The Communist Manifesto opens with the lines, "A spectre is haunting Europe." Over 160 years later it appears that the spectre of Marxism is as potent as ever, with supporters and detractors increasing daily. Why is it that an old German philosophy student, buried over 100 years ago in Highgate cemetery in London, excites such controversy?
This year marks not only 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War, but it also marks the centenary of another debacle: the collapse of the Second International, the international body that brought under its banner all the mass workers’ parties.
The tensions between the major European Powers, which were ultimately rooted in the struggle for markets, colonies and spheres of interest, were increasing steadily in the decades before 1914. They found their expression in a series of “incidents”, each of which contained the potential for the outbreak of war. If they did not reach this logical conclusion that was because the objective conditions were not yet sufficiently mature. These incidents are similar to the small landslides that precede a major avalanche in the above example.
In their desperate search for profitable fields of investment, the capitalist class, especially the financial oligarchy, has presided over an explosive growth of unproductive expenditure that today threatens to undermine the very edifice of capitalism. As more and more surplus value is siphoned off into unproductive activities, the issue of “productive” and “unproductive” labour has once again resurfaced as a factor contributing to, and a reflection of, the present terminal decline of world capitalism.
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