Blog post

"Society has the right to have a discussion:" Paul Mason, the Eurozone crisis and Occupy

Leo Goretti17 November 2011

Paul Mason comments on the way in which the global crisis has been dealt with by politicians in a discussion with Gillian Tett for the Guardian.

It's a problem of the sclerosis of politics. I despair of the level of political leadership ... Never in any of the policy actions do you see the seeds of the new, the basis for a new version of capitalism

Asked whether the reforms introduced by European governments will be effective in tackling the crisis, the author of Meltdown: The End of the Age of Greed and the forthcoming Why It's Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions answered that in all likelihood in the next months we will see "the emergence of mainstream politicians saying this far and no further, protectionism, roll back the free market." In his view, the situation will quickly reach the boiling point:

I was leaked some bank research and the sliding scale of banks that went bust was so frightening I decided it was impossible to report without causing panic.

Mason and Tett agreed that there is no chance to see the debts being paid back. The real issue is who is going to bear the brunt of these huge amount of unpaid money: "society has the right to have a discussion about whether we repress —ie inflate people's debts and savings away —or wipe clean ... We have the right to talk about it, because there are social implications," he says. This is exactly what the Occupy movement is about: putting into question the idea that it is the '99%' — ordinary people and workers — who have to pay the price of the systemic crisis of finance and banking.

In an article on the 2011 global protest for the Guardian, John Harris refers extensively to Mason's famous blogpost Twenty reasons why it's kicking off everywhere, the piece that has also inspired his forthcoming book. The crux of Mason's take on the 2011 revolutions is that they are "tangled up with new(ish) means of communication, and a new sense of what it is to be politically organised," Harris notes.

The Internet and the social media pave the way for a new way in which individuals can relate themselves to society and politics and develop collective forms of resistance:

The idea of any seemingly arbitrary authority standing in the way of all that can easily become an affront —and at the same time, your means of communication offers you a method of opposition and resistance: online, in the real world, or both.

Harris also emphasises how, in Mason's view, the events of 2011 can be fruitfully compared with the wave of revolutions that swept across Europe in 1848, more than the student movements of 1968:

in 1848 we have had an explosion that goes from one country to another as fast the mode of communication of the time, and then doesn't stop, and feeds off a zeitgeist that is about freedom, which crosses borders, and involves people identifying with each other from very different cultures.

Visit the Guardian to read Paul Mason's interview and to read John Harris' article in full.

Filed under: interviews, occupy