Numero Uno—“Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Min Vackra Fru, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I thank the Swedish Academy for finding my work worthy of this highest honor.
In my heart there may be doubt that I deserve the Nobel award over other men of letters whom I hold in respect and reverence – but there is no question of my pleasure and pride in having it for myself.
It is customary for the recipient of this award to offer personal or scholarly comment on the nature and the direction of literature. At this particular time, however, I think it would be well to consider the high duties and the responsibilities of the makers of literature.
Such is the prestige of the Nobel award and of this place where I stand that I am impelled, not to squeak like a grateful and apologetic mouse, but to roar like a lion out of pride in my profession and in the great and good men who have practiced it through the ages.
Literature was not promulgated by a pale and emasculated critical priesthood singing their litanies in empty churches – nor is it a game for the cloistered elect, the tinhorn mendicants of low calorie despair.
Literature is as old as speech. It grew out of human need for it, and it has not changed except to become more needed.
The skalds, the bards, the writers are not separate and exclusive. From the beginning, their functions, their duties, their responsibilities have been decreed by our species.
Humanity has been passing through a gray and desolate time of confusion. My great predecessor, William Faulkner, speaking here, referred to it as a tragedy of universal fear so long sustained that there were no longer problems of the spirit, so that only the human heart in conflict with itself seemed worth writing about.
Faulkner, more than most men, was aware of human strength as well as of human weakness. He knew that the understanding and the resolution of fear are a large part of the writer’s reason for being.
This is not new. The ancient commission of the writer has not changed. He is charged with exposing our many grievous faults and failures, with dredging up to the light our dark and dangerous dreams for the purpose of improvement.
Furthermore, the writer is delegated to declare and to celebrate man’s proven capacity for greatness of heart and spirit – for gallantry in defeat – for courage, compassion and love.
In the endless war against weakness and despair, these are the bright rally-flags of hope and of emulation.
I hold that a writer who does not passionately believe in the perfectibility of man, has no dedication nor any membership in literature.
The present universal fear has been the result of a forward surge in our knowledge and manipulation of certain dangerous factors in the physical world.
It is true that other phases of understanding have not yet caught up with this great step, but there is no reason to presume that they cannot or will not draw abreast. Indeed it is a part of the writer’s responsibility to make sure that they do.
With humanity’s long proud history of standing firm against natural enemies, sometimes in the face of almost certain defeat and extinction, we would be cowardly and stupid to leave the field on the eve of our greatest potential victory.
Understandably, I have been reading the life of Alfred Nobel – a solitary man, the books say, a thoughtful man. He perfected the release of explosive forces, capable of creative good or of destructive evil, but lacking choice, ungoverned by conscience or judgment.
Nobel saw some of the cruel and bloody misuses of his inventions. He may even have foreseen the end result of his probing – access to ultimate violence – to final destruction. Some say that he became cynical, but I do not believe this. I think he strove to invent a control, a safety valve. I think he found it finally only in the human mind and the human spirit. To me, his thinking is clearly indicated in the categories of these awards.
They are offered for increased and continuing knowledge of man and of his world – for understanding and communication, which are the functions of literature. And they are offered for demonstrations of the capacity for peace – the culmination of all the others.
Less than fifty years after his death, the door of nature was unlocked and we were offered the dreadful burden of choice.
We have usurped many of the powers we once ascribed to God.
Fearful and unprepared, we have assumed lordship over the life or death of the whole world – of all living things.
The danger and the glory and the choice rest finally in man. The test of his perfectibility is at hand.
Having taken Godlike power, we must seek in ourselves for the responsibility and the wisdom we once prayed some deity might have.
Man himself has become our greatest hazard and our only hope.
So that today, St. John the apostle may well be paraphrased …
In the end is the Word, and the Word is Man – and the Word is with Men.” John Steinbeck, 1962 Nobel Literary Laureates Banquet Speech
Numero Dos—“1960s seatbelt laws represented a cultural change
A cultural shift took place with the use of seat belts. I still remember when a seat belt was an ‘after-market’ item for a car. Few if any cars I saw had seat belts in the 1960s.By the late 1960s, pressure from Ralph Nader and consumer groups caused Congress to pass laws that mandated the installation of seat belts as required equipment for a new car. Most states didn’t force people to wear them–then the law only required people to have them. It was sort of like creating a safety net for trapeze artists, but leaving the net on the solid ground. Most people just stuffed the seat belts behind the seats to keep from sitting on them.
Public-service ads featuring crash dummies starting giving us graphic reasons to think again about the use of seatbelts. It started seeming like a pretty good idea after all. And within a few more years, it was more than a good idea — it was the law.
A: Yeah. There are differences, obviously. The question is not whether their differences verbally or what they put on their Web site, the question is what is their record? Senator Obama’s record has not been a challenging one. He’s not been a Senator Wellstone or Senator Metzenbaum by any means. He has leaned, if anything, more toward the pro-corporate side of policymaking. The issue is, do they have the moral courage? Do they have the fortitude to stand up against the corporate powers and get things done? Yes, get things done for the American people? 1950, President Truman proposed universal health care. We still don’t have it.
Senator Gravel understands that we must take the domination of just about everything by giant corporations as a major issue. If you don’t make this a major issue, it will affect our economy and our electoral reforms, and we will be avoiding a critical issue and engaging in rhetorical charades, slogans, clich‚s, and self-censorship.
If money is the index of electoral politics, Senator Gravel rightly believes our democracy is gone. We’re supposed to have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. There can be no democracy if it is a government of the Exxons, by the General Motors, for the DuPonts.
That was before the corporate crime wave that started with Enron and the looting and draining of pensions and small investors. You can imagine what it would be now.
We have to touch people with descriptions and narrations of different types of corporate control Some descriptions will leave people cold. A lot of people don’t really have empathy to inner-city exposure to business crime like payday loan interest rates of 400%, or asbestos and lead. Other people resonate with the corporate seizure of our tax dollars, where a huge portion of our tax dollars are cycled back to corporate welfare and bailouts. There are people who really get angry about that. We’ve got to enter that constituency as well
It isn’t just the government under the CONTROL of corporations–the government IS the Corporation now! The corporation IS the government!
That’s the kind of thing that Franklin Roosevelt called “fascism.” In 1938 he said to Congress, “When government is controlled by private economic power, that is fascism”
- This is a citizens’ agenda for cracking down on corporate crime.
- Establish a public online corporate crime database at the Dept. of Justice, and produce an annual corporate crime report
- Increase Corporate Crime Prosecution Budgets of the SEC, which have been chronically under funded.
- Ban Corporate Criminals from Government Contracts – including corporate contracts in Iraq.
- Punish corporate tax escapees by closing the offshore reincorporation loophole and banning government contracts and subsidies for companies that relocate their headquarters to an offshore tax haven.
- Restore the Rights of Defrauded Investors in seeking restitution
- Require shareholder authorization of top executive compensation at annual shareholder meetings.
- Enact corporate sunshine laws that force corporations to provide better information about their records on the environment, human rights, worker safety, and taxes, as well as their criminal and civil litigation records.
[In a reversal this week], the Michigan Supreme Court rejected the suggestion that “a vague economic benefit stemming from a private profit-maximizing enterprise is a ‘public use.’“ Rather, land may be seized and transferred to a private party only if ”the property remains subject to public oversight after transfer to a private entity.“
This decision makes good sense as a matter of constitutional law & fundamental fairness. People’s homes can no longer be seized to achieve speculative benefits or to reward usually large corporate welfare kings. Courts nationwide should follow Michigan’s lead and reestablish their rightful role in our constitutional system.
The reason we are seeing tort deformers push the myriad pieces of legislation that would immunize doctors from malpractice responsibility; that would protect oil companies from cleaning up polluting components of gasoline from our drinking water sources; or that would make more onerous the ability of class actions to succeed against wealthy cigarette manufacturers, asbestos manufacturers and other corporations, is because they need only establish a few federal legislative precedents to open the tort deform floodgates.
While I was talking with reporters, a wandering corporate fellow, having overheard my remarks about the convention’s corporate omnipresence, blurted, “It’s free speech, Ralph.” I responded, “Sure, money talks freely, doesn’t it?”
And business money donated to the Republican Party and its convention made even more public money gush in its service.
Paying for these concessions with ever-larger campaign donations gives new meaning to what the wry Will Rogers once said about Congress: “the best money could buy.” So when the corporate greasers & persuaders finished their work at the Republican convention, they took a few days off & then flew to Los Angeles for the opening of the Democratic convention.
For them, it was the same racket, just different coastlines. Democratic National Committee donors who gave $50,000 enjoyed a private reception. The biggest donors watched the action from private skyboxes far above the floor.
The business discussed [at either convention] has very little to do with the “Other America.”
Nader’s net worth was $3.8 million as of June 2000. He owned $1.2 million in Cisco Systems stock and more than $100,000 worth of shares in Fidelity’s Magellan Fund, which has stakes in defense contractors and business interests in South American rain forests. This, from a man who once urged GM’s shareholders to revolt in an effort to force the company to be more socially responsible. Then again, Nader estimated during his presidential run that he had made $14 million since 1967. He gave the bulk of the money away, financing his own causes and numerous others. As always, Nader is full of contradictions inside of contradictions, like Chinese boxes.
The nest result of all Nader’s frenetic activity was a full-blown movement, consumerism. The name is a bit misleading: consumerism is not just about the price of a cup of sugar, at least not at its core. It is more of a political and economic theory, born out of Nader’s distinct observations about the ongoing struggle between corporations and individual citizens, producers and consumers.
A 1995 study by Public Citizen, a watchdog group founded by Ralph Nader, later released a report to the Associated Press that showed 3/4 of the companies in which Bush owned stock, were defendant corporations and could be drastically affected by lawsuit reforms.
The governor claimed that tort reform was “good for business” in Texas, and that everyone benefited because insurance premiums would fall. However, in the following years, rates did not decline and the insurance industry recorded profits at a 40-year high.
Adopting these conscience-releasing reforms would create a powerful deterrent to corporate wrongdoing. Many corporate attorneys would howl in protest if confronted with this proposal.
When justice moves at the pace of continental drift, it contributes mightily to the public’s current crisis of confidence in attorneys, judges, and, indeed, the entire civil justice system. And with some power lawyers going even further and deliberately concealing evidence, it is evident that dramatic changes are needed.
Evidence of misconduct is exposed only through determined and expensive discovery litigation, or never turns up at all. For every case where the wrong-doing finally comes out, how many cases are there where smoking gun documents remain buried in the files or damning eyewitness testimony never comes to light? Presently, there is no way to know.
All the while, innocent people have suffered in the workplace, marketplace, and environment.
Corporate power lawyers are not just any citizens equipped only with the influence of their facts and arguments. They are paid to be architects of the corporate state from whence they derived their power, their wealth, and their status.
Ralph Nader on Auto Safety
- In his career as consumer advocate Nader has been instrumental in the passing of the following legislation:
- National Motor Vehicle and Highway Traffic Safety Act (1965)
- Wholesome Meat Act
- Wholesome Poultry Product Act
- Safe Water Drinking Act
- Tire safety & grading disclosure law
- Center for Auto Safety
- Fisherman’s Clear Water Action Group
- Professional Drivers (PROD) (truck safety)
- Professionals for Auto Safety
More than a million lives have been saved and many millions of injuries prevented or reduced in severity because of implementation of these laws. The system worked–government responded to an engaged citizenry, and the fatality rate declined from 5.6 deaths per hundred million vehicle miles in 1966 to 1.6 in 2000.
When studies showed that in frontal collisions, if you hit your head against the rearview mirror and it did not break away, it could be a fatal injury. It took us years to get the auto company executives to let their engineers do what they knew how to do and to put breakaway rearview mirrors in cars that we have today. All of these safety devices cost a pittance even on the first round of installation.
What has happened now is that the Auto Safety Agency has become a consulting firm for the auto industry. The process started under Ronald Reagan and George Bush and continued unabated under the Clinton-Gore administration. With the exception of the airbag standard, there has been very little advance in automotive safety and fuel-efficiency technology in people’s motor vehicles in the last 20 years. The last statutory fuel-efficiency standard was established in 1975, and the goal was by 1985, a motor vehicle average fuel efficiency would be 27.5 miles per gallon
- We need, in this country, new motor vehicle statutory authorities, with the following amendments enacted by Congress:
- To put criminal penalties for knowing and willful violation of motor vehicle standards or knowing or willful refusal to recall known defective cars that are impairing human life.
- To increase the [maximum] civil penalties from $925,000 to $15 million.
- To require the testing before certifying for compliance with safety standards.
- To extend the statute of limitations. Right now if you have a car that is over eight years old, and the company discovers a serious defect, they don’t have to recall the vehicle. After eight years, they are in the clear.
- Now, [for] all of these and other knowing and willful criminal behavior, coverups, there is no criminal penalty. But if you are ever in Colorado or Wyoming and Idaho, and you get caught harassing a wild ass, you can go to jail for one year.
The PNGV is not the only example of a federal research program that should be eliminated. Research and development programs in areas like nuclear power and fossil fuels (among them the clean coal technology program) invest funds in undesirable non-renewable technologies. Such programs are not defensible.
A: I would make its mission safety, No. 1 — whether it’s aviation, highway safety, motor vehicle safety. It isn’t No. 1 now. It’s basically a department that’s a consulting firm to the motor vehicle industry and all its component parts — trucking industry, automobile manufacturers, the highway lobby, etc. It’s not enforcing the law. I would enforce the law.
I would dramatically expand investment in modern public transit. Instead of spending billions keeping our boys in Europe and East Asia to defend against nonexistent enemies on behalf of prosperous countries, I’d put that money into job production for public transit and other public works, like schools, clinics, sewage systems and drinking water systems.
A: Because at the point of production the company has to change the product, whereas at the point of emission it’s more at the [consumer] end. It’s more, “You haven’t kept it up. You haven’t maintained it,“ etc. But also, if you control it at the emission point you don’t have to raise the question of displacing the internal combustion engine with a new propulsion system. You don’t have to answer the question why the auto companies have been promising electric cars for all these years. I saw it at the 1939 World’s Fair at the GM exhibit. And now the head of the Automobile Manufacturer’s Association is quoted in the press as saying it’s still ten years off.
Ralph Nader on Consumer Rights
- In his career as consumer advocate Nader has been instrumental in the passing of the following legislation:
- Consumer Product Safety Act
- Foreign Corrupt Practices Act
- Mine Health and Safety Act
- Whistleblower Protection Act
- Medical Devices safety
- Nuclear power safety
- Mobile home safety
- Consumer credit disclosure law
- Pension protection law
- Co-Op Bank Bill (1978)
- Funeral home cost disclosure law
- Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) 1970
Today, a parent may buy a child a car safety seat unaware that other children have been severely injured or killed in that model due to a product defect. A secret settlement may have swept the potential danger under the rug. A doctor may prescribe medication unaware that there are potential side effects being kept from the public by the drug company, side effects that may take his patient’s life. Why? Because corporate attorneys made a secret settlement that buried information about the side effects. A woman may seek help from a mental health professional unaware that he has been repeatedly accused of sexually assaulting his patients, because he secretly paid his previous victims for their silence through confidential settlements.
The pressure to bill extracts a terrible toll on health, energy, and family life. As a consequence, many of these young attorneys end up padding bills or doing unnecessary work simply to feed the voracious billing quote monster. This situation makes their stomachs–and their consciences–queasy. The idealistic reasons for which the lawyer may have entered the profession are easily swept away in a blizzard of time sheets, late nights working on minutiae, and lost sleep worrying about whether all of the hard work will pay off with a lucrative partnership
A:When you have fundamental problems you’ve got to have fundamental overhauls. Right now corporations are treated as persons, just like flesh-and-blood individuals. A corporation, an artificial legal entity, [is treated] as a person having all the rights under our Constitution. It’s absurd. You can’t have equality under the law with General Motors and John and Jane Doe having the same rights, when Ralph Nader railed against big business from the heart of corporate America yesterday. Nader criticized New York City for offering multimillion-dollar tax breaks and other incentives to persuade the New York Stock Exchange to stay in Manhattan. “Here is this bastion of global capitalism on welfare. It will take hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars in order to build them a new building. At the same time, hundreds of neighborhoods are suffering from inadequate funding of their vital needs.”
Ralph Nader on Corporate Welfare
When Congress finally did address the problem, it put the bailout burden on the backs of taxpayers, rather than on the financial industry.
Congress even refused in the bailout legislation to include measures to empower consumers to band together into financial consumer associations-a modest quid pro quo that would have imposed zero financial cost and would have enabled consumers to act on their own to prevent future S&L-style crises and bailouts.
- [I propose] a new framework for analyzing corporate welfare; probing questions to ask of government subsidy programs for big business:
- What rationales do private interests use to secure subsidies, and then shield them from legislative and judicial challenges?
- How do corporate welfare programs become entrenched and immune to cessation or reform?
- To what extent do foreign corporations benefit from the expenditure of US taxpayer dollars?
- How can fair pricing mechanisms be used to allow beneficial programs to be preserved, while eliminating welfare subsidy programs?
- What criteria should determine when corporate welfare programs should simply be cancelled?
- What administrative due process should apply to corporate welfare? How can taxpayers be given standing and procedural rights to challenge arbitrary agency action?
- How do economic subsidies disadvantage non-subsidized businesses and foster undesirable market outcomes?
- Does the program serve some broad public purpose that suggests it has merits beyond the benefits it confers on particular companies? If not, the program should be cancelled.
- If it does serve some public interest, can the government achieve the same ends by retaining an interest in an asset being given away of doing a service in-house?
- Does the program involve functions that should be properly left to the market?
- Is there any reason the government should not charge for services provided?Are there non-monetary reciprocal obligations that should be demanded? These might include reasonable pricing of government-subsidized goods and services provided to consumers.
- Is the program subject to judicial challenge? What are the avenues for citizen challenge?
Is there an institutional means of periodic review? Are criteria delineated by which the program should be evaluated?
Many tax breaks and abatements are directed to specific companies. They properly raise the public ire as citizens demand to know why the rich and powerful have taxes forgiven while local small businesses are required to pay their fair share without special dispensation. This should sharpen the cutting edge of a nascent movement to end corporate welfare as we know it.
- Some corrective policy initiatives to oppose local and state giveaways:
- States and localities should adopt a policy of annual disclosure of all corporate welfare recipients.
- Where state and local governments decide that taxpayer support for a business is necessary, they should include binding commitments that recipients deliver on job creation and other promises.
- Congress should encourage states to refuse to enter a race to the bottom against each other in terms of special tax breaks and related benefits.
- The federal government should levy a surtax on companies receiving state and local tax breaks, treating the tax breaks as income upon which federal tax should be paid.
- Finally, there must be court tests of the claim that the provision of tax subsidies and similar incentives distort economic decision-making concerning the location of business activity and therefore constitutes an unconstitutional infringement of Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce.
- The bailout, a premier form of corporate welfare, is yet another market distortion against the interests of small and medium-sized businesses. Bailouts are different from other corporate welfare categories in that they are ad hoc and unplanned. Some lessons from recent bailout experience:
- Congress should prioritize the issue of payback in full, after the company is nursed back to health.
- Monetary payback is not enough. Because the government is doing more than making a market-justified loan, it has the right to make demands designed to prevent the need for future bailouts.
- The S&L crisis was triggered in large part by industry deregulation. This should be an important cautionary note: that underregulation paves the way for bailouts, especially in the financial sector.
- Strong anti-trust policy and enforcement is a vital prophylactic against the emergence of too-big-to-fail institutions which are sure to benefit from a government bailout in the face of potential collapse.
- : A simple bill could provide a valuable tool for citizen education and organizing. Such legislation would not propose a permanent ban on corporate welfare, but would require affirmative re-commencement of subsidies under both procedural safeguards and reciprocal obligations. The central operative language for such a bill might read:
- Every federal agency shall terminate all below-market-rate sales or arrangements with for-profit beneficiaries; shall cease making any below-market-rate loans; shall terminate all export assistance ort marketing promotion for corporations; and shall terminate any below-market-value technology transfer or subsidy of any kind to for-profit corporations.
- The Internal Revenue Code is amended to eliminate all corporate tax expenditures.
- The Internal Revenue Code is amended so that the value of local and state tax subsidies to corporations shall be treated as income.
A: Corporate welfare comes in two forms and many variations. One is the active form. That includes agribusiness subsidies, military contractor subsidies, loan guarantees, bailouts of S&Ls. There are giveaways of minerals on federal lands, there are giveaways of computer databases. Then there’s the passive corporate welfare, which are the tax breaks, the loopholes. There are dozens of those, they make up about half the tax code. One example is that foreign corporations don’t pay many taxes at all. And then there are the rates themselves — if you’re an individual you pay a higher rate than a corporation.
‘So tractable, so peaceable, are these people,’ Columbus wrote to the King and Queen of Spain, ‘that I swear to your Majesties there is not in the world a better nation. They love their neighbors as themselves, and their discourse is ever sweet and gentle, and accompanied with a smile; and though it is true that they are naked, yet their manners are decorous and praiseworthy.’
All this, of course, was taken as a sign of weakness, if not heathenism, and Columbus being a righteous European was convinced the people should be ‘made to work, sow and do all that is necessary and to adopt our ways.’ Over the next four centuries (1492–1890) several million Europeans and their descendants undertook to enforce their ways upon the people of the New World.
Columbus kidnapped ten of his friendly Taino hosts and carried them off to Spain, where they could be introduced to the white man’s ways. One of them died soon after arriving there, but not before he was baptized a Christian. The Spaniards were so pleased that they had made it possible for the first Indian to enter heaven that they hastened to spread the good news throughout the West Indies.
The Tainos and other Arawak people did not resist conversion to the Europeans’ religion, but they did resist strongly when hordes of these bearded strangers began scouring their islands in search of gold and precious stones. The Spaniards looted and burned villages; they kidnapped hundreds of men, women, and children and shipped them to Europe to be sold as slaves. Arawak resistance brought on the use of guns and sabers, and whole tribes were destroyed, hundreds of thousands of people in less than a decade after Columbus set foot on the beach of San Salvador, October 12, 1492.
Communications between the tribes of the New World were slow, and news of the Europeans’ barbarities rarely overtook the rapid spread of new conquests and settlements. Long before the English-speaking white men arrived in Virginia in 1607, however, the Powhatans had heard rumors about the civilizing techniques of the Spaniards. The Englishmen used subtler methods. To ensure peace long enough to establish a settlement at Jamestown, they put a golden crown upon the head of Wahunsonacook, dubbed him King Powhatan, and convinced him that he should put his people to work supplying the white settlers with food. Wahunsonacook vacillated between loyalty to his rebellious subjects and to the English, but after John Rolfe married his daughter, Pocahontas, he apparently decided that he was more English than Indian. After Wahunsonacook died, the Powhatans rose up in revenge to drive the Englishmen back into the sea from which they had come, but the Indians underestimated the power of English weapons. In a short time the eight thousand Powhatans were reduced to less than a thousand.
In Massachusetts the story began somewhat differently but ended virtually the same as in Virginia. After the Englishmen landed at Plymouth in 1620, most of them probably would have starved to death but for aid received from friendly natives of the New World. A Pemaquid named Samoset and three Wampanoags named Massasoit, Squanto, and Hobomah became self-appointed missionaries to the Pilgrims. All spoke some English, learned from explorers who had touched ashore in previous years. Squanto had been kidnapped by an English seaman who sold him into slavery in Spain, but he escaped through the aid of another Englishman and finally managed to return home. He and the other Indians regarded the Plymouth colonists as helpless children; they shared corn with them from the tribal stores, showed them where and how to catch fish, and got them through the first winter. When spring came they gave the white men some seed corn and showed them how to plant and cultivate it.
For several years these Englishmen and their Indian neighbors lived in peace, but many more shiploads of white people continued coming ashore. The ring of axes and the crash of falling trees echoed up and down the coasts of the land which the white men now called New England. Settlements began crowding in upon each other. In 1625 some of the colonists asked Samoset to give them 12,000 additional acres of Pemaquid land. Samoset knew that land came from the Great Spirit, was as endless as the sky, and belonged to no man. To humor these strangers in their strange ways, however, he went through a ceremony of transferring the land and made his mark on a paper for them. It was the first deed of Indian land to English colonists.
Most of the other settlers, coming in by thousands now, did not bother to go through such a ceremony. By the time Massasoit, great chief of the Wampanoags, died in 1662 his people were being pushed back into the wilderness. His son Metacom foresaw doom for all Indians unless they united to resist the invaders. Although the New Englanders flattered Metacom by crowning him King Philip of Pokanoket, he devoted most of his time to forming alliances with the Narragansetts and other tribes in the region.
In 1675, after a series of arrogant actions by the colonists, King Philip led his Indian confederacy into a war meant to save the tribes from extinction. The Indians attacked fifty-two settlements, completely destroying twelve of them, but after months of fighting, the firepower of the colonists virtually exterminated the Wampanoags and Narragansetts. King Philip was killed and his head publicly exhibited at Plymouth for twenty years. Along with other captured Indian women and children, his wife and young son were sold into slavery in the West Indies.
When the Dutch came to Manhattan Island, Peter Minuit purchased it for sixty guilders in fishhooks and glass beads, but encouraged the Indians to remain and continue exchanging their valuable peltries for such trinkets. In 1641, Willem Kieft levied tribute upon the Mahicans and sent soldiers to Staten Island to punish the Raritans for offenses which had been committed not by them but by white settlers. The Raritans resisted arrest, and the soldiers killed four of them. When the Indians retaliated by killing four Dutchmen, Kieft ordered the massacre of two entire villages while the inhabitants slept. The Dutch soldiers ran their bayonets through men, women, and children, hacked their bodies to pieces, and then leveled the villages with fire.
For two more centuries these events were repeated again and again as the European colonists moved inland through the passes of the Alleghenies and down the westward-flowing rivers to the Great Waters (the Mississippi) and then up the Great Muddy (the Missouri).
The Five Nations of the Iroquois, mightiest and most advanced of all the eastern tribes, strove in vain for peace. After years of bloodshed to save their political independence, they finally went down to defeat. Some escaped to Canada, some fled westward, some lived out their lives in reservation confinement.
During the 1760s Pontiac of the Ottawas united tribes in the Great Lakes country in hopes of driving the British back across the Alleghenies, but he failed. His major error was an alliance with French-speaking white men who withdrew aid from the peaux-rouges during the crucial siege of Detroit.
A generation later, Tecumseh of the Shawnees formed a great confederacy of midwestern and southern tribes to protect their lands from invasion. The dream ended with Tecumseh’s death in battle during the War of 1812.
Between 1795 and 1840 the Miamis fought battle after battle, and signed treaty after treaty, ceding their rich Ohio Valley lands until there was none left to cede.
When white settlers began streaming into the Illinois country after the War of 1812, the Sauks and Foxes fled across the Mississippi. A subordinate chief, Black Hawk, refused to retreat. He created an alliance with the Winnebagos, Pottawotamies, and Kickapoos, and declared war against the new settlements. A band of Winnebagos, who accepted a white soldier chief’s bribe of twenty horses and a hundred dollars, betrayed Black Hawk, and he was captured in 1832. He was taken East for imprisonment and display to the curious. After he died in 1838, the governor of the recently created Iowa Territory obtained Black Hawk’s skeleton and kept it on view in his office.
In 1829, Andrew Jackson, who was called Sharp Knife by the Indians, took office as President of the United States. During his frontier career, Sharp Knife and his soldiers had slain thousands of Cherokees, Chickasaws, Choctaws, Creeks, and Seminoles, but these southern Indians were still numerous and clung stubbornly to their tribal lands, which had been assigned them forever by white men’s treaties. In Sharp Knife’s first message to his Congress, he recommended that all these Indians be removed westward beyond the Mississippi. “I suggest the propriety of setting apart an ample district west of the Mississippi . . . to be guaranteed to the Indian tribes, as long as they shall occupy it.”
Although enactment of such a law would only add to the long list of broken promises made to the eastern Indians, Sharp Knife was convinced that Indians and whites could not live together in peace and that his plan would make possible a final promise which never would be broken again. On May 28, 1830, Sharp Knife’s recommendations became law.
Two years later he appointed a commissioner of Indian affairs to serve in the War Department and see that the new laws affecting Indians were properly carried out. And then on June 30, 1834, Congress passed An Act to Regulate Trade and Intercourse with the Indian Tribes and to Preserve Peace on the Frontiers. All that part of the United States west of the Mississippi “and not within the States of Missouri and Louisiana or the Territory of Arkansas” would be Indian country. No white persons would be permitted to trade in the Indian country without a license. No white traders of bad character would be permitted to reside in Indian country. No white persons would be permitted to settle in the Indian country. The military force of the United States would be employed in the apprehension of any white person who was found in violation of provisions of the act.
Before these laws could be put into effect, a new wave of white settlers swept westward and formed the territories of Wisconsin and Iowa. This made it necessary for the policy makers in Washington to shift the “permanent Indian frontier” from the Mississippi River to the 95th meridian. (This line ran from Lake of the Woods on what is now the Minnesota-Canada border, slicing southward through what are now the states of Minnesota and Iowa, and then along the western borders of Missouri, Arkansas, and Louisiana, to Galveston Bay, Texas.) To keep the Indians beyond the 95th meridian and to prevent unauthorized white men from crossing it, soldiers were garrisoned in a series of military posts that ran southward from Fort Snelling on the Mississippi River to forts Atkinson and Leavenworth on the Missouri, forts Gibson and Smith on the Arkansas, Fort Towson on the Red, and Fort Jesup in Louisiana.
More than three centuries had now passed since Christopher Columbus landed on San Salvador, more than two centuries since the English colonists came to Virginia and New England. In that time the friendly Tainos who welcomed Columbus ashore had been utterly obliterated. Long before the last of the Tainos died, their simple agricultural and handicraft culture was destroyed and replaced by cotton plantations worked by slaves. The white colonists chopped down the tropical forests to enlarge their fields; the cotton plants exhausted the soil; winds unbroken by a forest shield covered the fields with sand. When Columbus first saw the island he described it as “very big and very level and the trees very green . . . the whole of it so green that it is a pleasure to gaze upon.” The Europeans who followed him there destroyed its vegetation and its inhabitants—human, animal, bird, and fish—and after turning it into a wasteland, they abandoned it.
On the mainland of America, the Wampanoags of Massasoit and King Philip had vanished, along with the Chesapeakes, the Chickahominys, and the Potomacs of the great Powhatan confederacy. (Only Pocahontas was remembered.) Scattered or reduced to remnants were the Pequots, Montauks, Nanticokes, Machapungas, Catawbas, Cheraws, Miamis, Hurons, Eries, Mohawks, Senecas, and Mohegans. (Only Uncas was remembered.) Their musical names remained forever fixed on the American land, but their bones were forgotten in a thousand burned villages or lost in forests fast disappearing before the axes of twenty million invaders. Already the once sweet-watered streams, most of which bore Indian names, were clouded with silt and the wastes of man; the very earth was being ravaged and squandered. To the Indians it seemed that these Europeans hated everything in nature—the living forests and their birds and beasts, the grassy glades, the water, the soil, and the air itself.
The decade following establishment of the “permanent Indian frontier” was a bad time for the eastern tribes. The great Cherokee nation had survived more than a hundred years of the white man’s wars, diseases, and whiskey, but now it was to be blotted out. Because the Cherokees numbered several thousands, their removal to the West was planned to be in gradual stages, but discovery of Appalachian gold within their territory brought on a clamor for their immediate wholesale exodus. During the autumn of 1838, General Winfield Scott’s soldiers rounded them up and concentrated them into camps. (A few hundred escaped to the Smoky Mountains and many years later were given a small reservation in North Carolina.) From the prison camps they were started westward to Indian Territory. On the long winter trek, one of every four Cherokees died from cold, hunger, or disease. They called the march their “trail of tears.” The Choctaws, Chickasaws, Creeks, and Seminoles also gave up their homelands in the South. In the North, surviving remnants of the Shawnees, Miamis, Ottawas, Hurons, Delawares, and many other once mighty tribes walked or traveled by horseback and wagon beyond the Mississippi, carrying their shabby goods, their rusty farming tools, and bags of seed corn. All of them arrived as refugees, poor relations, in the country of the proud and free Plains Indians.
Scarcely were the refugees settled behind the security of the “permanent Indian frontier” when soldiers began marching westward through the Indian country. The white men of the United States—who talked so much of peace but rarely seemed to practice it—were marching to war with the white men who had conquered the Indians of Mexico. When the war with Mexico ended in 1847, the United States took possession of a vast expanse of territory reaching from Texas to California. All of it was west of the “permanent Indian frontier.”
In 1848 gold was discovered in California. Within a few months, fortune-seeking easterners by the thousands were crossing the Indian Territory. Indians who lived or hunted along the Santa Fe and Oregon trails had grown accustomed to seeing an occasional wagon train licensed for traders, trappers, or missionaries. Now suddenly the trails were filled with wagons, and the wagons were filled with white people. Most of them were bound for California gold, but some turned southwest for New Mexico or northwest for the Oregon country.
To justify these breaches of the “permanent Indian frontier,” the policy makers in Washington invented Manifest Destiny, a term which lifted land hunger to a lofty plane. The Europeans and their descendants were ordained by destiny to rule all of America. They were the dominant race and therefore responsible for the Indians—along with their lands, their forests, and their mineral wealth. Only the New Englanders, who had destroyed or driven out all their Indians, spoke against Manifest Destiny.
In 1850, although none of the Modocs, Mohaves, Paiutes, Shastas, Yumas, or a hundred other lesser-known tribes along the Pacific Coast were consulted on the matter, California became the thirty-first state of the Union. In the mountains of Colorado gold was discovered, and new hordes of prospectors swarmed across the Plains. Two vast new territories were organized, Kansas and Nebraska, encompassing virtually all the country of the Plains tribes. In 1858 Minnesota became a state, its boundaries being extended a hundred miles beyond the 95th meridian, the “permanent Indian frontier.”
And so only a quarter of a century after enactment of Sharp Knife Andrew Jackson’s Indian Trade and Intercourse Act, white settlers had driven in both the north and south flanks of the 95th meridian line, and advance elements of white miners and traders had penetrated the center.
It was then, at the beginning of the 1860s, that the white men of the United States went to war with one another—the Bluecoats against the Graycoats, the great Civil War. In 1860 there were probably 300,000 Indians in the United States and Territories, most of them living west of the Mississippi. According to varying estimates, their numbers had been reduced by one-half to two-thirds since the arrival of the first settlers in Virginia and New England. The survivors were now pressed between expanding white populations on the East and along the Pacific coasts—more than thirty million Europeans and their descendants. If the remaining free tribes believed that the white man’s Civil War would bring any respite from his pressures for territory, they were soon disillusioned.
The most numerous and powerful western tribe was the Sioux, or Dakota, which was separated into several subdivisions. The Santee Sioux lived in the woodlands of Minnesota, and for some years had been retreating before the advance of settlements. Little Crow of the Mdewkanton Santee, after being taken on a tour of eastern cities, was convinced that the power of the United States could not be resisted. He was reluctantly attempting to lead his tribe down the white man’s road. Wabasha, another Santee leader, also had accepted the inevitable, but both he and Little Crow were determined to oppose any further surrender of their lands.
Farther west on the Great Plains were the Teton Sioux, horse Indians all, and completely free. They were somewhat contemptuous of their woodland Santee cousins who had capitulated to the settlers. Most numerous and most confident of their ability to defend their territory were the Oglala Tetons. At the beginning of the white man’s Civil War, their outstanding leader was Red Cloud, thirty-eight years old, a shrewd warrior chief. Still too young to be a warrior was Crazy Horse, an intelligent and fearless teenaged Oglala.
Among the Hunkpapas, a smaller division of the Teton Sioux, a young man in his mid-twenties had already won a reputation as a hunter and warrior. In tribal councils he advocated unyielding opposition to any intrusion by white men. He was Tatanka Yotanka, the Sitting Bull. He was mentor to an orphaned boy named Gall. Together with Crazy Horse of the Oglalas, they would make history sixteen years later in 1876.
Although he was not yet forty, Spotted Tail was already the chief spokesman for the Brulé Tetons, who lived on the far western plains. Spotted Tail was a handsome, smiling Indian who loved fine feasts and compliant women. He enjoyed his way of life and the land he lived upon, but was willing to compromise to avoid war.
Closely associated with the Teton Sioux were the Cheyennes. In the old days the Cheyennes had lived in the Minnesota country of the Santee Sioux, but gradually moved westward and acquired horses. Now the Northern Cheyennes shared the Powder River and the Bighorn country with the Sioux, frequently camping near them. Dull Knife, in his forties, was an outstanding leader of the Northern branch of the tribe. (To his own people Dull Knife was known as Morning Star, but the Sioux called him Dull Knife, and most contemporary accounts use that name.)
The Southern Cheyennes had drifted below the Platte River, establishing villages on the Colorado and Kansas plains. Black Kettle of the Southern branch had been a great warrior in his youth. In his late middle age, he was the acknowledged chief, but the younger men and the Hotamitaneos (Dog Soldiers) of the Southern Cheyennes were more inclined to follow leaders such as Tall Bull and Roman Nose, who were in their prime.
The Arapahos were old associates of the Cheyennes and lived in the same areas. Some remained with the Northern Cheyennes, others followed the Southern branch. Little Raven, in his forties, was at this time the best-known chief.
South of the Kansas-Nebraska buffalo ranges were the Kiowas. Some of the older Kiowas could remember the Black Hills, but the tribe had been pushed southward before the combined power of Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho. By 1860 the Kiowas had made their peace with the northern plains tribes and had become allies of the Comanches, whose southern plains they had entered. The Kiowas had several great leaders—an aging chief, Satank; two vigorous fighting men in their thirties, Satanta and Lone Wolf; and an intelligent statesman, Kicking Bird.
The Comanches, constantly on the move and divided into many small bands, lacked the leadership of their allies. Ten Bears, very old, was more a poet than a warrior chief. In 1860, half-breed Quanah Parker, who would lead the Comanches in a last great struggle to save their buffalo range, was not yet twenty years old.
In the arid Southwest were the Apaches, veterans of 250 years of guerrilla warfare with the Spaniards, who taught them the finer arts of torture and mutilation but never subdued them. Although few in number—probably not more than six thousand divided into several bands—their reputation as tenacious defenders of their harsh and pitiless land was already well established. Mangas Colorado, in his late sixties, had signed a treaty of friendship with the United States, but was already disillusioned by the influx of miners and soldiers into his territory. Cochise, his son-in-law, still believed he could get along with the white Americans. Victorio and Delshay distrusted the white intruders and gave them a wide berth. Nana, in his fifties but tough as rawhide, considered the English-speaking white men no different from the Spanish-speaking Mexicans he had been fighting all his life. Geronimo, in his twenties, had not yet proved himself.
The Navahos were related to the Apaches, but most Navahos had taken the Spanish white man’s road and were raising sheep and goats, cultivating grain and fruit. As stockmen and weavers, some bands of the tribe had grown wealthy. Other Navahos continued as nomads, raiding their old enemies the Pueblos, the white settlers, or prosperous members of their own tribe. Manuelito, a stalwart mustachioed stock raiser, was head chief—chosen by an election of the Navahos held in 1855. In 1859, when a few wild Navahos raided United States citizens in their territory, the U.S. Army retaliated not by hunting down the culprits but by destroying the hogans and shooting all the livestock belonging to Manuelito and members of his band. By 1860, Manuelito and some Navaho followers were engaged in an undeclared war with the United States in northern New Mexico and Arizona.
In the Rockies north of the Apache and Navaho country were the Utes, an aggressive mountain tribe inclined to raid their more peaceful neighbors to the south. Ouray, their best-known leader, favored peace with white men even to the point of soldiering with them as mercenaries against other Indian tribes.
In the far West most of the tribes were too small, too divided, or too weak to offer much resistance. The Modocs of northern California and southern Oregon, numbering less than a thousand, fought guerrilla-fashion for their lands. Kintpuash, called Captain Jack by the California settlers, was only a young man in 1860; his ordeal as a leader would come a dozen years later.
Northwest of the Modocs, the Nez Percés had been living in peace with white men since Lewis and Clark passed through their territory in 1805. In 1855, one branch of the tribe ceded Nez Percé lands to the United States for settlement, and agreed to live within the confines of a large reservation. Other bands of the tribe continued to roam between the Blue Mountains of Oregon and the Bitterroots of Idaho. Because of the vastness of the Northwest country, the Nez Percés believed there would always be land enough for both white men and Indians to use as each saw fit. Heinmot Tooyalaket, later known as Chief Joseph, would have to make a fateful decision in 1877 between peace and war. In 1860 he was twenty years old, the son of a chief.
In the Nevada country of the Paiutes a future Messiah named Wovoka, who later would have a brief but powerful influence upon the Indians of the West, was only four years old in 1860.
During the following thirty years these leaders and many more would enter into history and legend. Their names would become as well known as those of the men who tried to destroy them. Most of them, young and old, would be driven into the ground long before the symbolic end of Indian freedom came at Wounded Knee in December 1890. Now, a century later, in an age without heroes, they are perhaps the most heroic of all Americans.” Dee Brown, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West; Chapter One
Numero Cuatro—“Among Marxian economists ‘monopoly capitalism’ is the term widely used to denote the stage of capitalism which dates from approximately the last quarter of the nineteenth century and reaches full maturity in the period after the Second World War. Marx’s Capital, like classical political economy from Adam Smith to John Stuart Mill, was based on the assumption that all commodities are produced by industries consisting of many firms, or capitals in Marx’s terminology, each accounting for a negligible fraction of total output and all responding to the price and profit signals generated by impersonal market forces. Unlike the classical economists, however, Marx recognized that such an economy was inherently unstable and impermanent. The way to succeed in a competitive market is to cut costs and expand production, a process which requires incessant accumulation of capital in ever new technological and organizational forms. In Marx’s words: ‘The battle of competition is fought by cheapening of commodities. The cheapness of commodities depends, ceteris paribus, on the productiveness of labor, and this again on the scale of production. Therefore the larger capitals beat the smaller.’ Further, the credit system which ‘begins as a modest helper of accumulation’ soon ‘becomes a new and formidable weapon in the competition in the competitive struggle, and finally it transforms itself into an immense social mechanism for the centralization of capitals(Marx, 1894, ch. 27).’
There is thus no doubt that Marx and Engels believed capitalism had reached a turning point. In this view, however, the end of the competitive era marked not the beginning of a new stage of capitalism but rather the beginning of a transition to the new mode of production that would take the place of capitalism. It was only somewhat later, when it became clear that capitalism was far from on its last legs that Marx’s followers, recognizing that a new stage had actually arrived, undertook to analyze its main features and what might be implied for capitalism’s ‘laws of motion.’
The pioneer in this endeavor was the Austrian Marxist Rudolf Hilferding whose magnum opus Das Finanzkapital appeared in 1910. A forerunner was the American economist Thorstein Veblen, whose book The Theory of BusinessEnterprise (1904) dealt with many of the same problems as Hilferding’s: corporation finance, the role of banks in the concentration of capital, etc. Veblen’s work, however, was apparently unknown to Hilferding, and neither author had a significant impact on mainstream economic thought in the English-speaking world, where the emergence of corporations and related new forms of business activity and organization, though the subject of a vast descriptive literature, was almost entirely ignored in the dominant neoclassical orthodoxy.
In Marxist circles, however, Hilferding’s work was hailed as a breakthrough, and its pre-eminent place in the Marxist tradition was assured when Lenin strongly endorsed it at the beginning of his lmperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism. ‘In 1910,’ Lenin wrote, ‘there appeared in Vienna the work of the Austrian Marxist, Rudolf Hilferding, Finance Capital….This work gives a very valuable theoretical analysis of ‘the 1atest phase of capitalist development,’ the subtitle of the book.”
As far as economic theory in the narrow sense is concerned, Lenin added little to Finance Capital, and in retrospect it is evident that Hilferding himself was not successful in integrating the new phenomena of capitalistdevelopment into the core of Marx’s theoretical structure (value, surplus value and above all the process of capital accumulation). In chapter 15 of his book (“Price Determination in the Capitalist Monopoly, Historical Tendency of Finance Capital”) Hilferding, in seeking to deal with some of these problems, came up with a very striking conclusion which has been associated with his name ever since. Prices under conditions of monopoly, he thought, are indeterminate and hence unstable. Whenever concentration enables capitalists to achieve higher than average profits, suppliers and customers are put under pressure to create counter combinations which wiI1 enable them to appropriate part of the extra profits for themselves. Thus monopoly spreads in all directions from every point of origin. The question then arises as to the limits of “cartellization” (the term is used synonymously with monopolization). Hilferding answers:
The answer to this question must be that there is no absolute limit to cartellization. What exists rather is a tendency to the continuous spread of cartellization. Independent industries, as we have seen, fall more and more under the sway of the cartellized ones, ending up finally by being annexed by the cartellized ones. The result of this process is then a general cartel. The entire capitalist production is consciously controlled from one center which determines the amount of production in all its spheres….It is the consciously controlled society in antagonistic form.
There is more about this vision of a future totally monopolized society, but it need not detain us. Three quarters of a century of monopoly capitalist history has shown that while the tendency to concentration is strong and persistent, it is by no means as ubiquitous and overwhelming as Hilferding imagined. There are powerful counter-tendencies—the breakup of existing firms and the founding of new ones—which have been strong enough to prevent the formation of anything even remotely approaching Hilferding’s general cartel.
The first signs of important new departures in Marxist economic thinking began to appear toward the end of the interwar years, i.e., the 1920s and 1930s; but on the whole this was a period in which Lenin’s Imperialism was accepted as the last word on monopoly capitalism, and the rigid orthodoxy of Stalinism discouraged attempts to explore changing developments in the structure and functioning of contemporary capitalist economies. Meanwhile, academic economists in the West finally got around to analyzing monopolistic and imperfectly competitive markets (especially Edward Chamberlin and Joan Robinson), but for a long time these efforts were confined to the level of individual firms and industries. The so-ca1led Keynesian revolution which transformed macroeconomic theory in the 1930s was largely untouched by these advances in the theory of markets, continuing to rely on the time-honored assumption of atomistic competition.
The 1940s and 1950s witnessed the emergence of new trends of thought within the general framework of Marxian economics. These had their roots on the one hand in Marx’s theory of concentration and centralization which, as we have seen, was further developed by Hilferding and Lenin; and on the other hand in Marx’s famous Reproduction Schemes presented and analyzed in volume 2 of Capital, which were the focal point of a prolonged debate on the nature of capitalist crisis involving many of the leading Marxist theorists of the period between Engels’s death (1895) and the First World War. Credit for the first attempt to knot these two strands of thought into an elaborated version of Marxian accumulation theory goes to Michal Kalecki, whose published works in Polish in the early 1930s articulated, according to Joan Robinson and others, the main tenets of the contemporaneous Keynesian revolution in the West. Kalecki had been introduced to economics through the works of Marx and the great Polish Marxist Rosa Luxemburg, and he was consequently free of the inhibitions and preconceptions that went with a training in neoclassical economics. He moved to England in the mid-1930s, entering into the intense discussions and debates of the period and making his own distinctive contributions along the lines of his previous work and that of Keynes and his followers at Cambridge, Oxford and the London School of Economics. In April 1938 Kalecki published an article in Econometrica (“The Distribution of the National Income”) which highlighted differences between his approach and that of Keynes, especially with respect to two crucially important and closely related subjects, namely, the class distribution of income and the role of monopoly. With respect to monopoly, Kalecki stated at the end of the article a position which had deep roots in his thinking and would henceforth be central to his theoretical work:
The results arrived at in this essay have a more general aspect. A world in which the degree of monopoly determines the distribution of the national income is a world far removed from the pattern of free competition. Monopoly appears to be deeply rooted in the nature of the capitalist system: free competition, as an assumption, may be useful in the first stage of certain investigations, but as a description of the normal stage of capitalist economy it is merely a myth.
A further step in the direction of integrating the two strands of Marx’s thought—concentration and centralization on the one hand and crisis theory on the other—was marked by the publication in 1942 of The Theory of Capitalist Development by Paul M. Sweezy, which contained a fairly comprehensive review of the prewar history of Marxist economics and at the same time made explanatory use of concepts introduced into mainstream monopoly and oligopoly theory during the preceding decade. This book, soon translated into several foreign languages, had a significant effect in systematizing the study and interpretation of Marxian economic theory.
It should not be supposed, however, that these new departures were altogether a matter of theoretical speculation. Of equal if not greater importance were the changes in the structure and functioning of capitalism which had emerged during the 1920s and 1930s. On the one hand the decline in competition which began in the late nineteenth century proceeded at an accelerated pace—as chronicled in the classic study by Arthur R. Burns, TheDecline of Competition: A Study of the Evolution of American Industry (1936)—and on the other hand the unprecedented severity of the depression of the 1930s provided dramatic proof of the inadequacy of conventional business cycle theories. The Keynesian revolution was a partial answer to this challenge, but the renewed upsurge of the advanced capitalist economies during and after the war cut short further development of critical analysis among mainstream economists, and it was left to Marxists to carry on along the lines that had been pioneered by Kalecki before the war.
Kalecki spent the war years at the Oxford Institute of Statistics whose director, A. L. Bowley, had brought together a distinguished group of scholars, most of them émigrés from occupied Europe. Among the latter was Josef Steindl, a young Austrian economist who came under the influence of Kalecki and followed in his footsteps. Later on, Steindl (1985) recounted the following:
On one occasion I talked with Kalecki about the crisis of capitalism. We both, as well as most socialists, took it for granted that capitalism was threatened by a crisis of existence, and we regarded the stagnation of the 1930s as a symptom of such a major crisis. But Kalecki found the reasons, given by Marx, why such a crisis should develop, unconvincing; at the same time he did not have an explanation of his own. I still do not know, he said, why there should be a crisis of capitalism, and he added: Could it have anything to do with monopoly? He subsequently suggested to me and to the Institute, before he left England, that I should work on this problem. It was a very Marxian problem, but my methods of dealing with it were Kaleckian.
Steindl’s work on this subject was completed in 1949 and published in 1952 under the title Maturity and Stagnation in American Capitalism. While little noticed by the economics profession at the time of its publication, this book nevertheless provided a crucial link between the experiences, empirical as well as theoretical, of the 1930s, and the development of a relatively rounded theory of monopoly capitalism in the 1950s and 1960s, a process which received renewed impetus from the return of stagnation to American (and global) capitalism during the 1970s and 1980s.
The next major work in the direct line from Marx through Kalecki and Steindl was Paul Baran’s book, The Political Economy of Growth (1957), which presented a theory of the dynamics of monopoly capitalism and opened up a new perspective on the nature of the interaction between developed and underdeveloped capitalist societies. This was followed by the joint work of Baran and Sweezy, Monopoly Capital: An Essay on the American Economic and Social Order (1966), incorporating ideas from both of their earlier works and attempting to elucidate, in the words of their introduction, the “mechanism linking the foundation of society (under monopoly capitalism) with what Marxists call its political, cultural, and ideological superstructure.” Their effort however, still fell short of a comprehensive theory of monopoly capitalism since it neglected “a subject which occupies a central place in Marx’s study of capitalism,” that is, a systematic inquiry into “the consequences which the particular kinds of technological change characteristic of the monopoly capitalist period have had for the nature of work, the composition (and differentiation) of the working class, the psychology of workers, the forms of working-class organization and struggle, and so on.” A pioneering effort to fill this gap in the theory of monopoly capitalism was taken by Harry Braverman a few years later (Braverman, 1974) which in turn did much to stimulate renewed research into changing trends in work processes and labor relations in the late twentieth century.
Marx wrote in the preface to the first edition of volume I of Capital that “it is the ultimate aim of this work to lay bare the economic law of motion of modern society.” What emerged, running like a red thread through the whole work, could perhaps better be called a theory of the accumulation of capital. In what respect, if at all, can it be said that latter-day theories of monopoly capitalism modify or add to Marx’s analysis of the accumulation process?
As far as form is concerned, the theory remains basically unchanged, and modifications in content are in the direction of putting even greater emphasis on certain tendencies already demonstrated by Marx to be inherent in the accumulation process. This is true of concentration and centralization, and even more spectacularly so of the role of what Marx called the credit system, now grown to monstrous proportions compared to the small beginnings of his day. In addition, and perhaps most important, the new theories seek to demonstrate that monopoly capitalism is more prone than its competitive predecessor to generating unsustainable rates of accumulation, leading to crises, depressions and prolonged periods of stagnation.
The reasoning here follows a line of thought which recurs in Marx’s writings, especially in the unfinished later volumes of Capital (including Theories of Surplus Value); individual capitalists always strive to increase their accumulation to the maximum extent possible and without regard for the ultimate overall effect on the demand for the increasing output of the economy’s expanding capacity to produce. Marx summed this up in the well-known formula that “the real barrier to capitalist production is capital itself.” The upshot of the new theories is that the widespread introduction of monopoly raises this barrier still higher. It does this in three ways.
(1) Monopolistic organization gives capital an advantage in its struggle with labor, hence tends to raise the rate of surplus value and to make possible a higher rate of accumulation.
(2) With monopoly (or oligopoly) prices replacing competitive prices, a uniform rate of profit gives way to a hierarchy of profit rates—highest in the most concentrated industries, lowest in the most competitive. This means that the distribution of surplus value is skewed in favor of the larger units of capital which characteristically accumulate a greater proportion of their profits than smaller units of capital, once again making possible a higher rate of accumulation.
(3) On the demand side of the accumulation equation, monopolistic industries adopt a policy of slowing down and carefully regulating the expansion of productive capacity in order to maintain their higher rates of profit.
Translated into the language of Keynesian macro theory, these consequences of monopoly mean that the savings potential of the system is increased, while the opportunities for profitable investment are reduced. Other things being equal, therefore the level of income and employment under monopoly capitalism is lower than it would be in a more competitive environment.
To convert this insight into a dynamic theory, it is necessary to see monopolization (the concentration and centralization of capital) as an ongoing historical process. At the beginning of the transition from the competitive to the monopolistic stage, the accumulation process is only minimally affected. But with the passage of time the impact grows and tends sooner or later to become a crucial factor in the functioning of the system. This, according to monopoly capitalist theory, accounts for the prolonged stagnation of the 1930s as well as for the return of stagnation in the 1970s and 1980s following the exhaustion of the long boom caused by the Second World War and its multifaceted aftermath effects.
Neither mainstream economics nor traditional Marxian theory have been able to offer a satisfactory explanation of the stagnation phenomenon which has loomed increasingly large in the history of the capitalist world during the twentieth century. It is thus the distinctive contribution of monopoly capitalist theory to have tackled this problem head on and in the process to have generated a rich body of literature which draws on and adds to the work of the great economic thinkers of the last 150 years. A representative sampling of this literature, together with editorial introductions and interpretations, is contained in Foster and Szlajfer (1984).” Paul Sweezy, “Monopoly Capital;” in New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, 1987, via Monthly Review, 2004