"Communism is in reality nothing but the antithesis of a particular ideology that is both thoroughly harmful and corrosive. Thank God for the fact that Communism springs from a clean and clear ideal, which preserves its idealistic purpose even though, as an antidote, it is inclined to be somewhat harsh. To hell with its practical import: but may God at least preserve it for us as a never-ending menace to those people who own big estates and who, in order to hang on to them, are prepared to despatch humanity into battle, to abandon it to starvation for the sake of patriotic honor. May God preserve Communism so that the evil brood of its enemies may be prevented from becoming more barefaced still, so that the gang of profiteers…shall have their sleep disturbed by at least a few pangs of anxiety. If they must preach morality to their victims and amuse themselves with their suffering, at least let some of their pleasure be spoilt!" Karl Kraus in Die Fackel [The Torch], Vienna, November 1920. Cited in J.P. Nettl, Rosa Luxemburg, Credo, opposite p. 1, vol. 1, Oxford University Press, London, 1966.

The Financial Crisis: A Marxist's Response

January 10, 2009

We know what a capitalist dictatorship does when its banks lose in the international financial casino: It writes IOU's against the wages of future generations of workers and throws the cash it gets for them at the banks.

Since total capitalist dictatorships also totally destroy communist parties the way Terminix destroys termites, if you live in one you never get to hear the other side.

But there is a leak in this totalitarian blackout.

It so happens that, in 1990, West Germany annexed communist East Germany and, probably due to believing its own propaganda that the East Germans were all enslaved believers in the capitalist workers paradise waiting to be freed, it inadvertently got some very committed communists in the bargain. Most of them constituted themselves in a political party initially called the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) which, in 2008, merged with some like-minded people in the west and in the process renamed themselves Die Linke [The Left].

Die Linke is a true opposition party to the German capitalist parties which invariably get to form the government. It is this opposition which differentiates a weak capitalist dictatorship from a strong one like the US whose government is composed of two capitalist parties which, on matters in which capitalists take an interest, is equivalent to a capitalist dictatorship.

Sahra Wagenknecht is a leading member of this German opposition party, and a member of the European Parliament as well, and she writes and speaks frequently on economic subjects. On January 9, 2009 she issued her commentary on the German government's bail-out of a large German bank, Commerzbank, a translation of which is appended to this introduction.

[Note: The reference to the SPD is to the Socialist Party of Germany, a party which, despite its name, resembles the US Democratic Party, whose leader, since October 2008, is Franz Muentefering.]

The Entire Banking System Belongs Under Public Control

Sahra Wagenknecht, a member of the party's Board of Directors and a member of the European Parliament, issued the following statement in regard to the partial nationalization of the Commerzbank.

January 9, 2009


Sahra Wagenknecht, Member of the European Parliament

he partial nationalization of individual banks is insufficient to bring the financial crisis under control and to avoid the credit crunch that threatens to drive more and more companies into insolvency. The entire financial system must be nationalized and the commercial policies of the banks must be democratically controlled. That is the only way to ensure that their credit policies are directed toward the common good and that their capital is channeled into sensible investment projects instead of being gambled in the constant search for ever higher returns in the global financial markets.

The government is not in the least interested in an effective democratic control of the banks. As SPD boss Muentefering said, the government does not want to influence the business practices of Commerzbank. In addition, the government wants to divest itself of its investment in Commerzbank as quickly as possible. The government's current financial participation in the Commerzbank is merely for the purpose of unloading its enormous speculative losses onto the public and to subsidize its takeover of the Dresdner Bank with public funds. The result is that tax money is being used to finance the destruction of jobs through mergers and to promote the further concentration of economic power.

The current crisis management is a direct continuation of the neoliberal policies of the past years which are responsible for the economic catastrophe toward which we are now headed. The alternatives to this are obvious: Instead of socializing the speculative losses of the banks, the profiteers of this financial casino must be brought to account. A millionaires tax of a mere 5% of private wealth in excess of one million euros would bring 80 billion euros into the public treasury. If, in addition, one were to tax financial transactions and to increase the tax on inheritance and higher incomes, there would be enough money to significantly increase social security, child support, and unemployment insurance, to end the chronically underfinanced education and health care sectors, to overcome the investment bottleneck in public infrastructure, and to stabilize the domestic market and to actively work against the crisis by a massive increase in the public's purchasing power.

Translation: Otto Hinckelmann, January 10, 2009