The Guardian April 12, 2000

A putrid, disgusting system

The volatility of some sections of the stock market were again 
demonstrated last week by the biggest drop in the Nasdaq index in one day 
last week and the equally spectacular rise of the same stock market on the 
same day. The Nasdaq index covers the "new" companies that are cashing in 
on the hi-tech industry that has been spawned by computer technology.

Whether the sudden drop of the Nasdaq was due to the US Government's action 
against Microsoft's monopoly manipulations or whether it was a deliberate 
money-making manoeuvre by the big players on the market is not known.

What is certain is that there were some big winners  those who sold high 
and bought low  and some big losers, those who had bought high in the 
glitter of seemingly highly profitable computer companies and were forced 
to sell as stock prices plummeted. When the opportunity came, a few hours 
later, to buy up at lower prices, they were out of the running  broke!

It would be a mistake to assume that the gyrations of the Nasdaq are an 
indication that the whole of the capitalist system is now at the point of 
crashing down as it did in the 1930s Great Depression.

While the Nasdaq was spinning other sections of industry were not suffering 
the same roller-coaster ride.

One has to differentiate between what can be correctly called the "real" 
economy based on the production of real commodities (the manufacturing 
industry, mining, growing crops and breeding animals) and the speculative 
section of the economy which is engaged in buying and selling stocks and 
shares, speculating in currencies and on the derivatives market, etc.

The speculative section of the economy is 100 per cent parasitical and in 
terms of the money actually involved, it is by far the largest section. It 
produces nothing. It is not interested in investing in the real economy. 
Yet it is capable of producing instant millionaires and instant paupers and 
even destroying economies.

What happened to the Nasdaq is a warning to those "mums and dads" who have 
been buying shares in Telstra, the Commonwealth Bank, etc. They are the 
small shareholders who are hoping to boost their income, not so much from 
the dividends they may receive, but from the capital gains which can flow 
from an increase in the value of shares.

While the stock market is going up they are sitting pretty. But as soon as 
there is a slump they can lose a considerable part of their investment if 
not the whole lot. In some cases companies are being forced into bankruptcy 
and shareholders can expect to lose almost everything.

In recent times, many working people have turned to the stock market rather 
than invest their money in a bank at a fixed interest rate because bank 
interest rates have been forced down to very low levels. Stock-market 
investment and speculation have also been encouraged by successive 
governments and the ceaseless coverage of stock-market prices on TV and 
radio. It's become the new exciting game played out with your money as 

It's a game that small players cannot win in the long run, no more than it 
is possible to win at the casino or by playing the poker-machines. The 
wheel and the pokies are set to ensure a profit for the owners of the 
pokies and the casinos.

Unregulated, speculative capital is the most recent and last stage of 
capitalism. It mercilessly tramples on the losers in the same way that the 
working people are mercilessly exploited by employers in the "real" 
economy. It is capital without morality, without any social conscience, 
without any responsibility. It is without culture. Its focus is exclusively 
on the rise and fall of stocks and currencies or whatever is being gambled 
on. Its one and only objective is money-making for the individual.

Such a worthless system cannot last. The dynamics of exploitation 
inevitably end up with a mighty crash despite the "wisdom" of the 
economists who attempt to manipulate the system's survival. This totally 
putrid and disgusting system is only fit for burial and replacement.
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