adam at pmel.com
Tue Feb 27 03:37:23 MST 1996
> This is an addendum to Brad Mayer and Jorn Anderson. Capitalism surely
> must have been in crisis when it produced WWI. Then, in less than a
> decade it was in crisis again when it caused the great depression. WWII
> then happened, surely an expression of crisis. For 25 years or so, after
> WWII, you had explosive capitalist growth. Then you have more crisis
> setting in in 1970.
> So, for the entire twentieth century except for the roaring twenties and
> the post-WWII boom, you have had crisis. Let me calculate this for you.
> Subtract 35 years for the non-crisis years and you have had nearly 65
> years of crisis. Doesn't crisis seem useless as an economic and political
> category in light of this?
Louis is correct in his mathematics. I might quibble with certain details -
for instance, I would put the roaring 20's ( and the roaring 80's ) in the
years of crisis, but also point out that some areas of the world were pulling
out of the crisis by the mid 30's ( Nazi Germany and Stalin's USSR definitely,
perhaps parts of South America ? ) but the quibbles don't alter the point he
I will try to answer the implied question, what do we mean by crisis ?
Empirically speaking, there have been periods in the history of capitalism
which have been relatively stable, with relatively uninterupted economic
growth, relatively uninterrupted rising living standards and generally
right wing, conservative politics dominant in the workers movement.
The period after 1848 and the period after 1945 obviously share these
Also, there have been periods which can be categorised together as sharing
the opposite characteristics : what Lenin called "epoch[s] of wars and
revolutions". It seems to me that the period running up to 1848, and the
period between the two world wars quite obviously fit this category.
In these periods, the political centre comes under severe strain at the
very least. Most people see the need for radical change of some sort, whether
it be revolution or counter revolution.
I would use the term boom and crisis to describe these two different types
of historical period. This terminology needs to be distinguished from the
cyclical booms and slumps, which still occur during the long booms and long
crises, and from particular political crises, although of course all three
In the inter war era of crisis, there was an economic slump between 1929 and 1933,
and in the political crisis of 1933, the Nazis took power.
In the periods of crisis, the basic choice is, in Rosa Luxembourg's phrase,
between socialism or barbarism. This does not mean that these are the terms
of each immediate battle, but it does mean that barbarism, whatever its
particular form, is the price humanity has to pay for the return of the
system to "health" in its terms.
The socialist revolution was eventually defeated in the period between the two
world wars, and we got two Imperialist wars, a catastrophic slump, Fascism, Stalinism
etc before the system recovered.
We are again in an age of wars and revolutions. This seems to me to be an incontrevertable
fact. This does not rule out booms like the 80's, nor low points in the combativity
of the working class. [ eg The united front policy was first implemented by the comintern
in reaction to recession and defeats after the initial post WWI revolutionary wave had
subsided - but this was still "an epoch of wars + revolutions" ]
Nevertheless, the choice is again between socialism and barbarism.
The only way the system can possibly return to health is barbarism - only, each time
capitalism returns to crisis, it is harder for it to recover. This time, if the system
is to recover, it will demand an EVEN HIGHER price than it did between 1914 - 1945.
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