Editorial: Happy New Year?

“Happy New Year” we all said to one another on New Year’s Eve. Even though we meant it sincerely what are the chances of it becoming a reality?

Looking back to the year just passing, 2001 will be remembered for one really major and horrific event (11 September) plus others whose significance is only now dawning, such as the beginning of what appears to be an economic downturn. Is it likely 2002 will be any better?

If you are one of the unfortunate billions living in much of Asia or Africa then the obvious answer is very likely to be no, these being continents where war and famine stalk the land as habitually as the jungle predators. In most of the rest of the world the bulk of the population may not face the same harsh realities of grinding absolute poverty and destitution, but insecurity and fear are never far away. The fear of losing our jobs. The fear of being mugged or attacked. The fear of family break-up and the escapism of drugs and drink which has become a feature of so many lives. In other words, the fear of falling victim to the ruthless, competitive society that is capitalism, with all its attendant social pressures.

This is why 2002 is unlikely to be any better than 2001. Even at a subliminal level, the majority have chosen to put up with capitalism and the misery it causes them rather than seek an alternative to it. They are victims, and as victims they “muddle through” and hope there is light at the end of the tunnel. But as the office joke goes, when the light eventually appears it is only the boss with his torch, bringing more work for those “fortunate” enough to have it.

As socialists, we argue that we should stop being the helpless victims in society, prey to the mercenary forces of the market, and instead get up off our knees.

History shows that capitalism won’t go away if we shut our eyes to it, it will merely attack us all the more mercilessly. That is why unless we do something about it, there will be more recessions, more crime and more terrorist atrocities committed by misguided, power-hungry and disgruntled fanatics. The market system is nothing if it is not relentless.

Because of the problems and suffering it causes, we have to put capitalism out of its misery, and in so doing, we will help lift ourselves out of our own. Nobody else is going to do it for us, that’s for sure – all the leaders and politicians are part of the problem itself not the solution. They are the ultimate representatives of the system that will have to be swept aside if the bulk of the population are to be free of the shackles imposed by money and the market.

But what is the next step as we enter the new year?

The next step is to organise – to organise for change. In groups and meetings and on the internet we need to band together to fight against the reason most of us fell fearful or miserable – the market economy itself and the politicians who oversee its operation. Without this, “Happy New Year” will be the empty platitude it usually becomes every year. If we democratically organise for change, so that we can build a society based on co-operation, respect and peacefulness, then next time we utter that phrase it may, for once, carry some real meaning. Until then, it will be devoid of resonance, and as relevant and useful as the deflated balloons and discarded party poppers are when we trudge back into work when the parties are over.

So let’s do something positive and organise to make 2002 a truly happy new year – and that of course means a year worth remembering for the right reasons, and not, like 2001, all the wrong ones.

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