Marx Was Right All Along — “He Certainly Knew a Thing or Two About the Business Cycle”


From the March 3, 2009 issue of the Socialist, the newspaper of The Socialist Party of England and Wales

“As capitalism stares into the abyss, was Marx right all along?” This is not from The Socialist but from Stephen King, HSBC Banking Group’s Chief Economist, writing in The Independent (March 2). Moreover, he answers his own question in the affirmative.

Any bosses and their political hangers-on who read The Independent must have been choking on their breakfast cereal as he recalled Marx’s words in the Communist Manifesto: “Modern bourgeois society … a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells.”

King concludes from this: “Whatever else one thinks of Marx, he certainly knew a thing or two about the business cycle. Were he alive now, he would surely claim his theories were being vindicated.”

Yet, “For many years, Marxist ideas appeared to be totally irrelevant. The collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 brought to an end the era of Marxist-Leninist Communism.” But now, as the system collapses, Marx’s ideas have come roaring back.

He approvingly quotes Marx on the nature of crises: “…..the commercial crises… by their periodical return, put the existence of the entire bourgeois society on its trial, each time more threateningly.

“In these crises, a great part, not only of the existing products, but also of the previously created productive forces, is periodically destroyed. In these crises, there breaks out an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity – the epidemic of over-production.”

This apt description of the present capitalist crisis, which threatens to topple over into a depression, does not escape King. Faced with this ‘abyss’, he points to the inevitable intervention of the capitalist state in an attempt to save the system. This will take the form not just of state takeovers, openly or by stealth, of the banks and maybe other failing industries but also the “interference in the price mechanism” witnessed by the attacks on the bankers’ pensions, says King.

These measures “may be absolutely necessary to prevent an outright collapse in global economic activity [but]… there will be no return to ‘business as usual’ for market forces.” This confirms what The Socialist has argued since the beginning of this crisis.

As to the future: “We may avoid a 1930s Depression but, increasingly, we may find the best we can hope for is a 1990s Japan. Not quite a Marxist revolution, then, but certainly a lasting sea-change in economic performance.”

This is for him a necessary qualification. King is not about to accept the full implication of the ideas of Marx: “I’m not suggesting we’re entering revolutionary times.” [God forbid! – PT] This crisis is so serious that Marx’s broad economic analysis is confirmed in the daily avalanche of facts which denote that British and world capitalism is ‘falling off the cliff’.

Moreover, there has been a huge radicalization in Greece and elsewhere, and in time revolutionary storms will result from this crisis. As King testifies, even capitalist economists are now seriously questioning the future of their system.

They still hope that ‘somehow’ they will be able to escape from this crisis. There is no ‘final crisis of capitalism’, as Lenin pointed out, unless the working class changes society. Big business will always seek a way out through attacks on the working class.

But there is no going back to the situation of the last 30 years of worldwide capitalist ‘deregulation’. The working class, assisted by socialists and Marxists and a revitalized labor movement, will resist and Marx’s ideas will be embraced by increasing numbers of workers and young people.

Marx did not just make economic predictions about capitalism but drew bold, active, socialist conclusions. “Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world; the point is to change it.” Mass working-class action is necessary to replace an outmoded, inefficient and wasteful system, capitalism, with a democratic, socialist planned economy.

By full involvement of working and middle class people through popular control and management of industry and society, we can begin the organization and planning of the resources of society for all and not, as is the case now, to satisfy the discredited handful of greedy bankers and capitalists.

Stephen King has provided us with further ammunition to achieve this.

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