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TURNED UP TO 11... 2011

Blimey. After the relative doldrums of the naughties, the world of protest transformed this year from occupying the cynical sidelines to a slap in the face to the global elite. From the messy toppling of Arab dictators to camping in New York with rain and batons beating down, Twitbook and Facehole were somewhat unduly thanked for awakening the global populace.

When images of fire, riots and violent struggle filled the news, a surprising hiatus from global turmoil occurred in the summer when rioters in the UK's major cities let the authorities know that its not OK to stop'n'search whenever you like - and unemployment and disempowerment are enough to make you wanna take a few bits and pieces without asking (See SchNEWS 783). From the sentencing of the student protesters of last year to the rioters, the state wanted us to get the picture that disobedience = getting locked up for a long, long time (and if you're not doing anything that they can nail you with in a court of law they'll just hammer you with water cannons and tasers).

2011 really was the year that the lid came off the whole financial crisis. The cosy, contented neo-liberal set up that some called 'The End of History' now seems a distant memory. Back in 2008  we stated “Blimey... you spend 15 years struggling against global capitalism and then the bloody thing collapses of its own accord.” The credit crunch led to a desperate scrabble as the leaders of global capitalism adopted a 'stick it back together with sellotape and see what happens' approach to fend off impending doom. In the absence of any coherently articulated alternative the majority of the population in the developed west decided to sit tight and pretend it had never happened – this was not a realistic option.

The year's major upheaval (see SchNEWS 758, the Arab Spring was welcomed by the mainstream media as a case of middle-class folk demanding what we already had – capitalism with a democratic face. However the only reason that those in Tahrir Square were able to resist was the rising level of economic discontent that led to a wave of strikes and walk-outs. It was economic necessity that led to a questioning of the whole set-up. What was meant to be the feelgood end to the saga - the departure of dictators from the scene- was in fact only the pre-cursor to the real struggle – between those with and those without.

In Europe, austerity packages have failed, whole economies have nearly defaulted and double dipped all over the place, people got angry, and the police beat them up. Whole new governments in Italy and Greece were installed without any popular mandate – these weren't coups of course, that would just be too twentieth century and Latin American – nope these were coalitions in the national interest headed up by utterly apolitical 'technocrats'. These paragons of virtue have predictably made the pleasuring of international finance their first prerogative.

For a while the whole nature of what is occurring has been deliberately obscured, buried under a blizzard of economic jargon. But put simply what is at stake is what has always been at stake – power and wealth. While the 'free' market kept the elite in the style to which they were accustomed the free market itself was an unassailable idea – a basic fact of nature. The minute the markets turned on their makers the tune suddenly changed to one of 'regulation' with a farcical attempt to pin the blame on a few rogue traders and convince a sceptical populace that 'We're all in it together”. That is all wearing a bit thin.

That crisis is now unfolding across the Western world – and in many ways for us lot (the radical left) this is a golden opportunity. The impoverishment of a whole sector of the population in order to maintain the rich lifestyles of a few (the cuts agenda) is an obvious morality tale that requires zero grounding in Marxist dogma to understand. The Occupy movement has made some bold strides in this direction – and there are encouraging signs of linking up with other struggles, notably the autonomous and rowdy electricians movement – the Sparks. Whether it's sleeping on the concrete outside St Pauls, wildcat strikes, chucking a molotov or taking a beating at the hands of a corrupt cop, we are all in this together. The only real alternative is the radical alternative. Take back the future!


The crisis, aka 'the global financial crisis' isn't really all that global at all. It's not a crisis of the whole world, it's a crisis of the historically rich and overprivileged world. Europe and North Americas' economies have flatlined, meanwhile, the rest of the world enjoys a surge of economic growth the likes of which they've never experienced before. Not only the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India & China), but a whole host of other middle income countries. This week's news is that Brazil just overtook the UK in world economic rank, pushing our little island 7th place. It's reckoned that by 2028 the average Brazilian will be as well or better off than the average UK citizen.

Maybe what we're seeing is not so much a crisis as a rebalancing of power. It's a shock to us in the UK and Europe because we're getting poorer. But then we've had some 500 years of being global top dog. We're witnessing a strange phenomena- the rest of the world is getting richer and we're getting poorer. Our governments are resorting to to more repression instead of bribery to keep us quiet. Meanwhile, thanks to the Arab Spring, large parts of the rest of the world, are getting more democratic. When the US police crushed the Occupy Oakland site, Egyptians held solidarity demos. Give it a few more years and maybe we'll all meet in the middle.

One way or another as a species we'll survive (if not exactly thrive in) the economic crisis. But the problem is that the world can't handle the consumer habits of a billion people, and, if the BRICS 'make it' to a western lifestyle then the world's resources will burn up and take the climate with it.

Climate change (remember that issue from 2007-8?) is still the biggest problem facing the world. A raising of the earth's temperature by a few degrees (now reckoned to be all but inevitable by leading climate scientists) will spell destruction to entire peoples and ecosystems. There wont be any quantitative easing or Keynesian macroeconomics to sort this one out – we'll all be fucked. Happy New Year!

There are 2 comments on this story...
Added By: James. - 7th January 2012 @ 8:42 AM
Great round up. Nice one SchNEWS.
Added By: zaphod - 11th January 2012 @ 9:09 AM
Stop looking at the dark side.
Human conciousness is being raised as we speak.
The 'Wake Up' revolution is here.
Stop singing lullabys to what we had and get ya dancing boots on grab ya neighbour's arm n Fukin PARTY....!!!
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