|A world to win, a planet to save: 400,000 people marched in New York in September.|
Some of the good things that happened this year....
AT THE RISK OF MAKING a vast generalisation, the left is often inclined to focus on the failures of the present political and economic system and ignore its own successes. This is especially so in an age where a vicious ruling class offensive has seen what remains of social democracy surrender to neoliberalism and 'market values'. These are the strange days when 'social democratic ' politicians defend the policies and values of neoliberalism while describing themselves as 'left wing'.
But at the same time the left is still fighting to occupy the space once occupied by the social democratic parties. But, it has to be said, our victories have not been numerous.
But it is exactly in days like these like these we need to mark our victories and our achievements. Here's my entirely random and totally arbitrary Top 10 list of good things about 2014 and in no particular order of merit.
1. CAN WE BUILD IT? YES WE CAN
Despite only being formed in January this year, Podemos (translation: We Can) is now more popular than the two established political parties that have dominated Spanish politics. If an election was held today Podemos would become the government.
This year it was heavily involved in the successful campaign by Spanish women that prevented the right from reversing a 2010 law that legalized abortion on demand.
Leader Pablo Iglesias came up with one of the quotes of the year: "Heaven is not taken by consensus, it is taken by assault'. Drop it into a conversation and impress your friends.
2. GERMAN LEFT TURN
The socialist Die Linke (Left Party) is the fourth largest party in the German Bundestag and now Die Linke’s leader in the region of Thuringia, former trade unionist Bodo Ramelow, has been appointed premier - despite warnings from Chancellor Angela Merkel to voters abut not letting "Karl Marx back into the state premier’s office.” He will lead a coalition consisting of Die Linke, the social democrats and the Greens.
3. BREAKING FREE FROM THE ANC
In October the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) announced it was cutting ties with the tripartite alliance of the ANC, the South African Communist Party (SACP) and COSATU, the trade union federation. It also announced it intended to establish a socialist "United Front" in December this year.
While a small layer in or connected to the ANC top brass have become millionaires, the mass of the population – a majority of which still support the Alliance - has seen unchanged or worse conditions.
NUMSA has accused COSATU of turning into a 'a yellow capitalist federation of the workers' and "a labour desk of the bourgeoisie."
4.CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN
It's not about carbon, it's about capitalism. Naomi Klein's new book, This Changes Everything, places the blame for climate change and environmental degradation firmly at the doorstep of capitalism, where it belongs.
While some might argue that she places too much faith in social movements (movementism?) Klein's book is a clarion call for radical action to save the planet. She has also exposed a disturbing conservatism among many mainstream environmental organisations who still prefer to dance with the devil. Not uncoincidentally the New Zealand Green Party, busy trying to sell snakeoil called 'green capitalism', has failed to engage with Klein's important book.
5. SAYING NO TO CORPORATE STITCH-UP
Protests against the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement have grown across the Asia Pacific region including New Zealand,despite deliberate information blackouts by participating governments.
6. BRAND NEW MODEL
In October last year comedian Russell Brand told the BBC's Jeremy Paxman that "politicians were only interested in serving corporations" , that he had never voted and, what's more, he had a hankering for a revolution. The interview subsequently went viral on YouTube with over 10 million views.
In 2014 the charismatic and immensely popular Londoner has done much to put left wing and revolutionary politics back on the agenda. He recently said in an interview that the further impoverishment of the country he grew up in forced him to wonder “where those resources had gone and why people don’t seem to think that they have any political purchase.”
7. A WORLD TO WIN, A PLANET TO SAVE
Millions of people around the world turned out for the September 21 climate change demonstrations, including New Zealand. In New York alone, over 400,000 people were on the march.
8. COUNCIL SOCIALISM
Kshama Sawant of Socialist Alternative took her seat on Seattle’s City Council in January, establishing a platform to promote socialist policies and ideas. This month she voted against what she described as a 'business as usual' council budget. Said Kshama:
"There has been no serious effort from the majority of this Council or the Mayor to address the massive housing crisis, the severe underfunding of social services, inadequate mass transit and gridlocked traffic, and regressive taxation. There has been no effort to look into addressing the root causes of anti-social behaviour seen in the growing problems of crime and public safety.
Over a hundred thousand households in this city – more than one in three – are paying more than they can afford in housing costs."
9.YOU ARE BEING WATCHED
Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Glenn Greenwald came to New Zealand and revealed that we are all under surveillance from the GCSB. With evidence supplied by whistleblower Edward Snowden, Greenwald said he knew for certain that the New Zealand government engaged in "extraordinary amounts of analysis of metadata" which he defined as:
"Meaning whose talking to who, for how long, where they are when they speak, on a massive indiscriminate scale not just internationally but of New Zealanders as well."
The New Zealand mainstream media has failed to followed up on Greenwald's investigation.
In his new book No Place To Hide, Greenwald writes that the US media has abdicated its responsibility "to act adversiarially to those who wield political power" and instead has become "subservient to the government's interests, even amplifying, rather than scrutinizing its messages and carrying out its dirty work" He could of well of been describing the New Zealand mainstream media.
10. THE REVOLUTION WILL BE TELEVISED
"I'm the most biased fucking anchor in the world!" That's how the host of news show Breaking The Set described herself to Rolling Stone magazine this year.
29 year old Abby Martin arrived at the RT studios in Washington DC after a stint as a citizen journalist for the Occupy movement in California. Now into its second season Breaking The Set combines progressive commentary with interviews and investigate journalism. Martin has fought the good fight against a diverse range of opponents such as Monsanto, BP Oil, and the corporate-approved American election system. Along the way she has interviewed such notables as Noam Chomsky, Oliver Stone, Naomi Wolff and Jeremy Scahill.
Breaking The Set screens in New Zealand five days a week, Tuesday - Saturday on RT (Sky 92). The perfect solution to the reactionary dross of Mike Hosking, Patrick Gower, Paul Henry and co.
Photo by Saskia Koerner