Davos 2009 : Capitalism in Crisis

    European governments tremble as anger spreads, Ian Traynor, London, The Age, February 1, 2009: “FRANCE paralysed by strikes, the boulevards of Paris resembling a battlefield. The Hungarian currency sinks as unemployment rises. Greek farmers block the road into Bulgaria. New figures show the three Baltic states face the biggest recessions in Europe…”

Important segments of the transnational capitalist/ruling class — including millionaire PM KRudd [sic: Deputy PM Julia Gillard took his place after KRudd cancelled] and his billionaire boss Rupert Murdoch (Murdoch appointed KRudd in April 2007) — are meeting once again in the Swiss resort town of Davos. While eating turkey and glutting wine, the bourgeois swine will be tut-tutting the fact that the same economic system that ensures they live lives of luxury also ensures that every day thousands of children literally shit themselves to death. Or, as a polite BBC puts it: “The biggest criticism [of the WEF Summit]… will be that many of the people who hope to solve the world’s problems are also those who have caused them”. Which is semi-correct: many of the ‘problems’ of the world — war, poverty, starvation, ecocide, Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em — are attributable to capitalism, but these ‘problems’, like capitalism, are systemic.

    Diarrhea, known medically as gastroenteritis, is a major cause of children’s death in the world–second only to acute respiratory infections (ARI). One out of every four childhood deaths is from diarrhea, which drains the life out of at least 3 million infants and young children every year. Of these deaths, 99.6% occur in the Third World, where one in ten children dies of diarrhea before the age five… ~ David Werner & David Sanders, Questioning the Solution, Chapter 6: Diarrhea: A Leading Killer of Children, 1997

Speaking of violence, in the 27 months since the G20 Summit in Melbourne — in which a number of rock *s, in addition to bureaucrats, foreign and imported, warbled about ‘making poverty history’ — the UN estimates 24,120,000 children have died of “poverty-related” causes (one might just as well say ‘wealth-related’ causes).

But hell, who’s counting?

And yet, even now — as former Treasurer Costello put it — there are some socialists, there are some anarchists, there are some people that want to disrupt world trade. Thankfully, police forces around the world give short shrift to such troublemakers. Of course, not all troublemakers are bad.

In Putin’s Russia, for example, police happily collude in the fascist butchering of oppositionists. (In Davos, police have successfully contained the scum.)

The global economic crisis poses our rulers some curly questions, the most important of which is whether or not it will trigger widespread social unrest. Australia, like other countries, is headed for recession (the term ‘recession’ generally describes the reduction of a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) for at least two quarters). According to the IMF, Australia “would likely have a negative growth rate of -0.2 per cent this year” (Australia heading for recession: IMF, Anne Davies in Washington and Kerry-Anne Walsh in Canberra, The Sydney Morning Herald, February 1, 2009).

There is some good news however, as world-renowned political economist yuppie scribbler Christian Kerr retains his faith: “Capitalism got us into this mess, but capitalism will get us out. Just as fortunes have been lost, fortunes will be made cleaning it up” (Give capitalism some credit, The Australian, January 30, 2009). Why, Naomi Klein even wrote a book about it!

In Iceland, the crisis has already witnessed mass protest, and the collapse of the government (See : The Icelandic Government has Collapsed… and then what?, aftaka.org, January 30, 2009). In the UK, wildcat strikes have broken out in oil refineries. (See : Unofficial refinery walkouts ‘over foreign workers’ spread, Joseph K., January 30, 2009.) In France, “As the recession begins to bite in France, transport, education and other services are brought to a halt by a national strike demanding action on unemployment and the rising cost of living” (Ex temp, libcom.org, January 29, 2009).

Walkouts in refineries by an oil worker

I work for a contracted company in charge of the maintenance of an oil refinery in south Wales. The start of the strike occurred due to an Italian company being contracted to increase refinery capacity at the Lindsey refinery. The strikes quickly spread across the rest of the refineries, sporting the slogan “British Jobs for British workers”.

In the area where I work there are two oil refineries and two LNG terminals plus an oil storage facility. Recently due to the economic crisis workers at all of these sites have been made redundant, which is pretty much uniform across the UK and even the world. With the prospect of work coming in the form of new building projects such as the planned gas fired power stations and nuclear power stations there is hope for workers who are out of work. However due to the recession the fat cats want to cut costs. As a result they will use the company who will charge the least. It’s unfortunate that overseas companies can do the job for less than the British companies. This is where the problem began — workers recently made redundant were horrified when local jobs when to an Italian company who would use Italian and Portuguese labour.

A lot of my colleagues regularly work overseas in places such as Kazakhstan, Dubai and in other countries. When this work is offered people jump at the chance. Don’t blame the workers – it’s not their fault at all. It’s the system: capitalism. To quote one of my colleagues, “foreign workers are in the same boat as us, if were offered work we would take it.” The recent wave of redundancies had nothing to do with overseas workers “taking our jobs”. It’s the whole greedy system that is to blame. In the engineering industry, especially the oil and gas industry, the job takes you world wide. Contractors can work all over the world. As I’m sure the media is pushing this on the front pages they are doing nothing to defend the foreign workers who also face threats of redundancy and unemployment. Who can blame the workers who just want to work and support their family? What happened to international workers’ solidarity?

A. It’s under constant assault. In the meantime, KRudd has provided the reading public with another tacky souvenir of pre-revolutionary Australia.

Time for a new world order: PM
Phillip Coorey
The Sydney Morning Herald
January 31, 2009

KEVIN RUDD has denounced the unfettered capitalism of the past three decades and called for a new era of “social capitalism” in which government intervention and regulation feature heavily.

    The Global Financial Crisis
    Kevin Rudd
    The Monthly

    In “The Global Financial Crisis”, Kevin Rudd offers a comprehensive and lucid analysis of the current economic situation. In mid January, while on annual leave, the prime minister wrote this 7700-word essay that brings historical perspective to bear on the causes, precedents and ramifications of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Sheeting home much of the blame to the neo-liberal agenda that has prevailed in Western economies over the past 30 years, he outlines a series of broad reforms – many of which, he argues, must be undertaken on an unprecedented, global scale. This major essay on the most pressing issue of our time is a unique contribution from a sitting prime minister.

In an essay to be published next week, the Prime Minister is scathing of the neo-liberals who began refashioning the market system in the 1970s, and ultimately brought about the global financial crisis.

“The time has come, off the back of the current crisis, to proclaim that the great neo-liberal experiment of the past 30 years has failed, that the emperor has no clothes,” he writes of those who placed their faith in the corrective powers of the market.

“Neo-liberalism [Bad Cop] and the free-market fundamentalism it has produced has been revealed as little more than personal greed dressed up as an economic philosophy. And, ironically, it now falls to social democracy [Good Cop] to prevent liberal capitalism [TINA] from cannibalising itself.”

See also : Recession Britain: the great debate, Will Hutton and David Cameron, The Observer, February 1, 2009: “Will Hutton, Observer columnist and one of the country’s foremost commentators on the global recession, this weekend engaged in an extraordinary email exchange with David Cameron, in the wake of his path-breaking speech at the Davos summit. In it he challenged the Tory leader to explain how he would bring about ‘capitalism with a conscience’.” | What is Rudd’s Agenda?, Robert Manne, The Monthly, November 2008 | Gloom, perplexity, divisions dominate World Economic Forum in Davos, Barry Grey, wsws.org, January 31, 2009 | wsws.org on World Economy | Join vents Reading Marx’s Capital with David Harvey : A close reading of the text of Karl Marx’s Capital, Volume I | ‘Jump! You Fuckers!’, Dan Hind, January 19, 2009 [PDF] |

“When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said, ‘Let us pray.’ We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.” ~ Desmond Tutu

Jump! You Fuckers! (January 23, 2009) | Capitalism Wins at the Polls : Anarchy Brewing in the Streets (November 27, 2008) | Crapitalism, actually (September 27, 2008) | CaPiTaLiSm In cRiSiS (September 23, 2008) | They break our legs / And we say “Thank you” when they offer us crutches (May 6, 2008) | Go Ahead, Hate Them, It’s Good for You (January 22, 2008) | Anarchy: Against Capital, Against the State (June 23, 2007) | Capitalism Explained (December 29, 2006) | Fill the ‘G // With the heads of the bourgeoisie (December 2, 2006) | Making the world safe for capitalism: Oaxaca, Mexico (October 29, 2006)

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2020 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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4 Responses to Davos 2009 : Capitalism in Crisis

  1. Fushichô says:

    Hi,

    I’ve discovered your website recently, so this is my first intervention here.

    I’m French, living in Lyons. Last Thursday’s strike was NOT about “demanding action on unemployment and the rising cost of living”. Well, this was a small part of it. This actually is what the official trade unions put forward. But it was mainly a sign of protest against Sarkozy’s policies, all the liberal reforms he’s put into motion since 2007, all of them dramatically degrading the public service (post, education, etc.), reducing liberties considerably, making France a police state in which terrorist laws are applied to anyone showing signs of opposition to his policy, or even without any evidence (you may have heard of Julien Coupat and Tarnac), sending policemen to schools to pick up kids whose parents are illegal migrants that must be deported and so many daily disgusting actions of that sort. It was a protest against his arrogance (last July, he said “now when there’s a strike in France, nobody sees it”), his meddling with justice, media and basically everything. Thursday’s strike sure was an economic protest, but mainly a political one. Trade unions and political parties (left or right) only advertised the small economic side of it.

  2. @ndy says:

    G’day Fushichô,

    Thanks for the comment. I have blogged previously about the Tarnac Nine:

    Cheese-eating surrender monkeys vs. very fast trains : Free the Tarnac Nine!
    November 25th, 2008
    “Your heads are full of rubbish because you have read too many books.”
    December 19th, 2008
    So Frenchy So Chic
    January 5th, 2009
    The War Against Preterrorism: The ‘Tarnac Nine’ and The Coming Insurrection
    January 17th, 2009

    Their case has been ignored in the Australian media.

    I don’t know of any good English-language sources of news about France — do you? I did stumble upon this article in The EconomistA time of troubles and protest, January 22, 2009 — which is interesting, if obviously inaccurate on some points (eg, the Solidaire Unitaire Démocratique does not belong to “a tradition that the French call anarcho-syndicalisme“). This is how the Trotskyists @ wsws.org describe the situation:

    Mass strikes and protests in France against joblessness and austerity measures
    Antoine Lerougetel
    January 30, 2009

    Thursday’s day of action throughout France in defence of jobs, the purchasing power of wages and social services, called by the eight major trade union federations, brought an estimated 2.5 million workers and youth onto the streets of some 200 cities and towns. Some small towns reported the largest demonstrations in many years. Workers went on strike in great numbers, as did high school and university students.

    Opinion polls indicate that up to three quarters of the French population support or sympathise with the strike.

    The trade unions that called the day of action have given no indication of plans to continue or extend the mobilisation and merely state they intend to meet on Monday, but are waiting to see what right-wing President Nicolas Sarkozy will do.

    The mass popular movement is driven by the rapidly deteriorating economic situation. A wave of sackings and plant closures in the private sector has led to the destruction of 100,000 jobs in the last three months. This has been aggravated by partial closures and short-time working, particularly in the steel and motor industries. Meanwhile, the Sarkozy government has launched an offensive in the public services (health, education, social welfare) targeting jobs and conditions of work.

    Thursday’s mobilization expressed the feelings of millions of workers and young people. The French working class will not accept impoverishment as the price of an economic crisis, for which it bears no responsibility, to maintain the profits and privileges of those who are responsible…

  3. Fushichô says:

    Very good and accurate coverage of Tarnac, thanks! Julien Coupat is now the only one that remains in jail.

    Sorry, I don’t know any English-language source of news about France, all of the websites I read (except yours) are in French. But if you spot something of interest about France, I’d be more than happy to sum up in my limited political English French articles I could read about it.

    The article of The Economist is pretty interesting, despite some inaccuracies and misleading sentences: Saint-Lazare train station has been closed by order of the SNCF (French Railway National Company) management, militant unions didn’t force the closure.
    SNCF workers had been in conflict with the management about issues like understaffed personnel, degrading work conditions which impacts the security of train workers and users, and such. Then, on that day, an agent had been attacked, which caused SNCF workers to start a spontaneous strike. For security reasons, SNCF management decided to close the train station.
    Even mass media admitted it almost immediately ^^

    Though the way Antoine Lerougetel describes last Thursday’s strike is correct, it is broader than that; there were more banners about the effect of Sarkozy’s policies in public services, whose offensive was launched as soon as he was elected 2 years ago, than about fear of unemployment and purchasing power. It’s more about the reaction of workers, students and pensioners after 2 years of ultra-liberal policies than about the fear of what comes next because of the crisis. Which, I admit, can be hard to distinguish as both lead to the same effects. But the banners were a good help to figure out it was a political general strike 🙂

  4. Paul Justo says:

    As if the locals in North Lincolnshire could build a de-sulphurisation unit?!

    “Just like building a shed for me cows.”

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