Monday 24 December 2012

What I predicted for 2012 - and how it actually turned out

Tahrir Square, Cairo, November 2012
On New Year's Day 2012 I published this blog post making 20 predictions for the year ahead. They were attempts at accurate forecasting not what I hoped would happen, so some will have seemed rather pessimistic.

On New Year's Day 2013 I will be doing the same exercise for next year. But how accurate were my predictions for 2012? Here are those predictions in full, with a brief comment on each one (indicating how things actually turned out).

1. Egypt's revolutionary movement will continue to battle on the streets and win some of its demands, though broadly speaking the political situation will be stabilised with moderate forces, e.g. Muslim Brotherhood, using the electoral sphere to boost themselves and undermine the movement on the streets.
Verdict: Spot on.

2. The Occupy movement in the US will almost completely disappear, but many of those involved will develop new campaigns and protest movements, offering a longer-term antidote to the Tea Party. The organised left, however, will remain extremely weak and marginalised.
Verdict: Spot on.

3. The Tories will succeed in dismantling the NHS, due to a deep failure by Labour, trade unions and the anti-cuts movement to get their act together in stopping it.
Verdict: Spot on.

4. There won't be foreign military intervention in Iran, but there will be in Syria.
Verdict: Indeed there wasn't military intervention in Iran, but nor was there - at least overtly - in Syria. There was, however, a big increase in covert external intervention.

5. Unison and a number of other unions will capitulate in the pensions dispute, but there will be some further strike action by PCS, NUT and others. These unions will, however, still settle for a deal - by no later than February - that is more favourable to the government to the unions.
Verdict: entirely accurate, except the time frame (it took until May or June).

6. Labour will move slightly further to the right (astonishing as that may seem), under pressure from the Blairite wing and in the absence of a credible left-wing counterweight. Ed Miliband will survive as leader, due to the lack of a popular alternative and the disarray inside his party.
Verdict: Spot on.

7. There will be marked increase in the use of nationalism - and to a lesser extent racism and other forms of scapegoating - by David Cameron and the Tories, as an opportunistic response to political and economic tensions in Europe.
Verdict: Spot on.

8. Social unrest in China will grow considerably, including workers' militancy, but not to such an extent that justifies talk of a Chinese Spring or comparisons with Egypt.
Verdict: hard to say due to patchiness of our knowledge of what's going on in China.

9. There will be an increase in anti-austerity protests, mass strikes and riots in many European countries, in the context of a deepening crisis for the Eurozone. Portugal, Italy and Spain will be particular flashpoints.
Verdict: Spot on.

10. There will be a very welcome, though tentative, increase in co-ordination by left-wing anti-cuts activists in the UK, with a much sharper polarisation between broadly left-wing elements and, on the other hand, Labour, TUC and moderate union leaders. These latter elements will fail to take any major initiatives - there'll be no repeat of 26 March - but the more radical parts of the movement will become more coherent and powerful.
Verdict: only partially correct, as the moderate elements of the movement did organise the 20 October demo - and it's debatable whether the radical elements of the movement have become any more coherent or powerful.

11. There will not be a repeat of last summer's riots in the UK.
Verdict: Spot on.

12. There will be a growth in anti-sexism protests in the UK, US and a number of other Western countries, building on the short-lived Slutwalk phenomenon last year, and overwhelmingly led by young women.
Verdict: Broadly correct - e.g. solidarity actions with Russian feminist punk bank Pussy Riot were a major international phenomenon - but I was a little over-optimistic.

13. Those of us who are republicans will be just as marginalised as we were in 2011, with the diamond jubilee being as great a popular success as the royal wedding last April. Support for the monarchy will be more solid and secure than for a very long time.
Verdict: Spot on.

14. There will be further protests in Russia, some of them bigger than those witnessed recently, and to some extent this will spread to a number of former Soviet republics.
Verdict: the main part (about Russia) is correct, but not that about spreading to anywhere else.

15. North Korea will begin, however cautiously, to increase diplomacy with the US and other countries.
Verdict: it's hard to say, but I think this has happened!

16. Boris Johnson will be re-elected Mayor of London by a significant margin.
Verdict: correct, though a slightly smaller margin than I'd expected 4 months prior to the election.

17. The Tories will get a small boost in opinion polls from the Olympics - which will be widely regarded as a great success - but this will have been completely obliterated by October.
Verdict: the Tories didn't get a poll boost, but the Olympics were 'regarded as a great success'.

18. The topic of class will - following the flurry of mainstream media discussion prompted by Owen Jones' 'Chavs' in 2011 - make a full-blown comeback as a repsectable subject for discussion and commentary, although most commentators will naturally get things wrong.
Verdict: Spot on.

19. In Scotland, Alex Salmond will confirm the timetable for an independence referendum, against the backdrop of opinion polls consistently indicating more support for independence than for retaining the union. We will be another step closer to an independent Scotland and the break-up of the UK.
Verdict: broadly wrong, as I failed entirely to anticipate the effect of the Jubilee and Olympics on boosting support for a No vote in the referendum.

20. The revolutionary left as a whole, here in the UK and internationally, will be the same size at the end of 2012 as it is now.
Verdict: Spot on.



  1. Pretty good going although you may be *slightly* over generous with yourself here :)

    4. there was no military intervention in Syria - and that *was* your prediction.

    8. China's a big place and there are continued reports of strikes, demonstrations etc - but nothing to suggest a significant growth in militancy, which was your prediction.

    9. you might be right - but I think I missed the mass strikes in Italy against austerity.

    12 I think you were too harsh on yourself there. Big conferences like the feminista one organising a specifically feminist current and lots and lots of smaller protests particularly on abortion and sex education (vs Dorries) were I think proving your prediction more right than you say.

    15. Ummm... it's the opposite is it not? Relations are worse now than they were.

    18. The topic of class isn't really back on the menu is it? There's lots of brilliant debates around the economy, tax, inequality etc. but I think a class analysis is specifically absent from them (for good and ill)

    I feel terrible to be picky at Christmas time - sorry!

    1. Thanks for those comments Jim.

      On Iran and Syria, perhaps the surprising thing in 2012 is that there *hasn't* been an Israeli attack on Iran. Most socialists and activists I know would have probably predicted there would be a year ago. I remember why I called it differently - it was because I thought, on balance, that the West and Israel wouldn't *yet* go for their number one target - Iran - but instead fight at least one proxy war.

      I expected it to be a direct assault on Syria, but in fact it was Israel attacking Gaza combined with escalating covert intervention in Syria (both of these developments have their own dynamics, but have to be seen partly in relation to Iran). The Western powers have remained incapable of intervening in Syria as they'd like. And there's been periodic outbursts of sabre-rattling at Iran. Mind you, on balance I do think Iran will be attacked by Israel in 2013.

      On the situation in Europe: there has been a serious escalation in the challenge to austerity in southern Europe. It is one of the things that has really defined 2012. 14 November was unprecedented in terms of cross-continent co-ordination and the scale of mass strikes against cuts. The growth in Syriza's support in Greece was also of great importance. The gist of my prediction was that it wouldn't just be Greece but the other southern European countries devastated by austerity that would kick off. So, yes, I think that one was right!

      On the growth of feminism your points are reasonable. What I expected more of was specifically the kind of street protest which Slutwalk seemed to herald a return of. 2012 has, however, been mixed in that respect. The growth of feminism among mainly young women has instead manifested itself in the ways you indicate (partly protest, but also conferences, networks etc).

      Re. North Korea: you may well be right, but the main tension in east Asia now seems to be between Japan and China. But it may swing back to being centred on North Korea. There's been a couple of moments lately when its nuclear ambitions have been prominent in the news, but is this a sign of things being any worse than before? Maybe - I'm not sure.

      On class: now this is quite a minefield! I certainly agree that serious class analysis as we understand it isn't back on the agenda. But in my prediciton I did say that 'most commentators will naturally get things wrong'. It's not socialist analysis going mainstream that I anticipated.

      A couple of things have happened though. Firstly, the current government is seen as an out-of-touch bunch of old Etonians, defending the interests of the 1%, far more than a year ago. Osborne's budget in March was a turning point. Secondly, even if 'class' isn't always referred to, discussions around inequality, gaps between 1% and 99%, etc, have definitely become more prominent and normal. This is partly a legacy of the 'Occupy moment', partly a reflection of glaringly obvious realities in our society. But there is a gulf between this general tendency, on the one hand, and distinctively socialist politics and the strength of the Left on the other.

      The most important element here is the gulf bewtween structure and agency. Some people can see roughly what's wrong with the system - they are broadly anti-capitalist - but they are confused and pessimistic when it comes to the question 'who can change it?' This was the core contradiction of the Occupy movement. The organised working class is still weak globally, with a low level of strike actions in countries like our own, and it's not obvious to people that the working class is the primary agent of social change. And what do we mean by 'working class' in 2012 anyway? This is a big part of what the radical left still struggles with.