Firstly, please note that the current crisis is the first truly global economic crisis coming after WWII. It was quite predictable: as soon as the worldwide confrontation between the two systems (the Cold War, that is the World War III which de facto forced the capitalist economy to work as a military one because of the arms race and the impact the fact of confronting the "external enemy” had upon the internal situation) came to an end, the functioning mechanisms of the capitalist economy, well known to us from the Marxist political economy classics, restarted working without distortion again.
Secondly, let me point out that the economic crisis has hit the capitalist periphery the hardest: it is where the UN and FAO have recorded 1 billion hungry people (the figure unprecedented in the world history!); it is where we have witnessed classic revolts of the hungry in Egypt, Bangladesh, Haiti, etc.; it is where the crisis has destabilized the political structures which appeared to be stable, or were successfully stabilized not so long ago (Thailand, Mauritania, Haiti, Kyrgyzstan, Honduras, Mexico, Côte d'Ivoire).
But, typically for a global economic crisis under capitalism, the current crisis started not in the periphery but in the capitalist metropolis. And it is in the metropolis (which accumulates most capital and other wealth!) where the ruling classes tried to do their best to solve the economic problems at the expense of the workers, at the expense of the wage earners. Banks and corporations on the brink of collapse were everywhere saved with cash from the budget (from budgetary funding to direct nationalization, and nobody is making a secret of the act that it is temporary nationalization), i.e. at the expense of the ordinary taxpayer unable to conceal his income by resorting to the "rightsizing" accounting techniques or placing it offshore. The next step was to introduce, under the pretext of "anti-crisis measures", aggressive neoliberal methods of "cost saving" that is to initiate a new round of counterreforms aimed at dismantling the welfare state.
So how did wage workers of the metropolis respond to this offensive? The attack on their earnings and rights was so blatant and gross, wasn’t it? One could hardly come up with a better test of the revolutionary potential of the broadest masses of workers of the First World.
If one looks through leftist periodicals, whether anarchist, Trotskyite, Maoist, Stalinist, or of smaller tendencies, published in the countries of the metropolis, overoptimism leaps to one's eye. "The workers got up for their rights!", "Mobilization unseen in many years", "General strike, the first one for... (a number of years follows)", "All trade unions were unanimous for the first time in... (a number of years again)!", "Revival of the working class spirit!", etc., etc. Though the tone is quieter and optimism contained in the countries where mass mobilizations and large-scale strikes took place not so long ago. The French left, for example, on the one hand, are boasting of their achievements but, on the other, are already looking for those responsible for the failure (although the struggle seemingly is not over).
It's clear why. General strikes (especially in the countries which hadn't seen those for decades) and multi-million demonstrations are impressive, of course, but the result is always the same: the ruling class quietly spits at them and continues their neoliberal counterreforms everywhere. We can see it in Greece, and in Italy, and in France, and in Spain, and in Portugal, and in Germany, and in Britain, and in Ireland. Elections, which do not change anything, serve as a bone tossed to the embittered people: Labour may take over from the Conservatives (in Britain), and vice versa the Conservatives (neoliberal radicals) may replace the Socialists (in Greece) that does not matter; whoever forms the government, it keeps pursuing (and even intensifying) the same policy of counterreforms despite the widest and most impressive protests of the population.
Why is it happening? Because participants of the mass protests in the metropolis, who are wage earners, representatives of the middle class, make no attempt at the founding principles of the System. These classes, which have been for decades bribed with a share of the super profit extracted by monopolies from the Third World and distributed among the general population, are quite satisfied with capitalism, and all they want is to have capitalism with a "human face". And they are completely unaware of the fact, or rather prefer not to hear about it because it is an unpleasant fact, that such a "human face" in the metropolis can be made possible only by way of looting and overexploiting the periphery. That means their protest is purely defensive (and even conservative where it comes to preserving the vanishing welfare state under capitalism), they think in terms of conformism and reformism.
All the scandalous electoral successes of the ultra-right in various countries, including the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Austria and even Greece, go with the above-said phenomena. The successes are diverse in scale but all are thought-provoking.
Let us recall what was the first response of British workers to the crisis? It was “wildcat” strikes and pickets by energy sector workers clamouring against the employment of foreigners (i.e. their class brothers!), those protests being spontaneous, not organized and not inspired by any right-wing groups, parties, publications.
In fact it is already at this point that the British left should have asked themselves what have they been doing all these decades? Was the failure of the grandiose anti-Iraq war protests, which they were so proud of, an accident?
This is not a question of right/false ideologies, of correct/false tactics. As always in cases like this, this turn of events is rooted in economic causes. In this case, the transformation of the metropolis (the First World) into the collective exploiter of the periphery (the Third World), a collective parasite, is the cause. Exploiters and parasites don't make revolutions. And if they do, those turn out to be "conservative revolutions".More...