In 1848 The Communist Manifesto opened with the line, "A spectre is
haunting Europe – the spectre of communism. " The spectre of Marx haunts
world capitalism still.
Let’s be clear about this. We seem to be entering into a completely new era
of capitalist development. Everything is changing. Everything is under
challenge. All the things we took for granted have gone. The dominant ideology
of the past thirty years – call it neoliberalism, call it market
fundamentalism, call it capitalist triumphalism – is completely discredited.
The state rushed in to prop up the capitalist system.
Everyone now knows that the ‘masters
of the universe’ who were making things happen in financial markets were
incompetent, were crooks or both. Everyone now knows what the market system
delivers – it delivers unemployment, it delivers chaos. It has failed. This is
causing a profound questioning among millions of workers.
The years of steadily rising living standards, of relatively full employment
have gone, never to return. This year, and for years to come, workers look with
trepidation at their future. Will they have a job? Will they still have a roof
over their heads?
Who predicted this? Only one man. Only Karl Marx. Life teaches, and today
people are being forced to learn very quickly. With this comes a desire to
really understand how this system works. What better authority to turn to than
Karl Marx himself, who long ago explained the mechanism that lead to crises
like the present one we are living through.
"It is enough to mention the commercial crises that by their periodical
return put the existence of the entire bourgeois society on its trial, each
time more threateningly. In these crises, a great part not only of the existing
products, but also of the previously created productive forces, are
periodically destroyed. In these crises, there breaks out an epidemic that, in
all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity – the epidemic of
over-production. Society suddenly finds itself put back into a state of
momentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation,
had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence; industry and commerce
seem to be destroyed; and why? Because there is too much civilisation, too much
means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce."
Workers will draw the lessons from
this catastrophe. Marx didn’t write the Manifesto just to show he was right. He
wrote it to urge the need to end capitalism and bring in a higher order of
society – socialism. The Manifesto ended with the rousing cry. "The
proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.
Working men of all countries unite!" That is still our task.