Revolutionary Lessons

Can socialist planning work?

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  • There is intense planning under capitalism, but it is done to maximise profit
  • Planning under socialism would be driven from the bottom up based on mass participation and democracy

    For many people the words socialist and planning in the same sentence will conjure up images of Stalinist horror: brutal five year plans, inefficiency and waste.

    Yet at a time of deep, protracted economic crisis many are questioning whether capitalism is the best way of organising society. Alternatives are being discussed.

  • Economy Class: The myths of globalisation

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    Companies still rely on states to protect their profits


    Complex supply chains give groups of workers a lot of power to halt production


    Globalisation emerged as a fashionable concept in the years after the ending of the Cold War. Neoliberalism had established itself as the new economic orthodoxy in the West during the 1980s, preaching the need for privatisation and attacks on the welfare state.

    With the disintegration of the Soviet Union, champions of neoliberalism declared "the end of history", expecting an end to any systemic opposition to capitalism. Globalisation was to sweep the free market, unfettered and unregulated, into former "communist" countries and beyond.

    The permanent arms economy and the long boom

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    Economy Class

    The long boom that lasted from the 1940s to the 1970s was the "golden age" of capitalism. Today it is something only glimpsed in episodes of Mad Men and old movies. Yet this golden age did exist with full employment and rising living standards and the creation of the welfare state. It was an age of consumption and there was a widespread feeling that things really could only get better.

    Can Keynes solve the crisis?

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    • Keynes argued against cutting workers' wages in a recession and leaving the market to its own devices

    • He argued that governments should cut interest rates and directly invest to lift the economy

    • But he tailored his solutions to what bosses would accept

    The ideas of John Maynard Keynes are back with a vengeance. This has been a consistent theme in the past few years, from the corridors of power to the pages of the Financial Times. After 30 years of deriding Keynes's ideas many are now reconsidering the economic remedies he prescribed.

    What is the role of credit under capitalism?

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    Economy Class

    When the credit crunch hit in 2008 and governments bailed out banks with trillions of pounds so they didn't collapse many people recognised that this was because of the huge amounts of debt in the system. Banks had loaned money to people and companies with no idea if they'd be able to pay it back, and these debts had then been sold on and bets taken on their future value.

    So if the crash was caused by credit and debt, is it the fault of the banks for lending money, or people for borrowing? And couldn't we just regulate the system to get rid of this toxic aspect?

    Why competition breeds monopolies

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    Economy Class

    When I was at university friends who studied economics were told that not only is the boom and slump cycle entirely natural, but that it was also a good thing. One professor said "the economy is like a drunk throwing up the morning after the night before". A slump may not be pleasant, but it was necessary to cleanse the system.

    What Causes Boom and Bust?

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    Gordon Brown used to endlessly repeat the mantra that, thanks to New Labour's policies, there would be "no return to boom and bust".

    That looks laughable given recent events. At least it would be funny if people's lives were not being savaged by recession and cuts.

    In reality, the history of capitalism is one of successive expansions followed by collapse. Today's apologists will have to choose their words more carefully given the objective reality of the crisis. Yet during booms when new buildings go up on a grand scale, high street sales increase and unemployment falls, enthusiasm towards the market seems to correspond to an extent with reality.

    Economy class

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    Does money make the world go round?

    Money is a key factor in explaining inequalities in the world today. Rich people can pay for the best healthcare, education and lifestyle. It seems as though "money makes the world go round". For those who want to challenge inequality, money is therefore an obvious target. Would abolishing money address the injustices at the heart of capitalist society? In order to answer this question, we have to understand what money is.

    Economy class

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    Accumulation: the motor of capitalism

    We are often told that what drives capitalism is greed - the endless desire to accumulate more and more wealth. The idea that individuals are just self-interested was promoted by classical political economists such as Adam Smith. Smith attributed to humans a natural propensity to "truck and barter". This was, he argued, all part of the "economic man".

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