Looking for Marxist Analysis of the Great Depression

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georgestapleton's picture
georgestapleton
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Apr 30 2010 15:44
Looking for Marxist Analysis of the Great Depression

Hi

I'm looking for Marxist analyses of the great depression. Surprisingly I've been able to find almost none.

Really anything here will be useful. Even if it's only a few paragraphs in a book. Either contemporary comentary or after the fact analysis would be interesting.

Thanks for helping if you can.

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Apr 30 2010 16:23

I would recommend beginning a discussion about this by looking at the main contemporary attempts to explain the depression in the light of Marx's theory of the inescapable contradictions of capitalist accumulation. I would of course argue that the most important of these efforts were the work of the left communist fractions, in particular Mattick for the council communists (based in particular on the theories of Henryk Grossman), and Mitchell for the Italian/Belgian left, who had fairly recently discovered Rosa's theory of crisis. Fritz Sternberg, despite having an incomplete grasp of Luxemburg's theories, is worth reading for his attempt to relate a version of marxist crisis theory to the empirical evidence of the time. This isn't an exhaustive list of course.
Mattick's The permanent crisis is in the libcom library. Mitchell's two articles on 'Crises and cycles in dying capitalism' were published in our International Review 102 and 103, but I am sorry that they have not yet been put online - we will try to rectify that. For Sternberg you could look at Capitalism and Socialism on Trial

dave c
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Apr 30 2010 21:36

Here is something from Mattick's book Economics, Politics, and the Age of Inflation: http://www.marxists.org/archive/mattick-paul/1977/inflation/ch06.htm.
Chris Harman has also written on the topic, in Explaining the Crisis, chapter 2 "The Crisis Last Time," and in Zombie Capitalism, chapter 6, "The Great Slump," both with references to older Marxist works, like that of Lewis Corey (http://www.marxists.org/archive/corey/1934/decline/index.html), which I have not read.

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oisleep
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Apr 30 2010 21:42

is zombie capitalism any good/worth reading?

dave c
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Apr 30 2010 22:01

Well, I was hoping that it would have more of a current focus, but actually it talks a lot about Marxist theory in general, and tries to cover a lot of economic history. That said, the theory is quite good, I think, and the writing is easy to digest. Here is a book review that goes into a bit more detail: http://www.isj.org.uk/?id=584.

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oisleep
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Apr 30 2010 22:03

cheers

kliman never misses a chance to slip in the temporal single system interpretation!

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May 1 2010 10:34

That's great Dave C. Thank's I'll look those up.

And thank's Alf I'lll read that Mattick article and the Mitchell articles if and when they are online. The Sternberg book is £50 on amazon though so i might give that one a miss.

Any other idea or help would be appreciated.

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May 1 2010 20:23

Mattick's "The Permanent Crisis" is a general theoretical text on Marxist crisis theory, not specifically about the Great Depression. The chapter from a book of Mattick's that dave c. linked to is better for an analysis of the Great Depression itself.

ernie
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May 2 2010 11:52

georgestapleton

Try www.bookfinder.com you should find it a lot cheaper there.

ernie
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May 2 2010 11:56

Lewis Corey's The Decline of American Capitalism is a very interesting marxist analysis of the causes of 1929, well worth the read. This books provides stimulating analysis of the developments of capitalism in the 1920's particularly in the US during the 20's which puncture the idea of this decade being some form of return to pre-war conditions. One may not agree with everything he says but there is much of real value in it.

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Alf
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May 2 2010 12:24

Waslax is right about the Mattick text, but it is still significant that it was written a few years into the Depression, so it was part of the left communists' attempt to understand the historic significance of the world economic crisis; Pannekoek's text on the theory of capitalist collapse (on marxists.org) was certainly part of that same debate.

From a brief look at the Anarchist Black Cat website, there seems to be a discussion among the platformists about the whole business of capitalist decay. It would interesting to hear more about that.

The link below is to the first of the series on decadence we are producing. It's an overview of the period as a whole, but the crisis of the 30s clearly plays a part, as we argue that it was not just a repetition of the cyclical crises of the pervious century.

http://en.internationalism.org/ir/2008/132/decadence_of_capitalism

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May 2 2010 18:56

http://en.internationalism.org/wr/312/bilan-british-imperialism

http://en.internationalism.org/wr/312/bilan-british-imperialism

two articles from Bilan about the British economy - provides historical background to the way the crisis hit Britain in the 30s, much of it still relevant to the specificities of British capital today

Spassmaschine
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May 2 2010 22:43

I assume the second Bilan article is this one? http://en.internationalism.org/wr/313/bilan-british-imperialism

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May 3 2010 04:33

oops....yes, i was never good on statistics