David Harvey argues Marxist ‘‘historical/dialectical materialism’’ is the best tool for understand the dynamics of human social development with labour and technology as part of a ‘‘metabolic’’ processes with the naturel world. The class struggle needs to go beyond labour union activity and the social-democratic consciousness of the Keynesian period of welfare capitalism and bourgeoisie democracy. Capitalism has moved from being a progressive force replacing the autocracies of the feudal aristocratic classes to a regressive reactionary force. As Vladimir Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg argued a hundred years ago the choice is between the barbarism of capitalist imperialism or human progress and socialism.
The contradictions between the needs of the working classes and capitalist classes were resolved after the second world war as a compromise between the interests of capital and labour as a reaction to the crisis of capitalist imperialism from 1900 to the 1930’s which created two world wars, socialist revolution in Russia and the rise of Fascism in Germany, Italy and Spain. By the mid 1970’s a new crisis of capitalism as a consequence of the post-war compromise had produced a crisis of class power which the capitalist classes solved by a combination of neo-liberal economic and neo-conservative political solutions which have restored class power to the capitalist classes and overseen the collapse of the Soviet Union and its allies as well as the Yugoslavian model of socialism.
Capitalism is now faced with a crisis of capitalist imperialism and global finance capital and the solution it seeks are the same as those of a hundred years ago imperialist wars for access to resources, cheap labour and markets and as in the 1930’s to make the working classes pay for the crisis of capitalism so that the capitalist classes can continue to accumulate wealth regardless of the physical and ecological limits of the planet.
What Lenin called the ‘‘highest stage’’ of capitalism ‘‘imperialism’’ David Harvey argues are the mechanisms by which modern capitalism seeks to resolve the current crisis, what Harvey calls ‘‘solve its capital-surplus problem through geographical and temporal displacements’’ by exporting capital globally and privatization of ‘‘non-market’’ social institutions such as water, health care, education etc. Both political and military means are used to open up new markets and disposes people such as happened in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya opening up state assets such as oil to the multinational corporation of global capitalism.
People are being dispossessed in Iraq, Afghanistan, India and Africa but they are also being dispossessed in the USA, Britain as well in Southern Europe. So the crisis of capital accumulation is a crisis of homelessness and social welfare in the USA, Britain, Europe, Scandinavia, South America, India, Asia, and Africa. David Harvey argues that this has been an ideological class offensive waged since the 1970’s. The theories of Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman formed the basis for the Thatcher/Reagan ideological offensive in the 1980’s based upon laissez-faire and monetary economic polices backed up by neo-liberal/neo-conservative state, super-state institutions such as the IMF, WTO and World Bank, USA, British and European institutions/government.
According to David Harvey the capitalist classes have used this ideology and the institutions of state and global governance for the ‘‘restoration and reconstitution of class power, locally as well as transnationally, but most particularly in the main financial centres of global capitalism’’. This has been done by a process of creating a permanent ‘‘reserve army of labour’’ (out-of-work and causally employed workers) accompanied by the dismantling of welfare system providing a flexible pool of workers and pushing down wages.
What is needed therefore is a new ‘‘historic bloc’’ for a ‘‘Left-Wing’’ alternative to the ‘‘historic bloc’’ formed by ‘‘neo-liberal/neo-conservative’’ ideology of the capitalist elite which has been on the economic, political and social offensive for over thirty years, and has successfully used the nation state, regional super-state and global institutions to achieve its class agenda. Bourgeois democracy represented a democratic and social advance in the mid-20th century, today the democratic and social advances achieved by the working classes over the last one hundred years are in retreat and the capitalist classes are reasserting the dictatorship of capital through privatization of previously democratically owned utilities such as water, energy, railways, health care, education and pensions.