We haven’t said much on Strange Times about what is now looking to be the most serious capitalist economic crisis since the Great Depression (and quite possibly far worse than that one). That’s because we’re floundering. Well I am anyway, and I have no desire to hide that by just coming out with “Marxist” platitudes about the inevitability of it, “we told you so”, “look what capitalist greed leads to” etc. And I also don’t have enough of a grip on it to write anything which goes beyond superficial handwaving about the falling rate of profit, over-production, debt, and all the rest of it.
When I see our leaders pontificating about the crisis and proposing various ‘stimulus packages’ it appears queasily Monty Pythonesque. I don’t think they really know what they’re doing. It would be funny if it wasn’t so serious. Nevertheless I just don’t know enough about Marxist or capitalist economics to produce any sort of informed critique.
So that’s my excuse for staying quiet.
Nevertheless, it’s clearly of the utmost importance for us to get our heads around it rather than to just sit on the sidelines and watch things fall apart. So to make a start on this I’d like to launch a discussion of an old (1981) paper entitled Unemployment and Revolution. It’s an analysis of why unemployment occurs under capitalism and why moving to social ownership makes far more sense than waiting for capitalism to rise phoenix-like from the ashes, yet again.
This paper was written (partly) with reference to the particular conditions in Australia at the time – unemployment had reached its highest level since WW2 and there had been much debate in the media about the need for everyone to “tighten their belts” etc. However it’s clearly relevant as a starting point to debate about the far more serious crisis which is unfolding at the moment.
I re-read it a month or so ago and found it very useful, although there were parts of it which confused me due I think to both a certain lack of clarity in the way some parts of the paper was written, and to my own low level of conceptual understanding when it comes to economics.
Anyway, I invite people to read it and respond with comments. In particular I’d like to see questions! I have some myself, a number of them possibly quite naive, which I’ll try to formulate after re-reading it yet again.