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What's in store before 1994?

1993 opens with the world in a state of political turmoil, economic depression, and all-round confusion.
Starting in this month's issue, we want to try to clear up some of the confusions by opening the pages of Living Marxism to a discussion of what the year ahead might bring.
Where do you think we will be by the end of the year? How will the slump affect all aspects of our lives over the next 12 months? We want to hear your thoughts on the matter.
To get the ball rolling this month, some regular Living Marxism contributors offer their views. Who wants to be next?

Phil Murphy

Economical truth

The forecasters say that 1993 will be the year of world economic recovery. Sounds familiar? Yes, they said the same about 1992. They were all wrong last time. What about 1993?

Three things are certain about the world economy this year:
  • In the more mature economies like Britain and the USA the slump will continue. Despite all the talk of going for growth, they will be unable to introduce any genuinely expansionary economic packages. Attempts to talk up the economy won't work either. Any fluctuations of growth levels will be due to incidental factors. Real recovery is not on the cards.

  • The impact of the slump will spread in the more dynamic economies of Germany and Japan. Even full recession - a fall in national output - is possible, especially in Germany. These countries cannot remain prosperous in the midst of a world depression. But they will still be stronger than their slump-ravaged competitors. As a result, economic tensions and rivalries will sharpen further.

  • The market system will be unable to inspire development either in the third world or in Eastern Europe. Instead, much of the world will be pushed further to the margins of the global economy, with devastating consequences for the people involved. Most of the third world missed out on the boom years of international capitalism. But it definitely won't be excluded from the slump.
The main uncertainty is whether, by the end of 1993, the experts will have the bottle to predict recovery in 1994.

Tony Kennedy

Personal problems

1993 is going to be a year when employers impose further draconian changes in the workplace. They are already exploiting the fear and insecurity generated by job cuts to shift discussion on pay away from rises above inflation towards pay freezes and cuts.

Expect to hear more from management about staff appraisal, performance indicators and quality schemes. These pseudo-scientific ideas emerging from management theory journals amount to a coded message to 'shape up or ship out'. Any suggestion that you don't see your job as the most rewarding aspect of your entire existence will make you a prime candidate for a P45.

While you're doing more work for less pay, expect living costs to be rising. Official figures tell us that the inflation rate is falling. But they ignore the extra costs associated with economic slump and government policies.

The March budget is almost certain to raise tax rates one way or another, as the Tories try to cut the budget deficit. 1993 will also bring the introduction of the council tax to replace the poll tax - with every indication that charges will rise.

Don't expect any notable relief on mortgage or debt payments. The recent cuts in interest rates have largely benefited the banks and building societies, rather than their customers. They have slashed rates offered to savers, while keeping loan rates relatively high. Indeed, there is a chance that interest rates may rise again by the end of 1993, as the government seeks to finance its own spending and to deter speculation against the pound.

School-leavers - unable to find jobs, prevented from getting dole and pressurised into low-quality further education schemes - will constitute a spiralling cost on working class families. Travel costs will rise again while the transport infrastructure collapses - making simply getting to work a debilitating exercise.

Basic needs such as water and dental treatment will be charged to the individual more and more. Even watching a football match on TV will soon mean more bills falling through the letter box.

Helen Simons

Divided world

January 1993 marks the real start of Europe's '1992' - the creation of the world's largest integrated market. But whatever strides are finally made towards harmonising Europe's markets, the political fracturing of Europe promises to get worse.

The ratification of the Maastricht Treaty will be delayed for months. The Exchange Rate Mechanism will fracture further; the gap between rich and poor will get worse, while the rows about national interests intensify. The end result will be the consolidation of a two-speed Europe. A core of Europe from Austria to the Netherlands will pull together around Germany, while Britain, Italy and the southern states spin out to the margins. 1993 will bring the final shattering of the dream of European unity.

Transatlantic politics promise to be equally fractious. The French elections in April, where the ruling Socialist Party will register its worst vote for many years, will ensure that the Gatt row continues for months to come. In fact, as the year unfolds, trading rows between Europe and America will intensify. The new Clinton administration in Washington will introduce protectionist measures to fend off competition. This promises to extend transatlantic trade rows into global trading rows before the year is out.

Clinton's aggressive stance will not be reserved for his economic rivals in Europe and Japan. The third world can also anticipate increasing interference from the new occupants of the White House. 1993 will see more military adventures for US troops - always of course under the banner of world peace and humanitarianism. April's elections in Iraq will become a cause célèbre for US diplomacy, while nuclear proliferation and famine will be the favourite excuses for interfering in the third world. Paternalistic lectures plus the odd military strike for good measure will be the order of the day in US foreign policy.

All in all we can predict that peace and goodwill will be confined to the Christmas cards as the coming year promises to be fraught, tense and dangerous.

Andrew Calcutt

Cultural slump

Madonna retires after a 'final interview' with Martin Amis. Sun editor Kelvin Mackenzie objects to 'insensitive' reporting of his divorce. Nose-licking replaces toe-jobs as the tabloids' favourite form of foreplay.

Prince Charles retires to a farm in Scotland and advocates self-sufficiency as 'a sort of homeopathic remedy against recession'. Spike Lee claims he is Malcolm X. The Sony MiniDisc and the Philips Digital Compact Cassette bomb. 'Is pop dead?' is the question on the lips of music journalists. Nobody cares.

There is hysterical discussion about 'couch [potato] culture' and physical degeneration. Slacker - the film about de-motivated American middle class youth - is the first flop of the year in Britain: its target audience stays in bed and waits for it to come out on video. A glut of vampire movies starts a debate about metaphors for Aids and images of a disease-ridden economy.

The Eighties Revival takes off - and falls flat eight weeks later. Club promoters bring back thirties, Depression-style dance marathons (prizes include a year's mortgage repayments): scandal after a number of competitors die from the combined effects of drug abuse and exhaustion.

Barry Grant pawns his jeep in an effort to stay solvent. He meets Mike Baldwin in the bankruptcy courts where they hatch a scheme to turn Southport into Britain's Miami Beach. Marks and Gran write a sitcom about the grandchildren of Jarrow marchers who lose their house in Weybridge and move back to a Tyneside tenement. Title: When the Boat Comes in...and Sinks.

There are rumours that Madonna will make a comeback playing the Gloria Swanson role in the David Lynch remake of Sunset Boulevard.
Reproduced from Living Marxism issue 51, January 1993



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