Introducing Marxism: The causes of the post-war boom

The post-war economic upswing in the countries of ‘the West’ was an unprecedented era of capitalist development rooted in a unique combination of economic and geopolitical factors that cannot be repeated, argues ROBIN CLAPP, in our latest instalment in the Introducing Marxism series.

In this era, convulsed with economic, social, political and environmental crises, capitalism is not able to play even a relatively progressive role in advancing the needs of humankind and, indeed, the planet itself. Increasingly sclerotic, it can neither take full advantage of the marvels of Artificial Intelligence (AI) nor implement multilateral action programmes that alone can effectively begin to counteract potential risks from future pandemics or catastrophic climate change.

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Editorial: The new crisis and its consequences

As global markets reel in the face of the developing coronavirus pandemic it is difficult to see how these events will not be the trigger for a new world capitalist economic downturn, with all the social and political consequences that will entail.

There is no doubt that the rapid spread of the virus and its disruptive impact has stunned the capitalist class and their political representatives.

On February 25 the chief economic advisor to Donald Trump, Larry Kudlow, breezily declared “we have contained this. I won’t say airtight, but it’s pretty close to airtight”.

Just twenty days later on March 16, after the MSCI all-country world index, the widest measure of global markets, had suffered its heaviest weekly loss since 2008, the US Federal Reserve central bank was forced to make its biggest intervention since the crisis then.

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Another market system failure

Viruses never stand still! Like all living things they continually change in unpredictable ways – and change is sometimes very rapid. Nobody could have foreseen Covid-19 – the new corona virus causing worldwide repercussions within weeks of identification of the first patient.

What was entirely predictable, however, was the threat of infectious diseases to people across the world – and the inability of profit-driven capitalism to protect us.

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The danger of the far right

With right-wing politicians like Hungarian premier Viktor Orbán not slow to blame ‘foreigners’ for the coronavirus crisis, the looming world downturn could provide new opportunities for the far right to develop. PETER TAAFFE reviews a recent book that charts the growing threat.

The Far Right Today

By Cas Mudde

Published by Polity Press, 2019, £14-99

The continuing murderous activity in Europe and further afield, largely by small right-wing groups and even individuals – ‘lone wolves’ – has drawn increased attention of writers and commentators about the far right, how they are confronted, and what are the perspectives for these organisations. Cas Mudde’s small book is packed with vital, necessary information on the far right today in general and the different types of organisations to be found in their camp. The writer provides not just an explanation of the different far right organisations but a glossary of these organisations. Moreover he correctly insists on accurate terminology in describing their political physiognomy as well as the differences between them.

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Lessons from Chile for a new era of struggle

TONY SAUNOIS examines what type of demands Marxists need to advance in this era to help develop workers’ and young people’s consciousness towards the programme and the organisational forms necessary to decisively overturn capitalism and begin the construction of a new, socialist society.

The explosive mass movements which have rocked Latin America, Haiti, Iraq, Lebanon, Iran and some other countries in the recent period all have their particularly unique characteristics but also many common features. They are an expression of the mass anger and opposition to the ruling classes, neo-liberalism, nepotism and corruption which has accumulated over decades. These heroic movements have generally assumed a class character, uniting workers and the oppressed across ethnic, religious and gender divides in a common struggle. A generation of new young workers and students has been at the forefront.

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Global Warning: Pricing out greenhouse gases

Current events have brought out starkly the question: is society fit to deal with global threats, from coronavirus to climate change? For over two decades, the UN, IMF, numerous governments and businesses have tried to agree on market-based solutions to global warming, like carbon pricing. But, asks MARTIN POWELL-DAVIES, can the capitalist system really solve the climate crisis?

In 1997, the Kyoto protocol established the setting of a price for carbon as capitalism’s solution for reducing atmospheric greenhouse gases, chiefly carbon dioxide, in order to prevent a critical increase in global temperatures. The treaty was meant to establish a global market for trading carbon permits that, through the magic of the market, would incentivise individual nations and companies to cut their greenhouse gas emissions and invest in low-carbon alternatives.

The preferred market model at the outset was an international cap-and-trade system. The idea was that countries would be set a limit on emissions totalling an overall global cap. If one nation – or a business given its own limit by a government – wanted to exceed its cap, it would have to buy additional emission rights from the carbon market. If it managed to reduce emissions beneath the cap, it could sell the unused allocations on the market as well.

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A new world disorder

The Rise and Fall of Peace on Earth

By Michael Mandelbaum

Published by Oxford University Press, 2019, £18-99

Reviewed by Robin Clapp

The last two decades have witnessed an intensification of economic and military rivalries across the globe with US armed forces intervening in the Middle East and Afghanistan. The legitimacy of the established capitalist order is questioned by millions for whom thirty years of rampant neo-liberal globalisation have yielded only the bitter fruits of privatisation, poverty and a continually widening wealth-gap between the oligarchs and the rest that is greater than at any time in human history.

Serious representatives of capitalism question where this rampant inequality may lead, while conceding that the stability of their system is increasingly susceptible to unsustainable mountains of dangerous debt and the potentially catastrophic impacts of climate change. Some openly warn that world capitalism has entered a great stagnation and in some regions is beginning to unravel backwards. The next world recession will exacerbate all the pre-existing political tensions between nation states and imperialist power blocs.

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