The Crisis: Make the bosses pay! - Manifesto of the International Marxist Tendency – Part One

The crisis capitalism has entered globally is having a deep impact on the real living conditions of billions of workers all over the world. With this comes a growing consciousness among ordinary working people and youth that something is seriously wrong with this system, that this cannot be the way human beings have to live. Workers are looking for an explanation and proposals of how to get out of this mess. We have produced a Manifesto which outlines the causes and puts forward a programme of action for the international labour movement. In Part One we deal with the causes of the crisis and its effects.

Marx explained long ago that Modern bourgeois society, with its relations of production, of exchange and of property, 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. Drawing by Latuff2 on DeviantArtA global crisis of capitalism

The world crisis of capitalism is a fact that nobody can ignore. The economists only yesterday were assuring us that another 1929 was impossible. Now they are talking of the threat of another Great Depression. The IMF is warning of an increased risk of a severe and protracted economic downturn on a world scale. What began as a financial collapse in the USA has now spread to the real economy, threatening the jobs, homes and livelihoods of millions.

Panic has gripped the markets. Richard Fuld, the former chief executive of Lehman Brothers, told the US Congress his bank had been blown away by a “storm of fear”. That storm shows no sign of subsiding. Not only banks but countries are threatened with bankruptcy, as the case of Iceland shows. Asia was supposed to save the world from recession, but the Asian markets were dragged into the general maelstrom. Steep falls are being registered daily from Tokyo to Shanghai, from Moscow to Hong Kong.

This is the biggest financial collapse since 1929. And like the Great Crash, it was preceded by massive speculation in the previous period. The sheer scale of speculation in the last two decades was unprecedented. Stock market capitalization in the USA went from 5.4 trillion dollars in 1994, to 17.7 trillion in 1999 and 35 trillion in 2007. This is far in excess of the amount of speculative capital that was present before 1929. The world derivatives market is at least 500 trillion dollars, or ten times more than the total world production of goods and services.

In the years of boom, when the bankers succeeded in accumulating incalculable amounts of wealth, there was no question of sharing their profits with the rest of society. But now they are in difficulty, they run to the government demanding money. If you are a compulsive gambler who has borrowed and lost a thousand dollars, which you are unable to pay, you will be sent to prison. But if you are a wealthy banker who has gambled and lost billions of dollars of other people’s money, you will not go to prison but will be rewarded with further billions of other people’s money from the state.

Faced with the risk of a complete collapse of the banking system, governments are taking desperate measures. The Bush administration has injected $700 billion into the coffers of the bankers in a frantic attempt to breathe life into the moribund financial system. This is the equivalent of about $2,400 for every man, woman and child in the USA. The British government has announced a rescue package of over £400 billion (proportionately far more than in the USA), and the EU has added further billions. Germany’s rescue plan amounts to about 20 percent of the gross domestic product of Europe’s biggest economy. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s administration pledged 80 billion euros to recapitalize distressed banks, with the rest allocated to cover loan guarantees and losses. So far around $2.5 trillion has already been spent worldwide and it has not halted the downward spiral.

Desperate measures

These panic measures will not prevent the crisis, which has barely begun. Drawing by Latuff2 on DeviantArtThe present crisis is far from having run its full course. It will not be halted by the measures taken by governments and central bankers. By throwing huge amounts of money at the banks, they will succeed at most in achieving a temporary respite or marginally alleviating the crisis at the cost of creating a huge burden of debt for future generations. But every serious economist knows that the markets have a lot further to fall.

In some ways the present situation is even worse than it was in the 1930s. The huge wave of speculation that preceded the present financial crisis and prepared it was several times bigger than the one that triggered the crash of 1929. The amounts of fictitious capital that has been pumped into the world financial system, and which constitute a poison that threatens to destroy it altogether, are so vast that nobody is able to quantify them. The corresponding “correction” (to make use of the current euphemism of the economists) will therefore be even more painful and longer lasting.

In the 1930s the USA was the world’s biggest creditor. Now it is the world’s biggest debtor. At the time of the New Deal, while attempting to re-start the US economy from the Great Depression, Roosevelt had vast sums of money at his disposal. Today, Bush has to plead with a reluctant Congress to hand over money that it does not possess. The approval of the gift of $700 billion to Big Business means a further increase in public indebtedness. This in turn means a whole period of austerity and cuts in living standards for millions of US citizens.

These panic measures will not prevent the crisis, which has barely begun. In the same way, Roosevelt’s New Deal, contrary to the common perception, did not halt the Great Depression. The US economy remained in a depressed state until 1941, when the USA entered the Second World War and huge military spending finally mopped up the unemployed. We are once more facing a prolonged period of declining living standards, factory closures, the lowering of wages, cuts in social spending and general austerity.

The capitalists find themselves in a blind alley and can see no way out. All the traditional parties are in a state of perplexity bordering on a paralysis of will. President Bush has told the world that “it’s going to take a while” for his financial rescue plan to work. In the meantime, more companies go bankrupt, more people lose their employment, and more nations are being ruined. The credit crisis is beginning to throttle otherwise healthy companies. Unable to raise capital, companies will be forced to cut back first on fixed investment, then on working capital and ultimately on employment.

The employers are begging governments and central banks to cut interest rates. But under present circumstances this will not help. The coordinated cut of half a percent was followed by further sharp falls on world stock markets. The turmoil in markets will not be resolved by the interest rate cuts made by central banks. In the face of a global recession, no one wants to buy shares and no one wants to lend money. Banks stop lending because they have no confidence that their money will ever be returned. The whole system is threatened with paralysis.

Despite the coordinated efforts by the central banks to pump money into the system, the credit markets remain stubbornly frozen. The British government gave the bankers a present of over £400 billions. The reaction was a fall on the stock exchange. The rate of inter-bank lending actually increased after the announcement of this donation and the Bank of England’s announcement of a half a percent rate cut. In the main these cuts are not being passed onto borrowers and house-buyers. These measures have not solved the crisis but only poured money into the pockets of the same people whose speculative activity, if it did not cause the crisis, has greatly exacerbated it and given it a convulsive and uncontrollable character.

The bankers never lose

Anger towards the bankers in New York. Photo by how are things on the west coast on Flickr In the past the banker was a respectable man in a grey suit who was supposed to be a model of responsibility who would subject people to a severe interrogation before lending money. But all that changed in the last period. With interest rates low and liquidity in plentiful supply, the bankers threw caution to the wind, lending billions for high margins to people who found they could not afford repayments when rates rose. The result was the sub-prime mortgage crisis that helped to destabilise the entire financial system.

Governments and central banks conspired to fuel the fires of speculation in order to avoid a recession. Under Alan Greenspan the Federal Reserve kept interest rates very low. This was praised as a very wise policy. By these means they postponed the evil day, only to make the crisis a thousand times worse when it finally arrived. Cheap money enabled the bankers to indulge in an orgy of speculation. Individuals borrowed to invest in property or buy goods; investors used cheap debt to invest in higher-yielding assets, or borrowed against existing investments; bank lending outstripped customer deposits to an unprecedented degree and dubious activities were kept off balance sheet.

Now all this has turned into its opposite. All the factors that pushed the economy up are now combining to create a vicious downward spiral. As the debt is unwound, the shortage of credit threatens to bring the economy to a grinding halt. If a worker makes a mess of his job, he will get the sack. But when the bankers wreck the entire financial system they expect to be rewarded. The men in smart suits who have made fortunes out of speculating with other people’s money are now demanding that the taxpayer bail them out. This is a most peculiar logic, which most people find very difficult to understand.

In the years of boom huge profits were made by the banking and financial sector. In 2006 alone the big banks made approximately 40 percent of all business profits in the USA. This is an industry where top executives are rewarded 344 times more than the average employee in the USA. Thirty years ago the average Chief Executive Officer (CEO) made around 35 times the pay of a typical worker. Last year, the average CEO of a top 500 listed company got $10.5 million in “compensation”.

The bankers wish us to forget all this and concentrate on the urgency of saving the banks. All the pressing needs of society are to be put to one side and the wealth of society in its entirety must be put at the disposal of the bankers, whose services to society are assumed to be far more important than those of nurses, doctors, teachers or building workers. The governments of the EU and the USA spent in one week the equivalent of what would be needed to relieve world hunger for nearly 50 years. While millions starve, the bankers continue to receive lavish salaries and bonuses and maintain an extravagant lifestyle at the public expense. The fact that there is a crisis makes no difference.

“In everybody’s interest”?

Most people are not convinced by the arguments of the bankers and politicians. They bitterly resent the fact that their hard-earned money is handed over to the bankers and the wealthy. But when they object they are met with a deafening chorus of politicians, who tell them: “there is no alternative”. This argument is repeated so often and with such insistence that it silences most critics, especially as all the parties are agreed on this.

Democrats and Republicans, Social Democrats and Christian Democrats, Conservatives and Labourites, all have joined forces in a veritable conspiracy to persuade the public that it is “in everybody’s interest” that ordinary working people must be robbed in order to put more money into the hands of the corporate gangsters. “We need a healthy (that is, profitable) banking system”, they shout. “We need to restore confidence, or else we will have Apocalypse tomorrow morning”.

This kind of argument is intended to generate an atmosphere of fear and panic, in order to make a rational discussion impossible. But what does the argument really consist of? Stripped of all niceties, it means only this: that since the banks are in the hands of the rich, and since the rich will only “risk” their money if they get a high rate of profit, and since they are not making profits at the moment, but only losses, the government must intervene and give them huge sums of money in order to restore their profits and therefore their confidence. Then all will be well.

That the banks get bailed out while poor people get evicted is the twisted logic of Capitalism. Photo by threecee on FlickrThe celebrated American economist John Kenneth Galbraith summed up this argument in the following way: “The poor have too much money, and the rich do not have enough.” The idea is that if the rich are doing well, then in the long run some of the wealth will trickle down and we will all benefit. But as Keynes remarked: in the long run we are all dead. Moreover, this theory has been shown to be false in practice.

The argument that it is absolutely necessary to pump vast sums of public money into the banks because if this is not done, a catastrophe would ensue does not convince ordinary hardworking men and women. They ask the very simple question: why should we pay for the mistakes of the bankers? If they have got themselves into this mess in the first place, they ought to clean it up. Apart from a considerable loss of jobs in the financial and service sectors, the bank crisis affects living standards in other ways. The upheaval in markets has sent the stock market plummeting and devastated the savings of workers and the middle class.

To date, Americans’ retirement plans have lost as much as $2 trillion. It has meant that people who have worked hard all their lives and saved money in the hope of earning a relatively comfortable retirement are now forced to cancel their plans and delay their retirement. More than half the people surveyed in a recent opinion poll said they worry they will have to work longer because the value of their retirement savings has declined and nearly one in four has increased the number of hours he or she works.

Many people are faced with repossession and the loss of their home. If a family loses their house, this is said to be the result of their own greed and lack of foresight. The iron laws of the market and the “survival of the fittest” condemn them to homelessness. It is a private matter and no concern of the government. But if a bank is ruined by the voracious speculation of the bankers, this is a terrible misfortune for the whole of society and therefore the whole of society must unite to save it. This is the twisted logic of capitalism!

This shameful attempt to place the burden of the crisis on the shoulders of those who can least afford it must be resisted. In order to solve the crisis, it is necessary to take the entire banking and financial system out of the hands of the speculators and bring it under the democratic control of society, so that it can serve the interests of the majority, not the rich.

We demand:

  1. No more bail outs for the rich. No reward for the fat cats! Nationalize the banks and insurance companies under democratic workers’ control and management. Banking decisions must be taken in the interests of the majority of society, not a minority of wealthy drones. Compensation for nationalized banks and other companies must be paid only in cases of proven need to small investors. The nationalisation of the banks is the only way to guarantee the deposits and savings of ordinary people.
  2. Democratic control of the banks. The boards of directors should be composed in the following way: one third to be elected by the bank workers, one third to be elected by the trade unions to represent the interests of the working class as a whole, and one third from the government.
  3. An immediate end to the exorbitant bonuses, all executive pay should be limited to the wages of a qualified worker. Why should a banker be worth more than a doctor or a dentist? If the bankers are not prepared to serve on reasonable terms, they must be shown the door and replaced by qualified graduates, many of whom are looking for work and willing to serve society.
  4. An immediate reduction of interest rates, which should be limited to the necessary costs of banking operations. Cheap credit must be made available for those who need it: small businesses and workers buying homes, not the bankers and capitalists.
  5. The right to a home; an immediate end to repossessions, a general reduction of rents and a massive building programme of affordable social housing.

The cause of the crisis

  The root cause of the crisis is not the bad behavior of some individuals. If that were true, then the solution would be simple: get them to behave better in future. That is what Gordon Brown means when he calls for “transparency, honesty and responsibility.” But everybody knows that international finance is as transparent as a cesspool, and that the banking fraternity is as honest as a Mafia Convention and as responsible as a compulsive gambler. But even if all bankers were saints, it would not make any fundamental difference.

It is not correct to attribute the cause of the crisis to the greed and corruption of the bankers (although they are exceedingly greedy and corrupt). Rather it is an expression of the sickness of a whole system – an expression of the organic crisis of capitalism. The problem is not the greed of certain individuals, nor is it the lack of liquidity or the absence of confidence. The problem is that the capitalist system on a world scale is in a complete blind alley. The root cause of the crisis is that the development of the productive forces has outgrown the narrow limits of private ownership and the nation state. The expansion and contraction of credit is often presented as the cause of the crisis, but in fact it is only the most visible symptom. Crises are an integral part of the capitalist system.

Marx and Engels explained this long ago:

“Modern bourgeois society, with its relations of production, of exchange and of property, 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. For many a decade past the history of industry and commerce is but the history of the revolt of modern productive forces against modern conditions of production, against the property relations that are the conditions for the existence of the bourgeois and of its rule.

“It is enough to mention the commercial crises that 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, are 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. Society suddenly finds itself put back into a state of momentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation, had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence; industry and commerce seem to be destroyed; and why? Because there is too much civilization, too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce.

“The productive forces at the disposal of society no longer tend to further the development of the conditions of bourgeois property; on the contrary, they have become too powerful for these conditions, by which they are fettered, and so soon as they overcome these fetters, they bring disorder into the whole of bourgeois society, endanger the existence of bourgeois property. The conditions of bourgeois society are too narrow to comprise the wealth created by them. And how does the bourgeoisie get over these crises? On the one hand by enforced destruction of a mass of productive forces; on the other, by the conquest of new markets, and by the more thorough exploitation of the old ones. That is to say, by paving the way for more extensive and more destructive crises, and by diminishing the means whereby crises are prevented.”

These words from The Communist Manifesto, written in 1848, are as fresh and relevant today as they were then. They could have been written yesterday.

The most important question, in any case, is not banking but the real economy: the production of goods and services. In order to make a profit, these must find a market. But demand is in steep decline and this is exacerbated by the lack of credit. We are faced with a classic crisis of capitalism, which is already claiming many innocent victims. The collapse of house prices in the USA has meant a crisis in the construction industry, which has already shed hundreds of thousands of jobs. The car industry is in crisis, with sales in the USA at their lowest point for 16 years. This in turn means falling demand for steel, plastic, rubber, electricity, oil and other products. It will have a knock-on effect throughout the economy, signifying rising unemployment and falling living standards.

Capitalist anarchy

The panic that has swept markets threatens to overwhelm all attempts by governments to contain the crisis. Photo by rednuht on flickrFor the last thirty years or more, we have been told that the best possible economic system was something called the free market economy. Ever since the late 1970s the mantra of the bourgeois was “let the markets rip” and “keep the state out of the economy.” The market was supposed to possess magical powers that enabled it to organize the productive forces without any intervention by the state. This idea is as old as Adam Smith who in the 18th century spoke of the “invisible hand of the market.” The politicians and economists boasted they had abolished the economic cycle. “No return to boom and bust” was repeated time and again.

There was no question of them following any regulations. On the contrary, they loudly demanded that all regulations be abolished as “detrimental to the free market”. They therefore made a bonfire of all regulations and allowed the market forces free reign. Greed for profit did the rest, as enormous amounts of capital moved from one continent to another without any hindrance, destroying industries and bringing down national currencies at the click of a computer key. It is what Marx called the anarchy of capitalism. Now we see the results. With $700 billion from the US government and over £400 billion from the British government, the state will be involved for many years. £400 billion is the equivalent of one half of the British national income. Even if this is paid back (which is supposing a lot) it means many years of tax increases, cuts in social spending and austerity.

A very old law, the herd instinct, governs the conduct of the markets. The faintest scent of a lion prowling in the bush will send a herd of wildebeest into a panic that nothing will halt. This is the kind of mechanism that determines the destinies of millions of people. This is the crude reality of market economics. Just as the wildebeest can scent a lion, the markets can scent the imminence of a recession. The prospect of a recession is the real cause of the panic. Once this happens, nothing can stop it. All the speeches, all the interest rate cuts, and all the handouts to the banks, will have no effect on the financial markets. They will see that the governments and central banks are afraid, and they will draw the necessary conclusions.

The panic that has swept markets threatens to overwhelm all attempts by governments to contain the crisis. None of the desperate measures taken by the Fed and the British and European governments and central banks have succeeded in halting the stampede. This scandal is all the more shocking because the very people who are now screaming for state assistance are the ones who were always shouting that government has no place in the workings of the economy and that the free market must be allowed to operate with no regulations or any other form of state interference.

Now they complain bitterly that the regulators were not doing their job. But until recently all were agreed that the job of the regulators was simply to leave the markets alone. The watchdogs are quite right when they argue that it is not their job to run banks, because that was the mantra for the last 30 years. From London to New York and Reykjavik regulators failed to rein in the “excesses” of the financial industry. For the last three decades the advocates of market economics were all demanding the abolition of regulations.

Competition between financial centres for business was supposed to guarantee that the market would operate efficiently, thanks to the invisible hand of the market. But the bankruptcy of these laissez-faire policies was cruelly exposed in the summer of 2007. Now they are all beating their chests and wailing at the consequences of their own actions. Society is now paying the bill for the policies whereby the capitalists and their political representatives attempted to keep the boom going by constantly inflating the speculative bubble. All were involved in this massive fraud. Republicans and Democrats, Labour and Conservatives, Social Democrats and former “Communists” – all embraced market economics and applauded this merry carnival of moneymaking.

It is very easy to be wise after the event, as every drunk will tell you the morning after a drunken binge. Then they all swear that they have learned the lesson, and will never drink again – an excellent resolution that they sincerely mean to maintain – until the next drunken party. Now the financial regulators are sticking their nose in to even the smallest aspects of the banks’ affairs, but only after the banks were on the verge of collapse. Where were they before?

Now everybody blames greedy bankers for the crisis. But only yesterday these same greedy bankers were universally hailed as the saviours of the nation, the wealth creators, the risk-takers and the job-givers. Many in the City of London and Wall Street are now faced with losing their jobs. But the traders will have made millions from short-term bonuses for market speculation. Traders’ bosses in the boardroom let the casino continue because their pay was also linked to short-term results.

Belatedly the authorities are attempting to impose curbs on bankers’ pay as the price for bailouts. They do this, not out of principle or conviction but because they fear the reaction of the public to the scandal of huge bonuses being paid out of public funds to the very people who have caused the chaos in the economy. The bosses are oblivious to the mood of anger and hatred building up in society. At any rate, they are indifferent to it. But politicians cannot afford to be totally indifferent to the voters who can kick them out at the next elections.

The problem they face is that it is impossible to regulate capitalist anarchy. They complain about greed, but greed is at the heart of market economics and must not be stinted. All attempts to limit “excessive” remuneration, bonuses, etc., will be met with sabotage. The Market will express its disapproval with sudden falls in the price of shares. This will serve to concentrate the minds of the Lawgivers and compel them to pay attention to the real Electorate: the owners of wealth. When a worker sacrifices a pay increase this year, that money is lost forever. But the same rule does not apply to the bankers and capitalists. Even if the latter, for cosmetic reasons, agree to restrict their bonuses for this year, they will make up for this great “sacrifice” by increasing their bonuses next year. It is not at all difficult.

The idea that men and women are incapable of ordering their affairs better than this is a monstrous slander against the human race. For the past 10,000 years humanity has shown itself able to overcome every obstacle and advance towards the final goal of freedom. The marvellous discoveries of science and technology place in our hands the prospect of solving all the problems that have tormented us for centuries and millennia. But this colossal potential can never be developed to its full extent as long as it is subordinated to the profit system.

For a better life

Incredibly, in their efforts to defend capitalism, some commentators are trying to blame the consumers and house buyers for the crisis: “We were all to blame,” they say, without even blushing. After all, they argue, no one was forcing us to take 125 percent mortgages or to chalk up debts to pay for holidays abroad and designer shoes. But in a situation where the economy is developing fast, and credit is cheap, even poor people are tempted into “living beyond their means.” In fact, at a given moment real interest rates in the USA were negative, which means that people were punished for not taking out loans.

Capitalism constantly creates new needs and advertising is now a vast industry, utilizing the most sophisticated means to convince consumers that they must have this and that. The lavish lifestyle of rich “celebrities” is dangled before the gaze of the poor, presenting them with a distorted view of life and brainwashing people into aspiring to things that will never be theirs. Then the bourgeois hypocrites point an accusing finger at the masses who, like Tantalus, are condemned to watch a feast while suffering all the torments of hunger and thirst.

There is nothing immoral or illogical about aspiring to a better life. If men and women did not constantly aspire to something better, there would never be any progress. Society would sink into a stagnant and inert condition. We should certainly aspire to a better life, for we only live once. And if all that we can hope for is what exists now, the outlook for humanity would be grim indeed. What is certainly immoral and inhuman is the rat race that is created by capitalism, where individual greed is held up, not merely as a virtue but as the mainspring of all human progress.

The capitalist class believes in the so-called survival of the fittest. However, by this is meant survival, not of the fittest and most intelligent people but only of the rich, however unfit, stupid, ugly or diseased, and no matter how many perfectly fit and intelligent people die in the process. The idea is systematically cultivated that my personal advancement must be at the expense of everyone else, that my personal greed must be satisfied through the loss of others, and that in order to advance, it is necessary to trample others underfoot. This kind of vicious bourgeois individualism is the psychological and moral basis for many of the ills that currently affect society, gnawing at its entrails and dragging it down to the level of primitive barbarism. It is the morality of dog eats dog, the concept of “each man for himself and let the devil take the hindermost”.

This miserable caricature of natural selection is a slander on the memory of Charles Darwin. As a matter of fact, it was not competition but co-operation that was the key to the survival and development of the human race from its earliest origins. Our early ancestors on the savannah of East Africa (for we are all descended from African immigrants) were small and weak creatures. They lacked strong claws and teeth. They could not run as fast as the animals they wanted to eat or the predators that wanted to eat them. According to the “survival of the fittest” our species should have been extinct approximately three million years ago. The main evolutionary advantage our ancestors possessed was co-operation and social production. Individualism under these conditions would have spelt death.

Changing consciousness

Republicans and Democrats are only the right and left boot of Big BusinessOne has to ask the advocates of the theory of the so-called survival of the fittest a simple question: why is it that the banks, which have been shown to be completely unfit for survival, are not allowed to die but must at all costs be saved by the generosity of that very society that was supposed not to exist? In order to save the weak and unfit banks, run by stupid and inefficient bankers, the fit, intelligent and hardworking majority is supposed to sacrifice itself gladly. But society is by no means convinced that to serve this worthy cause, it must do without such superfluities as schools and hospitals and accept a regime of austerity for the foreseeable future.

The economic shocks that are daily reported in the newspapers and on television screens tell a story the meaning of which is clear to all: the existing system is not working. To use an American expression: it is not delivering the goods. There is no money for health care, schools or pensions, but for Wall Street there is all the money in the world. In the words of America’s greatest living writer, Gore Vidal, what we have is socialism for the rich and free market economics for the poor.

Many ordinary people are drawing the correct conclusions from this. They are beginning to question the capitalist system and look around for alternatives. Unfortunately, no alternatives are immediately obvious. In the USA, they look to Obama and the Democrats. But Republicans and Democrats are only the right and left boot of Big Business. Again, Gore Vidal stated, “in our Republic there is one party, the Property Party, with two right wings”. Obama and McCain both loyally supported the $700 billion bailout of Big Business. They represent the same interests with only slight variations in tactics.

These facts will have a powerful effect on consciousness. It is an elementary proposition of Marxism that human consciousness is profoundly conservative. People generally do not like change. Habit, tradition and routine play a very important role in shaping the outlook of the masses, who normally resist the idea of major alterations in their lives and customs. But when great events shake society to its foundations, people are compelled to reconsider their old ideas, beliefs and prejudices.

We have now entered just such a period. The long period of relative prosperity that has lasted two decades or more in the advanced capitalist countries left its mark apart from a relatively mild recession in 2001. Despite all the manifest injustices of capitalism, despite the long hours of work, the intensification of exploitation, the gross inequality, the obscene luxury of the wealthy shamelessly paraded alongside the growing numbers of the poor and marginalized – despite all this, most people believed that the market economy worked and that it could even work to their benefit. This was particularly true in the United States. But for a growing number of people it is true no longer.


  Contents Part 2 >>


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