WHAT can we expect to see happen in the rest of the world during 2019? Politically, it will be a big year for significant elections. In the Asia-Pacific region, there will be Indian and Australian general elections and an Indonesian presidential ballot.

Elsewhere, we will have an Afghan presidential contest – the Taliban willing – and an Israeli general election that could unseat Netanyahu, although the odds are against it because of the perennially-divided opposition.

There will also be a host of scheduled parliamentary contests in Europe – including Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Poland, and Portugal. These will reflect a deepening political polarisation across the continent. In Greece, the right-wing New Democracy and far-right Golden Dawn are likely to depose the nominally leftist Syriza government.

My eye is on the European Parliament election come May, probably sans UK involvement. This ballot is important for two reasons. First, the incoming parliament will have the ultimate say in choosing a replacement for Jean-Claude Juncker as head of the Commission at a pivotal moment in the EU’s history. And secondly because the anti-EU, anti-immigrant populist right is making a major bid for influence in the European Parliament.

Far-right parties such as the Italian League, Vox in Spain, Alternative für Deutschland, and Marine Le Pen’s National Rally will do well as a result of popular disenchantment with austerity and their use of immigrants as a convenient scapegoat.

While it is unlikely the far right could seize outright control of the EU Parliament, they could deprive the moderate pro-EU, centrist groupings of their traditional overall majority. The two large blocs – representing moderate, centre-right Christian Democracy and moderate, centre-left Social Democracy –currently hold a bare 54%of the EU Parliament’s 751 seats. That slim majority could easily disappear, leaving the parliament at the mercy of shifting coalitions around single issues – or outright paralysis.

From this perspective, Brexit is only part of Europe’s woes. I’ll leave speculation regarding the course of Brexit in 2019 to another column. But it’s worth giving this warning to those friends in the Scottish independence bloc who see the break-up of the “capitalist” EU

as progressive.

The forces bidding to destroy present European democratic structures are led by deranged,

racist, petty bourgeois groupings crushed by the great 2008 financial crisis and its aftermath. They are dragging behind them sections of the working class as a result of the failure of traditional social democracy to oppose austerity. We lived through this before in the 1930s with disastrous consequences. If we make the same, ultra-left mistake again, then 2019 will go down as our 1932.

Also, 2019 will be another significant year in Catalonia. When the inevitable guilty verdicts are imposed on Catalonia’s imprisoned independence leaders, we can expect mass (but peaceful) demonstrations and possibly a general strike.

The Spanish far right will respond with violence, as it routinely does. Unrest could become so widespread that Spain’s minority socialist prime minister Pedro Sanchez may be forced to call a general election. The outcome of such a vote is uncertain. In this month’s regional elections in Andalusia, the right-wing parties ousted the socialists for the first time in a generation.

Another potential flashpoint will be the May 26 local elections in Barcelona. The danger is that deep divisions between the various factions of the independence movement will allow open the door for Manuel Valls, who has the

de facto support of the Ciudadanos party, the main representative of the anti-independence Barcelona middle class. Valls is a former French socialist prime minister who split to support Emmanuel Macron’s presidential bid. Valls is of Catalan origin and speaks the language. But he is virulently anti-independence and would use control of Barcelona town hall to try to thwart a new referendum.

Meanwhile across the Atlantic, 2019 will see the publication of special counsel Robert Mueller’s long investigation into whether Russia interfered with the 2016 US presidential election, possibly with Donald Trump’s connivance.

Mueller is expected to submit his report as early as February.

If it cites Trump for indictable offences, then it is automatic that the Democrats, who take formal control of the House of Representatives next month, will proceed with impeachment. Expect the irascible Trump to retaliate using diversionary tactics: exacerbating his trade wars with the rest of the world and launching even more virulent assaults on the immigrant community.

Of course, the Republicans will use their majority in the Senate to thwart any impeachment process. But the political civil war that ensues will come to dominate US (and world) politics thereafter. As a result, 2019 will be the opening act of the 2020 presidential race. Sadly, the Democrats have no clear frontrunner, so we will spend the year hearing from dozens of

no-hopers and nonentities – there are already at least 25 in the race.

On the economic front, 2018 ended with global stock markets throwing a wobbly and for good reason. It’s not just that Trump is busy erecting trade barriers or that the US central bank is busy raising interest rates. The truth is that the economic recovery from the 2008 bank crash – a recovery fuelled by central banks making credit easy – has run its course.

Everything is peaking: phone and car sales, house prices, profit rates, share valuations, and consumer debt. The economy has nowhere to go but down. Of course, like Wile E Coyote in the Roadrunner cartoons, the global economy may remain suspended in mid-air for 2019, with its feet kicking. But that will only delay the inevitable for 12 months.

Technological innovation will, of course, go on, with artificial intelligence (aka Big Data) intruding ever more into our private lives. In 2019, we should see the next generation in mobile tech, 5G, being rolled out in the UK. Operator EE hopes to launch its 5G services in 16 cities, including London, Glasgow, and Manchester. That opens the way for 5G phone upgrades, with Samsung and China’s Huawei leading the way.

Apple, however, is holding off

5G till 2020 at least. This is in line with Apple’s standard strategy of letting the opposition rush in with spotty coverage and phones that don’t work as advertised. Mind you, Apple’s shares are down a quarter – on bad sales – suggesting it may just be avoiding risks. But in the high-tech world, avoiding risk is the kiss of death.

Finally, in 2019, the world is coming to Edinburgh – at least in the form of the international TED summit. Come July, 1000 of global capitalism’s major intellectuals and liberal activists will converge on the Scottish capital. They will spend five days in a revivalist atmosphere bemoaning Trumpism, populism or any form of pessimism regarding the ability of free market, individualistic capitalism, to solve the world’s problems using high technology.

Ignored will be the fact that neoliberal, free-market, individualistic capitalism has caused the world’s descent into a consumption-driven dystopia manipulated by a tiny group of giant (mainly American) high technology information monopolies.

TED is sponsored by – you can guess! – Google, AOL and the ubiquitous Goldman Sachs investment bank. Attendance will cost you $10k

Enjoy 2019. Don’t go to the TED summit. Instead, let’s hold indyref2 and build a new model Scotland based on community, tolerance, internationalism and socialism. Let’s make 2019 a year to remember.