Thursday, December 28, 2006

2006: A Vintage Year

Here are my end-of-year reflections from today's Morning Star.

For supporters of peace, socialism and democracy, 2006 will go down as a vintage year.

The most powerful empire the world has ever seen has had its deceitful and unlawful aggression against Iraq rewarded with an abject and humiliating defeat and the neo-conservative project, which envisaged the colonisation of the entire Middle East, is in ruins. In Latin America, the democratic revival has gathered further momentum, with progressive governments elected in Nicaragua and Ecuador, and Hugo Chavez recording a resounding success in the Venezuelan elections earlier this month. In continental Europe, we witnessed the fall of the corrupt pro-war administration of Silvio Berlusconi in Italy; the return to power of the staunchly anti-war President Alexsander Lukashenko in Belarus and a growing backlash against neo-liberalism in the former socialist countries in the east.

And in Britain, as Tony Benn has said in these pages, widespread and deepening dissatisfaction with the status quo means that public opinion- on a whole range of issues from re-nationalisation of the railways to a radical re-alignment of our foreign policy- is well to the left of what is nominally a Labour government. All over the world, wherever one looks, people are rejecting the socially destructive neo-liberal policies which the US and Britain- and undemocratic bodies such as the WTO, the World Bank, the IMF and the European Commission have sought to impose on unwilling populaces.

Be they commuters in Oxfordshire forming an action committee to protest about the decision of the profiteering railway company First Great Western to cut back the number of fast trains to London each morning from seven to four, or anti-government demonstrators in Hungary protesting against the austerity measures imposed by a government led by a multi-millionaire who lied to his people, the message is the same. We- the majority- are sick to death of a political and economic system which puts a ‘For Sale’ sign on every human value and which can offer us only more wars, strife and social division.

Just consider the strength of public reaction to the £8.5bn worth of bonuses recently awarded to the partners of Goldman Sachs. This letter, which appeared in the Daily Telegraph, is I believe, typical of how most ordinary people in Britain feel about the insatiable greed being shown by the ‘leaders’ of modern global capitalism:

“ Your report about the record bonuses being handed out to the suits at Goldman Sachs is a dreadful indictment of 21st century priorities in a first world country. Just what have the recipients of such obscene rewards added to the good of mankind by way of productivity? Will their efforts cure one sick person, teach one child something useful, prevent a single serious crime, put out a fire, deal with an accident or protect members of the public from terrorists? What example is this to ordinary folk who for so much less reward make real contributions to humanity? How many of these City workers will be doubly rewarded in the New Years Honours List for their 'contributions to the financial sector?’ Such excesses have often been the preludes to revolution. Perhaps it could happen again. It might be no bad thing”.

When readers of Britain’s most conservative, and pro-establishment newspaper are saying that revolution ‘might be no bad thing’ we know just how radicalised public opinion has become. The avaricious global capitalists who call the shots in our economic and political order know that they are in trouble. In the same way that they decided that their interests could best be served under the guise of a nominally Labour government in 1997, the money men are now keen on another cosmetic change at the top in both the U.S. and Britain. Waiting in the wings to replace the shop-soiled Bush and Blair, the war criminals whose sell-by dates have long gone, are Hilary Clinton and Gordon Brown. Both will be presented to the public as more ‘progressive’ alternatives to their predecessors. Both will talk of their concern for the poor and the need to take action on climate change. But no one should be should be fooled. Hilary Clinton is a pro-big business, pro-war hawk, who not only supported the Iraq war but played a key role in the earlier equally unlawful and deceitful US-led aggression against Yugoslavia in 1999. And anyone who hopes for better things from Gordon ‘PFI’ Brown- a man whose enthusiasm for privatisation equals the most ardent Thatcherite- is na├»ve to say the least.

What is needed is not a cosmetic change in which one set of neo-liberal puppets is replaced by another- but a comprehensive overhaul of the whole system to take political power away from the wallet- where it currently resides- and back to the ballet box. People in Britain cannot understand why neither the government nor the official opposition has any plans to take the railways back into public ownership, even though opinion polls routinely show 75% to be in favour. Millions are also perplexed to why the government continues to follow a disastrous and deeply unpopular foreign policy, and why, with the super-rich getting even richer, it does not even consider the reintroduction of a new top rate of income tax. The answer to all these questions is of course, that the New Labour Government serves not the interests of the people, but those of global capital.

The evidence of 2006 is that more and more people across the world are waking up to the reality that true democracy is unattainable under a neo-liberal economic order.

The challenge of 2007 is to continue, with renewed strength and optimism- the popular democratic offensive.

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