The Spectre of Barbarism and its Alternative … eight theses

Published on The Bullet / socialist project, by Michael A. Lebowitz, September 10, 2010.

Thesis One: The capitalist economic crisis is not over/Make socialism fly:

Although the immediate financial crisis appears to have been resolved, all of the underlying factors (which are the result of the overaccumulation to which capitalism is prone and which made fictitious capital so vulnerable) are still present. The incredible trade imbalance of the U.S. economy has not been addressed; the unprecedented deficit of the U.S. federal budget is rising; the over-extension of consumer credit hangs over the economy; unemployment is rising and thus consumer confidence and spending is not likely to return to previous heights; and, the general picture is one in which the U.S. economy, the dominant economy in the world, will continue to lose hegemony. 

When commentators stress signs of recovery, it is essential to remember that this pattern differs not at all from that of 1929 to 1933 – in other words, the period between the stock market crash and the bank failures – a period before much of the depression of the 1930s. At best, although capitalism itself may recover, the prospect is one of a significant geographical restructuring of capital on an international basis, which will require a painful adjustment for the U.S. economy – one which involves acceptance of continued stagnation or decline of incomes for the mass of people.

Thesis Two: The resource/food/water/climate/environment crisis is deepening:

All these elements are connected. There is a food crisis which reflects, among other things, drought as the result of climate change and the diversion of food for the production of biofuels. Despite the ability to produce sufficient food at this time for the world, unequal distribution has meant starvation for many and has been reflected in food riots over the price of staple products like rice. There is a process of land grab occurring in which countries such as China, India, South Korea and Saudi Arabia are in the process of leasing land in Africa, Pakistan, and the Philippines among other places for the purpose of securing food (especially grain) and fuels. For example, Daewoo of South Korea took a 99 year lease on 3,000,000 acres of land in Madagascar (half of all arable land in the country) for the purpose of producing corn and palm oil. Similarly, Pakistan offered a half million hectares of land and promised Gulf investors that if they signed up it would hire a security force of 100,000 to protect the assets. A significant aspect of these contracts which secure arable land for foreign investors is that it is a way of dealing with the impending crisis of water shortage. And, this problem is becoming increasingly serious with the melting of glaciers for example in Tibet and the Andes – which will affect the availability of water not only for consumption and agriculture but also for hydroelectric power. This problem, the problem of over-expansion of economic activity in relation to existing resources under capitalism, will only get worse as India and China in particular attempt to emulate the consumption standards of the developed North.

Thesis Three: The current internal political correlation of forces in the United States and other advanced capitalist countries is not favourable to the advance of progressive forces … (full long text).

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