If so, what world does it have in mind?
In a remarkable piece of writing in New Left Review (No 72 Nov/Dec 2011), Mike Davis reflects on 2011 and asks whether it can be compared to previous revolutionary moments like 1848, 1905, 1968 and 1989. This is the first paragraph of what is a most worthwile read:
“In great upheavals, analogies fly like shrapnel. The electrifying protests of 2011 – the on-going Arab spring, the ‘hot’ Iberian and Hellenic summers, the ‘occupied’ fall in the United States – inevitably have compared to the anni mirabiles of 1848, 1905, 1968 and 1989. Certainly some fundamental things still appy and classic patterns repeat. Tyrants tremble, chains break and palaces are stormed. Streets become magical laboratories where citizens and comrades are created, and radical ideas acquire sudden telluric power. Iskra becomes Facebook. But will this new comet of protest persist in the winder sky or is it just a brief, dazzling meteor shower? As the fates of previous journees revolutionnaires warn us, spring is the shortest of seasons, especially when the communards fight in the name of a ‘different world’ for which they have no real blueprint or even idealized image.”
Davis must surely be right in both celebrating the exuberance of human agency while questioning the Quixotic perversities of so much that is hopeful. What seems to be lacking is a sense of the dynamics of the next long-term development cycle. Even Davis seems to have no grip on this rockface. In our book Just Transitions argued there were three key conditions for bringing on a more sustainable long-term development cycle: a permanent rise in Chinese wages, a continued rise in resource prices and the disciplining of the banks. The first two have been realised, the last definitely has not despite many efforts to the contrary. The insanity of austerity suits no-one except the banks. Will the lessons of 2011 translate into a more viable global uprising in 2012 that is less Quixotic and more prophetic?