Karl Marx famously wrote that in the last analysis politics was merely ‘concentrated economics’. By this he meant that capitalism was fundamentally an economic system motivated above all by material interests. Gordon Brown and Alastair Darling are, it goes without saying, not Marxists. Unlike his conclusions theirs have not carried weight throughout the centuries. It was Gordon Brown, for example, who ludicrously claimed to have ended the fundamental ‘boom and bust’ nature of capitalism. He will carry this ‘wisdom’ with him to the grave. His other predictions fared little better. ‘Britain will avoid recession’ he told us in 2007. ‘Britain’s economy will weather the storm better than any of our competitors’ he promised last year.
The International Monetary Fund this month predicted that Britain will suffer a 2.8% fall in economic output in 2009 the worst of any industrialised economy. Government figures show that the Scottish economy is already faring worse than the rest of the UK.
So, what impact will all this have on Scottish politics?
At the time of the Glenrothes by-election New Labour was able to persuade people only they could get the country out of recession. Now it is being roundly blamed for it. All the recent opinion polls give a double digit lead for Cameron and the Tories.
Gordon Brown was reported [Guardian 30/1/2009] to have been close to tears at the Parliamentary Labour Party meeting in January as MP’s blamed him for the recessionary gloom played out nightly on TV. He pleaded with rebels not to bring down the Government over the third runway at Heathrow. All this represents a catastrophic failure in Labours propaganda which argued that the recession was not their fault but a consequence of ‘worldwide events’ beyond their control.
So where did the recession come from? Well it came not just from an unprecedented collapse in the financial markets but because the credit funded growth underlying that had inevitably reached its limits. Like an elastic band Britain’s economy could not be stretched for ever and ultimately it reached its limits and snapped. We are now dealing with the consequences of that ‘snap’.
There are times when economic changes occur which are so profound that they transform existing political relations. This recession is one of them. The banks have gone bust and have been nationalised by a notorious neo-liberal government. High street chains are falling like dominoes because of poor sales and unemployment is rising faster than at any time since the 1980’s. This recession has been a long time coming. We predicted an end to the boom a long time ago, but even we did not imagine a crash so spectacular as this.
The economic crisis has brought huge social protests in Greece and France and it is likely they will become even more widespread. We expect capitalism to attack the working class and the poor in an attempt to make us pay for this crisis. This would involve mass unemployment, cuts to social services and attacks on pay and conditions. The SSP must get actively involved in all struggles to resist these attacks.
The years ahead will be easier for socialists in one important regard, the belief that there is a crisis of world capitalism just returned to a mass audience with a bang. It is up to us to explain where this recession came from and more importantly to offer a lead in defending working people and the poor from the equally inevitable capitalist onslaught.
The Scottish Socialist Party just regained its purpose in the eyes of millions of Scots.