Our problems are not due to a lack of innovative ideas; they are due to an excess of financial power concentrated in the hands of an elite of bankers.
For years already, the youth of Europe’s heavily indebted periphery has been facing mass unemployment. In Greece and Spain, a respective 59 and 56 percent of young people are now out of work, while youth unemployment in the EU as a whole currently stands at a troubling 24 percent, up from 22.5 percent last year. The “lucky” ones are those waiting tables with PhD degrees in their back pockets. Those who were forced to leave their families and friends behind to join the generational exodus to Germany or Angola don’t even show up in the statistics.
In recent weeks, European leaders somewhat belatedly seem to have become mightily interested in the issue. Italy’s new Prime Minister Enrico Letta called youth unemployment the most serious problem facing his country and called for an EU plan to “combat” it. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, flag-bearer of the European austerity movement, similarly considers youth unemployment to be “Europe’s biggest challenge.” Meanwhile, a new campaign by Big Think somewhat naively asks “what’s causing youth unemployment and what can fix it?”
Apart from the obvious hypocrisy of these concerns — coming from the lips of the same officials whose unrelenting insistence on austerity, neoliberal reforms and full debt repayment largely caused the unemployment crisis to begin with — this newfound sympathy for our generation’s plight hinges on a dangerous assumption that serves to ideologically re-construct youth unemployment as a “problem” that can somehow be “solved” with a magic fix or a continental master plan — without addressing the underlying causes of austerity, depression, and a fundamentally unsustainable debt load, let alone the internal contradictions of the eurozone and globalized financial capitalism more generally.
It should be clear to any intelligent person by now that youth unemployment is not a problem in the ordinary sense of the word; it is a symptom of a much more deep-seated disease that’s breaking down our society from within. Other symptoms include the rise of neo-Nazism and xenophobic violence in Greece; the wave of suicides across Southern Europe; the 400.000 families that have been evicted from their homes in Spain; the thousands of starving horses that have been abandoned by their owners in Ireland; the UK students who had their tuition fees tripled and now face the prospect of either dropping out, studying abroad, or accruing massive student debts; the eurozone record levels of mortgage debt held by Dutch households, etc., etc. — not to mention the thorough discrediting of democratic institutions and the massive riots that have rocked major European capitals like London, Athens, Madrid, Lisbon and Rome.
But European leaders seem blind to the metastasis of misery that has crept into the social fabric of our continent. Wouldn’t it be great, they now seem to tell us, if we could have crippling austerity, an increasing debt load, a devastating social crisis, starving pensioners, the return of fascism, a wave of suicides and mass deprivation — but without the youth unemployment? I’m not buying this story, and I don’t think any of us should. The attempt to cast the current crisis in generational terms serves to drive a wedge between us and our unemployed, indebted and/or retired (grand)parents. It serves to co-opt the youth in the ongoing wave of neoliberal reforms, making us believe it is in our best interest to crack down on the labor rights, jobs and pensions of our parents so we ourselves can better compete for the increasingly precarious jobs of the future.
The real reason European leaders are suddenly so concerned about youth unemployment — while they remain unmoved by the plight of Greek AIDS patients, for instance, who now can’t get their anti-retroviral drugs — is simply that they are terrified by the prospect of social unrest. As the New York Times reported today, “it is clear that policy makers are seriously worried that millions of frustrated young job seekers pose as much of a threat to the euro zone as excessive government debt or weak banks.” German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble literally admitted that “We will have to speed up in fighting youth unemployment, because otherwise we will lose the support, in a democratic way, in some populations of the European Union.” What they fear, in other words, is a continent-wide youth uprising. At its worst, their plans to “fix” youth unemployment serve to distract us from the obvious class dimension at play, promoting the illusion that the social crisis we face is just a series of economic problems that can be fixed without radical changes to the political status quo.
The inconvenient truth is that unemployment is an integral element of the neoliberal policy response to the crisis pursued by the European Union and the IMF. This, in itself, is nothing new. IMF austerity programs in the developing world have long involved dramatic reductions in wages and rises in unemployment. Careful quantitative analysis of the Latin American debt crisis of the 1980s has shown that “the most consistent and statistically significant impact of Fund programs in Latin America … was the reduction in labor share of income.” Even official IMF studies recognize that its austerity programs “boost unemployment and lower paychecks.” Most importantly, the authors of a 2011 IMF report, Painful Medicine, conclude that austerity causes not just short-term but “particularly long-term unemployment.”
In other words, asking for austerity measures without youth unemployment is like insisting on the medieval practice of blood-letting without the blood-loss. It is not only brutal, but also practically impossible. Austerity and unemployment are like Siamese twins, conjoined at the hip, designed to strengthen and reinforce one another. As long as the EU and IMF keep imposing these highly destructive adjustment measures, unemployment will keep on rising. The only genuine “solution” to unemployment, therefore, would be to break free from the shackles of austerity and to default on the foreign debt. This is the reformist vision pursued by SYRIZA in Greece, and despite the lack of revolutionary imagination of this quasi-Keynesian approach, there is certainly something to be said for it from a humanitarian point of view.
At the same time, I have now written some 50,000 words on this question — why not default? – for my PhD thesis, showing precisely why the option of default is often so elusive. In a word, default would greatly harm the interests of foreign private creditors, who just happen to control virtually all the critical resources in the global economy, giving them a disproportionate ability to block the type of solutions that would favor the unemployed. So to get to the phase where we can even realistically start considering genuine “solutions” to the “problem” of youth unemployment, we first have to confront the financial power structures that obstruct the pursuit of such solutions to begin with. This requires much more than a continental master plan to combat youth unemployment. It requires a radical break with the status quo.
Our problems, in short, are not due to a lack of innovative ideas; they are due to an excess of financial power concentrated within the hands of a tiny elite of bankers. This means we have to dramatically reformulate our question. Rather than asking what innovative ideas can solve the problem of youth employment, we should be asking what type of strategies could upend the structural power of international creditors. This leads us away from economics and back into the realm of revolutionary theory and praxis. How could Europe’s downtrodden youth ever possibly conceive of shaking the global financial order? It is to this impossible question that I will turn in my next post.
The Angola 3- who are they?
Voices from Solitary: The Louder My Voice the Deeper They Bury Me
A Defined Voice
They removed my whisper from general population
To maximum security I gained a voice
They removed my voice from maximum security
To administrative segregation
My voice gave hope
They removed my voice from administrative segregation
To solitary confinement
My voice became vibration for unity
They removed my voice from solitary confinement
To the Supermax of Camp J
And now they wish to destroy me
The louder my voice the deeper they bury me
I SAID, THE LOUDER MY VOICE THE DEEPER THEY BURY ME!
The Angola 3 – Herman Wallace (left), Robert King (centre) and Albert Woodfox (right). This is the only photo in existence of the three of them together.
Free all political prisoners, prisoners of war, prisoner of consciousness.
Who are they -Reprinted from Wikipedia
The Angola Three are three men, Robert Hillary King (born Robert King Wilkerson), Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace, who were put in solitary confinement for decades in Angola Prison, Louisiana after the death of a prison guard.
While inside prison, contact with members of the Black Panthers led to the creation of a prison chapter of the Black Panther Party in 1971. The men then organized prisoners to build a movement within the walls to desegregate the prison, to end systematicrape and violence, for better living conditions, and worked as jailhouse lawyers helping prisoners file legal papers. They organized multiple strikes and sit-ins for better conditions. Woodfox and Wallace were convicted of the 1972 stabbing murder of 23-year-old prison guard Brent Miller. King was said by authorities to be linked to the murder but was not charged.
The three men were taken out of the general prison population and were held in solitary confinement after Miller’s murder in 1972. They remained in solitary confinement until former black panther member Malik Rahim of Common Ground Collective, and a young law student, Scott Fleming, in 1997 discovered that these men were still locked up. They began investigating the case, questioning the facts of the original investigations at Angola and raising questions about their original trials.
Robert Hillary King was released after 29 years in solitary confinement after his first conviction was overturned and he pleaded guilty to a lesser conspiracy to commit murdercharge. Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox are still prisoners in Angola prison and are working to get released. In March 2008 they were moved, after 36 years, from solitary confinement to a maximum security dormitory.
Albert Woodfox has had two appeal hearings (one in November 2008 and one in May 2010) which have resulted in his conviction being overturned and him being granted full habeas corpus. Both appeals were overturned. Immediately after the first in November 2008, both men were moved out of the dormitory, separated and placed back in isolation and in March 2009, Wallace, along with a group of 15 inmates from Angola, was moved to Hunt Correctional Centre where a closed cell isolation tier was created for the first time. In November 2010, Albert was moved to David Wade Correctional Center which is seven hours north of his family and supporters, and stripped of his phone and visiting rights.
A third hearing is due in Spring 2012, and the two men are also bringing a civil case against the state of Louisiana, which is due to take place in Autumn 2012.
Both men, whose sentences for their original crimes have long since passed, suffer from a range of different medical issues – some due in part to their conditions of confinement and their enforced sedentary lifestyle.
Amnesty International is calling on the Louisiana authorities to end the cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of Woodfox and Wallace, and to remove them immediately from solitary confinement.
Their cases have gained increased interest over the last few years. Since his release, Robert Hillary King has worked to build international recognition for the Angola 3. He has spoken before the parliaments in the Netherlands, France, Portugal, Indonesia, Brazil and Britain and about the case, and political prisoners in the U.S.. King was received as a guest and dignitary by the African National Congress in South Africa, and has spoken with Desmond Tutu. Amnesty International has added them to their ‘watch list’ of “political prisoners” / “prisoners of conscience.”
They have a pending civil suit ‘Wilkerson, Wallace and Woodfox’ vs. the State of Louisiana which the United States Supreme Court ruled has merit to proceed to trial based on the fact that their 30+ years in solitary confinement is “inhumane and unconstitutional”. The outcome of this landmark civil case could eliminate long term solitary confinement in U.S. prisons.
They are the subject of 2010 documentary In the Land of the Free, directed by Vadim Jean and narrated by Samuel L. Jackson. The film features Robert King, telephone interviews with Woodfox and Wallace, and interviews with attorneys and others involved with the cases – including the widow of Brent Miller, who believes the men are innocent of her husband’s murder.
They were also the subject of a 2006 documentary film 3 Black Panthers and the Last Slave Plantation and of a music video produced by Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics in protest of the incarceration of the Angola 3 and featuring Saul Williams, Nadirah X, Asdru Sierra, Dana Glover, Tina Schlieske, Derrick Ashong and Stewart.
Herman Wallace is the subject of an ongoing socio-political art project entitled “The House That Herman Built”, in which artist Jackie Sumell asked Wallace what his dream home would be like, and documented his response in various media. In 2012, the film “Herman’s House” was released.
- “Doubts Arise About 1972 Angola Prison Murder”. NPR. 2008-10-27.
- “Lawyers call for release of ‘Angola 3,’ nearly 36 years after guard’s murder”. Times Picayune. 2008-03-17.
- ‘Angola 2’ Leave Solitary Cells in La. After 36 Years March 27, 2008
- Angola 3 TV music video
- The House that Herman Built
- Herman’s House