International Socialism hosted a weekend school on the topic of Marxism and Revolution Today in late September. The school brought together over 100 people to discuss revolutionary transformations that have occured since 1989 and their implications for the future of revolutionary politics. Videos of all the sessions can be found online.1 Thanks to Colin Barker for his work organising the event.
The latest issue of New Left Review (II/77) carries an interesting interview with the economist Richard Duncan.2 He argues that breaking the link between the dollar and gold in 1971 created a new “dollar standard”, which has “enabled worldwide credit bubbles to be created”. The result is an economic system different from capitalism, which Duncan calls “creditism”, in which the state subsidises the main industries, the central bank creates unlimited amounts of money, and growth is driven not by investment but by the credit that continually floods the economy. This is what lies behind the present economic crisis. Duncan believes, moreover, that the measures that the US and other leading states have taken to prop up the financial system have merely postponed economic collapse.
One of the strengths of Duncan’s analysis is that he highlights the extent to which, despite the attempts to overcome the crisis with yet more neoliberalism, the state continues to play a central economic role. Its weakness is his failure to place these developments in the context of the global process of capital accumulation. The diagnosis, as Duncan acknowledges, is close to that of Friedrich von Hayek and other so-called Austrian economists, who argue that crises are caused by excessive credit creation, though he rejects their solution—a balanced budget—and argues for a global minimum wage and investment in new industries such as genetic engineering.
Nigel Harris offered a very different take on the role of the state in contemporary capitalism in International Socialism 135. The podcast of a debate on this subject between him and Alex Callinicos is available online.3 It may also be worth taking a look at a splendid attack by Perry Anderson on Jürgen Habermas, court philosopher of the new German-dominated European Union. After the EU received “what might be termed the Nobel Prize for Narcissism”, Anderson bitingly comments, “Oslo can be counted on to surpass itself: next year, we can only hope the Nobel Committee awards the prize to itself”.4
The new issue of Historical Materialism (20.3) is dominated by a symposium on Ben Fine’s and Dimitris Milonakis’s important critique of mainstream economics, From Economics Imperialism to Freakanomics. Dick Bryan and Michael Rafferty defend their analysis of financial derivatives as a form of money from Tony Norfield’s criticisms in the previous issue. And Joseph Choonara reviews two books that increase our understanding of labour and the left in Bolivia, and more particularly of Trotskyism, which had an important influence in the workers’ movement at the time of the 1952 Revolution.
Issue 86 of International Socialist Review carries a number of fascinating articles. Jesse Hagopian’s “A People’s History of the Chicago Teachers’ Union” examines over a century of the union which recently resisted Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s attack on public education. Elsewhere, Joe Richard offers a critical appraisal of the legacy of the International Workers of the World, or the Wobblies, while Paul Le Blanc reviews no less than nine recent biographies of Lenin.5
Anybody who has been following the debate on permanent revolution that has appeared in this journal over the past few years may well be interested in Lars Lih’s article on the topic in October’s issue of Science and Society. Lih argues—contra the editors of a recent collection of the historical records regarding the theory—that Trotsky’s conception of permanent revolution was quite different from those of his contemporaries.
International Socialism contributor Adrian Budd has an article in the International Journal of Management Concepts and Philosophy, volume 6, number 3, entitled “Can the BRICS Help Global Capitalism escape its Crisis?” Adrian argues for caution regarding the capacity of emerging economies to act as independent elements in global economic recovery and that “that there are plenty more shocks in line for both the global economy and the economies of the BRICS countries. Neither will be immune from the consequences.”
Finally, International Socialism readers might be aware of the Historical Materialism Book Series published by Brill. The series offers a wide range of titles, from newly-translated Marxist classics to contemporary works by well-known authors. Haymarket Books reprints the series in affordable paperback editions, which are available from Bookmarks in Britain or from Haymarket directly.6
AC & JJ
5: Available at their website: www.isreview.org