With the biggest squeeze on living standards for 100 years now being promised by the coalition government, the next 12 months will bring little relief to working class families in Britain. The crisis is about to enter a new relentless phase of mega-austerity. Rob Sewell analyses what’s in store for workers and youth in Britain in 2015.
With the biggest squeeze on living standards for 100 years now being promised by the coalition government, the next 12 months will bring little relief to working class families in Britain. The crisis is about to enter a new relentless phase of mega-austerity.
George Osborne, the Tory Chancellor, has told us in the Autumn Statement that planned spending on public services will be back to levels not seen for 80 years. This provoked a BBC journalist to comment that we were heading back to a situation like George Orwell’s Road to Wigan Pier, a chilling account of Britain during the 1930’s Depression.
While Osborne scoffed at this suggestion, the planned £50bn in cuts during the next Parliament will certainly destroy the social safety net that separates millions of ordinary people from destitution.
Disgust with Labour
Now Labour leader “Red Ed” has joined in the chorus. In a recent speech to the City, he has pledged, if Labour forms the next government, to cut public spending in every single year until the deficit is eliminated. Rather than Tory cuts, we will be presented with Labour cuts instead should they win the May election – “fair austerity” they call it. This wonderful news will surely get potential Labour voters dancing in the streets.
Westminster politicians of all stripes are all now proposing austerity for years, if not decades.
It is precisely this pro-capitalist agenda that has turned millions away from Labour in disgust. Labour’s pandering to big business, speculators and bankers has seen its support in the UK opinion polls remain largely static and in Scotland completely collapse. One Scottish opinion poll put Labour on 23 per cent, while the Scottish National Party were on over 50 per cent. Since the Independence Referendum, many workers have viewed the party as a part of the Establishment. With Blairite Jim Murphy as leader in Scotland this will be confirmed.
Volatility on a world scale
The political landscape has never been so volatile and not only in Britain. Internationally, the collapse in oil prices has sent markets into a tailspin. Rather than helping, falling prices are serving to underline the collapse in economic demand. Projections of growth are being downgraded everywhere. It is a further indication of how depressed is the world economy.
China’s economy is slowing, as the slump in its property market threatens to drag down the rest of the economy. Japan has entered its fourth period of slump since 2008. The US economy is limping along at 2 – 3 per cent. In comparison, after the crash of 1929-33, the US economy grew by 9 per cent in the following years, a far cry from today’s snail’s pace.
With inevitable fluctuations, the capitalist crisis is continuing apace. However, its weakest link is clearly Europe. This has resulted not only in economic but social and political turmoil. Political radicalisation is on the order of the day everywhere, as the old parties become increasingly discredited. In Greece, support for the socialist PASOK plummeted as it carried out vicious cuts, only to then enter a coalition of the right wing New Democracy. This betrayal has resulted in the rise of SYRIZA, the left wing party, which is ahead in the polls and is favoured to win the next elections. However, the more these lefts have got nearer to power, the more they have moderated their stance.
The crisis of reformism
In France, the socialist party government of Hollande, which came to power promising to tax the rich, soon retreated and is carrying out austerity measures also. Consequently, Hollande’s support has fallen to the lowest level of any president since the war. Politics in France has polarised to the right and to the left, to the benefit of the National Front and the Left Front.
In Spain, the spectacular rise of PODEMOS is a direct result of the bankruptcy of the Socialist Party (PSOE), which acted in the interests of a capitalist system in crisis when it was in power and alienated its working class base. Initially, the United Left grew but proved incapable of taking up the radicalisation building to the left of the PSOE. This resulted in the explosive birth of PODEMOS, which has topped the opinion polls in recent months.
The dramatic shift towards support for independence in Scotland is also part of this radicalisation throughout Europe and beyond for that matter. People are bitter and angry at what has been taking place. The bankers and capitalists have been up to their eyes in corruption. They have rigged the foreign exchange markets, the LIBOR which sets interest rates, as well as gambling with peoples’ lives in search for profit. Yet they have gotten away scot-free. It has produced a general hatred on the part of the masses towards the capitalist establishment, the press barons, the corrupt police chiefs, the judiciary and the other criminals at the top of society. They seem to have become a degenerate class of untouchables, free to do as they please.
The system stinks
The whole system stinks from top to bottom. We are experiencing a crisis of the establishment, which has far-reaching revolutionary implications.
In Britain, the politicians are in the pockets of big business. On the other hand, the trade union leaders are afraid of their own shadows and terrified of their rank and file. Their talk about fighting the Coalition has come to nothing. They have deliberately kept the workers isolated, with action involving different groups at different times. Despite the seething hatred from below, the Labour and trade union leaders everywhere are acting as a colossal barrier to the mass movement.
But things are reaching breaking point. People have had enough. The Labour and trade union leaders have tried to keep a lid on this discontent. But everything has its limits.
The next government will be a government of crisis whoever wins in May. A new Tory government would provoke immediate class battles. However a Labour government seeking to carry out austerity cuts also would equally provoke a titanic reaction. All attempts to make the working class pay for the crisis of capitalism will be met with a ferocious resistance.
There will be a day of reckoning as more and more come to see that capitalism offers no way out. Increasingly, layers will draw radical and even revolutionary conclusions.
The future is ours
All attempts to patch up capitalism are doomed to failure. Only the reconstruction of society on socialist lines can offer a way forward. Private ownership of the means of production has brought society to a complete impasse. Only the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism can allow us to plan the economy in the interests of the majority. This will mean that the resources of society will be taken out of the hands of the bankers and capitalists and placed in the hands of ordinary working people. Only then will we be able to plan society rationally, not on the basis of private profit, but on the basis of human need.
The New Year holds many trials and tribulations for workers everywhere. Marxism has an indispensible role to play in preparing the working class for its historic mission. We need to learn the lessons of the past and generalise them into theory and understanding. It is down to the revolutionary workers and youth to offer a real way out of this morass. With the ideas of scientific socialism, the working class can become invincible. The future is ours; we must seize it with both hands.