Because society is divided into classes, there are always economic alternatives. One way, helps the rich. To other helps the rest. The final reason to fight the Con-Dem cuts.
Economic alternatives, in other words, are deeply political. Whatever is done, some gain; others lose. The choice is determined by power - by who has the power to do what to whom. It is that simple.
When the ConDem Government says ‘there is no alternative’ to cutting public spending to reduce the deficit, they lie. They make a choice in the interests of the class they represent. They choose to protect the City, the banks, and the rich. They choose to shore up a system based on profit and greed. They choose to do this irrespective of the cost to the majority of the British people.
The mainstream media echo ConDem mantras. They frame the debate in terms of what is to be cut, not whether to cut. This is not because ‘there is no alternative’. It is because the social and political forces capable of giving reality to the alternative have as yet only an embryonic existence.
Alternatives have to be fought for. What is possible is determined by the clash of class forces.
Those opposed to the cuts - socialists, trade unionists, student radicals, green campaigners, Muslims, black activists, and many others - have to come together to create a united mass movement that can frame, inspire, and guide a class-based revolt from below: a revolt of the many against the few.
We have to do this to protect ourselves - our own jobs, homes, and services. We have to do it to protect the poor and the disadvantaged. We have to do it to defeat racism, to stop the war, and to save the planet. The cuts have become everyone’s political centre of gravity.
And as we begin to organise and fight, as we build alliances and forge solidarities in struggle, the alternative will crystallise through debate and agreement about the sort of world we want. It is not a matter of blueprints; it is a matter of democracy. We do not need an abstract ‘programme’; we need a movement that can generate demands and formulate alternatives as part of a democratic struggle to change the world.
Even so, right now, we can guess what we might choose as we find the power to press our demands against those of the rich.
If they want to cut, let them cut profits, bonuses, and the luxuries of the rich. If they want to put up taxes, let them tax the rich, big business, and financial speculation. If they seek savings, let them pull the troops out of Afghanistan, slash defence spending, and cancel Trident.
Instead, let us put people to work doing useful and necessary things. Any one of us could draw up a shopping list of worthwhile projects. Here are two examples.
Britain’s privatised public-transport system is dilapidated, expensive, and inadequate. Because of this, the roads are clogged with cars, people waste countless hours of their lives in congestion and jams, and carbon levels continue to rise relentlessly.
So we need a massive programme of public investment in the transport infrastructure to create jobs, to improve the speed and comfort of travel, and to facilitate the transition to a green economy.
Then there is the housing crisis, with millions of young workers unable to afford a home of their own, and forced to pay extortionate rents to private landlords. The root of the problem is lack of council homes and consequent inflation of house prices.
So again, we need massive public investment, this time in renovating old properties and building new homes. And this, too, as well as creating jobs and providing affordable homes, could be part of the green transition, if we renovate and build for a low carbon-footprint.
The bankers would not like it. The confidence of ‘the markets’ would be undermined. Britain’s ‘credit rating’ would be endangered.
Yet, global finance-capital does not represent any real wealth at all. Banks create nothing. Speculators gamble with other people’s money. The entire financial system is parasitic.
It is work that creates wealth, and whenever workers are employed doing useful and necessary things, they generate more of it. That is why the great liberal economist John Maynard Keynes said that we can fund anything that we can do.
Or we could if we had a rational system for allocating resources to needs. But the casino-economy does not work like that. It is a mechanism to allow the rich to buy and sell, to gamble and speculate with, the paper titles to wealth created in the real economy.
It is insane, therefore, that we are being driven into a depression in order to prop up private banks.
The alternative is simple: to nationalise the banks and put them under democratic control, so that finance can be allocated to economic projects on the basis of social need and collective decision.
The ruling class and their media will respond with howls of derision. They will call it ‘socialism’, ‘communism’, ‘dictatorship’. They will predict a ‘flight of capital’ and ‘economic ruin’ as the world’s bankers turn their backs on Britain.
But the crisis is not restricted to Britain. The working people of Britain are not on their own against the world’s bankers. The crisis is global, and so is the resistance. Across Europe, there have been demonstrations and general strikes involving millions of ordinary people. They face the same enemy, the same battles, the same need to advance an alternative to austerity and depression.
We have been here before. Many times in the past, mass revolts from below have spread across Europe and beyond. They spread because such movements are invariably infectious. The same crisis evokes the same response, and those who take the lead find millions of others ready to follow.
Europe is a continent of revolution, and in each of Europe’s great revolutionary years - 1789, 1848, 1917, 1936, 1968, and 1989 - a revolt started in one country quickly spread to others.
It can happen again. If we make it so. And what choice other than to try have our rulers given us? They have launched a class war against the majority, and when you are attacked, either you fight back or you go under and pay a terrible price.
Coalition of Resistance Conference
Saturday November 27
Neil Faulkner is a freelance archaeologist and historian. He works as a writer, lecturer, excavator, and occasional broadcaster. His books include ‘A Visitor’s Guide to the Ancient Olympics‘ and ‘A Marxist History of the World: from Neanderthals to Neoliberals‘.
More articles from this author
- The agony of Gaza
- Yes: The Radical Case for Scottish Independence
- WWI: Imperial carve up, industrialised killing the truth about Gove's 'Great War'
- The Great Flood
- Jeremy Paxman's BBC history of the First World War is shallow, banal, and cliché-ridden
- Final Solutions: Human nature, Capitalism, and Genocide
- World War One and the rehabilitation of slaughter