This is the most important general election since 1979 for Britain’s working classes but you wouldn’t know it if you went by Labour’s nonchalant approach or even that of the so-called far left who simply trade in demagoguery and propaganda and obsess endlessly about immigration and how great it is as a way of avoiding the real issues or developing a real programme.
The British state has been bankrupted and the British economy is moribund as the Great Recession trundles on. But the last five years of this Coalition Government has been almost a denial of these facts or at least a tip-toing around them. The next five years will not be. The Tories are promising spending cuts of truly eye-watering proportions in order to bring down the deficit, keep the national debt in check and continue the bail out of the bankrupt banks. This will ensure that like Geoffrey Howe’s budget of 1980 the entire burden for all this will fall first and foremost on working, poor, sick, disabled, young and old people. The proposed cuts will trigger a contraction that will make the recession of the early 80s look like a mere pot hole in the road.
But what of Labour? Hey, they say, that’s no fair. The entirety of the burden should not fall only on working people. The rich must pay a little too and so, along with a raft of not quite so brutal cuts, they also promise to raise a few taxes much to the annoyance of the rich and their middle class useful idiots. This may be ever so slightly fairer but in reality it does not matter whether a cut in spending by government or private citizens or a combination of both is contemplated the removal of the amounts of money from the economy that all parties are proposing will trigger the same frightening recession. Unless you are super rich, one way or another, you are going to get it in the neck. The higher rate of tax might rise slightly but your higher rate job may no longer exist in any case.
Unlike Thatcher’s recession, however, there is no possible way out of this one in capitalist terms. The monetarists of the 1980s had one trick up their sleeves which while slashing public spending was to hand responsibility for money supply over to a de-regulated private finance sector on the grounds that `enlightened self-interest’ would prevent them from allowing the supply of money to get out of equilibrium with the demand for it. Naturally, the first thing they did was set about building the world’s biggest Ponzi Scheme in human history based on their counterfeit claims on the social product. This scheme funded the greatest consumer boom we have ever or are ever likely to see.
When the scam came to an end in 2008 it showed that late capitalism had merely added irreversible bankruptcy to stagnation and decline. Far from winning the Cold War and its aftermath the effort had killed it. Instead of curing the decrepit old patient the bankers’ steroids had given it not growth but cancer and induced a massive and fatal heart attack. Since then capital has been rowing back from Western-sponsored globalisation to a future that looks a lot like the past but without a future of its own. In fact, having induced a recession, the right talk almost endlessly of leaving the EU and its single market where once that was seen as the road to the regeneration of British capitalism following the removal of all protections. Truly austerity is about preparing the corpse for burial.
So, the choice at this election may appear to be a merely cerebral one between cuts or cuts and a bit of tax but in actual fact for the working class and no doubt for huge swathes of the middle class it is actually a matter of life or death. They are being asked to choose between death by firing squad or lethal injection whilst the super-rich look on knowing that either will do.
Of course we must vote in solidarity with workers who want to get rid of this wretched Coalition as there is no serious revolutionary alternative whether that be by voting SNP in Scotland or Labour in England or Plaid in Wales but if such an alternative has not made serious strides not just in Britain but across Europe towards being built by the time the next election comes around we could be looking not just at a Great Recession or even a Great Depression but a New Dark Ages from which for humanity as a whole there may be no escape.