As the coalition government lines up massive spending cuts that even prime minister David Cameron acknowledges will shake society, a strategy that goes beyond resistance is needed if we are to defeat the Lib-Tory government’s plans.
Because make no mistake – that is what is involved. Throughout Europe, governments are impervious to protests and one-day strikes against cuts in pensions, pay and services. They can ride out storms that are only temporary.
Resistance isn’t futile, however, but to succeed it has to be part of a wider strategy that addresses the root cause of enormous budget deficits, namely the crisis of capitalism itself. If not, there is a real danger that protests could burn themselves out.
The coalition has seized the ideological high ground by presenting its plans as if “There is No Alternative” when it comes to saving the country from financial disaster. Inviting the public (and trade unions) to suggest where the axe should fall is part of this seductive approach.
Britain’s budget deficit in particular is the result of the dramatic plunge in capacity that followed hard on the heels of the 2008 global banking crash. The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies believes that the fall in the annual value of goods & services could be as high as 10% from pre-meltdown levels.
Government revenues of all kinds have dropped as production and consumption has plummeted. Tax takes from the financial sector, which propped up New Labour’s spending, have declined sharply, for example. With the housing market frozen, revenue from stamp duty has faded. Meanwhile, spending on unemployment and social security benefits has risen. And then there’s the cost of financing the banking bailouts.
In sum, the budget deficit expresses the crazy nature of an economic system driven by mammoth amounts of debt – personal, corporate and state. By the time of the 2008 meltdown, it was estimated that global debt was four times higher than the value of goods and services. Something had to give. And it did.
The destruction of capacity in the private sector is now to be followed by a similar massacre in the public sector. That is how capitalism traditionally “solves” its crisis.
So what kind of strategy do we need?
Firstly, it has to be a combined political and economic approach backed by mass mobilisation of people and their communities. As pressure on the government makes no difference – the demands of the financial markets carry far greater weight – the political aim is to bring the government down.
Obviously there’s no point in replacing the coalition with a rebranded version of New Labour, which in 13 years turned Britain into a playground for financial markets and speculators. As there is truly no alternative in this case, we should build support for People’s Assemblies to challenge the existing political system.
Secondly, we have to demonstrate that the heart of the matter is capitalism itself. We have to terminate an economic system where artificially-induced booms are followed by slump on a regular basis. Democratically-owned and controlled sustainable production and finance is not only possible but absolutely necessary. Some ideas along these lines are outlined in our Manifesto of Revolutionary Solutions.
Opportunities exist to change the debate, to reject the capitalist state’s version of events. The anti-cuts committees that are already springing up around Britain should consider how to bring these essential political and economic questions into the heart of their campaigns. We must move beyond protest to prevent a calamitous reduction in living standards that the coalition and the bankers are preparing to impose on society.
8 June 2010