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Global market collapse is opportunity' for Left, says SWP professor

PUBLISHED: 20:14 25 September 2008 | UPDATED: 13:39 05 October 2010

THE current crisis in global financial markets presents a "moment of opportunity" to rebuild the Left in politics, one of Britain's foremost socialist thinkers told a public meeting in London's East End last night (Wednesday). The Left needed to organise society on a different logic to end the blind process of competition, said Prof Alex Callinicos

Ted Jeory

THE current crisis in global financial markets presents a crucial “moment of opportunity” to rebuild the Left in politics, one of Britain’s foremost socialist thinkers told a public meeting in London’s East End.

The world was “confronting a major historical turning point” in the march of capitalism, particularly the system of neo-Liberalism that has dominated the last few decades, Prof Alex Callinicos told the meeting in Bethnal Green’s Oxford House centre last night (Wednesday).

Prof Callinicos, a prolific author on Marxism and member of the Socialist Workers Party’s central committee, told the audience of 50 that unless the Left began to organise better, workers would once again be exploited as businesses strove to cut the real value of wages to maintain profits.

He was giving his talk as American politicians debated the merits of an $800 billion rescue package for US markets.

“I’m not arguing that capitalism is going to fall apart though,” he said.

“To get rid of capitalism, we need the mass of working people to be determined to get rid of it.

“As long as that doesn’t take place, the system will revive.

“Already, they are resorting to massive action on the part of the State. But instead of putting the money in the pockets of working people, they are rescuing the financial institutions of greed that caused the crisis in the first place.

“Their solution is to make us pay for it! And in order for banks and other companies to push up profits, they’ll need to push down real wages.”

Prof Callinicos, professor of European Studies at King’s College, London, and the great-grandson of famous historian Lord Acton, asked: “So what do we do?”

He continued: “First of all, we need to say, no—we’re not going to pay for your crisis’.

“We need to break through the kind of pay limits that Gordon Brown is trying to impose on the public sector.

“Then we need to organise the world and society on a different logic and end the blind process of competition. We need planning so that we can work out where we need to go.

“But we need that planning to be democratic—we need socialism.”

He was asked by an East London Advertiser reporter after the meeting that if capitalism was able ride out the collapse of two major investment banks, whether the system was adaptable and robust enough to survive most turbulence.

“Capitalism is adaptable,” he replied. “But it is surviving because the Left is weak. The Left needs to organise and grow support.”

The crisis-provoked shift in wealth from Western economies to countries like China could be a “good thing”, he argues.

But more than that—the US is much more of an imperialist power.

“If America is weakened, that’s also good for the world.”

Prof Callinicos was a significant figure in the row that led up to the split between the SWP and MP George Galloway’s Respect Party last year.

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