Karl Marx Was Right
Tuesday 9 April 2013, 10.19am | VIDEO NOW ONLINEAdd to Calendar >
We can’t say Karl Marx didn’t warn us: capitalism contains the seeds of its own destruction. In their chase for ever higher profits, the capitalists shed workers for machines. The higher return on capital means that the share of profits rises and the share of wages falls, and soon the mass of the population isn’t earning enough to buy the goods capitalism produces. And that’s exactly what’s been happening over the past four years of the Great Recession: ever increasing income inequality, leading to ever weaker aggregate demand – temporarily disguised by an unsustainable credit binge – leading to collapse. You don’t have to be a communist to see that this is so. We should all be Marxists now.
Or should we? Every time capitalism hits an inevitable bad patch, Marx’s name is invoked with wearisome regularity. But no serious economist or political thinker – with the possible exception of Gordon Brown – has ever suggested capitalism can break free of booms and busts. Once bust, as we’ve seen time and again, the capitalist economy has a robust in-built ability to restore itself. As for all the talk of growing inequality, hasn’t anyone noticed that ordinary people in the capitalist West have enjoyed an astonishing long-term rise in their standard of living? We are not suffering an existential economic crisis. We do not need extraordinary remedies. We do not need Marx.
So which is it? Is Marx the voice we should be heeding? Or are his modern day apostles resuscitating a late Victorian corpse whose main contribution to human affairs has been the Soviet gulag?
Speakers for the motion
Leverhulme Fellow at the University of Essex. A former editor of the New Left Review, where he has written on the collapse of Soviet Communism and the credit crunch of 2008. His most recent books include Marx and Lincoln: the Unfinished Revolution
Professor of Sociology at University of Kent, whose forthcoming book is Moral Crusades in an Age of Mistrust: The Jimmy Savile Scandal
Historian, Labour MP and author of The Frock-Coated Communist: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels
Speakers against the motion
Economist, commentator and author, with a long career in the financial services industry, most recently as the Chief Economist and then Senior Economic Adviser at UBS from 1997-2012. He currently works also as an independent consultant, including to UBS
President and founder of the Adam Smith Institute
Former revolutionary Marxist, she joined the “Sachs team” advising the Russian Ministry of Finance in Moscow in 1993-94. Currently Undergraduate Tutor at the Department of Economics, LSE
Leader writer & columnist for The Times
All speakers are subject to change.