This time last year the world looked very different. Ian McCafferty, the chief economic adviser of the CBI, argued on New Year's Eve 2007, "While the 2008 slowdown may appear dramatic set against this year's strong growth, the fundamentals of our economy remain sound and talk of a full-blown recession is overstated."
Meanwhile the idea of a massive grassroots electoral campaign ousting the neocons from the White House in favour of a black president might have been labelled hopelessly optimistic. 2009 therefore offers new challenges and opportunities for socialists as we enter uncharted waters in the midst of a global storm. But one thing is certain: there will be no time to sit back complacently to see what happens next.
History shows that, come a recession, the first instinct of the ruling class is to squeeze workers as much as possible. With this in mind, the TUC is set to call a demonstration the Sunday before the G20 heads of government meet in London on 2 April. Stop the War and CND have called a protest on the day of the conference itself, to throw a spanner in the works of continued imperialist expansion.
April will also see world leaders celebrating the 60th birthday of Nato in Strasbourg. There will be an international mobilisation to crash the party from 2 to 5 April (Stop the War is encouraging activists to protest at the G20 summit and then join the delegation to France). Nato leaders are hoping to plan further bloodshed in Afghanistan, having been well and truly beaten in Iraq, while further expanding their reach into Eastern Europe. The movement against imperialism will be holding a counter-summit in Strasbourg so the anti-war majority have the chance to discuss their own strategies for the future.
With recession can come fear, and 2009 will mean a stepping-up of our work against its beneficiaries. The Nazi BNP is set to stand in the European elections, and will hope to pin the blame for the crisis on immigrants, Muslims, blacks and anyone else they feel it easy to kick. 21 February sees the Unite Against Fascism conference in London, which will set the stage for the campaign against British Nazis making it into the European Parliament. Love Music Hate Racism will also be organising a Northern Carnival in late May to rock the Nazis out of the north of England.
All of this will, of course, be in addition to fights against job losses, pay cuts, workplace closures and house repossessions. There is no way of knowing what avenues the crisis will take next, but there is one thing for sure: if we don't resist, it will be the working class that suffers.