Economics after Capitalism

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Any book which argues that “capitalism doesn’t work and alternatives are possible” should be welcomed by revolutionary socialists.

The author Derek Wall, a leading member of the left in the Green Party, surveys the various strands of anti-capitalism around the world and looks at how capitalism can be replaced.

Wall begins with insider critics of neoliberalism such as George Soros and Joseph Stiglitz rightly pointing out that “they act as a vaccine against the virus of anti-capitalist protest”.

He points out that those that see big corporations as the main enemy do not necessarily understand that the problem is the market as a whole. He favourably quotes David Harvey as arguing that the problems of capitalism go much deeper than the role of banks, credit and money.

Wall understands that there are wide variations within Green politics from mild reformism to the anti-capitalism that he advocates.

One of the strengths of the book is that Wall refers favourably to Marx throughout. The chapter on Marxism shows a good understanding of Marx’s arguments in Capital.

In the chapter on ecofeminism he accurately explains Engels’ analysis of the roots of women’s oppression in The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State. He surveys Marxist theories of imperialism, including Luxemburg and Lenin.

However, he seems to regard Marxism as primarily a tool of analysis and explanation rather than a guide to action. Not surprisingly maybe from a member of the Green Party, there is no mention of Lenin as a revolutionary leader rather than an analyst of imperialism.

In the chapter on autonomism Wall argues that “unlike most variants of Marxism, autonomism stresses the power of the working class rather than the workings of capitalism”. The chapter is entitled “Tribe of Moles”, a reference to Marx’s “mole of history”.

Wall appears to regard autonomism as a form of Marxism. He describes autonomism’s roots in the rank and file revolt in the factories of Northern Italy in the 1960s.

He does not appear to recognise, however, that autonomism’s key thinker Antonio Negri and his followers have moved a long way from his workerist views of those days, abandoning the labour theory of value and the idea of the working class as the agent of change in the process.

Wall rightly concludes that “the dominant class or classes wage class war against the rest of us” and that “revolution is necessary...we have to get to work now”. His key slogan, however, is “Defend, deepen, extend the commons”, by which he means areas of the existing economy outside the control of the market.

Perhaps not surprisingly in a period in which the working class is not clearly demonstrating its power, it does not figure in this book as the force that can bring about Wall’s revolution and create a society in which the economy is collectively planned in accordance with the needs of humanity and the preservation of the planet.