Saturday, 19 November 2011

The year of meltdown

The old Europe is in tatters. The debt crisis afflicting the Eurozone is a crisis of modelling society on the needs of the bankers and the extremely wealthy. It is the crisis of neo-liberal market economics that allows the rich to borrow huge sums, gamble on international markets and then demand that the rest of us bail them out when it goes wrong. When they profit, taxes are not paid and the money is moved abroad. Either way, the rest of us lose.

In Britain, millionaires and their lackeys hold sway. Cameron and Osborne try to convince us that ‘we are in it together’ and we lived beyond its means. In reality, the fabulously wealthy 1% does not pay its bills. Austerity has created a new recession, emptying purses and destroying jobs just when we needed more. Service cuts, privatization of the National Health Service and benefit cuts have reduced buying power still further so Britain is entering a destructive cycle. Cuts in housing benefit from January will increase homelessness dramatically as private rents climb. The poorest are squeezed to breaking point. The only escape is for those creating the crisis – bankers and the rich that do not pay their taxes. In Europe and Britain, it is the year of meltdown for market economics.

As things grow more desperate, the US, British and Israeli governments threaten war against Syria and Iran. They have learned nothing from ten years of chaos in Afghanistan and Iraq, where occupation has failed and ruined the countries. Libya is repeating the turmoil after NATO’s ‘humanitarian intervention’ cost over 50,000 civilian lives and destroyed entire cities.
In Italy and Greece, democracy is being sacrificed to unelected bankers, installed to run the governments. In Britain, Tories try to deflect blame by claiming the new recession is Europe’s fault when it is about their obsession with cutting services and helping rich mates. For all pretence at being ‘progressive’, the Liberal Democrats in government are the Bullingdon Boys Fan Club without a squeak of opposition. Cameron whips up Islamophobia and May makes false claims about immigrants while the Liberal Democrats pretend they did not put them in government.
A world cries for change so what is the Labour leadership’s response? Timidity. On every issue, Labour is hamstrung by its government record and the legacy of ‘Blair Thought’ still infecting it. The Tories cut, Labour says ‘yes, but a little less’; Tories cry for war, Labour says ‘yes, but a little less’; Tories blame Muslims, Labour says ‘yes, but a little more’! Ed Miliband has made efforts to change Labour to opposition but it’s far too little and too quiet. The result is a massive build-up of frustration and anger in society that finds few that speak for it.
The global Occupy movement has succeeded in bringing deteriorating living standards and growing inequality to the media and politicians. The Respect Party supports this breaking open of debate about the horrific effect of market policies. On 30 November, a huge public sector strike will involve up to 3 million workers who want to protect their pension provision. It can break open the debate on the ConDem assault on living standards. It is wrong to increase retirement age simply so that more die before they can collect pensions. It is wrong to say public sector pensions should be like private sector pensions when these are raided by companies. Private sector pensions need improvement to the level of public sector pensions. The bankers that lost billions (gambling with pension funds) got huge pensions even when sacked. This attack creates more misery and inequality. We support this strike action.
Construction workers are balloting for strike action and campaigning against a 35% wage cut for electricians from December. Respect supports them as they fight for a future. We note that Balfour Beatty profits rose by 4% in the first half of 2011. More inequality!
The failure of the major parties to provide any voice for change or even effective criticism of the current disastrous policies is the biggest feature of our time. We desperately need progressive voices to reach large numbers of people with an alternative to recession, war and racism. The Respect Party can be one such voice. Respect has shown a talent for high impact campaigning across a number of issues including peace, resistance to Islamophobia, council housing and supporting Palestine. We retain a number of high profile figures committed to our ideas.