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Comment and Opinion

Keynes Not Enough to Face Crisis, Return to Marx Necessary

Translated Monday 10 February 2014, by Gene Zbikowski

For over thirty years, one school of thought has dominated economics – that “neoclassical” scientific ideology which believes in the “general equilibrium of the markets” and which is very closely tied to neo-liberalism.

By Rémy Herrera, researcher at the CNRS, Center for Economics at the Sorbonne Paris I university.

And yet, the – unbelievable but true! – fact is that the dominant school of thought has no theoretical explanation of the crisis. In plain English, not only does the ideology of capitalism not study the economic crisis, it is unable to explain the really existing capitalist crisis. Moreover, the few orthodox economists who take an interest in the matter analyze it using factors that are always external to the markets and which perturb their automatic regulation by price mechanisms: “archaic” trade unions, state intervention, computer “bugs,” fraud on the part of isolated traders… But they see no problem in the concentration of private property or the logic of maximizing individual profit.

The reality and the seriousness of the present crisis are propitious for a return to Keynes’ theses. Some, like Stiglitz and Krugman, have distanced themselves from neo-liberalism. But the analyses of these “Keynesians in the spirit of the times” come out of the same politico-ideological mold as the analyses of the orthodox economists. Even the most advanced among them only formulate barely reformist views, introducing minimal modifications to the functioning of capitalism so that it will survive a little longer – accepting if necessary a boost from the state.

“Keynesian” mechanisms to stimulate consumption are to be found in the austerity policies that have been adopted, but neo-liberal theses still clearly hold pride of place. The conversion of plans to bail out capitalism (because, as has not been emphasized enough, capitalism almost collapsed late in 2008) into state interventionism and anti-democratically manipulated central banks cannot conceal the truth. Neo-liberalism has been discredited, but it has not been abandoned: the pact for responsibility is there to remind us of this.

Contrary to what was imagined by Keynes, for whom the “shocking aspects” of capitalism (mass unemployment, inequality) could be eliminated thanks to the capitalist state, we are today confronted with a crisis of over-accumulation of capital, which is raising the system’s contradictions to a level of complexity even greater than in the preceding century. The “shocking aspects” that Keynes spoke of have not disappeared anywhere, and the remedies that he prescribed are no longer able to resolve the truly serious problems posed by this over-accumulation of capital (notably in abstract forms of money-capital), concerning which we will soon have to recognize that it is approaching the irrational, not to say the insane.

At the present moment, finance, which has seized back power, is not in the mood for any concessions. In the face of the dictatorship of the owners of financial oligopoly who control the capital dominating the world, Keynesianism has neither a reality nor a future, because it is these oligopolists who are laying down the law to governments, setting the interest rates, printing money, and, when necessary, nationalizing – in addition to destroying public services, off-shoring production, and laying workers off all around.

Not one of the schools of thought, from the neo-classical school to the Keynesians, suggests that we think about the conditions for going beyond capital as an exploitative social relationship. Thus it is that the destructive line of neo-liberalism continues to be followed and to be forced upon the workers of the northern hemisphere and the peoples of the southern hemisphere – while playing them off against one another, and thus playing into the hands of the National Front!

A different capitalism, “with a human face,” without crises or imperialist wars, is impossible. A return to Marx (whom Keynes detested) is necessary, both in theory and in practice. It is not urgent to put forward either miracle or turnkey solutions, but to open up space for debate on the left again, to go from the defensive to the offensive, and to build post-capitalist alternatives for social progress. Will another French Revolution be necessary to subject the oligopolist financiers to democratic control and to halt their march towards a war between the workers of the northern hemisphere and the peoples of the southern hemisphere?

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