Saturday, 14 January 2012

New Year message?


New Year message?, originally uploaded by dick_pountain.
These spent fireworks boxes seem to contain a not-so-subliminal message about the prospects for the world economy this year. I've devoted many posts on this blog to proclaiming my belief that social democracy is the only possible civilised form of government, and the one which most of the so-called 99% of the world's people would aspire to given the chance. It appears they are not to be given that chance - the workings of the neo-liberal economy and its hard-line ideologues conspire to bankrupt all the world's states and return us to a Hobbesian state of nature, while supine politicians are powerless to stop them.

Social democracy is in essence an armistice in the class war - labour agrees not to rise up and expropriate the owners of capital if those owners reciprocate with fair wages, good working conditions and paying taxes to support a welfare state. The benefit to both sides is that it minimises the need for coercion and makes possible the continuance of democratic freedoms. It's becoming hard to escape the conclusion that the 1% have broken that armistice and have no intention of renewing it. Reviving the world economy requires putting money back into the pockets of working people whose wages have been falling in real terms for several decades, but are now plummeting under the deficit-reducing policies of governments. It seems less and less likely that this can be achieved by democratic means, and after a century of social democratic experiment it might still come to a repudiation of all debt and the expropriation of private property. It didn't have to end this way: regulation of the sort devised by Keynes and Roosevelt might have been modernised and extended given the will, but that will is conspicuously lacking. This neat little video by David Harvey offers a reminder of those Marxist facts of life that never went away under social democracy.

There are crackpots on the extreme right who seem to believe that some kind of fascist/neo-feudal regime - under which the rich retire into gated communities and buy the protection of private armies and high-tech surveillance equipment - offers a possible resolution of the crisis. A moment's reflection will tell you that the extraordinary technological achievements of recent decades have only been made possible by mass-consumption and could never be supported solely as luxury goods (the economies of scale of silicon chip manufacture or lithium batteries are prime examples). The unfolding environmental crisis means that such mass-production is already problematic and requires regulation in the same way as finance capital, but that can never happen under "free market" conditions. The only alternative to a restoration of social democracy is slow decline into chaos as systems we've come to depend upon, like transport and the internet, begin to collapse. Meanwhile Ed Balls tells us that Labour will not reverse Osborne's cuts. Happy 2012!   

4 comments:

  1. I love the photo, it looks like a painting - I'm not sure if that's a compliment, but I like it anyway. The big indicator for social democracy or chaos will surely be the American election. Americans have suffered more than most from squeezed incomes for the majority while the 1% get unduly rich. Is this the year when the penny finally drops, or at least starts to? Or another mix of apathy and false consciousness? Obama will deserve to be forgiven a lot if he energises the grass roots enough to win Democratic control of the House and hold on to the Senate. Without that it might be better if Romney wins.

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  2. Agree - the question is not so much whether Obama can win, but whether he can or will do anything useful if he does.

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  3. Last things first, I agree with Dick's response to Tim's comment and would add that frustrated by the balance of power in both Senate and Congress or not, Obama's credibility with liberal thinkers is severely and perhaps terminally reduced. Personally I think the Republicans will win the US election despite the uniformly flawed and ghastly list of current candidates: big money, political skullduggery and the Murdoch media will ensure this and then we're REALLY screwed.

    My other point actually follows on from this, namely that not only are "supine politicians... powerless to stop... the neo-liberal economy and its hard-line ideologues (conspiring) to bankrupt all the world's states and return us to a Hobbesian state of nature," in so many cases in the West they are actively encouraging it. Sometimes there's a glimmer of hope that this may not end in the chaos we fear, e.g. the 'Occupy' movements worldwide, but invariably that hope is naive and shortlived when such players display their own factionalism, muddled thinking and diffuse goals.

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  4. Mark - I don't know why Blogger doesn't want to recognise your name, but thanks for the comment anyway.

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