearance of mass consumer durables and generally cheapened articles of consumption for the working class, for the first time in capitalist history(41) . The automobile, in production as in consumption, is the paradigmatic commodity of this phase. The combination of great increases in agricultural productivity which inaugurated the agrarian depression of the 1870’s, and the intensification of labor through Taylorist methods and technical innovation in the production of light industrial consumer durables made possible an increase in the material content of working-class consumption while the working-class wage bill, as an increment of the total capitalist expenditure in production, remained constant or declined. These combined transformations of production and consumption, which emerged only sporadically in fits and starts, became dominant primarily in the U.S. and in Germany in the 1920’s, and finally became the axis in world accumulation after 1945, under U.S. auspices. This change in the composition of the working class’s consumption through cheapened goods, starting with agricultural products, seems a much better (and more Marxist) explanation of Western working-class reformism than Lenin’s notion of crumbs made possible by imperialist super-profits.
Thus, once again, for purposes of analyzing the role of the working class in politics, the argument to this point may be summarized as follows: the United States, in contrast to almost all other major capitalist countries, was able to enter the extensive phase of capital accumulation without recourse to an absolutist state; later, in the 1873-1945 period, the U.S. was able to reorganize its domestic social and political institutions for the intensive phase of accumulation without recourse to the participation of a working-class political party in the state.
To understand more concretely the similarities and contrasts between the transition from extensive to intensive development in the U.S. as compared to other countries, it is useful to consider the case of the other major country that first made that transition, Germany. Germany was, from 1870 to 1933, far more of a vanguard, in terms of social institutions, in this transition than the U.S. But this once again underscores the uniqueness of the American transition. In Germany, both absolutism and a working-class party were decisive. Germany, from the wars of liberation against Napoleon onward, had a mercantile development ideology, articulated from Fichte to List, which it counterposed to early 19th-century laissez-faire economics(42) . This was in turn merely a transposition of the mercantilist (or cameralist) policies of the Prussian state in its 17th and 18th century rise to great power status in Europe. Through the continuity of the Prussian civil service which had been decisive both in the pre-1789 mercantilist phase and in the “creation of a civil society from above” in the Napoleonic period, Germany in 1850 and thereafter possessed a system of educational and research institutions oriented to technological innovation unknown anywhere else in the world, which, after Germany’s sudden eruption on the map of Europe in 1864-1870, crowned by its military humiliation of France in 1870-1871, became the envied model of all developing industrial countries, the postwar “Japan” of its day (and Meiji Japan assiduously copied Prussian administrative techniques). The intensive phase of capitalist accumulation is characterized not merely by Taylorist scientific management; it is characterized just as much by direct appropriation of science to the production process itself, in contrast to the haphazard methods of earlier industrial development. In this realm, the Prussian system of technische Hochschulen and state research institutes was unrivaled, and the results, by the 1880’s, were there for all to see in the German chemical, electronics and steel industries, as well as in scientific agriculture and military applications. Virtually the entire reform of U.S. universities in the 1890’s was based on the German model.(43)
But there is still more to the significance of this “German (or Prussian) development state” for the phase of intensive capital accumulation. German cartel structures, and regulation thereof, were studied and copied in the U.S., beginning in the 1890’s, and the U.S. Congress looked to Germany’s Reichsbank as a model for the 1913 legislation creating the Federal Reserve Bank(44).
Finally, and most directly underscoring the role of the working-class movement and what happened or did not happen in the U.S., as opposed to other countries, Germany was the vanguard in the containment of a working-class political party and the enlistment of that party in its own state apparatus. The Social Democrat and statist reformer Lassalle made overtures to (and may have secretly met) Bismarck in the 1860’s(45) , and the Bismarckian state once again led the world in the innovation of health insurance and other welfare state measures even as, from 1878 to 1890, the Social Democrats were banned from most political activity (although not from electoral participation in the Reichstag).
While the SPD was officially held at a distance from the state until 1914, Marx in his 1875 Critique of the Gotha Program already saw in the Lassallean idea of a “people’s state” a dangerous idea totally alien to his own theory, an idea moreover arguably an antecedent to the later ideology of the fascist “community of labor”. After 1914, the Social Democrats were enlisted in the German war effort, and in 1918-1920 played a decisive role in both managing and transforming the capitalist state, working with the army (through the Groener-Scheidemann pact of 1917) and later right-wing paramilitary groups to decapitate the fledgling German Communist Party of Luxemburg and Liebknecht in 1919.
But what is decisive here is not “betrayal” or “collusion” on the part of the SPD; it is the long continuity, dating back to the Lassallean phase, of a welfare-statist and corporatist ideology of a “people’s state” that, with the SPD in power or out of power, was the key structural innovation, within the larger context of innovations briefly described, which accompanied the shift from extensive to intensive accumulation in both Germany and through the advanced capitalist world, haltingly in the 1920’s and for an extended epoch (1945-1973) after World War II.
What happened in Germany, once again, is precisely what did not occur in the U.S. during the same transition. In the U.S., absolutism had not been necessary to bring modern industry into existence; on the contrary, the U.S. “borrowed” German institutional arrangements both in the 1890-1914 period and at the outset of the New Deal(46) .
The Breakthrough to Industrial Unionism in the U.S. In the Tow of a Self-Reforming Capitalist State
The working-class cities and towns of the U.S. were not merely an “archaeology” of successive layers of immigration, ultimately linked to the rhythms of the European social history that expelled these groups from the land. Embedded within the structure of the AFL-CIO are the two phases of extensive and intensive development of capitalism discussed earlier.
Following the rise of the German SPD during and after the 1878-1890 Anti-Socialist Laws in the country most advanced in the development of the modern welfare state, one European country after another developed socialist political parties in their modern form in the 1890-1905 period. By 1898-1900, the Socialist International founded in 1889 was already experiencing the internal crisis from the German revisionist debate and the French Millerand crisis, both centering on the question of the use of the existing capitalist state for a transition to socialism. During the same years, following the watershed U.S. election of 1896, the majority of the U.S. working class had been won over to support for the Republican Party. In each country, different relations between political party and trade union emerged; in the British Labour Party, founded in 1906, the trade unions predominated; in the French S.F.I.O. (founded 1905), the trade union federation C.G.T., in the famous Amiens Charter of 1906, decided on full autonomy from politics and oriented itself toward direct action and general strike theories of revolutionary syndicalism; in Germany, the SPD at least nominally dominated the trade unions. In the United States, the AfofL, under the pressure of the strikes of 1892-1894, came close for the one time in its history to an attempt at an independent labor party, but backed off in 1895. The American Socialist Party, at its high tide in the 1900-1912 period, never succeeded in establishing any coherent relationship to any trade union movement, and the joint attempt of the I.W.W. and the Socialist Labor Party to launch such an organization in 1905 did not last a year.
Much “institutional history” has been written about the American trade union movement and the successive (SP, SLP, CP) attempts at a working-class political party(47) . And it is commonly recognized that behind the AfofL and the CIO, respectively, are two phases of craft and then industrial unionism which corresponded to extensive and intensive capital accumulation (although these phases are not usually described in these terms). What has generally been missing in the historiography of the political and trade union expressions of the American working class has been a synthetic perspective that can pull together the different strands developed here. For the basic thesis defended here, once again, is that what sets off American working-class history relative to all other major capitalist countries was the development of the institutional arrangements for intensive accumulation without any direct working-class political participation in the state. Much working-class history, inspired by E.P. Thompson’s Making of the English Working Class (1963), has discussed religious, ethnic and craft factors in different local American labor experiences. This body of work arose in reaction (as indicated at the outset) to previous institutional (trade union and political party) biases of earlier treatments of U.S. working-class experience. Much 1970’s work focused on Taylorism and the battle for the control of the workplace in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. But, generally lacking a comparative perspective with Europe, this work has generally not recognized the “substitute bourgeois revolution” analyzed above in European working-class parties and consequently have not identified the absence of such a party in the U.S. with the absence of any need for such a substitute bourgeois revolution.
Let us look a little more closely at these phenomena.
At the time of the formation of the German SPD in 1863, the industrial workers in the northern U.S. were mobilized under the auspices of Democratic Party machines and the ideology of Radical Republicanism(48) . At the time of the formation of the other parties of the Second International after 1890, the American working class was being mobilized behind the Republican Party in the “critical alignment” election of 1896, shortly after the bloody railroad and steel strikes of the early 1890’s. Finally, in the 1930’s, when the democratic welfare state, fascism and Stalinism were completing the restructuring of conditions of accumulation in the five countries that revamped in the crucial 1860’s decade, the U.S. working class and its 1934-1937 mobilization were contained with relative ease within the New Deal coalition and the Democratic Party where, by and large, it has remained ever since.
A first approximation of the explanation for this lies in the relationship of the trade union movement to the state. In the same way that working-class political parties never established themselves in the U.S., industrial unionism came relatively late. The successful organization of unions from the 1840’s to the turn of the century occurred in craft production, whereas in the mass industries, in spite of the explosions of 1877, 1892-1894, 1912 or 1919, trade unionism was successfully beaten back by employers, in the last instance (as in the Carnegie Steel strike of 1892) with private armies and Pinkerton guards. (It was noted earlier how this use of local militias and private para-military organizations tended to deflect working-class energies away from head-on collisions with the Federal government.) By contrast, in England and Germany, and to a lesser extent in France, mass industries were unionized or being unionized by 1900. Unionization had proceeded in those countries to a degree that the sudden formation of “social patriot” governments with the collapsed parties of the Second International in 1914 brought trade union officials of all major belligerent countries onto war boards within the state for the first time in history. While the AfofL of Samuel Gompers was also enlisted in such participation after 1917(49), it was very much a minority phenomenon standing in striking contrast to the repression that rained down on the I.W.W. and left-wing Socialists in that year. Whereas the close of World War I saw the Russian Revolution, near-insurrectionary situations in Germany and Britain, and a large extension of unionization in French industry through the strike waves of 1919-1920, the explosion of strikes in the U.S. in 1919 was followed by a new wave of repression in 1920(50) . The wave of post-World War I factory committees and other corporatist forms had no counterpart in U.S. working class until the passage of New Deal labor legislation modeled on such problematic influences as Mussolini’s Carta del Lavoro(51) . After 1920, the industrial working class in the U.S. returned to its earlier state of disarray and dispersion until the mass strikes of 1934-1937(52) . The difference is revealed in the rationalization movements of the 1920’s in the respective industries of Germany and the U.S. In Germany, the SPD supported rationalization, whereas in the U.S., following the Red Scare and Palmer Raids of 1920 and the shakeout of the 1920-21 depression, there was no need to enlist union support for rationalization in the mass industries where it was pushed through, because they were not unionized.
Once again: in Europe, working-class institutions were central in propelling capitalism into the corporatist and welfare-statist accommodation of the new intensive phase of accumulation represented by the new mass industries, whereas in the U.S., while unions did indeed play such a role after 1934, no such working-class presence was necessary in the political sphere of the state.
In the last instance, the real structural dynamic underlying the evolution of U.S. working-class organizations in the period 1890-1945 is to be sought in the transformation of the world economy and the U.S. position in that transformation. It suffices to touch on the highlights. From 1870 to 1914, the new mass industries which arose in Germany and the U.S. were undermining English international hegemony, surpassing England industrially in around 1900. Nevertheless, based on its earlier hegemony, England retained a world financial role, with the pound as the de facto reserve currency, increasingly out of proportion to the role of the productive assets sustaining it. (The U.S. since 1968-1973 is in a roughly comparable situation.) The “thirty years’ crisis” 1914-1945 was a crisis of transition in which the U.S. superseded the position of Britain in the world financial arena, creating a new equilibrium permitting a new phase of accumulation for nearly three decades. In this transition, it is important to highlight the little-discussed reality that the length and depth of the post-1945 boom was due not merely to the re-establishment of an international “lender of last resort” following the demise of Britain, but equally to the vast internationalization of the world economy expressed in the institutional arrangements (Bretton Woods, IMF, World Bank, GATT, etc.) that emerged in 1944-1948. It was precisely this internationalization which created the economies of scale for the pent-up forces of the U.S. and German mass industries which were confined within national tariffs and capital structures up to World War II. The creation of the “welfare state” after 1945 was inseparable from the creation of these international arrangements, as evidenced by the crisis of the welfare state simultaneous with the crisis of these arrangements after 1973.
The success of the New Deal transformation of the American state cannot be separated from the international institutions which were its extension after 1945, any more than the expansionary phase of the U.S. economy from 1945 to 1973 can be separated from the international role of the dollar established in 1945. Had the internationalization of the world economy achieved by World War II not occurred, there is no reason to believe that the capitalist world would have peacefully extricated itself from the morass of national autarchy regimes of the 1930’s; too many specific groups in too many countries, beginning with the City of London, had to be forcibly integrated into new international structures before a level of trade permitting a return of boom conditions could be resumed. The story of the 1945-1973 boom is, moreover, essentially the story of the expansion to the entirety of the advanced capitalist world of the forms of production and consumption elaborated by American and German mass industries in the 1920’s. Seen in this light, the breakthrough to industrial unionism in the U.S., some decades after it had occurred in most western European countries, can be seen as an indispensable force propelling the domestic reorganization of the U.S. state and economy for a new phase of accumulation and a new international role. The industrial unions so ruthlessly combated from the 1870’s to the 1920’s were finally accepted in the 1930’s, certainly not without resistance by by important groups of capitalists, but with tacit encouragement of New Deal labor legislation and, during the militant upsurges of 1934-1937, at worst a mild resignation by the Roosevelt administration, not to mention a political instrumentalization of the mass movement to defeat die-hard capitalist opponents of the New Deal. In western Europe, the industrial unions which had won varying degrees of acceptance before World War I played crucial roles in the wartime governments, enforcing the social “Buergfrieden” in every country, with working-class parties participating explicitly in the state either during or after the war. In the U.S., on the contrary, the final breakthrough to industrial unionism occurred within the context of the general reshaping of the U.S. state for a new international role. Four years after the basic recognition of the CIO unions, those same unions were enforcing the “no strike pledge” against rebellious rank-and-file workers, serving on wartime wage-and-price committees, and giving up extensive gains from the organizing drives of the 1930’s. In western Europe, corporatist forms of labor integration had to be developed in response to industrial unions (not to mentioned revolutionary mass strikes); in the U.S., the creation of industrial unionism followed the corporatist collective bargaining legislation of the New Deal(53) . In contrast to Europe, where working-class parties had to move in and out of power in the interwar period and after 1945, in the U.S. these corporatist forms were elaborated with the working class politically in tow, and consequently no independent party was needed to push them through.
The Marginality of American Socialist Movements, 1900-1945
Having established a general framework for analyzing the absence of socialism as a serious force in American politics, we are now in a position to examine some concrete experiences, primarily of the Socialist and then Communist Parties.
The American Socialist Party, that “socialism of dentists” as Trotsky called it (perhaps a bit unfairly) during his sojourn in New York in 1917, was characterized from beginning to end by the predominance of a reformist center and a right wing. The potential Rosa Luxemburgs and Karl Liebknechts of American socialism, during the period of its 1900-1912 heyday, found themselves scattered on the left wing of the party, in DeLeon’s Socialist Labor Party, in the I.W.W. and in immgrant ghetto currents such as the Jewish anarchists of New York’s Lower East Side. The most powerful experience of the party, aside from Debs’ 1912 and 1920 presidential campaigns, were the SP’s muncipal socialist electoral victories in the first decade of the century and in its influence among agrarian radicals of the Midwest and Southwest after the demise of Populism. In contrast to the parties of continental Europe, the American SP never established a trade union federation or anything close to it. In the last instance, it was Milwaukee mayor Victor Berger, more than Debs or figures like John Reed, who best expressed the dominant tone of the SP. In certain ways, the SP was rather inferior to earlier American working-class organizations such as the Knights of Labor in the 1870’s which, while not a political party as such, did organize workers on a regional basis regardless of craft, ethnic group or race; the SP always had difficulties with racist and chauvinist elements in its own ranks, or when the California section of the party supported anti-Asian immigration legislation in 1908.
The American SP (like the American CP after it) produced no body of theory of note. Its most impressive left-wing figure, Debs, was a great indigenous working-class leader but not someone capable of the level of political leadership thrown up on the left wing of the of the major Second International parties in Europe. One figure who might have been capable of such a level (and who on occasion impressed the likes of Lenin), Daniel DeLeon, was sequestered (or, in other versions, sequestered himself) in the Socialist Labor Party. While the SLP in the U.S. never succeeded in elevating itself above the status of a sect, DeLeon’s writing had considerable impact abroad, where it intersected the militants syndicalists movement of Britain, Scotland, Ireland and France in the 1900-1910 period. Thus DeLeon might indeed have prospered in a more propitious social environment. In 1905-1906, the brief attempt of the SLP and the IWW to establish a party- trade union federation relationship akin to continental models ended in failure and mutual recrimination, faltering (at the very least) on the incompatibility of DeLeon’s unbending orthodoxy and the deep-running anti-political bias of the syndicalists of the IWW. But DeLeon did on occasion distinguish himself internationally at congresses of the Second International, where he was among the minority of supporters of Rosa Luxemburg in her battles against Bernsteinism and the Kautskyist center. Toward the end of his life, Lenin remembered DeLeon as one of the more original figures of the pre-1914 period. But history denied DeLeon a context in which a real estimation of his abilities can be made.
A fundamental problem of the American SP was its own vagueness, on one hand, and the fact that it had many competitors. Its lack of theoretical and political clarity muddled the lines between it and Populism and Progressivism on its right and the IWW and the SLP on its left. This was, after all, an era in which the ideology of laissez-faire capitalism was deeply entrenched. As in the Europe of 1848 when words such as “liberalism”, “socialism” and “communism” were used almost interchangeably, the American SP existed in an environment in which muckraking agitation against monopolies and trusts, or on behalf of clean muncipal government and public ownership of utilities could appear as “socialist”. The fundamental problem of pre-1914 socialism (and not merely in the U.S.) was that capitalism realized, or appeared to realize, so much of its program. Before the debacle of the Soviet experience, and the failure of the various left-wing political parties in power in the interwar period or after World War II, that is to say before any political party calling itself Marxist had ever controlled a state, it was more difficult than it is today to see what was essentially capitalist about capitalism. Before the Progressives and then the New Deal state greatly rationalized capitalist exploitation, none of this was so readily apparent.
In line with the argument developed in earlier sections, it can be noted that the diffuseness of American socialism and its difficulty in clearly distinguishing itself from various other reform movements was another expression of the fact that, in contrast to its fraternal parties in Europe, its services were never needed for a reform of the state apparatus. Precisely because the SP and then the CP (in the New Deal period) were difficult to distinguish from the honest capitalist reformers, these parties never had to run hard up against the resistance of the entrenched political and social structures that confronted socialists in the doddering monarchies of Central and Eastern Europe. Precisely because there were in the U.S., as to a lesser extent in countries like pre-war Britain or Sweden, “progressive” capitalist forces that did not have to expend all their energies in battles with entrenched conservatives, and who had not, as in France, Germany and Italy, been frightened by working-class explosions into exclusive alliances with such conservatives, American socialism was never compelled to define itself sharply relative to its immediate environment. Had it done so, it would in all likelihood have been relegated to the same marginality as DeLeon’s SLP.
Realities that remained only partially visible with the American SP in the 1900-1912 period became fully elaborated with the CPUSA of the New Deal era. Here, in contrast to the experience of the SP, an American socialist party came to decisively influence the political climate of the country for more than a decade. Unlike its European counterparts in Spain or France in the Popular Front era or in France, Italy and Belgium in 1944-1947, the CPUSA never even came close to being a party of the state. But the American CP, through its role in the creation of the CIO, the impact it had on fellow-traveller artists and intellectuals and, during World War II, its fervent support of the U.S. war effort and influence in the New Deal bureaucracy (again, probably more through fellow travelers than actual members) the CP exercised a kind of influence in American politics never enjoyed by any socialist movement before or since. At its high tide in 1935-1939, the CPUSA probably had 100,000 members, and, once again through the fellow-traveller milieu, an influence quite disproportionate to its numbers.
Much has been written about the CP’s role in the New Deal and during World War II that cannot be the focus here. The history of its emergence from the left wing of the SP, the IWW and the SLP, its dispersion during the Red Scare of 1920, or its role in the 1928-1934 “Third Period” when it applied the Comintern’s “Social Fascist” analysis to the remnants of the SP and to the AfoL bureaucrats, are well beyond the scope of this essay. What is at issue, following from the earlier analysis, is the source and impact of the CP’s influence after it dropped its Third Period rhetoric and embraced the New Deal in 1935.
Most of the writing on the histories of the SP and CP are, as indicated earlier, of the institutional and political variety. Most of the labor histories of the formation of the CIO(54) are institutional histories focusing on trade unions or offering chronological accounts of strikes. But the casual reader of the history of socialism in America from 1890 to 1945 cannot fail to be struck by the discontinuity between the significant ideological spectrum of the 1890-1930 period as contrasted with what became the dominant left discourse in the course of the 1930’s. In the earlier period, Debsian socialism, the orthodoxy of DeLeon and its occasional brilliant flashes, the syndicalism of the IWW, Greenwich Village radicalism as expressed by the early (1908-1917) phase of The Masses, or Jewish anarchism, all vied with the more business-like municipal “socialism of dentists” of the Victor Bergers. When one considers, by contrast, the ideological debates of the 1930’s, it is as if the rationalization of the capitalist state by Progressivism and the early New Deal had “stratified” and greatly reduced the scope of the competing ideologies on the left. Viewed on the level of the visible leadership (simply because this is the level most accessible to us) this discontinuity is less clear-cut but it is there. The early years of the groups that fused to become the CPUSA, when it was still a relatively anarchic fusion of the best of the old SP, the Wobblies and the SLP, attracted and produced some first-rate Marxist intellectuals and working-class leaders who are obscure, as with the case of DeLeon before World War I, because of what their historical context offered them. Figures like John Reed, James Cannon, Max Schactman, Max Eastman or Louis Fraina were leaders and fighters who, while they did not produce a body of theoretical work comparable to their European counterparts Bordiga, Lukacs, Gorter, Pannekoek or Korsch, did at least stand against the international consolidation of Social Democratic reformism and Stalinist counter-revolution with tenacity and sometimes brilliance, in the Minneapolis “proto-soviet” of 1934 and elsewhere in the 1934-1937 strike wave acted like revolutionaries in an atmosphere in which slogans such as “Communism Is 20th-Century Americanism” were tying the vast majority of the trade-union movement and organized left to the New Deal state for a generation or more.
In contrast to institutional, political and ideological accounts of these developments, this study attempts to offer a structural analysis of a worldwide transformation of capitalism from an “extensive” to an “intensive” phase of accumulation that was occurring in the U.S. and German supersession of the earlier “Anglo-French” era of liberal capitalism from the 1870’s onward. For it is exactly such a framework that enables us to concretely tie the respective histories of the American SP and CP to the overall analysis presented earlier. The impoverishment of socialist theory, the relegation to folkloric status of the kinds of popularly-based “intransigeant” currents of working-class radicalism of the 1890-1920 period, of Debs, the best agrarian radicals, the IWW, DeLeon, the cultural radicalism of The Masses, or the Jewish anarchists of New York’s garment trades is to be understood within the context of the statification of social life which first surfaced in Progressivism and which culminated in the New Deal after 1933. The participation of the European Socialists and Communists in the state in the 1930’s and 1940’s, in contrast to the U.S., thus appears as a weakness, not a strength, because in the U.S. alone such participation was unnecessary to push through that statification.
Finally, and most importantly (in the contemporary atmosphere of obsessions with the state and its so-called autonomy) this analysis does not attribute the structural transformation of the state and society to the agency of the state, but rather to the underlying phase change in capitalism from extensive to intensive accumulation with the 1933-1945 and above all post-World War II welfare states were created to accommodate.
The power of this perspective is that it frees us from the theories which explain this impoverishment of socialism (as Engels warns in the opening quote) by leaders, or the “bureaucratization” of political parties, or “betrayals”. In this optic, one cannot “see” the qualitative shift between the working-class movement, and hence its institutions, leaders and ideas, in 1890-1920 compared to 1933-1945 unless one avoids such voluntarist, moralistic or idealist explanations (“they had the wrong ideas”) and focus on the underlying structural transformation of capitalist accumulation(55) . Some of these analyses, written close to the events, have even been put forward by currents most aware of the degeneration underway, and if even confusedly, directly attempting to combat it(56) . But 70 years of hindsight, even one which has hardly been a brilliant period for socialism, makes possible a vantage point that escaped even the most astute contemporaries of the New Deal. The world depression of the 1930’s, the rise of fascism and Stalinism, the pressures of the anti-fascist Popular Fronts, World War II, the resistance movements and the battles of the postwar period (“governments of national reconstruction”) in Europe, McCarthyism in the U.S) did not create much space for socialists of any stripe to leisurely analyze the phase-change underway in world accumulation, still less to foresee the 1945-1973 boom under U.S. auspices. The depression of the 1930’s looked very much like the death agony of capitalism predicted by Marx, and the social pathologies to which it gave rise looked very much like the barbarism which Marx saw as the real long-term historical rival of socialism(57) . In such a climate, it is easy to see why the best-intentioned people could attribute the enlistment of the Communist Party in its role as ginger man and errand boy for the Rooseveltian New Deal as a betrayal, as a question of leadership and tactics. What hindsight affords us is a view, such as that presented earlier, of a wide variety of different states and polities by which capitalism carried out the structural transformation of the 1890-1945 period. This is not to say that the New Deal, fascism, Popular Frontism or Stalinism were really identical political formations, as figures such as James Burnham or Bruno Rizzi tried to argue in 1940. But they were specific national sector responses to one single world economic structural transformation underway, culminations of trends existing, as argued previously, from the 1860’s onward. A certain time perspective makes visible, behind the battles of ideologies and political forms, certain other forces at work “behind the backs” of the actors. And the purpose of such retrospective analysis, obviously, is not to complacently proclaim an end to ideologies, but on the contrary to illuminate contemporary situations in which further historical extensions of such confrontations are being prepared, in suitably transposed and modern form.
1 -Cf. for example W.D. Burnham’s chart, based on the 1976 Gallup Poll study of the correlation between religious beliefs and the level of different countries’ social development in the essay “The 1980 Earthquake” in Ferguson, T. and Rogers, J. The Hidden Election, New York 1981, p. 135.
2 -The ambiguity of the term is its imprecision about exactly what “advanced capitalism” is advanced in.
3 – Although, by the by, Dubofsky’s standard history “We Shall Be All”: The History of the Industrial Workers of the World (1969) does, in passing, locate the IWW in the tradition of American radical Protestantism. More important is the Autobiographical Novel of Kenneth Rexroth (1964, 1991). Rexroth, who was a member of the IWW, joined the newly-founded Communist Party in 1919 and left in 1920, is an indispensable source on the link between the Radical Reformation and the “native’ American radical tradition: “Emma Goldman points out in her autobiography that the pietistic sects in America have produced an unusually large number of radicals, reformers and revolutionaries. The specific sectarian religion dies out; the radical ethical social impulse endures and produces secular revolutionaries.” (p. 3)
4 -Eamonn Fingleton, In Praise of Hard Industries (1999) provides an excellent critique of the concept of “post-industrial society”, particularly the American case.
5-Cf. W.J. Cash, The Mind of the South (1940), for a classic analysis of how an agrarian
ideology is remade for industrial development, in this case for the American South from the
6-Daniel Lazare The Frozen Republic, (1996), provides massive material on the Tudor origins of American political thought.
7-Which while having important absolutist characteristics was never fully absolutist in the continental sense.
8-N. Ignatiev, How the Irish Became White (1995). Ignatiev is of course dealing with the paradigmatic case of immigrant adaptation to the color-caste system of white supremacy within the American working class, and not with the role of Catholicism per se. I might point out at this juncture that the core of this essay was worked out in 1983, before the groundswell of research that put the race question in the center of American working class formation, and of which Ignatiev’s book is probably the nec plus ultra (although cf. also Theodore Allen’s 2-vol. study The Invention of the White Race). In 1983, I was still a “color-blind” Marxist, which in the U.S. means a blind Marxist. That said, I think that the core analysis presented here remains valid, although incomplete without a serious integration of the race question.
9-It is notorious, and significant, that in the 1912 U.S. elections the Jewish proletariat of New York’s Lower East Side voted overwhelmingly for the Socialist candidate Eugene Debs, whereas the Irish working class in nearby Hell’s Kitchen gave only 3% of its vote to Debs. The abolitionist Frederick Douglass, similarly, contrasting the radicalism of the Irish
in Ireland with their racist opposition to blacks in the U.S., asked somewhere “How can they be so good over there and so bad over here?”
10-K. Marx/F. Engels, Communist Manifesto, (New York 1967), pp. 95-96.
11 -Once again, cf. Burnham op. cit.
12-Lazare, op. cit. S. Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies, Ch. 2.
13 -A fundamental aspect of the American ideology is the “Adamic” myth of the founding without prior history; instead of situating that myth in a global context, most American historical writing reflects it, by serious or systematic neglect of the international situation on every major turn of American history. Cf. E. Marienstras, Les mythes fondateurs de la nation americaine (Paris 1976).
14-Obviously, the key sources here are the many historical works of Christopher Hill.
15-Marx, Surveys from Exile, London/New York 1973, p. 148.
16-Ellen M. Wood, The Pristine Culture of Capitalism (1991), puts Locke into his historical and political context, and also highlights the importance of the agrarian revolution.
17 -On the Physiocrats and mercantilism, cf. K. Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, vol. 1; on capitalism’s interaction with peasants, cf. Rosa Luxemburg The Accumulation of Capital (1963), p. 48ff.
18 – Cf. T. Aston/C. Philpin, The Brenner Debate (1985), for the discussion of the capitalization of agriculture in England.
19- Margaret Jacob in The Origins of Anglo-American Radicalism (1991) and other works, shows the “enthusiast” tradition inspired by the Radical Reformation against which Locke was also polemicizing.
20-The countries of the ex-Soviet bloc, from the Baltic states to Rumania, had after all undergone some influence of Swedish, Russian, Prussian and Austrian absolutism.
21 -Emmanuel Todd, L’invention de l’Europe (1990) makes a similar correlation between agrarian development and the appearance of 20th-century Communist Parties.
22- Because the belated national unification, the story of Enlightened absolutism in Italy played out regionally, under Habsburg domination in its Spanish and then Austrian moments.
23 -In his 1955 The Liberal Tradition in America.
24-It is highly significant that in the U.S., 1848 marks the explosion of previously dominant Jacksonian democracy over the question of slavery, indicating once again the centrality of race in the definition of class in U.S. experience.
25 -Arno Mayer, The Persistence of the Ancien Regime (New York 1981) provides material for demonstrating that Europe as late as 1914 was far from fully capitalist. The problem of Mayer’s book is a kind of political-institutional bias that diverts him from the question of whether capitalism had already broken the bonds holding it back from becoming the exclusive mode of production. Mayer also does not make a connection to a critique of pre-1914 European socialism as being “insufficiently socialist” because the social milieu in which it operated was insufficiently capitalist.
26-This analysis, following the remarks in the previous footnote, provide the framework for a concrete explanation of the uncanny resemblance of Second International “vulgar Marxism” to 18th century mechanical materialism, serving the same bourgeois revolutionary ends.
27-Richard Slotkin, The Fatal Environment, (1985), pp. 482-483 and ff.
28 -On the German-American Marxists, cf. David Herreshoff, The Origins of American Marxism, (New York 1967), pp. 53-78. Similarly, in 1919, it took a direct intervention of the Comintern to enforce English, and not Russian, as the official language of the newly-founded American Communist Party.
29-The factional situation of the SP on the eve of the war is described in James Weinstein, The Decline of Socialism in America, 1912-1925, (New York 1967).
30 – The description of the early congresses of the American Communist Party-to-be, T. Draper, The Roots of American Communism (New York 1957).
31-Draper, op. cit. pp. 176-184.
32 -B. Moore, Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy, New York 1966, Ch. 3. It was rather the last capitalist revolution that openly spoke the language of capitalism.
33-Hans Rosenberg, Grosse Depression und Bismarckzeit, (Berlin 1967), Ch. 1 for a discussion of various theories of conjuncture explaining the post-1873 depression.
34-Rosenberg, Die Weltwirtschaftskrise, 1857-1859, (Goettingen, 1974) Ch. 1. for Rosenberg’s argument that 1857-1859 was the first world depression.
35-This tradition is disinterred by Michael Hudson, Economics and Technology in 19th Century American Thought, The Neglected American Economists, (New York 1975)
36-This is hardly to imply that, by 1937-38, England and France had not reflated along the emerging “Keynesian” paradigm; merely that they had already been pushed from front-rank status, increasingly buffeted by larger forces instead of shaping them.
37-This is a preferable term to the “monopoly capital” of Hobson-Lenin coinage.
38-In Germany, the SPD ruled alone or in coalitions at various times from 1918 to 1933, and aided the Allied powers in the marginalization of the German Communist Party in the 1945-1952 stabilization of postwar Germany; in Italy (as in France and in Belgium) the Communist Party was in the government from 1944 to 1947 and was essential in persuading the wartime resistance movement to give up its arms and accept of “government of national reconstruction”; in Japan, both the JSP and JCP played a similar role, with the JSP in the government and the JCP supporting a broad “democratic alliance” outside the government; Finally, in Russia, an actual working-class revolution overturned the state and provided the subsequent Stalinist counter-revolution with an edifying ideology for the construction of “socialism in one country”. Less noted, but perhaps almost as significant, is the working-class and “socialist” component of the interwar fascist ideologies of the state in Italy and Germany; cf. David Roberts, The Syndicalist Tradition and Italian Fascism (Chapel Hill 1979) and Max Kele Nazis and Workers (Chapel Hill, 1972); most importantly, Jean-Pierre Faye, Langages totalitaires (Paris 1972), pp. 641-677 on the crossover of left and right in the preparation of the Schachtian reflation after 1933.
39-A. Predoehl gives a good discussion of the distinction between extensive and intensive accumulation and the post-1873 conjuncture as the turning point between the two in Aussenwirtschaft: Weltwirtschaft, Handelspolitik und Waehrungspolitik (1949), pp. 101-136.
40-Marx develops the concepts of extensive and intensive capitalist development in passing in the chapters treating absolute and relative surplus value in Vol. I of Capital, but his summum on the subject, focused on parallel distinctions between the formal and real subsumption of labor, is in the so-called “unpublished’ Ch. 6 of vol. I, “Results of the Immediate Capitalist Production Process”, which is the appendix to the 1973 Penguin translation of vol. I.
41-These concepts are applied to American economic and labor history by M. Aglieta, Theory of Capitalist Regulation, (NLB 1979), pp. 131-135.
42-It is of course ironic that List himself had been influenced by the statist-protectionist
economics of the early 19th century in the U.S., namely Henry Carey and, before him,
43-Lawrence Veysey, The Emergence of the American University, Chicago 1965, pp. 125-133.
44 -The report of the Pujo Committee, established in 1908 to study the central bank question (after the panic of 1907), included a major discussion of the Reichsbank when it was published in 1911. Similarly, German workmen’s compensation was prominent in the Congressional hearings on that subject in the U.S. in 1909; cf. J. Weinstein, The Corporate Ideal in the Liberal State, Boston 1968, pp. 50-51.
45-S. Na’aman, Lassalle (1970), is the definitive study. Hal Draper’s 4-volume Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution (1977-1990) also contains numerous passages on Lassalle.
46-On this subject, one might well signal the brilliant if idiosyncratic work of John T. Flynn, As We Go Marching (1944; 1973).Flynn began as a liberal of the New Republic variety who subsequently moved across the political spectrum to right-wing isolationism by 1940. Here is the concise rendition of Flynn’s analysis: “…If you would know, therefore, who are the fascists in America, you must ask yourselves not who are the men and women most vocal in their denunciations of Hitler and Mussolini…The test of fascism is not one’s rage against the Italian and German war lords. The test is—how many of the essential principles of fascism do you accept and to what extent are you prepared to apply those fascist ideas to American social and economic life? When you can put your finger on the men or groups that urge for America the debt-supported state, the autarchical corporative state, the state bent on the socialization of investment and the bureaucratic government of industry and society, the establishment of the institution of militarism as the great glamorous public-works project and the institution of imperialism under which it proposes to regulate and rule the world…–then you will know you have located the authentic fascist.” (Flynn, op. cit. p. 252.)
47-On the SP, Weinstein op. cit.; on the CP, T. Draper op. cit., and the second volume
American Communism and Soviet Russia (New York 1960)
48-D. Montgomery, Beyond Equality: Labor and the Radical Republicans, 1862-1872 (New York 1967). Even thirty years later, ca. 1900, Mark Hanna was making a serious appeal for labor support to the Republican Party and supporting industrial unionism at a time when few capitalists and politicians did. Cf. Herbert Croly, Marcus Alonso Hanna(1912; 1965 reprint), pp. 407-409.
49 -Cf. Chs. 2-9 of Ronald Radosh’s book American Labor and United States Foreign Policy (New York, 1969).
50-Repression also came down hard in Europe, but structural reform had to be used to contain the working class. Cf. Charles Maier, Recasting Bourgeois Europe (Princeton 1975).
51 -John P. Diggins, Mussolini and Fascism: The View From America (1972), provides excellent material on the Progressive admirers of Mussolini such as Lincoln Steffens, Charles Beard, and Herbert Croly; even better, Gen. Hugh Johnson, who headed the National Recovery Administration, always carried a copy of corporative theorist Raffaelo Vigone’s Lo stato corporativo with him. On Johnson’s sympathy for the Italian corporative state, cf. Frances Perkins, The Roosevelt I Knew (1946), p. 206.
52-I. Bernstein, The Lean Years (New York 1972). Ch. 2 describes the disarray of the American labor movement on the eve of the depression.
53 -Grant McConnell, Private Power and American Democracy (New York 1966), Ch. 9 develops one of the few analyses that sees U.S. labor institutions as essentially corporatized by the New Deal, above all by the experience of World War II.
54-On the formation of the CIO, basic accounts are in A. Preis, Labor’s Giant Step (New York 1964) and I, Bernstein, op. cit.
55 – CLR James, in Notes on Dialectics, puts this a different way, arguing against the Trotskyist idea that Stalinists “betray” the working class, emphasizing instead the world historical moment of accumulation that brought them to the fore and of which they were one important, perhaps the most important, expression: “Whatever their social origin, whatever their subjective motives, the fact remains that stalinism finds this caste of labor leaders all over the world, in China, in Korea, in Spain, in Brazil, everywhere, intellectuals, labor leaders, workers who rise–the caste grows, changes composition, but it remains as an entity. It faces death, undergoes torture, finds energy, ingenuity, devotion, establishes a tradition, maintains it, develops it, commits the greatest crimes with a boldness and confidence that can only come from men who are certain of their historic mission.” (ibid.)
“As I think over Trotsky’s writings I can see this sequence of cause and effect in an endless chain. This happened, then the other, thenthe stalinist bureaucracy did this; then; and so he keeps up an endless series of explanations, fascinating, brilliant, full of insight and illumination, to crash into his catastrophic blunders at the end… We, on the other hand, who show that stalinist cause could create the mighty worldwide effect because it elicited class forces hostile to the proletariat and inherent in capitalist society at this stage in its development, we restore to the proletarian struggle the historical struggle of the classes with social roots. We finish away with the demoralizing, in fact self-destroying, theory that everything would have been all right, but for the intervention of stalinist corruption.” (ibid.)
56-Trotsky, in the 1938 Transitional Program of the newly-formed Fourth International, wrote: “The historical crisis of mankind is reduced to the crisis of the revolutionary leadership.” (L. Trotsky, The Transitional Program, (New York 1973), p. 73.
57 -Marx and Engels, in the second paragraph of The Communist Manifesto, refer to “the common ruin of contending classes” as the alternative to a successful “revolutionary reconstitution of society at large”.