It’s Coming Yet For All That …

For years we in the Internationalist Communist Tendency predicted that the speculative bubble which really started in the 1980s with the deregulation of financial markets would not last. We were confident that what Marx said about speculation being the sign that a cycle of accumulation has entered its final stages still held. But as the years went on and the bubble kept swelling there were some amongst us who began to ask questions about it. The crisis we are in today started with the devaluation of the US dollar in 1971 and the post-war boom was officially over. As the crisis approached 30 years in length (i.e. three times longer than the nineteenth century average) were we now perhaps wrong? After all, the previous crises of the Twentieth century had been resolved much earlier by war which had in turn sparked revolutionary situations. After the collapse of the USSR without a fight (the first time in history that an imperialist power had “gone quietly”) we were clearly in a different historical situation.

We had long recognised that capitalism today was no longer quite the same beast as it had been before 1914 even if its fundamental laws remained the same. Monopoly and state domination of the economic scene meant that capitalism had the ability to attenuate its worst contradictions. Playing with interest and exchange rates seemed to give the system more room for manoeuvre. Unemployment remained historically high and inflation was a constant drain on workers’ purchasing power but the overall system kept on going. Those of us who pointed to the various times in history when the capitalists claimed to have banished crises for ever (Hoover in 1929 being the best since he said it about 4 months before the Wall St Crash, but also US economists in the 1950s) only for it to blow up in their faces, were regarded as wishful thinkers. In the latest speculative boom in the first decade of this century it seemed that the capitalists were capable of magicking money out of money. In fact all that was happening was that the debt was swelling but no-one thought it mattered. The Emperor’s new clothes may have been transparent but no-one was letting on. Then the fall of Lehmann Brothers revealed that there were no clothes and all was illusion.

All the profit rates which had apparently been tending to rise under the impact of the speculative stimulus simply evaporated and the crash was upon us. However capitalism in its decadent form still has a few tricks up its sleeves and the state took on the debts to save the system. By guaranteeing deposits it ensured no banking collapse and averted the possibility of the economy going into an accelerated freefall. Instead we are all going to pay with death by a thousand cuts which will take years to hit us all. In this the political and economic overseers of capitalism are acting instinctively, with that conscious sense of self-preservation that overcomes all threatened ruling classes. By managing the crisis (i.e. carrying on doing what they have been doing since 1971) they hope to arrive at a point where the mass of debt is no longer so large that it does not threaten the world economy.

And this is an important point to remember when assessing the hitherto inadequate response of the working class to the attacks that have been made upon us. This issue was the centrepiece of the discussion at the recent Manchester meeting of the CWO. Some comrades when assessing the strength of our class enemy and the lack of class consciousness on our side were quite negative about the future prospects not only for the working class but humanity as a whole. How do we face this sober thinking?

Capitalism is now in the deepest crisis for three generations. Its real level of debt is actually so large that there is no prospect of it being paid in centuries. That’s the objective situation – always the easiest bit to deal with. Capitalism thus has no other option but to attack the working class.

Now we get to the subjective bit which is never easily predicted. What we can say is that capitalism’s attacks have hardly begun in Britain. Here the cuts are only now beginning to be felt in earnest for most workers. In most of Southern Europe the suffering is already enormous. But everywhere there will be a lag between the desperation that people feel now and any response. It may be that people are not yet ready to give up on capitalism with its promise of individual consumer choice even when it becomes a taunt (thus provoking riots like last summer). It may be like in 1917 that the outbreak will come out of the blue as the gnawing wretchedness of existence becomes too much to bear. However it comes, the whole history of humanity suggests that we stand on the brink of just such a period. It may not be tomorrow or next year. It may be further off. It will certainly be when some revolutionaries have written off the working class in their lifetimes but come it will. As Robert Burns (almost) wrote over two centuries ago

For all that and all that

Its coming yet for all that

When man to man the world o’er

Shall brothers be for all that.

And before it does come those of us who hope for a better future for humanity had better prepare so that we have an international revolutionary organisation which is worthy of the challenges that lie before us.

Editorial Revolutionary Perspectives 61

Friday, June 15, 2012

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