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The choices for Russia – The economic programme of the Left Opposition, part 2

1st September 1999 Socialist Action 0

[Continued from Part 1]


2. The central choice in the Soviet economy

From the fact that it was not possible to resolve all contradictions within the Soviet economy on the basis of the economy of one country, however, did not follow that nothing could be done in the USSR itself. Quite the contrary, from the difficulties it flowed that everything possible should be done. The point was simply that socialism in one country and the classic Marxist analysis outlined by Trotsky led to diametrically opposite conclusions as to what should be done. As Trotsky noted: ‘In general, within the boundaries of a single nation, it is impossible to completely overcome the difficulties resulting from the delay in the world revolution. This should be said clearly, firmly and honestly, in a Marxist and Leninist way. But although the fate of the revolution is a function of its international character, it does not follow that the party in each country is relieved of the duty to do the maximum in all areas. On the contrary, this obligation only increases, because the economic errors made in the USSR not only retard the building of socialism in our country, but strike in the most direct way at the world revolution.’ [45]

He noted: ‘A [genuine] left course could not promise to build “full socialism” by our efforts alone. It could not even promise a complete triumph over the contradictions within the country, as long as world contradictions exist. But it could gradually establish more correct control over the domestic class contradictions – more correct from the standpoint of socialism under construction. It could quicken the rate of growth, through a more correct policy of distributing the national income. It could consolidate in a more systematic and serious way the proletariat’s hold on the commanding heights of the economy.’ [46]

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The choices for Russia – The economic programme of the Left Opposition, part 3

1st September 1999 Socialist Action 0

[Continued from Part 2]


3. Democracy and the categories of commodity economy

It was from the angle of proportions in the economy, not micro decision-making, self management, that the issues of the relation of democracy and economics were most fundamentally posed. Democratic resolution of the plan, to decide the allocation of resources, was the decisive issue. As Trotsky noted: ‘The problem of the elements of production and the branches of the economy constitutes the very heart of socialist economy.’ [93]

Figure 1

Capitalism and the rise of world poverty

1st November 1998 Socialist Action 0

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.

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Capital’s global crisis

1st October 1998 Socialist Action 0

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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Behind the world financial crisis

1st March 1998 Socialist Action 0

First published: February/March 1998

The financial crises which began in east Asia and Japan in the latter half of 1997 hit what had been the most dynamic part of the world economy – cross-Pacific trade overtook trans-Atlantic trade a decade ago. Together with the gyrations they produced on world financial markets, these events showed that the world capitalist economy is nowhere near the new ‘golden age’ of prolonged economic growth predicted by some bourgeois economists in the United States. On the contrary, the chain of economic events which started in October 1997, with the greatest stock market crash since 1929, is continuing to work its way through the international capitalist economy. The crash of 1987 was followed by the 1990 collapse of the Japanese stock market, the crash of world bond markets in 1994, the Mexican crash in the same year, prolonged stagnation in the early 1990s in Japan and most of the European Union and, now, the crises of the Asian ‘tigers’, recession in Japan and consequent turbulence on world stock markets, with severe knock-on effects in Latin America, eastern Europe and Russia.

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Fixing up the world – GATT and the World Trade Organisation

1st March 1998 Socialist Action 0

First published: March 1998

By Alan Freeman

Think of the world economy, and two household words come to mind: the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, the two supranational bodies created by the Bretton Woods Treaty of 1947 when the allied powers constructed the post-war economic world order. It is less well-known that these two have been joined by another. The World Trade Organisation (WTO), formed in 1994 as a result of the 1986 ‘Uruguay Round’ of negotiations under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), has emerged as the third pillar of the post-war economic order. Although generally presented as a simple continuation of GATT, it has in fact inaugurated a fundamental change in the organisation of world trade.

The GATT has been transformed from an ineffectual chamber of commerce into a powerful device for restructuring the world market in the commercial and financial interests of the leading powers, the core requirement being to maintain the supremacy of the US economy in the face of the largest trade deficit in world history.