Almost ready. About to get delivery of the first DVD preview copies of ‘Money Puzzles’, and then I’m off to Lisbon, where its first screening takes place at Doclisboa on 29th October.
Over the eighteen months I’ve been making ‘Money Puzzles’, a good deal has happened in the world and not much has changed, and where it has, matters are getting worse. Take Greece. When I went to film in Athens in May 2015, there was talk of Greece leaving the euro. Greek debt was rising, but Syriza, a novel left wing party, had won the elections, and there was a powerful wave of protest against the regime of austerity imposed by Brussels. In July came a dramatic referendum victory against austerity, but Brussels shamelessly refused to budge and Syriza capitulated. Arriving for a second visit a day or two later, it was immediately evident that people were devastated, and at the conference where I showed work-in-progress as well as filming, tempers were short. Today, the conditions in Greece are getting even worse.
Nor have things improved in Spain, where I filmed in November a few weeks before last year’s general election. The two party system has now collapsed, but Syriza’s sister party, Podemos, has not succeeded in gaining power, and the country faces a continuing political stalemate; although the popular movement from which Podemos draws its strength has voted in anti-austerity mayors, both women, in Madrid and Barcelona.
In Argentina, things have definitely got worse, as the new right-wing president turns back towards neoliberal policies.
The most spectacular changes have taken place in Britain, on two counts, although social and economic conditions are deteriorating. First was Jeremy Corbyn’s surprise election as leader of the Labour Party, on a growing wave of grassroots support which has turned it into Europe’s largest democratic socialist party – despite the frightened mutiny of the majority of the Party’s MPs. Second comes Brexit and the resulting disarray of the Tory government, an incompetent bunch of rascals who have no idea what to do.
Brexit doesn’t feature in ‘Money Puzzles’, and the film isn’t about the shenanigans that go on in political parties. It’s about the financial system which holds the politicians in its grip, the system of debt of which Nancy Fraser recently wrote:
Debt is the instrument by which global financial institutions pressure states to slash social spending, enforce austerity, and generally collude with investors in extracting value from defenceless populations. It is largely through debt, too, that peasants in the Global South are dispossessed by a new round of corporate land grabs, aimed at cornering supplies of energy, water, arable land and ‘carbon offsets’. It is increasingly via debt as well that accumulation proceeds in the historic core: as low-waged, precarious service work replaces unionized industrial labour, wages fall below the socially necessary costs of reproduction; in this ‘gig economy’, continued consumer spending requires expanded consumer credit, which grows exponentially. It is increasingly through debt, in other words, that capital now cannibalizes labour, disciplines states, transfers wealth from periphery to core, and sucks value from households, families, communities and nature.
Nancy Fraser, ‘Contradictions of Capital and Care’,
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‘Money Puzzles’ is also about the response from below, and the different forms this takes in various European countries: Greece, Spain, Belgium and the UK. A food distribution centre affiliated to Solidarity For All in Greece. Local groups in Spain fighting evictions, running a food bank, examining the budgets of their local administrations to hunt down corruption. An international meeting of debt campaigners in Brussels. A conference about alternative economics in Bristol, location of the UK’s most successful complementary currency, the Bristol Pound. As the economist Bruno Théret said in Brussels, to change the system from above is impossible – for now – so it has to be changed from below. Of course it will be a long hard slog. My hope for ‘Money Puzzles’ is that it will contribute to the conversations that are needed to move us forwards.
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