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a socialistworld is possible: the history of the cwi by peter taaffe
new introduction

Greenspan declares triumph of “market economies”

The Wall Street Journal, more crudely, simply declared on behalf of the big business jackals that it represented, and world capitalism as a whole: “We won!”.

Even recently, the spokespersons of US imperialism – seeking reassurance for themselves and their class in a more troubled world than appeared likely in the post-1989 situation – extolled the virtues of their system and made the same point. Alan Greenspan, chairman of the US Federal Reserve Bank, and chief economic guru for US capitalism, recently declared when in Berlin: “I have maintained over the years that the most profoundly important debate between conflicting theories of optimum economic organisation during the twentieth century was settled, presumably definitively, here more than a decade ago in the aftermath of the dismantling of the Berlin Wall. Aside from the Soviet Union itself, the economies of the Soviet bloc had been, in the pre-war period, similar in many relevant respects to the market-based economies of the west. Over the first four decades of post-war Europe, both types of economies developed side by side with limited interaction. It was as close to a controlled experiment in the viability of economic systems as could ever be implemented.

“The results, evident with the dismantling of the Wall, were unequivocally in favour of market economies. The consequences were far-reaching. The long-standing debate between the virtues of economies organised around free markets and those governed by centrally planned socialism, one must assume, is essentially at an end. To be sure, a few still support an old-fashioned socialism. But for the vast majority of previous adherents it is now a highly diluted socialism, an amalgam of social equity and market efficiency, often called market socialism. The verdict on rigid central planning has been rendered, and it is generally appreciated to have been unqualifiedly negative. There was no eulogy for central planning; it just ceased to be mentioned, and a large majority of developing nations quietly shifted from socialism to more market-oriented economies.”.1

However, against the background of a looming world economic meltdown and the catastrophic chaos in the wake of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, these comments by Greenspan amount to little more than whistling in the dark to keep up the spirits of the possessing classes that he represents. His remarks pertain to the previous era of the 1990s. For a while in the 1990s, socialist consciousness – and the broad understanding of the working class, in particular – was undoubtedly thrown back. Weakened though it was, the basic potential power of the working class remained intact. The relationship of class forces was not as significantly weighted in favour of the ruling class as it was in the 1930s.

The ideological campaign of the bourgeois undoubtedly had a material effect in underpinning neo-liberal policies, which weakened the rights and conditions of the working class. The other side of the coin, however, is that intensified capitalist globalisation has lowered national barriers, certainly as far as the ‘free movement of capital’ is concerned. It has led to the rapid transfer of resources from one country and one continent to another. All this has compelled working class people into thinking in continental and even world terms. In other words, capitalism has prepared the objective basis for a new internationalism in outlook, manifested, in the first instance, in the powerful ‘anti-capitalist globalisation’ movements of the late 1990s and the early part of this century.

From London to Seattle, from Prague to the historic and bloody clashes in Genoa and Gothenburg, at Nice, Quebec, Porto Allegre, Paris and Mumbai, inhumane, ‘modern’ capitalism, and its brutal juggernaut of globalisation, were rejected. In the first instance, this has been manifested in the changes in outlook and the actions of young people, supported, in some instances, by significant sections of workers. In the germ, this is a new internationalism that identifies with the struggle of the ‘people’ in continental and global terms. However, a class differentiation will come at a certain stage. Karl Marx was the first to recognise “globalisation” in his day, the development of a world market, and with it, the world working class, which made possible ‘world history’: “The proletariat can…only exist world-historically, just as communism, its movement, can only have a ‘world-historical’ existence.”2 And further: “The extension of markets into a world-market, which has now become possible and was daily becoming more and more a fact, called forth a new phase of historical development…”.3

This was at a time when the interdependence of the world, through the development of a world division of labour, was in its “infancy”, compared to today and largely invisible to the mass of the population.