"Long Depression" - Interview with Karl-Heinz Roth on the world crisis

Karl-Heinz Roth, born. 1942, a physician and historian, a longtime activist of the left and one of the leading theoreticians of the "autonomous movement" in Germany. At the present time - Chairman of the Board of Directors of Social History 20 th century. In July 2009, in Hamburg VSA published the first volume of his book "Global Crisis". Currently preparing a second volume.

In 1999, CRAS-IWA translated and published in Russian by K. H. Roth "New class relations and prospects of the left" (postscript to the discussion on "Return of the proletariat").Currently, K-H.Rot and other members of the Fund's social history are participating in a joint project on the social history with a number of activists CRAS

Q: Angela Merkel said that "2010 will decide how we will emerge from this crisis." In his New Year address the chancellor assured that Germany would not only cope with the crisis but also come out of it, increased. Where are we now? Achieved if the bottom of the crisis? Or we may, again went up?

A: We are in the second phase of the crisis.The crisis began at the turn of 2006-2007. dramatic manifestations. In the spring of 2008 in some parts of the world system there has been recovery, while others - the deepening crisis. For the second phase of the crisis is precisely characterized by such inconsistency. The situation is not so that the most inferior point everywhere overcome or averted. In some areas this is so, in others - no. In the EU there is now a transfer of the crisis in the region of the state budget, it reflects the global trend.In my assessment, we should expect many years of crisis process, which goes into a long depression. The latter can take from 10 to 15 years or even longer.

Q: Does this mean that before the crisis many people are beginning to come only now?

A: That is exactly what happens. First, with the help of the rescue package was able to stabilize the global financial system and capital markets. This was followed by huge tactical programs, which, however, slowed the spread of the crisis on the economy as a whole, but not prevent it.Implications of the crisis on the economy as a whole is only now being felt: a continuing rise in mass unemployment, at least in the center of the world system and the periphery. In certain threshold countries, especially in China and Brazil, it is true, anyway. In the U.S., the official unemployment rate of about 10% - in fact it reaches 16-17%. In the euro area, the situation is similar. "Lower classes" are beginning to really feel the crisis process only in the second phase of the crisis. In the first phase in many respects they were still spectators.

Q: What should look for the causes of the crisis? Only in the "greed" of some banking investors and the absence of rules on financial markets - or a crisis has structural causes?

A: Of course, the crisis has surface phenomena, which is confused with its causes.Clearly, this global crisis was triggered by speculation in the mortgage and real estate in the U.S. and Western Europe, which led to the financial crisis. But it is equally clear, however, that the heavy structural problems in major industry sectors - especially in the automobile - have existed since the middle of the decade.There are other factors that have merged into a smoldering world conflagration. But in fact it comes quite classical crisis of overaccumulation, which faces a respective broad underconsumption income of the population.

Q: Is the current crisis can only delayed the crisis 70 years, when production of consumer goods had run into its limits, and capital began to look for other opportunities to invest, for example, in the financial markets?

Answer: The current crisis process, of course, has structural causes, which can be explained in the previous cycle, 1960, 1970 and 1980.They are just as deregulation of industrial relations and income. New mass needs of the 70's were converted into precarious labor relations. This led to a vast mass of falling revenues. Simultaneously, this process is facing a new international division of labor, which opened up entirely new areas of accumulation of capital: in the heart of the processes of deindustrialization, associated with the processes of industrialization on the periphery.This global imbalance has increased in the current crisis. Returning to the original question, whether Germany will be released from the crisis, efforts - is very, very unlikely. If, after a long depression to light those who benefit from the crisis, it will be, above all, the threshold of the country. China, India and Brazil have much to catch up and rerouted the process of crisis centers in the world system of accumulation.There will be an obvious regrouping, which will be accompanied by a long depression.

Q: So, the economic model of Germany, with its export orientation, in principle, "is dismissed in stock?

A: In this I am quite sure. It is no longer possible to continue the old strategy of Rhenish capitalism and promote innovation in high technology with a concentration in the export sector. This model is finished, since the development of high technology happened around the world.

Q: How will the next phase of the crisis?

A: It will result in more or less obvious state of bankruptcy; major economies mired in debt traps.Debt pit Greece has become a subject of discussion. But they forget that the United States, Britain and Japan, compared to Greece, owed nothing less. At this point, the ruling regimes will have to start boosted apply some strategy to reduce costs, restrictions on mass consumption by means of direct and indirect taxes and social dismantling. This will be a new process of crisis that will lead to an entirely new kind of confrontation, far beyond the scope of conflict in individual enterprises and firms.

Q: What role did the global lower classes in the occurrence and during the crisis?

Answer: They are, of course, took part in the development of the crisis.Global compensated for the lower classes of consumer restrictions imposed postfordizmom and deregulation of labor relations, getting into more and more debt. The process of living in a loan is stopped, this type of compensation for lost.Now the lower classes all over the world are entering a new phase of unemployment, including, and technology driven. After all, large firms are beginning to use the crisis to a massive increase in productivity. This means that structural unemployment will be particularly grow just during the crisis. Hence, in subsequent years will develop a process of polarization, which will further accelerate efforts to reduce public debt. The case comes to a confrontation on a global scale, which breaks out of the fact that the lower classes have a half years ago, was taken away the possibility of compensation in the form of life in debt, thanks to cheap credit.

Q: In one part of his new book, you compare the current crisis with previous ones.What distinguishes the crisis today from the world economic crisis in 1929?

A: In all, naturally, parallels, the key difference lies in the massiveness of the countermeasures taken by regulatory systems. In other words, in operations to rescue the financial system and counter-cyclical short-term programs, which were immediately launched.But above all - and in a completely different structure of countermeasures from the largest central banks. Crisis managers had learned from the global crisis of the twentieth century, and thus from the very beginning completely changed the nature of the current crisis. Disintegration of the world economy into rival blocs have not yet happened. Opposing trends were evident, for example, in the development of group G20. However, developments over the last 2 - 3 months, puts these trends under some question. We are beginning to emerge and the desire for a multipolar education units and a new arms race in power blocs, and it inspires rather large concern.

Q: In the late 20-ies of political capital on the crisis did not amassed the labor movement, and, above all, authoritarian regimes and fascist movements.Threaten to whether similar processes today?

A: At the moment, of course not. Such processes are not observed, and this is also an interesting phenomenon. Of course, in the world there are regions where neo-fascism and authoritarian solutions play a major role.But the power blocs in the world at present is still so coordinated, that such excesses, which held, for example, Japan, Fascist Italy and, finally, the Nazi Germany in 1933-1934,. with their isolated sverhvooruzheniem and radicalized policies of expansion, are not expected. But above all, there is no comparable process in the world's lower classes. But it now requires a more precise differentiation: in Eastern Europe, it looks, of course, different. There is a very authoritarian development in such regimes, such as in China, but they can not be compared with development in the 20's and 30's.I think that the situation today is more open, since the global system is more global, and, above all, because the lower classes act more globally, and see themselves as more globally. Here, international labor migration in decades played a very productive role. In lower grades there is a cosmopolitan understanding, which is not formulated so pompous, but it is an everyday reality. And it is hope, with all opposing trends.In the centers of poverty on the periphery of the matter is, of course, terrible, terrible, and there are archaic regression, for example, in the Middle East. But they currently are not dominant, and they do not dictate the situation in the world. That is why I, with all the consciousness of problems in connection with the depth of future conflicts over income of the masses, still feel cautious optimism. Because I believe that global awareness of the crisis and a kind of global solidarity are the material basis in international work with migrants and in the international understanding of the New Left, which is encouraging.

Q: Open the situation open for social progress.Nevertheless, left paralyzed on the situation. Is the crisis did not open the chance for the Left?

Answer: I must admit that I expected more. In the summer of 2008 I put aside all the current work, because, like many other intellectuals and leftists, found that the global crisis due to its open nature opens up new opportunities. I am actively involved in the work and trying to contribute.But I must admit that the resonance of those processes, which I expected, was not. At least until now. There are major new developments at the local level, in international relations. Among the New Left are international debate. But the left is not in a position to really dominate in the ongoing process and take a position of hegemony. Unable to formulate a perspective from the standpoint of the radical left, which would be felt in the world.

Q: Does the position you are formulated by Christina Kayndl and Florian Becker in the magazine № 36 «Lotta»: «If we can not make a valid alternative in the ongoing process of socialization of the hardships of the crisis and with structural reforms to introduce a different method of regulation on the other side of a reformed neo-liberal finance capitalism , then the crisis will not lead to the strengthening of the Left, and shift the balance of forces is not in their favor?

Answer: Yes, that's the point that we should think.I think that we are in a critical situation. The situation, fortunately, is not as sharp as I initially thought.But it is clear that if the process of the crisis will go forward to begin the dismantling of social programs, and the left, liberation will not be able to formulate answers and not be able to start the process of self-organization in the local and global context, the situation could become very problematic. Because then we get the phenomenon of mass failure, which can lead to an authoritarian responses. This is very noticeable, especially in relation to the situation in Germany. Introduction and extension of the decline in employment still prevented the process of mass proletarianization.Once the central working class large industrial production has not yet experienced a rapid fall down. The process is alleviated by shifting back to those who are even lower. But someday this will come to an end. And if time comes mass poverty, if mass unemployment is a significant phenomenon of social development - then the situation will become critical.

Published in the journal «Lotta. Antifaschistische Zeitung aus NRW », 2010, № 38.

Translation: VG


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