The world and New Zealand in crisis
Since the onset of the global financial crisis in 2008 we have been witness to seismic shocks throughout the world. The financial crisis has given way to a worldwide economic, social and political crisis. Every corner of the globe has been touched in some way, shape or form.
For example throughout Europe there has been intensified class struggle, perhaps most dramatically illustrated in Greece, Spain, and Portugal. In South America we’ve witnessed the return of mass movements in Brazil and a formidable student movement which took the stage in Chile. Millions have been on minimum wage strikes and demonstrations in Indonesia. While in both India and England we’ve seen the biggest general strikes in the history of those countries occur over the last few years.
In the Middle East and North Africa we’ve seen a revolutionary wave sweep through the region while in Egypt and Tunisia new workers organisations have developed. In South Africa, after the massacre of striking mine workers in 2012, we are now seeing allegiances shifting away from the ANC and a new dawn of socialist political representation for the masses. This will only be amplified by the passing of Nelson Mandela whose legacy is one of the last things holding the ANC together in a positive light.
In the United States, the centre of world capitalism and where the financial crisis started, we have seen an unprecedented public sector workers battle in Wisconsin and the development of the Occupy movement from New York. Now low paid retail and fast-food workers are taking action for living wages. In Canada we saw a gigantic student movement which took to the streets in 2012 to protest dramatic increases to university tuition fees.
Class struggle has definitely been put back on the agenda as a result of the crisis. The common theme of the period is that governments and employers have sought to make working people pay for the crisis via cuts, layoffs and austerity. While private profits have been protected, ordinary people have had their living standards reduced.
While people have struggled against these attacks the problem is that the working class is lacking a leadership with the foresight to challenge the capitalist system itself – the real source of all the underlying problems. This is a problem facing working people both in New Zealand and internationally.
While New Zealand did suffer a recession after the financial crisis it was not hit as hard as many other advanced capitalist countries. As a result class struggle has been at a much lower level than in places like Europe or the US.
New Zealand faces a somewhat unique situation thanks to its economic relationship with both China and Australia. Trading relations with these two countries, that are still experiencing growth, has given New Zealand some breathing space but this will not last as both China and Australia are facing a series of problems themselves.
If either or both of these countries was to suffer from a downturn New Zealand’s fortunes would be seriously impacted and the government would be forced to embark on austerity measures of European proportions. This in turn would have an impact of people’s attitudes to struggle. The truth is that under the surface the situation for capitalism in New Zealand is quite fragile.