WHILE Gordon Brown and the rest of the leaders of the European Union try to steady the capitalist markets with a tranche of bank bail-outs, even the most bullish economists are at last conceding that the imperialist world is facing a slump of 1929 proportions. The media pundits are dusting down Keynes’ General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money but you don’t need a crystal ball to see that the Government is going to put the main burden of the crisis on the backs of those who can least afford it – the working class.
Lord Mandelson’s move to “review” and almost certainly freeze proposed new family-friendly flexible working rights shows which way the wind is blowing and it will blow even harder if the labour movement doesn’t move quickly to mobilise mass resistance to further attacks on employment rights.
The Labour Government has taken some comfort from a recent report that shows that the gap between rich and poor in Britain has decreased since 2000. According to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) measures of poverty and income inequality in Britain have fallen faster than in any of the world’s richest and most developed capitalist states.
Income poverty fell from 10 to eight per cent between the mid-90s and 2005 and the poverty level in Britain is well below the OECD average for the first time since the 1980s. The number of children living in poverty fell from 14 to 10 per cent between the mid-90s and 2005 - the second largest fall, behind Italy, during this period. But child poverty rates are still above levels recorded in the mid-1970s and 80s.
But the report, from an international organisation set up in 1948 to help administer US imperialism’s Marshall Aid, says Britain still has one of the highest levels of income inequality in the developed world. It also points out that the gap between higher and lower incomes widened by 20 per cent since 1985 and that the gap between rich and poor is still greater in Britain than in three quarters of the other OECD countries which are mainly from Europe but include Turkey, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, south Korea and the United States.
While billions upon billions are being forked out to keep the capitalist banking system afloat the media pundits tell us that we should expect to pay for it in more cuts to public services, job losses and pay cuts. Brown & Co say they are acting to safeguard what they call the national interest through state intervention and the nationalisation of some banks. They try to pass off pre-planned immense expenditure on weapons of mass destruction as job-saving projects and they claim that there is no alternative to their half-baked conversion to the theories of John Maynard Keynes – a Liberal bourgeois economist who became the guru for “Old Labour” central planning.
But there are alternatives. The first is to renationalise everything that was privatised from 1979 and then plough back the mega-profits of those corporations, like British Telecom, to subsidise the health service, pensions and welfare and revive what’s left of British manufacturing. The second is to force the rich to disgorge all of the immense sums of money they have made through tax breaks and kick-backs over the past 30 years. They’ve got plenty. They can well afford it.