Πέμπτη, 18 Δεκεμβρίου 2008

greece is the world

ακολουθει αποσπασμα απο αρθρο στο αγγλοφωνο μπλογκ

αναφερομενο στην ελληνικη εξεγερση κ τις επιπτωσεις παγκοσμιως στο εργατικο κ ελευθεριακο κινημα

First, obviously, the riots in Greece. I did not really expect to see headlines like Havoc in cities across Greece as protesters talk of 'social revolution' for some time! The call for a general strike is good as it will involve more people, but clearly people must watch out for the union bureaucrats co-opting the struggles and restricting it. Needless to say, the socialist politicians are demanding a general election -- which will, of course, sideline the struggle into bourgeois institutions and should be opposed. As I discussed in the case of Argentina (From Riot to Revolution), progress will be made when popular organisations start to spring up and federate. If that is not done, well, the state will (eventually) regain control.

Second, some workers in America have occupied their workplace in the face of economic crisis. As I've argued recently (Bailouts or Co-operatives) this is exactly what workers should do. Nice to see that happening and a good example for all!

I should also point to this blog comment, which argues that ”The union workers so hated and feared by reactionaries like McConnell, Shelby and Bunning didn't make any decisions about SUVs. But McConnell, Shelby and Bunning did. . . . turn management of the Big 3 over to the UAW. Problem solved; Justice served.” It also argues, correctly, that “‘Cut labor costs,’ is always a GOP solution, but a solution that only worsens the problem. Have you ever heard a Republican say an executive makes too much money? How about a member of Congress? If workers don't make a living wage, the economy will continue to slow down; that simple.”

But, then, I argued much the same point. I think anarchists are well placed to raise key libertarian ideas just now and get a favourable hearing, ideas such as workers' self-management, occupations, direct action, solidarity unionism and so on.

Thirdly, Obama is turning out to be less into "Change" then many of his supporters hoped. As I pointed out in my article on Obama's election, the Democrats is a bosses party and even if it were not, they would be subject to pressures from the state bureaucracy and capital to act if they were. While it may be tempting to smuggly say "we told you!", I think it is better to explain sympathetically to any disillusioned supporters why Obama has acted this way.

Saying that, I should note that Obama has actually expressed support for the occupation in Chicago. That, I think, shows that the economic crisis and desire for change is such that a President-elect expresses support for a workers' struggle. Ultimately, though, he is a member of the ruling class, admittedly one of the more progressive ones.

And that is the thing. The state will support popular struggles and reforms, if the alternative is worse (i.e., social revolution or cronic depression).

This can be seen when a New York Times editor starts to suggest reducing the working week, after a decade of most commentators blaming France's (much exagerated) economic woes on it ("Lunatic Scheme" a Qualified Success)! And, yes, reducing the working week (with no pay cuts, of course!) is a good idea -- life is much, much more than work. Less work improves the quality of life...

One of the problems in neo-liberalism is that income is skewed so unequally, so causing the mass of people dependent on debt (and more hours at work) to retain the illusion of being "middle class" or even to survive. That makes the system fragile, so I would not be surprised if Obama does try to get income back towards the bottom, perhaps even supporting unionisation. But it is in an attempt to capitalism and its social hierarchies going (as per Keynes).

Which means that we will see, perhaps more so than usual, the state clashing with sections of the capitalist class -- particularly those ones which believe the free-market rhetoric! And it also shows why elements of the capitalist elite supported him -- when there is a crisis the last thing they want are politicians who take their rhetoric seriously enough to delay state intervention!

And talking of inequality, here is some income info from the UK (Polly Toynbee, Without the facts on pay, how can we judge what is fair?):

”A group statistically balanced across all social classes was asked to guess the salary of a range of staff in a company, from cleaner to chief executive, and to discuss their benefits and taxes. Most striking was the sheer ignorance about what others earn, and what taxes they pay . . . There was astonishment among many of the averagely paid in the group at the head of human resources on £155,800, and even more at the top executive on an unimaginable £780,000, plus a £2m bonus. They were clueless about the distribution of these salaries. Richer people simply could not believe that 90% of the population earn less than £40,000, or that the middle fifth of the population earn around £20,000. If people don't know these facts, how can they judge what's fair?”

And in case that was not bad enough:

“This group certainly had no idea how the burden of tax falls: shown a graph revealing that the poorest pay 39% while the richest pay only 35%, it took a lot of explaining to persuade them that it was indeed so.”

It is always good to remember that the Tories do not stand for "lower tax", they stand for shifting the tax burden from the rich onto the rest of us. Hence the cutting of higher tax levels while increasing indirect taxation under Thatcher.

And I should note that David Cameron's recent attack on New Labour for allowing debt to explode was somewhat ironic. Firstly, who deregulated finance and credit markets? Secondly, the whole point of Thatcherism was that the individual person, the indivdual bank and the individual firm all knew better than the state or government how to act in the economy. Now, according to Cameron, that is no longer the case. Now the state is the best judge of debt levels for an individual, what loans banks should make and to whom, and what companies should do in terms of investment and stock issues. At least Thatcher has lived long enough to see her experiment collapse (just as Chile's neo-liberal regime did so after Milton Friedman called it an "economic miracle").

Oh, and no Leninist who reads the Weekly Worker has taken up by twice repeated challenge to explain the objective differences in class and social relationships between Soviet Russia under Lenin and under Stalin. What a surprise. Still, my attempt to explain the what a United Front means continues (I'll post my latest letter later in the week).

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