ROBERT POLLIN AND ALEXANDER COCKBURN*
The World, the Free Market and the Left^
A year ago the capitalist future appeared, in the auguries of its toastmasters, as rosy as the old Socialist Realist posters once were in their visions of the shining path. Eastern Europe was commencing its economic renewal, along lines administered by crusading theorists of the free market and kept under critical review by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. In the Soviet Union itself the outlines of Gorbachev's nebulous perestroika were firming satisfactorily into a profile of capitalist reform, against a backdrop of economic disintegration advertised most vividly by appeals for food baskets from the West
The surrender by the Soviet Union of any weighty adversarial role seemed, in the hopes of strategists in Washington, to announce a congenial era in the economic arrangements of the world, with leadership by the major capitalist powers disposing planetary capital, resources and trade opportunities. So ebullient was the rhetoric that it was predicted that normal laws of economic motion were to be permanently suspended, trend lines on the graph of the business cycle sustained always at a pleasurable altitude, growth ever on the rise.
Such were the imagined outlines of the 'new world order' as displayed in the posters of Capitalist Realism. A year later the ebullience is gone, and though it would be a mistake to say that the long-term optimism of the free-marketeers has dissipated, shadows have crept over the rosy landscape of their expectations.
The Eastern European economies are reeling under three savage blows: the end of cheap Soviet energy, which had fueled their postwar growth; unemployment surging to levels unfamiliar to local popula-
* Robert Pollin teaches economics at the University of California, Riverside, and is on the National Steering Committee of the Union for Radical Political Economics (URPE). Alexander Cockburn's column 'Beat the Devil' appears every other week in The Nation.
** This article was first published in The Nation magazine. The Nation Company Inc., February 25,1991.
Social Scientist, Vol. 19, No. 7, July 1991