Formidable challenges lie ahead in 2010 as the economic, political and ecological crises coincide in a unique way in world history. The myths of the market economy lie in ruins, another Great Depression looms, while the failure of the Copenhagen climate summit revealed that political systems east and west are incapable of putting the interests of humanity first.
The contradiction between what society is capable of and the reactionary nature of the governments and the state systems that rule over us is an explosive cocktail. Astute bourgeois commentators have expressed concern that a new decade will bring not a return to the fabled growth of the early part of the previous decade period but a period of social unrest and instability that will rock the established order.
The closing days of 2009 indicated the shape of things to come. The shadow of 9/11 hung over Detroit, while the Chinese rulers ignored pleas to halt the execution of a mentally ill father of three and prospects for the world economy worsened.
Obama’s election provided a brief moment of hope for many that the see-saw of economic and ecological terror between the two super-powers – the US and China – might be transformed into something less lethal. But this hope was foiled when Obama increased troop deployment to Afghanistan and opposed binding cuts in carbon emissions.
Chinese leaders presiding over the largest carbon emissions in the world blocked efforts at the Copenhagen climate conference to prevent eco-meltdown. The conference showed squabbling world leaders unable to reach any agreement to prevent global warming. The only forces who offered solutions were leaders like Evo Morales of Bolivia, Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed, plus the thousands who took part in the alternative summit at Klimaforum.
Writers such as Martin Wolf of the Financial Times and historians Simon Schama and Niall Ferguson point to the dangers attending the present shift in global history – the transition from one global superpower, the United States, to another in the shape of China. The fact is, that as the baton of leading economic globalisation is being passed from the west to the east, the nature of the beast itself remains the same, albeit wearing another mask. It is capitalist production relations – the exploitation of human beings in the name of profit – that breeds today’s economic and political autocrats, west and east, north and south.
A chill wind is blowing in the wake of the loss of western capitalist supremacy in all its guises – economic, military and ideological. “The west, in general, and the US in particular”, Wolf writes, “have suffered a disastrous loss of authority …The chaos that followed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and, far more, the financial crisis have destroyed the west’s reputation for competency. The rest of the world was inclined to believe that the west, whatever its faults, knew what it was doing, particularly where running a market economy was concerned. But then, the teacher failed the examination.”
So where does Britain fit into the massive loss of credibility by those who have promoted corporate-driven globalisation – New Labour and the Conservatives – and all those who tell us there is no alternative to capitalism and its political system? We are lurching towards an election with the two main parties competing as to who will make the biggest cuts in public spending in a vain attempt to repay the massive public debt incurred by the banking bailouts.
But how is this to be accomplished? By a massive “shift of national effort from the public to the private sector,” says Tory ideologist Sir Max Hastings, “incurring trade union resistance that may well spill on to the streets”. He does not share the vain illusion that the green shoots of recovery will peep through after a cold winter. “It seems hard to overstate the pain in store when the next government embarks on the steps necessary to restore the public finances,” he says. Should Cameron win the next election, he “must tell the British people that in 2009 their long weekend ended … On Mr Cameron’s watch, economic bombs will start exploding.”
When people like Hastings make grim forecasts like these, it’s time to recognise the shape of things to come. Public records just published reveal that Labour Prime Minister James Callaghan wanted to declare a state of emergency and send the army in during the road hauliers strike in 1979. When it comes to using force, New Labour will have no more hesitation than their Tory counterparts.
The reality of the economic crisis will drive whatever government is elected into extreme authoritarian measures to impose the rule of the bankers and the global corporations. Only six percent of the UK population at present actually believes the government is telling the truth about the economy. So gentle persuasion that we are to take massive cuts in services, pay and conditions is simply out of the question.
Public anger with bankers and politicians alike has even driven Martin Dickson, the Financial Times’ deputy editor, to pen a few verses about dangerous times ahead:
But there’s a price we all will pay
If politicians won’t display
A little courage and crack down
Upon these unsafe, grasping clowns:
Another bomb is being built,
By bankers with no sense of guilt.
It’s ticking now, will louder tick
Unless we stop it, fast and quick.
For mark my words, believe this rhyme,
It will go off in five years’ time.
You’ll hear no end of sturm and drang.
When it explodes with a loud BANG!
So the warnings are piling up in a variety of forms! The need to put an end to the political system that serves only the bankers, their corporate clients and self-seeking politicians will be more apparent than ever in the coming months.
Writing off humanity and the planet is for lazy sceptics and cynics. That is the easy way out! What A World to Win proposes is to take up the challenge to find revolutionary solutions. It is about us – all of us around the planet – having the confidence that we can find a way forward. It means defining and shaping a more advanced kind of human nature than has hitherto been possible. That’s the challenge for 2010.
A World to Win secretary