by Nicky Dempsey
The near-unanimous support for austerity policies in the ruling classes of the main capitalist powers is showing signs of strain. This is not because there is some recognition of the social and economic damage from the crisis, nor because of the valiant level of social resistance in some countries, or even because of the entry of populist and other unpredictable parties of the right.
By Tom O’Donnell
The current crisis is leading to a revival of interest in Marxism in general and in Marxist explanations of capitalist crises in particular. Even in Britain this occasionally reaches the commentary of the mass media. Unfortunately, the commentary is usually produced by non-Marxists who mangle ideas and reproduce only their own misunderstandings.
In particular, a persistent distortion of Marxist ideas is the notion that economic crises are caused by ‘under-consumption’. Under-consumption is the process where workers are denied the full value of their expended labour-power in the production of commodities, and so cannot consume all the commodities produced in any economy.
By Nicky Dempsey
Martin Wolf, the chief economics commentator for the Financial Times, has laid out a devastating critique of current government economic policy in Britain. In a widely-reported article titled ‘Cameron is consigning UK to stagnation’ he says it is a scandal that the government has cut its own investment, especially when it can in effect borrow for free, as real interest rates are at zero.
By Jane West
As the Euro-crisis unfolds and Greece heads to new elections, the left party, Syriza is capturing the support of most of those in Greece who want to reject the austerity programme imposed by the EU.
It is striking that the impact of the world developments, and particularly the growth of the left in Latin America, has clearly interacted with this political leadership of resistance to austerity in Greece. It was recently reported in the Guardian, of Syriza's leader, Alexis Tsipras: 'one of his heroes is Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez, with whom he shares the same birthday.'
By Nicky DempseyOpen disagreements have broken out between the EU Commission and the European Central Bank on the issue of whether Greek government debt should be ‘restructured’ or ‘reprofiled’ in some way. Debt restructuring would require that the bondholders, mainly European (including British) banks, take some losses on their bonds by having their value written down. ‘Reprofiling’ is a much more modest proposal which may involve little more than extending the life of the bonds, so that interest and capital repayments are drawn out over time.
By Nicky DempseyAll societies based on social classes tend to produce surplus value, to a greater or less extent. The character of the society may be determined by which class receives the bulk of the surplus.The economic and financial crisis that became apparent in 2007 and 2008 was located primarily in the imperialist centres, led by the United States. The crisis was engendered by a crisis of profitability, a reduction in the surplus available to the capitalist class. Economic policy since that time has been designed to restore as far as possible the greater proportion of that surplus to the capitalist class in the imperial centres.
First published: October/November 1998
It is appropriate in the year of the 150th anniversary of the Communist Manifesto to draw up the economic balance sheet of capitalism in the twentieth century. In addition to the destruction of two World Wars and numerous regional wars, the record is that economic development of a small core of imperialist states occurred at the expense of the populations of the majority of market economies falling further and further behind. The only large economies to close the gap with the major imperialist states are those where capitalism was overthrown. Where capitalism was restored that progress was reversed. With capitalism entering a new period of global turmoil, translating into impoverishment, starvation and untold misery for hundreds of millions of people, Marx and Engels’ view that the working class is the only social force which can take humanity as a whole forward retains all of its force today.Since the mid-1970s, inequality has risen to the highest levels in history. Impoverishment, starvation, avoidable disease and death have devastated whole continents and destroyed the lives of millions of people.
First published: October 1998 The post-1989 triumphalism of the international imperialist system suffered two shuddering blows at the end of August. First, on the economic plane, it became clear that all of the efforts to contain the 1929-scale slump which has afflicted east Asia since last summer have failed – its fall-out is progressively extending its effects to the entire world economy. Second, the chain of the international capitalist economy broke at its weakest link – Russia – and this posed the most serious political challenge to imperialism since 1989, namely, the realistic possibility that the capitalist course imposed on that country since the end of 1991 might be over-turned. The shudder of doubt which passed through the world of capital manifested itself in stock market prices, innumerable articles on the ‘backlash against the free market’, through to the farcical powerlessness of the Clinton/Yeltsin summit.The driving force of this crisis was the realisation that the east Asian economic crisis had not been confined to that region. But its political punch was delivered by the palpable risk that capitalism could yet be overturned in a country, Russia, whose nuclear weapons rule out the direct Western military intervention which would otherwise be used in such circumstances. The latter political reality was reinforced by the inevitability of rising social and political opposition to imperialism’s prescriptions for east Asia.
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