Things seem to be coming apart at the seams for the Tories and the system they defend. Theresa May’s car-crash speech this week at the Tory conference, in this respect, was an apt metaphor for the state of her party and of British capitalism in general.
As the Prime Minister coughed and spluttered her way through, and with the backdrop falling down behind her, it was clear to all that her days are numbered.
Elsewhere at the conference, party grandee Michael Heseltine ridiculed May for not standing up to Boris, while Grant Shapps, former Conservative party chairman, said it is “impossible” for her to remain prime minister until 2022.
May’s miserable attempt to stamp her authority at the conference has gone down like a lead balloon, with her attempts to present new measures on housing, road schemes, etc. being totally ignored in favour of endless rumours and continued infighting at the top of the government.
With plotting behind the scenes and rivals preparing their leadership challenges, even Ruth Davidson says the Tories are having a “nervous breakdown”.
The Prime Minister’s sudden offer to freeze tuition fees is a joke. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn rightly tweeted: “You tripled tuition fees and just increased them to £9,250 a year. Promising not to raise them again is meaningless.”
The Tory strategy of appealing to young voters is going nowhere - they have nothing to offer and the youth of today know it.
In fact, all the other headlines have been about the collapse of Monarch, Britain’s longest surviving airline until now, with 2,100 jobs at threat and 110,000 customers stranded and having to be brought home by chartered planes, the biggest such repatriation since the war.
Here we see a worthy symbol of the real state of British capitalism under a Tory government mired in chaos. Meanwhile, rail and tube workers are striking around the country with postal workers set to take action as well.
The Tories are facing attack from without and within.
There is a sense of panic also throughout the whole establishment. Their justification for enriching themselves has now been brought into question. The system they defend - capitalism - is under siege.
It is easy to see why. Millions are being affected by austerity cuts with living standards falling. Indeed, real wages have not fallen by so much since Napoleonic times. Paul Johnson, the head of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, now says the fall is even greater, representing a decline not seen since the 1750s. “We are”, he says, “in frighteningly unchartered territory.” With rising debt, spending levels are back to the level of the 1960s – more than 50 years ago!
This is the real crisis-ridden face of capitalism, where the rich have never been richer, yet ordinary people are being battered.
Theresa May: capitalist defender
“The capitalist system is still facing a crisis of legitimacy stemming from the crash”, says Jeremy Corbyn.
“In many respects he is right”, explains an article in the Financial Times called ‘Capitalism Must be Revolutionary to Defeat Jeremy Corbyn’.
“Across all ages and demographics people are giving ear to socialism for the first time, or the first time for a generation. People who reluctantly abandoned Clause 4 with Tony Blair are now yearning once again for the state to own the means of production, distribution and exchange. Their grandchildren come fresh to these delights.” (2/10/17)
That is why Theresa May, the Tory Prime Minister (for now anyway), has rushed to capitalism’s defence.
In another recent speech to a well-heeled audience at the Bank of England, she spoke of the “immense value” of the “free market economy”, which, she said, was “the greatest agent of collective human progress ever created.”
Yes, immense value and progress for the bankers and millionaires, while a million people are forced to go to food banks to make ends meet.
There is a big problem, however. We need “to be honest about where it is not currently working or delivering for ordinary working people today,” May warns. That sent shivers of fear down the audience - not because of any intended action (there will be none from that quarter), but because of the recognition that millions are turning against the profit system.
“We thought we had won the argument for the free economy but we are going to have to start making it all over again,” complained one Tory minister afterwards. Do not waste our time, we say.
It was clear that Mrs May gave this speech in favour of capitalism in direct response to the growing appeal of the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and the left-wing shift of the Labour Party.
David Willetts, former Tory cabinet minister and chair of the Resolution Foundation, was very alarmed. Such was the backlash against the system that the Tory Party could lose the support of the youth for ever, he wailed.
He went on to say:
"There is a paradox here, especially for my party, because the aspirations of these people - they don't want a Marxist revolution; they're not voting for a massive transformation of British society - what they're wanting, actually, I would argue, is classic Tory aspirations. It's a property-owning democracy."
That is where Willetts is wrong. Young people – and many others – are indeed looking for a “massive transformation” of society. Some are already looking in a revolutionary direction, as the growth of the Marxist Student Federation in the universities has indicated, one sign of a renewed interest in Marxist ideas and socialism.
Newsnight has now hosted a programme about this – a sign of the times, indeed. “Is she right to worry? Is capitalism having a quiet crisis of confidence?” asked the presenter. Chris Cook, policy editor, said emphatically in response that “capitalism is in crisis”.
Even the Financial Times wrote just last week that, “The financial crisis dealt a death blow to the idea of self-regulating markets and western economies have been on monetary life support ever since.” (FT, 30/9/17)
Capitalism’s bleak prognosis
The bosses’ pundits are thrashing about all over the place as it becomes increasingly clear that the system has reached its limits. “Sadly, the outlook is bleak. Economists take no pleasure from this dismal prognosis, but it is grounded in reality.” confirms Chris Giles in the Financial Times, 28/9/19.
The backlash against big business and their blessed “free market” has been given an added intensity since the crisis of 2008. It can no longer offer reforms, but only counter-reforms and attacks on living standards.
In fact the capitalist system is in serious decline. We are in danger of not being dragged back to the 1930s but to the 1830s and the workhouse. It is time we put this big business system out of its (or rather our) misery.
Socialism back on the agenda
Labour must draw all the necessary conclusions from this. It should ignore the likes of Polly Toynbee who says, “in truth, Labour has more chance of saving capitalism from devouring itself than anything May has done.” (The Guardian, 28/9/17)
This is the hopeless tune of the right wing. On the contrary, the Labour Party should not waste any time trying to save capitalism or patch it up in some way. The profit system is responsible for decades of austerity cuts, falling living standards and all the other problems facing the working class.
The Labour Party was originally founded to represent ordinary people in parliament. In 1918, under the impact of the Russian Revolution, it adopted socialism as its aim. Tony Blair threw out this commitment. It is time we brought it back and acted on it. Labour must reflect the shift in mood amongst the masses in Britain today.
Even the Legatum Institute, a right-wing think tank, has been forced to report that the general public held a more favourable view of socialism than capitalism. A Populus poll for Legatum found that 83% favoured public ownership of water companies, 77% wanted to renationalise power companies and 76% preferred the railways under public ownership. Half supported nationalisation of the banks.
Labour to power on a socialist programme!
This shows the enormous potential that exists in Britain for fundamental change in society. A future Labour government needs to base itself upon such support.
A Labour government will be faced with an immediate choice of either bowing down to big business or carrying through the socialist transformation of society. There can be no middle way. The ruling class will not compromise, Labour in power must not either.
John McDonnell, Labour’s shadow chancellor, has said he has already been engaged in “war games” in face of the opposition from the Establishment. The ruling class will do everything in its power to bend the Labour government to its will through economic sabotage and political obstruction.
The only way to deal with such opposition is to mobilise millions of working people and youth outside of parliament. Labour should immediately enact emergency legislation to take over the commanding heights of the economy – the top 150 monopolies, banks and insurance companies – under workers’ control and management. We should not pay any compensation to these bloodsuckers. This is our money not theirs.
A socialist programme would put the real power into the hands of people, under which could be drawn up a democratic plan of production, based on the needs of all society, not the maximisation of profits for the few.
Now is the time for bold measures in the interests of the majority. Labour must place the socialist transformation of society firmly back on the agenda. Such a step would transform the lives of millions and be a beacon to the rest of the crisis ridden world in the global fight for socialism. It is indeed time to rise like lions and show the Tories what a real roar sounds like!