Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2122

A dole queue during the Great Depression

A dole queue during the Great Depression

Worse than the 1930s?

Your coverage of the financial crash was excellent (» Explaining the toxic crisis of capitalism, 27 September), but I would question whether it is on the scale of the 1930s – if anything, the crisis is worse.

Economic growth in the last 25 years has never matched that of capitalism’s post-war “golden age”, and it has been powered by the greatest bubble of inflated asset values in history.

In the US, both the overall level of debt and the bankers’ share of total profit have doubled since the 1970s. This has been ratcheted up into a speculative frenzy over the last few years.

The share of subprime mortgages in total US debt has increased tenfold. The paper value of the assets of top US investment bank Goldman Sachs has increased twentyfold. This is a debt bubble of unprecedented scale.

That bubble is now collapsing. The ruling class can attempt to manage the deflation by moving capital from one part of the system to another – but they cannot stop it. The bubble is deflating with the certainty of the law of gravity.

As it does so, it drives a gigantic negative feedback system. Every write-off, bailout or bankruptcy injects a new dose of deflation into the economy, dragging it down further.

Property repossessions in the US are now running at 300,000 a month, while redundancies are running at 600,000 a month.

This is not a cyclical recession. It is not even a re-run of the 1970s. Socialists should be in no doubt – the world economy is sinking into a great depression and the ruling class has no solutions, except to bail out their wealth by making workers pay a massive price in jobs, homes, pay, pensions, and public services.

We should prepare for the class battles of our lives. And we should build revolutionary socialist organisation as an historical imperative. The choice in the 1930s was socialism or barbarism. We have no reason for thinking the stakes will be any less in the decade ahead. Last time, the barbarians won. This time, it must be the workers.

Neil Faulkner, St Albans

The amount of money that the government can suddenly find to bail out the banks is staggering. Just how hollow do the words “the government cannot afford it” now sound?

For all those that have fought in recent years to stop a local post office or library from being closed, these bailouts must feel like a huge slap in the face. So too for the millions of public sector workers who are told that the government cannot afford a pay rise above 2.5 percent.

How many council homes could have been built had the government been prepared to spend the sums of money it is now putting into bailing out Northern Rock and Bradford & Bingley?

It’s not just shocking but also criminal. If someone claiming benefits had cost the taxpayer billions of pounds, they would be in jail and there would be calls to throw away the key.

Well how many bankers are being charged for costing the public purse billions of pounds? How many bankers are being forced to pay back their huge bonus payments? How many bankers will go to jail? Gordon Brown says he’s for a “fair Britain” – pants. His government stinks, just like the Tories did when they lost in 1997.

Tony Barnsley, Dudley

Tories are still nasty

The Tory response to the economic crisis has shown their true colours. While even Republicans such as John McCain are admitting that bankers have gone too far, Tory leader David Cameron and his shadow chancellor George Osborne continue to shower praise on them.

Osborne recently claimed that “making money out of the misery of others” was a necessary “function of capitalist markets” that couldn’t be prevented.

Then with even the Daily Telegraph turning on “reckless” City speculators, the Tory leadership changed their tune, claiming to stand against the “irresponsible” bankers. But this is just window dressing – their plans remain the same.

New Labour deliberately deregulated the City and let the gamblers run wild on borrowed cash. It made the Bank of England independent of government control in order to show the City that it would not interfere with its binge-betting.

This meant an elected government handed over control of interest rates – a critical economic tool – to unelected bigwigs. With real interest rates still being kept high, millions of people are likely to suffer from that decision.

Yet the Tories now want to go further and remove taxation and spending decisions from government control. They want an independent “office for budget responsibility” to tell the elected government how much it can spend and borrow.

In other words, their cure for the speculators’ madness is to appease them further. They want to bring back the kind of government spending restrictions that kept the financiers happy during the 1930s – but worsened the Great Depression.

The Tories are still the nasty party. If they get into government they will start slashing public services.

They hope that they can hide behind their “office for budget responsibility” to deflect the anger at these cuts.

It will be up to socialists and trade unionists to defend our public services.

Jacob Middleton, East London

Fuel fat cats target the poorest in our society

We’ve had an enthusiastic response to our campaigning on the streets for a windfall tax on energy companies and for them to be taken back into public hands.

People are angry that these companies are making vast profits while energy bills soar. Pensioners will have to choose between heating and eating.

We should also campaign on the great injustice of people who rely on prepayment meters being charged at the highest rate for their gas and electricity.

These are people who are at risk of disconnection, or have already had their gas or electricity cut off and have only been reconnected on condition that they use a prepayment meter.

It is illegal for fuel companies to cut off elderly consumers or families with young children. But with prepayment, they may be forced to cut themselves off when there’s no more money left to feed the greedy meter.

As so often in our society, the poor pay more. The government should insist that consumers with prepayment meters are charged at the lowest rate.

Charges should also be equalised for all gas and electricity supplied, instead of the current system whereby people who only use a little are charged at a higher rate.

And we should insist that these price cuts for the poorest come out of corporate profits – and not from putting prices up for everybody else.

Sarah Cox, North London

Uniting to stop the Nazis in Cologne

The successful protest against the far right “Anti‑Islam Congress” in Cologne, Germany, last month (» Fascists routed in Cologne, 27 September) proves that a united front is the most effective way to combat fascists when they try to disseminate their lies.

We had been working on building a demonstration to block the conference since June. This involved the hard work of coordinating over 100 groups.

We offered training sessions in civil disobedience to people, engaging them and making sure that everyone knew what to do when Nazi thugs went on the offensive.

The trade unions put on an anti-racist concert in the city which attracted many people that had never previously joined a protest.

The people of Cologne received solidarity from other anti-fascists. Activists came from Greece, France, Poland and Italy, demonstrating that the struggle against fascism must be international.

But we must remain alert. Although the fascists were stopped from holding their Islamophobic congress, they are planning to try again in Cologne in June next year.

Mark Bergfeld, Colchester, Essex

Who will pay for shortfall?

Your article on pensions was really informative but at the same time disturbing (» Playing a dangerous game with our pensions, 4 October).

My contributions go into the Greater Manchester Pension Fund. Around 10 percent of the fund was invested in property at the time of last year’s report.

Property and land prices have started to fall. Are the employers going to ask us to make up the shortfall with higher contributions? Or should I get ready to work until I’m 68?

Sam O’Brien, Rochdale

Keep police out of schools

The Schools minister Ed Balls says he wants a police officer in every school in order to cut down on violence.

I work in an inner city school which has had a police officer on site for some time now.

He has done nothing to alleviate the problems of poverty and social neglect facing so many of my students.

The only noticeable difference is an increase in school exclusions of some very vulnerable individuals.

However, the police officer has kept himself busy. When support workers in the Unison union went on strike in July, he emailed all staff with his interpretation of Tory anti-union laws.

He gave advice to senior management about how best to intimidate teachers offering the support workers solidarity.

He also recently asked for a meeting with a citizenship teacher who had the nerve to inform his students of their rights upon arrest.

Teacher, East London

Workers’ unity in the North

Eamonn McCann’s article on the battle for civil rights in Northern Ireland (» Derry’s days of rage, 4 October) explained how important it is for Catholic and Protestant workers to unite.

It is worth remembering the example of Ivan Cooper, the MP that led the 1972 civil rights march that turned into Bloody Sunday. He was a Protestant leading a mainly Catholic group of civil rights protesters.

This shows how a desire for justice can overcome differences based on religion. Working class unity should be the future in Northern Ireland.

Graeme Kemp, Wellington, Shropshire

Labour, SNP and unions

Many would argue, myself included, that the trade unions have been a greater cause for good for working people than the Labour Party.

So it’s with considerable regret – but not surprise – that I see the unions are doing the Labour Party’s dirty work in Scotland by attempting to discredit the Scottish National Party (SNP).

I read recently that some 98 percent of children in Glasgow East live on or below the poverty line. This follows 50 years of Labour rule in Scotland.

Time for this blind devotion to the Labour Party to be questioned, I would have thought.

Brian Hill, Edinburgh

State’s shoot to kill policy

One of the most disturbing aspects of the coverage of the Jean Charles de Menezes inquest is the emphasis on mistaken identity.

Can we infer from this that it would have been OK for the police to kill an unarmed and restrained man if he had been their suspect?

Death squads carrying out summary executions are one of the hallmarks of a dictatorship.

In a democracy, everyone – even those accused of the worst crimes – is entitled to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence.

These principles of fairness and freedom are the basis of our supposed “British values”. Are we going to throw them away so cheaply, simply because Tony Blair said that “the rules of the game have changed”?

Mal Ferguson, Liverpool

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Tue 7 Oct 2008, 18:07 BST
Issue No. 2122
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