After more than three years of economic crisis, the great mass of the working class has lost confidence in not only the economic viability of capitalism, but also its moral legitimacy. The events of September 2008 and their aftermath are shaping the consciousness of people all over the world as profoundly as the Great Depression affected those who came of age in the late 1920s and 1930s.
The political leaders who rule in the interests of the financial and corporate elite have nothing to offer the people in the way of positive solutions. They cannot offer even a semblance of hope that tomorrow will be better than yesterday. The prevailing sense of despair found expression in the New Year’s Eve remarks of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who warned that for Europe, 2012 will “no doubt be more difficult than 2011,” and that the continent faces its “harshest test in decades.”
Economists are forecasting recession for Europe. The survival of the euro, established by the Maastricht Treaty signed 20 years ago, is in doubt. In Asia, including China, manufacturing is contracting sharply, the consequence of collapsing exports.
In the United States, the center of the massive speculation that set off the crisis, the official proclamations of a “recovery” are belied by record poverty and long-term unemployment. During the past year, the working class’ share of the national income fell to its lowest level since records of this statistic began to be kept.