Crisis, the Bankers’ Bailout, and Socialist Analysis/Strategy

Dave Hill

The current crisis of Capital and the current response

In the current juncture, the crisis of capitalism, as in the repeated crises of capital and overproduction and speculation predicted by Marx, capitalists have a big problem. Their profits, the value of the shares and part control of companies by Chief Executive Officers and other capitalist executives (late twentieth century capitalists), are plummeting. The rate of profit is falling, has fallen.

The political response by parties funded by Capital, such as the Democrats and Republicans in the USA, and Labour, Liberal and Conservative in the UK is not to blame the capitalist system, not even to blame the neoliberal form of capitalism (new brutalist public managerialism/ management methods, privatisation, businessification of education, for example, increasing gaps between rich and poor, between schools in well-off areas and schools in poor areas). They have criticised only two aspects of neoliberalism: what they now (and only now!) see as the over-extent of deregulation, and the (obscene) levels of pay and reward taken by ‘the big bankers’, by a few Chief Executive Officers (CEOs).

Not an end to Capitalism or even to Neoliberal Capitalism

Talk of an end to neoliberalism is premature, so is talk of an end to capitalism. Criticism in the mainstream capitalist media and mainstream capitalist political parties is only of the excesses of Capitalism, indeed, only the excesses of that form of capitalism- neoliberal capitalism- that has been dominant since the 1970s, the Thatcher-Reagan years- dominant in countries across the globe, and within the international capitalist organisations such as the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, the World Trade Organisation.

Premature, too, is talk of a return to a new Keynesianism, a new era of public sector public works, together with (in revulsion at neoliberalism’s- in fact- capitalism’s- excesses) a new Puritanism in private affairs/ private industry.

The current intervention by governments across the globe to ‘save banks’ can be seen as ‘socialism for the rich’, a spreading of the pain and costs amongst all citizens/ taxpayers to bail out the banks and bankers. Side by side with this bailing out of the banks (while retaining them as private- not nationalised institutions!) is the privatisation, and individualisation of pain- the pain that will be felt in wallets and homes and workplaces throughout the capitalist countries, both rich and poor. Already (November 2008) we see in Britain the Conservative Party changing its previous policy of matching Labour’s spending plans for 2010 onwards into a rightward slide- saying that public services will have to suffer, to pay for the cost of the crisis. Capitalist governments throughout the world will, unless successfully contested by class war and action from below, make the workers and their/ our public services, pay for the crisis. So that, once again, the bankers can make their billions, extracted from the surplus value of the labour power of workers.

It is true that finance institutions need government intervention, in order to keep funding loans and mortgages, to prevent banks and finance capital repossessing people’s homes. But under what conditions?

Marxists and left socialists need to lead and support calls and mobilisations for the nationalisation of the banks. In Britain, for example, people such as John McDonnell, the leader of the ‘left’ Labour MPs in Britain, and the LRC (Labour Representation Committee) and Marxist groups such as the Socialist Party and the International Socialist Group and the Socialist Workers Party call for banks to be taken into public ownership (with the SP calling for ‘compensation only on the basis of proven need’), in other words for the nationalisation of finance to be complete and long-term.

But Capital and the parties it funds will, seek to ensure that Capital is resurgent, and that after what they see as this temporary ‘blip’ in capitalist profitability, it will once again confidently bestride the world, though with less of an obvious smirk on its face, and with less obvious flashing of riches. At least for the time being.

In times such as these, of economic crisis and of the inevitable retrenchment, it will be the poor that pays for the crisis, in fact, not just the poor, but the middle and lower strata of the working class.

Controlling the Workers

And who better to ‘control’ the workers, the workforce, to sell a deal – cuts in the actual wage (relative to inflation) and the social wage (cuts in the real value of benefits and of public welfare and social services)- but the former workers’ parties such as the Labour Party, or, in the USA, the party with (as with labour in Britain) links to the trade union movement- the Democrats. So US Capital swung massively behind Obama in the US Presidential election, and it is likely that increasing sections of British Capital will swing behind Gordon Brown and what is still regarded by many as a workers’ party, or at least, the more social democratic of the major parties on offer. Better to control the workers when the cuts do come. And to return to a slightly less flashy form of capitalism- more regulated, but still the privatising neoliberal managerialising, commodifying, neo-colonial and imperialistic capitalism.


This is, as ever, subject to resistance and the balance of class forces (itself related to developing levels of class consciousness, political consciousness and political organisation and leadership). Resistance is possible, and will, inevitably grow. Demonstrations, strikes, anger, outrage at cuts, will increase, perhaps dramatically, in the coming period. To repeat, to be successful instead of inchoate, such anger and political activism needs to be focussed, and organised. In such circumstances, the forces of the Marxist Left in countries across the globe, need to put aside decades old enmities, doctrinal, organisation and strategic disputes. In Britain, for example, the Socialist Party, the Socialist Workers party, Respect, the Alliance for Workers Liberty, the Communist Party of Britain, other groups on the Marxist Left, together with socialists within the Labour Party, need to rapidly form a coherent organisation/ alliance and expose the current crisis as a crisis not just of neoliberalism, but of Capitalism itself. And to pose Socialist alternatives. Here, the new anti-capitalist party in France (under the leadership of Olivier Besancenot), coalescing formerly rival groups and individuals, is an outstanding example of a successful regrouping/ regroupement of the Marxist Left. And in Britain, the Convention of the Left could play a coalescing role?

Of course, regroupment by itself just organises current activists and supporters. Regroupment needs to be followed by, accompanied now! by recruitment. At this particular moment in the crisis of capital accumulation and the actual and potential for loosening the chains of ideology/ false consciousness promulgated by knowledge workers in the (witting or unwitting) service of Capital.

Implications for Education Policy of the Current Crisis

Within England there may well be some minor changes following from disenchantment with neoliberalism. Such changes, the changes in recent years promoting more creativity in the curriculum, reducing the burden of tests, have been argued for by unions and by the Socialist Teachers Association (STA) for years.

But changes to restore and go beyond a more democratically accountable, less brutalist, less divisive, less test-driven, less punitive education system, are not yet on the cards. With campaigns and mass pressures they could become so.

But there is nothing inevitable about neoliberal education transmogrifying any time soon into liberal child friendly and/ or socialist education for equality. These need to be fought for, and will need to be part of a wider transformation of social and economic relations in society.

Which is why we can foresee an intensification of right-wing attacks on radical and socialist educators, on critical pedagogues, throughout the capitalist world.

The culture wars, between the ideologies/ belief systems of Marxism and Socialism on the one hand, and the various forms of pro-capitalist ideology: social democratic, liberal –progressive, neoconservative, neoliberal and racist/ Fascist ideologies on the other, will intensify.

Interest in Marxism is growing. More are seeing through the Emperors’ clothes of pro-capitalist politicians, sand their sleight of hand support for Finance Capitalism and Capitalist exploitation of the labour power of workers.

Hence, in these current times, Marxist and radical educators are dangerous. Intimidation, dismissals, public denunciations (there are many cases globally, most recently in Australia and the USA) will increase.

It is a time for civic courage, for hope, for Marxist analysis, for solidarity, for organisation. A united Left could and should display all five.

Dave Hill is Professor of education policy, University of Northampton, United Kingdom.


  1. Very good.

  2. Great on…and as Dave said…for solidarity and organisation!

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