“When we talk about a financial crisis, it’s really only a symptom. . . . Financial adventurism is essentially what we have been witnessing for the last thirty or forty years, exploding from time to time in the form of financial crisis. It’s really adventurist, speculative capital which has to find in some way a solution to itself. And why is that? That is the question. It is basically because of overproduced productive capital. Productive capital investment is in profound crisis. That’s why so much is diverted into the channels of the speculative, and adventurist-speculative, type of transactions. Now, the other crisis . . . is a political crisis.”
“It is roughly around ’68 when we can begin to mark what is really the structural crisis, not of capitalism but of the capital system in its entirety. The capital system is much more fundamental than capitalism. . . . What we are therefore concerned with is a crisis which can only deepen. Now, don’t misunderstand me when I say we don’t have a usual capitalist crisis, because capitalism and crisis are synonymous. Marx said that many times. But he was talking about a very different crisis. He was talking about conjunctural, cyclic crises. Capitalism regularly has crises. Marx even used the expression: these crises discharge themselves in a thunderstorm. Then you are back to normal, so to speak. A lot of surplus capital is destroyed, and you can start the game all over again, until again you reach a point of overaccumulation, then, a new discharge becomes necessary. That’s what we have been living through. Now, our great privilege, if you like, is that we have both. We have both the cyclic, conjunctural crisis and this profound and ever-deepening structural crisis of the whole system, the whole capital system, because the Soviet Union was part of the capital system.”
István Mészáros is author of Socialism or Barbarism: From the “American Century” to the Crossroads (Monthly Review Press, 2001) and Beyond Capital: Toward a Theory of Transition (Monthly Review Press, 1995). This is the talk Mészáros gave at “The Credit Crunch, Food Riots and the New Capitalist Crisis” panel at the “1968 and All That” conference held on 10 May 2008 at Conway Hall, London. Video by Ady Cousins. The text above is a partial transcript of Mészáros’ talk.