Sunday, July 20, 2008

Inflation and the Spectre of World Revolution

By James Petras


Inflation is the great solvent that dissolves paternalistic ties between employers and workers, landowners and peasants, clientele-patronage regimes and the urban poor and sets in motion violent protests against private property and previously popularly elected regimes. Historical religious, clan, party, ethnic, tribal, caste and other differences are temporarily suspended, as Hindus and Moslems in India, Communists and Christians in the Philippines, peasants and workers in China, industrial workers and public employees in Egypt, blacks and mulattos in Haiti…join together in sustained mass protests against inflation which profoundly and visibly erodes their living standards from week to week, in some cases from one day to another.

But the left, the Anglo-American left? Where and what do our most prominent public intellectuals, including those with booking agents charging five-digit lecture fees, have to say about this world-wide revolt? Nary a word is found in left, center-left magazines, web sites and blogs.....


Inflation, as it accelerates, in the past and today, is the great solvent of incremental everyday habits and politics: Today it undermines incumbent politicians; tomorrow it can call into question regimes and social orders.

In the past, inflationary disorders and desperation brought forth rightist demagogues who specialize in imposing order and stability. It ill behooves the left to once again ignore the destructive effects of inflation, the demands for order and stability and mass consumer discontent. Inflationary fears are as much entrenched as class and property issues. Combating inflation, especially basic price increases is central to any prospect for a social transformation, which claims to benefit the wage and salaried workers, urban or rural dwellers, the poor, minorities, consumers and producers."

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