From International Socialism, No.57, April 1973, p.26.
Transcribed & marked up by by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
Modern Capitalism and Other Essays
Monthly Review Press, £2.50
This book contains a collection of recent essays by Dr Sweezy. Each was originally written as a self-contained article and as a consequence there is considerable repetition of material, and some of the most recurrent themes are profoundly misguided. The author says that his position is not that of a ‘traditional Marxist’, which is perhaps an understatement for one who uncritically identifies Stalinist regimes with socialism and rejects as out of date ‘the belief that the industrial proletariat is the only possible revolutionary agent under capitalism’. For the industrial proletariat he proposes to substitute the ‘third world’ – scarcely an original proposal and definitely not a Marxist one, ‘traditional’ or otherwise.
Nevertheless, there is much in the book with which one can agree. For example:
‘It should never be forgotten that the only really new feature of post Second World War capitalism is the vastly increased size of the arms budget. All other government spending is about the same percentage of the gross national product as in 1929. There is no reason except wishful thinking for believing that if the arms budget were reduced to the proportions of the 1930s that the economy would not once again revert to the conditions of the 1930s.’
The book is very readable and often witty, but the theoretical content is slight.
Last updated on 15.2.2008