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B>Calling all Living Marxism readers

What's in store before 1994

In the January issue of Living Marxism we asked for your views on how the slump might effect our lives in 1993. We have had a lot of responses already, just some of which are published here.

We want to keep the discussion going, to try to clear up some of the confusions that exist about where the world is heading today. If you want to take part, please keep your contribution (on anything you like) as brief as possible and send it to Tessa Myer, Living Marxism, BCM JPLTD, London WC1N 3XX

Neil Joseph, Sheffield

Who's to blame?

In the topsy-turvy world of slump politics, you'll take a pay cut because you asked for a decent wage last year. You'll lose your job because you want the right to work. And Britain is in the worst slump since the 1930s because...you were too greedy in the 1980s.

While those in charge are increasingly incapable of offering any solutions to social problems, irresponsible single mothers and sponging immigrants find themselves blamed for cuts in benefits because they just grab and grab without a thought for anyone else. The new-found 'underclasses' of Newcastle, Liverpool and Manchester need further police repression to contain their criminal urges. And the peoples of the third world and Eastern European countries are now too stupid and too dangerous to run their own countries.

So who will the government blame for their problems in the year to come? Perhaps the Queen will be getting a divorce because of errant fathers on Leeds council estates. Or maybe we won't get our new toilets on the M1 (as promised by John Major) because a bunch of New Age travellers will turn them into communes.
Mike Belbin, London

More of less

In 1993 there will be more of less. Many things will get smaller (pay-packets, job prospects, cars) or shorter (policy statements, spaces between ad breaks). Distances will matter less, communication will be instant though information restricted. Differences between the Recollected Past and the Trendy Present will work away to nothing. (Get set to revive the nineties.)

Expectations will shrink, as will services, jobs, social security and the credibility of most peoplen in public life. Only a few experts, bankers, Tory backbenchers will be consulted; only a few opinions heard; only a few 'incidents' reported. All political parties from Conservatives to Conservationists will look and sound like clones. Economic growth will be measured in smaller quantities ('the increase in the rate of decline is less than last year'). But all this will be tolerated less by the public.

The difference between news and soap opera will narrow as will the distinction between movies and advertising (or pornography). Most records will sound the same - a sort of pop-funk, folk-operetta. The BBC will sound like the government. All 47 TV channels will look like the Big Breakfast Show.

All gaps will grow smaller, shorter, less, except the one between liberty, equality, peace and world capitalism.
David Yates, London

Hard lessons

In this academic year per capita spending on higher education has been cut by 20 per cent. 1993 will bring a further cut in funding and a fall in already dreadful educational standards, especially in the new 'universities'. The standard of education in the former polytechnics is being lowered to the level of sixth form colleges.

There has been a huge rise in student numbers, thanks to the dearth of jobs for school-leavers and older people alike, and the desire of colleges to cram students in to ensure that they get as much as possible of the ever-dwindling funds available. As the slump deepens the situation will become desperate.

As usual, the students and staff will suffer most. Staff will be faced with larger lectures and tutorials. Students will be forced to do more and more undirected work with less and less library and computer resources. John Major's vision of one in three entering third level education be the year 2000 may come to fruition (unlike most of his other dreams), but the one sure prediction we can make is that this new-found access will be to an under-funded, under-resourced, and devalued education system.
Bill Hawk, North London

Taking Stock

What might 1993 bring for the world's major stock markets? Is another 1929 or 1987 on the cards?

The Tokyo stock market has performed very badly over the past two years. 1993 could be bad but, whatever happens, the world markets seem immune to a Tokyo crash. The New York market has survived two years of American economic recovery that has hardly been noticeable. However what could upset the Big Apple Cart might be the continued appalling results of the biggest companies in the world. If companies like General Motors and IBM continue to lose billions of dollars every three months then panic may well ensue. Panic in New York would sweep the world's markets.

Now London. In a slump with no sign yet of a significant return to profitability, the London market is continually touching new highs. When the British recovery is seen as yet another false dawn, perhaps in the spring or early summer, there is a very good chance of a dramatic collapse.

What is most likely over the coming year is poor stock market performance and high levels of government intervention. A crash of the size of 1987 is possible, but it is difficult to see the same level of international cooperation to overcome it.
Mark Reilly, London

Turmoil in Ireland

The British government will suggest new constitutional arrangements in return for an indefinite IRA truce. The IRA will declare an indefinite ceasefire pending the outcome of negotiations which Sinn Fein will attend. British strategy against the natinalist people will break down into two phases.

Phase One: The ceasefire coincides with an escalation in attacks by Loyalist gangs. Britain's use of thew Loyalists is modelled on the South African government's use of Inkatha against the black masses. The purpose: to demoralise a disarmed nationalist community, to portray the problem in Northern Ireland as a problem of communal violence, and to recast the British as neutral peacemakers. Sinn Fein accuse the British of complicity in the attacks, and threaten to scupper the talks. Discontent grows in the natonalist community and sections of the IRA call for reprisals. Sinn Fein calls for EC teams to be sent to hotspots to monitor the truce.

Phase Two: New escalation in Loyalist attacks, with the death toll climbing to levels not seen since 1972. In rural areas like South Armagh and Tyrone freelance republican units break ranks to attack British bases and Loyalist strongholds. The British use the conditional release of prisoners - all closely vetted for moderate views - as a carrot to the nationalists, and as blackmail against Sinn Fein. In the face of IRA inaction, desperate nationalists demand RUC patrols to curb Loyalist attacks. Pressurised by the EC, the Southern and British governments, Sinn Fein finally allows the RUC to enter unhindered into nationalist areas - the first time in 23 years. Rural units of the IRA are hunted down in joint British/Southern army operations.
Noel Cunane, Archway

No justice

The reining back of legal aid, which is sure to begin in 1993, will reduce still further the chances of receiving anything approaching a fair trial. The little matter of being innocent will scarcely register in the courtroom control culture of the nineties.

During 1993 expect legal aid to be withdrawn for those with previous criminal convictions. This is not likely to arouse much outcry; I wouldn't wait for the Labouyr Pary's 'Social Justice Commission' to spring to your defence. This assault will be followed by the withdrawal of legal aid to anyone accused of a crime who, if found guilty, is unlikely to receive a custodial sentence (that is to say, a clear majority of those brought to trial).

A judicious fog surrounds the exact details of the legal aid proposals but it is clear that the mooted cutbacks can only be bad for us, whether innocent or guilty of our 'crimes'. The curtailing of legal aid, like other injurious legislation, is advanced in the knowledge that the working class feels intimidated, divorced from power and uncertain about the future.

As it stands the legal system is racist, sexist and inherently classs biased. Though 1993 is going to be a bad year in court, it also offers an opportunity for us to win back the lost ground and to establish the difference between their 'justice' and ours.
Rob Lennon, Edinburgh

The McPerot factor?

People are experiencing recession in the absence of any plausible working class alternative. In Scotland, this places the national question on the agenda. Here, to blame the English, especiallly the south-east, is as commonplace as blaming clouds for rain. 1992 saw a real rise in interest in the ideas of 'democracy' and 'self-determination' for Scotland, not really matched by the Scottish National Party's performance in the general election. Although its vote rose, it ended up with one fewer MP and is back in third place.

I think this indicates two things. First, like everywhere else, there is near complete cynicism towards the established parties, including the SNP. Secondly, the peculiar form of anti-politics in Scotland is the call for independence. I find no great faith in the idea that independence could change the fundamentals. Rather, it has become popular in a negative way, as a change from what exists at present, when any change will do.

In 1993, we can expect that sense of grievance, and the desire for a parochial solution, to get stronger. Whether that will have any effect will depend on whether an individual or group, untainted by associations with the past, emerges to take advantage. It will require a kind of 'McPerot' factor to turn latent cynicism into a popular movement.
Doug French, Sheffield

Year of the moral panic

After following the media over the past few years it is amazing that the average British citizen is not sporting several condoms, a Sierra Cosworth proof suit of armour, and clutching a hand full of pitbull repellent while going to the shops to buy a Nicorette patchand some alcohol-free drinks.

Mass hysteria is always very useful in hard economic times. We live in very unstable political times. As well as the economic slump the establishment is going through a political crisis. No longer can our 'leaders' justify their role with threats of communism corrupting society's moral fabric. In these uncertain times the moral panic becomes an invaluable weapon for the ruling elite. It makes people more preoccupied with their own lifestyle. So instead of questioning the inadequate NHS people are preoccupied with giving up smoking, healthy eating or cutting down their alcohol consumption. Even more worrying is the fact that hysteria about crime allows the state to increase police repression.

Throughout 1993, as the establishment becomes less confident of its ability to control society on its own merits, it will be forced more and more to fall back on moral panics. The New Year promises new peaks in hysteria from the media. No doubt we will be under siege from armies of 'immoral' single mothers and Aids-ridden basketball players among other things.
Dave Alvis, East London

Fear and anger

There is considerable fear, uncertainty and anger at the effects of the slump. However, the lack of any organised political response from the working class to the slump means its consequences are experienced in an individualised way by its victims. They are seen as a series of personal tragedies seemingly inflicted at random by an outside force beyond anyone's control. In such a climate, people's response willl take on an individual character.

The sight of backbench Tory MPs speaking in support of the miners, and the TUC and CBI joining together in a National Day of Recovery are among recent events that seem to suggest a lack of class polarisation in British society. The prevailing sentiment appears to be one of 'we're all in it together'. Such a climate benefits the bosses as they implement any measures they see fit in a vain attempt to revive profitability.

Yet it is a fallacy to state that there is anything approaching a genuine sense of consensus in Britain. Like many other Western countries in the aftermath of the Cold War, Britain is experiencing a questioning of its political and constitutional institutions. But the lack of any political context in which people's fear can be placed means that their mood can best be described as volatile. In such a climate, reactionary ideas are just as likely to gain a foothold as progressive ones. The challenge is to provide the political leadership that will ensure the progressive ones are the ones that will take hold.
Bill Durrant, Hornsey

Been here before?

The gap between talking up the economy (as carried out by the government and city spokesmen) and the grim reality of the slump will widen in 1993. But can you spot when these quotes were published?
'The present recession, both for stocks and business, is not the precursor of business depression' (2 November);

'a depression seems improbable; [we expect] recovery of business next spring, with further improvement in the fall' (21 December);

'there are indications that the severest phase of the depression is over' (18 January);

'manufacturing activity is now - to judge from past periods of contraction - definitely on the road to recovery' (1 March);

'by May or June the spring recovery forecast in our letters of last December and November should be clearly apparent' (19 April);

'[business] will turn for the better this month or next, recover vigorously in the third quarter and end the year at levels substantially above normal' (17 May);

'the present depression has spent its force' (30 August);

'we are now near the end of the declining phase of the depression' (15 November);

'stabilisation at [present] depression levels is clearly possible' (31 October, a year later).
Sounds familiar? All quotes from the 'Weekly Letters' of the Harvard Economic Society between 1929 and 1931 before it was dissolved into the dustbin of history.
Reproduced from Living Marxism issue 52, February 1993



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