Does Capitalist Production Have a Long Cycle? (pt 9)

Because the industrial cycles that have occurred since 1945 have unfolded in a very different political environment than those before 1945, I will devote this post to examining these extremely important political changes.

From the recession of 1937-38 to the end of World War II

The upswing in the industrial cycle—interrupted by the Roosevelt deflation—resumed by mid-1938 as the administration and Federal Reserve System quickly reversed their deflationary measures. However, the recovery that began in mid-1938 started at a much lower level than that of mid-1937 when the Roosevelt recession began. Then before the industrial cycle could reach a new boom—or even get very far into the stage of average prosperity—the war economy took over. As we have already seen, a full-scale war economy suppresses the industrial cycle by suppressing the normal process of capitalist expanded reproduction.

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Does Capitalist Production Have a Long Cycle? (pt 8)

The United States hardest hit by the super-crisis

Many volumes could be written about the super-crisis of 1929-33 and the Great Depression. Among the subjects that would have to be dealt with would be the nature of European fascism and Roosevelt’s New Deal in the United States. I obviously cannot do this in these posts. I will simply highlight the most important economic events of the 1930s with special emphasis on the United States, the leading capitalist—and imperialist—country.

Of all the major capitalist nations, the United States was hardest hit by the super-crisis. Why was this? Before attempting to answer, how do I measure the relative severity of the super-crisis in individual capitalist countries?

The relative severity can be measured by the level of industrial production in 1932—the global trough of the economic cycle—as a percentage of the industrial production of 1929, which represented the peak of the 1920-1929 international industrial cycle.

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Does Capitalist Production Have a Long Cycle? (pt 7)

Eightieth anniversary of start of super-crisis

To understand the policies that are being followed by the governments and central banks today as they combat the aftermath of the panic of last fall and winter, you need to understand the events of 80 years ago. The current governments and central bankers are very much haunted by the ghost of the Depression.

Several weeks ago, I explained how World I and its war economy had led to a huge divergence between prices and values. This contradiction reached it peak in the spring of 1920 and was partially resolved by the deflationary recession of 1920-21. Why then didn’t the Great Depression begin with the deflation of 1920 rather than in 1929?

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Does Capitalist Production Have a Long Cycle? (pt 6)

Germany and the super-crisis of 1929-33

The super-crisis of 1929-33 is eminently bound up with events, both economic and political, in Germany. Let’s review the events that were to end with the transformation of the German Wiemar Republic into the Third Reich. The roots of these terrible events lie deep in the years before World War I.

For many decades before the outbreak of World War I, there had been a steady erosion of Britain’s industrial powerrelative to the industrial power of the other major capitalist powers, especially Germany and the United States. At a certain point, the continued financial, military and political domination of Britain was in such contradiction to the vastly reduced weight of its industry, British overlordship simply could not continue. Something had to give.

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