Saturday, 31 January 2009

Economic Recession, Political Change and the SSP

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.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Stop Double Taxing the Sick

Letter published in today's Herald newspaper
As the MSP who introduced the Bill to abolish NHS prescription charges to the Scottish Parliament in 2005 I am not in the least surprised by the 26% increase in the use of pre-payment certificates reported in yesterday's Herald.[Cut price prescription drugs policy 'a success' - 28th January]. Cutting the cost of certificates by 50% was always likely to highlight the extent to which the price was an inhibitor to treatment. However the figures also make clear that there are many tens of thousands of patients in Scotland who are still going without the medicines their doctors have repeatedly prescribed for them because they cannot afford to pay. And this is set to continue for the next 2 years.I certainly hope the SNP administration keeps its promise to abolish the charges completely by 2011 but I would remind readers that patients in Wales no longer suffer this 'tax on the sick' as it was abolished there in 2006. Furthermore the Northen Ireland Assembly has also voted to get rid of the charges and will do so before the Scottish Government does. Finally, I must take issue with the Herald editorial on the matter [No easy prescription] which rather misses the point when it says 'if people who can afford to pay do so then ...many millions of pounds can be re-invested in the NHS'. Surely the point is that it is patients who cannot afford to pay who are being penalised here whereas our utterly illogical and irredeemable exemptions system actually protects those who perhaps could pay more.Notwithstanding that I remain firmly opposed to the charges and have always felt that only abolition safeguards that 'cherished principle' referred to in the editorial, namely, treatment free to everyone at the point of need. That puts me firmly in the camp which believes that our NHS should be paid for out of general taxes and not by doubly taxing the sick.
Yours sincerely Colin Fox National Spokesman Scottish Socialist Party

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Socialists Meet Trades Union Leaders Amid Worsening Economic Crisis

Scottish Socialist Party national spokesman Colin Fox will travel to London today [Sat 10th] to discuss the worsening economic and political crisis with trades union leaders.

The Former Lothian's MSP will join the Rail, Maritime and Transport union RMT, the Fire Brigades Union, the Civil Service union PCS and public sector unions at a special conference called to respond to what they see as failed government policy.

Colin Fox believes the worsening economic conditions are putting millions of workers living standards at risk.
‘‘Jobs are being lost by the thousand every day. Millions of working families are facing 2009 fearful of what it may bring. Labour’s recession sees the country facing the worst economic crisis in living memory.
We and the trade union movement need to ensure that working people are not made to pay for an economic and political crisis they played no part in creating. Gordon Brown and Alastair Darling are responsible for this crisis. They have made it clear that they are prepared to bail out the banks, to the tune of £500bn, but they will not act to save jobs in finance, retail, construction or the public sector.
It is equally clear that a major conflict between the Labour government and the unions is in the offing. I very much welcome the opportunity to meet with those trades union leaders determined to defend the living standards of working people against the developing economic and political disaster.’