In 1848 The Communist Manifesto opened with the line, "A spectre is haunting Europe - the spectre of communism. " The spectre of Marx haunts world capitalism still.
Let's be clear about this. We seem to be entering into a completely new era of capitalist development. Everything is changing. Everything is under challenge. All the things we took for granted have gone. The dominant ideology of the past thirty years - call it neoliberalism, call it market fundamentalism, call it capitalist triumphalism - is completely discredited. The state rushed in to prop up the capitalist system.
Everyone now knows that the 'masters of the universe' who were making things happen in financial markets were incompetent, were crooks or both. Everyone now knows what the market system delivers - it delivers unemployment, it delivers chaos. It has failed. This is causing a profound questioning among millions of workers.
The years of steadily rising living standards, of relatively full employment have gone, never to return. This year, and for years to come, workers look with trepidation at their future. Will they have a job? Will they still have a roof over their heads?
Who predicted this? Only one man. Only Karl Marx. Life teaches, and today people are being forced to learn very quickly. With this comes a desire to really understand how this system works. What better authority to turn to than Karl Marx himself, who long ago explained the mechanism that lead to crises like the present one we are living through.
"It is enough to mention the commercial crises that by their periodical return put the existence of the entire bourgeois society on its trial, each time more threateningly. In these crises, a great part not only of the existing products, but also of the previously created productive forces, are periodically destroyed. In these crises, there breaks out an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity - the epidemic of over-production. Society suddenly finds itself put back into a state of momentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation, had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence; industry and commerce seem to be destroyed; and why? Because there is too much civilisation, too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce."
Workers will draw the lessons from this catastrophe. Marx didn't write the Manifesto just to show he was right. He wrote it to urge the need to end capitalism and bring in a higher order of society - socialism. The Manifesto ended with the rousing cry. "The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Working men of all countries unite!" That is still our task.