Economists, with outstanding exceptions such as Marx, have usually set out to glorify capitalism. They tend to conclude that it will automatically produce full employment and increasing prosperity – so long as nobody messes about with its workings. That is the outlook of monetarism. But Marxists believe that Keynesianism doesn’t work either. It doesn’t work because capitalism can’t be made to work. The problem of capitalism in crisis is not just a matter of inadequate demand - of markets - it’s a problem of profitable markets.

Meghnad Desai has published a book, Marx’s Revenge in which he poses a fundamental question for Marxists – could capitalism go on for ever? The short answer to this is that capitalism will last until such time as it is overthrown through socialist revolution, conscious action by millions of people. So the question needs to be reformulated: is socialism on the agenda? If capitalism is a flawed system, as we argue, then it will offer endless opportunities for its overthrow. Desai, on the other hand, seems to argue that a crisis-free future is possible for capitalism. Talk of socialism is therefore premature. Mick Brooks argues the case for socialism in the twenty-first century.

In this introduction to the special feature Rob Sewell gives a general view of the meaning of the present turbulence in the markets and explains why we say these are just the first tremors of a coming slump.

Michael Roberts, ecomics editor of Socialist Appeal, explains the immediate causes of the present crash of the markets: the currency crisis in South East Asia and how these economies, which were supposed to be models of capitalist development suddenly collapsed.

In this major article, Ted Grant provides us with a general analysis of the present state of capitalism. With chapters on the nature of the boom/slump cycle, the peculiarities of the present "boom", the claim that Information Technology has solved the problems of capitalism, the crisis of overproduction, the situation in South East Asia, the consecuences that the coming slump will have and the tasks in front of Marxists at this particular juncture.

"Flat on its back for years and showing few signs of life, Japan's economy was nonetheless still in the world of the living. When we last checked, that is. Reports of its imminent demise are now coming thick and fast. A world that had grown bored with the 'Japan isn't growing' story is suddenly paying attention to the new 'Japan will collapse and take the rest of us with it' story." The Economist, 11/4/98. Phil Mitchinson analyses the reasons behind.

"False Dawn", by LSE professor John Gray, takes us on a world tour of the social devastation being left in capitalism's wake. Fascinating for its factual and statistical data alone, it is perhaps Gray's conclusions which make the deepest impression. The free market he argues will cause disaster, war, ethnic conflict, environmental destruction and impoverish millions. Yet throughout a lucid and empirically remarkable work, Gray offers no hope, proposes no reform and predicts the gloomiest of futures. In essence he argues that the global market economy is fatally flawed and incapable of reform.

Here's a prediction. The US economy is heading for slump. By the end of this year, that reality will start to emerge behind the smoke and mirrors of stock market exuberance and big business bluster. Since 1945, all world slumps have started in the US. This time will be no exception. Europe is just beginning to pick up steam. Its budding boom will be cut off by the frost of the American recession. Japan and Asia are already freezing. Before the millennium is reached, the world will be ice.

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