Radical media, politics and culture.

Alex Foti, “From Precarity to Unemployment: the Great Recession and EuroMayDay”

From Precarity to Unemployment: the Great Recession and EuroMayDay Alex Foti

Neoliberalism and monetarism have ended up ruining the world, like the antiglobalization movement always said they would: like two mad scientists, they proved socially, environmentally, and economically unsustainable. And so they fucked up majorly and have produced the worst economic crisis since the times of Roosevelt, Stalin, Hitler. Problem is that it's hard to cheer because the vast majority of those laissez-faire bankers and deregulating economists are still in charge, still dictating the terms of the game. Those who precipitated the crisis with their foolish policies of banking deregulation, welfare privatization, trade liberalization, labor deunionization are still at their desks! They tell us we should be quiet, accept layoffs and wage cuts, take some fiscal stimulus if we are lucky, and after 2010 we will again live happily under capitalism ever after.

BULLSHIT! And they are throwing trillions at the banks who have made the riskiest of bets on real estate, paid off millions in bonuses to assehole CEOs and let the economy hang dry when the debts were called in. Trillions for bankers, cuts for people. This is the European equation. Not only this is scandalously immoral, it's economically counterproductive. Banks are hoarding liquidity for fear of going bust and don't supply new credit.

As Keynes and Kalecki first showed, during great depressions monetary policy doesn't work, since it falls into a liquidity trap. Only social spending, public investment and redistribution away from profits and rents toward wages and transfers is gonna do the trick. For three decades, as they were happily pocketing the quantum leap in social productivity afforded by the information revolution, the élites said there was no public money for services, schools and the precarious many, while hedge funds and private equity funds were siphoning off zillions for the super-ritzy few. They said wages had to stay low, because global competitiveness demanded it, until income distribution became as absurdly unequal as it had gotten on the eve of the Great Depression. No wonder another major depression has ensued. This crisis is no random phenomenon, it was caused by the venality and stupidity of the financial and political elites.

The Great Recession is shaking capitalism at its foundations and undermining its social legitimacy. America, Europe and East Asia, the core centers of global capitalism, have been hit particularly hard. The North American economy is sinking fast. Europe is following suit. Ireland risks going the way of Iceland. The meltdown is reaching the heart of European capitalism. And the Baltics, Eastern Europe and Ucraine threaten a financial abyss for the eurozone. Japan, like Korea, has experienced a dramatic drop in exports and industrial production. China faces a socially problematic slowdown in growth. The global downward spiral has become self-reinforcing and hundreds of thousands of jobs are lost every month. The specter of deflation and serial bankruptcy looms everywhere. Millions of people will soon become unemployed in the EU.

The majority of those being laid off are temporary, precarious, immigrant workers in all sectors of the economy. They were the last hired and are now the first being fired. Neoliberalism has made an entire generation flexible and/or precarious, now its final demise is making a whole generation unemployed. From precarity to unemployment: this is what free-market globalization and the European Single Market have finally led to. In Europe, the eurocracy remains committed to the stability pact and monetarism, to competition and the race to the bottom for workers' rights and social services. Interest rates stay positive, deficit spending is very weak, incomes keep going down, layoffs are spreading at an alarming rate, xenophobia is increasing among the native working class; this is the situation we're in. Following Polanyi, we can say the euro is the political equivalent of the gold standard in in the interwar period, forcing deflation on the throats of european workers as a way of macroeconomic adjustment to the depression.

While in America neocon market bigotry has been finally unsaddled, in Europe orthodoxy reigns, since the very same gerontocratic elites are still at the helm untroubled, dictating yet another round of social sacrifices so that they can continue remain at the top. We must overthrow them. We, the precarious youth and migrant generation of Europe must rock Strasbourg, Brussels, Frankfurt, the eurozone and the rest of the continent to establish a neutral, social, radical europe. The task is immensely daunting, no doubt. But in Athens, Malmoe, Sofia, Oslo, Vilnius, Riga, in the Italian, French, Spanish student movements, in French and Belgian general strikes, in the countless demos for Gaza in all the cities of Europe, where muslim and dissident youth joined forces against european xenophobia as much as against israel's ferocious militarism, we have seen that large-scale rebellion, mobilization, protest is possible. It will only increase in the next months, starting with London against G20 (Financial Fools Day!) and in Strasbourg against NATO in early April.

The Great Depression led to keynesian policies, union counterpower and the fordist welfare state. We must act to make sure that the Great Recession leads to economic redistribution, social emancipation, ecological community. In the short term, the fiercest fight will be around the destination of the huge flows of public money that are being poured to prime the economic pump. This should be our position: One trillion euros for basic income, not for banks! Socialize credit: spend money on precarious workers, not on wealthy bankers!

In Europe, this crisis can either go authoritarian right or social left, there will be nothing in between. It can either strengthen to sarkozist statism and the EU police state, fan the flames of xenophobia and islamophobia, further scapegoat immigrants and the undesirables, or it can newly empower the precarious and the excluded in huge struggles, produce universal entitlements like a european basic income and free higher education, give rise to new forms of urban democracy, new forms of solidarity between service and cognitive labor. In the global recession, the euro is posing itself as the new reserve currency, as the new standard of international value. This means reinforcing the power of property and amassed wealth in euroland. If European monetarism is alive and kicking, the crisis has exposed the cracks and faults already existing in the EU. After having being beaten thrice at the ballot, the Union has been unable to devise a common response to the crisis, and countries are left to their own means and national policies, which they are using to heavily subsidize their banks and corporations. Subsidies are going to shareholders and bondholders, not to the unemployed or underemployed.

In Malmö at the ESF, Michael Hardt saluted the General Freeters' Union in Japan as the first revolutionary syndicate in the world committed to the cause of migrants and/or precarious, and EuroMayDay in Europe for trying to do the same: Oficinas de los Derechos Sociales have established a network of social defense for migrants and precari@s in Spain: ChainWorkers and Intelligence Precaria have created social media for precarized workers in airports, call centers, publishing, education in Italy; Helsinki mayday is part of the social center movement fighting antiziganism and zero tolerance on street culture, and of the student movement that has just occupied the university; the Liège mayday network, which organizes precarious and migrants and connects with Brussels, Ghent and other cities, is providing impetus to the first explicitly radical european network active in countersummit protests and theoretical strategizing to finally bring revolution to the EU. Soon the times will be ripe to create a distinctive political tendency that will put the 20th century red and green left in the reformist league where it today belongs. Pink postcapitalism is near!

We should also build a paneuropean biosyndicate of the precarious and the unemployed, the excluded and the exploited, the discriminated and the arrested. The alternative is the slide toward patriotic sectionalism and even xenophobia that was noticeable in the strikes in the UK energy industry. Mass unemployment will make the sirens of proletarian nativism and racism very seductive. Transnationalist solidarity must be organized, it won't happen by default in the Great Recession. We have to organize the precarious and the unemployed youth, the second generation born in Europe that yearns for freedom from police persecution and equality of treatment and opportunity: et's fight the police state, let's reclaim the welfare state; we are all punk islamic queers!

EUROMAYDAY 009: Creative Anarchy, Social Autonomy vs the Crisis and its Makers