2011: Turbulence, Crisis and Revolutions

Here Joe Higgins TD looks back on 2011 –  a year marked by an intense and deepening crisis within the economic and social structures of European capitalism and the dramatic manifestations of that crisis in this country also.

On the wider international stage we had the heroic and repeated mobilisation of millions of workers, peasants and the poor to overthrow the brutal dictatorships in the Arab world. It is a complicated process of course with the masses aspiring to a better life with democratic and human rights, dignity and employment, while the old elites and army tops try to reinvent themselves as democrats, the better to hang on to their wealth and privileges at the expense of the majority.

Understandably, the masses go into revolutionary action with a palpable hatred of the old order which brutalised them so callously without necessarily having a clear view of which system would constitute a real democratic alternative and share the wealth hitherto corralled for the elites. However, that is a debate that will now intensify as radical alternatives are seen to be needed.

Video: Peter Taaffee, Committee for a Workers’ International

In a bitter irony, while the people of north Africa and the Middle East battled for democratic rights against dictatorial systems, the political elite of the ‘democratic’ European Union shamefully dictated that the people of Europe become the subjects of a new and increasingly assertive dictatorship, that of the banking oligarchy and speculators in the financial markets. Shamefully they capitulated before this faceless, unelected and unaccountable cabal whose writ has been enforced openly in Greece and Italy where their creatures have been installed in government without reference to the democratic rights of the people.

The governments of Papademos and Monti, far from being made up of benign and disinterested technocrats, are in reality filled with bankers and representatives of big business put in place to salvage the fortunes of the big players in the money markets. They are put there to ensure that the billions gambled by these players are paid back on the backs of the majority whose living standards services and very livelihoods are sucked dry in the process.

‘Markets are asleep, but not for long. . . . ‘ is the ominous headline in an editorial in yesterday’s Daily Mail which then warns, ‘but come next week those markets will flex their muscles once again’ . The picture that can be conjured up is of a primitive people terrorised by a ravenous ogre which having gorged itself on the blood of innocent victims, retires to its lair and falls into a sated sleep while the survivors await in terror its re emergence to again stalk the land in its never ending lust for more blood.

The question that leaps out it why the bulk of the media faithfully report without condemnation this reign of terror in modern day Europe and far from challenging its morality, endlessly speculate on what more must be done to satisfy the beast. And to heap abuse on any of its intended victims among workers and their trade union and social organisations which dare to stand and resist its incessant demands.

The bulk of the media is of course itself a creature and tool of the markets which is why in the Ireland of the property bubble, it cheered on the voracious greed of the developers and bankers with disastrous consequences for society. Which is why in response to the anger of its readership, it may now demonise some of the more obvious agents of excess but never admit its own culpability. But in times to come people will clearly see the frenzied profiteering in the European financial markets as deeply destructive of society generally in Europe as the activities of a section of its membership was in driving the boom and making inevitable the consequent bust in Ireland

The government of Fine Gael and the Labour Party, installed here last march has shown itself to be as craven before the demands of the markets as any of its counterparts in the EU. Before the General Election, these parties pledged to bring revolutionary change from the policies pursued by Fianna Fail and the Green Party in government. There was to be a bonfire of the bondholders, vigorous emergency action to tackle unemployment and concrete help for the substantial numbers of people slaving to meet unsustainable monthly mortgage payments.

Instead we have had the same cringing capitulation to the diktats of the IMF/EU/ECB that Irish taxpayers should be saddled with rescuing major financial institutions in the EU from the consequences of their wild gambling in the Irish property bubble and sacrifice our Health and Education services while young people pile out of the country or rub shoulders on the dole. That is a policy that will meet a head on challenge in the New Year.