“Bipartisanship” has broken out all over. Just as we are confronted with the gravest economic and financial crisis since the 1930s, politicians on both sides of the Atlantic have decided that politics is a luxury society cannot afford. Well, there’s a surprise.
In America, both major parties have come together to impose the $700 billion hand-out to bankers. Senators Obama and McCain are rushing back to Washington today to vote for the package that the House of Representatives rejected on Monday. In truth, neither presidential candidate really supports the Bush plan but “bipartisanship” will prevail.
In Britain, the Tories have offered support to the beleaguered New Labour government, with leader David Cameron making an emergency statement to his party’s conference, to say that “we are not playing politics with this”. He has offered to back legislation that the Brown government wants to introduce. The only problem is that Parliament isn’t sitting and no New Labour MP has demanded a recall to discuss the crisis. That, presumably, would be carrying “politics” too far.
The Tory Evening Standard has caught the political mood and declared last night: “This crisis is too big for politics.” The paper commented approvingly that Cameron had offered “a bipartisan (that word again) response to the crisis”. In practice, and without any recourse to the electorate, all this amounts to a national government. New Labour will, as Brown puts it, do “everything it takes” to save the financial system from collapse and the Tories are right behind the government.
This attempt to shut down conventional politics for the duration speaks volumes about the fraud of the existing political process. Politicians like Brown and Cameron, together with their parties, are tied in countless ways to the status quo of corporate and financial power. Their parties take turns in administering a capitalist state that is directed towards sustaining and developing the insane and irrational profit system that has produced the current crisis. Now they are trying to enrol the population in their attempts to save the financial system from itself at the expense of jobs, homes, pensions and savings.
New Labour and the Tories pass off responsibility for helping to create the conditions for the growth of fantasy finance which led to the credit crunch. Yet without their actions in reorganising the state, in deregulating finance and privatising state industries, in encouraging people to get rich quick through inflated house prices, in reducing the power of the trade unions, in promoting transnational corporations and the power of the City, none of what we are experiencing today would have been possible. But this is playing politics, when we know that it really is the time for bipartisanship.
As the political class clearly has nothing worthwhile to say and intends to dump the bankers’ crisis on our backs, they are inadvertently making out the case for their own demise. There are solutions to the crisis to be found through the development of alternative models of common ownership and democratic control that take us beyond the madhouse that is capitalism. Carrying that forward falls on movements like A World to Win and other organisations and has to lead to the creation of a politics that is vibrant and genuine in place of the “bipartisan” nonsense we are burdened with today.