Socialist Appeal - British section of the International Marxist Tendency

People are becoming increasingly revolutionary, according to the latest polls. A growing hatred for big business and profiteering comes on top of the bankers’ bonus scandals, the Libor rigging scandal, the foreign exchange manipulation scandal, and the callous profiteering of the energy companies. This backlash against capitalism has rung alarm bells amongst the apologists of big business. Rob Sewell, editor of Socialist Appeal, reports.

People are becoming increasingly revolutionary, according to the latest polls. A growing hatred for big business and profiteering comes on top of the bankers’ bonus scandals, the Libor rigging scandal, the foreign exchange manipulation scandal, and the callous profiteering of the energy companies. Energy companies are now trusted less than bankers and car salesmen. This backlash against capitalism has rung alarm bells amongst the apologists of big business.

“If David Cameron genuinely believes ‘Red’ Ed Miliband is a socialist then a new poll suggesting the public are far to the left of Labour and want state control of key sectors of the economy, will be enough to provoke nightmares of a Marxist revolution in Downing Street,” states a recent article in the International Business Times (5th November 2013).

Another apologist, Allister Heath, the right-wing editor of the daily CITY.AM, wrote a recent article (5th November 2013) entitled “There is sadly mass support for nationalisation and price controls”. The article is a telling balance-sheet of the anti-capitalist mood in Britain today. It reflects the growing hatred people have for capitalism here and now. The apologist Heath reveals the truth in an attempt to ring the alarm bells for capitalism – to save the private property system from the anger of the mob.

The article begins with an anxious conclusion that capitalism is rapidly losing support and people are turning towards socialism. “Slowly but surely, the public is turning its back on the free market economy and reembracing an atavistic version of socialism which, if implemented, would end in tears”, states a deeply alarmed and distressed Mr Heath. He goes on to make a telling point about the major political parties: “On some economic issues, the public is far more left-wing than the Tories realise or that Labour can believe.” When asked, voters said they didn't believe either party was on the side of working people, suggesting they want to see even more radical policies. This means that people are far to the left of the Labour leaders, who have bought into the market, when people are turning away from it.

Interestingly, twice as many people see Ed Miliband (32%) as more on the side of working people than David Cameron (16%). However, the survey also found that a greater number of people (38%) don't see either leader as being on the side of working people. This is a sharp criticism of Ed Miliband, who has failed to inspire working people, but instead prefers to talk about “responsible” capitalism at a time when capitalism as a whole is in the dock.

The growing hatred of capitalism is certainly forcing Labour more to the “left”, at least in words. The fear for big business is that, despite the reassurances of Miliband, Labour will increasingly reflect these pressures in government.

“If you think I’m exaggerating, consider the findings of a fascinating new opinion poll from YouGov for the Centre for Labour and Social Studies”, continues Allister Heath.

“The answers to two questions in particular made striking reading: ‘Do you think the government should have the power to control prices of the following things, or should prices be left to those selling the goods or service to decide?’; and ‘Do you think the following should be nationalised and run in the public sector, or privatised and run by private companies?’.

“The results are terrifying: the UK increasingly believes that it is the state’s job to fix the ‘right’ price… No fewer than 45 per cent of the public believe that the state should have the power to control private rents, against 43 per cent who don’t; it was 74-18 for energy prices and 72-19 for public transport. Tory voters don’t support the first of these but back the other two”, states Mr Heath despairingly. Terrified and shocked, he goes on:

“Shockingly, 35 per cent of the electorate back such potential price controls on food and groceries, though 55 per cent don’t.” Heath then hits back that price freezes mean shortages and that “the price-fixers need to acquaint themselves with the (horrible, product-less, queue-based, rationed) shops that used to exist in the Soviet Union during the bad old days.” While bureaucracy was a gigantic impediment around the neck of Soviet society, due to the absence of a workers’ democracy, nevertheless, rents were very low, energy was practically free, as was transport, and prices were stable. There was also no unemployment in the “bad old days” as Russia produced more scientists, technician and scientists every year than the rest of the world put together.

Perhaps not surprisingly in reply to the second YouGov question, 67 per cent believe Royal Mail should have remained in the state sector, against 22 per cent who back privatisation. But astonishingly, by 48-43 per cent, even those intending to vote Tory don’t back the privatisation. Interestingly, even among UKIP voters, it’s 67-25.

“There is overwhelming support for the nationalisation of energy companies – 68 per cent to 21 per cent”, states the capitalist strategist. The poll found huge opposition to private sector involvement in the public services, with an overwhelming 12 to 1 against the NHS being run by the private sector; a massive 68% are in favour of nationalising the energy companies. “This is misguided but not surprising,” he says.

This anger towards the energy companies, and the resultant support for their nationalisation, explains the recent outburst by Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat coalition Minister for Energy and Climate Change, who recently warned energy industry fat cats that they need to clean up their act or face a "Fred the Shred" moment, referring to the ex-boss of the Royal Bank of Scotland, Fred Goodwin, who was pilloried by the press and stripped of his knighthood after leading the bank to almost complete failure in 2008.

"Profits cannot come at the expense of the elderly, the vulnerable, and the poorest in our society. Customers are not just cash cows to be squeezed in the pursuit of a higher return for shareholders", Davey warned the energy bosses. "Trust between those who supply energy and those who use it is breaking down."

Responding to the public's support for nationalisation, Allister Heath laments that “memories are very short, with nobody remembering how bad things were when industries were state monopolies.” But the public has experienced the privatised companies and regards them as far worse. Our defender of capital pleads that “if prices were falling, and customer service improving, support for nationalisation would undoubtedly fall.” But prices are rocketing and services are deteriorating.

“There is also huge support for the nationalisation of the railways, at 66-23; again, not surprising given the weird public-private mish-mash that characterises the industry, the subsidies, the lack of transparency and accountability (who is in charge? Network Rail? The train firm?), the awful service and the lack of choice. We need a new deal for our railways – but state ownership was a disaster during the decades when it was tried.” This is a lie. British rail was cheaper and better run than these current profiteering companies, who still get billions of pounds in state subsidies.

Almost 80% of voters feel they are not personally benefitting from the economic recovery, with even 70% of Tory voters feeling the same way. In fact, as we explained, the so-called recovery is at the expense of the working class.

Our pro-capitalist commentator can see that capitalist ownership is extremely unpopular, especially since the continuing crisis of 2008, which has brought the capitalist system into disrepute. He is almost lost for words. His stark conclusion is: “Supporters of a market economy have a very big problem. Unless they address the concerns of the public, they will be annihilated.”

This is stark admission from the mouth of a truly dedicated supporter of capitalism is quite amazing. The discontent of amongst working people – the vast majority of the population – is intensifying with the passing of each day. They experience the brunt of the on-going capitalist crisis, through unemployment, wage cuts, worsening conditions and falling living standards. They experience the contempt of capitalists who close down industries with the drop of a hat, throwing tens of thousands of workers onto the scrapheap. No wonder people are demanding measures against big business.

A bold socialist programme, as advocated by Socialist Appeal, would get a massive response at this time. What is needed is a Labour and trade union leadership that does not bend the knee to Capital, but genuinely champions the cause of working people. There has never been a better time to fight to overthrow the capitalist system and replace it with a rational planned economy run on the basis of need and not profit. There is massive public support for such measures. Only then can the resources of society be used fully in the interests of everyone, rather than simply for a gang of multi-millionaire parasites, represented by the likes of Sir Fred Goodwin, Jim Ratcliffe and co. They, together with their system, should be thrown into the dustbin of history where they belong.