Coalition will provoke extra-parliamentary struggles
The collapse of the Tories and Liberal Democrats into each other’s arms to form the first coalition government in modern times does not so much signify a “new politics”, but the suspension of old-style politics in the face of a calamitous financial crisis.
New Labour was prepared to go down the same road. Its failure to woo the Lib Dems – Britain’s oldest capitalist party – led to Gordon Brown’s late evening resignation and his replacement by David Cameron. Most of the New Labour cabinet – members of Britain’s newest capitalist party – were relieved to be out of office and not having to make the savage cuts that the money markets are demanding.
On entering Downing Street, Cameron accepted responsibility for implementing the demands imposed by an unprecedented financial and economic crisis. Hours earlier the International Monetary Fund (IMF), eurozone authorities and European Central Bank (ECB) came together with the US Federal Reserve in a desperate King Canute-style 750 billion euros/1 trillion US dollars global alliance:
- on Monday the ECB reversed its policy and began to echo the British government in “quantitative easing”, buying up eurozone government bonds and accepting junk debt to prevent a string of state bankruptcies
- 27 European countries created an emergency loan facility of 60 billion euros aimed at stopping the Greek crisis spreading to Spain, Portugal and Ireland
- the 16 eurozone countries together with Sweden and Poland have put together a 440 billion euros “special purpose vehicle”, a fund to defend themselves against foreign currency speculation
- the IMF offered 250 billion euros in loans to stricken countries
- the US Federal Reserve renewed the emergency measures it used during the global meltdown of autumn 2008 allowing foreign banks to borrow dollars.
All of these actions, promises and offers are conditional on governments old and new ratcheting up the brutal austerity programme that has already precipitated general strikes and street battles in Greece and Spain.
The new coalition replaces an administration which had spent 13 years cultivating its relationship with the financial masters of the universe. New Labour helped create the conditions which resulted in a system crash that began in 2008 and that is still unravelling.
The Cameron-Clegg coalition’s announcement that it will start to reduce the budget deficit by cutting public spending immediately with a £6 billion programme of “efficiency savings” is aimed at reassuring the hedge fund managers and other market traders whose gambling with bonds determines government action throughout the world. Liberal Democratic manifesto intentions to postpone the cuts to avoid a deflationary spiral have been ditched.
The coming assault on services, jobs, wages, pensions and benefits is certain to trigger an avalanche of conflict with millions of workers in education, health, social services as well as in the civil service who together make up the majority of the workforce.
Some say the New Labour project failed and is over. On the contrary, it served its purpose. It held the reins and reorganised the state while the Tories were in crisis. There is no going back to an earlier form of Labour as a reformist party because globalisation and the merger of the state with financial and corporate interests does not allow for this. To think otherwise is to perpetuate illusions about electoral politics when new forms of struggle beckon.
There are no electoral or parliamentary “solutions” to this crisis. If New Labour had won the election, savage cuts would still have been top of the agenda. The struggles immediately ahead will be extra-parliamentary in shape and form, beginning with the British Airways cabin crew strikes planned for next week.
Giving these struggles a political shape and objective means going beyond a parliamentary politics that is in any case in deep freeze. A perspective around the building of a network of People’s Assemblies to challenge the state’s right to make the cuts is the best way to respond to the anti-people coalition now in Downing Street. Register for our May 22 conference to discuss how we can mobilise to take the revolutionary road with the aim of bringing the Cameron-Clegg regime down sooner rather than later.
12 May 2010