Issue #1568 10 October 2012
Culture & Life
I assume you have noticed that our bourgeois media has written Greece off as a basket case that has to be “rescued” by international capital supported by “austerity measures” that Greece must accept as the price of the “aid” it is receiving. The Greek workers who march in protest against these measures are apparently short sighted, ungrateful and just plain Bolshie.
The line taken by our capitalist media is that however unpalatable the austerity packages might be, the country has no choice but to knuckle down and accept them. However, under pressure from the Greek people, the Greek government came up with an alternative solution. Last month Greece’s Deputy Finance Minister, George Mavragiannis, announced that his country could raise more money than envisioned under the austerity measures by taking action against the rampant tax evasion engaged in by Greek corporations and the rich.
A European Commission report in early 2012 noted that this tax evasion cost the Greek Treasury an income of no less than eight billion dollars, and that was without taking into account the huge sums lodged in tax havens. But the EU’s policy-makers are not interested in taxing the rich – or taxing big business. Dominated by the banking hierarchy of Germany, the EU insists on a policy of cuts which basically affect people on low incomes and deteriorate such key sectors as health and public education. It’s the old policy of making the working class bear the burden of capitalism’s crisis.
It has been known for almost a century now that this policy, far from solving an economic crisis, actually prolongs it, but it helps capitalist corporations to preserve their profits despite the crisis, so it is a “solution” favoured by capitalism.
But as Europe’s financial crisis worsens day by day more and more people are protesting, demonstrating or taking direct action in their own defence. In France, unemployment in July rose for the fifteenth month in a row, to a 13-year high. And Peugeot announced that it would axe a further 8,000 jobs next year. Taking a leaf out of the USA’s response in the 1930s to the Great Depression, the French government announced that it will respond to the crisis by creating 150,000 government-sponsored jobs beginning in January. Such a “socialistic” solution won’t go down well with the reactionaries of French (and global) capitalism.
In Spain, the Mayor of Marinaleda, a small town in Andalusía, helped the locals take direct action against the supermarket chains by leading a raid by trade unionists who filled up shopping trolleys with food and left without paying, while the townspeople cheered them on. Poverty in Spain has risen 15 percent since 2007, while unemployment hovers around 25 percent. Tens of thousands have lost their homes to bank foreclosures.
One third of the people of Andalusía are unemployed. However, there is no unemployment in Marinaleda, thanks to an agricultural collective established there in the 1980s. Every resident is guaranteed employment and earns 1,200 euros a month. Unfortunately, although the raid on the supermarkets drew attention to the need for action over food supply and prices, such direct action is easily dismissed by capitalism as “banditry” and it certainly does not present a lasting solution to the region’s economic ills. That requires a change in the social system, and only well-organised mass action can achieve that.
During the Russian Civil War, Anarchists advocated – and, indeed, led – armed raids on the homes and property of peasants deemed to be “rich”. This won the Anarchists support among those peasants whose carts were now laden with bedding, furniture and silverware from their wealthier neighbours, but it did not advance the revolutionary cause of the Civil War very far at all. Instead, it encouraged individual aggrandisement and the concept of private property.
In Britain, mass demonstrations have demanded the renationalisation of the privatised railway system. Rail unions and passenger groups joined forces in August for a national Day of Action over proposed increases in rail fares of 6.2 percent. At the same time, the government’s Rail Command Paper has set out proposals for train operating companies (TOCs) to shed thousands of station staff, guards and catering staff to slash costs.
But worse is in the offing: the government has asked TOCs to implement a series of “cost-cutting” proposals drawn up by Sir Roy McNulty (under the misleading title “Value For Money”) that would put at risk a whopping 20,000 jobs in the industry. Meanwhile, advocacy group Transport for Quality of Life has prepared a report showing that the extra costs associated with the fragmentation of the rail service under privatisation, together with leakages in the form of profits and dividend payments as well as other ongoing costs associated with privatisation now amount to £1 billion a year.
Bob Crowe, General Secretary of the rail union RMT, speaking of the fare increases, said “The idea that this extra money will be invested in the railways is a sick joke. It will simply be trousered by the greedy train operators, same as it always has been since privatisation.
“The case for renationalising our railways, and throwing the extortionists and rip-off merchants off the tracks is now overwhelming,” he concluded. Meanwhile, Britain’s trade deficit has grown to its highest level since 1997, to the dismay of corporate analysts. At the same time, unemployment among the over-50s in Britain has risen by 53 percent since the onset of the financial crisis in 2008. And draconian cuts to housing benefits by the Tory-led British government has resulted in a 70 percent rise in evictions.
Shelter’s chief executive commented that “the UK housing market is deeply dysfunctional. With so many families spending huge amounts of their income on their rent or mortgage, people will be making daily trade-offs between food bills, filling the car tank with petrol, and paying their housing costs.”
Meanwhile, a group of Tory backbenchers claims “too many people in Britain prefer a lie-in to hard work”. They are calling for further cuts in welfare benefits which they say support laziness. Typically, the group calls itself Britannia Unchained (!).
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