Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Capitalism in the Second Decade of the 21st Century: From the “Golden” to the Dark Ages of Capitalism

By James Petras


The world configuration of power in the new decade is far more complex than the designation concocted by the leading banking houses[41]. For example, the “BRICs” includes a truly global power, China, a center of manufacturing, science and growth; Russia a military power highly dependent on energy exports and lacking a competitive manufacturing sector; Brazil is a commodity-dependent export economy suffering economic stagnation; and India where three quarters of the populace live at a or below $3 a day. The decline of the US-EU axis is not accompanied by a new multi-polar global power configuration. The crises engendered by neo-liberalism in the West is accompanied by its growth in Asia, especially China, India, South Korea and Indonesia. The decline of neo-liberalism is not accompanied by the rise of socialism: in Southern Europe, authoritarian rightist regimes buttress the crises-racked neo-liberal order by imposing policies by fiat and by criminalizing the social movements and civil disobedience and by centralizing executive power. By ignoring financial speculation as the detonator of the crises and the state bailout of the banks for the high indebtedness, the regimes perversely blame popular social program for the crises and impose harsh anti-popular austerity programs which lower living standards and increase profits. The debate between neo-liberals and neo-keynesians focuses on ‘austerity’ versus ‘spending’ – neither of which faces the class bases of state policy and the class relations which define economic costs and benefits. What is clear throughout the prolonged socio-economic crises is the impermeability of the state: despite mass disaffection, repeated general strikes and multitudinous and demonstrations, the capitalist state ignores majoritarian interests and persists in imposing savage retrograde reductions in living standards. Capitalist rule in the West is based on a reversal of seventy years of social gains. The reality of growing immiseration replaces the idea of social progress. We have passed from the so-called “golden age” of post-World War II capitalism to the long night of the “dark ages” of capitalism, an epoch of decay and descent into barbarism.
All indications point to the second decade of the 21st century being an epoch of unrelenting economic crises spreading outward from Europe and the US to Asia and its dependencies in Africa and Latin America. Catastrophic imperial and proxy wars accelerate the continued decay of the US empire and facilitate the rise of Asia as the epicenter of world capitalism and as the site for rising class conflict. The crisis in capitalist class rule is truly global and is spilling over into sharpening inter-imperialist trade confrontations. Colonial wars are undermining any efforts to ameliorate this crisis. Prolonged economic crises and a never ending downward spiral in living standards, fueled by class based austerity programs designed to reduce wages and social benefit and increase profits. In response emerging mass social movements are playing a dominant role within the anti-capitalist opposition. Direct action is gradually overshadowing electoral politics, moving over time from protests and rebellions, toward overt struggles for state power."

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