Robert Griffiths asks who should govern Britain? Monopoly corporations through the EU, the Bank of England, Nato and the Pentagon — or the people, through their mass movements and elected representatives?
Poor Oliver Letwin. Like Jim Carrey in the US comedy film Liar, Liar, he can’t help blurting out inconvenient and embarrassing truths.
In the case of Carrey’s screen character, his son had cast a spell on him to halt the torrent of lies.
In Letwin’s case, his wealthy Eton and Oxbridge background have given him such a colossal sense of superiority and entitlement that he imagines himself to be bullet-proof.
His views of black people and the “lower classes” from above provide further insights into the mind of a ruling-class politician who is currently a senior policy adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron.
This, after all, is the Tory MP who was seen dumping piles of constituents’ correspondence into five different bins in a public park near Downing Street, so little did their problems concern him.
In the past, Letwin has voiced his willingness to beg rather than allow his offspring to attend a state school like 93 per cent of other children.
He once admitted that the NHS would not survive five years of Conservative government cuts, reorganisation and privatisation — a prediction now on course to be realised.
Soon after Chancellor George Osborne made the first of many doomed announcements that austerity policies would ensure a rosy future for the British economy, Letwin declared that it faced an “immediate national crisis.”
That certainly turned out to be the case in 2012, when VAT increases and deeper public spending cuts choked off the economic recovery begun under the outgoing Labour government.
Since then, the Tories have dumped their little Lib Dem helpers to step up the ruling class offensive against public services and the welfare state, against the poor and disabled including children, and against trade union and democratic rights.
Only fresh increases in property values and household borrowing have so far maintained economic demand, although recent growth figures have been revised downwards towards near-zero.
Even after the cuts in social and welfare spending, tax relief for the rich and big business would be driving Britain’s public finances into the ditch were it not for record fire-sales of public-sector assets.
In 2015, Osborne collected £20bn from flogging off cut-price bank, building society and Royal Mail shares to his party’s paymasters in the City. He’s counting on another £41bn between now and 2020.
He and Cameron must be praying that Letwin doesn’t blurt out the truth about their “long-term economic plan” and “northern powerhouse” — that they don’t really exist.
These are fictions to fool the people with the aid of the right-wing media.
What is real, however, is a ruling class strategy to boost the corporate profit base through tax reductions, international tax dodging and extensive privatisation of the health, education and criminal justice systems. Organised labour is to be weakened by new laws in a deregulated market.
Big business will want to keep Britain in the pro-austerity, anti-democratic European Union, while seeking to escape even the mildest regulation of the financial sector.
British imperialism will continue to regard EU and Nato membership as vital to serving its economic and financial interests around the world, not least in the important greater Middle East region.
As British capital continues to draw vast profit from its global operations, foreign states and private monopolies will be bribed to invest in Britain’s backward energy and transport infrastructure.
The price will be paid, literally, by workers and consumers here for generations to come.
This is the scenario facing the peoples of Britain and our labour and progressive movements today.
We cannot allow this Tory government to wage class war on every front without responding with equal and greater force.
Every socialist and communist should play whatever part they can in their local trade union, student, tenant, People’s Assembly, CND or Stop the War organisation and its activities.
We must march, demonstrate, lobby and strike against Tory government policies on an even bigger scale than before. But we also need to do so around a popular left-wing alternative programme. This should include:
– New powers to enforce equal pay and the national minimum wage.
– An end to statutory pay discrimination against young workers.
– A wealth tax on the super-rich and higher taxes on big business profits.
– A “Robin Hood” tax on financial speculation.
– An end to all PFI and privatisation schemes.
– Public ownership of gas, electricity, water, mail and the railways.
– Massive public sector low-interest investment in energy and transport.
– A huge council house building programme.
– Reversal of all benefit cuts and the reintroduction of student maintenance grants.
– Devolution of substantial economic and financial powers to local government.
– Powerful Scottish and Welsh parliaments and elected English regional assemblies in a federal Britain.
– No more nuclear weapons.
In Jeremy Corbyn, we now have a Labour Party leader who is closer to these kinds of policies than anyone since Keir Hardie.
But the left still has to win the battle of ideas inside the labour movement, especially in the Labour Party. This is particularly so in four areas.
First, the case must be clearly made for democratic, British public ownership of our electricity, gas, water, nuclear and railway industries in place of French, German, Dutch, Belgian and Chinese public ownership.
This would also end the grim farce of feeble regulators conducting frequent inquiries into rip-off practices.
Second, the only consistently democratic alternative to reactionary nationalism and the Tory devolution “tax trap” is a fully federal Britain.
Scottish separation under current conditions would weaken the labour movement and strengthen the forces of reaction on both sides of the border.
Labour should come out clearly for Scottish and Welsh parliaments with wide-ranging economic, financial and legislative powers; for English regional assemblies where popular support exists; for replacing the House of Lords with an English or federal chamber; and for equal status between the nations of Britain.
This should be accompanied if not preceded by a radical process of wealth redistribution across Britain from the City and the south-east to workers and families in every region and nation.
As new figures show the wealth gap getting bigger again, a modest 2 per cent assets tax on the richest one-tenth of the population would wipe out Britain’s annual public spending deficit at a stroke.
Third, with Trident renewal set to cost at least £167bn over 40 years, the labour movement must wholeheartedly embrace the campaign to scrap Britain’s weapons of mass murder.
The money saved could redeploy all armaments workers in socially useful research, development and production in such varied spheres as marine technology, civil defence and Third World development.
Finally, the labour movement needs to end its infatuation with the European Union.
It is absurd to imagine that as the world’s fifth biggest economy, Britain could not trade with the rest of Europe and the world to mutual advantage, while also safeguarding jobs by having the freedom to protect vital industries and enterprises.
As workers and their organisations are coming to understand across Europe, the basic treaties and organisations of the EU have been designed in favour of big business and are intentionally unreformable.
It will be hard enough winning a Labour government that will challenge monopoly and state power in Britain.
Why wear additional shackles that bind us to the EU Commission, the European Central Bank, monetarism, a super-exploited labour market and pro-big business trade deals such as TTIP?
Already, EU laws and treaties ban large-scale borrowing for public-sector investment — as the SNP government has discovered — and make it unlawful for states to legislate for equal treatment for guest workers (hence the Luxembourg ruling at the European Court of Justice). They effectively outlaw the non-commercial use of public ownership for social or environmental purposes.
Who should govern Britain?
Monopoly corporations through the EU, the Bank of England, Nato and the Pentagon — or the people, through their mass movements and elected representatives?
Robert Griffiths is general secretary of the Communist Party and a contributor to 21centurymanifesto