How we can move beyond resistance
Everyone joining tomorrow’s anti-austerity march in London called by the Trades Union Congress should take heed of what is happening in Greece if we are going to find ways to move beyond resistance to the deepening crisis.
The Greek trade unions this week held their 20th one-day general strike in two years against the absolutely savage cuts in living standards imposed by governments of the left and the right, as well as coalition regimes.
Regarding the strikes as short-lived protests, the Greek state is standing firm on behalf of the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and European Union governments – the infamous Troika.
Their riot police are working hand-in-glove with the fascist Golden Dawn to protect the authorities as society edges towards breakdown. Only just in the background stands the Greek army, whose colonels are not averse to staging military coups and taking power as they did from 1967 to 1974.
Despite the widespread hatred of the measures that have reduced many Greeks to penury – to the point where many can’t even afford to bury their dead or obtain vital drugs – the misery is scheduled to worsen, with further pay and pension cuts. One in four are already out of work and job losses are continuing.
Britain’s situation is not like Greece’s, you could argue. But that would be a superficial view. Greece is at the sharp end of a global crisis of capitalism that is driving policy making in every single country.
The crash that began with the credit crunch in 2007 is on the verge of a new and more explosive phase. The major economies – including China’s – are awash with debt, built up to generate the growth bubble of the first years of the century. Most of this debt will have to be written off, creating more unemployment, driving down demand and reinforcing the shortage of credit.
In Britain, government debt is spiralling despite the ConDems’ austerity cuts, wage freezes and pension reductions. A record number of people are working part-time, on very low wages, because they can’t find a permanent job. Cuts in welfare are only the start of what is on the agenda.
So what should we fight for? For policies that are designed to boost “growth” because the ConDems have “got it wrong” and are making matters worse? This is the approach of the TUC and it is muddle-headed and actually a waste of time.
There is a global recession and the capitalist production system as a whole is a disaster zone. The contraction that is taking place is the inevitable response by corporations, banks and states – the corporatocracy – to the end of a fictional boom. Production for profit has led to destruction to sustain profits.
Whoever is in government would more or less do the same. Labour-led councils are making the cuts on behalf of Whitehall while Labour is pledged to cut the deficit were it in office. Not only that, Ed Miliband’s response to rising train and energy costs is to – wait for it – improve the way capitalist markets work! So holding on for a government that believes in “responsible capitalism” is self-evidently no solution.
The system is broken, economically, financially – and politically. The time is right to move beyond it, beyond resistance. Capitalism, its state, our cosmetic democracy are surely not the last word in the story of human endeavour.
A new, democratic framework could win popular support and offer an alternative to marching from A to B in protest. On November 17, a number of groups are supporting a working event to start to produce a new constitutional settlement, one which is rights-based and transfers power to the majority in an Agreement of the People. Do your best to be there.
19 October 2012