“It can be said that a preoccupation with general crisis was near the center of Marx’s social theory and political praxis. Although he confronted the prospect of the ultimate collapse of capitalism with confidence, Marx had no illusions about the uniqueness, complexity, and infrequency of general rather than limited crisis, of organic rather than inorganic crisis. His theory of the business cycle was intended to distinguish between the normal contradictions and conflicts ‘within’ the moving capitalist equilibrium and the heightened disequilibration that causes the terminal breakdown of declining capitalism. For Marx and Marxists, then, there can be no lasting economic stability under capitalism. Instead, there is an ever precarious balance between production and consumption that generates chronic fluctuations and recurrent inorganic crises. Whatever the disagreements among economists about the root causes for this built-in disequilibration, even today there is broad acceptance of Marx’s seminal insight that the capitalist economy moves in regular sequence through cycles of recession (or depression), recovery, and prosperity. Another aspect of Marxist theory, however, remains controversial: the proposition that under advanced capitalism the periods of recession or depression become longer and more intense, the periods of recovery more sluggish, and the periods of prosperity shorter and less vigorous. According to Marx and his disciples, eventually these intensifying and accelerating fluctuations of the business cycles will produce the general crisis of the final collapse of capitalism. It is not only their theoretical hypothesis, but also their political conviction, that the structures of contemporary polity, society, and culture are too fragile to withstand these aggravated economic convulsions for long. In sum, for Marxists the preoccupation with periodic economic disorders is an integral part of their anticipation of the inevitable end-crisis of capitalism which they say is bound to take a revolutionary course (16). In the embryonic but pioneering Marxist theory of crisis the economic cycle, is the principal motor for the recurrent and ultimately terminal disequilibration of capitalist society and state. It is almost as if the workers could claim their inheritance by merely delivering the last blow to an increasingly unstable capitalist system or by simply taking over once the system has finally collapsed. Although this conception has been analytically fruitful as well as politically energizing it has also been one-sided. Above all, the Marxist approach has tended to ignore or underestimate the coalescence of resistant and restabilizing forces and processes, especially under conditions of intense disequilibration. (…) By 1895 Friedrich Engels noted that Europe’s ruling and governing classes were determined not to be swept away on the wave of a general crisis. He was particularly impressed, not to say awed, by the growing capacity and resolve of governments to enforce order in times of unsettlement (19). In fact, Engels all but suggested that only the strains of modern war would destabilize political authority systems sufficiently for revolutions to have a chance. He also predicted that to undermine the steel frame of government it would take not just local and limited wars but “a world war of hitherto unimagined scope and intensity”. He prophesied that in the coming international conflict “eight to ten million soldiers [would] slaughter each other”; that “the destruction of the Thirty Years’ War [would] cover the entire continent”; that “trade, industry, and credit [would] be totally unsettled and sink into general bankruptcy”; and the “old and traditional regimes [would] collapse and royal crowns [would] roll in the street by the dozens, with no one to pick them up” (20). August Bebel shared Engels’ presentiment that only a major European conflagration could precipitate the ‘grosse Kladderadatsch’ and the ‘Götterdämmerung’ of the bourgeois world. Nevertheless, Bebel remained confident that the new socialist society could be forged even in the fire of such a cataclysm (21). To be sure, Engels and Bebel still considered the contradictions of advanced and advancing capitalist economies to be the ultimate cause of Europe’s burgeoning tensions, both national and international” [Arno J. Mayer, ‘Internal Crisis and War Since 1870’] [(in) ‘Situations révolutionnaires en Europe, 1917-1922: Allemagne, Italie, Autriche-Hongrie – Revolutionary situations in Europe, 1917-1922: Germany, Italy, Austria-Hungary’, a cura di Charles L. Bertrand, Montréal, Quebec, 1977] [(16) Paul Sweezy, ‘The Theory of Capitalist Development’, Monthly Review Press, New York, 1956, chs. VIII-XII; Bukharin, ‘Historical Materialism’, passim; Eugen Varga, ‘Die Krise des Kapitalismus und ihre politischen Folgen’, Frankfurt: Europäische Verlagsanstalt, 1969; Schumpeter, ‘Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy’, pp. 38-43. The concluding paragraph of Marx’s postscript of 1873 to the second edition of the first volume of ‘Capital’ reads as follows: “The contradictory movement of capitalist society impresses the practical bourgeois most forcefully through the gyrations of the periodic [business] cycle which pervades modern industry [i.e., the industrial sector], and whose culminating point is the general crisis. This crisis is approaching once again, although it is only in a preliminary phase; and by the universality of the stage [on which it unfolds] and the intensity of its actions it will drum dialectics even into the heads of the hothouse upstarts of the new, holy Prussian-German empire»; (17) Eduard Bernstein, ‘Evolutionary Socialism’ (New York: Schocken Books, 1961), passim, and Lucio Colletti, ‘From Rousseau to Lenin’ (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1972), esp. pp. 48-63; (18) Karl Polanyi, ‘The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time’ (Boston: Beacon Press, 1957), esp. ch. 17; Heinrich August Winkler (ed.), ‘Organisierter Kapitalismus’ (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1974), passim; Charles S. Maier, ‘Recasting Bourgeois Europe’ (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975), esp. 22-46; Gabriel Kolko, ‘The Triump of Conservatism’ (Glencoe, Ill.: The Free Press, 1963); (19) See Friedrich Engels’ introduction of March 6, 1895, to Karl Marx, ‘The Class Struggles in France, 1848-50’ (New York: International Publishers, 1935), pp. 9-30; (20) Cited in Karl Kautsky, ‘Sozialisten und Krieg’ (Prag: Orbis Verlag, 1937), pp. 250-251; (21) See ‘Die Krise der Sozialdemokratie’ (Junius Broschüre), in Luxemburg, ‘Politische Schriften, p. 236]