Punishing the poor

KEYNESIANISM, so derided by the monetarists during the Thatcher era, has returned with a vengeance. Keynesianism was the keystone of all British and European social-democracy’s post-war planning but it is not an intrinsic part of reformist theory nor was its founder, John Maynard Keynes, ever a social democrat, and he remained a member of the Liberal Party all his life.

So it’s not surprising to see a variation of the policies that bear his name has now been embraced by the United States and the European Union in the current slump to stave off financial collapse and social unrest.

But there’s Keynesianism and Keynesianism as we’re about to discover when we get the Con-Dem austerity budget this week. Keynesian economics seeks to cushion the social effects of recession by subsidising capitalism and maintaining a level of welfare benefits which is eventually paid for from future tax and revenues.

This was the road taken by the last Labour government along with the rest of the European Union in dealing with the slump which began in 2008. The Brown government nationalised some of the banks and bailed out the others to prevent a crash of 1929 proportions and it intended to recover the billions outlaid gradually over the next five years, largely through cuts in the public services but with some increases in income tax at higher levels as a sop to the working class. The new Tory-led coalition intends to do it all in one go to spare the rich and put the total burden on the workers.

Posing as great reformers, the Cameron coalition will scapegoat public sector workers for wage cuts and redundancies while inviting the people to indulge in a bogus orgy of “consultations” on what services to cut and what benefits to means-test.

Instead of maintaining our National Health Service and educational system, the Government proposes more privatisations and “free schools” that will inevitably be run by religious bigots and cranks. Instead of pulling out our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, the Government has ruled out any similar debate on Trident or the other wasteful expense on the armed forces. Instead of taxing the rich, the Cameron government will make the poor pay in lost services and benefits.

This is a government that serves the interests of the ruling class; the big land-owners and capitalists, the spivs and exploiters who live off the profits extorted from every worker in the country; the ruling class who claim to represent the country but only exist to help themselves. It’s an old game that’s been played for as long as capitalism has existed.

Whether they get away with it depends on the response of the working class. The Greek workers are not taking this lying down and nor should we. The pious wringing of hands or empty calls for revolution now will get us nowhere without the mass mobilisation of organised labour to fight the cuts every inch of the way. The struggle to defend our living standards will be meaningless unless it is accompanied by the development of a working class agenda for democratic reform and social progress within the Labour Party and the unions, while the communists must fight to put the case for socialism and the communist answer to the crisis top of that list.