New Year is meant to represent a new beginning, a clean
slate. Old Father Time gives way to a new bouncing baby. But what can we expect
in 2010? Will it be a new shiny outlook
for world capitalism or will 2009 just seem to be dragging on under a new name?
In some countries capitalism seems to be limping painfully
out of the slump. But in Britain
the depth of the recession means that the ‘green shoots of recovery’ are still
not evident. In the Stock Exchange casinos the price of shares is rising and
big bonuses are being paid out – for now. There is still the possibility of a
double dip recession, and the recent events in Dubai illustrate the fact that the capitalist
system is extremely fragile.
threats for workers and their families are government austerity programmes and
vicious cuts in wages, hours and welfare. The recent budget in Ireland
and the talk of virtual pay freezes for public sector workers announced here
are a taste of the future. These austerity measures could last for decades. The
cost of bailing out the bankers has been huge, and of course they want us to
pay for it.
system is in a hole and the boss class knows it. They need to foist the whole
burden of the crisis on to the working class. That means unprecedented cuts in
public services. New Labour can no longer do the dirty work for the ruling
class. To carry out this programme, they need a strong Tory government with a
big majority. In fact the next government will be one of crisis and sharp class
All eyes will
be on the general election. New Labour will have been in power by then for 13
years. Far from creating a socialist paradise we have been dragged into
unwinnable wars, forced down the road of Thatcherite economics, PFI and
workfare. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have squandered the best opportunity that
Labour has had in a generation and now the Blair/Brown project is in meltdown.
New Labour is likely to lose the election and badly – how badly is another
question. The Tories aren’t so much going to win the election but have it
handed to them on a plate. It’s not ruled out that the Tories might only manage
a minority or coalition government.
major parties are committed to the swingeing cuts that will be brought to bear,
particularly in local government and the civil service. But there will be
differences, particularly in the attitude of the trade union leaders. It’s one
thing to hold the line for a Labour Government, as UNISON have done in
particular. It’s another thing to stand idly by while the Tories start tearing
up national agreements and imposing wholesale privatisations and job cuts.
Likewise, while many workers in the public sector have kept their heads down
hoping for better times, the CWU was forced to make a stand against their
management. That’s the music of the future.
The pace of change and the extent of the
attacks in local government will depend on the political flavour and the local
situation. There are likely to be disputes and crises popping up all over. The
civil service was given the salami tactic years ago and is divided up into a
myriad of negotiating units and bodies. This means again that any industrial
action resulting from government attacks will be patchy. However, it is
precisely this sort of patchy scenario where pressure from below will build up
in the unions and, at a certain stage, even within the Labour Party.
On the other
hand the Tories (or New Labour) could decide to go for a full frontal assault
on pensions or national conditions of service or introduce widespread
privatisation. That would inevitably lead to a
set-piece confrontation with the entire six-million strong public sector work
The right wing
of the Labour Party has been utterly discredited and will rightly receive the
blame for disillusioning Labour voters and letting the Tories in. A small
growth in activity after the initial disillusionment of a Tory victory has
evaporated could easily spark a development of the left, particularly if one or
more better-known MPs break cover and present a left face.
Last year saw
the struggles at Lindsey and the occupations at Vestas, Visteon and Waterford
Crystal in Ireland
against redundancy. This type of struggle breaks out when workers have their
backs to the wall. 2010 doesn’t look like it’ll be radically different and so
we can anticipate more of the same.
in the private sector is likely to change radically over the next period as
well. While many workers are on the defensive just now, an upturn in the economy
could see a big change in their outlook. Once the order books start to improve
and production is stepped up, workers will want to regain the ground they’ve
lost. This could lead to a significant upturn in industrial action.
these factors into account, the prospects for an incoming government of
whatever shade will be bleak. There will be little opportunity for a honeymoon
period or even a deep breath before the economic and political pressures begin
to exert themselves on the government. They will go on the offensive against
the working class. Under these conditions workers will have little option but
to fight back and many will question the whole capitalist system. We must be
there to answer their questions and provide a fighting Marxist alternative.