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Are the General Strikes in Europe today an investment rather than a cost?

The reactionaries will no doubt focus on passengers have missed flights as a consequence of today’s General strikes in Southern Europe.
They will divide the GDP of each country by 365 days and claim that that one day’s worth of Gross domestic product was “lost”.
They will ask: can we afford to lose this wealth in the middle of such a crisis.

To which we can respond by asking them to calculate:

a) the potential wealth-generation of half of the youth willing and able to work but unable to find a post
b) the potential GDP of 26% of Spain’s unemployed and the vast multiplier effects as each Euro earned changes hand several times
c) the continual loss in revenue by governments as they allow Multinationals to get away with not paying taxes
d) the health, psychological and social costs of cuts, loss of jobs and livelihoods and homes to live in caused by the current policies.

Whether the general strike is enough on its own or not, the fact that Greeks took to the streets meant that vulture bond holders had to take a severe haircut on their worthless bonds.
The more the fightback by Europe’s peoples, the more likely the governments will abandon this 1930’s era of Cuts and austerity for the majority and replace it with a 21st century strategy of creating decent jobs, reducing inequality and moving to an innovative, Green economy.
In that sense, strikes act as a long-term investment in the future of economies by attempting to stop the current madness.
Docility can no longer be the zeitgeist of this generation. Action and a call for an alternative way of thinking is fast becoming the dominant paradigm of the population.

Choosing allies

Seamus Milne writes a characteristically  good article in the Guardian.

Puts New Labour in same camp as Lib-Dem in terms of dogma, ideology & unreformed belief in free markets.

That’s why we need to make 26th March big but also not blindly follow Ed Mili back to New Labour’s love of the City of London.

Let’s get real. Ed Balls hasn’t produced a believable radical alternative to what he & his friends followed for 13 years. Let’s attack the Con-Dem regime but replacing Man U with Man C doesn’t change the direction, character and belief of a new Labour regime.

Left-of-centre led Spain & Greece are fulfilling the IMF and ECB’s demands just as enthusiastically as Fianna Fail-Greens did in Ireland.

It shows we need to form a deeper, wider movement joining with good individual Labour politicians and unions. We cannot blindly take an unreformed package which is happy to talk populism when out of power.

The ‘New Labour’ Party isn’t fit for purpose. It’s the tens of thousands of Labour activists and a handful of MPs and half the unions who we should be supporting.

Whenever we don’t get to waving the flag, there’s an outcry of sectarianism. I do not mean that way. The revolts convulsing many countries North and South of the Mediterranean are successful precisely because many have bypassed the traditional ‘opposition’ groups who bought into the status quo.

A bit like much of the NUS and the more radical, angry students who ignored Aaron Porter & Co.

While we build up to the rally and march in two weeks time, we must maintain a sense of realism and optimism.

Realism that much of the TUC  ‘leadership’ didn’t challenge the love-affair with the City of London since the late 1990s. That they are not going prepared to challenge the current ethos either.

Optimism in that like students who were galvanised & energised by taking part in protests, the 26th will be one rally building a movement based around the thousands of local protests outside and inside libraries, council offices and banks.

No political party can co-opt this budding movement or ‘lead it’. Politicians and activists will have to join it, work alongside it and share power over decisions and direction.

The debate and deliberations will move from an oppositional no-cuts position to a ‘rolling back the big private sector’.

Three decades ago, the mood of the times was to roll back the ‘bloated public sector’.  That ideology was spun together into a political ‘narrative’ in the mid 1970s and took 1973-74 energy and political shocks as its catalyst.

In our times, the catalyst is the 2008 banking crash. Nearly three years on, we are in the middle of constructing our own alternative picture of what type of economy, society & environment we would like to see.

It will have a broader canvass. We will have to have pan-European ideology, challenging Wall Street & London’s the hedge fund dominance and fuse Left ideas of wealth & income redistribution with ideas on climate change and peak oil.

Given what’s happening in North Africa and the Middle East, we might need an even wider vision.

The mix is in the melting pot. The end product isn’t clear. The 26th is one signpost in a very long road. Let’s look beyond this month and work it out

New Year New hopes New Wars

On Sunday, we will be recovering from the celebrations the night before and wondering if we really meant our New Year resolutions.

The Chinese will keep their powder dry till February 4th, the first day of the Year of the Rabbit.

Long before nearly a billion and a half East Asians make a resolution, we will have broken ours, probably by the first week.

And what do we have before us as we travel the road M2011.

Some will pat themselves on the back for ‘avoiding’ the VAT increase to 20%. Or is that another way of saying we all went to Westfield and Oxford Street to spend £300 on stuff we could have lived without to save £7.50.

Now, what’s the APR interest on £300….. around £80? We will soon know as the credit card bills arrive on our doormats late January and early February.

By this week, 100,000 public sector workers will have received their redundancy letter (a Xmas present unwrapped to offer the statutory 90 day notice before the New financial year in April).

House prices are forecast to fall somewhere between 5 to 10%, though central London may buck the trend.

Last year, one in five properties in London were bought by mainland Europeans…. I imagine some swish Greek millionaires were in there, having taken out their Euros from Athens to avoid waking up one morning and finding the Euros had turned back to Drachmas… that’s on the cards in 2011.

The Irish rue that phrase ‘the luck of the ……’ as they go to the polls and kick out Fianna F and bring in FG…. no one is bothered unless…. the new lot (with Irish Labour & maybe Sinn Fein support) demand a review of the onerous IMF/EU austerity package…. Then watch the financial markets.

Europe’s PIIGS will be dancing on thin ice as Portugal goes to the wall… and everyone wonders how they can save Spain… all this we can watch in high definition by March.

The Italians (with a €1.9 trillion debt) will suffer Berlusconi again and probably face their moment of death/debt next winter or 2012.

This will be a year for Germany. They will decide the fate of the Euro and Europe as a project. How Margaret Thatcher must hate the idea of a German Thatcher, in the guise of Angela Merkel,  deciding the future while a British Prime Minister watches from the side, and twiddles his thumbs.

Surely there will be a spread of wars in Africa, though I wonder whether the ‘progressive Left’ will notice in London, so engrossed are they with the Eastern Mediterranean (or part of it).

The Congo will continue to burn… but will we notice? Five million dead so far but that’s not news unless the raw materials stop coming our way..,,,

West Africa looks like it has found a new victim…. while Sudan is on the verge of a split,  offering a vision of an African Arc of Instability from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic.

The Afghan War, which looked like it was entering the final chapter this time last year, has suddenly added a few more chapters as the Energy companies & weapons manufacturers twist Obama’s arm (though he does not need much persuading) to guarantee four more years of profits…. The TAPI pipeline is back on the agenda and the Afghan Army is being trained to protect it. The pipeline is set to start in 2012 and pumping out Turkmenistan ‘s gas into Pakistan and India by 2014.

Well, that’s the plan.

WIll there be any new Asian Wars in 2011? Every year we think it could be Iran. Maybe. The democratic Green Revolution failed so it leaves only a military strike to produce regime change. If Obama wants to be re-elected, he probably doesn’t want it in 2012, which is why 2011 looks like a dangerous window…

The Maoist war in India will gather strength though no Guardianista will notice unless Arundhati Roy is arrested….. that war is a slow burning fuse which will be the ultimate game-changer this decade …… but just as we do with Africa, we will ignore it and keep our narrow focus across the Middle East (or West Asia as it is known elsewhere).

The big financial story, besides the Euro, will be the bankruptcy of some US cities (and maybe a couple of European ones too).

With house prices falling too, the second leg of the crisis will be upon us….

What a dark canvas this all is…….. the positive splashes of paint will be the rise of political and social consciousness among millions of Europeans… about time too…. and there will be small victories along the way…. but 2011 seems more like work-in-progress rather than the finished article….

The almost non-existent English Left are pinning their hopes on the emerging student movement but that’s just another way of saying the ‘Left’ want to piggy back rather than broaden the opposition…

Most voters or citizens haven’t got an alternative vision firmly implanted because most of us haven’t communicated this consistently.

Between a token Union day out (sorry,  big terrifying strike) and the Royal Wedding, the unpalatable news will be that the World financial markets will show off London and the UK as a beacon of right wing neo-liberal governance.. and sterling might even soar with that vote of confidence…… imagine all those cheap holidays in Cyprus……

The climate change talks will collapse in South Africa even there if there is a meaningless ‘agreement’ and shedload of pledges.

The idea of the villains and the victims somehow burying the hatchet and over-ride the greed of oil companies and the oil dependent agri-business giants to construct a road map to a Greener World is touching…… this road started in 1992 and still has little to show…. so the only way we can call this ‘good news’ is to suggest that this will mark a turning point.

The negotiation process is not much better than the decades of conferences on poverty…. and where did we get with that then?…… Or Third World Debt…..

Hmm…. perhaps I am being gloomy because this is the down time between Xmas and the New Year….. perhaps when the rabbit sings in February I might look forward to the end of the dark winter and scent the spring with its hopes of a brighter future… Let’s hope so….

But let’s end in a positive way…. remember Soros said he was enjoying a good year of the Crisis…. and let’s rejoice in the good fortune of all those bankers planning how to spend their bonuses on yachts and trophy wives…… and all those companies in the ‘security business’ who are making hundreds of billions in providing us with floor to ceiling coverage of ‘protection’…… with 500,000 CCTVs in London (solving just 1,000 crimes),  reading our emails, following our Oyster card movements, tracking our purchases, recording our phone calls, profiling us on spiffy software and categorising us as trouble makers…….. I think we are in the wrong business trying to save the world…….. it seems so much more rewarding destroying it..

Lucky for some then.

Have a happy 2011


one speech does not maketh a movement

It must be Xmas. A Trade Union leader announces his intention to stand alongside the students.  Not great timing. Colleges have broken up. Students have gone home.

So Len McCluskey was only recently elected. What prevented the so called barons turning up as individuals at the protests? Or doing something on a Saturday.

They like to hide behind the terror of Thatcher’s anti union laws. Well, why didn;t they withhold the cheques to New Labour as a threat to withdraw support if they didn’t repeal those laws?

Union leaders and New Labour leaders connived to do nothing.

They bought into the globalisation story and TINA.

Now some of them (and at least Len MC is aware) can see that the movement is morphing to something very flexible and impossible to control.

The NUS is a busted flush. Its leader only wants to become a New Labour MP.

The unions are just talking. It’s a scandal.

They are going to do a lot more than say they are going to do something.

As Nike says, just DO it.