Reacting to the crisis in Capitalism - Are we entering pre-revolutionary times?

We are now many months into the capitalist crisis and ordinary workers are feeling the effects increase day after day. In Ireland the WSM decided to carry out a lot of activity in these initial months of crisis and a lot of my political activity in the last weeks has been in connection with this. Postering in Dublin

Last night with a lot of our Dublin membership I was out putting up posters advertising out public meeting in the Teachers Club next Wednesday. In a previous blog I mentioned speaking at the Grassroots Gathering in Cork on the topic. I also prepared a google video that explains what happened to the banking system using the audio of an internal WSM talk and the powerpoint presentation that went with it. Video   Audio

The WSM is launching a national speaking tour, producing 50,000+ leaflets on top of the 12,000 already distributed and will be doing a national poster campaign. The 10,000 copies of our current paper contains almost all crash related articles (focusing on resistance). We will also be preparing additional online material with a particualr focus initially on education. The question arises as to just how far the crisis will go.

In some countries at least are we looking at a scale of crash similar to that which hit Argentina in 2001? I'm floating this out not because its something I believe 100% but because it may be true and if so the sooner we start to discuss this the more prepared we will be. The immediate cause of this question will seem at first odd. It is the 3% income levy introduced by the Irish government on those earning 250k or more. Thinking back back two years its almost impossible to imagine then that any mainstream party putting this forward as a demand all the way from SF or Labour to the PD's. Yet now a centre right Fianna Fail government has introduced it despite the fact that it hadn't appeared as a significant demand from any sector showing resistance so far.

They may be gombeens but the FF government at this point in time probably has some sense of the probable depth of the crisis. This 3% is targetting a section of their key funders. The media concentration has been on the crash of the property market. While this is not insignificant (!) nor is the massive scale of the local bank crash (Bank of Ireland shares dropping to 5% of their value of 2 years back) according to our analysis this is almost insignificant in terms of what is to come. It's argued in the video linked above that the collapse is the failure of globalisation, specifically the collapse of the finanacil instruments that made the long distance risk taking of globalisation possible.

The world economy losing its basic functioning cannot be anything other than catastrophic in the collapse and rebuilding phase in general but it has a particular impact in relation to Ireland. Ireland has competed with Singapore as the 'most globalised country in the world' for much of the last decade in the battery of measures used by 'The Economist' and other publications. When globalisation was 'working' this allowed the Irish economy to soar at rates way ahead of the European and North American averages. Now that it is no longer working it follows that the crash here has to be very much worse than in those less globalised economies. This is why I ask the question in the title.

Ireland may be about to go through a process not that unlike Argentina in 2001 where locally capitalism goes into massive collapse. Where - at least by conventional means - there is not the money to fund public services. Where large sections of industry that have become unprofitable are simply abandoned. In other words a situation where sections of the working class either directly acts to keep services going and workplaces open or where these simply vanish. If this 'worst case scenario' is close to the truth it has profound implications for revolutionaries in Ireland. It would mean that conditions are going to degenerate to those that will create mass protest and struggle, to push us into a pre-revolutionary situation in a context where there are almost no revolutionaries. While the work being carried out above may sound considerable if this is where we are heading it is only a fragment of what should be done. I am wary of such arguments. The left (and environmental movement) are far too prone to seeing terminal crisis around every corners. But for the first time in a long while I find myself wondering. And this blog provides an opportunity to wonder out loud.



 Although I didn't point it

 Although I didn't point it out at the time most of this blog was actually a copy & paste on an argument I'd posted to the WSM internal site. Returning to this post at the start of 2012 as I'm writing a review of 'Why its kicking off elsewhere' I decided it would be useful to add the following clarification that I'd posted as a comment a couple of months later on the discussion as it developed.

Yeah its probably not as clear what I mean by 'prerevoluntionary times' as I thought it was.

Basically I mean a period when the objective circumstances of capitalism create the situation where the idea of a militant direct action seems not only sensible but necessary to a larger and larger number of people. In recent history something like this happened after the banking crash in Argentina when the conditions of local capitalism meant that factory occupations and neighborhood assemblies seemed very sensible and indeed necessary to a very much greater number of people than would have had an ideological affinity for these concepts before the crash.

It says nothing as to how well prepared we or any other group are for such a change, indeed that is sort of the reason why I am asking the question.

In the Irish context I see the following as possible
- massive increase in unemployment

- huge numbers of people defaulting on mortages

- a huge attack on social services like heathcare and education

- an attempt to cut public sector wages
- a real drop in living standards for a large proportion of the population
- a lack of faith in the ability of the system to sort things out

When I first asked the question these things looked possible but unlikely, now I think they all look quite possible if not already well under way. Talking to people in work reveals a large shift in attitudes in terms of 'belief'.

I think we are somewhat of sleepwalking through this period of massive change in perception when we should be moving to a period of greatly heightened activity as happened over really much more trivial changes in circumstances in the run up to the 2003 war and Mayday 2004.


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