It seems that the crisis is over. At least that’s what the bourgeoisie and its media are telling us. Economic growth is charting an unlimited upward course and unemployment is about to be completely done away with. The ruling class, in short, has overcome the contradictions of its system and put an end to 30 years of crisis.
This happy outcome, we are told, is all down to a totally new phenomenon: the "new economy". The technology of the Internet and its generalised use by enterprises and individuals are creating a "technological revolution" comparable in scope to the industrial revolution of the 18th century. The explosion of the Net and all that goes with it (in particular the extremely rapid circulation of information and money around the world) is playing a similar role to that played by the railways in the 19th century; it can even be compared to the invention of the steam engine. As a result, the proletariat should rejoice and have confidence in the bright future that capitalism offers us.
Of course, all this is a vast lie. The bourgeoisie can talk to itself all it likes about how the Internet is a technical breakthrough on the level of the railways, but it won’t do away with the crisis. This is for the simple reason that it can in no way remove the real cause of the crisis: the overproduction of commodities and the growing difficulty in finding adequate outlets for them. The railways were only the source of a leap forward in the expansion of capitalism to the extent that they were one of the main instruments for the conquest of new markets in a period when the capitalist mode of production had not yet invaded the entire planet. Today capital has been a world system for a very long time and the markets are glutted, ie it is harder and harder to realise the surplus value extorted from wage labour.
For the last 30 years the open crisis has been wiping out whole swathes of what the bourgeoisie calls "the real economy", notably in the manufacturing industries, and has cast millions of workers onto the streets all over the world. This crisis can’t be explained by talking about some technological deficit. On the contrary it is the result of the fact that there is too much technology, too many commodities, too many productive forces for the relationuctive forces for the relations of capitalist production which have become too narrow to contain them.
A speculative bubble which is just one more expression of the crisis
To see through the fraud of the "new economy", you only have to look at the totally irrational flight into speculation that it has given rise to. Over the last two or three years, the explosion of new stock market shares specialising in "dot.com" projects, like those in NASDAQ in New York, has been presented as the proof that the "new economy" is about to replace the old. In fact, all this is just another addition to the huge speculative bubble which has nothing to do with real economic activity, and whose very existence is a classic expression of the crisis. The delirious stock exchange investment in dot.com enterprises of the last period is now already resulting in huge losses, which shows that all the talk about the new economy is just hot air. The fact that huge masses of finance capital are leaving the "old" economy, ie the one that actually produces means of production and consumption, and are flying towards companies that produce nothing and which exist for the sole purpose of speculation, is a striking confirmation of the impasse that capitaliion of the impasse that capitalism has reached. The billions of dollars invested in this sector represent no real social wealth and are artificially inflated; they also regularly go up in smoke, through "mini-crashes" of the kind we saw in the spring, when doubts begin to lay hold of the "new" investors.
All the different phenomena of the speculative bubble are simply expressions of the crisis, of the difficulty capitalists face in finding profitable investment opportunities in the sphere of production. The capital that is invested in all the dot.com enterprises is not really creating a "new economy" in the sense of a new process of capital accumulation with an enlarged production of commodities and with new markets to absorb them. All this investment is totally unproductive and seeks only to cream off surplus value that has already been created.
Behind the "new economy", new attacks on the working class
Certainly the Internet helps to circulate capital very quickly; certainly, for many enterprises taken in isolation, it can lead to a gain in productivity at the level of administration and distribution. But what it brings at this level is not very different from the el is not very different from the computerisation of enterprises in the 1980s, which resulted in thousands of lay-offs.
In this sense, the Internet is just a weapon in the intensification of the trade war in which each capital is caught up in a frenzied race, not to be first to grab new markets but to get its claws on its rivals’ markets. It’s as instruments of commerce, especially in the area of advertising and marketing, that the "new technologies" are making the bourgeoisie’s saliva flow. In the bitter trade war between the different capitals, he who is quickest to take control of the virtual shop-windows of the Web is he who has the best chance of eliminating his competitors.
In decadent capitalism technological progress only serves to aggravate overproduction and make the system’s contradictions even more explosive. This has been recognised by the bourgeoisie itself through the mouth of the boss of Cisco, a company that produces Internet equipment: he was boasting in the press of having suppressed 3000 jobs and said that companies that didn’t follow suit were bound to disappear.
The myth of the "new economy" is not only fuelled by the bourgeoisie’s need to by the bourgeoisie’s need to reassure itself about the good health of its system. It is also part of a discourse directed at the working class. What the bourgeoisie wants us to believe is that the price we have to pay for the "new economy" is the generalisation of flexibility, increasingly precarious conditions of employment, and lower and lower wages. In other words, in order to enter the promised land of prosperity, the working class will have to accept a profound deterioration in its living and working conditions. Above all it must give up fighting on its own class terrain, it must admit that there is no point trying to resist the logic of capitalist exploitation, because all that is just a rear-guard struggle that belongs to the obsolete world of the "old economy". And all this is accompanied by an insidious, permanent propaganda about the so-called "disappearance of the working class". With nauseating cheek the bourgeoisie even uses images of Marx and Lenin to concoct adverts extolling the glories of the "Internet revolution" - a revolution in which it’s no longer labour that produces wealth, but a stock-market casino that is accessible to all in a world without workers…
No! If anything is obsolete today, it’s certainly not labour: it’s capital, tnot labour: it’s capital, this capitalist system in utter decomposition, which is subjecting the whole of humanity to more and more poverty and barbarism. The future belongs to labour, which is the only producer of wealth and material goods. The future belongs to the class which works and whose struggle is the only force that can lead to the definitive overthrow of the domination of capital.