In moments of desperation, capitalist governments reveal themselves. Take these two examples: Alistair Darling’s prognosis for the British economy and the recent bail-outs of US mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Darling’s admission that the economic crisis will be worse than most people thought, his slashing of growth forecasts and comments about voters being “pissed off” with New Labour paint a pretty picture of the turmoil at the heart of government. Couple this with his intransigent stand at the TUC and we’re reminded that the concerns of this government lie not with the working class but with the interests of capital. The Brown government is panicked not because millions of us face spiralling costs and lower pay but because the profits and bank accounts of those who control the British economy are in a precarious state.
The US governments decision to bail out the nation’s two largest mortgage firms – Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — illustrates this point more clearly. With repossession rates more than doubling since 2007 and set to get worse, the government steps in not with an aid package to help those at risk of losing their homes but a massive bail-out for the mortgage companies. Government agencies have taken control of the firms, replaced both chief executives and lined up a $200 billion package of state investment. The motivating factor and immediate result of this move was to boost an ailing Wall Street. The Dow Jones and NASDAQ indexes both surged in the days after the takeover.
The bottom line for all capitalist governments is to defend the interests of capital. Reforms — sometimes significant, life changing reforms — are possible but when faced with a choice between the needs of the vast majority of workers and the profits of a small bandit crew of capitalists, the profits win out every time.
We need another kind of government, a workers’ government. Such a government does not just sit at the top of society, deciding what is best for those below it. No, it is a government of, for and democratically accountable to the working class. It acts independently of and aims to overturn the interests of capital, it acts in the interests of the vast majority against elite interests. A workers government isn’t simply elected in a ballot-box contest but is the product of class struggle, of a labour movement that recognises the need for independent class politics and is willing to fight for it.
The struggle to transform the labour movement, to turn it into a tool for consistent class struggle is posed more sharply by the unfolding economic and related social crises. If we cannot respond, others will: the growth of the fascist BNP and the likelihood of a Tory government indicate this.