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Understanding the economic crisis

Understanding the economic crisis

This article aspires to present as clearly as possible the following points :
1) The dynamics and contradictions of capitalism.
2) The general phase of obsolescence of capitalism.
3) The intermediary period of the post-war economic boom.
4) The return of crises and especially the crisis of 2008-2009.

Although this article has been written as clearly as possible, the reading of it is facilitated by a minimal knowledge of the main concepts of the Marxist critic of political economy [1]. For the reader, who is unfamiliar with this matter, we propose to skip the first ‘technical’ part about the dynamics and contradictions of capitalism and to start with the second part that presents the general framework of the general phase of obsolescence of capitalism. He or she can go back over the first part afterwards to find the necessary explanations of the economic mechanisms. Certain explanations or useful additions, that are not immediately necessary to understand the article, have been put in footnotes. Finally, the numerous references to Marx do not serve as axioms, but are there to point out to what guided our analysis. Their axiomatic character is all the lesser so, since we have always taken the care to validate these references by real facts and statistics.

1. The dynamics and contradictions of capitalism

According to Marx, the roots of overproduction crises are multiple [2]. Nevertheless, the two main roots that he analysed the most and which are also the most effective in practice, are the tendency of the profit-rate to fall and the laws of distribution of the total product between capital and labour that generate an insufficient final demand  : « It is the unconditional development of the productive forces and therefore mass production on the basis of a mass of producers who are confined within the bounds of the necessary means of subsistence on the one hand and, on the other, the barrier set up by the capitalists’ profit, which [forms] the basis of modern over-production » [3].

Here, Marx expresses very clearly this double constraint that weighs permanently on capitalism : on the one hand, the need to produce in a sufficiently profitable way – that is to appropriate sufficiently surplus labour compared to the invested capital – and, on the other hand, the need to realize this surplus labour on the market [4]. Whether the one or the other of these indispensable acts in the circuit of accumulation lacks, completely or partly, it will then confront capitalism to a crisis of overproduction : either due to « the barrier set up by the capitalists’ profit » (the fall of the profit-rate), or by the insufficiency of the markets as a result of « a mass of producers who confined within the bounds of the necessary means of subsistence » in comparison to « the unconditional development of the productive forces » (the laws that distribute the total product between capital and labour which generate an insufficient final demand). The theoretical and empirical bases of these two determinants of an economic crisis will be analyzed here - within the framework of the enlarged reproduction of capital.

1.1 The internal motive forces and internal limits of capitalism

1.1.1 The internal motive force of the enlarged reproduction

Like all other societies based on exploitation, capitalism is based on the appropriation of surplus labour [5]. However, this appropriation in capitalism is not focused on the sole satisfaction of the dominant classes, but contains an own inbuilt, permanent dynamic towards the expansion of the scale of production which goes far beyond simple reproduction [6]. This expansion generates a growing social demand through the employment of new workers and reinvestment in extra means of production and consumption : « These limits of consumption are extended by the exertions of the reproduction process itself. On the one hand, this increases the consumption of revenue on the part of labourers and capitalists, on the other hand, it is identical with an exertion of productive consumption » [7]. This extended reproduction imposes itself as a law for the survival of the system : all capital left fallow will devaluate and be expelled by the market [8]. Consequently, through its intrinsic dynamic of expansion, capitalism generates its own social demand that is the basis for the development of its own market. However, the contradictions intrinsic to this expansion generate periodically crises of overproduction that manifest themselves by an insufficient solvent demand compared to the development of production. These mechanisms will now be examined more closely.

1.1.2 Crisis of over accumulation and shortage of profits

This dynamic of expansion induces increases in productivity that results in the diminishing of the value of the commodities (and thus its price) which enter into the extended reproduction : « If the productivity of industry increases, the price of individual commodities falls. (…) The phenomenon, springing from the nature of the capitalist mode of production, that increasing productivity of labour implies a drop in the price of the individual commodity, or of a certain mass of commodities… » [9].

These increases in productivity contribute powerfully in raising the profit-rate : « ...thanks to an increased productivity, that is an increase parallel to the increase of the number of machines at reduced price, the prices of the good diminishes, the rate of profit can remain constant ... [it] could even rise if the increase of the rate of surplus value would be tied to the decrease of the value of the elements of the constant capital, particularly the fixed capital [due to the gains in productivity] » [10].

Indeed, it is not because companies use a larger amount of machines, that therefore automatically their organic composition should increase in value, because with the increases in productivity, the value of the machines diminish too [11] : « The evolution that pushes the constant capital upwards in comparison the variable capital tends to diminish, due to the increasing labour productivity, the value of the elements that make it up and prevents the absolute value to increase as rapidly as its material importance. It could even happen that the mass of elements in the constant capital increases whereas its value remains the same or even diminishes » [12].

In reality, the weight of capital will only increase from the moment on, when the gains resulting from the increases in productivity are no longer able to compensate the cost of the new machines. It’s only when the efficiency of the increases in productivity diminish (in other words, when the gains diminish relatively to their costs), that the profit-rate inverts its tendency. At that moment, the new machines cost more than they return in gains of productivity. From a tendency, the fall of the profit-rate becomes effective, when the gains in productivity do not match the investments made to obtain them.

The effective fall of the profit-rate increases all the more the competition, since the less productive capitalists are eliminated first : « The rate of profit would not fall under the effect of competition due to over-production of capital. It would rather be the reverse ; it would be the competitive struggle which would begin because the fallen rate of profit and over-production of capital originate from the same condition » [13]. In spite of the diminished efficiency of the investments, this competition obliges each entrepreneur to continue to invest - to be able to survive. That is why over-accumulation goes hand in hand with a lack of profits ; they are the two sides of the same coin. From this lack of profits and over-accumulation follows a crisis of overproduction, since the two phenomena generate an effective drop in the profit-rate, and thus the investments, thereafter the economic activity.

1.1.3 An extended reproduction with a cyclical nature

This dynamic of extension in the reproduction of capital takes place in a succession of cycles, roughly every decade, when the increasing weight of fixed capital tends to reduce the rate of profit and provoke crises : “ As the magnitude of the value and the durability of the applied fixed capital develop with the development of the capitalist mode of production, the lifetime of industry and of industrial capital lengthens in each particular field of investment to a period of many years, say of ten years on an average (...) ...the cycle of interconnected turnovers embracing a number of years, in which capital is held fast by its fixed constituent part, furnishes a material basis for the periodic crises " [14].

During these crises, bankruptcies and the depreciation of capital create the conditions for a recovery which expands the markets and productive potential : « The crises are always but momentary and forcible solutions of the existing contradictions. They are violent eruptions which for a time restore the disturbed equilibrium (...) The ensuing stagnation of production would have prepared - within capitalistic limits - a subsequent expansion of production. And thus the cycle would run its course anew. Part of the capital, depreciated by its functional stagnation, would recover its old value. For the rest, the same vicious circle would be described once more under expanded conditions of production, with an expanded market and increased productive forces » [15].

Capitalist accumulation has in the last two centuries experienced about thirty cycles and crises. Marx identified seven during his lifetime, the Third International sixteen [16], and the left in the International completed the picture for the inter-war period [17]. Concerning the period after the Second World War, graph n°1 shows about ten cycles of rising and falling profit rates that are punctuated by a crisis (recession). Such are the recurring material basis for the cycles of over-production whose origins lie in over-accumulation and the lack of profits.

Graph n°1 : USA (1948-2007) : profit rate per trimester and recessions [18].

1.1.4 Crises following from an insufficient solvent demand

« It is … in the nature of capitalist production, to produce without regard to the limits of the market » [19] or, as Engels formulated it metaphorically : « While the productive power increases in a geometric ratio, the extension of markets proceeds at best in an arithmetic ratio » [20]. There are many reasons why the final demand could contract compared to the production, or said in other words « to produce without regard to the limits of the market ».

As shown above, this is the case for the crises of overproduction generated by over-accumulation and a lack of profits. Indeed, these crises lead to a restriction of the final demand because of the diminishing economic activity : a drop in investments and thus over-accumulation due to the lack of profits, bankruptcy of companies that are below the average profit-rate, etc.

But it is also the case for two other reasons that are amply analyzed by Marx : the compression of the consumption by wage-earners and the disproportionality between production sectors. These three factors of crises (investments, salaries and disproportionate sectors) are presented by Marx in his conclusion of the accumulation circuit.

1.1.5 The circuit of accumulation

The circuit of accumulation is a play in two acts : the first act consists of extracting a maximum of surplus labour through the production of commodities, and the second act consists of selling these commodities to transform the material surplus labour into the form of money for reinvestment.

Indeed, extracting a maximum of surplus labour, crystallized in a material form (surplus value) in a growing number of commodities, is the goal of what Marx calls « the first act in the process of capitalist production ». Afterwards, these commodities have to be sold in order to transform this surplus value into profits in a monetary form so that they can be reinvested, this is « the second act of the process ». Each of these two acts contains their own contradictions and limits. Although they influence each other, the first act is driven above all by the rate of profit, while the second is a function of the various tendencies limiting the market [21].

These two constraints periodically engender a final demand which is unable to absorb production : « Over-production is specifically conditioned by the general law of the production of capital : to produce to the limit set by the productive forces, that is to say, to exploit the maximum amount of labour with the given amount of capital, without any consideration for the actual limits of the market or the needs backed by the ability to pay » [22]. The insufficiency of the solvent demand generating the crises of overproduction is principally rooted in the following three factors :

a) The consumption by wage-earners : society’s capacity of consumption is reduced by the antagonistic relations in the division of surplus labour (class struggle) : « The ultimate reason for all real crises always remains the poverty and restricted consumption of the masses as opposed to the drive of capitalist production to develop the productive forces as though only the absolute consuming power of society constituted their limit » [23]. The diminishment of the wage-share restricts the final demand which provokes a crisis of overproduction.

b) The investments : at a certain moment, because of the fall of the profit-rate, the extraction of inadequate surplus value relative to the invested capital puts a break on investment and the employment of new labour power : « The limitations of the capitalist mode of production come to the surface : 1) In that the development of the productivity of labour creates out of the falling rate of profit a law which at a certain point comes into antagonistic conflict with this development and must be overcome constantly through crises... » [24]. A restriction of the productive demand of capitalists thus participates directly to the emergence of crises of overproduction.

c) The disproportionality : if the proportions between the different sectors of production are not respected, the total product is not realized [25].

Those are the three essential causes, completely internal to a pure capitalism, that restrict the final demand which is the basis for a crisis of overproduction.

As Marx underlines : « the conversion of the surplus value into profits is determined just as much by the process of circulation as by the process of production » [26]. Indeed, the insufficiency of the solvent final demand results as much from the process of production itself (the « first act » of the process of enlarged reproduction), namely a diminishment of investments by the capitalists, as from the process of circulation (the « second act » of the process of enlarged reproduction), namely a diminishment of the demand by wage-earners. Although they are tied by certain aspects, these two principal factors causing the crisis of overproduction are fundamentally independent.

1.1.6 Independence and temporality peculiar to the process of production and to the process of circulation

Indeed, even if the level and the recurrent fall of the profit-rate influences the distribution of the surplus labour and vice-versa, Marx insisted nevertheless strongly on the fact that these two roots are fundamentally « independent », « logically divergent », « not identical » [27]. Why ? Simply because the production of profit and the markets are for the most part subjected to different conditions. This is why Marx categorically rejects any theory which attributes crises to a single cause. It is thus theoretically incorrect to make the evolution of the rate of profit purely dependent on the size of the markets and vice-versa.

The time-scales of these two underlying root causes are thus necessarily different. The first contradiction (the rate of profit) has its roots in the need to increase the constant capital at the expense of the variable capital, and its timescale is thus essentially tied to the cycles of rotation of fixed capital. Since the second contradiction turns around the distribution of surplus labour, its timescale is determined by the balance of forces between the classes which evolves over longer periods [28]. Even if these two timescales come together (the process of accumulation influences the balance of forces between the classes and vice-versa), they remain fundamentally « independent », « not identical », « logically divergent », for the class struggle is not strictly tied to the ten-year cycles, nor are the latter tied to the balance of class forces.

1.2 Capitalism and its external sphere

Capitalism’s dynamic towards enlargement necessarily gives it a fundamentally expansive character : « The market must, therefore, be continually extended, so that its interrelations and the conditions regulating them assume more and more the form of a natural law working independently of the producer, and become ever more uncontrollable. This internal contradiction seeks to resolve itself through expansion of the outlying field of production. But the more productiveness develops, the more it finds itself at variance with the narrow basis on which the conditions of consumption rest » [29]. That said, when Marx pointed out all the dynamics and limits of capitalism, he did so in abstraction from its relationships with the external (non-capitalist) sphere. We therefore now need to understand what is the latter’s role and importance during capitalism’s development. Capitalism was born and developed within the framework of feudal, then mercantile social relations, with which it inevitably developed important ties to obtain the necessary means for its own accumulation (import of precious metals, looting, etc.), for the sale of its own commodities (direct sale, triangular trade, etc.), and as a source of labour.

Once capitalism’s foundation was assured after three centuries of primitive accumulation (1500-1825), this environment however still continued to supply a whole series of opportunities throughout the ascendant period (1825-1914) : as a source of profit, an outlet for the sale of commodities suffering from overproduction, and as a supplementary source of labour power. All these reasons explain the imperialist rush for colonies between 1880 and 1914. However, the existence of an external regulation of a part of capitalism’s internal contradictions does not mean either that the former were the most effective for its development, nor that capitalism should be absolutely incapable of creating internal modes of regulation ! Indeed, it is first and foremost the extension and domination of wage labour on its own foundations which progressively allowed capitalism to make its growth more dynamic, and while the various relations between capitalism and the extra-capitalist sphere gave it a whole series of opportunities, the size of this environment and the overall balance-sheet of its exchanges with it, were nonetheless a brake on its growth [30]. Thus, as wage labour extended and the obstacles to accumulation set up by the extra-capitalist markets disappeared, the growth-rate of world production per inhabitant has not ceased to increase [31]. The exhaustion of these not very efficient opportunities of external regulation for capitalism, has paved the way for the search of internal regulations : the Keynesian-Fordist state capitalism was a prototypical example of it (cf. infra).

2. The general phase of obsolescence of capitalism

2.1 The historical obsolescence of the capitalist mode of production and the basis for going beyond it

This formidable dynamism of capitalism’s internal and external expansion is nonetheless not eternal. Like every mode of production in history, capitalism also undergoes a phase of obsolescence where its social relationships become a brake on the development of its productive forces : « ... the capital relation becomes a barrier for the development of the productive powers of labour. When it has reached this point, capital, ie wage labour, enters into the same relation towards the development of social wealth and of the forces of production as the guild system, serfdom, slavery, and is necessarily stripped off as a fetter » [32]. Therefore, it is within the transformation and generalisation of the social relation of production of wage labour that one must seek for the historical limits of the capitalist mode of production. Once it reaches a certain stage, the extension of wage labour and its domination through the formation of the world market constitute capitalism’s apogee. Instead of continuing to eradicate old social relationships with vigour and develop the productive forces, the henceforth obsolete character of the wage-labour relationship tends to freeze the former and put a brake on the latter : it still remains incapable of integrating a large part of humanity within itself, it engenders crises, wars and disasters of growing magnitude, to the point where it threatens humanity with extinction.

2.2 Capitalism’s obsolescence

The progressive generalisation of wage labour does not mean that it has taken root everywhere, far from it, but it does mean that its domination of the world sharpens all the contradictions of capitalism, that now express themselves with piercing clarity. World War I opened this era of major crises whose dominant feature is that they are world-wide and anchored in the wage-labour relationship : (a) the national framework has become too narrow to contain the onslaught of capitalism’s contradictions ; (b) the world no longer offers enough opportunities and shock-absorbers to provide capitalism with an external regulation of its internal contradictions ; (c) with hindsight, the failure of the regulation set up during the post-war boom reveals capitalism’s historical inability to adjust internally in the long term to its own contradictions, which consequently explode with increasingly barbaric violence.

Inasmuch as it was a world conflict, not for the conquest of new spheres of influence, zones for investment, and markets, but to share out those that already existed, World War I marked the capitalist mode of production’s definitive entry into its phase of obsolescence. The two, increasingly violent, world wars, the greatest crisis of overproduction ever (1929-1933), the severe restriction on the growth of the productive forces between 1914 and 1945, capitalism’s inability to integrate a large part of humanity, the development of militarism and state capitalism throughout the planet, the increasing growth of unproductive expenditure, and capitalism’s historic inability to stabilise internally its own contradictions - all these phenomena are material expressions of this historical obsolescence of the social relations of production based on wage labour which have nothing to offer humanity but a perspective of growing barbarism.

2.3 Catastrophic collapse, or a historical, materialist and dialectical vision of history ?

Capitalism’s obsolescence does not imply that it is condemned to catastrophic collapse. In fact, there are no predefined quantitative limits within capitalism’s productive relations (whether it be a rate of profit, or a given quantity of extra-capitalist markets) which determine a single point beyond which capitalist production would die. The limits of modes of production are above all social, the product of their internal contradictions and the collision between these hence on obsolete relations and the productive forces. Henceforth it is the proletariat which will abolish capitalism, capitalism will not die of itself as a result of its "objective" limits.

This vision of a catastrophic collapse of capitalism is the product of a vulgar and mechanical materialism, as well as a product of a belief in teleological predetermination that has already done much harm within the workers movement. It has disarmed many militants that founded their convictions on the base of a nearby collapse of capitalism, instead of relying on a materialist, historical and dialectical comprehension of history and social changes. Whatever the severity of the crises that capitalism has known in its past and that it will know in its future ; these economic convulsions do not justify in any way all the recurrent forecasts of an “economic” end of the world, that moreover have been systematically turned out to be wrong since nearly a century [33]. The economic crisis shall only be the background for the real collapse of capitalism that will be political and social.

During capitalism’s obsolescence, the same tendencies and dynamics that Marx analysed continue to operate, but they do so within a profoundly modified general context. All the economic, social, and political contradictions inevitably appear on a higher level, either in social struggles which regularly pose the question of revolution, or in imperialist conflicts which threaten humanity’s very future. In other words, the world has entered the "epoch of wars and revolutions" announced by the Third International, or as the writer Paul Mattick said : « In the 20th century, capitalism is not capable anymore to contain the storms of traditional cyclical crises » [34].

3. Interlude of the post-war economic boom

3.1 Keynesian-Fordist state capitalism : the foundation of the post-war economic boom

Marxists have no reason to be surprised of recoveries that take place during the obsolescent phase of a mode of production : they appeared for example in the reconstitution of the Roman Empire under Charlemagne, or in the formation of the great monarchies during the Ancien Régime. A desperate class always tries by all means to lengthen the survival of its system. However, it is not because we are standing at a bend in the river that we can conclude that it is flowing uphill and away from the sea ! The same is true of the post-war economic boom : the bourgeoisie proved capable of creating a brief phase of strong growth in a general course of obsolescence.

The Great Depression of 1929 in the United States showed how violently capitalism’s contradictions could break out in an economy dominated by wage labour. One might therefore have expected that it would be followed by increasingly violent and frequent economic crises, but this was not the case. The situation had evolved considerably, both in the process of production (Fordism) and in the balance of forces between the classes (and within them). Moreover, the bourgeoisie had learned certain lessons. The years of crisis (between wars) and the barbarism of World War II were thus followed by a good thirty years of strong growth, a quadrupling of real wages, full employment, the creation of a social wage, and an ability by the system not to avoid, but to react to its cyclical crises. How was all this possible ?

3.2 The foundations of Keynesian-Fordist state capitalism

Henceforth, in the absence of adequate external outlets for its contradictions, as was the case before the First World War, capitalism had to find an internal solution to its double constraint on profits and markets. The high rate of profit was made possible by the strong gains in labour productivity thanks to the spread of Fordism in the industrial sector (assembly-lines combined with 3 shifts of 8 hours). Meanwhile, the markets on which to sell this enormous mass of commodities were guaranteed by the expansion of production, state intervention, and various systems indexing real wages to productivity. This made it possible to increase demand in parallel with production (see Graph n°2). By stabilising the share of wages in the totality of produced wealth, capitalism was thus able for a while to avoid « Over-production [which] arises precisely from the fact that the mass of the people can never consume more than the average quantity of necessaries, that their consumption therefore does not grow correspondingly with the productivity of labour » [35].

This was the analysis that Paul Mattick and other Marxists of the time adopted to analyse the post-war prosperity : « It is undeniable that wages have risen in the modern epoch. But only in the framework of the expansion of capital, which presupposes that the relationship of wages to profits should remain in constant in general. Labour productivity should therefore rise with a rapidity which would make it possible both to accumulate capital and to raise the workers’ living standards » [36]. Such is the main economic mechanism of Keynesian-Fordist state capitalism : (a) ‘a rapid growth of labour productivity’, (b) to ‘make it possible both to accumulate capital and to raise the workers’ living standards’ (c) and this thanks to ‘the relationship of wages to profits’ that remains ‘constant’. This threefold proposition is validated empirically by the parallel evolution of wages and labour productivity during this period :

Graph n°2 : US wages and productivity [37]

A comment on this graph : the increase in productivity and wages remains almost identical from World War II onwards. From the 1980s onwards, the two increasingly diverge. Ever since capitalism began, this divergence has been the rule, and their parallel development during the post-war boom the exception. In effect, this divergence is the material expression of capitalism’s permanent tendency to increase production (the upper line of productivity) beyond the growth of the most important element of solvent demand [38] real wages (the lower line).

Given the spontaneous dynamics of capitalism (competition, pressure on wages, etc.), such a system could only be viable with the straitjacket of a state capitalism which contractually guaranteed a threefold division of the gains of productivity increases between profits, wages, and state revenues. A society dominated henceforth by wage labour imposes de facto a social dimension on all the policies adopted by the ruling class. This presupposes setting up multiple social and economic controls on the working class : social salaries, creation of unions, increased assistance, social shock-absorbers [39], etc. The purpose of this unprecedented explosion of state capitalism was to contain the system’s explosive social contradictions within the limits of capitalist order : predominance of the executive over the legislative, the significant growth of state intervention in the economy (almost half of GNP in the OECD countries in the 1990s), social control of the working class, etc.

Moreover, this momentary regulation of the internal contradictions of capitalism in a national framework could not have worked if it had not been established on an international level (at least in the framework of the OECD countries). This took place within an inter-imperialist context typical for the obsolescence of capitalism that is marked by an extreme polarisation between two antagonistic blocks, as much on the military level (NATO vs. the Warsaw Pact), as on the economic level (OECD vs. COMECON). A polarisation that brought about a very strong discipline in both blocks, including the economic level by the setting up of organisations and politics of structural integration and common regulations, but always under the command and in the interests of the leader of the block (the USA and the USSR).

3.3 Origins, contradictions and limits of Keynesian-Fordist state capitalism

Following the German defeat at Stalingrad (January 1943), the political representatives, employers, and trade unions exiled in London began intense discussions on the reorganisation of society following the now inevitable collapse of the Axis powers. The memory of the Depression years and the fear of social movements at the end of the war, the lessons learned from the crisis of 1929, the increasingly widespread acceptance of the necessity for state intervention, and the bipolarisation created by the Cold War, were to be the elements that pushed the bourgeoisie to modify the rules of the game and to work out more or less consciously this Keynesian-Fordist state capitalism which was to be pragmatically and progressively implanted in all the developed countries (OECD). The sharing out of the gains in productivity was all the more easily accepted by all actors inasmuch as : (a) they were increasing strongly, (b) this redistribution guaranteed the increase in solvent demand in parallel with production, (c) it offered social peace, (d) social peace was all the easier to obtain in that the proletariat in reality emerged defeated from World War II, under the control of parties and unions in favour of reconstruction within the framework of the system, (e) at the same time it guaranteed long-term profitability of the investments, (f) as well as a high rate of profit.

The system was thus able to temporarily square the circle of increasing the production of profit and markets in parallel, in a world where demand was henceforth largely dominated by wage-earners. The guaranteed growth in profits, state spending and the rise in real wages, were able to guarantee the final demand so vital for the success of the accumulation process. Keynesian-Fordist state capitalism is the response that the system has been able to find temporarily to the crises of capitalism’s obsolescent phase, whose dominant features are their world-wide nature and their basis in wage labour. It allowed a self-centred functioning of capitalism, without the need to have recourse to delocalisations despite high wages and full employment, while at the same time enabling it to get rid of its colonies which henceforth became a load than a benefit [40], and eliminated the internal extra-capitalist farming activity whose activity had now to be subsidized instead of taking advantage of it as before.

From the end of the 1960s until 1982, all the conditions which had allowed these measures to succeed deteriorated, beginning with a progressive slowing in the rise of productivity which overall was cut to a third, and drew all the other economic variables down with it. It is therefore the inflection of the profit-rate that indicates the return of the economic difficulties, as the graphs n°1 and n°4 clearly show. The deregulation in several significant steps of the Keynesian-Fordist state capitalism at the start of the 1980s was necessary to restore the profit-rate. However, since the structurally weak gains of productivity remain at a low level, this restoration has only been possible in a downward motion, by compressing the wage share (cf. graph n°3). The internal regulation temporarily discovered by Keynesian-Fordist state capitalism thus had no lasting foundation.

3.4 The end of the post-war economic boom

The exhaustion of the post-war prosperity and the worsening economic climate during 1969-82 are fundamentally the product of a downturn in the rate of profit [41], despite the fact that consumption was maintained by the indexation of wages and measures to support demand [42]. The gains of productivity declined by the end of the 1960s [43], cutting the rate of profit in half by 1982 (see Graph n°3).

3.5 The transition to the deregulated state capitalism

Basically, there are two essential ways of restoring the rate of profit : by increasing the gains of productivity and/or the rate of surplus value. Since the first was dropping, the restoration of the profit-rate has only been possible by increasing the rate of surplus value (lowering wages and increasing exploitation). This has implied an inevitable deregulation of the key mechanisms which ensured a growth in final demand during the post-war economic boom (see below). This process began at the beginning of the 1980s and can be seen in particular in the constant decline of the wage-share (wages as a proportion of total wealth produced).

Graph n°3 : Wages shares (in relation to total wealth produced) : G7, Europe, France [44].

Overall then, during the 1970s the "rate of profit" contradiction weighed on capitalism, while final demand was maintained. The situation was reversed from 1982 onwards : the rate of profit has been spectacularly restored, but at the price of a drastic compression of final demand (the market) : essentially of wage earners (see Graph n°3), but also (to a lesser extent) of investment, since the rate of accumulation has remained at a low level (see Graph n°4).

Hence, we can now understand why the economic decline is continuing despite a restored rate of profit : the failure of growth and accumulation to take off again, despite a spectacular improvement in company profitability, is explained by the compression of final demand (wages and investment) [45]. This drastic reduction in final demand leads to listless investment for enlarged accumulation, continued rationalisation through company take-overs and mergers, unused capital pouring into financial speculation, delocalisation of industry in search of cheap labour ... all of which further depresses overall demand [46].

As for the recovery of final demand, this is hardly possible under present conditions since the increase in the rate of profit depends on keeping it low [47] ! Since 1982, in a context of improved company profitability, it is thus the "restriction of solvent markets" timescale which plays the leading role in explaining the continued listlessness of accumulation and growth, even if fluctuations in the rate of profit can still play an important part in the short term in sparking off recessions, as we can readily see in Graphs n°1 and n°4.

Graph n°4 : Profit, accumulation and economic growth in the USA, Europe, Japan : 1961-2006 [48].


The period from the end of World War II to the present day is a good example confirming the framework of Marx’s analysis of the crises of overproduction, as described above. In particular, it allows us to disprove all the single-cause crisis theories, whether they be the theory based solely on the falling rate of profit which is incapable of explaining why accumulation and growth do not start up again despite the fact that the rate of profit has been rising for a quarter-century (1982-2006), or that based on the saturation of solvent demand which cannot explain the rise in the rate of profit since the markets are totally exhausted (which logically should be expressed in a very low rate of profit). When separated, these two explanations are incapable of taking fully into account the historical evolution of capitalism and its crises.

4. The origin of the present crisis

4.1 The limits of deregulated state capitalism

However, the reasons which had demanded the creation of the Keynesian-Fordist state capitalism (1945-1982) are still there : wage labour is dominant in the working population, and capitalism is therefore forced to find means of stabilising the final demand in order to avoid its decline leading into a depression. Indeed, since the investments of enterprises are also limited due to the drastic decline of the wage-share (because they are not urged to carry out investments of expansion), it is necessary to find other ways to maintain consumption. The answer during the whole phase of the deregulated state capitalism (1982-2009) to this problem was found with the following : less and less savings, more and more debts. The decline of household savings ratio increases consumption and the rise of debt increases the expenditures without actually increasing the real salary. We find ourselves thus amid a formidable machine for producing financial bubbles and feeding speculation. The constant aggravation of the imbalances in the system is thus not the result of errors in the conduct of economic policy, it is an integral part of the model.

The major economic crisis of 2008 marks the failure of the deregulated state capitalism. The latter has just like the Keynesian-Fordist state capitalism not been able to bring sustainable solutions to the intrinsic contradictions of capitalist accumulation. Indeed, if the significant decline of the wage share since 1982 allowed a restoration of the profit rate, it has not been able to revive the rate of accumulation due to this same decline of the final demand (graph n°3 and 4). This leads to two major consequences, firstly, the development of a financialisation of the economy based on the henceforth available masses of capitals (rise of the profit-rate without a revived rate of accumulation), secondly, the encouraging of a final demand based on credit, the decline of savings, budgetary deficits, and resuming military expenditure (these last three factors especially in the United-States). By restoring spectacularly the profit-rate via a compression of the wage share, capitalism has done no more than to postpone its problems. Indeed, it has not been able to solve the problems regarding the cycle of accumulation and has created a monster that makes it more and more unstable : the financialisation of the economy.

While the rate of profit and accumulation evolved in parallel until the start of the 1980s, their subsequent divergence indicates the increase of the part of the surplus-value that is not accumulated which generates an enormous mass of floating capitals (graph n°4). It is this gap that feeds the financialisation of the economy and the repetitive speculative bubbles. This configuration presents an enormous problem of realisation : if the wage-share diminishes and if the investments stagnate, who will buy the production ? To this question, there is only one possible answer : the consumption by non wage revenues must compensate the decline of the consumption of wage earners. This is indeed what has massively developed since 1982, as is shown in graph n°5.

Graph n°5 : Share of wages and of private consumption in Gross Domestic Product (European Union) [49].

Part salariale (échelle de gauche) = Wage share (left scale)
Consommation en % du PIB (échelle de droite) = Consumption in % of GDP (right)

The gap that has installed itself between the rate of profit and accumulation since 1982 (graph n°4) is compensated by the gap that is created between the wage share and the final consumption (graph n°5). Finance is the tool used to realise this compensation in three ways : (1) the non-accumulated part of the surplus value is distributed to the shareholders that mostly consume it in an unproductive way, (2) this part is also used by finance to develop the debt of households, of which the consumption increases (however, not by an increase of salaries, but by an increase in patrimonial income and a decline of the rate of savings), (3) this part is also recycled by the development of bonuses of a financial form for a fraction of the wage-earners.

Finance is therefore not at all a parasite feeding itself on a healthy body, it feeds itself on this growing part of non invested profits since 1982. However, this non-investment is not the result of a fall in the profit-rate or of an insufficiency of surplus value, as is wrongly thought by the upholders of the single caused theory of crisis due to the falling rate of profit. This non-investment results from a consecutive overproduction of capitals due to the strong compression of the wage demand. That is why there is no ‘good’ productive capitalism that would be poisoned by a ‘bad’ financial capitalism, as it is widely declared by many critics, and as Lenin had developed it after Hilferding in Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism. Finance is not an alien part of the system that should be eliminated or regulated to return to a ‘normal’ functioning of capitalism. On the contrary, contemporary capitalism is a ‘pure capitalism’ where finance has become an integral tool of its functioning to extract a maximum of profit by the exploitation of the working class. But today, capitalism appears to the naked eye as it is : it prefers to not respond to the insufficiently profitable social needs than to risk a fall of its rate of profit.

Indeed, this inclination of capitalism to invest a smaller part of its profits puts into question the essential driving forces of this mode of production, because the source of this crisis is fundamentally the existence of the growing gap between the social needs of humanity and the criterions peculiar to capitalism. The social demand is progressively spread to commodities that are not susceptible to be produced with maximal profitability. Consequently, the gains of productivity accomplished by new technologies and innovation lead to a (competitive) supply that is less and less in accordance with this social demand, which therefore suddenly appears to not be profitable. Indeed, regarding the progressive shift of the needs of the population to social and tertiary goods (services) that have a lower productivity, capitalism has more and more troubles to reconcile the satisfaction of the demand with its own criterions of profitability. That doesn’t mean that capitalism will collapse by itself, but it does mean that it can only maintain itself in more and more regressive forms.

4.2 Conclusion : and tomorrow ?

This descent into hell is all the more inevitable in the present situation inasmuch as the conditions for a recovery of the gains of productivity and a return to their three-way redistribution are socially absent. There is nothing tangible in economic conditions, in the present balance of forces between the classes, and the competition at an international level which leaves open any way out : all the conditions are there for a deeper and longer recession accompanied a drastic austerity. It is therefore necessary to promote the alternatives that will inevitably appear out of the deepened contradictions of capitalism.

« If towards the end of a specific commercial period, speculation appears as the immediate cause of the collapse, one should not forget that speculation itself was given birth to by the previous phase of the cycle, so that it is no more than a result and a phenomenon, and not the deeper cause and the reason. The economist who pretend to explain the regular shocks in industry and commerce by speculation, resemble the dead school of philosophy of nature that considered fever to be the real reason for all illness » [50].

« As always, prosperity launched speculation. This appears regularly in the periods where overproduction is already in full swing. It provides over-production with some momentary outlets. Speculation rushes at the same time the eruption of the crisis forward and makes it all the more violent. The crisis itself explodes first where speculation rages and it is only later that it will reach production. The superficial observatory does not see the cause of the crisis in overproduction. The disorganisation of production following from it does not appear as a necessary result of its own internal exuberance but as a simple reaction to the speculation which is deflating » [51].

C.Mcl (August 2009)

Translated by Theodor from the French original into English with the help of a similar but older and shorter version translated by the ICC (http://en.internationalism.org/ir/135/economic-debate-postwar-prosperity#_ftn26)

[1) Wikipedia can be a first help : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page. Although we do not share some of their analyses and positions, we nevertheless strongly recommend to consult the following websites and to read their books to master the concepts of Marxist political economy (some of the books are accessible for free on the web) :
a) J. Gouverneur : The Foundations of Capitalist Economy, Contradictions, 2005, http://www.i6doc.com/doc/a5economy.
b) Michel Husson : Misère du capital, 1996, Syros, http://hussonet.free.fr/mdk.pdf.
c) Gérard Duménil & Dominique Lévy : Crise et sortie de crise, 2000, PUF.
d) http://www.capitalism-and-crisis.info/en/Welcome/New
e) http://hussonet.free.fr/

[2) Some examples are : the anarchy of production, the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, the disproportionality between the two major branches of the economy (the sector producing goods of consumption and the sector producing goods of production), the contradictions between ‘capital of rent’ and the ‘capital of production’, the insufficiency of the solvent final demand due to the laws that redistribute the total product between capital and labour, the disjunctions between the buying and selling following from hoarding, etc.

[3) Theories of Surplus Value, Marx 1861-3, chapter XVII Ricardo’s Theory of Accumulation and a Critique of it (The Very Nature of Capital Leads to Crises).

[4) In other words, to convert the surplus labour crystallized in a material form into profits in the form of money on the market.

[5) « When considering the production process we saw that the whole aim of capitalist production is appropriation of the greatest possible amount of surplus-labour … », Marx 1861-3, Theories of Surplus Value, chapter XVII Ricardo’s Theory of Accumulation and a Critique of it. (The Very Nature of Capital Leads to Crises) - 12. Contradictions Between Production and Consumption under Conditions of Capitalism. Over-production of the Principal Consumer Goods Becomes General Over-production.

[6) « Accumulate, accumulate ! … reconvert the greatest possible portion of surplus-value, or surplus-product into capital ! Accumulation for accumulation’s sake, production for production’s sake : by this formula classical economy expressed the historical mission of the bourgeoisie. (...) By all means, production, production on a constantly increasing scale », Karl Marx, Capital, Volume One - Chapter Twenty-Four : Conversion of Surplus-Value into Capital – Section 3 : Separation of surplus-value into capital and revenue. The abstinence theory.

[7) Marx, Capital, Volume III Part V, Division of Profit into Interest and Profit of Enterprise. Interest-Bearing Capital, Chapter 30. Money-Capital and Real Capital.

[8) « …the tendency to accumulate, the drive to expand capital and produce surplus-value on an extended scale. This is law for capitalist production, imposed by incessant revolutions in the methods of production themselves, by the depreciation of existing capital always bound up with them, by the general competitive struggle and the need to improve production and expand its scale merely as a means of self-preservation and under penalty of ruin », Marx, Capital, Volume III, Part III - The Law of the Tendency of the Rate of Profit to Fall - Chapter 15. Exposition of the Internal Contradictions of the Law - I. General.

[9) Marx, Capital, Volume III, Part III. The Law of the Tendency of the Rate of Profit to Fall, Chapter 13. The Law As Such.

[10) Our own translation from the French : Marx, Le Capital, troisième section Loi de la baisse tendancielle du taux de profit, chapitre IX Définition de la loi, La Pléiade - Économie II : 1013.

[11) By reducing the time necessary to produce a good, this gain in productivity reduces the value of that good. This reduction of value concerns as much the sector of consumption – that then allows to reduce the relative weight of the wages –, as the sector of production – that then allows to reduce the organic composition of capital –. These two effects can be combined to push the profit-rate upwards.

[12) Our own translation from the French : Marx, Le Capital, troisième section Loi de la baisse tendancielle du taux de profit, chapitre X Influences contraires, La Pléiade - Économie II : 1019.

[13) Marx, Capital, Volume III, Part III, The Law of the Tendency of the Rate of Profit to Fall, Chapter 15, Exposition of the Internal Contradictions of the Law.

[14) Marx, Capital, Volume II, Part II, The Turnover of Capital, Chapter 9 : The Aggregate Turnover of Advanced Capital, Cycles of Turnover.

[15) Marx, Capital, Volume III, Part III : The Law of the Tendency of the Rate of Profit to Fall - Chapter 15. Exposition of the Internal Contradictions of the Law - II. Conflict between Expansion of Production and Production of Surplus-Value and III. Excess Capital and Excess Population.

[16) « Crisis and boom blend with all the transitional phases to constitute a cycle or one of the great circles of industrial development. Each cycle lasts from 8 to 9 or 10 to 11 years (...) In January of this year the London Times published a table covering a period of 138 years - from the war of the 13 American colonies for independence to our own day. In this interval there have been 16 cycles, i.e., 16 crises and 16 phases of prosperity. Each cycle covers approximately 8 2/3, almost 9 years » Trotsky, Report on the World crisis and the new tasks of the Communist International : third Congress.

[17) « ...beginning a new cycle to produce new surplus value remains the capitalist’s supreme goal (...) this almost mathematical periodicity of crises is one of the specific traits of the capitalist system of production » Mitchell, Bilan n°1, « Crises et cycles dans le capitalisme agonisant ».

[18) The nine recessions that punctuate the ten cycles are recognizable on graph n°1 by the group of lines that continue vertically over the whole graph : 1949, 1954, 1958, 1960, 1970-71, 1974, 1980-81, 1991, 2001.

[19) Marx 1861-3, Theories of Surplus Value, Chapter XVII Ricardo’s Theory of Accumulation and a Critique of it. (The Very Nature of Capital Leads to Crises) - 12. Contradictions Between Production and Consumption under Conditions of Capitalism. Over-production of the Principal Consumer Goods Becomes General Over-production.

[20) F. Engels, Preface to the English edition of Volume I of Capital (1886).

[21) « The creation of this surplus-value makes up the direct process of production, which, as we have said, has no other limits but those mentioned above. As soon as all the surplus-labour it was possible to squeeze out has been embodied in commodities, surplus-value has been produced. But this production of surplus-value completes but the first act of the capitalist process of production — the direct production process. Capital has absorbed so and so much unpaid labour. With the development of the process, which expresses itself in a drop in the rate of profit, the mass of surplus-value thus produced swells to immense dimensions. Now comes the second act of the process. The entire mass of commodities, i.e. , the total product, including the portion which replaces the constant and variable capital, and that representing surplus-value, must be sold. If this is not done, or done only in part, or only at prices below the prices of production, the labourer has been indeed exploited, but his exploitation is not realised as such for the capitalist, and this can be bound up with a total or partial failure to realise the surplus-value pressed out of him, indeed even with the partial or total loss of the capital » Marx, Capital, Volume III, Part III - The Law of the Tendency of the Rate of Profit to Fall - Chapter 15. Exposition of the Internal Contradictions of the Law - I. General.

[22) Marx 1861-3, Theories of Surplus Value, Chapter XVII Ricardo’s Theory of Accumulation and a Critique of it. (The Very Nature of Capital Leads to Crises) - 14. The Contradiction Between the Impetuous Development of the Productive Powers and the Limitations of Consumption Leads to Over-production. The Theory of the Impossibility of General Over-production Is Essentially Apologetic in Tendency.

[23) Marx, Capital, Volume 3, Chapter 30 : « Money capital and real capital : 1 », p 615. This analysis developed by Marx has of course nothing to do with the underconsumptionist theory of crises that he criticises : « … by saying that the working-class receives too small a portion of its own product and the evil would be remedied as soon as it receives a larger share of it and its wages increase in consequence, one could only remark that crises are always prepared by precisely a period in which wages rise generally and the working-class actually gets a larger share of that part of the annual product which is intended for consumption » Marx, Capital, Volume II, Part III : The Reproduction and Circulation of the Aggregate Social Capital – Chapter 20 : Simple Reproduction - part 1 IV. Exchange within Department II. Necessities of Life and Articles of Luxury.

[24) Marx, Capital, Volume III, Part III - The Law of the Tendency of the Rate of Profit to Fall - Chapter 15. Exposition of the Internal Contradictions of the Law, III. Excess Capital and Excess Population. Marx expressed this idea in numerous other parts, of which this is an example : « Over-production of capital is never anything more than overproduction of means of production … a fall in the intensity of exploitation below a certain point, however, calls forth disturbances, and stoppages in the capitalist production process, crises, and destruction of capital » Marx, Capital, Volume III, Part III - The Law of the Tendency of the Rate of Profit to Fall - Chapter 15. Exposition of the Internal Contradictions of the Law III. Excess Capital and Excess Population.

[25) Each of these factors [a)], [b)] and [c)] have been identified by Marx in the following way : « The conditions of direct exploitation, and those of realising it, are not identical. They diverge not only in place and time, but also logically. The first are only limited by the productive power of society, [c] the latter by the proportional relation of the various branches of production [a] and the consumer power of society. But this last-named is not determined either by the absolute productive power, or by the absolute consumer power, but by the consumer power based on antagonistic conditions of distribution, which reduce the consumption of the bulk of society to a minimum varying within more or less narrow limits. [b] It is furthermore restricted by the tendency to accumulate, the drive to expand capital and produce surplus-value on an extended scale » Marx, Capital, Volume III, Part III - The Law of the Tendency of the Rate of Profit to Fall - Chapter 15. Exposition of the Internal Contradictions of the Law - I. General.

[26) Our own translation from the French « Le Capital, livre III, La Pléiade : 964 ».

[27) « Since the market and production are independent factors, the extension of one does not necessarily correspond to the growth of the other » (ICC’s translation from the French version of Marx’s Grundrisse, La Pléiade, Economie II : 489). Or again : « The conditions of direct exploitation, and those of realising it, are not identical. They diverge not only in place and time, but also logically » Marx, Capital, Volume III, Part III, The Law of the Tendency of the Rate of Profit to Fall, Chapter 15. Exposition of the Internal Contradictions of the Law, I. General.

[28) Such as the long phase of progressive increases in real salaries during the second half of the ascendant phase of capitalism (1870-1914), during the post-war economic boom (1945-82) or their relative and even absolute decrease since then (1982-2009).

[29) Marx, Capital, Volume III, Part III, The Law of the Tendency of the Rate of Profit to Fall, Chapter 15. Exposition of the Internal Contradictions of the Law, I. General. This is not different from what he had already said in the Communist Manifesto : « The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere. … The cheap prices of commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians’ intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production ; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilisation into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image. The bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of the towns » Marx, Manifesto of the Communist Party, Chapter I : Bourgeois and Proletarians.

[30) In the 19th century, when the colonial markets had the most importance, all the non-colonial capitalist powers had a significantly higher growth rate than colonial capitalist powers (71% higher in average). This observation can also be observed in the whole history of capitalism. This can be explained for several reasons that will be studied in an upcoming article. In general, we can say that every good that is sold to an extra-capitalist market leaves the process of accumulation and tends to put a break on its development.

[31) As is shown by the table below, the average annual growth-rates of the world production per inhabitant are weak during the abundance of extra-capitalist markets, and are all the more intense as wage-labour is important (contrary to the idea defended by Rosa Luxembourg). This progression is clearly recognisable after the First World War. It marks the start of international crises dominated by the wage-labour relationship that the post-war economic boom (1945-1982) was more or less able to push into the background for a certain time (cf. infra) : 1500-1700 : 0,04 %, 1700-1820 : 0,07 %, 1820-1870 : 0,54 %, 1870-1900 : 1,24 %, 1900-1913 : 1,47 %, 1913-1940 : 0,94 %, 1950-1980 : 2,57 %, 1980-2003 : 1,60 % (Source : A. Maddison : http://www.ggdc.net/maddison/).

[32) Grundrisse, "The chapter on capital, notebook 7", p 749 in the Penguin edition 1973

[33) For example : (1) Luxembourgist catastrophists of the KAPD (Essen fraction) at the start of the 20th century. (2) Failure of numerous political groups opposing the IIIrd International that predicted the end of capitalism in 1929 on similar bases. (3) Paralysis and dispersion of the Italian Left (Bilan) in 1940 following from its catastrophe theory on the war-economy. (4) Disappearance of the Communist Left of France (Internationalisme) predicting the permanent crisis and the Third World War in 1952 based on the analysis of Rosa Luxembourg. (5) Multiple fissions of the Bordigists resulting from the forecast of a catastrophic crisis in 1975 by Bordiga.

[34) Our own translation from the French « Le capital aujourd’hui, publié par Maximilien Rubel dans Études de marxologie, n°11, juin 1967 ».

[35) Marx, Theories of surplus value.

[36) Paul Mattick, Intégration capitaliste et rupture ouvrière, EDI, p151, our own translation. Or : « Wages and profits can increase if productivity increases sufficiently … » Maximilien Rubel, Le capital aujourd’hui, in Études de marxologie, n˚11, june 1967, our own translation.

[37) Source : A. Parienty, Productivité, croissance, emploi, collection CIRCA, A. Colin 2005, p.94.

[38) Within the developed countries, the wage-share today generally represents 60 to 65% of the final demand, while at the start of the 1980s it represented 70 to 75%.

[39) « The salary itself is integrated into the State. Its establishment, according to its capitalist value, has been assigned to organisms of the state » Internationalisme n°46 (May 1952), extract from the article entitled “L’évolution du capitalisme et la nouvelle perspective”. Our own translation.

[40) The colonies and especially the third world in general remain the regions of geostrategic interests, suppliers of certain primary resources and exotic products. However, during the post-war economic boom the colonies and the third world lose relatively commercial importance : from third world to develop countries (since the end of the thirty years), and from develop countries to the third world since the beginning of the fifty years.

[41) Evidently, a crisis of profitability inevitably results in a rampant state of over-production of capitals as well as commodities. However, these phenomena of overproduction were subsequent and were the target of containment policies, as well by the public instances (production quotas, restructuration, etc.) as by the private instances (fusions, rationalization, take-overs, etc.).

[42) During the 1970s, the working class suffered from the crisis essentially through a decline in working conditions, restructuring and redundancies, and hence in a spectacular increase in unemployment. However, unlike the crisis of 1929 this unemployment did not lead to a spiral of recession thanks to the use of Keynesian social shock-absorbers : unemployment benefit, retraining measures, planned lay-offs, etc.

[43) For Marx, the productivity of labour is the real key to capitalism’s evolution, since it is nothing other than the inverse of value, in other words of the average socially necessary labour time for the production of commodities.

[44) Source of the graph : M. Husson, http://hussonet.free.fr/parvainp.pdf. Please notice the stability of the wage-share during the post-war economic boom and its rise resulting from the continuation of the indexation of salaries – while the productivity of labour brutally slows down – in a context of returned class struggles since the end of the 1960s and during the whole of the 1970s.

[45) The graph n°4 shows us that the growth-rate and the accumulation-rate fluctuate between 2 and 3% since 1982, while they were fluctuating around a value two times higher during the post-war economic boom (between 4% and 6%) and even more for some big countries such as Japan and Germany.

[46) Hence the ‘scandalous’ paradox of companies that lay off workers, rationalize and restructure, although these companies make colossal profits.

[47) Indeed, the weak gains of productivity, the deregulation of the Keynesian-Fordist mechanisms and the mentality of every man for himself, make this recovery of the final demand socio-economically and politically impossible today. Contrary to the post-war economic boom where the increases in productivity allowed to combine – in the framework of a constraining state capitalism – the parallel increase of the final demand and the profits (cf. supra).

[48) Source of the graph : M. Husson, http://hussonet.free.fr/parvainp.pdf

[49) Source : M. Husson, Les enjeux de la crise, http://hussonet.free.fr/brechcriw.pdf.

[50) Our own translaton from the French Karl Marx, La crise commerciale en Angleterre, New York Times, 15 décembre 1857.

[51) Our own translation from the French « Karl Marx et F. Engels, Crise prospérité et révolution, Revue mai-octobre 1850, cité dans La crise, édition 10/18 : 94 ».