In her Christmas day speech, the Queen encouraged those in need of ‘strength and courage’ to ‘take a deep breath’ when ‘her country’ is broken by the austerity she advocated. We have no need of her ‘majesty’s’ condescension. What does she know of the struggle that many people are going through at a time when the crisis of capitalism has rapidly eroded living conditions for millions of working class people?
2015/16: a review
Going back, we need to understand the events that brought us here:
- The 2008 crash wiped out 13% of global production and 20% of global trade.
- It took global growth negative – on a scale where anything less than 3% growth is counted as a recession.
- In the West, it produced a depression phase longer than in 1929-22 and even now, amid a bland recovery, has got mainstream economists terrified about the prospect of long-term stagnation.
- There is now global debt of $57 trillion. The global money supply rose from $25 trillion to $70 trillion.
Governments intervened and in doing so saved the banks by burying their bad debt; some of it was written off, some assumed as sovereign debt, etc. etc. The crash brought all the contradictions of capitalism to the surface: saturated markets, rising unemployment, plunging stock markets, collapsing giants of finance capital, real-estate prices in free fall, cascading corporate bankruptcies, freezing credit, a shrinking world economy, and contracting world trade.
Then, through austerity, the ruling class – the bankers, financiers and their house-trained politicians – transferred the pain away from themselves, punishing instead welfare recipients, public sector workers, pensioners, future and current generations – overall, the working class.
Everywhere, pension systems have been destroyed. The retirement age is being hiked so now those leaving university will retire at 70 and education is being privatised so that graduates will face a lifetime of high debt. In Britain, the NHS is falling apart.
So now this is the world we are left with – this is all that capitalism has to offer:
2015 saw nearly 100,000 deaths of people who had previously been receiving incapacity benefits (government payment made to people who can’t work because of disability) – recorded in August 2015 with a rate of 99 deaths per day. Additionally, mortality rates in general have increased. New annual figures show the biggest annual rise in deaths in 50 years. “When we look at 2015 we are not just looking at one bad year. We have seen excessive mortality since 2012…We have seen these changes during a period when the health service is in crisis, while social care services have been cut back.” – Danny Dorling (Oxford Professor and Public Health England advisor).
In a study done by the Health and Social Care Information Centre it was shown that in the 10-14 year old age group, admissions of girls had gone up from 3,090 to 5,953 between 2009 and 2013, whilst admissions of boys during the same period were shown to rise from 454 to 659. This is an increase of almost 93% and 45% for girls and boys respectively. Nearly 1 in 10 people now have mixed anxiety and depression whilst suicide rates also have increased since the economic crash of 2008.
Considering there were 3.9 million children living in poverty in the UK in 2014-15 it’s going to take more than the Queen’s absurd prescription of a “deep breath” to keep these kids’ parents going as they work tirelessly to put food on the table for their families. This is a situation faced by 28 per cent of children, or 9 in a classroom of 30.
Work does not provide a guaranteed route out of poverty in the UK. Two-thirds (66 per cent) of children growing up in poverty live in a family where at least one parent works. If the Queen really thinks that the “cumulative impact of thousands of small acts of goodness” can “wipe-out injustice” then perhaps she should not have asked ministers for a poverty handout to help heat her palaces, thankfully it was rebuffed because they feared it would be a public relations disaster.
A new year’s revolution for 2017
All of these figures and statistics have been drawn up since the 2015 election, which saw the Tories gain a majority in Parliament with 24% of the vote. But now we’re in 2017 and what we’ve seen under the Tories so far is only the beginning of further austerity and other cuts, such as education cuts. These increasingly hostile conditions being forced on millions of people creates a situation in which an upsurge of radicalisation from the working class, including people who previously might not have considered themselves working class like doctors, teachers and civil servants, is inevitable.
The final stages of capitalism, Marx wrote, would be marked by developments that are familiar to most of us. Unable to expand and generate profits to previous levels, the capitalist system begins to consume the structures that sustained it in the past. It preys upon, in the name of austerity, the working class and the poor, driving them ever deeper into debt and poverty and clawing back reforms that had been granted in the past. Politics is revealed in its true form – as concentrated economics. Establishment political parties are exposed as hollow and subservient to the dictates and money of global capitalism.
This is our reality and Marx predicted it. Marx has never been more relevant than he is today, in 2017. If we are to change this horrible system then we must study the ideas and methods of Karl Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky. With this knowledge and direction we can hold our heads up high as we fight to unite the working class in the struggle against capitalism and for socialism, as Engels puts it: “from the kingdom of necessity to the kingdom of freedom”.
To the problems of capitalism and the hypocrisy of a backward feudal monarch, there is only one solution – revolution!
by Sammy Meikle, Impington Village College (Cambridge)