Over one million young people are unemployed in Britain today. An underestimate of the real figures, to be sure, that takes us back to the 1980s and the UK’s first draft of neoliberal hemlock, served up by an iron Lady with a wrecking ball for a heart. We weren’t the first. Other nations in other parts of the world had suffered their own Hayek/Friedman mauling in the 70s, but more about them later.
So, as we go back to the future, this time without a safety net of North Sea Oil, how the hell do we get out of this hole? First, we stop listening to those that did the damage; the deregulators, free market fundamentalists, morons that call the 1% at the top of society ‘wealth creators’. Wealth creators? Most of them inherited their money Most of the FTSE 500 company bosses have LOST share value and shed a shitload of jobs in the past ten years! Ha! Once we tune out of their lies, peddled in mass media almost incessantly, then we can start to think more clearly.
The economic crisis is nasty shit. Working people have seen their wages, health services and education being prized out of their grasp for 30 years. In exchange, they got the sop of easy debt. Well, I’m sure you know what happened next. That’s why we are where we are today. The solution is a simple one; to take our wealth back from the ‘wealth creators’ who have pissed up the world’s resources in an orgy of privatization, tax cuts, stupidity, vanity, self regard and ideological putrescence. Time for it to stop. So what do we do, fellahs? We talk to the experts.
That’s where the rest of the world comes in. And the rest of the world has been busy! The ‘Arab Spring’ has deposed the dictators of Tunisia, Egypt an Libya (almost), is making itself felt in Yemen, Syria and Bahrain and serious disturbances have been going on elsewhere too. Young people in Spain, fed up with 25% youth unemployment took to the streets of Madrid, there’s been civil disobedience in Greece (first target of the global loan sharks), France and other places. This is all very 1968, the time when a whole generation defined themselves through dissent. From the anti Viet-Nam war protesters in the US to the Prague Spring, the people took up against tyranny and faced the guns and tanks armed with face paint and hope. They learned a vital lesson back then, that when you fight power you’ll lose more battles than you win. But when you win, that changes the world.
So let me take you to Chile, where the students have been fighting the imposition of university tuition fees. The students have been protesting this move by a right-wing government for over six months. Their argument is that Chile is a rich country (and it is) it should be able to. Mexico, a much poorer nation manages to do so, so wealthy Chile should tax the rich to pay for education. A charismatic Communist student leader, Camila Vallejo (who the Grauniad helpfully pointed out was ‘young’ and ‘attractive’ – quality journalism that), has galvanized the movement and help draw widespread support for the free higher education campaign.
Let me share this little youtube video. It is sent by Mexican students from UNAM, one of about sixty free universities, to their Chilean counterparts. The first bit of the video is the students displaying the slogan “sí se puede” (Yes We Can) to send a message of support to the Chileans. Then, using black and white footage, they explain the story of the Tlatelolco massacre. Tlatelolco was one battle lost in ’68. The students wanted reform and democracy and went on a series of strikes and occupations. The government, worried that the protests would hamper the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, ended the protest with brutal repression, killing over 500 students in Tlatelolco square. The dictatorship won, they got their perfect games, but the seeds of rebellion had been planted, change could not be stopped.
So let me tip a hat and salute you, the rioters of Athens, the students of Santiago, the people who made the Arab spring, the women drivers in Saudi, the kettled children of London, the occupiers of Wall Street and all the others. Yours is a fine tradition, the best the human race has. If you win or if you lose, at least you tried. One day those ‘wealth creators’ will truly pay their way and we can build better, more equal societies. It feels like the world is laying a foundation stone for that in 2011. Good luck and Buena Suerte to you all.