Monday, 16 March 2009

The Recession Moves At Different Speeds for Different People

The markets are going up. Is this the first sign of our being in a short, sharp 'V' shaped recession, or is it just a 'sucker's rally' as Larry Elliot would have it?

I haven't got a clue. Or at least I don't pretend to be able to call the markets. But I do accept that the recession will end at some point: this , I agree, is not the final crisis of capitalism. Much, I suspect, will depend on the the ability of the G20 to refashion a new set of global trading relationships.(I'm not holding my breathe, but you never know...)

But even if that works it is important to remember that the recession moves at different speeds for different people. Re-stabilised markets are not the same thing as a re-stabilised economy and society. The unlikely coupling of Gary Younge and Max Hastings both make that point in their different ways in the Guardian this morning. Younge looks forward to a resurgence of the Left as the magic of invincibility falls away from the financial Masters of the Universe. Hastings quietly notes the similarity of the current period to that of the phoney war of 1939 and early 1940. As yet, the recession has only hit a minority. Whoever is in power after the next election will govern at a time when it hits the majority. This is not necessarily a happy prospect for the Tories. Elliot puts this into perspective:

"Normally, Alistair Darling would be preparing a budget next month of such austerity that it would put Sir Stafford Cripps to shame. But the chancellor is considering an expansionary package that will lead to a further increase in the budget deficit. On some estimates, the Treasury may need to borrow £180bn next year to balance the books – 12% of GDP and unprecedented in peacetime (and probably wartime, for that matter)."

Cuts are coming. Big time. 2010: the year of living dangerously.

But I still remain to be convinced our barely functioning labour movement - well, barely functioning by the standards of the 1970s, anyway - is going to be the only or even main vehicle via which resistance raises its head. David Harvey, the doyen of Marxist theorists of neo-liberalism, seems to be saying something similar here. But his alternative, or supplementary, vectors of resistance seem cloudy and ill-defined.

As are mine, I must admit.


  1. "But his alternative, or supplementary, vectors of resistance seem cloudy and ill-defined. As are mine, I must admit."

    Mine too. Fuck.

    Keep going Charlie, give us some more of your thoughts, however cloudy or ill-defined.

    In "The Shock Doctrine", Naomi Klein describes how the Chicago boys/IMF sent to some banana republic would always expect the "IMF riots" to break out when their austerity package was put in. This was prevented from getting out of control by repression, disappearances, the torture chambers. Although the Chicago boys never led on that, it just kind of happened, it was just provided to them by the host regime.

    Now what happens when we have our own banana republic IMF austerity package and middle class riots in 2010 or 2011? It's a good question, I dare you to give us your thoughts.

  2. Fair point Strategist. & one you've put to me before. What is the way forward and where are the political forces that will take us there?

    I don't want to say something I can't quite believe just for the sake of having something to say as it were.

    i think the country is more right wing than 25 years ago. That might change - it's not certain - under the pressure of recession. But what is much more difficult (for me at least) to be hopeful about is the much greater depoliticisation than existed in my youth. Political activity was always confined to a minority outside of moments like the Miners Strike of course. But there was a much greater acceptance of the idea that political action might change things than there is now, or so it seems to me anyway. We've become accustomed to the idea that change if it happens, happens technocratically through managerial action not popular pressure. 2 million marched against the Iraq war and were ignored; rates of Unionisation are far lower; people seem less engaged in any collective activity like tenant's or community associations and so on.

    So I look around and ask myself how things will change and I don't have confidence I have an answer.