1. The problem of reform in capitalism is most often posed in socialist literature as the problem of reconciling the struggle for reform with the revolutionary struggle--that is, the struggle to change the social system altogether--and of conducting the fight for immediate and partial goals so that it will strengthen, not weaken, the revolutionary potential of mass movements.
We take up here an extreme form of this problem which does not seem to have been adequately studied. Let us imagine that the strong pressure of the masses leads to such a radical reform of the system, in spite of the opposition of the ruling class, that, without abolishing existing relations of production, a new valve is opened for the development of forces of production. There will then be a paradoxical situation: a 'crucial reform' imposed on the ruling class may stabilize the system, temporarily at least. As we argue below, we have to do with just such a situation in contemporary capitalism.
2. We should say at the outset that the problem examined here has little in common with Edward Bernstein's reformism. The author of Evolutionary Socialism,1 basing himself on a one-sided interpretation of certain new economic and social phenomena, argued that spontaneous economic development and gradual social reforms would change mature capitalist societies into socialist ones. The party was to have the courage to admit openly that it is a party of social reforms and not a revolutionary party.
From the economic point of view, Bernstein committed two cardinal mistakes. Most importantly, he did not perceive the contradiction between production and realization in capitalism, reducing crises of over-production to disproportions in the development of particular branches of production. That is why he believed that cartels and____________________