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Issue #1715      January 20, 2016

Culture & Life

The year that was

Well, we survived last year, and now we’re back to see what calamities and catastrophes the capitalist system has in store for those of us who are not super-rich! The last-named are the infamous 1% that owns most of the world’s wealth. They used to be called the ruling class, but “the 1%” at least recognises the fact that, numerically, they’re a lot smaller than the working class. Not a fact I suspect that they want us common folk to dwell on lest we decide to do something about it.

Of course, something else they don’t want us to think about too much is the grim fact that a lot of people did not even survive the year. They were victims of war, terrorism or raging poverty. The imperialist powers instigated wars beyond number in their profit-driven quest to take over global resources, destroy regimes trying to be independent of imperialist control, or just to secure their own corporate investments.

For the people in the former Socialist countries of Eastern Europe, the last few decades have been particularly distressing. First they were disillusioned with the supposed “benefits” the counter-revolutionary “colour revolutions” brought them – unemployment, inflated prices, racism, etc. In a few countries there were successful attempts to return to Socialism. But the possibility of a return to Socialism was sufficient for the capitalist regimes the counter-revolutions had installed to resort to their ultimate defence: fascism. Subversion, “spontaneous” riots by gangs of armed thugs, often brought in from other countries, and overt interference by EU and US politicians saw numerous openly fascist regimes installed from the Baltic States to Hungary to Ukraine. Atrocities by the regime installed in Ukraine led to the creation of two self-proclaimed anti-fascist republics in the east of the country, and they have been waging a defensive war against the fascist regime in Kiev ever since.

The killing of civilians has become normal over the last few years, and not just in Ukraine, as drone attacks and other hi-tech forms of warfare too often proved to be unable to distinguish friend from foe, so killed indiscriminately. “Special forces” that carried out assassinations or provoked real or phoney “civil wars” also became the norm. In fact, last year, we learned that US Special Forces were actually present, often clandestinely, in almost all of the world’s countries – except China and Russia. For them we saw a ramped up Cold War. China’s economic might (despite hickups in the stock market) now threatens US hegemony around the globe.

Throughout 2015, crisis followed crisis in the capitalist world as a stumbling global economy met a push by the most reactionary corporations for war with either Russia and/or China. NATO moved forces into Eastern Europe in preparation for war with Russia. In the East, the US and its client Japan tried to provoke war with China over its resistance to US efforts to dominate China’s coastal waters.

However, the days when “what the imperialism wants, imperialism gets” are long gone. The US couldn’t even get its European allies to agree on boycotting Russian trade! The countries of South America linked in the Mercosur trade agreement, are defying the US in a region it long considered its own backyard. China and Russia are developing new transport routes for energy supplies and world trade generally across Asia without reference to the USA.

The BRICS states – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – are building a global trade, banking and investment network that is not dependent on the US. A new Panama Canal – deeper than the existing US-owned canal – is being built by China and Russia through Nicaragua. It will profoundly affect both global transport and American hegemony. At the same time the world’s people are increasingly standing up to imperialism and opposing the plethora of wars that imperialism is trying to force on the planet.

Already, the wars that imperialism has provoked have generated a refugee crisis in Europe as people flee their homes in the Middle East to escape death and destruction. Millions of people have been displaced while capitalist governments, instead of ending the wars that cause the crisis, put forward band-aid solutions, offering – with great fanfare – to take some thousands of the millions of refugees.

In Australia last year, Tony Abbott, the reactionaries’ choice as PM, proved to be so unpopular with the electorate that the Coalition had to dump him or face certain defeat. Without bothering with the inconvenience of a national election, they kicked him out and replaced him with the well-spoken, suave Malcolm Turnbull, who announced he would retain all his predecessor’s policies. So no real change at all. Despite that, so hated was Abbott that Turnbull’s support soared on a wave of relief. We can confidently expect that situation not to last as the Abbott-like nature of Turnbull’s policies impacts on people’s lives.

The reactionaries (including Turnbull) are still dragging their feet on climate change, despite Turnbull’s window dressing efforts at the Paris Climate Change Conference where he tried hard to make it appear that his government was willing to take serious steps on this issue. Meanwhile, in Australia at both federal and state levels the Libs continued Abbott’s attack on vital programs. They have savagely cut funding for refuges for women and children escaping domestic violence, and cut funding for the arts. The concept of free tertiary education has been abandoned and now they are pushing for secondary education to follow suit. TAFE has been wrecked and replaced by a host of fee-charging private “colleges” more interested in making money than in educating anyone. The Libs have no plans at state or federal level to fund effective public transport or to develop renewable energy. Government reluctance to seriously embrace renewable energy will adversely impact Australia’s capitalist economy in coming years.

Everywhere they can, corporate interests are trying to replace government involvement in running the affairs of the nation, arguing that private enterprise is “more efficient” and even “cheaper”. This corporatisation of the country is coming to a peak with the attempt to replace Medicare with private, for-profit health care, US-style. They also want to remove the government subsidies on pharmaceuticals, leaving consumers to the tender mercies of the market. The greed of capitalists really does know no limits.

However, this massive, hugely damaging shift in how Australia functions is not yet a done deal. Even where the privateers have been successful so far – as in privatising our rail system, for example – a future government that puts the people’s needs and interests first can always restore them to public ownership and control by nationalising them once again. 2016 is shaping as another year of intense struggle as the people resist the implementation of this corporate agenda. And resist they must and assuredly will!

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