The crisis prompted finance deputies from the other leading capitalist powers -- the G7 countries -- to meet in Tokyo last week in a desperate bid to stop the Japanese currency, the Yen, from going into a free-fall dive that would send shock waves into every corner of the capitalist world.
Even the United States, the most powerful of the world's capitalist countries, is alarmed by the situation. The fear is that if Japan seeks relief from its problems by a massive devaluation of the Yen it would trigger a run of currency devaluations throughout the region and beyond.
A downward spiral of currency devaluations would lower the prices of Asian Produced goods and squeeze out European and American imports.
American and European currencies would come under increasing pressure to devalue as well. The crisis in Asia would still be unresolved and a major slump would overtake the capitalist economies of the entire world.
This is why the United States has been prepared to pump money mto Japan to try and shore up the Yen and m exchange get the green light for more US goods to be allowed to penetrate the Japanese consumer market.
But the US dollars will not stop the crisis anymore than Japan's own measures to prop up its ailing banking system will be able to resolve the crisis.
This is because the problems are not simply a matter of bad economic management, financial corruptlpn or poor government. The root cause is the crisis of over production that is afflicting the capitalist world and that stems from the system of capitalism and the forces and contradictions within it.
Some apologists for capitalism try to argue that Marxism is an old fashioned, nineteenth century idea that no longer applies to the modern high-tech world. They point to changes in production methods, state welfare provision and improvements in social factors such as life expectancy, literacy and so on to suggest that capitalism can, and has been, reformed and that the conditions of Victorian times are gone for good.
But Marx was not just painting a picture ot society in his lifetime. He analyses the system of capitalism and the forces which drive it. His scientific study showed that the capitalists, though they try, cannot prevent the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. This and other contradictions that are part and parcel of the system lead to crises of over production -- when there are too many goods produced for the markets to absorb.
The markets cannot absorb the goods, not because people do not need them, but because they cannot afford them. They cannot afford them because the capitalists try to keep up the rate of profit by cutting labour costs -- pushing down wages and putting others on the dole.
When the markets are glutted some businesses are forced to the wall or get bought up_by the big monopolies and the result is rising levels of unemployment and even greater pressure to lower wages and worsen working conditions. This of course makes more people fall into poverty and the crisis of over production gets worse.
The leading capitalist states -- the imperialists powers -- scramble for their slice of the contracting markets and rivalry is intensified. For working class people throughout the world these crises of capitalism bring mass unemployment, poverty and the threat of war.
This analysis is certainly not out of date or peculiar to the nineteenth century it is happening now and the fundamental causes that Marx described are at the root of the global crisis we see today.
The great crash of the 1930s was reprieved by a catastrophic world war -- the enormous destruction providing opportunities once again for profits to be made from reconstruction. For a time capitalism was able to boom. But it had been at the cost of millions of lives and terrible human suffering. And the period of boom didn't last -- the cycle moved on and recessions came back.
Far from being out of date, Marxism is the ideology of today and the future. A socialist society, in which working people hold the reins of state power, is the way forward -- the only way to break the cycles of want and death. Capitahsm is the outdated system that should be confined to the dustbin of history!
But last week the Labour government added a new twist of its own, wiping 200,000 off the jobless list.
This was achieved by classifying anyone who works for as much as an hour a week -- for example baby sitters or gardeners -- as having a job.
The government is trying to hide something, from us and from itself -- that the capitalist system has regular recessions and slumps and there is a big one on the way.
In spite of all the fiddling, last month's unemployed figures rose for the first time in two years.
And last Wednesday Britain's trading balance swung sharply into the red.
This has prompted British Steel to call on the government to raise income tax as a way to curb spending and meet its 2.5 per cent inflation target.
The company is in deep trouble and about to shed thousands of jobs -- in spite of the high productivity of its workers.
Last year it won record exports in volume terms, but still suffered a steep decline in value.
This year, so far, steel exports are down by 3.2 percent while imports are up 12.3 percent.
Most other manufacturing companies are in a similar plight. Wage rises in the manufacturing sector have been dropping for the past three months.
There are two main causes of this -- the high value of the pound and the gathering economic catastrophe in the Far East. The government can do something about the first but very little about the second.
The United States government has been desperately trying to shore up the Asian economies in the knowledge that if they collapse the whole capitalist system will be thrown into the mother of all crises. But it seems that even their efforts are proving vain.
Last week the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) produced a lengthy report and analysis predicting that unemp loyment in the industrialised world is likely to stabilise at seven percent.
It has an optimistic forecast for Europe, saying that employment will increase by 0.9 percent this year and the next. But it warns that unemployment at over 10 percent in the European Union "will remain a serious economic and social problem".
It then goes on to discuss the problems of families in Europe who do not have a single wage earner -- and what this does to demoralise these families over the long term.
But the whole OECD report is whistling in the wind. It is trying to put on a brave face and say things are going to go on much as they have over the last two fairly good years.
Unemployment will never stabilise anywhere in the capitalist world -- it is not in the nature of capitalism to be stable. And capitalist instability always brings with it the threat of trade wars and actual armed conflict.
Asian companies on the verge of bankruptcy are not in a position to buy our exports or anyone else's. If they have investments in other countries they will want to defend themselves by cashing them in.
There is no doubt that serious unemployment is on the way. Schemes like the New Deal will not work if thejobs are not there.
Training does not in itself create jobs -- it just makes workers more flexible.
One New Worker seller remembers in the last recession of the early 90s, selling papers in Woolwich. The comrade found herself chatting to an unemployed builder on a government training scheme to teach him computer skills.
A few minutes later, along came an unemployed computer programmer on a government training scheme to learn bricklaying skills. Neither had any serious prospect of getting a job at the end of the training.
The working class always faces the brunt of capitalist recessions but gets precious little during the "good times".
Many have not recovered from the devastations of the last recession, for example the mining communities.
The OECD report shows the pessimism of the capitalist class who can see no solutions to the crises their system creates. It also recognises the inevitability of class struggle arising from the exploitative nature of the system.
The evidence against them given by Group Four security guards -- the private firm that runs Campsfield -- proved contradictory and unreliable.
The prosecution called more than 20 witnesses but their evidence was repeatedly contradicted by videotapes from the security cameras.
And the guards were unable to identify the men they had accused.
The jury heard that the riot was sparked after guards had been seen apparently throttling one inmate who was being removed to a prison.
The other inmates suspected he had been killed and were demanding answers.
One guard denied holding the detainee by the neck. Yet the videotape clearly showed him with his hands around the man's neck while two other guards held the man's arms.
There was a lot of damage done to Campsfield: windows were broken, telephones broken, the shop and the kitchen ransacked.
One Group Four officer, under cross examination, admitted that it was he who had pulled one of the phones apart.
Another guard accused Nigerian Sunny Ozidede of being a rioter but was unable to identify him in court.
And another guard claimed he had been hit on the head, punched, kicked, sprayed with chemicals and that his shirt hasn't been torn to shreds by rioters.
But the videotape showed this man after the incident with his shirt looking neat and smart.
Eventually the exasperated judge threw the case out.
Three of the men walked free -- they had in the meantime won their claims to political asylum in Britain.
The other five were returned to detention while their cases are still being considered.
One other youth of 17, who had been accused, had charges against him dropped after he was declared too mentally ill to appear in court.
The Campsfield detendon centre has come under much criticism, including the United Nations Working Party on Arbitrary Detention.
In particular the system that puts people in detention, or even prison, without charge, trial or judicial oversight on the basis of instant assessments made by hurried immigration officers is a cause of concern.
And the provisions of the various Tory immigration and Asylum Acts make it very hard for asylum seekers to prove their claims and so cases can take years before a decision is given.
Asylum seekers are supposed to be detained only as a measure of last resort if they are suspected of being ordinary criminals trying to escape justice in their own countries or some other serious fraud.
Yet when Gypsy refugees arrived in Dover last year from the former Czechoslovakia, all the men were detained in prison.
Their claims that they were fleeing racist violence were entirely vindicated and there are strong suspicions that the immigration service simply detained them as a deterrent to discourage other refugees coming to Britain.
The Council for Racial Equality has recently issued a report on the workings of the Tory racist 1996 Immigration and Asylum Act detailing a number of case studies:
* A British citizen of Peruvian origin was dismissed from his four-week old job with a school cleaning company without being paid. When he asked for his wages, his employer said "he did not have his papers". When he produced his British passport he was given his job back, but was paid at a lower rate than initially agreed.
* A woman from St Kitts, who has lived and worked in Britain without leaving since 1965, was told she was not eligible for Disability Living Allowance when she applied in February 1996, due to her "conditions of stay in Britain". She had worked and claimed Income Support in the previous year, and there were no conditions on her staying in Britain. She said she felt she was "treated as a second class cititen.
* A Somali woman who was granted exceptional leave to remain until the year 2000, was refused permanent accommodation by her local housing department because she was mistakenly classified as an asylum seeker. This came to light when she was suffering racial harassment from neighbours.
The housing department agreed that this mightbe grounds for a transfer, but said that her immigration status made her ineligible for a secure tenancy. It said she could only be placed in a temporary hostel.
* A job applicant who had been living in Britain for eight years
had had settled status, was refused a job at a 7-Eleven store because the
manager misread the stamp in her passport. She was told she would have
to apply for a work permit.
The plan, part of the scheme to create a "Creater Jerusalem" under Israeli control, would create an umbrella authority over Zionist settlements on stolen Arab land in the north, south and east of the city.
Israel Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu claimed the plan would not change the status of the city, which Israel calls its capital, nor was it a violation of the peace accords signed with the Palestinians.
But Yasser Arafat's Palestinian National Authority, which administers the "autonomous" territories, immediately denounced the move as a serious breach of the Oslo agreement and a further blow to the "peace process".
Under the peace accords, neither side would take unilateral actions over Jerusalem before a final settlement. But the talks have been stalled since March last year when Israel began construction of a Jewish settlement in occupied Arab east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as the capital of their future independent state.
But that independence seems as remote as ever with the Arabs standing impotent as Israel tramples on Palestinian rights. Arab League offices and America's Arab clients joined in a chorus of praise for the White House, which criticised the Netanyahu move as a provocative step taken at a sensitive time.
But as usual nothing has happened since to get the Israelis to reverse their ruling or stop the increasing colonisation of the West Bank in defiance of the peace deal.
Palestinian President Yasser Arafat is in his usual dilemma --under fire from the fundamentalists for confronting them instead of the Israelis and under attack from the Palestinian progressive resistance for corrupt administration and again failing to effectively stand up to endless Israeli provocations.
Arafat's first card has been to try and further enhance the status of the "autonomous" zone till eventually he can declare Palestinian independence regardless of Israel and then proceed to bargain with Tel Aviv on a more equal footing.
While not entirely improbable -- moves to upgrade the Palestinian status at the United Nations have enraged the Israelis -- is still does next to nothing to halt the expansion of Zionist settlements in the West Bank.
Arafat's other card is to wait until Netanyahu loses the next election to Labour -- who he believes will take up the road where Rabin and Peres left it.
No-one expects much from the Arab League -- the Palestine summit has still to take place -and the United States can expect little more than the usual pleas for more American pressure on Israel to honour its past agreements. In fact the Americans have applied no pressure at all on their Israeli clients and they quite happy with the current impasse. That's what they call "stability". It's what everyone else knows as the lull before the storm.
The Palestine Liberation Organisation has complained to the UN Security Council about the latest demolitions of Palestinian houses in the West Bank by the Israelis.
Management decided last Wednesday to take this punitive action against the intended two hour strike and to cover fire emergencies in the county using outdated army green goddess fire engines.
The strike is a protest against intended cuts and the reneging on agreements reached after a dispute last year between the county fire authority and the Fire Brigades Union.
Earlier in the week firefighters' leader Keith Handscombe had warned that the county fire authority chiefs were more interested in bashing the union than resolving the dispute. He said they belonged to the "Genghis Khan school of industrial relations".
They have ignored all calls from the FBU to come to the negotiating table. Local FBU secretary Paul Adams has accused them of being "hell-bent on forcing more strikes in the hope of starving us into submission".
* A 999 call came just seconds before Shooters' Hill Fire station, in south east London, was due to close, earlier this month.
The closure had to be postponed a little as fire crews dashed to an emergency call out at 8.58am -- just two minutes before the 9am scheduled closure.
They were called to a road accident, in which no one had been hurt to clear petrol off a busy commuter road and make the surface safe for other traffic.
The station had served the people of Woolwich and Plumstead since November 1912.
But before leaving, firefighters left a banner draped outside
the boarded up building declaring: "Temporary closure. Normal service will
be resumed as soon as possible".