The capitalist system is both broke and broken – and neither New Labour nor the Tories can fix it. Banks can’t and won’t lend, the housing market has collapsed, job losses are piling up (Woolworths finally collapsed this morning) and the state itself is being pawned in the hope that there’ll be money in the future to redeem the pledge.
And where will this money to repay the billions in government borrowing come from? From ordinary working people of course, in the shape of higher VAT purchase tax at 18.5%, increased national insurance contribution and cuts in spending in education and health. As for the so-called increase in taxes for higher earnings, experts have shown they probably won’t raise an extra penny.
At least this is the plan, which is based on an economic “recovery” in 2010 that exists only in the imagination of chancellor Darling and prime minister Brown. Yesterday the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) forecast that the recession would hit the British economy hardest of all the major economies. The OECD’s latest economic outlook cites the housing market bubble and the banking crisis for their assessment.
Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England, warned that the recession would be “steep” unless commercial banks started lending again. But why aren’t the banks lending? After all, a bank that doesn’t lend can hardly call itself a bank. King did not answer this question when he was questioned by MPs. For the governor’s information, the banks are not lending because they consider borrowers too high a risk and, most importantly, their capital base is as firm as jelly, despite huge government bail-outs.
The reality, which is admittedly difficult to comprehend, is that there are no capitalist-style policy fixes for an economic and financial crisis that is both global in scope and extremely deep. So the choices are stark: either sit back and let the crisis takes its course (Tories); bankrupt the country (New Labour) in a desperate bid to revive the economy; or put capitalism out of its misery, which is the most difficult option but would be the most rewarding.
How could this done? How can working people be organised and mobilised to take power out of the hands of an undemocratic capitalist state that cannot control the monster it helped create and transnational corporations that drove the credit-fuelled consumer binge that is ultimately responsible for the financial crash?
First, we have to take our case to every corner of the land and say: the economic and financial system isn’t working and can’t be fixed and the consequences for ordinary people are unacceptable in every regard. Secondly, we must show that the existing political system is dominated by the interests of the very people who have wrecked the economy. On this basis, we can mobilise people around the proposal to create a new political democracy that will enable ordinary people to take direct control of economic and financial resources along the lines proposed in Unmasking the State and our Charter for Democracy.
In place of bail-outs for the banks, a real democratic government would re-establish the banking system on a co-operative, mutually-owned basis. It would outlaw fantasy finance activities such as derivatives and “securitisation” of debt and other forms of speculation that have contributed to the crash. The economy would be reorganised too, developing production motivated by social and personal needs and not shareholders’ profits. These changes would allow for a substantial increase in workers’ income, alleviating the need to build up vast debts in order to buy goods and services. These are, of course, revolutionary proposals. But, as even chancellor Darling himself has admitted, we need extraordinary measures for extraordinary times!
AWTW communications editor