ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Left and the Crisis

Socialist Register 2012: The Crisis and the Left edited by Leo Panitch, Greg Albo and Vivek Chibber (New Delhi: Leftword Books), 2011; pp 315, Rs 350.

The most recent volume of the Socialist Register, a welcome and provocative addition to Marxist scholarship, is a companion to last years’ volume Socialist Register 2011: The Crisis This Time. The crisis has revealed the fault lines of the neo-liberal model of global capital accumulation under US hegemony – and the ruling capitalist classes have launched a full scale offensive to shore up this discredited model. Popular resistance to this onslaught – the occupy movement across US, the strikes and demonstrations in Greece, the revolt of the indignados in Spain, the uprisings across Egypt, Tunisia and other parts of west Asia – has also been growing. The sense implicit in the previous volume that the capitalist ruling classes were usurping the political opportunity presented by the crisis, is echoed in the note of caution by the editors in the preface of the current volume – that these resistances have “only served to reveal the continuing impasse of the Left, and its limited strategic and organisational resources” (p x). The essays in this volume address in different ways this difficult terrain, raising important questions for the articulation of appropriate socialist strategies that would seize the initiative in reshaping social relations in the aftermath of the crisis – challenging questions that will be pursued in the next volume of the Socialist Register.

The previous volume of the Socialist Register placed the current crisis in historical perspective and highlighted the centrality of financialisation in fostering the crisis. The essays in the present volume extend and deepen this analysis, pushing the analytical frontier to address varied dimensions of the unfolding crisis. This includes discussion of the impact of the new “age of austerity” that has been imposed as the response of the ruling capitalist class to the crisis (David McNally) and the evolution of accumulation strategies that feed off the particular forms of urban development and property booms (David Harvey), the climate crisis (Larry Lohmann) and the commodification of public services (Ursula Huws). The investigation of the “epicenter of the crisis” – the US economy – is taken forward to interrogate the variegated impacts for the marginalised poor (Frances Fox Piven), across race (Adolph Reed Jr and Merlin Chowkwanyun) and the divergent trajectories of the crisis for labour and capital (Nicole Aschoff). The current volume expands the regional coverage of how the unfolding crisis impinged on Japan, South Africa and UK in the last year’s Socialist Register to include China (Ho-fung Hung), Latin America (Claudio Katz), west Asia (Adam Hanieh), Ireland (Peadar Kirby) and eastern Europe (Jan Toporowski) followed by a symposium of three essays on the spiralling crisis in the eurozone (Elmar Altavater, Costas Lapavitsas and Michel Husson).

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