Issue 223 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published October 1998 Copyright Socialist Review

The collapse of capitalism

The mood of euphoria about the economy which gripped so many of our rulers in recent years has turned to despair. The collapse of the Russian economy has followed catastrophe in east Asia. There is deep recession in the world's second largest economy, Japan, and there is devaluation and crisis in Latin America. No wonder many are asking whether this is a disaster on such a scale that it can pull down the whole world economy, as it did in the 1930s.

The crisis lays bare the failure of the market--it is not providing for our basic wants as promised, but is already bringing despair and misery to millions, with the promise of further misery for millions more. Yet we are still being told by Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and their friends in big business that there is nothing we can do about it. Stock market falls and factory closures are as unpredictable and uncontrollable as sudden storms and we just have to live through them. Meanwhile, those already made rich by the market suffer much less or not at all. But the problems the world now faces are leading many people to look for an alternative. If the market does not work, isn't there something better to put in its place? Why should working people have to suffer during booms and then even worse during slumps? Why should we pay for their crisis?

In this special issue we try to explain what is happening and to answer some of the questions which arise. Peter Morgan looks at what is happening in the world economy and Chris Harman explains in his regular column why these crises happen. Lindsey German asks whether this crisis is going to be as deep as the 1930s. The Guardian's Larry Elliott and Chris Harman discuss the limits of the market. We also have an eyewitness report from Indonesia by John Rees and a look at Russia's latest troubles from Rob Ferguson.

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