Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Here comes the flood posted by Richard Seymour
There is no deficit crisis. There is absolutely no reason to cut public spending, and every reason why it would be a disaster when demand likely to be weak in the coming years. Nonetheless, both major parties are committed to this underlying assumption that public spending must be cut at some point to pay for the bankers' bailouts. Necessarily, therefore, the public debate will continue to play out in a narrow spectrum of when, not whether, spending should be cut. And here, as the figures also show, the Tories are beginning to win the argument that it happen sooner rather than later. This ridiculously poor level of debate is one reason why the Conservatives are capable of not only maintaing a double digit lead over New Labour, but also of grooming their leader as a man of the people.
Some polyannas are citing a slight dip in the unemployment rate to suggest that the crisis may be over. This will undoubtedly be siezed on by Tory hawks to say that recovery is afoot, and we must at last address the fiscal gap. But the ubiquitous experts, whose advice will undoubtedly contribute to investment decisions by firms in the coming years, aren't entirely buying this, pointing to weak fundamentals. They expect years of high unemployment, which means years of weak demand. However, I expect that the Tories are as aware of this as the CBI and the FT are. The commitment to attacking public spending, specifically the welfare state, is simple class war.
The left needs to win this argument at a number of levels. Fundamentally, we have to persuade the organised working class that such cuts are unnecessary and that they can and should defeat any government that attempts to impose them. The recent postal strike could, if successful, have given wider layers of workers the confidence necessary to take on the government. And it would have hit in a timely fashion, a fitting warning shot to the Tories. But the executive unanimously approved a deal that demobilised the workforce in exchange for no significant concession other than that there would be further talks. That is a setback.
More broadly, however, we need to work to establish the most convivial political atmosphere in which resistance can take place. If people are demoralised by the overall political terrain, they are far less likely to risk industrial action. Labour is going to lose enormously, whatever the left does, and that will leave initially quite a strong Tory administration to take up the whip against the unions and anyone else they feel they need to discipline. And, regardless of any other consideration, any left-of-Labour vote would certainly be squeezed in such an election, absent a level of class struggle far more consequential than the current state of affairs. So it is unfortunate that the efforts to develop some sort of left electoral unity continue to stutter and start, so that the most likely scenario in 2010 is that a patchwork of different left groups run candidates under separate names and register little impact nationally.
On top of this, we have to fight a rearguard defence against the far right, with the EDL streetfighters trying to attack mosques, while the BNP parachutes their leader into Barking to try to capitalise on their previous gains in Barking and Dagenham council elections. Margaret Hodge is the last person you would trust to see off the BNP, given that it was her fumbling concessions to fascist propaganda that actually helped the BNP gain 13 seats in 2006. So, a considerable portion of the energies of grassroots activists will be devoted to seeing off that threat. The fact that the EDL continue to be frustrated and outnumbered in their efforts does it make further breakthroughs for the BNP more difficult, given that the latter rely on a contrived atmosphere of racial crisis and conflict to build. But the more votes they get, the more the mainstream media can justify giving them television spots and puff pieces, and the more bourgeois politicians will take it as a cue to move further to the right on issues to do with race and immigration.
I bet you almost wish it was May 2005. The antiwar movement was still a mass movement able to summon 100,000 to the streets at the drop of a hat. There was a youthful left-wing coalition which had grown out of that movement. It had got its first MP elected in a Labour heartland, and he was busy shredding the innards of a couple of Senators, and was celebrated in The Sun for it. Things looked sunny. A whole vista of possibilities opened up before us. Well, tough shit. It's November 2009, baby. And it sucks. And you'll just have to be patient.