[Marxism] Michael Heinrich: The Current Financial Crisis

Angelus Novus fuerdenkommunismus at yahoo.com
Tue Jun 10 02:34:44 MDT 2008

"The fact that Marx finally began with the composition
of his long-planned economic work in the winter of
1857/1858 was directly occasioned by the economic
crisis that broke out in the autumn of 1857 and the
concomitant expectations of a deep trauma from which
capitalism would no longer recover.  "I am working
like mad all night and every night collating my
economic studies so that I at least get the outlines
clear before the deluge," wrote Marx to Engels in a
letter from December of 1857 (MECW 40, p.217).  The
crisis of 1857/1858 was in fact the first true global
economic crisis of modern capitalism, which involved
all major capitalist countries of that time (England,
the USA, France, and Germany).  In the Grundrisse that
emerged during this period, one can find the sole
unambiguous passage of Marx's work that can be
understood as a theory of capitalist collapse (MECW
29, p.90 et sqq.).  This collapse, Marx was convinced,
would unleash revolutionary movements.  In a letter to
Ferdinand Lassalle from February of 1858, he even
expressed his fear that in light of the expected
"turbulent movements" his work would be finished "too
late" and thus "find the world no longer attentive to
such subjects" (MECW 29, p. 271).  Marx was right
about the fact that he wouldn't finish his work (the
first volume of Capital was published nine years
later), but this first global crisis of capitalism led
neither to a collapse of capitalism nor to any sort of
revolutionary movement.  The crisis had already been
overcome in the early summer of 1858, and the
capitalist system even came out of it enormously
strengthened.  Marx learned a lesson: in capitalism,
crises function as brutal acts of purification.  The
destruction wreaked by crises removes previous
impediments to accumulation and frees up new
possibilities for capitalist development."

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