It is a sign of the seriousness of the current economic malaise that more and more establishment commentators today are turning to Marx for answers. Thus a September 14, 2011, article in Bloomberg Businessweek, entitled “Marx to Market,” acknowledged:
The Bearded One has rarely looked better. The current global financial crisis has given rise to a new contingent of unlikely admirers. In 2009 the Vatican’s official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, published an article praising Marx’s diagnosis of income inequality…. In Shanghai, the turbo-capitalist hub of Communist-in-name-alone China, audiences flocked to a 2010 musical based on Capital, Marx’s most famous work. In Japan, Capital is now out in a manga version…. As misguided as Marx was about many things…there are pieces of his (voluminous) writings that are shockingly perceptive. …. Marx has gotten an attentive reading recently from the likes of New York University economist Nouriel Roubini and George Magnus, the London-based senior economic adviser to UBS Investment Bank…. In an Aug. 28 essay for Bloomberg View, Magnus wrote that “today’s global economy bears some uncanny resemblances” to what Marx foresaw….
Consider the particulars. As Magnus notes, Marx predicted that companies would need fewer workers as they improved productivity, creating an “industrial reserve army” of the unemployed whose existence would keep downward pressure on wages for the employed…. It’s hard to argue with that these days…. The condition of blue collar workers in the U.S. is still a far cry from the subsistence wage and ‘accumulation of misery’ that Marx conjured. But it’s not morning in America, either. (http://businessweek.com)
Bloomberg Businessweek seems unaware that Marx viewed the reserve army of labor as applicable not just to developed countries like the United States, but also to labor throughout the globe. It is this question of the global reserve army that is addressed in the Review of the Month in this issue. Not only do we find that a majority of the world’s workforce today is living at close to subsistence level, due to the enormous downward pressure exerted by the massive global reserve army of labor, holding down wages, but it also remains true, as Marx wrote in Capital, that “Accumulation of wealth at one pole is, therefore, at the same time accumulation of misery, the torment of labour, slavery, ignorance, brutalization and moral degradation at the opposite pole, i.e. on the side of the class that produces its own product as capital.”
During the weekend of September 9–11, Fred Magdoff was in Ireland to participate in the Desmond Greaves School, an annual event. In addition to a talk on the economic crisis in the United States, Fred also participated in a Sunday panel discussion about where capitalism is headed. He met with people in the labor movement, a variety of socialists, and members of the Communist Party of Ireland. One of the organizers of the event, in thanking Fred, wrote the following: “We regard [Monthly Review] as one of the most important sources of Marxist theory and analysis about contemporary capitalism. The concepts of imperialism, monopoly capitalism, and financialisation are not in wide use here, so Monthly Review is vital to our efforts to understand what is happening in the economy and society. Without these concepts and this analysis, it is impossible to understand the crisis or think about where we are going and what we should be doing.” We hope at MR that this new connection with Irish socialists is only just a start, in what will be a continuing relationship.