Review: Unmasking Austerity

Review: Unmasking Austerity

This the latest offering by Dexter Whitfield which makes for uncomfortable reading. It is full of detailed well researched and explosive exposees of neoliberalism and faux austerity. Where most of us will have a general grasp and idea of just how our society is being abused and raped by these financial systems Whitfield goes into forensic detail. He offers some of the most chilling observations of unscrupulous conduct being passed off as financial management you will read. I could not put this book down. Once I started reading despite the painful content it was necessary to finish it immediately.

As with Whitfield’s previous offerings he presents the facts and details rather like the diagram you would receive when purchasing an Airfix model toy to construct. You have the vision of the finished product preceded by the “exploded version” where you are able to clearly examine each and every component part in minute detail complete with where it fits into the overall view.

The four chapters begin with the exposing of the malign and offensive fakery that is the neo liberalist agenda of Austerity. However, if you thought that we would be allowed off the hook and just blame right wingers for this odious circumstance he will have none of it showing that opponents of neoliberalism have not been particularly successful at offering strategies to rebut its effect.

“Austerity did not create a ‘new opportunity’ to reconfigure the state, nor was it an example of ‘shock doctrine’. The financial crisis merely allowed the acceleration of reconfiguration, because the implementation of neoliberal policies in the public sector and welfare state has been systematic and continuous for over three decades.”

It gets no easier to consume as he provides a Super Trooper searchlight into the murkiest corners of opposition to Austerity and discusses what the opponents of austerity have done, and the minimal effect it has currently had in changing the neo liberal direction. He offers some cogent views on the actions and needs of Trades Unions to lead the opposition. He is also quite clear in that it cannot be from positions of isolation. Equally it cannot be from just one corner of any one country. This is an international assault and it requires a bigger vision and organisational approach than has thus far been offered or even considered. Effective opposition has had a communal dimension and that needs to be expanded from the Trades Unions and community groups in one country to many countries. The communication needs to be international. The co operation needs to be international. The events need to be strategic events rather than one off rallies or marches and they need to be placed in an overall plan for a future full of alternatives to austerity.

Whitfield is stating some of the things that you would expect political and Trades Union leaders to be advocating but are not, or not consistently enough. He says

Workforce development, childcare provision, equalities mainstreaming, good quality pensions, trade union representation, collective bargaining and facility time together with service and workplace democracy are an essential part of the reconstruction strategy.

 And yet these have been said by trades union leaders but not often enough or loud enough. Whitfield is prodding all of us as trades unionists with a very sharp stick to start leading effectively and with new strategies.

However, some of these necessary and hard truths are then finished off with some of the successful exposing of facts that have had resonance and made an impact and offer a possibility for a part of the way forward.

“The average public debt ratio in advanced economies is expected to stabilize in 2013–14 at slightly below 110% of GDP, 35 percentage points above its 2007 level.”

 “The top 1% of US households had 59.9% of the increase in income between 1979 and 2007”

 “The shift from higher to lower-wage jobs also reduced productivity”

 In discussing the manufactured crises of austerity the one area that appeared to be overlooked were the credentials of the politicians arguments of the coalition government being exclusively drawn from PR. In the UK at least, there appears to be a belief that PR principles of repetition, repetition, repetition will suffice to engender the inculcation of the arguments into the mainstream thinking. Whilst that is certainly true with their support in the media and their blind obedience to regurgitating any neo liberal nonsense that is pushed their way. It is not dealt with here. Although this may have more to do with the international reach of these observations and analyses rather than concentrating on mere parochial concerns.

Overall this is a seriously muscular work which is both compelling and painful in equal measure. I do not appreciate the criticism mostly because it is well made and pertinent. I, as will all Trades Unionists, have to review my / our approach to what we are opposing and remedy the conduct and actions we undertake. The implicit indication from Whitfield is that he considers it necessary to have the Trades Unions lead the opposition to austerity. Given how New Labour were complicit in continuing what the neo liberalists began in 1979 I cannot take issue with that. We just have to be quick to find the leaders who can make the National and International connections to make this step change towards 21st Century Trades Unionism and ensure that we end the era of austerity with the return to the principles, social conduct and political will that Whitfield and myself believe is beneficial to the entire society rather than the 1%.

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