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Crises

Editorial: Crises and Catastrophe

When the market economy is booming there’s a tendency to assume this state of affairs will last forever – on so many occasions have we heard that ‘it’s different this time’ and that ‘we’re in a new paradigm now’. Yet when a slump occurs – as they do periodically – the mood of incautious optimism changes quickly and pessimism and despair can set in.

This has most obviously been the case with the present recession (or series of recessions, depending on how you define it). Since the first signs of crisis appeared in late summer 2007, the mood has been bleak. The nadir was probably reached in late 2008 when the collapse of Lehman Brothers led to massive falls in world stock markets and coincided with the seizing up of the credit markets. Unemployment and bankruptcies soon began to rise.

Cooking the Books: Overproduction

According to Stuart Jeffries in the Guardian (5 July), “Marxism is on the rise again”. One of the reasons he gives for this is “its analysis of economic crises”. But what is this analysis?

The problem with trying to describe Marx’s own theory is that he never published a final, worked-out version. In Volume 1 of Capital there are some passing references to capitalist production going in cycles “of average activity, production at high pressure, crisis and stagnation”. Apart from that, all we have are drafts and notes on the subject which Engels, Kautsky and Moscow later published as Volumes 2 and 3 of Capital, Theories of Surplus Value and the Grundrisse, but these drafts are not always entirely consistent with each other.

50 Years Ago: Wall Street slump

Wall Street got the twitch last month and so did London and the Bourses on the Continent. The newspapers rushed out pictures of the panic in 1929 and then had to set their City Editors to work to explain why 1929 cannot after all happen again.

Everybody seemed to have forgotten that just before 1929 the financial experts were assuring us that the crash which was in fact just around the corner could never happen anyway. If this does not make the experts of 1929 look very impressive in retrospect, it must also teach us that the forecasts of all capitalism's economic experts are not worth very much.

Nowadays the experts are fond of pointing out the precautions which (they are confident) would prevent a runaway boom like the one which preceded the 1929 crash and therefore (they reason) would also prevent the crash itself.

Crises and Depressions

From the series on Marxian Economics.

Venue: The Latin American Bookshop,
29 Islington Park Street, London

The original tape source is of poor quality, especially for the questions and discussion in part three. The worst bits have been deleted, and this is indicated by the addition of two seconds of silence.

Recorded: 
Sunday, 8 June 1980

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