The profit motive on which capitalism is based ensures that crises are endemic in this parasitic system.
Far from solving crises, accumulation, speculation and greed ensure that the merry-go-round of temporary stability is quickly followed by recession.
Social democratic attempts to reform the system have had some positive effects, showing the benefits of public ownership, planning and the redistribution of wealth.
But the social democratic experiment has always been doomed while capitalist economic and state power remains dominant.
This is certainly the case in Britain, Germany, some Scandinavian countries, Australia and New Zealand.
On the other hand, if democratic rather than capitalist public ownership had been implemented - with greater workers' control, less compensation for the former owners and a greater attention to public need rather than private greed - the outcome could have been different and lasted longer.
Socialist public ownership would end monopoly capitalist control of the economy and in doing so would put an end to the exploitation of the working class because surplus labour would no longer be performed for capitalist profit.
It would be used instead for the benefit of society as a whole.
The material basis for the oppression of women and black people which sustains class relations would also be removed.
Racism and sexism have operated at an ideological and an economic level to sustain capitalist relations of production.
Since its inception, capitalism has extracted enormous profits from women and black people.
Socialism provides the material basis for ending this oppression and exploitation.
However, it doesn't eradicate it immediately.
The huge inequalities of wealth in capitalist society continue to have a major effect on the political system and on people's democratic capacity to control their own future.
The economic, ideological and repressive apparatus of the state are constantly used to protect the interests of the ruling class.
The fact that there is no effective representation of the majority and that the likes of Rupert Murdoch control such vast sections of the mass media exposes the shallowness of capitalism's claim to democracy.
Genuine popular sovereignty will only come about when the working class control state power.
But what happened in those countries which once offered an alternative to capitalism, notably the Soviet Union and the socialist countries of eastern Europe?
The pundits in the bourgeois media have written off the socialist era lock, stock and barrel.
They conveniently forget some of the enormous gains made in what was - in the case of Russia - a semi-feudal autocracy.
The Soviet Union was transformed into a society which provided housing, education and work for all.
Above all, the role of the Red Army in defeating nazism is shamefully underplayed.
Although the war-shattered Soviet Union and eastern Europe were then left to reconstruct their societies without any Western help, the socialist countries went on to assist national liberation movements against imperialism around the world.
However, all was not well despite the many achievements.
Already, in the 1930s there were severe violations of Soviet democracy with mass arrests of innocent people.
By the '70s economic growth was falling behind the advanced capitalist countries.
The command-style economy and the failure to mobilise the Communist Party and the people led ultimately to stagnation and, in 1989, the collapse of the socialist system.
But the capitalism that replaced socialism in the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe has not solved the economic and social problems of those societies.
Far from it - millions of workers have lost their jobs and all the social gains of the past 50 years and more have been eradicated.
Yet this has not been the tragic experience of other socialist states. For example, China, Cuba and Vietnam have taken their own roads to socialism in very different circumstances.
The Cuban model seeks to involve the people from the bottom up. Cuba has built advanced first-world health and education services despite its Third World beginnings, while also having to defend itself against US imperialist incursions.
Vietnam had to embark on its socialist path of development after French occupation and a long and brutal war waged by the US against national freedom and unification.
In China, a country of 1.3 billion people - more than one fifth of the world's population - great emphasis has been placed on economic and social development. A combination of Communist Party rule, state ownership and planning, market reform and foreign private capital has lifted 600 million out of extreme poverty since 1981.
In Britain, our road to socialism will be different. Nobody can predict the future but the power of the British working class throughout its 200-year history to re-group, reconstruct itself and fight back is legendary. It will be strengthened by learning from its own mistakes and those of others.
Among other things, it must ensure that working-class unity incorporates the fullest recognition of race and gender - vital dimensions that have been neglected in the past.