Sunday, May 23, 2010

Readers requests: No shock doctrine for the UK

Adam requests that I explain to everyone why they should visit which is slightly cheeky bit of self advertisement as I might not think people should. But I do. So I shall.

In the next few years the political landscape is going to be dominated by how we deal with the economic crisis. While we may be officially out of recession history tells us that unemployment is likely to continue to grow and we are yet to feel what the results of the deficit reduction plans. There's also the outside chance that we may plunge back into recession for another taste, but let's leave the predictions on that one to the astrologers.

The government has made it clear that its response to the gap between the revenue it receives from taxation and the amount of money it spends will be to make some cuts in taxation and immediate and savage cuts in public services. Both Lib Dems and Tories were clear before the election that this was the plan and they are cracking on by outlining the areas where the axe will fall first.

They may promise us that 'front-line' services will not be effected but the scale of the cuts to come in the next few years will certainly hurt services, throw public sector workers onto a growing dole queue and leave us all worse off. As this video from public sector union UNISON explains the cuts will directly effect everyone.

It is my view that investing in job creation would pay for itself long term while stabilising the jobs market. When we are feeling the effects of the recession it is the very worst time to cut back public services that protect the most vulnerable.

It seems to me that there are a number of tasks that we need to get on with in response to approaching cuts. First we need to get specific. Across the country there will be a rash of campaigns to save specific NHS wards, nurseries, and other services - we need to make sure we are part of those campaigns and help to ensure the attempts to cut back are met with real resistance.

This can't be centrally driven but a national movement can support those local campaigns in much the way that the highly successful Defend Council Housing campaign has been able to do.

The government's plans must come at a political price to ensure that these parties are no longer electable, credible as a political force. Each ward, each job loss, each service withdrawn has to hurt the government whether or not we are able to save them.

That also means that once the government have made it clear what their exact plans are we need to scour them with a fine tooth comb and come up with a strong, critical and detailed response that is difficult to refute without appearing to be like Ghengis Khan.

I do think we need to firm up a more accessible version of the alternative economic vision embodied in the Green New Deal and turn it into something like a fighting document whose various demands can be fought for and won. My concern is that getting the balance right between the 'high politics' of the economic strategy and the 'community politics' of the local campaigns is a difficult trick to pull off without becoming either a nimby or indulging in dry political philosophy.

Popularising concrete alternatives to the government's approach is going to be vital so that we can build up a large movement of meaningful resistance rather than a clique of self-appointed radicals on a mission.

That's why sites like are going to be so important in reaching out and building confidence that just because there is a political consensus in the Westminster bubble there is a people's alternative.

Can't Pay Won't Pay: Solidarity with the Greek protests

Date: Wednesday, May 26
Time: 7:00pm
Location: Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London, WC1
Speakers: Caroline Lucas MP, Tony Benn and a host of others

1 comment:

DocRichard said...

Hi Jim, I agree. The right response is to close tax loopholes (multilaterally if poss) and increase tax on the rich.
There is still a balancing act to be done, because the deficit has to be addressed. I have done some back of the envelope stuff here:

Public services must be made more efficient, and the way to do this is through the good old Suggestion Box.

The greatest inefficiency is the benefit system, where money is grudgingly doled out to immiserated unemployed the on condition that they do no work. This is mad. A Green Wage Subsidy would sort this out.