As the details of the government's "bail-out plan" are released, the first left analyses are starting to come in. Which is well and good; we do need to know what it means, who it will hit, and what the long-term impact will be. We are also (finally!) starting to see some proposals for action, albeit most of them very rhetorical and / or focussed on "organisational patriotism", usually without acknowledging the constraint placed by one's own party's position. If, though, commentators are right in saying that most people are still held back from action by a sense that "there is no alternative", then the alternatives presented have to be more than simply technical solutions, such as the very strange SF plan, whose first task for a new government is that it should "introduce legislation to force debt for equity swaps". Perhaps it should - but honestly, who is going to come out on the streets for this? Or for "a detailed and credible six-year job creation and deficit reduction plan"? The recent (and welcome) return by SF to visible protest doesn't sit very easily with this.
Over on Cedar Lounge someone's posted the scale of the mess we're in, according to Vincent Browne:
â‚¬90bn â€“ Current Sovereign Debt â‚¬20bn â€“ Prefunded Debt â‚¬23bn â€“ Redeeming bonds over next 3 years â‚¬35bn â€“ Bank Recapitalisation â‚¬45bn â€“ Cost of funding the the country over next 3 years â‚¬100bn -Short term ECB liquidity to Irish banks â‚¬30bn â€“ Irish Central Bank master loan repurchase agreements
Annual Interest Payments anything from â‚¬14 to â‚¬18 Billion . Our current Annual income approx â‚¬32 Billion
The non-specialists among us have to take this kind of statement more or less on faith, or at least on the authority of those who say it. But what we actually need from the political economists, if we want to be able to argue the case with anyone outside the elite, is figures for the non-technical alternatives which are not too arcane for most people to grasp.
Would it be possible to list what could be achieved by
- nationalising the oil and gas off the Irish coast
- a significant wealth tax
- a substantial rise in corporation tax
- repudiating NAMA / nationalising failed banks without compensation / something in this direction which is technically feasible, immediately comprehensible to the rest of us and which breaches the "rules of the game"
- defaulting on national debt?
Those who understand the area will probably see at a glance that this is not the best possible list, but that is what it would be nice to get from radical political economists: a clear identification of what the state is choosing to put money into at the cost of everything that is being cut, a simple statement for lay people of an alternative strategy which breaks with the rules of the neo-liberal game that has brought us to this point, and a rough identification of the scale of what's involved?
Maybe 6 or 10 items that could go on a poster and would be immediately comprehensible? Something that ordinary people could see with a sense of "so there is an alternative", "it doesn't have to be like this", and "and this hits them where it hurts / isn't just more of the same"?
This isn't to say that the technical analysis might not also be needed, and all the rest of it. But if the politics does not come, the technicalities are just hot air. And the politics starts with a clear and radical analysis which people around the country can take up and use to batter the status quo with.
If not now, when?
And if this is not what that radical political economy is for, what is it for?