Furious, disillusioned investors march on the Cyprus Stock Exchange

On March 24th, after an accumulated fall of the Cyprus Stock Exchange of nearly 50% over a period of five months, angry investors decided to march on the Stock Exchange to try and force the prices up! Millions of working class families are investing their savings on the stock exchange in the belief that it can only go upwards. This article gives a glimpse of the social and political effects of a collapse in the stock exchange.

Hundreds of disillusioned investors decided to march on the Cyprus stock exchange (CSE) on the 24th of March this year, to protest against the big market players, who they blame for a manufactured crash. Since the 29th of November 1999, when it reached its highest bubble level of 849 points, the CSE index has gradually plunged to 446 points five months later, (in the last week of March).

Unnerved by what many investors perceive as this "unreasonable and inconceivable" fall, particularly the massive slide of 8.5% on the 23rd of March, investors demanded action to restore a semblance of normality to a bourse deeply scarred by panic selling. They are convinced that shares are deliberately being sabotaged, to make the wealthy minority much richer.

"There is no other logical explanation as to why all shares are falling at a time when companies are announcing huge profits, unprecedented in the market's history" said a terse Investors Association statement. It added "Investors Association cannot just stand idly by and watch the financial ruin of thousands of small investors for the sake of a ruthless few".

In the meantime, the bourgeois, terrified at the possibility of losing control of the situation, tried to do their best in their effort to play down fears of a market free-fall, with everyone - including themselves of course - just waiting around silently to hear the flump, when it finally hit zero.

"With good prospects of the economy and extremely good company results, there is absolutely no justification for the fall", said the Finance Minister, trying to break the negative psychology gripping the market. "It's a correction, crashes are a thing of the past" (!!) said the Chairman of the worried Chamber of Commerce. Both the Minister and the chairman of the business lobby group urged investors to keep their cool and act with prudence, but neither explained where the cash to combat a frightening liquidity squeeze would come from.

The Investors Association's threat that they would march on the CSE, forced prices up during the next day's CSE meeting, from 446 to 460 points, reversing downward slide of the index. Since then, prices, as well as volumes, have been kept nervously stable. Still, nobody knows for sure whether it really has hit bottom, or whether it is just a short respite before it again goes into a further devastating fall. Maybe, the "ruthless rich" have decided, protecting their interests, to behave generously and accept this as the bottom level; but nobody seems to trust them, having seen how ruthlessly greedy they were last year.

Many people have seen their life-time savings vanish into thin air. Their dreams that at last they had their chance to escape from poverty and indebtedness, have ended up in a frightening nightmare. Most of the ignorant small investors are left with stocks which they bought at quite high prices, just before or a bit after the plunge began last November. And share prices are not likely to recover, at least not in the near future. Their only hope (!) lies with the Central Bank, which they are expecting will decide that restrictions on loans to buy shares be eased. That is, they will be happy if they are allowed to liquidate (!) losses in loans they hope to be receiving from the commercial banks. How dare the working class dream of profits, repayment of mortgages, increased savings; and at whose expense? The bank now will now once more be so kind as to remind them where they belong and who the boss really is!

In the background to all this, we had a first-class Communist Party leader saying that "the parties of the left in every country should not allow the Stock Exchange to become an instrument for exploitation of the masses in the hands of a handful rich. In the meantime, it would be meaningless to fight against it as an institution. The Stock Exchange is another instrument of economic growth. Under socialism, for instance, we will normally be operating a socialistic Stock Exchange"!!!

It is absolutely true that the Stock Exchange is an instrument for capitalist growth, an instrument that the capitalists need so that they can exploit every penny that the working class has saved, in exchange for promises of dividends and capital gains. This has become more obvious particularly during the last few decades, when the capitalists turned to an increasingly parasitic speculative activity, rather than productive investment. Being aware of this, it is very hard to imagine in what manner the Stock Exchange might be useful under socialism; where the means of production will pass into public ownership under workers' democratic control and management, where the economy will be centrally planned according to the needs of society. Unless, of course, this "Communist" Party leader meant a Stalinist model of society, where the bureaucrats would certainly need a casino-style stock exchange, so that they could kill their boredom speculating against one another.

What we really need is not a "socialistic" stock exchange, but to get rid of the rotten, parasitic capitalist system, its instruments of corruption and exploitation.