2009年11月8日

Seminar: Towards A Marxist Analysis of the Global Crisis

Historical Materialism Journal (IIRE)
November 6, 2009


On 2-4 October, the IIRE held its first international Economy Seminar on the Global Crisis. Thirty-six participants, economists and non-specialists, from Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America attended the three-day event which was open to activists from different tendencies of the radical left.

The objectives of the seminar were to analyse the nature, characteristics and consequences of the current global economic crisis, from perspectives relevant to social activists, and to fortify the global network of Marxist economists. All talks will be available at the IIRE podcast, which we expect to launch with the next newsletter. For now it is possible to download all the talks in one file (original languages, more than 500MB).

Three main questions guided the various sessions of the weekend. First, what is the nature or cause of the crisis? Second, what are the social, economic and political consequences? Finally, what are the links between the current economic crisis and the global ecological and food crises? A solid look at Keynesianism, Ernest Mandel’s contribution on long waves and economic cycles and a (self-) critical take on discourse and propaganda were activities that peppered the debates.

The seminar kicked off with a well-attended public meeting on the crisis with guest speakers Chris Harman of the SWP in Britain and IIRE fellows Michel Husson of the French National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies and Claudio Katz of the University of Buenos Aires.

François Chesnais (France) opened the seminar itself with an introduction on the role that the so-called financialisation of the economy had in the global crisis. He stated that the crisis cannot be labelled either financial or financialised. Rather, the current crisis has its roots deep in the process of capital accumulation, which, revealing its contradictions, should lead us to look at the dynamics of productivity, the rate of profit and its distribution. The discussion that followed generated a debate between over-accumulation versus under-consumption as explanations for understanding the crisis.

Ozlem Onaran (Turkey), Claudio Katz (Argentina) and Bruno Jetin (France) presented reports on the conditions of the European, Latin American and Asian economies. The debates paved the way for a deeper understanding on how the crisis is perceived and dealt with in the different regions. Participants concluded that an essential characteristic of the crisis is the lack of de-linking tendencies among countries and continents; on the contrary, the efforts to save capitalism have been concerted and almost unanimous.

Michel Husson (France) and Klaus Engert (Germany) analysed the crisis in the framework of the theory of long waves. According to this theory, elaborated by IIRE founder Ernest Mandel, it is possible to use important endogenous factors, i.e. related to the logic of capital and its internal contradictions, to explain the general fall in accumulation that began during the 1970s and has not yet concluded. This discussion left open the possibility of a new ascending wave of economic growth and capitalist accumulation dependent on such exogenous factors as a radical change of the relationship of forces between the classes. One of the conclusions, therefore, was that another wave of attacks on the working class is most likely on its way.

Eric Toussaint (Belgium) emphasised that there is no automatic link between the fact that the crisis is being paid for by workers and the popular masses, and an increase of social struggles. Political, ideological and organisational factors will also play a role in the development of the struggles.

Esther Vivas (Spain) and Daniel Tanuro (Belgium) brought in a fundamental analytical dimension with their introductions: the economic crisis cannot be observed in isolation from the global ecological and food crises. Vivas presented the causes and structure of the food crisis: the current model of agricultural and livestock production is in a large measure responsible for climate change. Tanuro demonstrated how the official, ruling class responses to climate change are insufficient, unreal, irrational and even put us in more danger. He argued that eco-socialists should push for and end to unnecessary production, the retraining of workers in affected sectors and the development of a new agricultural model instigated by radical anti-capitalist measures.

Overall, the analyses revealed that the crisis is systemic, that those who are paying for it are the popular and working classes, and that now, more then ever, it is necessary to build an emancipatory, global anti-capitalist and eco-socialist project.

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