The Outlook for 2023

Editorial for Revolutionary Perspectives 21 (Series 4).

There is no point pretending that the prospect for 2023 is anything other than dismal. Inflation has come back to haunt capitalism and wage workers throughout the world are facing sharp cuts in their standard of living, if not outright penury. As the economic options for capital in general are narrowing, the politicians’ room for manoeuvre is also becoming more limited. Last summer’s quick turnover of UK prime ministers has put an end to the UK’s reputation for ‘stable government’. On top of the bullshit element, there is now no denying that the incompetence element is liable to have worse than laughable consequences. As the article on page 3 points out, a serious cost of living crisis for the working class has been made worse by the deluded antics of Truss and Kwarteng. But of course the wider context is the deeper, insoluble crisis of low profit rates that has been haunting the whole capitalist system for decades and for which there is no solution outside of the massive devaluation of capital values by means of the hellish destruction of war. It is really no accident that we are currently updating and republishing the CWO’s original document which defines our economic raison d’être which, we believe is the legitimate interpretation of the consequences of the falling rate of profit analysed by Marx for the present epoch.

And there is plenty of evidence of the sharpening crisis of profitability. Last year was the worst for financial speculators since the crash of 2007-8. According to the Financial Times stock and bond markets lost more than $30 trillion in 2022. At the same time the price of gold — that trusted ‘safe haven’ for capitalists in crisis — is at or near the proverbial record high. The rate of profit is rarely discussed by the financial pundits but evidence that this rate continues to decline is there, with the complaints of ‘lower profit margins’, particularly in the United States.

Predictably, after all the hoo-ha of COP26 in Glasgow, the delegates at last year’s follow-up in Egypt hardly bothered to feign embarrassment at the failure to achieve any of the previous year’s goals, without which, we are assured, life on earth is under growing threat. Do not misunderstand us, we are not ‘climate deniers’ but we are more than sceptical about capitalism’s ability or even intention to tackle the climate change question which is fundamentally a question of life and death for all of us. As it is, COP27 proved to be more of a business opportunity for capitalist wheelers and dealers than a serious attempt to do anything for the future of humanity.

Nevertheless, 2022 will not just be remembered for the mounting human cost of floods, storms and droughts due to global warming that hit the headlines. The war in Ukraine is a war between the US, hauling in its NATO allies, and Russia in all but name. It comes after decades of unending proxy wars around the world. Ukrainian refugees have added to the number of people displaced by war passing 100 million for the first time in history. It is already the widest, longest military conflict in Europe since the Second World War and is a game-changer for the whole world. Capital is running out of economic and financial dodges to offset its crisis of profitability. As in the past, military competition between the world’s biggest economic powers has come to the fore. To coin a flippant journalists’ term, “big war is back” and this is not only about the prolongation of the military action in Ukraine. This war is a harbinger of worse to come. Both Biden and Blinken have missed no opportunity to connect today’s war in Ukraine with the real threat of China.

There is no question which power is the strongest militarily. Russia’s defence budget last year of $66bn, even when combined with China’s $293bn of spending, is dwarfed by NATO members’ combined budget of over $1.1tn. But neither Russia nor China are ready to submit to Pax Americana, especially as there is not much ‘pax’ involved. A continuous increase in arms spending is the order of the day, even for the cash-strapped UK which last year forked out £45bn on armaments, making it NATO’s second-biggest arms spender after the US. So much for “there’s no money in the kitty” to fund a pay rise for public sector workers.(1)

NATO’s defence ministries are discovering that dormant weapons production lines cannot be switched on overnight. Permanent war means continually increasing arms production capacity which requires investment which, in turn, depends on securing long-term production contracts. The US and its ‘allies’ are busy offering weapons manufacturers such long-term contracts and readying themselves for large scale expansion of weapons production. Germany has pledged €100 billion for “military modernisation”. Japan is increasing its military spending in order to “counter the threat from China”. The least we can expect in 2023 is that tensions between the US and China will increase, particularly over Taiwan where a Chinese military strike cannot be ruled out.

In the face of capitalism’s build-up to the ‘final solution’ for its economic woes, there is only one force capable of changing the course of history — that sleeping giant which, once it awakens, has the power to revolutionise the world — the working class. This is the frame that underpins our call for ‘no war but the class war’ committees. They are not intended as a short-term, one-off response to the war in Ukraine, but as a permanent focus to put the real issues before today’s struggles, not just in the UK but throughout the world. These are early days, but the groundwork is being laid. In the process, possibilities for working alongside other internationalists are opening up, just as they must in future when the working class creates its own class-wide bodies. And, let’s be clear, our aim is to build the political resistance of the global working class to the wars and the decaying system which is fuelling them. NO WAR BUT THE CLASS WAR!

Communist Workers’ Organisation


(1) Clearly, the defenders of UK capital now have different priorities, since “defence spending will be protected from inflation next year and is forecast to grow to nearly £50bn.” [UK Minister of Defence, Ben Wallace report to parliament, quoted in the Financial Times 3.1.23]

Friday, January 27, 2023

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