The Raving Reporter


We’re all doomed and here’s why

Albrecht Dürer: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (detail)

A man walks between the cars, caught in a traffic jam on the road to Karachi airport. The skin and some of the flesh has been torn away from the left-hand side of his face, leaving the eye almost totally exposed, thanks to who knows what accident? A fire at his home? An accident at work or in the street? In any case, now he’s no longer working, he’s begging. He does well. His misfortune is his fortune in a country with virtually no functioning social services, where compassion is a private affair and not a collective responsibility administered by a welfare state.
I was visiting Pakistan as a reporter. I could hardly bear to look at the man. Most of the motorists gave him money.
Life is more than usually cruel without a welfare state, regardless of the charitable instincts of individual citizens. But such is the natural order of class society. And I fear that, contrary to our expectations during most of the 20th century, those countries without a social safety net are not going to follow the example of those who have one but vice versa. I believe this will be the case for one principal reason – the ruling class is no longer afraid that it might lose power and will, by the logic of its own system, take back all the concessions made to the mass of the population over the last 100-150 years.


Having spent the first two decades of my adult life as a Trotskyist activist and the following two decades as a journalist – fortunate enough to catch glimpses of the Afghan and Iraq wars and travel, mainly in Asia – I find my hopes of progress towards a just world confounded , indeed I can see no reason to regard the future with anything other than pessimism.
Here are the three main reasons not to be cheerful that I see facing the world today:
1) The improvements in living conditions of the mass of the people achieved in the wealthy countries in the 19th and 20th centuries are going to be reversed and there will be a return to massive inequality;
2) The United States will at some point provoke a war with China in an attempt to maintain its global hegemony;
3) Effective action against climate change will be prevented by vested interests who will be able to mobilise populist movements to that end, if needs be.
On this blog I intend to show why I think these are likely perspectives, although, if my researches turn up any mitigating factors, I promise to let you know. I will have other things to say, as well, and may publish some of the accounts I wrote up of my reporting trips, if anyone is interested.
If anyone out there is reading this and has arguments that can lighten the mood, I invite you to do so. The human ego being what it is, I may not admit that I’m wrong. But you may enlighten other readers and a dialogue would be nice, if not entirely consistent with dominant trends of behaviour on the worldwide web.
I’m aware that I have reached an age where it is rare to heartily endorse the way the world is going and some of this may strike the reader as grumpy-old-gittery with graphs. Do feel free to point out the glimmers of hope breaking through the clouds of austerity , self-interest and egotism.
So here goes.


2 thoughts on “The Raving Reporter

  1. Very interesting analysis – thought provoking. My thoughts on it.
    You draw attention to the massive shift in mass manufacturing from West to East which I think is a very significant development.
    I don’t think a direct war between China and USA is likely because of the enormous destructive consequences it would have for both and for the world. A trade war and a scramble for energy sources and raw materials is on the cards with the possibility of proxy wars in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Certainly US imperialism since the collapse of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe bloc has been fully prepared to use its force to further its economic and political interests – former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya – though UK and USA did draw back from intervention in Syria after backlash from people over further intervention.
    There has also been a weakening of the Trade Unions – certainly in UK – both in terms of membership levels and combativity. Most unions restrict themselves to protest action or legal action rather than having a strategy to win gains or defend conditions. There are some exceptions eg RMT, FBU in UK.
    As such the working class and much of the middle classes face massive attacks as you have described with weakened line of defence.
    However there is another side to the coin in that following banking crisis in 2008 along with MPs expenses scandal and now establishment cover ups over child abuse – there is a healthy scepticism towards the establishment. Anti establishment, anti politician and anti banker attitudes are common place to a much greater extent than previously particularly amomgst young people.
    Anti capitalism has been given credence as an idea by the Occupy movement. And the notion of revolution can be discussed following Russell Brand’s intervention into politics.
    The paradox is of course that such ideas are poularised at a time when the organisations to take demands forward are at a low ebb.
    Nevertheless there are strong signs that as people are pushed further under the name of austerity they are searching for a way out. Examples are the election of Syriza in Greece, the growth of Podemos in Spain, the success of the Anti Austerity Alliance in Ireland- particularly in leading non payment of water charges -, the election of a Socialist in Seattle and the campaign in USA for $15 Now, the magnificent defence by Kurds against ISIS.
    As you point out further austerity will be imposed so more and more people will be affected. To this we should add the strong possibility of a further banking collapse at some point in the not so distant future. Despite hand wringing in 2008 by politicians nothing significant has changed. Money is in the banking system rather than the real economy where people make and build things. As things deteriorate further more people will search for solutions.
    Marx is often criticised because in effect he did not foretell the future. History shows that there are many factors which are difficult to entirely predict.
    Lenin realised the importance of the subjective factor – leadership and the revolutionary party – to carry through the transformation in society that Marx envisaged. Neither really could have forseen the huge mind numbing mind bending effect of the mass media which exerts such powerful influence in favour of the capitalist status quo. Though Orwell did seem to see that coming!
    Frustratingly although Marx laid bare the nature of society and how it develops people can go down any number of cul de sacs. The influence of religious fundementalist ideas over some despite the evidence of science and technology to the contrary is just one example of this. Racism, nationalism and other creeds which rupture class unity are examples of such false ideology.
    So I guess I am saying that whilst we can see trends now and possibilities ahead that the future is not inevitable in a mechanical determinist way. Marx’s Theses on Feuerbach I think give a good guide to how conscious human intervention shapes society as well as the material conditions.
    We have a capitalist world which would surely be declared collectively insane if ever a group of advanced aliens were ever to find us.
    At this point in history we are bristling with nuclear weapons with the power to destroy the human race and we are walking wide eyed and fully conscious (but pretending to sleep walk) into an environmental disaster. And this is the case because the working class and the 99% have not yet ended capitalism which is now patently incapable of taking human society forward.
    The rational thing to do is to nurture the green shoots where people are searching for a way out of this mess which they will surely be increasingly compelled by their situation to do and to develop the idea that collective action is powerful and that a better world is possible if we reorganise society on socialist lines. What history definitely shows is that events do not progress at an even pace and that at certain times rapid progress and potential revolutionary situations can develop. It is important that we are ready to advance these opportunities when they occur.
    To (mis)quote Marx – Philosophers have interpreted the world – the point is to change it. Come in Capitalism your time’s up!

  2. Your wit and self-deprecating humour give people in the world reason to smile.
    I’m not sure at this time of the afternoon if that is a remedy for pessimism (yours or anyone else’s). I think you should debate -isms.
    P.S. I do not work for White and Black Dresses.

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