Statement of the International Committee of the Fourth International
Globalization and the International Working Class

Spartacist and the “stockholders who care”

Because they assert the primacy of political and military considerations over the basic economic driving forces of the process of capital accumulation, the Spartacists present a completely subjective view of the workings of the capitalist economy.

Thus they write that, according to the International Committee’s perspective: “...corporations like IBM, Siemens and Toshiba are devoted solely to maximizing their profits on a global scale; their directors and stockholders supposedly don’t care whether their actions strengthen the American, German and Japanese bourgeois states.” [1]

It is not a question of whether the stockholders and directors “care” about the strength of the national state, or any other question. The process of capitalist production, as Marx demonstrated, is not driven forward by the subjective wishes or intentions of the owners of capital, but by the objective logic of the process of capital accumulation itself. This is not some “aspect” of Marxism, but is central to Marx’s analysis of commodity fetishism, which forms the core of Capital.

“The functions fulfilled by the capitalist,” Marx wrote, “are no more than the functions of capital viz the valorization of value by living labor executed consciously and willingly. The capitalist functions only as personified capital ...” [2]

Major corporations are forced to maximize their profits, without regard to the impact on their “own” national state, or risk being put out of business by more competitive rivals. This regime is enforced by the continuous movement of finance capital. The shareholders’ funds of major corporations are no longer dominated by the holdings of individual capitalists, but are comprised of investments by banks, life insurance funds, pension and superannuation funds, mutual funds and other forms of accumulated savings. These funds scour the globe in search of the best rate of return, forcing corporations, whatever may be the wishes of their directors, to continuously develop their production methods to secure a competitive rate of return on shareholders’ funds. Those firms which fail to do this that is, maximize their profits on an international scale, irrespective of the consequences for the national state in which they originated will find that their share price declines as the funds of the leading savings institutions move out to seek higher rates of return elsewhere.

Consequently, the corporation will find that it has to pay a higher premium on capital to attract funds, or higher interest rates to the banks, as its assets are devalued, and it will become a target for a takeover or merger, if it is not forced out of business altogether by its more profitable rivals.

The analysis of the objective logic of capitalist production has formed the core of the Marxist critique of all those social reformist nostrums that have maintained that the worst excesses of capitalist production can be eliminated, and its socially destructive character modified, through workers’ buyouts or the placing of more “socially responsible” directors on the boards.

While the Spartacists’ positions are nonsense from the standpoint of a scientific analysis of the workings of the capitalist economy, they do have a very definite class logic. If boards of directors can be made to “care” about the fate of their “own” nation-state, irrespective of the consequences for profit maximization, then they can be made to “care” about other issues as well, including the provision of rising wages for the working class, or increased social welfare provisions. Indeed, a whole social reformist agenda can be advanced.

Herein lies the Spartacists’ political perspective. Rejecting the primacy of global economic forces and stressing the attachment of corporations to their home base, they are oriented to sections of the bourgeoisie who “care” about the nation.

Spartacist is not alone in this regard. Some of their cohorts in the radical milieu have marked out even more clearly the direction in which they are heading. The perspective of all of them is summed up in a recent book by Paul Hirst and Grahame Thompson, two representatives of the British middle class left. Their Globalization in Question has become something of a Bible for these tendencies. The authors describe their perspective as a “mixture of skepticism about global economic processes and optimism about the possibilities of control of the international economy and of the viability of national political strategies.”

They acknowledge that social goals, such as full employment, have become “problematic”, but contend that: “..this should not lead us to dismiss or ignore the forms of control and social improvement that could be achieved relatively rapidly with a modest change in attitudes on the part of key elites. It is thus essential to persuade reformers on the left and conservatives who care for the fabric of their societies that we are not helpless before uncontrollable global processes.” [3]

In Britain, where Hirst and Thompson write, this perspective would mean an orientation to sections of the Euro-skeptic Tory Party, anti-EU figures such as the late billionaire Sir James Goldsmith and his Referendum Party, as well as sections of the Labour Party, the trade union bureaucracy and the nationalists of Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party.

In the United States, the Spartacists have already taken part in a similar front during the anti-NAFTA campaign, which saw the formation of a de facto alliance embracing the AFL-CIO bureaucracy, the neo-fascist demagogue Pat Buchanan, billionaire Ross Perot, the consumer campaigner Ralph Nader and the petty-bourgeois radical “left.” The Spartacists sought to integrate themselves into this alliance and curry favor with sections of the bureaucracy and the bourgeoisie by adapting to their economic nationalism.

This gravitation to the extreme right-wing is neither accidental nor unique. The middle class left long ago rejected the working class as a revolutionary force. It relied on the labor bureaucracies, Stalinism and the nationalist movements to restrain imperialism internationally and pressure the ruling class for reforms at home. With the decline of these old leaderships, the left groups cast about for new social forces with which to pressure the state. Their nationalist outlook brings them into alignment with the most backward and provincial sections of the bourgeoisie, whose reactionary political spokesmen, from Le Pen in France to Buchanan in the US, likewise denounce globalization.

We have seen how the Spartacists explain the decline of the trade unions as a result of the subjective motivation of the union officials and their refusal to play “hardball”. Now the circle is completed. The major corporations are not driven by global economic forces, but by the subjective attachments of their directors and stockholders to their home base. Consequently, the two can come together on the national soil as the trade unions apply pressure to the major corporations for reforms and concessions.

An alliance of the trade union bureaucracy with sections of the bourgeoisie who “care” about the nation and are concerned to ensure that its strength is maintained: that is what the political program of the Spartacists amounts to. It shares much in common with that of the modern-day fascist and ultranationalist movements, which have sprung up in response to the globalization of production.


Workers Vanguard, February 21, 1997 p. 14


Marx, Capital, Volume I, “Results of the Immediate Process of Production,” Penguin edition, p. 989


Hirst and Thompson, Globalization in Question, pp. 6-7