Liberal delusions

LIBERAL-Democrat leader Nick Clegg last Monday admitted that his party faces a serious collapse in support in future elections due to the unpopularity of the Con-Dem coalition’s cuts programme, which goes far beyond what is necessary to resolve Britain’s budget deficit problems and into unnecessary and spiteful attacks on support systems for those on very low incomes, the growing army of unemployed, pensioners, the disabled and so on. These attacks are ideologically driven by the capitalist philosophy that giving help to the poor and vulnerable only makes them lazy and encourages them to breed.

Many Lib-Dem members are appalled at this callousness, having been under the illusion that theirs was a progressive and humane party. Decades of being a minority party allowed the Liberal Party and later the merged Lib-Dems to portray themselves as all things to all people: against war, for freedom, for equality and democracy and for small businesses.

Dig deep and there are a lot of contradictions in that package. When they speak of freedom, they mean freedom for the business world, for capital to be moved around easily and freedom of opportunity to make a profit out of anything, including essential public services.

But they do not mean freedom for trade unionists, freedom for strikers, or freedom from fear of unemployment, homelessness and poverty. They regard these basic working class freedoms as a brake and hindrance on the capitalists’ freedom to make profits.

Many Lib-Dem members are shocked when they find their leader going along with the Tory anti-working class measures so easily. Deputy party leader Simon Hughes has demanded that the Lib-Dems in the coalition should have the power of veto over controversial Tory proposals. And Clegg is ignoring him; the Tories would never allow it.

Clegg claims there is no collapse of morale in his party but at the same time morale will soon be restored when they get on to more Lib-Dem policies — namely changing the voting system in this country.

The Tories agreed to put their proposals for an alternative vote scheme to a referendum. It is not exactly the proportional representation scheme the Lib-Dems wanted but a system that would ask voters to list candidates in order of preference and block any party that could not win at least 50 per cent of the vote, after lower scoring candidates had been eliminated and their supporters’ second choices transferred. It would still be a bourgeois democracy and the elected parliament would still be a minor power within the total state machine.

But the Lib-Dems are unlikely to win the changes they want — both the Tories and Labour know that if the changes are passed they will never hold government again without having to do a coalition deal with the Lib-Dems.

Meanwhile the Tories are very happy to be humiliating the Lib-Dems and seeing them crashing in the polls. The Tories and the Whigs (Liberals) have been rivals for over 300 years; now the Tories have it in their power to smash the party completely and are delighted.

The Whigs were once a mighty party of the landed gentry growing rich on the slave and sugar trades and experimenting with innovations — canal transport — steam — factory production and so on that triggered the industrial revolution.

Now their successors, the Lib-Dems, are a small party representing the interests of small businesses and some of the intelligentsia — the middle classes who are used by the ruling class to keep the workers down and run the logistics of administration.

History has turned them into a sideshow of the coming historical main act — the clash between the interests of the ruling class and the working class.

Now Lib-Dem members must choose which side they are on in that battle. Those who really are progressive and humane must throw in their lot with the organised labour movement. And those who have pretended to be somewhere in the middle while happily serving the bosses now cannot help but expose where they really stand. The middle ground has ceased to exist.