Economy

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Two Aspects of Austerity
Bar-Yuchnei
Endnotes

What are we to make of the current round of austerity? Should we believe Keynesians like Paul Krugman, when they argue that capitalists are acting against their own best interests in calling for cuts? Are government finances really under stress, or is it all just a ploy to undermine the last remaining gains won by workers' struggles? Some members of Endnotes throw in their hats...

Understanding the Present-Day World Economic Crisis
An Eco-Socialist Approach
Saral Sarkar

The current economic crisis that, roughly speaking, began in January 2008 and is, in July 2010, still going on, has shaken the world. Politicians, economists, and publicists are using superlatives to describe it, It has been described as the severest economic crisis since the Great Depression of the early 1930s. Seen superficially, similar, though not equally severe, crises have also taken place in the past few decades. There have been share market crashes, bank failures, crises in the finance market, credit crunches, strong recessions, state insolvencies etc. I have described them in my book Die Krisen des Kapitalismus (2010).

But the scale, depth and spread of the current crisis has been so great, that all concerned got panic. Many observers feared for the survival of capitalism. The question came up: is it only another crisis in capitalism, or is it the crisis of capitalism that Marxists, communists, socialists and other critics of capitalism have been waiting for since long? At least on one point all agree. Capitalism will never be the same again as it has been before the crisis, i.e. unbridled globalized neo-liberal capitalism will henceforth be bridled, more or less. That work has already begun.

"For a New Europe: University Struggles Against Austerity"
Edu-Factory Collective

The common statement from the recent Paris meeting, now in English,
French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Polish, Turkish and Korean.

We, the student and precarious workers of Europe, Tunisia, Japan, the
US, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Peru and Argentina, met in Paris over the
weekend of the 11th-13th of February, 2011 to discuss and organize a
common network based on our common struggles.

"Sharing the Pain: The Emotional Politics of Austerity"
Jeremy Gilbert

“Keep Calm and Carry On” was the fashionably arch, post-ironic catchphrase for Phase One of the Financial Crisis. Its popularity as a motif first on posters and then on every conceivable kind of merchandise peaked during the period following the critical moment in September 2008 when Lehman Brother collapsed and the entire international banking system teetered on the edge of an abyss.

Technically, this was a piece of nostalgic kitsch. The design came from an obscure home office poster prepared in 1939 for use if the Nazis had invaded the UK. Given such an eventuality, ground combat in the coastal regions would have placed considerable physical and emotional demands on the the rest of the country, and the poster was designed to steady the national nerves should those trying circumstances arise. Thankfully, they never did, and the poster was not distributed during the war, but was rediscovered and reproduced for its comedy value only in 2000, becoming a popular ironic decoration in many workplaces during the early years of the twenty-first century. It’s a powerful image: on the one hand, a clichéd yet outmoded expression of ‘traditional’ English stoicism, on the other hand an example of emotional exhortation by the state, whose almost Orwellian tones render it both anachronistic and vaguely sinister.

The peculiarity of such a slogan in today’s unstoical world - where we are all supposed to value ‘emotional literacy’ over reticence and calm resolve - and its apparent naiveté in the face of the perpetual crisis of late capitalism, are certainly enough to raise a smile in anyone. But it’s hardly hilarious enough for that to explain its extraordinary popularity. To understand the latter, I suggest, we have to consider the ways in which this slogan - ‘keep calm and carry on’ - condenses and expresses perfectly the parameters and constituent elements of the whole affective regime through which emotional responses to the crisis of neoliberalism are being organised by powerful forces today.

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Ben Ali Trembles! From Blogs to Trade Unions Bureaus, the Tunisian Revolt Explodes
Fulvio Massarelli

Dictator Ben Ali trembled! And he is still trembling if is it true that he parked a jet plane close to the presidential residence of Chartage, which should be ready for an evacuation plan. The revolt stretches its lenght, spreads itself through all the cities and bears down on the regime after 23 years from its institution. Even in Tunisia, as well as on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea, the struggling education sector is the one which is starting a process of refusal and social conflict,emerging from the crisis as social vanguard and convergence point for the many workers' struggles that have been coming one after the other - as fragmented as radical and brave - for decades now.

After december 17th when Mohamed Bouazizi, a graduate and unemployed man, set himself on fire in Sidi Bouzid in protest against the seizure of his grocery stand, Tunisia mobilized and the revolt started off. First localized in the Sidi Bouzid zone, it later did spread to all the productive hubs of the Maghrebi country, and then reached even the most peripherals towns and zones, in a weaving of solidarity and struggle that sees side by side upper-school and university students, upper-school professors, workers, unemployed, lawyers and rank-and-file trade unions' activists, unwilling to yield to the extremely violent repression carried out by the regime.

End of the Recession? Who’s Kidding Whom? Immanuel Wallerstein The media are telling us that the economic “crisis” is over, and that the world-economy is once more back to its normal mode of growth and profit. On December 30, Le Monde summed up this mood in one of its usual brilliant headlines: “The United States wants to believe in an economic upturn.” Exactly, they “want to believe” it, and not only people in the United States. But is it so? First of all, as I have been saying repeatedly, we are not in a recession but in a depression. Most economists tend to have formal definitions of these terms, based primarily on rising prices in stock markets. They use these criteria to demonstrate growth and profit. And politicians in power are happy to exploit this nonsense. But neither growth nor profit is the appropriate measures.
The Student Loan Debt Abolition Movement in the U.S. George Caffentzis Debt has had a crushing impact on the lives of those who must take student loans to finance their university education in the US. For tuition fees that have been so notoriously high in private universities now are rising in public universities so quickly they are far out-pacing inflation. Student loan debt in the US has been much higher than in Europe (with the exception of Sweden), though recent developments there would indicate that this gap may soon no longer exist (Usher). We should also take into account the fraudulent way in which the loans have been administered by the banks and the vindictiveness with which those who have been unable to pay back have been pursued by collection agents. The most frustrating aspect of student loan debt being the legally toothless position the debtor is in, because government policy has relentlessly vested all the bargaining power in the hands of the creditors. But however agonizing the situation of the indebted, the debt is growing. As of September 2010 total student loan debt amounted to $850 billion, having just surpassed credit card debt by about $20 billion for the first time. And it is rising at a catastrophic rate, e.g., by 25% in 2009 to meet the rising cost of tuition and other college fees. Even the Great Recession has not put an end to this financial explosion. On the contrary, while credit card debt has leveled off, student borrowing has continued to grow to cover the rising costs of living as well as the tuition fees, especially by unemployed workers who are “going back to school” to get a “better,” or at least some, job in the future.
Bowles-Simpson: The Unequal Marriage of Reaganomics and Rubinomics People's Pension Eric Laursen The Bowles-Simpson plan isn't a fair and equitable way to reduce the long-term federal deficit, whatever its co-authors might claim. In fact, it's the biggest proposed experiment in supply-side economics since early Reagan. Long story short: The proposal put on the table last week by the co-chairs of the president's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform is essentially a wedding of Rubinomics and Reaganomics. As such, it's what we might get if Bill Clinton and the late Ronald Reagan were locked in a room together and required to cut the long-term budget deficit – without any regard for the impact of their handiwork on low- and middle-income people. You've probably guessed which partner has the upper hand in this deal. And we'll explore that in a moment. But first, some background.
Capitalist Instability and the Current Crisis Hillel Ticktin [The article considers whether there are limits to capitalist strategies for survival. It argues that the present downturn represents a crisis in the capitalist system itself, in that the mediating forms by which it could maintain control and grow have reached their limits. As there is no working class opposition or any socialist opposition worth the name, capitalism is not in danger of overthrow, but low growth or stagnation and disintegration are possibilities. In brief, the article argues that capitalism has used imperialism, war, and the welfare state as successful mediations in the contradictions of capitalism. However, Stalinism played the crucial role through the Cold War, controlling the left, ruining Marxism and providing the basis for an anti-communist ideology. In the last period, finance capital played a particular role of control which, in the end, became cannibalistic in that it was using and devouring itself. With the end Stalinism and of the Cold War, the implosion of finance capital, the failure of the present wars and the limited welfare state, there is one alternative—to go for growth and reflate, as in the immediate post-war period. However, capital would find that too dangerous, as it risks a repeat of the militancy of the 1960s and 1970s.] Capitalism has used imperialism, war and the welfare state as successful mediations in the contradictions of capitalism. However, Stalinism controlled the left, ruining Marxism and providing the basis for an anti-communist ideology. In the last period, finance capital played a particular role of control which, in the end, became cannibalistic in that it was using and devouring itself. With the end Stalinism and of the Cold War, the implosion of finance capital, the failure of the present wars and the limited welfare state, there is one alternative—to go for growth and reflate. However, capital would find that too dangerous, as it risks a repeat of the militancy of the 1960s and 1970s.
A Permanent Economic Emergency Slavoj Zizek During this year's protests against the Eurozone's austerity measures — in Greece and, on a smaller scale, Ireland, Italy and Spain — two stories have imposed themselves.[1] The predominant, establishment story proposes a de-politicized naturalization of the crisis: the regulatory measures are presented not as decisions grounded in political choices, but as the imperatives of a neutral financial logic — if we want our economies to stabilize, we simply have to swallow the bitter pill. The other story, that of the protesting workers, students and pensioners, would see the austerity measures as yet another attempt by international financial capital to dismantle the last remainders of the welfare state. The IMF thus appears from one perspective as a neutral agent of discipline and order, and from the other as the oppressive agent of global capital.
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