Global Crises and Socialism
There is much talk about “a return to normality”, but after the succession of crises we have endured is that really what we want or need? Each one has brought into sharp relief deep entrenched failures of our society under Capitalism. The 2008 financial crash was a crisis on a global scale and led to response of governments to austerity and privatisation, a further crisis affecting working people disproportionately. Those unemployed and dependent on state support shook our faith in government to its foundation. Here we argue that the conditions which have led to the crises are inevitable under the neoliberal Capitalist system which is the norm over so much of the world so we need to look at the global crises and socialism.
The paralysis felt over years on the failure to resolve the outcome of the 2016 referendum, when nearly 17.5 million voted for Britain to leave the EU has also had a traumatic effect on the population. The Brexit debate dragged on in Parliament for 3 years until the 2019 General Election brought in support for those Tories who with Boris Johnson resolved to “Get Brexit Done”. The slogan was effective when many of those in depressed areas of the UK, notably in North and Midland areas of England, abandoned traditional voting habits supporting the Labour Party, voted Tory. The Tories achieved a landslide majority.
Professor Takis Fotopoulos characterisation of people who voted for Brexit seems to me a lot more rational than that drummed up by “the EU elite, closely associated with bankers, financiers and those associated with the 2008 financial crash, (who) are using a poisoned cocktail of ‘suppression and mainly deception’”. The entire press, along with every opposition party in Westminster echoed the EU elite view where Brexiteers were typically racist xenophobes and supporters of the fascism seen as growing dangerously across Europe and elsewhere. Once papers like the Guardian and Independent could be relied on for a balance of articles which put across other points of view. In 2016 the Guardian published some unpicking neoliberalism as one of the great dangers. Over the next few years a number of writers responsible for these simply disappeared from view on their pages. While the Morning Star did continue to publish such articles, it became compromised by its support for Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party failing to note the complete reversal of his long standing opposition to the EU, along with Arthur Scargill, Tony Benn and others. As can be seen in writings and speeches during this period by Scargill he has remained consistent in his criticism of the EU and its elite, which means withdrawing from customs unions and leaving a “no deal” Brexit on the table. Undoubtedly any agreement required by the EU would entail continued acceptance of EU law, as is shown in the case of Norway, which while not in the EU has to accept that overriding Norwegian law. This has led to rights hard won by unions to be overturned in favour of the wishes of big business. Why those in the Labour movement persist in saying that the EU policies and practice is in the interest of working people and supportive of their rights is a mystery. It is demonstrably not the case as we can see notably in France where workers were moving towards a General Strike after weeks of unrest and taking to the streets. This has attracted little comment in the main stream pro-Europe media.
The latest crisis which has cut across all others, the global pandemic, Coronavirus, puts the others into sharp relief. Those relegated to obscurity without a voice are now visible in the front line of the fight against it. Earlier in the year Matt Hancock is on record saying that we were fully prepared for such an eventuality. The results of earlier, deliberate policy to reduce state control through austerity, privatisation, bailing out banks etc. has left us floundering. Those on the front line are having to make do with shortages of protective equipment. Even that issued has been shown to be flimsy and inadequate putting lives of hard pressed, essential and experienced personnel at great risk. There are far too many among those who have died from this highly contagious pandemic.
It has been noted that those countries who took steps early on to identify those who were safely immune and those who spread the virus have been successful in keeping the number of deaths relatively low, notable South Korea and Germany.
As for the EU, its ability respond to the pandemic and give help to struggling countries is starkly apparent. Italy has had to rely on help from Cuba and China. Cuba, a small state struggling under sanctions by the United States, continues to give support to so many others. Even the British Government noted the help it had received from them. (True to form little was said in the press, except to continue to criticise).
If as Takis Fotopoulos has suggested Brexit is part of an anti-global movement by those who have experienced and suffered from globalisation and neoliberalism, the result of the 2019 General Election in the UK an be seen as consistent with that view. The EU’s strategy of making it appear that Brexit was essentially a right wing, racist movement appears to have been successful. For many antiracists on the left the idea of being labelled as supporters of the likes of Farage and Johnson was too much. But this was how the media consistently ramped up that message with these figures shown as the main and only ones who supported Brexit. In the mid seventies the Labour movement had opposed it. Arthur Scargill, renowned for his consistency, has continued to oppose it with a completely different message. At one time he was seen on television and reported in the press regularly, but now we see Johnson and Farage. (If anyone wants to check Arthur Scargill’s speeches at and since the referendum look at the “Socialist Labour Party GB” channel on Youtube and their website at https://socialist-labour-party.org.uk/ )
There is a whole army of others who have to go out on call in spite of everything. Supplying food is essential – here we have a system of supply which is creaking as we depend on imports more than home grown produce. It could be the next crisis. We depend on those in this industry which like so much more is hugely dominated and controlled by multinational companies and profit. We need those who clean up and care for the environment for reasons of health and wellbeing. Again working people including refuse collectors and cleaners. Those who keep us safe, maintaining public order or responding to emergency: police, fire fighters, ambulance workers. How do we show they are valued when their numbers have been vastly reduced, their pay has been reduced or they have been outsourced to private providers who oppose union membership, give them zero hour contracts or withdraw sick pay?
So let’s return to normality, a normality not dominated by 1% of the population, but one where those who are needed and able to work are rewarded with pay and conditions which reflect the high value that society places on them. Those that can’t have a strong support network that recognises their care, housing, health and other essential need for well being. Immediately following the financial crisis in 2010 David Cameron as Prime Minister, with the willing connivance of the Liberal Democratic Party in coalition, announced the need to reduce the role of the state in providing for people. As writers at the time said his real aim was to follow up on Thatcher and end the welfare state. It was Cameron who led in announcing a referendum on Britain staying in or leaving the the European Union. He promised that the outcome would be respected. This was duly acknowledged and agreed by the Labour leadership. Between then and the 2019 General Election there was complete stalemate in Westminster with politicians unable to agree with every party, apart from the divided Tories putting forward policies favouring remaining in the EU. Those Tories which recognised the ground swell of people voting to leave saw an opportunity and went to the country on the promise to “get Brexit done”.
They appealed to the British people by stealing socialist clothes. Labour by contrast appeared to ditch the leave voters by talking about a referendum and joining with all other Westminster parties by campaigning to stay in the EU. Doug Nicholls, General Secretary of the General Federation of Trades Unions, made the point in a speech at a Socialist Labour Party meeting in Birmingham that Boris Johnson had completed the one policy the Tories had fought the 2019 election promising, to “get Brexit done”. That had now been achieved and now is the time for Johnson to step aside. Now is the time for the Labour movement and Trades Unions to step up and provide leadership in working for the fairer society that successive crises have shown very clearly is essential for a society that puts human need ahead of the greed of the few which has brought us to our knees.