The third controversy about capitalist accumulation takes place in an

historical setting quite different from that of the two earlier ones. The

time now is the period from the beginning of the eighties to the

middle of the nineties, the scene Russia. In Western Europe, capitalism

had already attained maturity. The rose-coloured classical view of

Smith and Ricardo in a budding bourgeois economy had long since

vanished . . . the self-interested optimism of the vulgarian Manchester

doctrine of harmony had been silenced by the devastating impact of

the world collapse in the seventies, and under the heavy blows of a

violent class struggle that blazed up in all capitalist countries after the

sixties. Even that harmony patched up with social reformism which

had its hey-day after the early eighties, especially in Germany, soon

ended in a hangover. The trial of twelve years’ special legislation

against the Social Democratic Party had brought about bitter disil-

lusionment, and ultimately destroyed all the veils of harmony, reveal-

ing the cruel capitalist contradictions in their naked reality. Since then,

optimism had only been possible in the camp of the rising working

class and its theorists. This was admittedly not optimism about a nat-

ural, or artificially established equilibrium of capitalist economy, or

about the eternal duration of capitalism, but rather the conviction that

capitalism, by mightily furthering the development of the productive

forces, and in virtue of its inherent contradictions, would provide an

excellent soil for the historical progress of society towards new eco-

nomic and social forms. The negative, depressing tendency of the first

stage of capitalism, at the time realised by Sismondi alone and still

observed by Rodbertus as late as the forties and fifties, is compensated

by a tendency towards elation: the hopeful and victorious striving of

the workers for ascendancy in their trade-union movement and by

political action.