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A brief interview for Contropiano.

Contropiano: The events of 1989 modified power relations on the international level. What have been the consequences in the major capitalist economies?

PS: Obviously, the United States is now the only superpower, but equally obviously that doesn't make it omnipotent. In fact, in important ways one superpower has less control over its clients than it had in the two-superpower situation. As an example, look at Somalia. And other "Somalias" will doubtless emerge in other parts of the world. In the meantime the United States, Japan, and Germany will continue empirebuilding in their respective geographic regions. What is unlikely is any major wars in the foreseeable future.

Contropiano: Imperialism. According to some Marxist scholars it has become global and centralized on a worldwide level. According to others we are moving towards a "tripolar" imperialism based around the United States, Germany, and Japan and a growing conflict between these three elements. What is your evaluation?

PS: I think the foregoing says what needs to be said in response to this question. The idea of a globalized and centralized imperialism makes no more sense than it did a hundred years ago.

Contropiano: How can we evaluate your theory of the tendential increase of surplus within the current capitalist crisis.

PS: Recent experience--i.e., worldwide stagnation of capitalism-validates and reinforces the "tendential increase in surplus" theory. It is precisely capitalism's deep-seated tendency to generate more surplus than it can absorb that underlies the system's present (and probably continuing) crisis.

Contropiano: Marx pointed to the tendency of the falling rate of profit in the increase of the organic composition of capital. This process is being realized to its extreme consequences. Does this contrast with your theory of the increase of surplus? If there is no contradiction, what is the unifying element in these two processes?

PS: Marx's theory of the falling tendency of the rate of profit is an extremely abstract theory which cannot be applied to the infinitely more complex (and largely finance-dominated) capitalist system of the late twentieth century.

Contropiano: How do you place historically the crisis and dissolution of the socialist countries?

PS: The first half of the twentieth century was a period of great wars and revolutions; the second half has been a period of counterrevolution. Unfortunately, the revolutions did not--and in retrospect we can see that they could not have--created a rival system strong enough to stand up to capitalism.

Contropiano: We would like your evaluation of the Chinese model.

PS: The Chinese Revolution (1949-1976) laid the foundation of what could have become a successful socialist society. Unfortunately after Mao died the capitalist roaders--who had always been present and powerful in the Chinese Communist Party--took over. As it turned out, the foundation laid by the Revolution could also be adapted to the needs of capitalism. What has been happening in China since 1976 is the rapid development of a new variety of capitalism that combines a feverish process of primitive accumulation with a sophisticated financial superstructure closely integrated into the global capitalist system. The result is a highly unstable economy and society vulnerable to internal crises and external shocks. Marx's "absolute general law of capitalist accumulation" seems to be operating at full throttle.
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Title Annotation:Paul M. Sweezy on capitalism in the post-Soviet world
Publication:Monthly Review
Article Type:Interview
Date:Feb 1, 1994
Previous Article:Mao, rural development, and two-line struggle.
Next Article:Counterrevolution: the Malayan example.

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