Class society has its stages, its identifiable modes of production, beginning with ancient slavery followed by feudalism and finally capitalism. But capitalism too has its stages, its modes, which it outgrows and leaves behind until it itself is left behind.
There would appear to be three distinct capitalist modes. The early, the industrial and the imperialist. The earliest mode of capitalism, the mode of primitive accumulation, of mercantilism and colonialism, stretched from the 17th Century to the mid-18th. It opened with the signing of the Treaties of Westphalia in 1648 which guaranteed peace in Europe after years of war through respect for sovereignty and religious tolerance.
Britain took the lead and by the mid-1800s was ready to launch industrial capitalism which propelled it to the status of world hegemon. It was able through trade and force to impose a Pax Britannica on the whole world and it had an empire upon which it was said `the sun never set’. Industrial capitalism led to domestic monopolies and gave way to imperialist capitalism whereby finance and monopoly capital allied to the state began to export itself all over the planet. Basing themselves on this model imperialst challengers to Britain emerged and inter-imperialist rivalry grew to fever pitch. Pax Britannica was smashed by the outbreak of World War One in 1914. The final stage of capitalism already begun announced itself with a bang.
Each crisis of capitalism within each mode led to ever more acute crises until the crisis that comprehensively swept away the old political-economic arrangements came along and took us to the next mode. Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism, has also itself gone through distinct stages with each new crisis resulting eventually in a new mode. Of course we know that in reality the hare always does catch the tortoise and everything must one way or another pass away. The hegemony of British imperialism gave way to a period of intense rivarly between it and emerging European imperialist powers resulting in the First World War and culminating in the Second. It was only after this incredibly violent period that the greatest power the world has ever seen was able to establish a new world order: Pax Americana. It was only able to do this, however, with the help of the degenerate workers’ state the Soviet Union and its Stalinist leaders. The Stalinist Soviet Union enabled America to unify Western imperialism in a common endeavour which led to US-sponsored globalisation and the eventual surrender of Stalinism. This launched the final mode of the highest stage of capitalism: the retreat from globalisation and the irreversible decay of world capitalism. Though this period opened with a fanfare of triumphal imperialist hubris by which America was going to finally establish itself as the sole and only world super power this illusion was quickly shattered. By 2008 the neo-Con project was dead in the water. Militarily it was bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan and the financial collpase demonstrated just how bankrupted Western imperialism was by the effort to defeat `communism’ and by its post-Cold War adventures.
The road to US-sponsored capitalist globalisation has been an extremely violent one but the retreat from it politically and economically will be, if not stopped, ten times more violent. It will, in fact, result in a New Dark Ages and probably the disappearance of the human species from the planet. For a localised taster of the global barbarism to come take a look at Syria where a tyrant slaughters his own people by the hundreds of thousands with impunity and the fascist gangs of ISIS roam virtually unhindered garroting, torturing, burning and beheading workers and farmers in the name of their gangster Death Cult. Huge swathes of a once vibrant nation are emptied out and flattened probably for ever. In this final stage of the highest stage capitalism is in fact already dead but the alternative is not yet born. And what is the alternative to barbarism. It is and could only ever have been as it was explained it would be some 160 years ago: socialism. Socialism does not mean propping up capitalist globalisation and making it work somewhow, that is not possible, but radically transcending it. Only world proletarian revolution basing itself on a commonwealth of socialist nations and planned economy can take global economic integration to a new and sustainable level providing a platform for the survival and harmonious development of the human race. The stage is set.