By Farooque Chowdhury
06 January, 2013
Here, 2013, a new year, has already dawned. But, 2012, the yesteryear, deny departing as streams of concussions and conflicts, deals and diplomacies flow into 2013 with their complexities and knots, with sounds and force.
In areas of economy and politics, society and culture around the globe, 2012 saw changes and stalemates, initiatives and thwarted efforts. A glimpse into 2012 may help track unfolding time.
Crises in banking, finance, debt, employment, economy, and increased competition in world market and for sources of energy and labor produced diplomatic intrigues, direct and proxy interventions, bloodshed and suffering of peoples in countries in 2012.
Austerity, unemployment, apprehension of EU’s possible implosion, much touted Arab Spring’s turning back to Arab Winter, elusive recovery overwhelmed 2012. Anger, protests, demonstrations and general strikes raged in countries. Capitalism found none to defend it in 2012. Even parts of mainstream media and academia publicly criticized capitalism.
Austerity & Poverty
Capital exposed its shrewd and cruel face as it imposed austerity measures with all tact and powers in countries. With increasing suffering of peoples in countries austerity turned out as a major issue in political and financial circles and among economists in 2012. It was debated, and it was forcefully implemented.
But people rejected it within their capacity and available opportunity. The election results in France and Greece came out as peoples’ verdict against austerity.
Suicides followed austerity. Suicide of a Greek activist made headline in international media. The increasing number of suicides in Greece and Spain turned out as an authentication of crisis in economy.
Hunger, poverty, eviction from mortgaged homes, longer breadlines, ailing hospitals, rickety schools appeared regular reality in some European countries. To many European youths, 2012 was hopeless. In search of work, a flow of migration, although tiny, from Europe to Africa began. Poverty was not only a Third World case; it turned out as a European case also.
As an outgrowth of crisis neo-Nazis appeared on the Greek political scene.
Workers in countries found shrinking wages, longer work hours, dwindling real income although productivity increased.
Fear of a food crisis gripped policy makers while it spirited speculators.
In 2012, EU faced biggest ever challenge as crises deluged economy and politics induced a question: shall the Union implode? The PIGS – Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain – mastered finance bosses’ and bankcrats’ minds, and nervy markets. Germany dictated terms in the crises atmosphere. Downgrading of ratings of important economies brought annoyance.
Dictations of the Troika – the tripartite bank alliance – were unprecedented on European soil. Bankers’ high-handedness was a developing world-phenomenon. But, the on-going crises made a “strange” add-on in bankers’-dictation pattern. There was change of regime in two European countries. Actually, those were bankers’ coups, unprecedented in post-WWII in Europe. Greece kept creditors annoyed. Grexit and Brexit, pair of terms with deeper meaning, emerged in lexicon of EU-politics.
Tension centering missile system around Russia was a new phenomenon in post-USSR period.
Lenin, it seemed, was not harsh in his criticism of bourgeois press as a part of mainstream UK press got exposed with its blackmail, bribe, machination and wicked connivance.
Unemployment, poverty, hunger rose and spread in the US as the country went through election process. Tea Party lost its steam. Teachers strike was unprecedented. Reelection of Barack Obama confirmed public aspiration. Scandals, in finance and politics and among generals, wrecked careers of a number of personalities in politics and military. Recovery was like a mirage.
The last days of the year found spreading protests and hunger strike in Canada.
China’s in-road in European economy, and its increasing trade and economic relations in Africa and South America heightened competition. The year saw further expansion of Sino-Russian trade, part of BRICS and Shanghai cooperation initiatives.
With interventions, collusions and unresolved contradictions within society the much advertised the Arab Spring turned back to Arab Winter. In countries in the Arab world, contradiction between retrogressive and liberal forces sharpened as liberty, bread and employment remained elusive.
Tunisian towns and cities experienced demonstrations, blockades. Tunisian president was pelted with stones. Discontent rose in protests.
The Benghazi killing including the US ambassador, unprecedented in recent times, exposed fault lines in many areas within Libya and in the USA. Pogrom of black workers in Libya remained a subject of silence. In-fighting turned approach to resolve issues of governance in the country as it faced threat of bifurcation.
Not only Bahrain, Kuwait and the neighboring oil kingdom also experienced days of protest. The kingdom had to take softer stance in some areas including its history. It opened its archeological sites, unimaginable only a few years ago. A report said the oil-rich kingdom would turn net oil importer.
Egypt witnessed a betrayal to its Tahrir-time, the democracy uprising, a revolution claims a section. Demonstrators once reached periphery of presidential palace in Cairo as they were protesting dictatorial moves and sectarian constitution.
Syria turned a chess board to world powers as oil and gas in the Mediterranean flamed competition. But, to Syrians, the days bore last chance to save the country as blood drenched the old land, as hundreds of thousands crossed borders, as thousands dropped down to dire poverty.
The Jordanian monarchy succeeded in facing sporadic gusts of the so-called Arab Spring.
AfPakIraq, the Deadly Zone
The year that passed failed to find peace in the lives of people in three countries – Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.
Taliban, Al Qaida, drone assaults, explosions, deaths, Karzai brothers and corruption, departure of part of foreign troops left many questions unanswered in Afghanistan.
Osama, PakTaliban, relations with the US, corruption, legislative-judiciary tug and the question of gender equality that got highlighted with the Malala-incident dominated Pakistan society and politics.
Days without death, killing, executions and explosions were hard to find in Iraq. The governance system being constructed in the country faltered throughout the year with its unstable power equation. The Iran factor in Iraq and the dissonant Kurdish question remained alive in Iraq.
Palestine’s diplomatic victory in the UN and Israeli aggression in Gaza moved simultaneously that expose meaningful relations. In the UN, it was a victory of political fight free from adventurism and intolerance. It was a fight that provided no scope to resort to arms. The blood of the Palestinians that flowed in Gaza found its recognition in the comity of nations.
The Palestinian victory in the UN exposed US diplomatic isolation as the mighty country bagged only nine votes while it opposed Palestinian aspiration. It was a lesson to many, and an example of declining power.
In Gaza, the world’s largest open-air prison, a part of political forces failed to get out of Egyptian intelligence machine.
Extreme weather in countries including the US and excessive rain and flood in the UK compelled many climate crisis deniers change position. Dusts of drought flew over dried rivers and crop fields in the US. The “curse” of crop failure seemed real. The question came: Shall dust bowl return in the US?
News of melting down of glaciers, reports from the Arctic and the Antarctic were grim in 2012. But the climate crisis talks failed to produce the cherished output.
Protests & Strikes
Many European cities and towns experienced protest marches, demonstrations, street clashes, mega strikes, and anarchic adventures. Repeated general strikes in a number of European countries exposed non-responsive governance system. Coal miners marched for days in Spain. They fought for days.
Miners’ heroic struggle and their massacre in South Africa raised questions related to capital’s power to shape politics.
Student movement stood against neo-liberalism in South America. Students in advanced capitalist countries also rose in protest against rising tuition fees and specter of unemployment.
With the old resource wars in countries, preparations for greater and deeper interventions from the other side of the Atlantic Africa turned a hot bed of conflict.
Mali, CAR – Central African Republic took their places on headlines. Bifurcated Sudan was not free from conflict, displaced persons and hunger.
A number of economies in the continent gained momentum to follow the path of free market. Land grabbing by MNCs created news.
The continent now bears elements of heightened tension, increased competition and conflict and more bloodbaths. Increased presence of AFRICOM annoyed many.
However, the pirates of the Atlantic appeared subdued although pirates of African resources tightened their grips on the continent.
Increased mobilization of resources for bolder presence in the Pacific heightened tension. Geostrategic moves found increased military presence of the US in the region.
China’s commissioning of an aircraft carrier, its development of armory, isle dispute, North Korea’s posture, and increased US meddling in the region were part of increasing competition in the region.
Myanmar appeared a state in a process of adjustment with possibilities of increased rivalry between two world economies as it took steps towards widening its gate to MNCs. Political measures paired there.
Elections in Egypt, US and Venezuela raised interests around the world. The elections carried significances.
In Egypt, Morsi, the president, now dubbed the new pharaoh, faced a society charged with tension between religious and liberal elements. Workers, women, Christians, lawyers, media and progressives were opposing Morsi as he curtailed their rights.
In Venezuela, Chavez promised to carry Bolivarian revolution, an initiative having far-reaching implication. Obama’s reelection highlighted changes in electoral map that GOP has to recon with.
Despite many constraints South America continued its emergence as a challenge to hegemon. Brazil’s journey remained unabated. Nationalization steps by Argentina and Bolivia stirred power blocks.
Chavez’s struggle to restructure the Venezuelan society and economy was steadfast despite his deadly encounter with cancer. The country continued its initiatives with participatory democracy. Its election process was praised by international observers.
Cuba kept its hope high with promises of oil in its sea, a development that some experts in the related area forget.
Decreasing poverty and income inequality in a number of South American countries startled many. Asserting sovereignty over national resources turned bold in the continent. The solidarity and integration process in the region continued. Fidel kept on making news with his silence and reflections.
Asylum for Assange
Assange, the person behind massive exposure of states’ doings and misdoings, became an issue of diplomatic David and Goliath incident in London as he sought asylum in a South American country. Now, bogged in an embassy he has already become a symbol of democratic rights.
The incident also signified the way a country can face a situation with dignity, and the strength Latin American unity now holds.
Alleged suicide and death of singers in the West again raised the issue of the state of society that produces such incidents or pushes celebrities to the limit. The question comes: how celebrity “mind” is manipulated or pressed to desperation?
Gun culture in US, the gun trading, again became an issue of debate as the Newtown killing of students in the country shocked people around the world. But, the following debate exposed power of money involved with gun trading.
In the last days of 2012, violation of a human in Delhi overwhelmed all disgusted with an economy and culture of power.
Limitation & Expansion
A duality prevailed. Intervention in Syria, and expansion of military activities in a number of European and African countries and in Australia were part of imperialist expedition although Middle East peace process stumbled. Extension of NATO’s fold and area of operation was there. But, it was not possible to achieve a decisive victory by the military alliance.
Promises that Lurked
Promises in the areas of recovery, employment, peace, democracy and environment lurked in vain in 2012 although the Mars found mankind’s activities and inquisitive brains persisted with the dreamed particle. The world witnessed silent exit of Neil Armstrong, the cosmonaut who imprinted the first human step on moon on behalf of the world of human. Alive was the Occupiers’ initiatives among Sandy battered citizens, by the side of the debtors and the evicted from foreclosed homes in the US.
Shall peace wing in 2013? Shall the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions be democratized? Shall there be an end to interventions? Economy and the interests in command of the world economy shall bring woes of 2012 into 2013. With increased competition and crises dominants shall not beat swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks until a great subaltern rebellion dominates the dominants.
Dhaka-based Farooque Chowdhury freelances.