||Theoretical unpreparedness||Page 2|
Communists have been theoretically unprepared for the "success" of the cold war arms race of capitalism. They assumed that socialist countries, especially the Soviet Union, would be able to build socialism at the same time as they matched the imperialist powers in the arms race. In other words, they could have both guns and butter.
In retrospect, one can find a hint of warning in Engels' Anti-Duhring when he predicted the devastating effects of the arms race on the 19th Century European powers. He wrote in 1878.
Militarism dominates and is swallowing Europe. But this militarism also bears within itself the seed of its own destruction. Competition among the individual states forces them, on the one hand, to spend more money each year on the army and navy, artillery, etc., thus more and more hastening their financial collapse. (1)
Indeed, with hindsight, we can see that the period of 1880-1929 was one in which the United States, with much lower per capita military spending, was able to overtake and surpass the European powers in technology and industrial production.
Marx saw that war is the ultimate example of unproductive economic activity and called it "the direct equivalent of a nation throwing a part of its capital into the water." (2) But he did not develop this theme in his economic writings. After all, the situation of a world divided into capitalist and socialist nations and engaged in an arms race was not fore-seeable at that time.
Lenin warned about the destructive effects of "war communism" in terms of the organizational structure of the Soviet Union, (3) but he did not live long enough to spell out an alternative policy in detail, or to see the devastating effects of military production.
And even today, in the Soviet Union, there is little evidence that Soviet economists have understood how the arms race has helped cause their economic stagnation, with its devastating political as well as economic effects.
We need a revision of Marxist economics that will account for new phenomena associated with the arms race. It needs to take into consideration the increased importance of science and technology in today's global economy. This is quite different from the time of Marx and Lenin. Then, the rate of technological change was increasing to some extent, but today it is doubling every few decades. This makes for an unprecedented acceleration of technology. As a result, there is an acceleration of economic change and, indeed, an acceleration of history itself.