Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Luk√°cs

Friday, September 19, 2008

Anti-capitalists on the crisis

Given this week has probably been the worst week in the history of capitalism for over seventy years, the Guardian had a nice feature, (which has already been blogged here) interviewing a number of leading anti-capitalists in Britain (and a few other people) on the economic, political and ideological crisis, including Jarvis Cocker, Caroline Lucas, George Galloway, Sheila Rowbottom, Salma Yaqoob and George Monbiot. I will just select a few of the comments below:

This is a very, very serious crisis of capitalism: it has been the build-up of private borrowing that has kept the system going, and it's coming unstuck. The whole system is unwinding; the other day we saw the biggest nationalisation in the history of humanity and that still wasn't enough. Governments don't know what to do, and it's the rest of us who have to live with the consequences. The Labour party is offering no alternative, the Lib Dems are offering no alternative, the Conservatives are offering no alternative. This could be a big moment for the left. But we really need to stand up and use the "c" word, say this is a crisis of capitalism and that people are suffering. The thing is, all the media coverage yesterday was of the bankers leaving Lehman Brothers with their boxes, but the people who will really be hit are the cleaners, the secretaries - what did we see of them? We have to build resistance. Because so far we've only seen the minor problems; people stuck in foreign airports or having a bit of trouble getting a job. Things are going to get much, much worse.
Chris Harman, editor of International Socialism

This is further evidence, if any were needed, of the fact that the market is not and never can be the answer. (The need to pursue illegal wars is pretty strong evidence too, of course.) You look around the world and you see massive need on the one hand, and massive wealth on the other, and the two never connect. The market is massively inefficient, capitalism is massively unstable and turbulent, and it's insane that we are all bound to this terrible wheel of instability. The real left is making a lot of noise about this. There'll be a convention of the left during the Labour party conference, all the shades of genuine leftwing opinion, and we'll be hammering all these questions out from a socialist perspective. But if the papers and the broadcasters fail to record it, it's very difficult for these ideas to penetrate the public consciousness. The media just turns a deaf ear; it chooses not to hear it. It's a lot more interested in the careerism of whoever's after Gordon Brown's job. Will this be a defining moment for the left? It should be, of course but it's very difficult to be optimistic given our history of failure. The war against Iraq was a massive opportunity to create a coherent anti-capitalist movement, to find a real socialist alternative, and we let it slip through our fingers. This is another such opportunity, and we must not let it go. Ken Loach, socialist film director

I remember the 1930s. What the Depression did then was to stimulate antisemitism. I met Oswald Mosley in 1928 when he was a Labour MP. The next time I met him he was wearing a blackshirt. Where there is fear, there is scapegoating, and that is very dangerous. Blair and Brown based their politics on a belief in the market: the market answered all your needs and the state had to be kept out. That confidence has now collapsed and New Labour is seen for what it is. You can't, as New Labour believed, nurse capitalism. I believe a new labour movement will emerge from this with a more realistic sense of how capitalism works. There is a left convention at this year's Labour conference, a sort of parallel conference. This year's Labour conference is the first in my lifetime when you will not be allowed to vote, so the left convention will get a lot of attention. At last, after a period when we've been told to trust the gamblers, there are many relevant ideas emerging on the left.
Tony Benn, the legend that is.

This growing crisis will mean misery for working people and shows that everything we've been told about the free market has been false. At the same time, it's a big opportunity. Millions of people will be questioning why this has happened, what's wrong with the system, is it 1929 all over again? The left needs to put forward answers. People have the right to work; we have a housing crisis, so why not employ people to build more houses? We are facing great challenges, but there is also a historic opportunity for the left to remake itself. Capitalism has had its chance and failed; now it's socialism's turn.
Lindsey German, convenor Stop the War Coalition and Left List candidate for the London Mayoral elections

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