The crisis facing humanity in Europe and the world is potentially the biggest unfolding disaster since the Second World War and threatens to plunge the continent into a dark age not seen since the 1930’s. Coupled with seemingly unending economic stagnation and an absolute gulf of inequality we have most of the ingredients for an outbreak of war.
Leaving nuclear weapons aside the stockpile of heavy duty ordinance on the continent would mean that any significant conflagration will be extremely bloody. Mass societal breakdown is a clear and present danger.
As Socialists we realise that we are here due to the depressingly familiar pattern of yet another mass failure of Capitalism. Market economics are illogical, unscientific and above all they take absolutely no account of the needs of people. Unless that is, you belong to the elite.
Just before the Davos Economic Forum in January this year OXFAM reported that the 1% at the top owned more wealth than the rest of humanity put together.(1) In the UK 1,084,604 were forced to use Food Banks (2) as Tory Austerity, aided and abetted by the Labour Party bit, and bit hard.
Across Europe Spain reported youth unemployment at 49% in June 2015 (3) and Greece, despite a popular mandate to the contrary was forced to accept an economic plan written in Berlin that will perpetuate their financial death spiral. Meanwhile Hungary, which is on the front line in the current crisis recorded unrest as the former Communist State has some of the lowest paid workers in Europe. It was revealed that Budapest social workers were striking in protest that their salaries are a pitiful $300 (4) a month when rents are around the $600 mark. (5)
Growth rates in the UK and across the Euro Zone are forecast to be poor and workers can expect more of the same when it comes to Austerity. The Institute for Fiscal Studies describes growth in Europe as, “weak” and driven by “outside demand” i.e. China which this week is showing signs of a huge slowdown. They said, “The global recovery remained patchy and lacking in momentum in 2014. The IFS concludes, “A key downside risk to our forecast is a widespread retreat from risk by investors, resulting in a considerable decline”. (6)
The response of Governments is to pile more and more misery onto workers and use this elongated crisis as an opportunity to create their dream of a low wage/ high profit economy and especially to engender a time deficit in people’s lives so they cannot organise easily because of the constant need to work just to make ends meet.ority to force through even more savage cuts on those who often are in the worst position to defend themselves.
Social Security for the under 25’s will no longer exist meaning more untold suffering for our young people, especially if you have been in care or in an abusive household. The closure of the Independent Living Fund sounds the death knell of opportunity for the disabled. This cruel and abusive move and its horrific affects are described in a superbly eloquent blog by Alex Taylor. http://dpac.uk.net/2015/07/cuts-to-disability-benefits-will-make-a-burden-out-of-me-by-alex-taylor/
The Labour Party refused to vote against the Welfare Bill. Just in case you missed it, THE LABOUR PARTY REFUSED TO VOTE AGAINST THE WELFARE BILL. You can have all the sterile and pedantic debates that you want, but if all but 47 of the Parliamentary Labour Party feel OK about sitting on their hands regarding this issue then there is the living proof of Hon. (sic) members being totally out of touch and not giving a fig for their constituents.
This putrid ethos permeates downwards and by osmosis we see Labour Councils enforcing cuts and then having the gall to describe them as, “compassionate”. (Cllr. Pete Allen, Hull City Council, Pickering Ward).
So we can safely concur with the IFS and say that Europe is in a mess and in the UK the situation is exacerbated by a compliant and supine so called “Opposition”. No matter who the Leader is, the Labour Party is incapable, and above all unwilling to lead a mass movement to smash Capitalism and move to a planned economy which is controlled by the people on behalf of the people. Socialism, I think it’s called.
The Blairites want to pursue an openly pro market agenda and only use some of the proceeds of growth to implement their twisted vision of “social justice”, Burnham has no principles whatsoever and would declare green to be pink if that’s what was required. And Corbyn has a record of poor judgement regarding the IRA and Hamas and overall is under the illusion that capital will just roll over and not seek to wreck any elected Government at every turn. His elevation to the leadership is no done deal, but even then Labour would find it impossible to survive in the current Parliamentary system.
One thing that is guaranteed to occur during the bad times is divide and rule. This is where the ruling class encourage the workers to turn on each other as a distraction from what is really going on. So whilst the Tories Welfare Bill was getting its second reading the so called Calais Crisis was invoked and we were treated to daily diet of migrant baiting from the press and footage of the deprivation being wrought on families in disgustingly inadequate “camps”. In Europe. In the 21st century. We are encouraged to believe that these souls have a choice over whether they are there or not.
Our Prime Minister David Cameron then used the chilling word, “swarm” (8) whilst describing the desperate plight of these people. That word was not an accident. Cameron deliberately and with calculation deployed this horrible word. Leni Riefenstahl used such imagery in her films to demonise the Jews in Hitler’s Germany. Cameron should refer to a dictionary. 0.027% of Europe’s population are refugees. In a continent of 740 million this is a miniscule figure.
That’s the fetid atmosphere Cameron wants to create. If you dehumanise people then fellow workers will cease to feel connected to them. This doesn’t necessarily result in active hatred or action, rather they have no opinion on what happens next which then allows firstly withdrawal of help followed by deportations which become acceptable. Then even worse things can develop…
The graph below is extremely important as it gives us the real figures regarding the UK and our part in migration. Contrary to the hype and hysteria whipped up by the press, with the connivance of the Tories and Labour the UK is right at the bottom of this table.(9)
The current issues in Europe relate directly to botched UK and Allied foreign policy as of the 840,876 applications for asylum received in the EU last year, 120,00 came from Syria. The next highest number came from Afghanistan, Kosovo and Eritrea respectively. And this takes no account of the recent mass flight from Libya and Iraq.
The sheer desperation of families risking their lives to get away from the basket case states that “exist” in the fall out of our bombs and missiles should be enough for us in the UK to open our hearts.
But if that isn’t the motivation then economic pragmatism can trump all other considerations. Our economy is suffering from a huge skills deficit. Frankly we need a shot in the arm to re boot our public services and to design and build the 2 million homes we desperately need in Britain. If we raised the minimum wage to £10 immediately and followed a short term programme of quantitative easing to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure as put forward by prospective Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell (£750 billion disappeared into the Banks and re appeared in the Stock Market and Hedge Funds) then there would be an immediate increase in demand and tax receipts.
We must never see the refugee situation as an opportunity, that would be to demean their plight and be an incentive not to sort things out, but it could have a positive effect if handled with respect and dignity.
To do this we need a planned economy which ensures efficiency, is logical and above all puts the needs of people above all else. Labour can never deliver this which is why we need to build a mass grassroots movement build in our communities, trade unions and amongst the progressive Socialist elements that exist in Labour, the Green Party and TUSC. Locally Hull Red Labour must aim in the first place to become the main Opposition to the moribund Council. The surge for the SNP and Corbyn are misguided but they do show that the appetite for change amongst the 76% of voters who did not place their X next to the Tories is an actuality.
The stakes are high as we have seen all the ingredients for a conflagration are in place, the Ukraine and Eastern Europe being the flash points with IS lurking in the wings.
1) Oxfam Report: “Wealth, having it all and wanting more” 19/1/15. http://policy-practice.oxfam.org.uk/publications/wealth-having-it-all-and-wanting-more-33
2) Trussell Trust figures for April 14/ March 15 http://www.trusselltrust.org/stats
4) May 2015 http://budapestbeacon.com/featured-articles/hungarian-social-workers-protest-low-wages-poor-working-conditions/23858
5) Cost of living in Hungary. https://www.expatistan.com/price/rent/budapest/USD
6) IFS Global Economy Report 18/8/15 Page 73 http://www.ifs.org.uk/uploads/gb/gb2015/ch3_gb2015.pdf
7) Hull Daily Mail March 2013 http://www.hulldailymail.co.uk/Hull-City-Council-budget-2013-Labour-s-day/story-18286659-detail/story.html
8) Cameron speaking to ITV News 30th July 2015. 9) BBC report 3rd September 2015 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-34131911