Editorial: Capitalism and the New Decade

Two thousand years ago Emperor Nero reputedly stood on the private stage he had had built in his palace and played music while his city burnt around him. A thousand years later Copenhagen’s King Canute tried to command the tides to impress his subjects. Plus ca change: last month, despite intensive efforts, the expensively-assembled representatives of global capitalism spent two weeks in Copenhagen fiddling while the planet warmed, and the sea-level rose.

But despite appearances to the contrary, capitalism enters a new decade in rude health. The economic disruption to production and the credit system of the last two years may have been severe, but it is a necessary consequence of the need for the market system to maintain its essential objective, that is profitability at all costs.

Against that imperative, millions of jobs globally are being sacrificed. The spending promises of politicians around the world are being revised and reforms abandoned. Schools, housebuilding and hospitals are shelved as a consequence of the massive diversion of financial resources into propping up the house of credit cards that drove capitalism for much of the last ten years.

The decade started with a mini-slump in most western economies – relating to the high-tech and internet sectors primarily – and has ended with an almighty “correction”.

Politically the decade also started with global capitalism in some apparent disarray as protesters closed down the WTO trade talks in Seattle in the last days of the 20th century and in the process gave birth to a movement of sorts under the banner of anti-globalisation and (less commonly) anti-capitalism. These back-slapping/back-stabbing summits have been a regular occurrence over the last ten years as the political whores who serve the interests of the global pimp class battle it out over their respective pitches.

And so the much-heralded Copenhagen climate change conference in December all but collapses. Despite their best effort, our leaders, decision-makers and opinion-formers (various democrats, dictators, corporate flunkies, sycophants, charities, popstars and other hangers-on to the coat-tails of capital) singularly failed to find a way to reconcile the differences between the old (developed) capitalist nations in decline and the developing nations on the up. It’s like picking sides in an argument between the neighbour on one side who has always thrown their rubbish out the window onto the street, and the other neighbour who is threatening to start doing the same. Capitalism in 2010 may have fewer emperors and kings, and its subjects are becoming harder to impress, but the end result is much the same

The last ten years then have seen an undoubted decline in confidence in leaders and in “capitalism” (albeit loosely defined). Entering 2010, the task of socialists – and anyone sympathetic to the case for a radical, democratic, participative change in society – is to further undermine the shaky ideology of capitalism, to challenge the ideas which encourage the majority to continue propping up this system, and to clearly put forward the case for a moneyless, wageless, stateless and classless global society.

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