Brutal neoliberalism and
austerity are fuelling mass anger – the growth in Trump-style populism one of
the consequences. In response, a recent book advocates a return to New
Deal-style reforms and the post-war policies of state regulation – points
echoed by Bernie Sanders and others. But, as TONY SAUNOIS explains, capitalism’s
room for manoeuvre is far more limited today, making the case for socialism all
the more urgent.
Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism
By Robert Kuttner
Published by WW Norton & Company, 2019, £12.99
Robert Kuttner’s book is one
of many by commentators and academics in recent years giving a devastating
balance sheet of the consequences of neoliberal policies. Yet, like many, he
has not been able to draw a rounded analysis and alternative from the data he
has published. He graphically contrasts two eras of global capitalism: the post-second
world war boom up to the mid-1970s; and what has followed since. In particular,
he gives a stark account of what the neoliberal era has meant worldwide – economically,
socially and politically. He reveals the increasingly authoritarian and
undemocratic features of modern-day global monopoly capitalism. The book
largely centres on developments in the US and the EU. He rightly regards the
latter as a neoliberal, pro-capitalist institution.
The deep crises in the world economy and political
establishments are not only reflected in attempts to resurrect Keynesian-style
policies. Other capitalist economists are proposing that an even harsher
neoliberal model should be applied – looking back to the 1970s and 80s. That is
the subject of a book by German economist, Rainer Zitelmann, reviewed here by PETER
The Power of Capitalism: a journey through recent history across four continents
By Rainer Zitelmann
Published by LID, 2018, £19.99
This book by Rainer Zitelmann is quite clearly
written as a justification for a further shift towards the right in German
capitalism’s economic policies, a process already underway and reinforced by
the growing crisis of the economy. It can also be used on a much wider scale by
bourgeois economists in other countries. It is likely that Germany will tip
into recession in the third quarter of this year, the country’s central bank
has warned. It has gone from the powerhouse of Europe to an economic laggard,
weighed down by turmoil in the automotive industry, the US-China trade war, and
the prospects of a chaotic UK exit from the European Union.
Europe we have seen a resurgent right making electoral gains. In the US, white
supremacists have grown increasingly confident after the election of the right-populist
Donald Trump. A new book aims to explain this phenomenon but, PAULA MITCHELL
argues, a materialist approach is necessary to understand the alt-right, its
roots, limits and perspectives.
The Alt-Right: what everyone needs to know
By George Hawley
Published by Oxford University Press, 2019, £10.99
US alt-right came to prominence during Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign.
Steve Bannon, former editor of alt-right website Breitbart, was chief executive
of Trump’s presidential campaign and, latterly, White House chief strategist. Bannon
and others linked up with the organisers of the Football Lads Alliance in
Britain, pledging money to build a new street movement.
At one level, this is just simply a
delightful book, a good read, a love story beautifully written. In addition,
though, it is an inspiring true story about a middle-aged couple’s experience of
austerity Britain shipwrecked by the treacherous rocks of finance capital. It
manages to be a travel book and a page turner. It is Raynor Winn’s first book
and was shortlisted for the Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize in 2018.
A rising sense of panic is gripping the strategists of British capitalism as the 31 October Brexit deadline draws ever closer. “Britain’s exit from the European Union without a withdrawal deal would be an unequivocal national calamity”, the Guardian newspaper editorialised (16 August). The usually more soberly-toned Financial Times has also used similar phrases.
Comparisons have been made with Winston Churchill’s decision in 1925 to return to the gold standard at pre-world war exchange rates, an effective 10% appreciation of sterling. This move was famously excoriated by John Maynard Keynes in his pamphlet, The Economic Consequences of Mr Churchill, as a self-inflicted wound on the UK economy – although, as with the no deal, ‘soft Brexit’ or no Brexit debate today, there were no policies within the framework of capitalism that could have resolved the fundamental contradictions of a crisis-inherent system. Meanwhile, a leaked paper from inside Angela Merkel’s German government, reporting that the EU’s preparations for a no deal are “largely complete” in so far as they can be, assesses that Brexit with no withdrawal treaty is now a “high probability”.
US-China trade tensions, Germany’s slide into recession, EU crisis and regional conflicts all bear witness to increasing rivalry between the major powers and trading blocs. They also mean that an understanding of the imperialist stage of capitalism is more relevant than ever. ROBIN CLAPP writes.
When Jeremy Corbyn wrote the foreword to
a 2011 edition of John A Hobson’s classic work, Imperialism: A Study, a Guardian
reviewer called it a “perfectly decent introductory essay”. Yet in May of this year, Corbyn’s endorsement of this 1902 book
was weaponised by a Times
journalist, who claimed that Hobson was anti-Semitic and, by extension, the
Labour leader must be so too.
global warming is, to state the obvious, a global problem. The environment and
climate are everywhere. It is also inextricably linked to the global political economy:
the way the world is run.
A consequence of greenhouse
gas emissions, human-induced global warming is, by definition, a systemic
crisis, a crisis of capitalism. Even the measurements for the amount of carbon
in the atmosphere are comparisons with pre-industrial levels – the dawn of the 18th
century industrial revolution and mass production driven by fossil fuels.
Report after report has
detailed the interconnectedness of the environment and human activity, and the
need for far-reaching action on this existential threat. Summit after summit
claims success. In reality, however, the progress has been glacial.
Eighty years ago, the major powers plunged
humanity into the horror of world war. Despite the contending claims this was,
at root, a struggle for markets, and economic and political dominance. In a
shortened version of an article first published in Socialism Today No.131, PETER
TAAFFE looks at the background to the war and the responsibility of socialists
total number of victims of the second world war dwarfed even the carnage of the
first. Estimates of the number of casualties suggest some 60 million died, 20
million soldiers and 40 million civilians. Many civilians died of disease,
starvation, massacres, bombing and deliberate genocide. The now-disappeared ‘Soviet Union’ lost around 27 million, just under half of
all the casualties in the war.
At a time of a
growing school funding crisis the recent victory at Southampton’s Valentine
Primary, which won a two-year freeze on budget cuts through an injection of
£1.6 million by Southampton council, is an important example of what can be
Sunday 21 July over 200 delegates at a special conference of the Socialist
Party in England and Wales voted overwhelmingly, 83.2% to 16.8%, (173-35), to
sponsor an international conference to reconstitute the Committee for a Workers’
International (CWI – the international organisation of which the Socialist
Party is part).