As the current economic and political crisis lurches on, democratic election to government has now been abandoned by a section of the European financial elite. They apparently do not trust the electorate or elected representatives to do what they wish and so are now in favour hierarchical appointments. This means the electorate of Italy and Greece have been the first in Europe to be prevented from having any say whatsoever in what will befall them as Brussels scrambles to save the welfare and future of the financial markets. The abandonment of a referendum in Greece, the appointment of Lucas Papademos along with that of Mario Monti in Italy – both to the highest positions of governmental power in these countries – has demonstrated that liberal democracy is not just the usual miserable joke but an absolute sham. The power ‘behind the throne’ of European governments has for decades, been the banking and financial elite, but in a 2011 new turn, this power is now to be exercised more directly. The Brussels ‘banksters’ have shouldered aside their elected political counterparts, ignored the limited democratic voting rights of millions of citizens and placed their own unelected team of ’experts’ in charge. This finance-capital ‘task-force’ is set to engineer the type of austerity plans and financial structures which it is hoped will satisfy the bond-market financiers. With very few exceptions, the elected political elite in these countries have simply rolled over and tamely accepted this shameful state of affairs. Many have no doubt done so with a view to future directorships and stipends in this very same sector, when they have finished with politics or when politics is finished with them.
Yet to the ordinary citizen, the logic of putting representatives of the very financial systems which have caused the present crisis in charge of solving the problem, beggars belief. It is precisely through their combined financial advocacy or complicity in selling ’junk bonds’, ‘derivatives’, Frankenstein securities and predatory lending practices, that we are in the present situation of an intensified crisis. These so-called ’financial experts’ were so expert that they not only did not foresee the coming crisis, but they ignored the ample warnings given to them by those who years before could foresee what was rapidly building up. From the perspective of the 99% this action is akin to granting a group of unrepentant arsonists an abundant supply of petrol and matches along with unlimited access to important combustible public infrastructures. What can we really expect from them except more of the same policies (devaluations, privatisations, high prices, low employment and further cuts in public services) all of which have been implemented in the past have led to the present situation? Worse still, all such policies – and any other planned austerity measures they may have up their sleeves – cannot solve either the current problem of the deficit between state expenditures and state income or the problem of the masses of toxic debt elsewhere in the financial system. These ’experts’ by such further measures will do untold damage to individuals, families and communities and the underlying problems will still need to be sorted out.
Yet government by appointment is not the only anti-democratic measure to emerge over the last few years and mature over recent weeks. The protests against the current economic situation such as peaceful demonstrations and non-violent occupations of financial districts, have already been met with establishment opposition along with brutal blows from the states police forces. The much vaunted freedom and ‘civil rights’ to peacefully protest is shown not to be an automatic entitlement. Public spaces in cities and towns are only free to the public as long as people are buying commodities and are not organising to protest against the authorities or the government. The economic, financial and political elites know the system they uphold is unjust, unstable, and undemocratic and so will take every measure they can to maintain their control. The liberal democratic elites of Europe and North America have proved they will go to war in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, killing innocent and guilty alike, to promote the kind of pliable governance they prefer. It is inconceivable, therefore, that they will not go to war against their own citizens to defend such governance in their own countries. They have already partly militarised the police forces equipping them with Robocop body armour, longer batons, Taser guns, pepper spray, sound bombs, tear gas, and rubber bullets as well as live ammunition. No doubt contingency plans will already be in place to break any future strikes, occupations and demonstrations using all the repressive forces of the state, including the deployment of armed forces.
In contrast to such planning and provisions by the establishment, the preparations for those among the working citizens – who are about to suffer – are woefully inadequate. The traditional organisations of working class defence, trade unions, have over a long period of time become loyal reformist supporters of the existing system. Their policies and programmes, timid and limited, are therefore aimed at defence of sectional interests, within the present system, rather than class and citizen-wide defence. This same reformist tradition has as yet initiated little or no international defensive collaboration and co-ordination within Europe or wider to resist the coming encroachments upon the lives of their members. Reliance on such reformist leadership is a recipe for defeat. Unfortunately, the situation is no better with regard to the anti-capitalist left who, unlike those involved in the Occupy Movement, seem also to be paralysed by the onset of the capitalist crisis so many of them have previously wished for. To date there appears to have been no initiatives among these forces to propose an anti-capitalist alliance or to seriously transcend their existing sectarian divisions.
At a moment in time when even many capitalists are either talking about the systems injustices and advocating severely restricting or restructuring the banking sectors, most anti-capitalists seem to be happy to tail-end the policies of trade-union officials. Policies which amount to no more than sponsoring or supporting sectional and national requests to politicians not to be too harsh with the projected and intended austerity measures against their own particular members. It is to be hoped that in the not too distant future this situation will change. A useful development would be if a sufficient number of anti-capitalists broke free of their sectarian boundaries and overcome their often trivial differences to initiate and develop a non-sectarian, non-dogmatic international network of activists. A network which would play a unifying part in the coming struggles and argue for a radical transformation of the existing system.
R. Ratcliffe (November 2011)