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Capitalism, Austerity and Oppression


The economic crisis is now shifting to public hands in many countires, and the need for sustained and intelligent resistance is overwhelming.

Some context is necessary here. When a system of power faces a legitimate threat, this system will invariably lash back. The vulgar display of power by Libyan “leader” Colonel Muammar Gaddafi is a clear example, but similar cases exist closer to home.

The G-20 Toronto summit last summer marked “the most massive compromise of civil liberties in Canadian history,” according to Ontario Ombudsman André Marin. War measure legislation was put in place that allowed for “extravagant police authority. But what this “extravagant police authority” truly indicates is how deeply troubled our so-called leaders are as their system of power is brought into question.

Following this massive economic recession, neoliberal capitalism faces the most significant legitimacy crisis in its history.

Notable about this legitimacy crisis is that it is taking place in the West. It was easy to neglect profound misery and injustice when it was being imposed upon the global poor, but the perils of neoliberalism have now come home to roost. This offers a compelling window of opportunity for fundamental and necessary change that should be seized.

With countries increasingly adopting police-state measures, and with deepening austerity budgets, the words of Karl Marx are worth recalling: “What the bourgeoisie [produces], above all, are its own grave-diggers.” With each cut to social and environmental spending, our supposed leaders are creating a stronger resistance. They are digging a grave for neoliberal capitalism.

Our responsibility is simply to pick up a few more shovels to help them dig faster. It’s time we bury the beast and create a more just and free society. The challenge is immense, but so are the opportunities.

This is a revised version of an article published in The Link following the Study in Action Conference at Concordia University, Montreal.

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