2022 was a year of extraordinary instability even for capitalism. Richard D. Wolff shares his thoughts in a letter to the d@w audience.
2022 was a year of extraordinary instability even for capitalism.
The US and Europe undertook further economic warfare against China and even military warfare against Russia after its invasion of Ukraine. The US & European economy was in recession at the beginning of 2022 and now, I expect a return of recession in 2023.
Inflation suddenly roared across the US, Europe, and beyond in the 6-12% range (China and Japan kept inflation in the 1-2% range). Coming after two years of a global capitalist crash and the Covid-19 pandemic, the inflations hit capitalist economies especially hard. Toward year’s end, desperate central banks, including the US Federal Reserve, tried to slow inflation by raising interest rates. Rising rates, like inflation, hurt most those with the lowest incomes.
Emerging economies too were rocked and hurt by capitalism’s instabilities. Desperate to grow out of poverty and cope with the pandemic, many emerging economies borrowed heavily at the low interest rates that central banks had used to contain the capitalist crashes of 2000, 2008 and 2020. The pandemic, inflation and rising interest rates made those loans impossible to service in 2022, plunging the global south into a terrible debt crisis yet again.
Everywhere, more people feel & fear that deep, fundamental problems are surfacing.
The last 30 years’ redistribution of wealth from the bottom and the middle to the already richest has aggravated systemic inequalities to their breaking points. Widening social splits have become more bitter and harsh. On the left, socialist criticisms targeted capitalism as the basic problem. On the right, new fascistic formations of government defend capitalism by deflecting the building rage of the economically undermined towards immigrants, people of color & the LGBTQ+. Talk of civil wars became louder.
Internationally, the year brought into sharpest relief the decline of one empire and the rise of another. One key question of our time is whether compromise and negotiated accommodation will enable China & the U.S. to coexist, or whether trade and sanction wars, followed by military wars, will be our future (or our nuclear self-destruction). The other key question of our time- the looming climate and related ecological crises- tests the whole world’s ability to compromise and make negotiated mutual accommodations to survive or self-destruct.
I am proud that a small media project like ours can continue to weather these storms and share our message: we can do better than this. We can do better than capitalism.
Two years ago, my end-of-year letter to you spoke of our pride at Democracy at Work having reached 200,000 YouTube subscribers- one measure of our audience, reach, and effectiveness. I can now proudly tell you that we are very close to reaching 300,000.
Beyond our stream of videos, audios, and our flagship “Economic Update” program, the invitations to speak to mass media keep growing. So too do our book sales, with three more books nearing completion and scheduled for publication in 2023. We are on a roll.
The fundamental problems forcing their way onto modern society’s surface are building our audiences, while the agenda to make a change is inspiring our activities and spirit.
We work to make our critiques of capitalism and our proposals for solutions--built around workplace democracy--understandable and helpful contributions for these difficult times.
Your interest and support have been a crucial part of all we have achieved. Together, we add much to a broadening movement for progressive social change whose time has come.
On behalf of the entire Democracy at Work team, thank you for your support, engagement, and solidarity. Join us in this effort by sharing our work or learning about the many ways you can support d@w.
Richard D. Wolff
d@w Board of Directors Member