Stiglitz, an Ideologist of Capitalism

Translated "Avante!" article by Albano Nunes, Member of the Secretariat of the CC, Portuguese CP.

Capitalism has assumed different forms of existence in time and space. Its ideologists have never spoken with one voice. 

And if there exist times of great unanimity and “unique thought,” [Editor: the notion that there is no alternative to neoliberalism]  as happened during the years of the triumphal celebration of socialism’s tragic defeats, there are also other times in which capitalist crisis and the class struggle breed real disagreements in the dominant class, namely between the two great historical currents which support it, the “liberal/conservative” and the “social-democrat/Keynesian.”

The current situation is an international context of instability and uncertainty, the perspective of a long period of economic recession, and the possibility of a new and more destructive crash.

Many are now alerted to the domination of financial and speculative big capital, the violent “austerity” policies pursued by the IMF and the EU, the spiral of debt manipulation to strangle development and provoke the impoverishment of sovereign countries, mass unemployment and the lack of measures to fight it, and deepening inequalities. The latter contradicts the goal of economic recovery, for it carries within itself inevitable explosions of social discontent together with the questioning of the foundations of the capitalist order.

This is what makes well-known economists and publicists run. They criticize  “ultra-liberal” policies. They denounce the “lack of transparency” and the “excesses” of financial speculation. They regret the absence of  “social conscience” in the dominant policies. They insist on the need for the banking system’s greater “regulation.” They foresee a “European government” and even a “world government,” which might mitigate the crises bursting out (as if these were not inherent in the capitalist exploitation system itself).

Meanwhile, they analyze the situation’s roots, but with little concern for such dangerous phenomena as disturbance of the national sovereignties, the development of xenophobic and fascist nationalism, or the increased war danger.

This is about Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize-winning economist and the ideologist in question, on his recent visit to Portugal.

He is well-known for his critical positions on many aspects of neo-liberal policies. Many of his statements and positions --  coming from someone inside the system itself -- a World Bank vice-president and chief economist, adviser to US presidents and UN commissions, spokesman on the IMF or on climate change -- have helped to dismantle falsehoods and help fight the most reactionary policies.

And during his visit to Portugal, one heard from him expressions of concern and accurate criticisms, namely on the urgent need for policies directed to economic growth. One readily agrees.

But one also heard from him statements whitewashing the  government’s disastrous policies and even support for the  monstrous agreement, prepared by the government, employers and the UGT [the social democratic trade union federation in Portugal] , at the very moment it was being designed.

Coming from one of the ideological system’s biggest leaders, such a position is not surprising, but its danger must be highlighted.

At a peak of the offensive of capital, Stiglitz takes its side, against the Portuguese workers and people.

He could have avoided an attitude of open interference in our country’s internal life. He chose otherwise.

On a central issue amid sharp class struggle under way in our country, and at a particularly delicate moment of that struggle, Stiglitz, frequently presented as a “neo-Keynesian,” placed himself, expressly, on the other side of the barricade.

Here’s the factual record and the moral of the story. Don’t shrink from it. Social democracy, whatever the version, seeks to save the system, never to fight it, and much less to overcome it.

February 2, 2012

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