Class struggle

From John Wight in Scotland

Bertolt Brecht reminded us that it’s a far greater crime to own a bank than to rob one. Events over the past few months have emphasised how right he was. They also illustrate the fact that we don’t need a war on poverty in this country. Instead we need a war on the rich.

To put it another way, when a small coterie of obscenely wealthy bankers can plunge the global economy into crisis with their greed and lack of social responsibility, then subsequently be handed billions in taxpayers’ money, and still refuse to accede to the needs of the real economy by using it to pump liquidity into the housing market and into small and large businesses to preserve jobs, choosing instead to hoard what isn’t theirs to hoard in order to guarantee their bonuses and the dividends of their shareholders, then it is time to take those banks into public ownership, exactly where they belong and always have done.

The sheer arrogance of these individuals is astounding, evidenced in the fact that to date none have had the decency to appear in public and apologise for the misdeeds and recklessness that has plunged us into this mess. The human consequences in terms of people having their homes repossessed, jobs lost, and the concomitant strain such dire straits inevitably places on families and people’s health, demands punitive measures by the government to hold them to account.

What we’ve had instead is the shoddiest of lipservice to John Maynard Keynes with a package of measures that fail to grasp this crisis at its roots. To put it another way, it is time to nationalise the banks, our public utilities, transport system, and to tax the rich in a manner that befits a civilised society. Moving beyond this stage to placing the working class in power where it should be is of course the ultimate goal, but in the short to medium term realising the aforementioned minimum demands is achievable.

Poverty is no natural phenomenon. It does not fall from the sky like the rain. It arises and exists as a direct consequence of the actions of the few at the expense of the many under an economic system predicated on profit regardless of the human, social, or environmental cost.

Over the past 30 years the working class have been under a sustained attack from the champions of neoliberalism at home and abroad, many of them formerly of the left, in response to the falling rate of profit, which is an endemic feature of capitalism. So brutal has this assault been it has brought us to the point where the very idea of a living wage, decent and affordable housing, trade union rights, a 40 hour week, a decent pension, full employment, and a welfare state you would think belongs to the pages of science fiction. Yet at one time we had those things in this country; we had them and lost them. And now we find ourselves plunged into the night of pensioner poverty, child poverty, homelessness, and other symptoms of the social and economic injustice which has blighted the lives of too many of our class in the form drug and alcohol abuse, domestic abuse, mental illness, and rising crime.

These are the real human consequences of the system that the execrable group of human beings who currently occupy the commanding heights are more than willing to accept as the natural order of things.

But despite of this bleak assessment, there is hope. It resides as ever with the working class itself. Asleep it might be in relation to events, but when it finally wakes up, as it surely must, everything will change in a matter of weeks, perhaps even less. Then just watch the bankers, billionaires, CEOs and a government that governs on their behalf being swept aside as effortlessly as if they never existed.

For make no mistake about it, we are in the midst of class war. The only problem is that up to now one side in this war is yet to wake up to the fact. Therefore the objective that must guide everything we do now and in the future as socialists, trade unionists, and the class conscious in our communities, workplaces, campuses, everywhere, is waking our class from its slumber.

To paraphrase the words of one Percy Bysshe Shelley from another period of class struggle in this country: ‘We are many, they are few’.