With the world economy in turmoil the Socialist Party dedicated its annual educational event to understanding the current economic crisis. Socialism 2009 took the form of a day school and was held on March 21 at Trades Hall in Melbourne. More than 40 people attended the three sessions held throughout the day.
The first session was introduced by SP National Organiser, Anthony Main and focused on the basics of Marxist economics. Anthony explained the concepts within an economy and how the capitalist system works. Flowing from this he outlined the labor theory of value and the basis of the eternal class struggle that exists within capitalism.
It was made clear that the fundamental problem with capitalism is the private ownership of the means of production. Capitalism is a system is based on production for profits and not human need. One of the contradictions that capitalism can not overcome is that workers do not get paid the full amount of the wealth that they produce. On this basis they can never buy back all the goods they make. This leads to overproduction and the boom bust cycle. The tendency of the rate of profit to fall when bosses invest in new machinery only compounds this contradiction.
The second session was introduced by Socialist Party Councillor, Stephen Jolly. Following on from the first session, Stephen explained what had led to the current crisis and gave details about the seriousness of the recent downturn. Steve contextualised the discussion by giving a magnificent summary of economic history over the past 100 years. By doing this he was able to explain the changes in economic policy including the resent turn back to Keynesianism.
Also taken up in Steve’s talk was the issue of the stimulus packages. It was agreed that while they may well put a cushion under the situation, they would not be enough to stop the crisis. Steve demonstrated with facts and figures that the stimulus packages in both the US and Australia are an absolute drop in the ocean. This session also outlined the socialist arguments against Keynesianism and protectionist economic measures.
The final session of the day was entitled ‘Fighting back against capitalism’ and was kicked off by Denise Dudley. Denise argued that working people should not be made to pay for the crisis and outlined a fighting program for the labour movement. Denise spoke about the crisis of leadership in the trade unions and the lack of mass workers parties in many countries around the world. There is a big gap between the consciousness of the working class and our actual representation.
Denise explained that the best way to bridge this gap is to raise transitional demands and to use a transitional method. Transitional demands start from today’s issues and link these to the need for socialism. This was the approach of the Bolsheviks in 1917 and further developed by Trotsky in the 1930’s.
Overall, Socialism 2009 was a great success. The event not only strengthened our understanding of the processes taking place in the world economy but more importantly it outlined a program to ensure that workers are not made to pay for the crisis. The task at hand is to take these ideas out into the labour movement and to build the Socialist Party through the struggles that will take place in the next months and years.
By Kirk Leonard