Chris Harman

State capitalism - the theory that fuels the practice

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With the fall of the Berlin Wall, many on the left concluded that socialism had failed. Others of us saw these countries as state capitalist and an integral part of the world system. This theory has renewed relevance today

When I joined the Socialist Review Group, the precursor of the Socialist Workers Party, back in 1961, our opponents on the left called us the "state caps" - short for "state capitalists". This was not because we were in favour of state capitalism (although rumour had it that one of our members had joined for that reason). It was because we rejected the notion that the USSR, China and the Eastern European states were in some way socialist or workers' states.

Economic growth - the meaning of numbers

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Economic "reforms" for increased growth are often justified by the ruling class as being good for everyone. But what is the truth behind the statistics?

Adair Turner, head of the Financial Services Authority, hit the headlines when he called for control on financial transactions through a tax. Not so widely noticed was his comment that much of what finance does is "socially useless".

Solidarity and encouragement

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There can be no guarantee as to which forces will win out in Tehran. But those on the left who were hostile to the huge protests are in danger of lining up with those who want to crush the movement.

Scepticism is necessary every time the media extol what they claim to be democratic movements against unpleasant regimes. The cheerleaders for the occupation of Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine have a nerve talking about democracy.

It is hardly surprising then that much of the left in Latin America and the Middle East was hostile to the huge demonstrations in Tehran against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government. The Iranian government has, after all, outraged the US with its support for Hezbollah in Lebanon, its hostility to Israel and its friendly relations with Hugo Chavez.

Double edged 'democracy'

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The people of Poland demanded democracy in 1989 - but 20 years on the economy is still controlled by a tiny elite.

Anniversaries do not always bring people the joy they expect. Last month was meant to have seen a celebration by Poland's rulers outside the shipyards in the city of Gdansk. It was to commemorate political changes in Poland and Hungary in the summer of 1989, which saw the first free elections for more than 40 years.

Leap of faith: The ruling classes' "solution" to the economic crisis

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The media greeted the London G20 Summit as a great success and declared it to be "the day the world came together to fight recession with a plan for economic recovery and reform". Chris Harman looks at what lies behind the hype and the so called solutions put forward

According to Barack Obama the London G20 Summit was "historic" and "a turning point". Did it in fact represent an answer to the deepening crisis?

Slump, boom and climate change

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From the European Union to Barack Obama, promises have been made to give priority to a "green agenda". In reality, they are using the recession to go into reverse.

A recent, bad TV programme made one interesting point - that devastating transformations in the climate, as a result of the apparently slow build up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, will hit people at some point with the same suddenness as the economic crisis that is now sweeping the world.

India: Poverty behind the tiger

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India's growing economy has benefited a corrupt elite. But the masses only get poorer.

November's deadly attacks in Mumbai had one peculiar side-effect on the British media. Journalists were forced out into the streets and discovered that the vast majority of the city's population are still poor.

Since then the deep contrast between the lives of India's upper middle class and that of the mass of people has been emphasised in Aravind Adiga's Man Booker Prize winning novel, The White Tiger, and Danny Boyle's rags to riches film, Slumdog Millionaire.

Was the 'New Deal' a good deal?

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It is accepted wisdom that President Franklin D Roosevelt pulled the US out of the Depression with the New Deal. But in reality there were numerous forces at play.

Will Barack Obama be another Franklin D Roosevelt? That is the question many people are asking. Underlying the question is the assumption that Roosevelt, elected for the first time in November 1932, single-handedly brought about radical change in the US, providing a solution to the Depression that followed the 1929 Wall Street Crash.

The politics of economics

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The efforts of governments and central bankers to prop up the financial system and make workers pay for the crisis can be derailed by rising anger.

Great economic crises cause ructions within global capitalism, both among those who exploit and rule, and among those whose labour keeps the system going.
This year's financial crisis is no exception. Not since the collapse of the old Eastern bloc and the USSR in 1989-91 have we had a spectacle of major ruling classes being thrown into such turmoil.

Two faces of John Maynard Keynes

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Economists, both left and right, are championing Keynes as the answer to the crisis. Since his theories do little to challenge the fundamental grip of capitalism, isn't it time for those on the left to recognise his flaws?

"Everyone is in thrall to the great economist now." So ran a piece in the Financial Times about John Maynard Keynes. And so it seems. The same message comes from US treasury secretary Hank Paulson and the Fed's Ben Bernanke at one extreme and from left wingers like Larry Elliot and Graham Turner at the other. Keynes showed in the 1930s how to stop crises, they all say, and his methods can work now.

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