ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Choice 2000 - Socialism or Barbarism

The 20th century saw euphoria over capitalism, but also experiments with communism. Though the latter is in a trough at present, the 21st century will not be America's century. It will see the rise of social struggles that question the disproportionate ambitions of Washington and global capital.

The 19th century came to a close in an atmosphere astonishingly reminiscent of that which had presided over its birth – the ‘belle epoque’ (and it was beautiful, at least for capital). The bourgeois of the Triad, which had already been constituted (the European powers, the US and Japan) were singing hymns to the glory of their definitive triumph. The working classes of the centres were no longer the ‘dangerous classes’ they had been during the 19th century, and the other peoples of the world were called upon to accept the ‘civilising mission’ of the west.

The ‘belle epoque’ crowned a century of radical global transformations, during which the first industrial revolution and the concomitant constitution of the modern bourgeois nation state emerged from the north-western quarter of Europe – the place of their birth – to conquer the rest of the continent, the US and Japan. The old peripheries of the mercantilist age – Latin America, British and Dutch India – were excluded from this dual revolution, while the old states of Asia (China, the Ottoman sultanate, Persia) were being integrated in turn as peripheries within the new globalisation. The triumph of the centres of globalised capital was manifested in a demographic explosion, which was to bring the European population from 23 per cent of global population in 1800 to 36 per cent in 1900. The concentration of the industrial revolution in the Triad had simultaneously generated a polarisation of wealth on a scale humanity had never witnessed during the whole of its preceding history. On the eve of the industrial revolution, the gaps in the social productivity of work for 80 per cent of the planet’s population had never exceeded a relation of 2 to 1. Towards 1900, this relation had become equal to 20 to 1.

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