The capitalist system is passing through its deepest crisis since the 1930s and the Great Depression. The apologists of capitalism – including those in the labour movement – had completely ruled out such a scenario. After all, they explained, capitalism has changed and governments are now able to over-come any deficiencies experienced by the markets. They have learned the lessons of the 1930s.

Some economic commentators and financial journalists have divined the ‘green shoots’ of economic recovery’ growing out of the present crisis. Perhaps the wish is father to the thought. Are they right?

The knock-on effects of the crisis have already hit Hungary, Lithuania and Latvia. Other countries in the region are also in the firing line. Governments are going down like ninepins. There is no end in sight to the economic and political turmoil. The so called "emerging" economies have been brought to their knees.

It is the working class of the world who will really suffer from the present crisis. Globally, the UN estimates that unemployment will reach 220m this year. Out of a global workforce of about 3 billion, that’s "only" 7%. But this figure leaves out millions of hidden unemployed who just cannot even begin to look for work. And as a percentage of those working in sweat shop and factories around the globe, it is more like 20%.

The crisis in the auto industry has reached huge proportions and is now affecting nearly every country. Demand for vehicles has fallen sharply all over the globe, with sales reaching lows not seen for three decades. If the main auto manufacturing companies go under, there will be millions of jobs lost and a massive blow to the rest of the economy, which would have a disastrous effect on the living conditions of millions of workers around the globe. So what is the answer?

The crisis of world capitalism is unfolding relentlessly and with gathering speed. First came the financial crisis (the so-called credit crunch), but now the second phase has begun - the crisis of the real economy - and it is accelerating as each day goes by. This is leading to sharp changes in consciousness, rising working class militancy and the beginnings of polarisation within the labour movement itself.

Martin Wolf in the Financial Times today: “…this would be a recipe… for xenophobia, nationalism and revolution… Everything must be done to prevent the inescapable recession from turning into something worse… Deflation is a real danger… At stake could be the legitimacy of the open market economy itself… the danger remains huge and time is short.”

Over the past weeks, Britain, many other European countries and the US have announced plans to nationalise large chunks of the financial sector, thereby taking a good proportion of the commanding heights of the economy into public ownership. A step towards socialism one might wonder. Quite the opposite reassures us the Financial Times.

Panic has gripped the stock markets of the world. Things are completely out of control, and there is nothing that governments can say or do that can stop it. As in 1929, every time people thought that the worst had come, further falls were just round the corner. Nobody knows how far share prices have still to go. The world economy now finds itself in unsheltered waters.

What caused this financial crisis? Whilst the collapse of house prices was the straw that broke the camel’s back, this requires that it was already heavily laden with straw. Marxists understand that historical events don’t occur in a vacuum; rather, they are a result of the build up of contradictions within the system.

The Banks are going down like ninepins. The whole financial system has been based on an unstable house of cards of credit. The pyramid had been built up over years of mad speculation. Now it is all unravelling.

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