12th June 2020
Black lives continue to matter, young people continue to protest
Capitalism has had free reign over the world economy, with the exception of China and notable smaller scale economies such as Vietnam and Cuba, for the best part of thirty years. The defeat of the Soviet Union; the fall of the Berlin Wall; German ‘unification’; the swift dismemberment of Yugoslavia; and the annexation of the former socialist countries into the European Union, were all meant to herald a brave new world.
As ever, capitalism is the consummate conjuring trickster, now you see it, now you don’t. Better jobs, better pay. Better housing, lower rents. Better healthcare, healthier lives. Greater freedom, less oppression. All of which has been promised then veiled with the usual capitalist sleight of hand.
The billionaire Russians laundering their ill gotten gains through the London property market are no doubt very happy with the arrangements. German industrialists, with an untapped source of cheap labour on their doorstep in Eastern Europe have had little cause for complaint.
The reality however is that the whole system is creaking like never before.
The latest Economic Outlook from the capitalist club, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), makes grim reading, describing the world economy as being “on a tightrope.” The OECD predict that the recession following the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will be the worst for 100 years, with the UK being hit the hardest. The OECD predict a 6% shrinkage in the global economy with unemployment nearly doubling from 5.4% to 9.2% in OECD nations.
After the 2008/9 bankers gambling debt crisis global economic activity fell by only 0.1% and even that was used as an excuse to herald a decade of austerity, as the poor were punished across the Western world for the banker’s failings.
Worse still, the OECD 6% prediction is the best case scenario. Should the world be hit by a second wave of COVID-19, as many predict, a staggering 7.6% contraction is anticipated. The UK is expected to see GDP fall by 11.5%, compared to 11.4% in France, 11.3% in Italy and 11.1% in Spain. A massive hit across Europe, however you measure it.
The obvious conclusion to be drawn from the current economic and social crises faced by the West is that the system is not fit for purpose. It is not just the COVID-19 crisis which highlights this reality. The migrant crisis continues to be an ongoing issue which the European Union fails to face up to. Unemployment was rife across the EU even before COVID-19. It can only get worse. The killing of George Floyd in the United States has generated international activism under the Black Lives Matter banner and highlighted the economic apartheid which is endemic to the US state.
Many politicians are attempting to turn Floyd’s killing into an issue about police reform. That is only one piece in a much bigger jigsaw however. The persistent racism in policing in the US is a symptom of deeply engrained prejudice at every level of society in the US. It is not the cause of that prejudice, it is a reflection of it. To varying degrees the same deeply held prejudices are reflected across the Western world and the issues are systemic to capitalist economies. Inequality, exploitation and prejudice are endemic.
Billionaires are on the increase across the Western world, while more people are forced to sleep on the street. The promised land of milk and honey is just not delivering. This is the outcome of thirty years of the attack dogs of capitalism being off the leash. The reality of what that means is hitting home to a new generation, as more and more young people take to the streets, recognising that their hopes and dreams cannot be realised under the current system, understanding that tinkering around the edges will not bring lasting change.
Arguments for social justice, economic change, racial equality and, ultimately, socialism are more relevant than ever now. We must encourage the tearing down of symbols of slavery and oppression. We must shackle the dogs of war who want to spend billions on nuclear weapons technology. We must challenge the imperialist history taught to our children. We must root out institutional racism, sexism and defence of class interests at all levels of society. There is nothing to lose, there is a world to win.