1. Global capitalism remains trapped in a protracted recession which has been widely acknowledged as the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Even though the Obama administration now talks of a growing recovery and ‘the beginning of the end of the crisis’ five years on since the spectacular collapse of several gigantic financial firms in the US, the crisis shows no sign of abating. The epicentre of the crisis has been the US economy, still the biggest in the world, but in the era of global capitalist integration the crisis today is being felt across the world. In sectoral terms, finance was where the crisis erupted with great intensity, but since contemporary capitalism is predominantly financial capitalism, the crisis has affected every major aspect of the global economy. What began as a financial crisis has grown into a protracted and comprehensive economic crisis.
2. The method adopted by the US, and now increasingly by the European Union, to combat the crisis has been to bail out banks and other financial firms tottering on the verge of bankruptcy while imposing harsh austerity measures on the working people. As a result while on the one hand many big corporations have been saved from certain collapse at the cost of increased public debt of governments, the working people have been hit hard by growing joblessness and declining wages. The latest annual Global Employment Trends report of the International Labour Organization (ILO) forecasts that jobless numbers around the world will rise in 2013 to 202 million people, topping the erstwhile record of 198 million in 2009 and will continue to grow till 2017. This however is a gross underestimation because the figures do not include the millions of unemployed in countries like India who are not officially registered as unemployed. The ILO estimates that in 2011 unemployment affected 75 million young people aged 15–24 worldwide, representing more than 12 per cent of all young people.
3. The economic crisis has triggered powerful popular protests across the world against ruling policies, challenging the neo-liberal dogma and even toppling governments. Three movements in particular have attracted global attention: the Occupy movement in the US, the Arab Spring and the anti-austerity protests in Europe. More recently the movement against sexual violence that erupted in India in December 2012 also seems to have struck a global chord promising a new wave of women’s political assertion moving away from an increasingly NGO-led appropriation of the women’s movement. In the case of the Arab spring, the economic crisis served more as a backdrop while the quest for liberation from deeply entrenched authoritarian rule in these countries served as the most powerful trigger. The protests peaked in 2011 and are still continuing under changed circumstances. In the US, Obama reaped the short-term benefit of the Occupy movement, winning his second term defeating the prospect of a more rabid rightwing restoration under the Republicans while in the Arab world four governments have already been toppled and large-scale unrest and even civil war continues to rage in several other countries. Using the turbulent situation the US has deepened its politico-military intervention in the region even as Islamist parties seem to have emerged as the most powerful political trend throughout the Arab world. For the communist and other progressive forces in different parts of the world, the current crisis of global capitalism certainly opens up a great opportunity to rise and press ahead against the forces of authoritarianism, war and capitalist devastation.
4. The so-called ‘war on terror’ (it should really be renamed as war of terror) launched by the US in the wake of 9/11 continues to spread to newer areas in Asia and Africa even as the war is now more than a decade old in both Afghanistan and Iraq, the two countries which were the first to be invaded. With the plea of combating terrorism and aiding democracy, the US and its NATO allies have made it into a permanent war with ever newer excuses and targets. After finishing off Saddam Hussein and occupying Iraq, the US-NATO axis targeted Libya and eliminated Muammar Gaddafi, the once formidable ruler of Libya, and is now busy securing a regime change in Syria. Likewise, after killing the al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in Pakistan,