Frank Bertemes: Learned from the crisis? Thoughts on 1st May

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Image par Gerd Altmann de Pixabay

“Profits are privatized – losses are socialized.”

Karl Marx

Crashes and global economic crises, plus the global corona crisis – the globe stood still for a while! Nevertheless – crises do not seem to be able to harm the capitalist system (at least so far), of course not: crises were and are a capitalist program! Karl Marx already saw that the crisis is the essence of capitalism. It was then clear to him that the crises are not the end of capitalism – but (just) its essence. He did not have to change his theory for this shift of emphasis – it was already laid out in the “Communist Manifesto” of 1848. In the (dry) Marx main work, “Das Kapital”, one reads: “The crises are always only momentary violent solutions to the existing contradictions, violent eruptions that restore the disturbed balance for the moment.” And so the system continues to work – if it does is not finally replaced! The European workers’ movement – as a small digression into the history of May 1 at this point – incidentally referred to Marx ’Capital, which not only examined the fine mechanics of capitalism but also predicted its end. This is precisely why no theory has been so stubbornly ignored by the mainstream of economics.

Marx and his crisis theory, which by the way has lost none of its “freshness”. The short, apodictic sentences of his political-philosophical essay, the “Communist Manifesto” mentioned, are of almost biblical language, and the text is still prophetic because it gloomily and dramatically outlines a capitalist future that is no stranger even in the 21st century works. Not at all! In this sense, they are absolutely topical for this year’s (unusual) Labor Day, a first of May, which fell victim to the “virus” this year. You could say: Marx invented the language of crisis. But he was not only innovative in terms of style – he was also the first to understand that capitalism is dynamic. Today, after the end of the Cold War and in the age of the climate crisis, global inequality – which, and let’s not pretend, will worsen as a result of the corona madness – financial speculation, increasing impoverishment, etc. are far from talking only leftover left from the possible end of capitalism. In economics, the word is rife with secular stagnation, a long phase in which there is no or only weak economic growth, the economic environment is characterized by low real interest rates and low inflation. Traditional monetary policy is powerless because nominal interest rates have reached the lower limit. Even among the elites of capital, one sentence goes round: “The capitalist system no longer fits in this world”. A capitalism that also degenerates neoliberally, has intensified … Until it is (finally) broken, destroyed itself? I hope …

Should that be the lesson from this corona crisis? Then at least something meaningful would result from this panic. At European level, we Europeans really need new priorities, different approaches. How, for example, the future of capital is fairer, means taxing significantly higher, finally bringing about tax justice – instead of just talking about it. A real existing Europe of the citizens, instead of the corporations and the banks – and one thing should be clear: it simply cannot be – and some fear it – that the workers, the dumb, working against wages or salaries, once again for The immense costs of this crisis, which will cost us all so much in various respects, financially and humanly, is supposed to come up – it just doesn’t work anymore! Especially not when you want to put an end to right-wing political populists!

Or do you want to continue shamelessly until the next crisis? Because in the end what made this crisis clear to us: how important the state is, as a guarantor of the common good – if it works, of course: the financial crisis of the hot autumn of 2008 showed us in 2010 that the financial markets, which are actually End (greetings to all neoliberals!) Did not regulate themselves. In the same way, we now see that the state – contrary to us neoliberals in their heresies – had to invest heavily (and will do so again soon!), As well as help and protect people – no matter how one is now about the “danger” of this virus’ may stand!

Still asked: What will you learn from this crisis?

A very legitimate question about the probably unforgettable May Day of the crisis year 2020!

Frank Bertemes

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