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Counterpunch columnist Rob Urie tackles some of the political consequences of the neoliberal choices we have made as a society.

 

“The question of bailouts is fundamentally different from that of taking care of people. An adequate response to the pandemic will require years of dedicated effort, not tossing a trillion dollars at ‘the economy’ and hoping for the best. Social distancing and quarantines might require income and material support for tens of millions of people for as long as eighteen months. Nancy Pelosi is reportedly already balking at spending government money to do what is necessary. It would be a benefit to workers if she forced her corporate sponsors to provide paid time off for their employees, but she won’t do this.

The economic fragility behind the rapid descent into economic crisis isn’t a product of nature. It was purposely created by the bi-partisan political establishment at the behest of oligarchs and academic economists. NAFTA was meant to make workers economically insecure. Welfare ‘reform’ was passed to make life outside of capitalist employment intolerably tenuous. The minimum wage hasn’t been a living wage for forty years. And plans to cut Social Security and Medicare are meant to increase economic fragility. Likewise, austerity is the enforcement mechanism to keep the rich in control of American political economy.

This combination of manufactured social fragility and neoliberal governance will sooner or later produce a political rupture. The election of Donald Trump was the first act of one. An extended economic crisis can produce social solidarity or a deeply ugly political response. The Democrats’ choice to stick with their neoliberal program means that they are indifferent between electing Joe Biden and a second term for Donald Trump. Add the widespread unemployment that is already baked into their reflexive austerity and a more perfect formula for fascist ascendance is difficult to imagine.”

I, for one, am not looking forward to the social fabric of our province being torn asunder by the austerity crazed UCP government in 2020.

“Speaking of blaming others for Alberta’s ills, 2020 will see the UCP government maintain its pugilistic approach to issues via its Fight Back Strategy that includes the “war room” — officially, the Canadian Energy Centre — the public inquiry into the government’s foreign-funded conspiracy theory, and the “fair deal” panel that is looking into whether Alberta should have, for example, its own police force and pension plan.

These are all tactics designed to keep Alberta on a war footing and keep Albertans angry, frustrated and easily manipulated by a government that equates legitimate opposition with sedition.

The past year ended with some frustrated public sector workers musing about a general strike. That strike never happened and perhaps it never will. But we might see strikes by individual public sector unions in 2020. They are upset by a government that is pressing workers to take wage cuts. The government has made it clear if the unions win wage hikes, they can expect job cuts.”

Good times ahead folks. :(

A thick meaty discussion of the western political economy and the checkered history that has led us to the current financial mess we happen to be in. Great viewing, get some popcorn!

labor-union    The rights we enjoy today in Canada as workers and professionals were not given to us.  It was through determined, bloody at times, never-say-die, collective struggle that our rights as workers were imposed on the capitalist class.  Power never makes concessions – struggles for basic working benefits must be fought for and taken.  The price for humane working conditions can be as high as death or as in the case of Cleaning Workers Union in Greece, permanent disfigurement.

“Vassilis Kikilias, didn’t lose time. Less than an hour after he took office, riot police cracked down on a protest of the cleaning staff of the ministry of finance.

The protesters are more than 500 women of all ages and national backgrounds who were cleaning tax offices, the ministry of finance and customs services until a ministerial decree, fired them all indiscriminately and permanently.

The austerity rationale behind the decision was spurious because these women were not a fiscal burden – quite the contrary. The privatisation of cleaning services has increased the amount spent in order to keep public working spaces decently clean.”

Ah, there we go, the popular myth that privatization is solution to all problems in the public sector.  It usually isn’t when it comes to saving money as privatized services cost more and treat their employees badly; less pay, less benefits, less job security.  Embrace job insecurity! It is but one of the lovely intrinsic features of privatization of society and a necessary feature of the capitalist paradigm.

“The fate of these 500 women is nothing new in Greece; for years now, and especially since the financial crisis, workers have had to take to the streets to reclaim their rights.”

“Overall, privatising services and reverting to temporary contracts for workers has been associated with slavery-like conditions of labour exploitation.”

We must never forget the blood price paid by earlier generations to erect the bulwarks of labour protections against the capitalist tide.  People fought and died for what we consider “normal” working conditions.

“Kouneva, a trained historian, emigrated to Greece from Bulgaria in 2001, because of the financial troubles many countries in Eastern Europe were going through at the time.

In 2003 she was hired as a janitor by private company OIKOMET, which had a contract with the Athenian railway service. Seeing the conditions in which her colleagues were working (low and infrequent pay, lack of insurance, mistreatment), Kouneva entered the janitors union of Athens and soon became one of its leading figures.

From that moment on, she didn’t stop protesting working conditions, struggling for the rights of cleaning staff, who were often ignored by the main trade unions.

She ignored threats against her life and never regretted her decision to continue the fight for labour rights.

One night in December 2008, Konstantina Kouneva was attacked by two men while walking back home in downtown Athens. They threw sulfuric acid on her face and forced her to drink the rest in what could have been a fatal attack.”

What was her crime? Protesting for decent working conditions.  People need to realize the coercive power capital holds and guard against it regaining the sort of destructive influence observed in Greece.

“This doesn’t change the significance of the cleaners’ story: Fired from governmental institutions some of these women will be hired back at half of their original salaries, no insurance in some cases, and incapable to fight employer blackmail as employees.

This is what the austerity programme is all about.

A lot has been written about the high unemployment figures in Greece due to the crisis but there’s another aspect that affects the working population. Salaries drop, conditions worsen and the negotiating power of workers is annihilated.

500 women are continuing the struggle Konstantina Kouneva paid for with her health, fighting hard to keep the gates that lead to the precarious underclass, closed .

Despite the fact that they have already won their litigation against the Greek state, they are being constantly attacked by conservative politicians, the mainstream media, and riot police. Just recently they were brutally beaten again while trying to reach the finance ministry and demonstrate for, yet another day.”

People fighting for their lives while conservatives, the media and of course the police try to crush them.  This was commonplace here in North America not long ago and the conservative capitalist forces of today are doing their very best to erase the memory of workers popular struggle so they can continue to chip away at the hard fought rights and benefits we enjoy today.

[Source]

 

 

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