Joseph Choonara

Work contracts: a zero-sum game

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Labour leader Ed Miliband has repeatedly pledged to end "exploitative" zero-hours contracts. We can safely assume that he does not plan to abolish exploitation in a Marxist sense - the pumping of unpaid labour out of one class by another.

To oppose such exploitation would be to oppose capitalist profit-making full stop.

Nonetheless, the pledge reflects Labour's recognition that many people suffer or fear suffering uncertainty in their working life, an issue that zero-hours contracts have come to symbolise.

The trouble with Lenin

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Continuing the debate on the role of Leninism, Joseph Choonara argues that the Bolshevik leader's concept of the party remains the model around which socialists should unite.

"Dead Russians," Respect MP George Galloway once said, "must be discussed in private." But Lenin and the contested tradition known as Leninism have today become a topic of intense public discussion among many who consider themselves radical opponents of capitalism. Much of the commentary is negative.

Causes of the crisis

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Costas Lapavitsas

The sovereign debt crisis in the eurozone has become the most glaring problem facing global capitalism.

Across the world many states face high levels of debt, mainly due to collapsing tax revenues during the recession. In some cases this has been exacerbated by efforts made to prop up banks and prevent a total economic meltdown in 2008.

An assault on us all

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Joseph Choonara opens our coverage of the spending review, arguing that George Osborne's plans expose the lie that "we're all in it together".


Photo: Guy Smallman

The Osborne Axe has fallen. The chancellor's spending review heralds the deepest assault on the public sector since the Second World War. George Osborne's key lines of attack give the lie to his claim that "we are all in it together".

The crisis: over or just beginning?

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The post-election period will be dominated by the dire state of the British economy. While the political elite are desperate to make us pay for the crisis, they are also paralysed by the fear of a renewed recession precipitated by speculation against the pound. Joseph Choonara reports

The state of the economy will continue to mould British politics after the election. Economics will constrain the room for manoeuvre of the political elite, pressing them to drive through a series of attacks. It will also create the terrain on which workers will have to organise and resist. The prospects for the system are, then, of keen interest to those who wish to challenge it. After almost three years of chaos, what lies in store?

The divisive crisis

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Britain is likely to see some weak and fragile economic recovery in early 2010, but the crisis will continue to shape politics in the months ahead.

Recent data shows that 2009 saw the biggest contraction in the British economy in a single year since 1921.

The world economy is not in permanent slump. The major G20 economies, with the exception of Britain, moved out of recession by the third quarter of last year and China grew impressively in 2009. But the measures taken to escape from recession will shape what happens next.

Whatever happened to the 'Great Recession'?

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"Global Economic Recovery Is Growing, Says IMF." This Daily Mail headline was typical of the media's response to signs of economic recovery in August.

Marxists face two dangers when trying to assess the state of the economy. The first is to attempt to shoehorn the facts to fit with a preconceived account of crisis. The second is to simply accept at face value the analysis put forward by economists.

The figures for the second quarter of 2009 do show a low level of growth in Germany and France. Their GDPs (a measure of the total goods and services produced) rose by 0.3 percent. Japan's grew even faster and there are some indications that the US recession is bottoming out. However, the signs of recovery remain weak.

Darling's budget - the shape of cuts to come

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Alistair Darling is "Red All Over", wailed The Times. "Return Of Class War", screamed The Daily Telegraph.

Newspaper editors are presumably part of the 0.6 percent of the population who will be hit by the 50 percent top rate of income tax announced by the chancellor in his budget. But this measure should be put in context. When Labour last left office in 1979 the top rate was 83 percent.

The Financial Times (FT) was more realistic about Labour's budget. Behind the headlines and spin, it argued, were a record budget deficit and a prelude to a savage assault on the public sector.

Interview: David Harvey - Exploring the logic of capital

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Joseph Choonara spoke to acclaimed Marxist theoretician David Harvey about capitalism's current crisis and his online reading group of Karl Marx's Capital which shows the revival of interest in this work.

Some commentators view the current crisis as arising from problems in finance that then impinged on the wider economy; others see it as a result of issues that arose in production and then led to financial problems. How do you view it?

The Great Financial Crisis

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John Bellamy Foster and Fred Magdoff, Monthly Review Press; £10.95

Monthly Review (MR) has been a leading journal of the US left since 1949. In its pages writers such as Paul Baran, Paul Sweezy and Harry Magdoff set out a distinct analysis of capitalism as it existed after the Second World War. This short book collects several recent MR essays by John Bellamy Foster and Fred Magdoff, along with two original chapters, that continue this task - with particular reference to the current economic crisis.

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