The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

An economic system which must be replaced

Feb 4, 2008

The following was the editorial in the January 25 issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

The U.S. economic system is sick. The other big industrial powers aren't much better off. Prices on the stock markets have fallen sharply. The New York Stock Exchange dropped by 8.8% since the New Year. The Paris exchange lost 9.3%, before losing an additional 5% by mid-day January 21. And unfortunately that doesn't concern only stockholders, who have accumulated enough profit to see them through. It also concerns all working people, for the economic recession that's brewing risks a new fall in purchasing power, new job cuts and an increase in unemployment. The people who govern us put on an optimistic face. But plenty of politicians and economists don't deny the possibility of a grave economic crisis, comparable to that which struck the capitalist world in 1929, and which pushed it toward World War II.

Is it an accident? Certainly not. It's the product of the economic system in which we live. For years, the great capitalist corporations have invested very little in production. They increased their profits by having the same work done by fewer arms and brains, by cutting back on the workforce, by freezing wages. To get their hands on the enormous profits that are extracted, banks and businesses lend money to each other, buy up stakes in companies or in competitors. The system is so secretive and complicated that they themselves don't understand it.

The mortgage loan crisis which came to light in the U.S. last summer illuminated this situation. Contrary to what happened before, the banks no longer lend money to other banks that so greatly need it. The banks don't know if the other banks that want to borrow money will be able to pay it back. On the stock market, speculators sell the stock of companies who might be compromised by the on-going financial crisis. Only the central banks, those of governments or the European Bank, are ready to inject money, whether in Euros or dollars, into circulation. Of course, the money comes from the taxpayers. Each of these interventions, like the latest Bush plan in the U.S., underlines the seriousness of the crisis and thus risks aggravating it. In any case, they"ll present the bill to the working population.

This is the capitalist system of our times. It's a system which the right-wing politicians tell us is the best in the world. It's a system that the parties of the left – the Socialist Party and the Communist Party – accept, telling us that the "market economy"is the only system possible, that is to say, precisely, the capitalist system.

This system can't be reformed, it can't be made more "moral." It is its very logic, the search for individual profit as the motor of the entire society, which is called in question.

The workers movement was born by opposing this system, setting as its goal a society where the economy would work to satisfy the needs of all, and not permit a tiny minority of privileged people to ceaselessly enrich themselves off the workers' backs. Socialism, communism, meant the appropriation by all the workers of the most important means of production and transportation. The Socialist Party and the Communist Party renounced that, because their leaders integrated themselves into the system. But the problem remains the same.

Some think that the ideas which the workers movement had at the beginning at its birth are outdated. It's one way of seeing things ... which only leaves the workers with the option of decrying the endless tragedies brought about by the capitalist system.

But it's the capitalist system which is outdated. And struggling to replace it with an economy functioning in the interest of all would cost us fewer sacrifices than continuing to support it.