01/05/11

May Day International

Statement:

Europe stands at a crossroads. Successive waves of fiscal austerity have been imposed by European and domestic elites on the people of Greece, Ireland and Portugal, with Spain, Britain and Italy following suit. These programmes, almost without precedent in their severity, were barely debated either against alternative policy options or accounts of the nature of the crisis, both of which were certainly available. Governments, bureaucrats and pundits of dubious expertise simply declare that ‘there is no alternative’, and instruct the public to take their medicine......

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Neoliberalism - audaciously given the historic humiliation suffered by its market fundamentalist dogma in the autumn of 2008 – is on the comeback trail, with a renewed and reinvigorated assault on the fundamental democratic principle of economic governance in pursuit of the common good. The public itself – with its ‘generous’ pensions, social safety nets and other unaffordable luxuries – is now portrayed as a burden on the economy. A choice must be made, we are now effectively told, between sharing our common wealth to support each other in living dignified lives as human beings, or maintaining a sound fiscal policy. It’s one or the other, and that being the case, good sense dictates that the latter must win out.

Meanwhile, the economic and policy elites who caused the crisis appear to be suffering no material penalty. “Socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor” hardly begins to describe the absurdity, the irony, and the sheer, rank injustice of the situation in which we now find ourselves.

European governments and corporate media have adopted a range of rhetorical strategies to legitimise the wholesale destruction of the post-war social contract. First, the diagnosis and prescription is presented as an objective ‘truth’, determined by ‘scientific’ economic principles. The chutzpah required to make this claim is impressive. The economic establishment and the ideology it promoted were deeply implicated in the crisis, and the dogma of market fundamentalism should not have emerged from the financial crash with a shred of credibility. That it did (at least amongst those who matter) testifies to the capacity of the prevailing discourse to serve the interests of power, exclude the public from any active participation in decision-making, and turn politics into a market-place for the elites. By contrast, a debate which reflected the interests and concerns of the public would include more sensible discussion of the causes of debt, and assessment of alternatives such as debt default, imposing substantial losses on bondholders, referenda or public audits on debt legitimacy, or even exiting from the eurozone. Instead, these have been peremptorily dismissed as ignorant or naïve by governments and establishment media. The struggle against neoliberal austerity is also the fight for democracy. It is also the fight against the huge democratic deficit of the EU and for the creation of a Europe of the peoples.

This attempt to cow people before the mystical knowledge of ‘experts’ has been accompanied by the politics of fear. European publics are told that if catastrophic austerity measures are not adopted immediately and implemented with martial discipline, salaries will not be paid, savings will be lost, the world will come to an end. This fear-mongering is combined with a guilt-trip - 'we all partied' is a consistent refrain in Irish public discourse, aimed at reconciling a disoriented public with their patriotic duties to German and French banks. Similarly, the Greek Deputy Prime Minister tells the low-paid and unemployed that ‘we spent the money together’ forgetting that his ‘socialist’ and opposition right wing parties have ruled the country for over 35 years using deficit and debt to consolidate their position. The reality is that it is not “we” who spent the money, it is not we who “partied” in the boom years, yet we are the ones who are being made to suffer now, and to degrees inversely proportional to our capacity to bear the pain.

The imposition of neoliberal austerity has been accompanied by a paroxysmal nationalism, which deflects some of the disaffection arising from economic strife away from the privileged culprits and instead towards immigrants and refugees. The rise of the extreme right, from Greece and France to Holland and Finland, injects an extra dose of poison into an already toxic situation in working and middle class communities across the continent. Declarations that class conflict is dead typically function to redraw social antagonism on racial lines. In this respect, again, it is the most vulnerable who are sacrificed upon the altar of austerity.

Whilst the political right works to sow division, the left recognises the many complex ways in which people across the world, fighting what are ostensibly rather different political struggles, are connected by the effect that the failures of neoliberalism have had upon their lives. Increased economic hardship played a major part in sparking the popular revolts now sweeping the Arab world, most famously in the case of Egypt, where the trade union movement played a leading role in toppling a Western-backed presidency that had been driving through neoliberal reforms to the benefit of a tiny, bloated and corrupt elite. Across Latin America, various novel and interesting forms of socialism have been emerging and evolving for some time, since an earlier generation experienced the miseries resulting from the forced imposition of the Washington Consensus. And while these faltering, painful attempts are being made in various parts of the developing world to create and establish new political economies that protect the basic needs of the population, Western countries see battles fought in the defence of welfare states and economic rights won in a previous era, from Madison, Wisconsin to the streets of Athens and London. From these latter conflicts, the European left may hope to see emerge, as a historic repudiation of the fracturing neoliberal consensus, new forms of socialism that can meet the people’s needs and their demands for social justice.

The aim of this joint initiative is to demonstrate that there is an alternative analysis of the present situation to that which has brought forth the miseries and injustice of austerity. A pluralistic and rich critique of the crisis and the appropriate political and social responses has been developing in various European countries and fora, but this has yet to lead to a synthesis of the emerging positions and solutions. To contribute towards attempts to address this problem, the international, collaborative effort, made here by Crisisjam, Greek Left Review, New Left Project, ZNet and Irish Left Review serves to collect and disseminate the emerging views of the radical left movement. We have endeavoured to work with as many shades of left opinion as possible in order to present and promote news, views and commentary explaining and advancing alternative strategies, theories and campaigns. Our hope is that, with the help of this forum, radical voices from Europe and the world can build a new wave of left-wing activism, fit to meet the challenges of this seminal point in our history.

 

Articles (click to reveal):

Ireland: CrisisJam

  1. When is Enough, Enough?  Why We Need a Referendum on the EU/IMF Deal

    by Sinéad Kennedy

    Ireland has become both a frontline and a fault line in Europe’s economic crisis. Within the space of three years, it...

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  2. “Calm down, dear!” – The Women’s Movement and the Crisis

    by Alison Spillane

    You could be forgiven for thinking it was an elaborate April Fools’ Day prank when British universities minister David...

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  3. We Are Ireland, We Will Resist

    by Hugh Green

    Many people in Ireland are only too aware that some Greek protesters, at the start of last year, chanted ‘we are not Ireland, we will resist’ in response to...

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  4. Unmasking the Bondholders: The Audit of Ireland’s New ‘National’ Debt

    by Andy Storey

    On Easter Monday, the Irish peace, justice and human rights advocacy group Afri launched a satirical version of the...

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  5. How the Crisis Hits the Most Vulnerable and How the Rich Can Afford to Pay More

    by Mary Murphy

    We may all feel we are hurting in this crisis but some people are hurting a lot more than others. Many of those...

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  6. There Must Be Some Kind Of Way Out Of Here: Social Movements and the Crisis in Ireland

    by Laurence Cox

    Like its predecessor, 19th century robber-baron capitalism, disorganised capitalism knocks the stool out...

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  7. Waiting for the Great Leap Forward: Trade Unions, Social Movements and the Hubris of Power

    by Dan Finn

    Just when you think the British Conservatives could do no more to endear themselves to us, we learn that...

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UK: New Left Project

  1. NEW: The Academy is the Crisis

    by John Brissenden

    ‘In its relation to society, a free university should be expected to be, in a sense, “subversive.” We take for granted that creative work in any field...

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  2. Austerity Backfires

    by David Wearing

    The session of Prime Minister’s Questions held on 27 April is likely to be remembered for David Cameron’s casually sexist put-down of a Labour shadow minister during...

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  3. Tax Havens and the Financial Crisis

    by Nicholas Shaxson

    Offshore tax havens played a central role in causing the global financial crisis. And almost nobody has noticed.

    The first reason why tax havens...

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  4. The Unions: How Can We Organise Against Austerity?

    by Tom Denning

    On 30th June, up to 750,000 public sector workers, including many members of the UCU, NUT, PCS and ATL unions, perhaps along with Unite...

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  5. Resisting Austerity - the Uncut Movement

    by Ellie Mae O'Hagan

    In winter last year, I sat outside a HSBC bank for six hours in a blizzard. I was protesting against its £2bn tax avoidance. It sounds crazy, it...

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  6. Cutting Women Out of the Frame

    by Teodora Todorova

    An analysis of the UK’s public service cuts’ impact on women is almost redundant when the facts speak so brutally for themselves. Within a short period...

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  7. A Real Education – The British Student Movement

    by Jamie Stern Weiner

    ‘Solidarity’ has been the mantra of the British student movement – #solidarity its hashtag. In the face of sneering caricatures...

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  8. Neoliberalism: From One Crisis to Another, 1973-2008

    by Neil Davidson

    Neoliberalism was originally the ruling class response to the return of crisis in 1973/4, after the Great Boom. The extent to which it...

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  9. Set Adrift From Economic Progress

    by Stewart Lansley

    One of the most significant economic trends of the last 30 years has been the way real wages for most of the working population have been falling behind...

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Greece: Greek Left Review

  1. Europe and the End of Politics

    by Costas Douzinas

    How different does Europe look today, from ten years ago. In 2000, influential commentators hailed the dawn of the ‘new European century’ to replace the...

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  2. Anomie: On Civil and Democratic Disobedience

    by Costas Douzinas

    Greek Minister for Public Transport Dimitris Reppas stated some weeks ago that the government will not let ‘Greece be exposed to the risk of...

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  3. The Answer to ‘Anomie’ will be Civil Disobedience

    by Matthaios Tsimitakis

    “It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right…” - Henry David Thoreau

    In an article published...

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  4. The Economic Foundations of the Greek Crisis

    by Spyros Sakellaropoulos

    This intervention is an attempt to explain the mechanism on the basis of which the economic crisis was brought into existence in...

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  5. The Highest Rise of “Misery Index” in Greece

    by Manolis Dretakis

    The global financial crisis had repercussions all over the world, in both 2009 and 2010. The impact of these repercussions, however, was...

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USA: ZNet

  1. Report from North America: The Wisconsin Rebellion and its Limits in a Global Context

    by Paul Street

    The first third of 2011 brought a great global and popular stirring - a burgeoning springtime of peoples...

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  2. The Bipartisan Assault on Home-based Caregivers

    by Steve Early

    Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is not alone in bashing public employees these days.  In the view of his fellow GOP governor, Mitch Daniels from...

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Portugal

  1. Resistance in Portugal: Developments and Mobilisations

    by Helena Romão

    Since March 12th, when large demonstrations spread throughout the country and brought over 500.000 people out on the streets of several...

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  2. The Dispirited Level

    by Luís Bernardo

    There is a street in Lisbon that may well represent contemporary Portugal in all its grime-covered anger, ostentatious absurdities and nonsensical politics. In that...

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About May Day International 01/05/11:

This site aims to facilitate greater European and international understanding of the crisis amongst those resisting the neo-liberal austerity measures. For more on our collective analysis see the joint statement. The material gathered aims to communicate to international audiences the nature of the way the crisis is being managed and resisted in different countries. As we launch this project, most of the material focuses on Greece, Ireland, the UK, the US. However, more content from different countries will be added to the site over the coming days and weeks. We welcome submissions highlighting the situation in other countries, that carry on the debates raised by the issues here, or that address questions relating to international mobilisation and action.