Its always risky writing predictions – just like weather its hard to predict more than a few days in advance with any degree of accuracy. At the same time though, its hard to resist putting forward ones thoughts on current trends and how the situation will develop over time. So I’m going to go ahead and just give my own rough idea of how things are going to develop as a result of this economic crisis.
There are quite a few people, especially on the Left, who are looking at this economic crisis as a possible catalyst for reviving the Left and even for world revolution. Unfortunately I do not think that this will be the case, at least not directly.
While there does exist the growing anti-globalisation movement, which has resumed after a brief War on Terror induced hiatus, I don’t see this as being able to effect much change at the moment. The same goes with the wave of strikes that have been breaking out in Europe in protest at Government reactions to the economic crisis.
At best I see the immediate period to be one of a school for the Left, where people are going to re-learn and further develop a lot of Leftist theory. And both tactics and strategy will undergo a learning curve throughout this period. However the results of this ‘schooling’ will not be seen immediately, other than periodic outbursts. Rather, we’ll have to wait perhaps another decade or so until the full impact of this schooling realises any significant socio-economic change.
Instead of a Leftist resurgence, I am seeing a resurgence of the Far Right, from xenophobic and racist hate groups, to militaristic ideologies. Of particular concern to me is the strengthening of what I call ‘Eco-fascism‘, a current heavily influenced by Malthusian ideas of population control and ‘humanity as a parasite’.
I am not too worried about the coming to power of ‘Fascism for the 21st Century’, at least not in the immediate period of between 2010 and 2020. But I am certainly concerned about the rise in thuggish incidents I expect to see rise in this time.
What I do see though is further victories for the mainstream Right. For example, in the UK its hard not to expect Labour to lose the next election (most likely to be in Spring 2010) and see the Conservatives returned to power. Personally, I see the Conservatives as having been in power as long as I’ve been alive, since Ms. Thatcher’s victory in 1979. Really, there are few differences between New Labour and Thatcherism when you think about it. Having said that, at least New Labour had the moderating influence of backbencher rebellions and a counter-current of Old Labour and Socialism keeping its more right-wing impulses in check.
In Europe proper, especially central and eastern Europe, I see a growing form of totalitarian capitalism, possibly after the existing Russian model, developing. Hand in hand with this will be a development of Leftist terrorism, like the N17 group in Greece.
Bermuda is slightly different, with an opposition Party which is little more than a zombie, an animated corpse of a Party just going through pathetic motions of parliamentary procedure. I don’t think there are many who realistically see the UBP as forming Government again – barring a spectacular screw-up by the PLP – in the next election (presumably in 2012). 2017 though is potentially a different story altogether. More realistically though is the emergence of a new Party formation to challenge PLP hegemony.
From a purely capitalist point of view, I actually see world capitalism as strengthening as a result of this crisis, both in military and economic terms. The creative destruction of this period should see the creation of some super-sized multi-national corporations, through a period of mergers and stream-lining of industry.
All of this I see as setting the stage for an outbreak of struggles sometime around 2015, or 2020 at the latest. The capitalist system will come out of the immediate period (2009-2012) strengthened, but at the same time the entire system will become more and more unstable. Keynesianism helped act as a safety-valve for the system, causing reduced capitalist profit, but also reduced threats to the stability of the system. Its dismantling in the 1980s with the Neoliberal revolution resulted in a more unstable system, of which only the collapse of the Soviet Union has allowed a degree of insurance from internal instability.
Far from reintroducing Neo-Keynesian, as much as lip-service is being paid to the idea, I see a strengthening of Neoliberalism.
I would say that the Left cannot help but fight a rear-guard action in the immediate period, both against Far Right movements and mainstream Right attacks. But it must also prepare for what comes after this immediate period. Of particular importance then is to critically analyse what went wrong with 20th Century socialism and seek to develop a socialism for the 21st Century.
In the UK this will mean the initial defeat of the Labour Party, and then a period of internal ideological battles, with a resurgence of Old Labour. It will also mean the further growth independent social movements disillusioned with politics as usual and seeking to build an alternative grassroots politics.
In Bermuda also there will be a growing disillusionment with politics as usual. It is not clear yet whether this will see a fight within the PLP for a new politics, or a new political formation from the Left. There is also the possibility of independent social movements developing, challenging the hegemony of colonial parliamentary politics.
Existing activists must be prepared for the storm of the immediate period and threats from the Right. They are the first responders. New activists will be created in this storm as well. This new wave will lead the next wave of struggles, aided by the lessons of this immediate period.
For Bermuda itself I would advise that the best way out of the current crisis is to focus both on major capital projects for social benefit (new causeway, new hospital, finish the national stadium; also push for universal healthcare and minimum wage). It would also be advisable to develop a more participatory approach to budgets and government decision making as opposed to the current colonial and hierarchical systems. Similarly, our legal system needs overhauled, and I think that we can incorporate much of the new themes of participatory justice.
These measures will assist both with recovery from the economic crisis, as well as benefit society in the long-term.