The class struggle in the Roman Republic, part fifteen – What is Caesarism?Today we conclude the series on the class stiruggles in the Roman Republic. The death of the Roman Republic meant the rise of Caesarism, a phenomenon with many similaritues to modern Bonapartism. In his final contribution, Alan Woods explains the reason for this, and compares the period of the collapse of the Roman Republic to the situation today. The epoch of the senile decay of capitalism provides many striking parallels.

The class struggle in the Roman Republic, part fourteen – The rise of Julius Caesar and the Fall of the Republic (3)The formation of the Triumvirate (Caesar, Pompey and Crassus) was already a step in the direction of undermining and overthrowing the Republic and replacing it with the rule of one man. But relations within the Triumvirate were now beginning to crack. The question was really very simple. Who would be the future ruler of Rome?

The class struggle in the Roman Republic, part eleven – Caesarism (3)When a ruling class is weakened and exhausted by long years of internecine struggle, we have seen how power can pass into the hands of a “strong man” who rules in the name of the existing social order, but who in fact usurps power and reinforces it by creating a new state in his own image. Such a man was Sulla. His rise, however, also marked the beginning of a process of utter degeneration of Roman society in all spheres of life.

The class struggle in the Roman Republic, part ten – Caesarism (2)By now, the parasitic nature of Roman society was clearly illustrated in a systematic plundering of the productive provinces by the unproductive centre. This provoked a revolt of the Italians who rose up against Rome, known as the Social War, but they were defeated after several years of bloody conflict and out of this emerged powerful generals such as Marius and Sulla.

The class struggle in the Roman Republic, part eightThe rich senators, having killed Tiberius, found that that was not the end of the matter. Powerful class forces had been unleashed from below. Such was the strength of the movement that the senate was forced to accept at least a partial implementation of Tiberius’ reforms. But this was only a means of controlling the masses and eventually overturning those very same reforms. The destruction of the small free peasants and the concentration of land in the hands of the wealthy was an unstoppable process.

The class struggle in the Roman Republic, part seven – The Gracchi (2)Tiberius Gracchus was elected tribune in 133BC on a platform of distributing land to the urban poor and limiting the land that each individual could hold. This was hugely popular with the poor but – in spite of significant concessions to the wealthy landowners ‑ it provoked the anger of the patrician reactionaries who blocked his proposed reforms. This sharpened the class conflict, giving it a revolutionary character.

The class struggle in the Roman Republic, part six  – The Gracchi (1)Rome continued to be in the hands of an exclusive aristocratic club, although the economic and class relations in society had been completely transformed. The political superstructure no longer corresponded to the economic base. This contradiction had to be resolved, and it was resolved through the most savage class struggle. This was the explosive background to the emergence of the Gracchi. [Part one]

The class struggle in the Roman Republic, part five — The revolt of the slavesThe changes in the mode of production in the Roman Republic after the Punic Wars required greater and greater use of slave labour. This forced Rome into war after war as it sought to replenish its supply of slaves. This abundant supply of cheap labour explains why there was no incentive to invest in labour-saving technology. It also explains the brutal treatment of the slaves and the subsequent mass revolts that broke out.

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