Thus far in the history of our campaign no one has stood up for the economics and politics of neo-liberalism. Whatever our differences in terms of strategy and tactics there is a consensus of opposition to the deeply divisive, damaging policies of the present government and its predecessor. In this light find a couple of links that seek to stimulate debate about the creation of alternatives. Fair enough you won’t absorb them necessarily over the weekend – in fact you might well want to do more playful things! – but at the very least save them for a rainy day.
Elites are using the crisis of global capital to reassert power. But this is no time for retreat. Stuart Hall, Doreen Massey and Michael Rustin outline the alternative in a manifesto, which will appear over the next year in monthly instalments.
This is no time for simple retreat. What is required is a renewed sense of being on the side of the future, not stuck in the dugouts of the past. We must admit that the old forms of the welfare state proved insufficient. But we must stubbornly defend the principles on which it was founded – redistribution, egalitarianism, collective provision, democratic accountability and participation, the right to education and healthcare – and find new ways in which they can be institutionalised and expressed.
In this recent lecture Paul Mason returns to the question of resistance to neo-liberalism and the precarious position of ‘graduates, indeed young people without a future’.
All attempts to make the old model work without solving the global imbalances on which it rests lead to the policy of austerity: not just fiscal austerity, as in Britain and southern Europe, but a long-term strategy of reducing the wages, welfare benefits and labour rights of the workforce in the West.
And there is one massively important group that has been dealt not just a tactical setback but a strategic one. In Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere I called these ‘graduates without a future’ – the first generation in the West since the 1930s who will be poorer than their parents. They will leave college with £30, 40, 50k debts. The jobs on offer are – as the famous Santa Cruz ‘Communiqué from an Absent Future’ told us in 2009 – the same jobs you do while on campus: interning, barista, waiting tables, sex work. The first post-college job is often working for free or for the minimum wage. There is no way onto the housing ladder, the ladder is now horizontal; and in retirement, pension schemes will be gone.
For this generation it is not a question of simple economic grievance but of the theft of the promised future. And I’ve become sick of hearing that the movement has ‘petered out’. No. It has been massively repressed. Tear gas fired indiscriminately into crowds in Athens, rubber bullets in Madrid, tasers and pepper spray on campuses across America. Non-lethal policing is highly effective against non-violent protests. It tends to clear them away. But do not think it has cleared away the grievances in people’s minds that led them to demonstrate in the first place. What it does is push those who don’t want to get their heads broken into a more sullen, silent, passive resistance: a resistance of ideas; or a resistance of small, granular social projects; or, as in Greece, anomie – where people just embrace the beauty of being hopeless, roll a joint, stare into each other’s eyes.
The crisis of neoliberalism, compounded by the total failure to emerge of any alternative within official politics, simply leaves unanswered the next generation’s question: how does capitalism secure my future?
But the world that was created after 1945 – a world of human rights, democracy and relative working-class affluence in the West – is now in jeopardy. And as long as all these things remain in jeopardy, it will go on kicking off.