Tag Archives: Recession

We Will Not Pay

Latest video at the New Statesman: At Saturday’s Progressive London conference, I caught up with comedian Josie Long and Mehdi Hasan, the NS’s political editor, and listened to Unite’s Len McKluskey and False Economy‘s Clifford Singer, plus ukuncut activists take on Barclays Bank and South London celebrates a Carnival Against the Cuts.

Watch it here

Additional filming by Kaveh Abassian and Philippa Daniel. Philippa’s own video of the Carnival Against the Cuts is here.

 

 

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Video blogging for the New Statesman: Camera in hand and idea in the head

For the last few weeks I’ve been out and about filming moments in the developing protest movement against the unconscionable coalition government and its programme of swingeing cuts in every department of social provision.  The result has been a number of short videos posted here on Putney Debater. I’ve now been invited by the New Statesman to become its first video blogger, so from now on, that’s where my videos will be posted first (although I’ll continue to post written blogs here). Here’s the first one, which condenses the videos posted here previously with some additional material.
The idea I have is to build up a picture of the movement as it evolves, so I’m working on the basis that I’ll end up with a documentary record of three or four months of struggle. The method is simple: to return to Glauber Rocha’s formula for Cinema Novo in Brazil—to go and make films with a camera in the hand and an idea in the head. (Too simple for the section on methodology in a grant application, and there’s no time for that anyway, so I’m not making one.)

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William Raban’s new London film

One of the themes running through the work of artist film-maker William Raban is the creation of a counter-image of London to the classic and generally stereotypical representations of the city we are all too used to. I’m thinking here of work like Thames Film of 1986 and Island Race ten years later. His new film, About Now MMX, premiered last month at the Tate Modern, is very much in this mould. Continue reading

Crazy about HE

The last time I voted Labour (apart from the London Mayoral election) was 1997. My disillusion with New Labour under Tony Blair began almost immediately, and was due to his treatment of the Dearing Report on Higher Education. Higher education had been taken off the agenda of election issues by the appointment of the Dearing committee which wasn’t due to report until after the election was over. Blair took full advantage of the fact that when the report came out we were into the summer, when faculty are dispersed and least able to respond. He cherry-picked what he wanted and rammed it through, going against Dearing’s recommendations by introducing the combination of tuition fees and student loans. After this highly undemocratic behaviour, I never trusted Blair on anything. Continue reading

What’s been happening?

What’s been happening, at a popular level, in response to the economic crisis?

Back in February there was a remarkable upsurge in street protest and direct action in a range of different countries, sometimes in response to local events which sparked things off (like Greece), and sometimes with an unpleasant element of xenophobia (like England).

In the middle of that month there was a tv news report on young working class unemployed in Sheffield, who all blamed the government for the crisis and declared they wouldn’t vote for them. Their habitus, or mental purview, is very different from that of students, who are invested in the future in a way that escapes the rest of their generation who have given up on education. The students have long been depoliticised, but February was also remarkable for a wave of student occupations in British universities in protest at Israel’s murderous invasion of Gaza.

Few commentators accorded much significance to any of these manifestations of popular feeling.

The New Statesman opined that ‘This is not just a devastating recession: this is the New Depression’, and Martin Jacques wrote in its pages that ‘the crisis has undermined all the ideological assumptions that have underpinned goverenment policy and political discourse over the past 30 years.’ [New Statesman, 16 Feb 2009] This is a sentiment that first surfaced in the political media—the political zones of the public sphere—in immediate aftermath of the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008, an event which provoked strong feelings of both amazement and fear. And many people believe it, which is to say, we live in hope. It has not yet transpired.

Meanwhile, Jacques continued, ‘there is no political alternative waiting in the wings, refining its radical ideas in think tanks ready to storm the citadels of power as there was in the 1970s.’ [New Statesman, 16 Feb 2009] A slightly odd way of putting it—real radical ideas do not come out of think tanks, who cannot storm the citadels of power because they already live there. (What happened in the 70s was an internal political coup inside the Tory party under the charismatic leadership of the nasty Mrs Thatcher.) But it’s true that there seems right now to be no political alternative, and worse still, no capacity within the citadels of power to consider anything that would challenge the underlying status quo, when that is exactly what’s needed. Perhaps they’re in a state of denial; they’re certainly timid.

Meanwhile, the recession is projected against what seems an even more intractable background. In March it was reported that the world population has reached 6.8 billion, and is expected to rise to 9.2 billion by 2050, while the evidence mounts that climate change is speeding up.

It is difficult to see very much when your nose is too close to the ground. The historian Eric Hobsbawm was seeing it from a long perspective when he wrote, in April, that “In some ways it is a greater crisis than in the 1930s, because the globalisation of the economy was not then as far advanced as it is today, and the crisis did not affect the planned economy of the Soviet Union. We don’t yet know how grave and lasting the consequences of the present world crisis will be, but they certainly mark the end of the sort of free-market capitalism that captured the world and its governments in the years since Margaret Thatcher and President Reagan.” [The Guardian, 10.4.09] This must be right, but three months later there is little sign that free-marketeering has been significantly weakened among the political class, and certainly not in financial sectors. The measures have not been taken, the bankers have not been reigned in.

A serious dislocation has taken place. The political class has become disconnected from the public sphere, it no longer seems capable of hearing what people are saying—they’re not even listening to each other. The week before the G20 meeting in London, old Labourite Roy Hattersley reviewed a book called The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, criticising the indifference of New Labour to the gap between rich and poor, ‘We have come to the end of what economic growth can do for the quality of our lives’, he wrote [New Statesman, 16 April 2009]. But there is no politician in power who descries the aim of economic growth. Their only question is how to pull it off. Of course, only very limited options are admitted to the agenda, since the ruling economic doctrines remain in place—no other available economic model is given any real consideration. Another pundit declares that the real threat is the fragmentation of the world into rival policy blocs whose strategies cancel each other out. If this is the case, there is little to hope for.