It takes more than words to deconstruct capitalism

Wednesday, December 11, 1996 - 11:00

Comment by Doug Lorimer

In my opinion, Greg Ogle's review of Katherine Gibson and Julie Graham's book The End of Capitalism in GLW #256 concedes far too much to the drivel of these "post-modernists". For example:

lHe writes, "many on the left abandoned such economic reduction long ago [i.e., the Marxist understanding that "society is structured by class, of people and institutions being constrained (if not positively formed) by material conditions which ultimately relate to a particular production dynamic"], not least because of powerful feminist criticism that gender oppression could not be reduced to class."

Of course, "gender oppression" (i.e., the social relation of male privilege-female oppression) cannot be reduced to class divisions and class oppression. Orthodox Marxists (as opposed to vulgar "Marxists", particularly those of the Stalinist school of economic determinism) never sought to do so. What they have affirmed, beginning with Engels' Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, is that the oppression of women arose as a result of the fragmentation of clan-based societies into separate family units, and that this process was driven forward by the emergence of the institution of private property in the means of production (the foundation of the division of society into classes).

lHe expresses sympathy with the authors' eclectic view that "no one dynamic (e.g. class) is privileged as the fundamental cause" of the historical process.

Again, orthodox Marxists have never argued that the conflict between classes is the fundamental cause of the historical process. Beginning with Marx himself, they have argued that the driving force of human history has been the dialectic between the development of the productive forces (above all, the knowledge and techniques used by people to secure their means of life) and the social relations of production (the way in which people organise themselves to produce their means of life).

It is only in class-divided societies (i.e. societies in which the social relations of production place large groups of people in an unequal relation to the appropriation of the results of material production) that the class struggle is the driving force of history.

lOgle seems swayed by Gibson and Graham's conclusion that capitalism can be replaced by socialism through "looking for, celebrating and building" some of the existing non-capitalist forms of production, e.g., household production. But all of these non-capitalist forms of production are totally dependent upon capitalist production (the latter is the source for all the ingredients and instruments used in household production).

The capitalist system has subordinated all aspects of social life to itself. In the long run, reforms are doomed by the logic and power of capital. Capitalism must be abolished in its entirety or not at all. This is the material reality of the society we live in, and no amount of post-modernist "deconstruction" of words will help us change it.

Of course, this does not mean that we should "wait for the revolution". We must seek to mobilise the largest numbers of working people to fight for social reforms that defend and improve their conditions of life. Fighting for social reforms which contradict the logic and power of capital ("socialist policies") is part of the process of educating and organising the social force (the working class) to make a socialist revolution.
[Doug Lorimer is a member of the National Executive of the Democratic Socialist Party.]

From GLW issue 258