The world is heading for a major slump in the next 12- 18 months. All the signs are there. On the surface, all seems reasonably rosy. The world's stock markets have recovered from their autumn crash and the 'real economy' of developed capitalism also performed reasonably well in 1998. Only Japan continued to dive by nearly 3%. But so-called emerging Asia suffered the worst slump in a lifetime, while Russia entered yet another horrific downturn as the rouble collapsed. Latin America is now sliding into recession. Overall, the capitalist world grew about 1.5%, hardly enough to compensate for population growth. And 1998 was a relatively good year. The neon signs of a deep slump ahead are flashing.

There's a saying among girls in the slums of Bangladesh: if you're lucky, you'll be a prostitute - if you're unlucky, you'll be a garment worker. The fashion industry is big business. It makes a lot of money - but over the world, textile and clothing workers are poor. Yet they work hard. They say nobody ever got rich though hard work. But it's not true. The people who work hard never got rich through working hard. But the rich got rich by getting other people like us to work hard for them. That's the way of the world under capitalism. Mick Brooks explains how surplus value is generated in the fashion industry.

The US stock market has reached new highs. By any definition it is fantastically valued. Michael Roberts looks at the reasons behind the speculative fever and its relations with the real economy and concludes that a total eclipse is not far away.

Two years ago, at the time of the collapse of the Southeast Asian economies, we published a document called "The first tremors of the coming slump". Jonathan Clyne, editor of the Swedish Marxist magazine Socialisten looks at what we said at the time and concludes that "our basic analysis of the epoch is still correct". Translated from Socialisten 43, September 1999.

This Socialist Appeal editorial looks at the increasing number of economic experts who recognise that the world economy depends on a speculative bubble which cannot last for much longer.

Seventy years after the 1929 stock exchange crash which led to the Big Depression, Mick Brooks looks at how the stock exchange works, what causes speculation and concludes that "what goes up, must come down".

Paul Krugman's new book argues that the world might be facing a depression again which can only be avoided by returning to Keynesian policies. Phil Mitchinson reviews the book and points out the flaws of Krugman's "solutions".

"Asia's astonishing bounce-back" - this is the kind of headline that has started to appear in recent months. Having apparently shrugged off the effects of the stock markets crash in 1997, they are now anxiously looking for signs of revival in Asia and Europe as proof that the world has avoided recession. Once more the advocates of the so-called New Economic Paradigm proclaim the triumph of the free market. However, such triumphalism lacks any semblance of a scientific basis. The serious representatives of capital look with growing concern at the prospects for the world economy.

A look back at our economic forecast of 18 months ago. Has anything really changed in the economic situation?

It is only a matter of time before the US internet bubble is burst, investments collapse and consumption of the masses falls back because of a loss of confidence in the 'new economy'. The internet revolution is a great technical leap forward. But under capitalism, it is being exploited by more and more precious investment capital being thrown into this tiny sector of the economy at the expense of all the rest.

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