The countries of the former Soviet Union and the ex-socialist countries of eastern Europe are now considered emerging markets by capitalism. They are in the process of restoring capitalism, and while some of these countries have resumed a measure of economic growth, the living standards of the working people in all these former socialist states have plummeted as recorded by chronic unemployment, low wages and disintegrating social services.
The new leaderships in eastern Europe want European Union membership all want membership of Nato, and that too has been granted to some of them. This is part of the grand design of European monopoly capitalism to create one European state, excluding Russia, and the other republics which once formed the Soviet Union.
Some eastern European states are now satisfying the criteria required to be considered sound economies in capitalist terms. This means resumed economic growth, low inflation and healthier government finance, reasonably low external debt and current account balances.
Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic are candidates for the inclusion in an expanding European Union and have become markets and spheres of investment and influence for the developed capitalist countries, particularly those of Western Europe, though none of them have regained the economic strength they enjoyed when the socialist system existed.
Russia and the former Soviet republics are in a very much more critical situation than most of Eastern Europe. Russia is in such deep crisis that the government is powerless to find a solution to its default on its external debt commitment. The rouble lost 25 per cent of its value against the dollar in 1998. High inflation, large budget deficit, grossly inadequate consumer spending power are some of the elements of the economic crisis. Economic strength is vastly diminished compared to that of the old Soviet Union. Russia is now reduced to begging for hand-outs from the IMF and the US.
Working class and peasant living standards are vastly reduced. Arrears in the payment of wages and pensions have persisted over a long period whilst high prices put many essential products out their reach. The high standards of social service enjoyed in Soviet times are sadly decimated. An estimated third of the entire population lives in extreme poverty.
Since 1998 the decline in incomes has sharply out-paced the rate of economic recession. In January 1998 wages were down 40 per cent in real terms compared with the same period in the previous year. Production dropped by 4.5 per cent.
Though the official unemployment figure is 1.9 million the real number
out of work is nearer nine million. Crime has soared and Russia has one
of the highest murder rates in the world, three times greater than that
of the United States, five times more than France and seven times more
than Germany. Only a handful of countries, such as Colombia, have a higher
SOUTH EAST ASIA AND JAPAN
In the countries of east and south east Asia the effects of the crisis are shown by rising unemployment, falling real wage values and cuts in already low levels of public expenditure. Riots and strikes, as the working people react in defence of their living standards, are common in these countries, and in many of them, these have led to political instability and changes of government.
Japan, once the economic miracle of the capitalist world almost throughout the 1990s has been in deep and continuing economic crisis. Japan is an extreme example of the contradiction in all capitalist countries of vast wealth concentrated in the hands of the capitalist class on the one hand, and on the other, chronic shortage of resources in the control of the state to run the national economy. Vast capital investments are held abroad by the monopoly capitalists and in private hands at home, while the domestic economy plunges into crisis.
At the present, the enormous sum of 207 billion pounds of public money has been injected into the Japanese economy with another £60 billion estimated to be announced in a supplementary budget in the autumn of 1999. The two injections combined amount to about 40% of Britains GDP. This means that the government seeks to solve the crisis by using tax-payers' money substantially derived from the working class. Incomes are falling, unemployment is at record levels and the Japanese workers are increasingly worried about their pension schemes. An article in the Financial Times on 11/06/98 said: "Japan will probably further raise the retirement age and reduce benefits........ A retirement package even from a blue-chip employer now amounts to no more than a teenager earns in a fast-food outlet."
Japanese banks have lent $271.4 billion to the Asian emerging markets whilst the EU has lent $353.3 billion. To gauge the level of exposure these figures can be expressed as a percentage of the respective countries' total available bank capacity. For the EU it is 48.5% and for Japan it is a huge 109.5%. The US comes a poor third with only $43.3 billion of bank capital lent to the emerging markets in Asia.
Bourgeois economists have grave doubts as to whether even this huge
injection will lift the economy out of recession. Most bourgeois economists
forecast negative economic growth in 1999 whilst even the most optimistic
forecast only just 0.7 per cent maximum.
THE WORLD TODAY
Beneath the media gloss and talk of upbeat market, the global capitalist system presides over a festering morass of exploitation (of workers and the environment), racial and communal strife, rapid growth in crime, and drug trafficking, and violence and conflict from local to international levels. The potential for major military conflicts is now greater than at any time since the 1930s.
The capitalist world is in grave crisis. Imperialism, led by the United States and Britain, is resorting over and over again to war and threat of war to dominate much of the Americas, Africa and Asia. But wherever there is oppression there is resistance. The Iraqi people have defied the might of imperialism for nearly a decade. The Yugoslavs withstood the might of world imperialism for 11 weeks. The Palestinians demand the restoration of their national rights.
Socialism remains the system upheld and developed in Asia as well as in Cuba. People's China, Democratic Korea, Vietnam, Laos and Cuba continue to advance along the revolutionary path charted by their communist parties which are applying the principles of Marxism-Leninism to the concrete conditions that exist in their countries.
People's China is booming with GDP growth rates at 6.2% in the 1970s, 9.3% in the 1980s and until 1997 - 10.8% in the 1990s and the standard of living of its peoples is steadily increasing. The fact that China can feed, cloth and educate its people, who comprise 21 per cent of the world's population, with only seven per cent of the world's arable land is a tribute to socialist planning. In 1949, when the people's republic was established, Chinese living standards were the lowest in the world. Now the people enjoy a way of life undreamt of in the old days, one of increasing prosperity, scientific advance and progress.
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea has been repeatedly hit by devastating floods in recent years. But the people, led by Kim Jong Il and the Workers' Party of Korea, have mobilised in national relief and reconstruction work which has staved off the threat of famine and put the country back on the road to recovery.
Vietnam and Laos are developing their own socialist roads, strengthening friendship and co-operation with China and the other socialist countries, determined to develop their socialist system. And Cuba remains steadfast, its people united around the Communist Party, in defiance of American imperialism's blockade, and just as determined to preserve and extend the revolutionary gains. In Cuba and Socialist Asia the communists are serving the people, in the imperialist camp the communists are working to bring down the cruel exploitation of capitalism.