What we are witnessing across the capitalist world in Greece, Spain, Portugal, France, England and America, where social unrest has erupted at various levels of intensity is class struggle. We have been seeing it in Palestine for many years. Recently, it spilled over into Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Class struggle is an instrument of social change, which may sometimes take the form of a revolution. The conditions required for such a development are provided by the capitalist system. The seed for the next wave of class struggle against world capitalism was planted in the period of the 1980s when neo-liberal economic policies were introduced by the Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan administrations.
During the 1980s the Keynesian economic doctrine came under challenge from the Chicago School of Economics led by Milton Friedman. The economic policies expounded by Keynes was a strategy designed to buy time for capitalism while it also succeeded in preventing the class forces from going at each other’s throats.
Capitalism was in recession in the 1930s and at the same time, it was facing a challenge in Eastern Europe from a new form of social, political and economic organization, led by workers, in what was to become known as the Soviet Union.
It is also important to remember that across the capitalist world, during that period of recession, recognizing that there was an alternative to capitalism workers began to make demands for social political and economic change to the capitalist system.
It was against that background, that Keynesian economic theory was applied in conditions of an economic crisis and a major political and economic challenge to capitalism.
As it turned out, when in the 1970s capitalism began to experience economic difficulties, as a result of the anti-colonial struggles and the formation of The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (O.P.E.C.), who increased oil prices, economists on the right began to attack social liberalism which was at the centre of the Keynesian economic strategy. The campaign against Keynesian economics continued through the 1980s and gained renewed vigour when oil prices collapsed and led to a new round of economic recession.
This, together with the collapse of Socialism in Eastern Europe, led to the belief that conditions were now suitable again to launch an all out onslaught on the working class everywhere. In order to achieve this, capitalism embarked on a restructuring exercise and introduced changes in its macro and micro economic structures, which had far-reaching implications at the industrial and political levels in industrialized and developing economies.
Here in Trinidad and Tobago, The National Alliance for Reconstruction (N.A.R.) embarked on a programme to restructure the T&T economy, Mr. A.N.R. Robinson wrote to Mr. Camdessus who was the head of the International Monetary Fund (I.M.F.) outlining the several conditions the country was prepared to accept in order to qualify for loans.
These included; cuts in public servants wages and salaries; restructuring of the public service; removal of all subsidies; privatizing the Fire and Prison services and so on.
These new anti-working class weapons fell under the heading of structural adjustment and were launched into action in the wake of the economic recession of the 1980s-1990s when the price of oil fell to levels which placed the T&T economy in a tail spin. The policies initiated by the N.A.R. were continued by the Manning and Panday administrations with some minor adjustments to suit the prevailing political conditions of their tenure.
However, this PP government under the leadership of Prime Minister Kamla Bissessar and Finance Minister Winston Dookeran has clearly reverted back to the neoliberal economic policies of the 1980s in conditions which clearly demonstrate that neoliberal economics serves the interest of the transnational corporations.
In other words, capitalism has reached the stage where it has taken off the mask and is showing its fangs. It is at the stage where even disasters natural or orchestrated are seen as an opportunity to make profit. In that context recessions serve that purpose as well.
Can anyone explain what happens to the money supply during a recession? We know that millions of working people are pauperised and there is usually a decline in demand for goods and services. But the filthy rich one percent of the world becomes even richer.
So when a government which promises to serve the people choose to revert back to these anti-people economic policies, it becomes clearer that it is under the instructions of the international financial institutions to spend less on its people in order to participate in the financing of the bail-out plans for the euro zone countries and fat cats such as Lawrence Duprey.
Consistent with the neoliberal policies we can expect to see the phasing out or complete elimination of some social programmes. Make no mistake about that; it is going to happen. This new assault on the working class is going to be systematic and protracted. It is aimed at destroying the labour movement completely. This does not mean that trade unions will no longer exist, but their role in the labour market will be weakened substantially.
The objective is to cheapen labour through the practice of employing more and more workers on contracts, on a part time basis and through the creation of a cycle where a large number of workers will be employed to do the same job over and over under little or no proper terms and conditions of employment.
This is no fairy tale; this is already happening in the world of work. However, as the situation becomes worse, the working people will be forced to respond in self defence; in defence of their standard of living and those of their families. They will be forced to fight to keep the social programmes by demanding transparency and accountability in the implementation of these programmes. The working class must ensure that they alone must not bear the burden of any economic recession.
The current economic situation in the world today has exposed the failure of the liberalist policies expounded by those who extolled the virtues of capitalism without restrictions and regulations and against government's involvement in the regulation of the markets.
As a consequence of its failure, and the far-reaching implications and consequences for its future, the international climate is one where the forces of capitalism are lining up once again in direct opposition to the working class led by organized labour and other revolutionary forces.
The options open to capitalism if the situation worsens, is to become very oppressive and in some cases resort to fascism. If one is to discuss this question of fascism in the context of the current crisis, a good starting point would be the period of the administration of George W. Bush and the 9/11 disaster. As the leading capitalist country, it was clear that America began to prepare the ground work for the establishment of a repressive regime under the guise of a war against an external force.
By creating an external enemy, real or imagined, it provided the conditions for the establishment of extreme restrictive conditions at home and this in turn generated an atmosphere of fear in the population leading also to individuals spying on each other. Many countries, developed and developing, began to sing from the same book as the Americans and as a consequence caused millions of dollars to be expended both by individuals and the governments on security systems.
What the Bush regime was able to create in the world is an atmosphere of fear as a result of which we also saw the emergence of a rash of security companies and the marketing of a wide range of security systems. Parallel with this development, was the escalation in crime and criminal activities along with an escalation in the drug trade, here at home, and across the globe. All of these happenings are signals that capitalism is in decay while it is resorting to the worst forms of attacks on the working class and the broad masses of the people.
Capitalism is in a crisis of enormous proportions. Of this there can be no doubt. In this era of globalization, finance capital is dominating the economic landscape and because of its huge appetite for super profit it has assigned industrial capital a subordinate role in the overall scheme of things. It is finance capital which determines the priorities when huge investments are to be made in country (a) or (b) and it lays down the rules. In other words, industrial capital becomes its servant.
Finance capital refuses to be regulated and demands the right to freedom of movement to and from any place on planet earth. In this age of the internet, finance capital has the capability to loot and destroy economies where ever and whenever it so chooses. In this regard, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya are recent victims.
Finance Capital is the new crusader. It is finance capital which funded these wars. At this very moment, by its action, finance capital is creating conditions for the unification of the working class across borders. The austerity measures which it has chosen to implement in the industrialized and developing countries are bound to pauperise the working people of these countries, thereby creating the conditions for class struggle and revolution.
Here at home we are beginning to hear talk of austerity measures. This is in addition to the policy of wage restraint which the PP government is seeking to impose, with the five percent wage cap. On top of this is the imposition of the state of emergency and curfew purportedly to fight crime, while all the signs suggest that the real reason is to prevent the declaration of a national strike.
History has shown that oppressive measures never succeeded in breaking the spirit of the working class. In fact wherever they were imposed, they only succeeded in delaying the inevitable. States of emergencies and various other repressive measures which are associated with it, serve in many instances to expose the true nature of the system and those that are at the helm.
What we must understand, is that what Dr. Eric Williams set out to construct in Trinidad and Tobago post Independence, is a capitalist society. All the political parties which assumed the leadership of the country subsequently chose to continue that process. Depending on the political and economic climate existing at the particular point in time; the macro-economic policies pursued took on a character consistent with the external and internal temperature of the politics. 1970 and 1990 are examples of how the respective governments dealt with the internal crises which occurred at those times.
They declared states of emergencies to contain and repulse the struggle of the working class. The PP government chose to follow the example of previous governments and what we are witnessing, is signs of a government which is revealing some characteristics of a fascistic nature. Should it continue along those lines in its dealings with the working class and the broad masses of the people conditions for class struggle will reveal themselves.
All the signs point to the reality, that the world economies are going to experience a new round of economic recession. What working people will come to realize by the force of these events is that those who own and control the means of production and distribution will not be affected by the recession. In fact the working class will come to realize that capitalism has arrived at a stage where chaos caused by natural disasters and wars are seen as opportunities for the accumulation of super profits.
Capitalism is no longer able to replicate itself. It has now entered into a place where, it, as an idea, is also in recession. As the idea of capitalism continues in recession the idea of socialism will assume importance once again. This is not going to happen overnight and it will take many years to stand on its own again. You see, we must not lose sight of the fact that the capitalist system will not lay down and die quietly; it will fight to the bitter end. It will continue to find ways to resist the inevitable.
In the recent past capitalism has suffered some setbacks in the implementation of its foreign policy objectives. This is clear from the decision of the Obama administration to withdraw US military forces from Iraq and Afghanistan and the manner of their intervention in the conflict in Libya under the disguise of lending support for the rebels in that country. The cost of the wars is partly responsible for the financial collapse of the economies of Europe and America and has only benefited the Bush and Cheney clan and the one percent of the world's population who control the wealth.
All of these factors are weighing heavily on the backs of the working population of the world and are some of the ingredients which are being added to the pot that will come to a boil and overflow into revolution, because of recessions, which will create poverty and starvation on a scale never experienced in the past.
Mark my words; we are going to experience these happenings because the capitalist system is unable to control its appetite for the consumption of more and more economic resources. In so doing its action leads to cycles of economic growth and recession as it roams the globe consuming these resources while at the same time, leaving poverty and destruction in its wake.