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AUSTERITY PROGRAMS AND PROTESTS November 28, 2010

Posted by wmmbb in Global Electoral Politics.
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When the invasion of Iraq was mooted, people took to the streets around the world. I recall that people power was described as a weapon equivalent to a nuclear weapon.

The result was more whimper than bang. Now austerity programs, punishment of populations and electorates for the failures of the financial systems. There have been some case studies to date: Iceland and Greece. In Britain it seems the Conservative/Liberal Democratic alliance has taken the opportunity to wind down the protections of the welfare state.

Ireland is the latest political system and population to feel the lash of financial punishment with resultant unrest among the population. There the Government is resisting calls for an election prior to implementing austerity measures. A large by-election defeat has already undermined the standing of the Government. According to Deutsche Wella today:

Tens of thousands of protesters are expected to join trade unions in demonstrating against the severe austerity package announced on Wednesday. The government plans to cut the minimum wage and eliminate 25,000 public-sector jobs in an effort to bring its deficit below 3 percent of gross domestic product by 2014. It’s now at 32 percent.

“This is the result of allowing speculators, bankers and developers to run riot, pillaging and ruining our economy,” said Jack O’Connor, the head of Ireland’s biggest union SIPTU, calling the proposed budget the “harshest…since the foundation of the state.”

“Our national sovereignty is at stake as a result of the government’s policies,” he said. “The timeframe for the adjustment is too short. It should be extended to 2017. We must not stand idly by while the final nail is driven into the coffin.”

So the question arises, what will happen in the United States when the Republican Party in cooperation with the President wind back unemployment payments? There is likely to widespread violence on an individual basis leading to ill health, self harm and other forms of inchoate violence. The political system can accommodate such violence, and most of it will fall below notice, and will seem inexplicable. The system includes the pervasive ideology and the methods of indoctrination.

By comparison it is noticeable that the Irish political system provides employment. Labor organizations have not been demolished. The electoral system is responsive, and it worth observing it is a system of proportional representation. But is it a fundamentally less violent system than applies in the US?

It occurs to me that the danger posed by terrorism, is not that it is violent – sufficient grounds to utterly opposed to such propositions – but that it is ideological. Most striking is it not, that for example Osama bin Ladin’s explanations for his behavior are not given play in especially the US media. Chalmers Johnson’s notion of “blowback” has fallen largely on deaf ears.

ELSEWHERE:

Harvey Wasserman, at Common Dreams evokes our favourite political analysis, George Orwell. Permanent war is not accident outcome; it is intrinsic. He notes:

The war in Afghanistan is about perpetual war, not Afghanistan.

It’s about preventing democracy in the United States, not bringing it to Southwest Asia.

And it is the tombstone of the Obama Presidency.

To justify the fight, they’ve rounded up the usual suspects: Terror. Oil. Minerals. Poppies. Democracy.

But George Orwell’s 1984—now updated with important new books— illuminates the bigger picture: “continuous warfare” is the key to social control.

It keeps the public frightened and dependent.

And it keeps “the wheels of industry turning without increasing the real wealth of the world. Goods must be produced, but they must not be distributed.”

Better to destroy them in a ritual slaughter like Afghanistan, and wherever is next.

For a truly prosperous society, educated and secure, cannot be ruled by the few. Poverty, ignorance and fear are the three pillars of authoritarian control. Without war, they all disappear.

Thus Afghanistan. Before it: the Cold War, Korea, Vietnam, central America. After: whoever else is handy.

There are, I suggest problems, with this form of automatic analysis in that the explanation is superficial. It proposes that certain groups of people are inherently bad, whereas they simply may be blind caught up in cultural systems with ingrained assumptions and conditioned responses. (Apologies for the annoying personality predilections towards accommodation and compromise. I get a lot of heat for that.)

http://english.aljazeera.net/news/europe/2010/11/20101127131744265944.html reports on the march without quoting numbers of participants.

The BBC coverage of its own backyard is, as might be expected, comprehensive. So what are the economic alternatives for Ireland? It is interesting to note that international corporations were attracted to set up in Ireland on the basis of low company tax, and now it seems they are not part of the tax base of the country. Would not a global currency make more sense, rather than floating exchange rates? There would appear to be far more to the story of the economic decisions making and the financial crisis than has been given.

Iceland apparently chose not bail out the banks, according to an interview (via Truthdig) with the President and Bloomsberg Television.

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