THE Marxist/Leninist theory of class struggle is that capitalism is inherently exploitative and class contradictions follow inevitable dialectical evolution into revolution. It was at the beginning of the 20th century that the theory began to face questioning.
The modification of the theory took the form of a division into developed capitalism and agrarian capitalism. 20th-century Marxists began to question the possibility of revolution in countries where capitalism was strong and therefore would use psychological and cultural mechanisms apart from the limited distribution of wealth, to prevent the dialectics of revolution.
The contribution in this context of the Italian theorist, Antonio Gramsci was brilliant and exceptional. The acceptance that class contradictions follow different pathways in different capitalist countries that would not necessarily bring about a revolution that Marx could not have foreseen became ubiquitous among Marxist thinkers.
The Russian Revolution made this thinking impregnable. It was Russia, the poorest country in Europe that endured an anti-capitalist revolution and not the more advanced industrial nations of Europe. Marxist/Leninist theory held sway in countries where capitalism was nascent and there was no industrial base. The Third World became the bastion of revolutions – Cuba, Nicaragua, Iran, Grenada, Ethiopia, among others.
The Frankfurt School of Philosophy in Germany then came up with a pessimistic position on class contradictions, a perspective that was not easy to demolish. One of its philosophers, Herbert Marcuse, in his breath-taking, magnum opus, “One Dimensional Man” argued that 20th century, industrialised nations have used science and technology to generate massive levels of productions that were used to accommodate labour demands thus weakening the relentlessness of the dialectics
While Marcuse, like Gramsci before him, acknowledged that capitalism will not abolish its inherent exploitative nature, its levels of wealth are used to mollify labour demands. Marcuse argued, in identical fashion as Gramsci decades before him, that at the psychological level, at the subliminal level, the labouring masses feel that they share in the wealth that capitalism produced.
Anti-Marxist critics of Marcuse came up with the theory of the welfare state in capitalism whereby surplus value, a key concept for Marx in proving ruthless exploitation in capitalism, has been used for the benefit of the working class through state intervention.
In no other part of the world this comes close to be factual than in Scandinavia. The level of working class satisfaction in Scandinavia poses a serious threat to traditional Marxist/Leninist theory. And what the Scandinavia pattern has shown is a marked difference between capitalism in the US and other European countries where Thomas Piketty’s theory of inherent class contradictions in capitalism is very persuasive.
The Scandinavian model also upturned the traditional approach to the role of the state in Marxist theory whereby the state is seen as an instrument of the ruling class. Greek philosopher Nicos Poulantzas and French philosopher Louis Althusser argued that in large, industrialized nations, the state achieves a certain level of autonomy from the ruling classes and effect changes in politics and sociology. It was the relative autonomy of the state in Scandinavia that allowed for an acceptable sharing of wealth by the capitalist class.
In the Third World, the relative autonomy of the state has allowed for the application of the Scandinavian model. Countries like Malaysia, South Korea, Singapore, Mauritius, and Saudi Arabia, have transitioned to levels of capitalism that have mollified the brutal exploitation of the labouring masses.
In CARICOM, with oil wealth of Trinidad could have been used to create the first Scandinavian model. Trinidad with its small population and massive wealth missed a chance of a lifetime in turning Marxist theory on its head. CARICOM now have a second opportunity. It is in Guyana. Anti-PPP critic, Professor Clive Thomas stated that in the coming years, oil income will be so massive that the government will not know how to handle it.
Trinidad missed the boat because it did not have an Irfaan Ali. I believe Dr. Ali will know what to do with that colossal wealth. He is a different CARICOM leader that the region has seen. He has two options. Go the route of Trinidad or use petro-dollars to replicate the Scandinavian model. In his three years so far, I have reason to believe that Guyana’s economy will avoid the harshness of class contradictions.
Marxist/Leninist theory posits that class contradictions inevitably result in revolution. Scandinavia modified that paradigm. In Guyana, class and ethnic problems have strived in a country where wealth was almost invisible and competition for that tiny wealth became a zero-sum game. Dr. Ali, using the state and its income, can reshape the economy to bring about the eradication of class and ethnic tensions. Only anti-PPP haters will deny there aren’t signs of that on the horizon.