Political innocence is one thing. But desperately hanging on to a blinkered point of view in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary is altogether more dangerous.
A blunt refusal to grasp that the system of capitalism is in crisis was all too evident at an anti-cuts conference called by the South East Region of the Trades Union Congress (SERTUC) at the weekend.
SERTUC President Martin Gould told union representatives that the LibCon spending cuts were “ideologically” driven. The economic situation, he insisted, was “the bankers’ crisis, not our crisis”.
He was taking his cue from TUC general secretary Brendan Barber, who repeated the mantra that government policy is, “not driven by economics but by a political project” (October 21). And that the spending review was “not an economic necessity but a political choice” (October 19).
There was not the remotest suggestion from leaders who spoke that there might be a real, objective global economic crisis, manifested in mountains of debt. that was driving the British state to withdraw from its post-World War II role of providing social support.
On the contrary, they said that “a lot of money can be squeezed out of the rich and the bankers”. In the face of “60% of the population believing that the cuts are necessary and inevitable”, Christine Blower of the National Union of Teachers said that a campaign of education was the answer. She compared the cuts agenda with the sinking of the Titanic, in which the rich passengers got the lifeboats while the poor had no chance. Heather Wakefield of UNITE called for “a battle of ideas” and “mass mobilisation”, saying there was a need to “get political” and “challenge council officials”.
Never the remotest suggestion that it was time to get off the sinking ship of capitalism altogether and transfer ownership and management of resources into the hands of the majority in society.
Behind the claim that there is no serious debt or financial crisis and that pouring money into job creation (a total failure in the US) is the answer, lies an unstated assumption. The trade unions and working class must be kept chained inside the system of production for profit and the political status quo. Of course, if the cuts are purely “ideological” in their nature, it follows that they can be reversed or halted through pressure – within the system.
The Public and Commercial Services union has issued a popular pamphlet “There is an alternative”, which calls for resistance to the cuts and for a “new economic strategy”. Nonetheless, it says that the government should be forced to implement it. Yes, the PCS is right. We need a new vision. But the notion that the LibCons or New Labour will deliver it is totally in their dreams.
Jenny Sutton, chair of the London Region of University and College Union was the only speaker who took the bull by the horns. “We can’t wait until spring. There must be something before Christmas to embolden people – and not just a protest – we must stop that wheel from turning. There must be a real commitment to a general strike.”
Yes, real action is needed but that action must have a strategy that goes beyond resistance and protest if it is to be successful. The cuts agenda is evidence that the existing economic and political system is well and truly broken and cannot provide for the needs of the majority in society. To deny that is to bury your head in the sand at a time when it's necessary to raise our sights.
Only a truly alternative economic and political system, based not on profit, but collective stewardship, as outlined in the Manifesto of Revolutionary Solutions, can provide lasting answers to the cuts. Working for a Network of Peoples Assemblies on December 11 to implement these strategies is the way forward.
A World to Win secretary