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Make 2012 a year to settle accounts

The year ends as it began, with great social movements of people who have taken to the streets because other means of democratic expression are either cut off, denied or wilfully ignored.

It coincides with a world economy teetering on the edge of a depression, overwhelmed by the very debt that it generated to lead an unsustainable, self-destructive expansion.

Italy, now run by an unelected government headed by a Goldman Sachs advisor, yesterday had to pay almost 7% to refinance a small portion of its huge debt. Europe’s banks only function because they have access to cheap money from the central bank. Everyone knows it can’t continue.

In the last few weeks, huge numbers have defied the authorities in Egypt, Syria, Yemen and Russia; many have paid with their lives at the hands of authoritarian regimes that deny basic freedoms.

Across the United States, the occupy movement that began on Wall Street has sustained a stubborn foothold despite state repression and exposed the Obama presidency. In Britain, the biggest strike for 30 years was backed by the resilient and imaginative St Paul’s occupation.

No one can dispute that despite the different forms and apparent aims of people in different countries from Bahrain, Libya to Israel, this is a truly global phenomenon that signifies a new period of world history.

On October 15, various actions against the system were held simultaneously in almost 100 countries, initiated by the Democracy Now! movement in Spain. It was an event unique in human history that we must build on in the coming year.

New generations have driven the movement on, giving the lie to those who stupidly claim that modern capitalism has created hopeless individualism and despair in place of social solidarity.

People have rediscovered and enhanced their individuality in social movements that have emphasised inclusiveness, transparency, democracy and collective decision-making. Social media designed to reinforce corporate culture has become a key tool for mobilising against the self same system.

The movement will ebb and flow and new forms of struggle will emerge to enhance the occupation movement simply because the multi-sided crisis of the present social system is not going away any time soon.

In Britain, over a million young people are out of work, while more toil for a pittance or nothing at all. Prisons are full to bursting, partly as a result of the state’s revenge on summer rioters who were led to believe they were “worth it”.

The ConDem government’s cuts are magnifying the recession. Panic in ruling circles is mounting about the impact of a eurozone collapse. Yet the Tory-led regime rides high in polls, buoyed by the fact that Labour and most trade union leaders offer no alternative let alone leadership.

Although millions participated in the March demonstration against spending cuts and the November 30 strikes, TUC leaders are busily trying to end the fight over pensions. They are signing up to deals that mean paying more, working longer and getting less on retirement.

If 2011 witnessed a great social awakening around the world, while ruling political and business elites were befuddled by the global economic and financial crisis, we should make 2012 a year when historical accounts are settled in our favour.

Some argue, however, that A) a coherent strategy is unnecessary, B) that the system will give way under mass pressure, or that C) a package of reforms can rescue capitalism from itself. A and B ignore the realities of how power is wielded through the state while C disregards the system’s inherent contradictions.

Recent breakthroughs in physics about the smallest particles, the speed of light and dark matter show that humans have capacity to discover and learn about themselves and the world.

The point in 2012 is to change it by creating movements in the spirit of scientists, by working collaboratively to find solutions, developing forms of co-leadership that avoid hierarchy yet do not stifle bold decisions or strategy planning.

More 18-year-olds in Britain are on Facebook than are registered to vote. This does not mean we should turn away from politics because of the politicians – that gives the status quo a free hand. We have to make a politics of our own.

A World to Win campaigned throughout 2011 for a strategy based on People’s Assemblies. These could deconstruct the capitalist state and create the framework for a sustainable not-for-profit economy and financial system based on co-ownership and control.

We took the idea into student occupations, strike movements and the occupations at St Paul’s, Glasgow, Newcastle and other cities. We are looking to our members, supporters and friends to develop this strategy and make it happen in 2012.

A World to Win editors
30 December 2011

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