A Happy New Year (2002)

A Happy New Year? It seems most of us uttered this hackneyed sentiment at the beginning of 2001 and, whilst meaning well, fully understood that for many 2001 would bring nothing but misery.

2001 will be famously remembered for one date – September 11th – when Islamic fundamentalist terrorists flew planes into the World Trade centre and the Pentagon and killed almost 4,000 workers. The consequences of that attack the world will perhaps feel, in one form or another, for years to come.

September 11th apart, 2001 was not really something to celebrate, so why celebrate 2002. For one thing, the year ended with the US and Britain still fighting an imperialist war in Afghanistan; with Israel provoking further unrest with the Palestinians; with Indian and Pakistani troops massing on their respective borders prepared to bomb one another into oblivion over a stretch of land known as Kashmir. The year ended with 4 million Afghan refugees facing an uncertain future; with the Argentinean economy in tatters and the country in a state of civil unrest; with 7,000 Africans dying each day from Aids; with the US talking up forthcoming bombing raids on Somalia and Iraq and with 40,000 infants dying every day from malnutrition. A taste of things to come perhaps

On a somewhat brighter side – from which many on the left gained comfort – there was massive anti-capitalist demonstrations, first in Quebec in April , then later in Gothenburg in June and Genoa in July – the latter involving 300,000. In November, an anti-war rally attracted 100,000 in London and there was a further anti-capitalist demo in Brussels as the year closed. Though undoubtedly well intentioned, it was abundantly evident that all of these demonstrations attracted chiefly those simply interested in reforming the system, treating the symptoms and not the cause. Whilst many workers are genuinely sickened at the atrocities perpetrated in the name of profit, the evidence suggests that the working class is some way from being not just a class in itself but a class for itself.

2002 looks to be no different from 2001 for one major reason - Capitalism is still very much on the agenda. This means that every aspect of our lives in 2002 will be subordinated to the worst exigencies of the profit system. Businesses will only run so long as they have the competitive edge on their rivals, wars will take place because the executives of the capitalist class realise this is simply an extension of the global search for raw materials, foreign markets and areas of influence. The state and their pals in the media will think of new laws to keep us in line and new ways of distorting facts and hoodwinking us, for the simple reason that our isolation and ignorance is an important component in maintaining the status quo. Our unwillingness to unite, our indifference to their excesses will be the victories they celebrate in 2002.

We will reach December 31st of 2002 and look back on a year in which millions died of starvation; in which millions were killed in a dozen conflicts; in which millions died from curable disease. On December 31st 2002 there will still be homelessness and crime and every other social ill you can imagine. Despite all the reforms of the previous 100 years, despite all of our scientific, technological and medical know-how, we will still find it easier to launch a $100 million space probe on a journey to the furthest galaxies than to feed and inoculate a starving, disease-ridden African village.