THE BROWN government is holding crisis meetings to hammer out a package of economic reforms as the slump deepens while finance ministers throughout the capitalist world are scrabbling around trying to prop up an international banking system that’s on the verge of meltdown. There’s panic in the chancelleries of Europe.
Franco-German imperialism is trying to get European Union agreement for an EU-wide billion euro bank bail-out.The Irish government has effectively guaranteed its entire banking system for two years while our northern neighbour, Iceland, hopes to stave off “national bankruptcy” only through a four billion euro loan from Russia.
Though the American $700 billion “bail-out” package got through Congress last week it did nothing to halt the slide in the markets, while the nationalisation of Bradford & Bingley at home has only accelerated the big business demand for state intervention throughout the banking sector.
The Chancellor, Alistair Darling, says he’s willing to take some “pretty big steps” to help stabilise the markets. But the only measures the Government’s taken so far has been to replace the old Economic Development Committee with a “National Economic Council” headed by the Prime Minister and his Cabinet Ministers and to recall Peter Mandelson from the European Commission to take up a seat in the Brown Cabinet.
Mandelson’s appointment reflects a shift towards the pro-European Union elements within the ruling class but it has more to do with Gordon Brown’s need to get consensus amongst the Labour’s right-wing in the long run-up to the next election.
Meanwhile the Archbishop of Canterbury quotes Marx and his number two, the Archbishop of York, condemns the speculators as “asset strippers and bank robbers” and the Pope says the global financial crisis shows the futility of money and ambition. Benedict XV1 says that “the only solid reality is the word of God” and, no doubt, his answer to the crisis is prayers. But praying isn’t going to help the unemployed, the homeless and the destitute.
Nor can Brown’s half-hearted social Keynesianism, like the nationalisation of ailing banks, solve the crisis. The ruling class intend to put the entire burden of the capitalist crisis on the backs of working people. We have to ensure that they don’t.
The trade union movement has a crucial role to play in mobilising to set an immediate working-class agenda for the Labour Government. The state welfare system and the public sector must be restored, pensions and benefits guaranteed and homelessness eradicated through the building of mass council estates at affordable rents. And the rich must be forced to disgorge some of their wealth to pay for it.
Social-democratic reforms like those which Labour’s Attlee, Wilson and Callaghan governments pioneered from 1945 to 1979 defended the living standards of the millions of working people who put Labour in power in 1945, 1964 and 1974. But only socialism can emancipate the working class.
The year after the 1929 Great Slump Stalin said: “If capitalism could adapt production not to the obtaining of the utmost profit but to the systematic improvement of the material conditions of the masses of the people, and if it could turn profits not to the satisfaction of the whims of the parasitic classes, not to perfecting the methods of exploitation, not to the export of capital, but to the systematic improvement of the material conditions of the workers and peasants, then there would be no crises. But then capitalism would not be capitalism. To abolish crises it is necessary to abolish capitalism”.
How true those words are today.