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New Left Review I/59, January-February 1970


Martin Nicolaus

The Universal Contradiction

Messengers of revolution are always welcome. Ernest Mandel’s thesis in ‘Where Is America Going?’ (NLR 54) that a socialist revolution within the United States is on the agenda of the next decade or two is an important corrective to the more gloomy theses being advanced from other quarters. Nevertheless, false hope is as wrong as false despair. The grounds for confidence which Mandel outlines are not tenable. They must be exposed to criticism so that those who occupy them do not fall into disillusion. Beyond hope and despair there are better premises. The most important of Mandel’s theses is contained in his points six and seven, in which he holds that the impact of European and Japanese competition on the world market will precipitate a major structural crisis in United States industry. This question will be discussed at length below. The article also commands attention, however, for its first five points, which outline an equal number of ‘forces or contradictions’ arising, Mandel holds, from ‘forces which are at work inside the system itself.’ by which he means, within the domestic sector of the us capitalist economy. Since most of the content of these five points will be more or less familiar to people in or around the us movement, I don’t propose to deal with them here separately or in detail. The more important problems of Mandel’s viewpoint lie not within each of these five points separately, but in the manner in which he attempts to tie them together.

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