N30: there is an alternative

On 30th November (‘N30’) the UK will see the biggest day yet of strike action by public sector workers as part of a fight against the government’s austerity plans. Over twenty unions representing 3 million public sector workers will strike over government attempts to significantly increase employee contributions while reducing employer contributions to pension schemes, raise the retirement age, and drastically reduce pension pay-outs to workers. Workers in both the public and private sectors are facing similar job cuts.

This strike, as well as the square occupations and the recent electricians’ strike over pay cuts are part of a broader struggle against austerity sweeping across the world. Continue reading “N30: there is an alternative”

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…or does it explode?

Joe Thorne looks for the meaning of the recent wave of inner city riots

Eventually, it always explodes.  But what dream has been deferred, how, and by whom?  Who are the rioters, what motivated them – and does it matter?  Was there a radical kernel to the riots which would speak to us, if only we would listen? Or were they the mute reflex of a nihilist or egoistic sub-generation of looter-consumers – pitiable, and understandable, but nothing more?

Clarence Road, Hackney, Monday night.

To the former idea corresponds a romanticised account of the figure of the rioter as a new vanguard-subject in the class struggle, flawed, but in essence communistic.  To the later idea corresponds the view that the rioters need to be rescued by the political programme or organisation of some other segment of the working class: the primary significance of their disorder is as a moral rebuke to the movement which has forgotten them.  Both are attempts to constrain a complex reality under too-easy an analysis.  There is no ‘essence’ to the riots; beyond their expression of a particular phase in the recomposition of the class-relation in Britain’s inner cities.  As we shall see, the riots were partly products of a real, positive and intentional class consciousness, albeit the consciousness of a very particular sub-section of the class.  There were also elements in it that were not only nihilistic and selfish, but vicious and cruel.  Continue reading “…or does it explode?”

understanding europe’s crisis

John Keeley argues that it’s more than just Europe’s periphery that’s in crisis; it’s the entire capitalist system.

Democracy is derived from the Greek Demos (People) and Kratos (Power). This is what we are seeing on the streets of Athens – people power versus the EU/IMF dictatorship. But what are the roots of this debt crisis and why does the EU/IMF demand austerity?

To understand why each Greek owes €30,000 in debt requires an understanding of the role of credit in the capitalist system. Fractional reserve banking allows banks to lend more money than they actually have. In boom times everything looks rosy to the capitalists and credit is extended and profit rates look healthy. But this expansion of credit fuels overproduction. It then starts to dawn that debt-saturation means not all loans will be repaid. Banks become reluctant to lend to one another and credit dries up. This is a credit crunch. As capitalists retreat to cash, effective demand in the market reduces and a recession occurs. Continue reading “understanding europe’s crisis”

italy: saving the first class passengers on the titanic

David Broder writes on the economic and political crises in Italy, and the lack of a viable left alternative to Silvio Berlusconi

In recent days punning headline writers have turned their focus from the Greek tragedy to the Italian Job as news came from Rome of economic woes and a cuts budget which couldn’t be built in a day. The Milan stock exchange is in steep descent, amidst growing fears that potential default by Greece, Ireland and Portugal may have a ‘domino effect’ on Italy and Spain.

the European Union has pushed hard for austerity measures in Italy

Mounting economic crisis is twinned with simmering political and personal headaches for Silvio Berlusconi. However, the parliamentary opposition is remarkably tame, while the Prime Minister has also managed to distance himself somewhat from blame for austerity.

Last week Economy and Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti announced a  €48bn budget of public service cuts and tax rises. There will be less tax rebates for the poor, medicine will be more expensive and pensions will be worth less. Tremonti styles himself as a neo-liberal hawk, and assumed an unashamed class-warrior stance as he outlined his budget “We can’t be like the Titanic, where they didn’t even manage to save the first class passengers”. A bold statement from a man attacking millions of people already suffering after years of capitalist crisis: today over 8.2 million Italians live under the poverty line, calculated at two people having to live on €992 a month. Continue reading “italy: saving the first class passengers on the titanic”

an alternative to the age of austerity

by Chris Ford

The new decade began with The Times predicting an “age of austerity” in the UK which will last for years. We can expect, they said, cuts in public spending to offset the Treasury budget deficit of £178 billion, caused to a large extent by the bank bailouts after the September 2008 crisis.

The view that the financial sector is at the roots of our current predicament is not restricted to the bourgeois papers like The Times. This view is common amongst liberal, Labour Party and socialist opinion. John Cruddas and a hundred other MPs are campaigning for a High Pay Commission, arguing our current predicament was caused by “greed”, as banking and executive salaries grew excessively. There is certainly widespread bitter resentment amongst working class people that we are paying for a loan to rescue the banks. Cruddas appears like a philanthropist from a Dickens Christmas story coming along to help the poor, making the rich share the pain of the recession. But state controls on high pay would only scratch the surface of the crisis: we need something far more fundamental. Continue reading “an alternative to the age of austerity”

we’re not ‘all in it together’: no to austerity britain!

editorial of The Commune

The message hammered home at the Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat conferences was clear: ‘we’ have been living beyond our means and now have to accept slashed public spending to steady the ship of state.

cameronpoints

While a few months ago even the mainstream press railed against the excesses of the City of London and corrupt MPs, today their fire is directed almost solely against working-class living standards. The only questions on the papers’ and pollsters’ agenda are ‘what should be cut?’ and ‘who do you trust most to make the right cuts?’. Continue reading “we’re not ‘all in it together’: no to austerity britain!”