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Issue #1484      8 December 2010

The Communist movement in the 21st century (Part 3)

Impending systemic crisis

Quite apart from the periodical crisis that will continuously erupt under neo-liberal globalisation, a much graver systemic crisis is impending. The USA, with its currency being the stipulated medium of wealth holding for the capitalist world as a whole occupies this superior position not only through its economic might but through its superior military and political dominance in the world.

While we shall return to this aspect shortly, it must be noted that irrespective of such might, a crisis will, necessarily, follow because in order to maintain the stability of its currency, the USA accumulates a massive current account deficit vis-a-vis other major capitalist economies.

This is because the dollar is the stable medium of wealth holding. This also happens because the USA, in order to maintain its leading position, necessarily, has to accommodate the products of other major capitalist economies within its own market. However, when it seeks to reduce this deficit, this would affect the exports of other capitalist economies leading to counter intensified protectionism and disruption of international monetary stability. As of October 16, 2009, the total deficit of the US economy reached US$1.42 trillion. Its current account deficit was US$726.6 billion in 2007 and US$706 billion in 2008.

This is not an inherently stable situation because those holding the dollar would sooner than later wish to trade them for more lucrative US assets. This will, surely, invoke passions of patriotism that will oppose such foreign ownership of its assets. However, if the holders of dollars decide then to shift to some other currency, then the plunge in the dollar’s standing and consequently of the US economy would send the entire capitalist system into a profound crisis.

The indications of this are already unfolding with the dollar having lost over 11 percent in recent months. In order to stabilise itself and the global capitalist economy, the US will now increase the pressures on countries which hold huge amounts of its currency like China and other Asian economies to revalue their currencies upwards in order to cushion its own burgeoning current account deficits. This, in turn, if it were to happen, would lead to a slump in the latter economies. Even if the US were to insulate itself from such a slump, it would still bring the global capitalist system to the brink of a major crisis because of sharp deflation in the emerging economies whose currencies the USA is today seeking to revalue.

Therefore, irrespective of how the current crisis is overcome, a major systemic crisis for world capitalism is in the offing. The US would, however, seek to thwart such a crisis by transferring the burdens, that is, intensifying exploitation through its accompanying political and military might.

Marx had once remarked that the stability of a ruling class is ensured only by the extent to which it presses the best minds of the subordinate and exploited classes in its service. As both Marx and Engels have pointed out, the ruling ideas of any epoch are the ideas of the ruling classes. The ideological war to establish the intellectual hegemony of imperialism and neo-liberalism has been on the offensive during this period. Aided by this very process of globalisation and the vastly elevated levels of technologies, there is convergence of information, communications and entertainment (ICE) into mega corporations.

For instance, the mega publishing corporation Time had earlier merged with the entertainment giant Warner Bros. The information giant American Online Ltd (AOL) has now acquired Time-Warner at a cost of $164 billion to become the largest ICE conglomerate in the world. Rupert Murdoch now commands a combined news, entertainment and internet enterprise which is valued at $68 billion. Likewise, Walt Disney has now acquired Marvel (of Spider-Man fame).

Culture here acts not as an appeal to the aesthetic, but as a distraction, diversion from pressing problems of poverty and misery.

The cultural products that are universally created are bombarded across the world garnering phenomenal profits.

This monopolisation of the sphere of human intellectual activity and the control over dissemination of information through the corporate media is a salient feature of this period that seeks to continuously mount an ideological offensive against any critique or alternative to capitalism.

Viewed in terms of class hegemony, the culture of globalisation seeks to divorce people from their actual realities of day to day life. Culture here acts not as an appeal to the aesthetic, but as a distraction, diversion from pressing problems of poverty and misery.

Though imperialism has strengthened its hegemony and heightened its multifaceted offensive all across the globe, as we have discussed earlier, it is on the brink of a systemic crisis which could prove far graver and more encompassing than the current global recession.

However, irrespective of the intensity of the crisis, capitalism does not automatically collapse. It needs to be overthrown. An erroneous understanding only blunts the need to constantly sharpen and strengthen the revolutionary ideological struggle of the working class and its decisive intervention under the leadership of a party wedded to Marxism-Leninism – the subjective factor without which no revolutionary transformation is possible.

This period has also seen the rising resistance to such growing imperialist hegemonic efforts. But it must be noted that much of the struggles launched by the working class and the exploited sections have essentially been defensive in nature, i.e., defending their existing rights from greater encroachment by neo-liberalism. Resistance in the nature of mounting the assault on the rule of capital is yet to take a decisive shape.

In Latin America, the sharp rise in the distress caused by neo-liberalism has led to big movements of resistance that have resulted in electoral victories of the anti-neo-liberal forces in at least eleven countries. Some like Venezuela and Bolivia have adopted radical Left-wing programs. In Cyprus, Europe, for the first time in that country a communist was elected as a president.

It is the strengthening of the parties wedded to Marxism-Leninism along with the sharpening of class struggles through the mobilisation of popular masses under the leadership of the working class that the strength and success of the International Communist movement in the 21st century will be determined.

Sitaram Yechury is a member of the Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and editor the Party’s newspaper, People’s Democracy.   

Next article – “History Will Win” – Julian Assange answers people’s questions

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