As global markets reel in the face of the developing
coronavirus pandemic it is difficult to see how these events will not be the
trigger for a new world capitalist economic downturn, with all the social and political
consequences that will entail.
There is no doubt that the rapid spread of the virus
and its disruptive impact has stunned the capitalist class and their political
On February 25 the chief economic advisor to Donald
Trump, Larry Kudlow, breezily declared “we have contained this. I won’t say
airtight, but it’s pretty close to airtight”.
Just twenty days later on March 16, after the MSCI
all-country world index, the widest measure of global markets, had suffered its
heaviest weekly loss since 2008, the US Federal Reserve central bank was forced
to make its biggest intervention since the crisis then.
Viruses never stand still! Like all living things they continually
change in unpredictable ways – and change is sometimes very rapid. Nobody could
have foreseen Covid-19 – the new corona virus causing worldwide repercussions
within weeks of identification of the first patient.
What was entirely predictable, however, was the threat of infectious diseases to people across the world – and the inability of profit-driven capitalism to protect us.
With right-wing politicians like Hungarian premier Viktor Orbán not
slow to blame ‘foreigners’ for the coronavirus crisis, the looming world
downturn could provide new opportunities for the far right to develop. PETER
TAAFFE reviews a recent book that charts the growing threat.
The Far Right Today
By Cas Mudde
Published by Polity Press, 2019, £14-99
The continuing murderous activity in Europe and further afield,
largely by small right-wing groups and even individuals – ‘lone wolves’ – has
drawn increased attention of writers and commentators about the far right, how they
are confronted, and what are the perspectives for these organisations. Cas
Mudde’s small book is packed with vital, necessary information on the far right
today in general and the different types of organisations to be found in their
camp. The writer provides not just an explanation of the different far right
organisations but a glossary of these organisations. Moreover he correctly
insists on accurate terminology in describing their political physiognomy as
well as the differences between them.
TONY SAUNOIS examines what
type of demands Marxists need to advance in this era to help develop workers’
and young people’s consciousness towards the programme and the organisational
forms necessary to decisively overturn capitalism and begin the construction of
a new, socialist society.
The explosive mass
movements which have rocked Latin America, Haiti, Iraq, Lebanon, Iran and some
other countries in the recent period all have their particularly unique
characteristics but also many common features. They are an expression of the
mass anger and opposition to the ruling classes, neo-liberalism, nepotism and
corruption which has accumulated over decades. These heroic movements have
generally assumed a class character, uniting workers and the oppressed across
ethnic, religious and gender divides in a common struggle. A generation of new
young workers and students has been at the forefront.
Current events have brought out starkly the question: is society
fit to deal with global threats, from coronavirus to climate change? For over
two decades, the UN, IMF, numerous governments and businesses have tried to
agree on market-based solutions to global warming, like carbon pricing. But,
asks MARTIN POWELL-DAVIES, can the capitalist system really solve the climate
In 1997, the Kyoto protocol established the setting of a price for
carbon as capitalism’s solution for reducing atmospheric greenhouse gases,
chiefly carbon dioxide, in order to prevent a critical increase in global
temperatures. The treaty was meant to establish a global market for trading
carbon permits that, through the magic of the market, would incentivise
individual nations and companies to cut their greenhouse gas emissions and
invest in low-carbon alternatives.
market model at the outset was an international cap-and-trade system. The idea
was that countries would be set a limit on emissions totalling an overall
global cap. If one nation – or a business given its own limit by a government –
wanted to exceed its cap, it would have to buy additional emission rights from
the carbon market. If it managed to reduce emissions beneath the cap, it could
sell the unused allocations on the market as well.
The Rise and Fall of Peace on Earth
By Michael Mandelbaum
Published by Oxford University Press, 2019, £18-99
Reviewed by Robin Clapp
The last two
decades have witnessed an intensification of economic and military rivalries
across the globe with US armed forces intervening in the Middle East and
Afghanistan. The legitimacy of the established capitalist order is questioned
by millions for whom thirty years of rampant neo-liberal globalisation have
yielded only the bitter fruits of privatisation, poverty and a continually
widening wealth-gap between the oligarchs and the rest that is greater than at
any time in human history.
Serious representatives of capitalism
question where this rampant inequality may lead, while conceding that the
stability of their system is increasingly susceptible to unsustainable
mountains of dangerous debt and the potentially catastrophic impacts of climate
change. Some openly warn that world capitalism has entered a great stagnation
and in some regions is beginning to unravel backwards. The next world recession
will exacerbate all the pre-existing political tensions between nation states
and imperialist power blocs.
two months after the general election the simmering divisions within the Tory
party that were quieted by the outcome of the December contest, bubbled back to
the surface with Sajid Javid’s dramatic resignation as chancellor on February
The immediate cause was Boris Johnson’s ultimatum that
Javid’s advisors be sacked, echoing the conflict between Margaret Thatcher and
Nigel Lawson, who resigned as chancellor in October 1989 just a year before her
own mortal wounding by the mass anti-poll tax non-payment movement (in which
the Socialist Party’s predecessor, Militant, played a critical role).
The general election
in Ireland saw a seismic change in the electoral landscape, with a big surge in
support for Sinn Féin. Presenting itself as a radical, anti-establishment
alternative, Sinn Féin was able to channel much of the voters’ anger,
especially among the youth.
The party, which had its first TD (a
member of the Dáil – the Irish parliament) elected in 1997, took 24.5% of the
vote, winning 37 seats out of 160. Prime minister Leo Varadkar’s right-wing
Fine Gael was pushed into third place on 20.9% (35 seats).
At the end of January, the
British Broadcasting Corporation announced the latest redundancies in its drive
to ‘save’ £800 million between 2016 and 2022, following reductions to its
licence fee income. Fresh lay-offs in news will exceed 500 as the division
works towards its allotted £80 million share of the cuts. Michelle Stanistreet,
general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, called it “part of an
existential threat to the BBC”.
The need to defend these
jobs is not in question. Trade unions organising in the BBC must urgently
discuss with members and propose industrial action to stop the cuts. But what
of the institution itself? What is the real role of the Beeb – and the media
The United Nations
Climate Change Conference, COP26, is to take place in Glasgow in November. This
conference is seen by climate scientists and activists as critical to cutting
carbon emissions and increasing investment in green renewable energy. These
measures are essential if there is to be any chance of reversing catastrophic
But already it has blown up in
political controversy. Former Tory energy minister Claire O’Neill, appointed to
lead the summit, was sacked by Boris Johnson for questioning his commitment to
tackling the climate crisis. She was punished for stating that the UK was way
off target in cutting carbon emissions to zero by 2050.