The first step in curing a patient is to make an estimate as to what is wrong. The second step is to attempt a cure based on that estimate. In politics, as in war or medicine, if the estimate of the situation is wrong, the attempted cure will be wrong and the cause will be lost. How is this played out in the political aspects of the economic crisis today?

Too often, political groups first take a position and then carefully select a mass of statistics to uphold that position. The people have purposefully been overwhelmed by statistics that lead to confusion, rather than clarity, concerning the economy. Statistics by themselves mean nothing. To understand a phenomenon it is necessary to see it as a moment in a process - to see it as part of the entire connected stages of development. This is true whether it applies to raising a child, fighting a war, or managing an economy.

No one doubts that the economy is in crisis. What is crisis? It is a condition of instability leading to a decisive change. Crisis marks the end of one stage of development and the beginning of another.

The ongoing economic crisis should put an end to the idea that the momentary triumph of capitalism is the end of history. The idea that this system is the permanent pinnacle of human economic achievement has became the estimate and foundation of any attempt by the ruling class to deal with the crisis. This leads to the conclusion that the basis of the crisis must be subjective and internal to the system itself. Therefore, in their estimate, the resolution of the crisis takes us back to conditions that existed before the crisis began. This is the logic behind the nonsense that the economic crisis (which is concrete and real) was caused by "greed."

What then is the cause of the instability and what will be the decisive change?

An economy is the totality of production, circulation, and consumption of goods and services. An economy rests on the instruments of production. An ox and a wooden plough will give you one economy, a steam engine will give you another, robotics will give you still another. The means of production are constantly evolving while the economy remains relatively stable. Each quantitative advance in the means of production tears at the unity of the economy and its tools. This creates a minor crisis and adjustments in the economy overcome the problem. The quantitative changes in the means of production ultimately set the stage for a qualitative change. This, in turn, creates a crisis in the economy that cannot be overcome by internal adjustments. At this point the process of destruction of the economy and its reconstruction on a new foundation begins.

This process began during the middle 1970's with the introduction of labor-replacing machinery. A new term, structural unemployment, entered the economic dictionary. Wages froze as products made by robots or with very little human labor pushed commodities made by human labor out of the market. Wage-less production introduced an unknown world-wide polarization of wealth and poverty. To avoid the looming catastrophe the market had to rapidly expand. Globalization of the economy, privatization, transforming the neo-colonial world from exporting economies into consuming economies, the destruction of the Socialist bloc, and the dragging of the most economically backward areas of the world into the global economy were not enough. The steadily declining market necessitated replacing productive capitalism with financial capitalism. Money, instead of labor, became the source of profit. Financial bubbles of all sorts, graft, military adventures, Ponzi schemes, and outright robbery of the public treasury flourished in the dung heap of a dying financial capitalism. Now the crisis is entering its next stage, the deepening collapse of the manufacturing sector.

It is becoming clear that this is not a crisis within the system, but a crisis of the system itself. The stage is set for the introduction of new ideas.

Our task is clear. This moment demands an organization of propagandists to complete the process begun by the robots. Now more than ever, the future is up to us.

This Building Block article is one of a series which explains a basic concept of the revolutionary process, challenging readers to explore its meaning for political work in today's environment.

This article originated in Rally, Comrades!
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Economic Crisis:
Instability leading to decisive change