ENGLAND: Archbishop of Canterbury quotes Marx on 'unbridled capitalism'

September 24, 2008

Karl Marx, the intellectual father of modern communism, was partly right in his criticism of capitalism, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has said in an article about the crisis hitting the world's financial markets.

 

"Marx long ago observed the way in which unbridled capitalism became a kind of mythology, ascribing reality, power and agency to things that had no life in themselves; he was right about that, if about little else," Williams wrote in the article to be published in the September 26 edition of the British weekly magazine The Spectator, and also available on the publication's website.

At the same time, the Church of England's second most senior cleric, Archbishop John Sentamu of York, condemned financial traders who had profited from the financial crisis threatening world stability as "asset strippers and bank robbers."

Williams called in his article for tighter regulation of the markets.

"This crisis exposes the element of basic unreality in the situation -- the truth that almost unimaginable wealth has been generated by equally unimaginable levels of fiction, paper transactions with no concrete outcome beyond profit for traders," he wrote.

Williams added, "Given that the risk to social stability overall in these processes has been shown to be so enormous, it is no use pretending that the financial world can maintain indefinitely the degree of exemption from scrutiny and regulation that it has got used to."

Sentamu, a former High Court judge in Uganda, told a September 24 meeting of bankers in London that a formal inquiry into the banking and finance industry was needed, and that this should take the form of a judicial review.

"To a bystander like me, those who made 190 million British pounds deliberately underselling the shares of HBOS [Halifax-Bank of Scotland], in spite of its very strong capital base, and drove it into the bosom of Lloyds TSB Bank, are clearly bank robbers and asset strippers," Sentamu said.

The comments by the two senior Anglicans came as world leaders were gathering in New York for the general assembly of the United Nations on the Millennium Development Goals.

Sentamu contrasted rescue packages being proposed for the financial sector with a lack of funding for the MDGs, which the U.N. set in 2000 to reduce world poverty and enhance living conditions by 2015.

The Archbishop of Canterbury's article in The Spectator is available here.