Great Depression

Interview - Global economy on the edge

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Socialist Review spoke to Marxist economist Michael Roberts about mounting debt, the long recession, and the future prospects for capitalism in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic

Companies and states have taken on a massive amount of debt. What are the implications of this?

Even before the pandemic global levels debt levels were at post-war highs. This was not just public sector debt built up after bailing out the banks and other sectors during the great recession of 2008-09.

It included a huge build up of corporate debt as companies in the advanced economies borrowed at very low interest rates made possible by central banks.

Pins and Needles

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The Cock Tavern Theatre, Kilburn, London, until 11 December

Every catastrophic global financial crisis has its bright side. In London glaziers are doing overtime and a smash-hit Broadway cabaret, written during the last global bout of austerity, finally gets a British premiere in a small theatre in north London. In 1937 the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) asked Harold Rome to write a cheap show that could be performed by the workers on two pianos.

A textbook protest

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In Chicago the Great Depression led to the witholding of teachers' wages. John Newsinger shows how the teachers fought back - and won

The Great Depression hit US state education hard. By 1933, when the economic crisis was at its worst (the US economy had shrunk by a third), in most states educational provision had been seriously cut back. Indeed, in 1932 and 1933 many schools did not open at all because of lack of funds. In Georgia, the worst hit state, over 1,300 schools were shut, leaving 170,000 children without schooling and their teachers laid off. Their pay was already in arrears to the tune of $7 million. At the national level, big business was pushing for the introduction of charges for secondary education.

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.

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