MPs’ Expenses Scandal

The System is Bankrupt in Every Sense

Previously in the pages of Revolutionary Perspectives we have described the inevitable link between the economic crisis of capitalism and the social crisis as relentless pressure has undermined the most basic structures of capitalist society, including the family, the education system and obviously the world of work. Now we can clearly see the crisis in the whole capitalist state structure. As the sour reality of capitalism’s economic disaster translates into mass unemployment, poverty and despair the entire state apparatus demonstrates over and over again its relationship with society and the nature of that society. From the aggression shown to demonstrators at the G20 summit by police to the abuse of MPs’ expenses, the State demonstrates its true face behind the unreal facade of ideology. It is not a neutral body safeguarding the interests of all members of a pluralist society, but an organ of repression exactly as described by Marx, Lenin and all those revolutionaries who have not abandoned the terrain of the class struggle in favour of an impossible illusion of somehow using the capitalist state apparatus to the benefit of those it is designed to oppress. The state is an organ of oppression safeguarding the interests of the ruling class, a ruling class whose lackeys are rewarded for services rendered to maintaining the status quo of exploitation. This is an elementary Marxist lesson that the so-called left, today’s abysmal leaders of the so-called “labour movement” incapable of protecting the working class, which at every opportunity ties the working class to the illusions of parliament, nationalisation and the vote has failed to understand or consciously rejected. Through their abandonment of the class struggle and hatred of the despised revolutionary minorities they too are objectively equally part of the capitalist system which confronts us.

All the parliamentary parties are tarred by the scandal of MP’s expense claims, whose details are so widely known they do not need reprinting, Sure, some MPs may have not partaken of the trough, but parliament as a whole stands condemned for its attempt to seal itself off from the Freedom of Information Act earlier this year - in a backbench bill supported by the government and the Speaker, a Speaker whose resignation in no way diminishes the magnitude of the crime against society committed by the charlatans and hypocrites whose life is dedicated to the preservation of an immoral, bankrupt, useless system - capitalism. And that is the real crime, the robbery of generations of workers to create the incomprehensible wealth of the billionaires who are the real ruling force in this and every other country, the controllers of the productive forces which leaves us, the working class as powerless sellers of our labour power on the cheap, if we are lucky.

Left or Right - Both are Capitalist

The current hatred of all members of parliament which our rulers rightly fear, the possible backlash of what we communists have long advocated - abstention from the election process on an unprecedented scale, truly reflects the reality of the obvious convergence of the parliamentary parties to the point that there is no real difference between them. The mass of the electorate, the working class, is not a reference point for any of them, Labour bought into Thatcherism. For decades it feared to question anything about the market, or the private sector. Then the Conservatives bought into Labour’s social agenda. From their previous dogma of “supporting family values” they now wanted to be “inclusive” so criticising gays, for instance, was as taboo as professing a belief in socialism. Despite the fact that the class gulf has only widened, the political system has simply carried on its love-affair with neo-liberalism to the point of disaster and now the public has had enough of being robbed blind by the capitalists and their political lackeys. The reality of crisis is exploding all around. Despite the unprecedented indebtedness of the British State, unemployment has leapt up by record levels.

The number of people out of work soared by almost a quarter of a million in the first three months of this year, figures show. The rise of 244,000 is the biggest quarterly increase in the jobless total since 1981 and was larger than many analysts had predicted. It takes the number of people in the UK now looking for work to just over 2.2 million, the worst figure since 1996. (1)

Previously staunch working class labour areas are forced to accept that the party they have supported for generations has nothing to offer them. Take for example the South Yorkshire town of Barnsley;

In the bluff northern town of Barnsley, where ugly concrete blocks jostle with fine old public buildings in a town centre ringed by rows of terraced housing, Labour was struggling to counter the BNP’s advance well before the recession struck.
This is a former coalmining community where 15,000 men were employed in 16 pits as recently as the 1980s, and whose economy and raison d’être collapsed when the last of those pits was closed in the early 1990s.
Those mines have now vanished beneath shopping centres, industrial estates or country parks, and the handsome stone building that houses Mr Scargill’s once-mighty National Union of Mineworkers is occupied by little besides ghosts.
But many of Barnsley’s 220,000 inhabitants remain wedded to “old Labour”, and feel betrayed by a “new Labour” Government that has - they believe - forgotten its working-class roots and ceased fighting for the underdog as its members milk the public purse.
The town’s deprivation is obvious in the downmarket shops - though it does have a wonderful market - and ubiquitous groups of unemployed youths loitering on street corners. There is little industry left. The council and hospital are the biggest employers. Outside the public sector, employment is mostly in minimum-wage retail or service jobs. A quarter of the workforce is economically inactive and on some form of benefits, and the town has one of the highest rates of obesity - 10 per cent - in England.
Barnsley’s sense of betrayal helped the BNP to secure 17 per cent of the vote in last May’s local elections, and although it won no council seats it beat the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats into third place behind Labour and the independents. Since then the party’s prospects have only improved. Nationally, Labour staggers from one debacle to another, while locally the recession has clobbered an economy that had begun to recover for the first time since the pits closed. (2)

As a capitalist party, Labour, New Labour or whatever else it may wish to call itself has no option that to follow the logic of profit, the logic of attacking the working class, the logic of allowing mass unemployment, the logic of cutbacks in services, in short the logic of a class war that favour the rich, the class who dictate the tune to which all the parliamentary parties must sing. As the gap between the parties narrowed, as Labour wouldn’t mention the economics of left and right, and the Tories wouldn’t mention the social aspects of left and right, politics became management. There was no fundamental difference over their perspectives of the future. Neo-liberalism had triumphed. Thatcher’s mantra “There is no alternative” stuck. All that was left were tiny details; for a decade we read about the “intense tribal war” between Brownites and Blairites. And now we’ve lived under the government of both. What was the difference, other than the fact one of them is much worse at public relations now that the speculative bubble has collapsed and the reality of a disabled capitalism has struck home? So much ink could only have been spilt on such a trivial political distinction in a system where all the real political differences had been removed as embarrassing eccentricities. The politics of the struggle between the different social groups; the fight for any real change in who gets what, was dropped from the agenda. If the working class had been disarmed by the ideological campaign following the collapse of the USSR, broken up by the rearranging of working life demanded by the death of old industries and the rise of micro-technology, its unity undermined by unemployment, its most militant sectors brutally smashed (remember the 1984-85 miners’ strike) and capitalism given a lease of life by deregulation which allowed all sorts of financial chicanery, then such a bland, conflict-free scene was feasible for a little while, but as we all know, the cosy little arrangement has exploded and the political world with it. MPs’ expenses may be the match which has ignited the powder keg, but the problem has been building up for decades. The party selection process turned parliamentary party candidates into pre-packaged automatons emitted from party HQ. Party membership haemorrhaged. Labour support, for instance, literally disappeared after the Iraq war. Party conferences are glitzy showpieces.

Without any political substance, without any reference to the real world of haves and have nots, MPs can only behave like any other manager, any other business leader. Get rich not surprisingly, became their motivation, so they engaged in ridiculous shows of wealth, luxury purchases, with no ethical concerns. Just like capitalism, just like the class they represent, a robber class, a parasitic class.

There is Only One Real Alternative

Marx wrote that capitalism’s recurring crisis put the whole bourgeois mode of production on trial. The capitalist totality has been revealed to an unprecedented extent for what it is, a faulty dangerous antique that is unfit for human consumption. The shattering of faith in the parliamentary system can only be welcomed by the revolutionary vanguard who have long advocated the end of parliamentary “democracy” which is only the “fig-leaf” hiding the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. For true revolutionaries, there is no progress whilst the bourgeoisie remain in power. It makes no difference what the political window dressing may be, which one of the many songs all composed to the same tune of class division the political puppets may sing. The justified anger at the MPs, the police who take off their numbers to batter protestors, the economic misery growing all around help make the case for revolution. But revolutionaries do not seek to take the place of the MPs. The system was designed for running capitalism not for building socialism.

We have a revolutionary programme. We call on workers to join forces in class struggle to begin a strike wave that goes beyond the control of the unions and join struggles together, to involve the local communities in struggle, to build up strike committees run by workers, not union bureaucrats, to create the mass organs of workers’ councils. There is no other progressive step to take. We are not calling for a useless day of action here and there, we are not calling for stricter monitoring of MPs’ expenses, we have no illusions in capitalism’s ability to do any other than worsen the conditions of life of the working class and our call is for the building up of the revolutionary party and the unleashing of class struggle without a truce as the only positive option for the working class.


(1) . Part of a a global trend - In just three months fifty million people worldwide have lost their jobs. In the USA 32.2 million people, or more than ten per cent of the population, are now receiving food stamps (worth $83 or £56 per month). This is not just a crisis about deregulated capitalism but the deepest capitalist crisis since the Second World War. Having exploded in the financial sphere, the knock-on effects for the real economy - which is in fact where the crisis was born - are overwhelming.

(2) The Times May 12 2009.

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