Modern Capitalism – The Marxist View
The Great Depression of the 1930's, which swept through the entire capitalist world, was the most serious and most prolonged economic crisis in history. Millions of industrial workers were thrown out of work, farmers and agricultural workers were plunged into disaster, banks shut down and people lost their savings; entire families were faced with the threat of starvation, if not starvation itself.
The massive economic crisis led to political crises, as the ruling class of several countries – clandestinely supported by the United States, Great Britain and other “democracies” - turned to the iron fist. Brutal, aggressive and chauvinistic fascist regimes were already in power in a number of countries, including Japan and Italy, and in the 1930's the Nazis took over in Germany. World War II, which ensued, was itself a product of capitalism's economic and political failures.
No such crisis took place in the socialist Soviet Russia, where there were extremely rapid and historically unprecedented advances in production and improvement in people's living standards. The USSR's economic gains allowed the country to amass the military might required to deal the main blow against the Nazi-led fascist forces that attacked the Soviet Union in 1941.
The end of the World War led to the emergence of powerful national liberation and socialist movements in the world. But while fascism had been defeated, the capitalist system itself was very far from being spent. Foremost among the imperialist powers was the United States of America, and for American capitalists, World War II had been a boon. Vast government war-time expenditures had lifted the country out of the Great Depression. As the war had not been fought on American soil, US productive capacity and wealth clearly dominated the post-war world. The “American Century” was on hand, or so said the captains of the US. European countries in particular were lent massive amounts of money to rebuild their economies and prevent the “spread of communism.” The price was a harsh one - virtually loss of their political and military independence. The formation of NATO was an outcome of this “friendly” relationship. “Containment” and the Cold War was initiated to solidify the capitalist world and to put pressure on the socialist and newly independent countries.
But could capitalism cure its Achilles heel – its periodic severe economic crises? Failure to do so could very well lead to a revolutionary situation, even in the major imperialist countries, even in the US of A.
Several decades have passed since the end of the Great Depression of the 1930's. Several smaller countries have in fact gone through severe crises, and there have been fairly serious recessions in the heart of the imperialist world. But a major world-wide collapse has not taken place in that time period. Yet. Of course, that does not mean that the all is well. In spite of the long-term absence of a major world-wide economic disruption, not even the most fervent apologists (if they remain lucid, at any rate) for capitalism can claim that the capitalist “free market” has solved the urgent problems of mankind. Much of the world's population live in dire poverty – after centuries of “glorious” capitalism.
Brutal and bestial wars – an inherent feature of capitalism, especially in its imperialist stage – can no longer be blamed on “communism.” There are many evident “hot spots” in the world, with national, racial, religious and even tribal hatreds and conflicts. Where are genuinely human values gaining the upper hand?
Still, capitalism continues to muddle along, laying waste to hundreds of millions of lives. But has this system genuinely put an end to wrenching, major economic crises? Karl Marx stated that crises were inherent to capitalism. Where does the truth lie?
We will endeavor to show that Karl Marx was correct. The advanced capitalist world will not be able to prevent major economic upheavals. The eventuality of a major world-wide economic crisis has NOT been abolished. It has merely been delayed by governmental and central bank “management” of the economy, which at the same time sets the stage for an even greater economic and social crisis. Possibly in the not-so-distant future.
The realities of capitalism's inherently anti-human nature, its harshly inequitable distribution of wealth, its major fault lines should be laid bare. First and foremost, for working people, as they struggle to build a new, just and better life.