From Athens to London: elites entrench rich minority rule

Buy tickets for the Scottish Left Project launch on 29 August in Glasgow

by Ken Ferguson The brutal crushing of the Greek people by the unelected Troika heaps further economic misery on them in order to sustain a neoliberal economic order whose central aim is to reverse the post-war gains in welfare won by workers and to secure the power of the fabulously rich to stay that way. Behind the soul searching about the supposed “surrender” of the Syriza government lies the unavoidable reality that a largely demobilised working class and progressive movement across the continent has offered little in the way of serious opposition to the attacks on welfare and workers.

This has left the way clear for Merkel and Schäuble, Cameron and Osborne to launch all-out war on these gains, as they build a Europe secure for big capital.

In Greece, Schäuble, who oversaw the destruction of East German industry after the fall of the GDR 25 years ago, is now forcing the sell off of Greek state assets including ports, railways, utilities—and in the land of their birth—even the Olympic sites.

This will both enrich the capitalist speculators who snap them up for pence and make any future move away from a marketised system much more difficult.

Of course, there has been plenty of verbal and written handwringing from the left about the errors of Syriza but perhaps this should be tempered with a little humility.

In country after country, the traditional social democratic parties such as British Labour, German SPD or Spain’s PSOE have been willing supporters of the austerity fiction which is the cutting edge of a determined drive to turn Europe into a low pay, casualised zone with vanquished workers and safety for the elite.

Here in the UK, this was dramatically underscored by the mind-boggling Labour decision, in the face of Osborne’s budget attacks, to abstain from voting against them. Of course we already know that whatever the outcome of their leadership election, a majority of Labour MPs swallow the austerity myth and support the cuts.

Now the Tories are moving—with only nominal Labour opposition—to further tighten the anti-union laws to virtually make strikes illegal as they do what the ruling class do best—ruthlessly pursue the interests of their class.

In Scotland, this will inevitably pose questions for the dominant SNP which, while facing left is, as we show elsewhere in this Voice, also placating big business and the markets. Of course, there needs to be the maximum devolution of power on employment rights to Holyrood but this needs to include repeal of the anti-union laws.

Similarly, they cannot claim the anti-austerity mantle and make large scale cuts in local council budgets and the tensions flowing from such a stance can only grow as the Osborne assault intensifies.

The moment cannot be indefinitely postponed where, faced with massive cuts, the SNP in Holyrood and Westminster will have to decide between defiance and resistance or a replay of Labour’s ‘vote against then do what you are told’ approach.

What is undeniable is that across Europe capitalists are using the crisis to move decisively to shape policies which protect their power at the expense of democratic rights, wages and welfare with Cameron and Merkel leading the charge.

In this decisive moment the Labour and progressive movement has—in the words of the Internationale—to “arise from your slumbers” and construct a fighting alternative to the rampant power of the elites.

Here in Scotland, that must mean firstly holding the SNP to its public anti-austerity pledges and demanding more that fine speeches and musical chairs in Westminster.

The power and prestige currently in the SNP’s hands must be placed firmly behind the demands of those facing the brutal cuts which we examine elsewhere in this Voice. The time for balancing acts between capital an labour are over and it is time to answer the age old question—which side are you on?

For Scotland’s left, the cuts avalanche gathering pace on ‘Ben Osborne’ places the urgent task of fashioning a pro-independence left challenge both defending immediate lobs and services and moving beyond market brutality, firmly on the agenda.

That is why the Voice and the SSP is working with others in the SLP to fashion a united movement which can both campaign in workplaces and communities, and raise the prospect of a pro-indy left presence in Holyrood after next May’s polls.

This must also be part of a wider movement, with bodies such as STUC and a range of progressive bodies taking the lead to build on the June anti-cuts demonstration with an active ongoing campaign of resistance to cuts, sackings and the demonisation of the many by a Tory press serving the Westminster Etonian axe wielders.

Time is short, the attacks are brutal and delay is not an option.

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