AFTER 2008, the masses of the world showed they were not about to give up all their hard-won gains so that the banks, whose methods had so successfully ushered in the greatest collapse of the capitalist economy in history, could carry on sponging up all the wealth.
What should be done about it?
Trotsky put it crisply at the end of his 1938 pamphlet Their Morals and Ours just before the Second World War: ‘Civilisation can be saved only by the socialist revolution.’
The central point is to overthrow capitalism and build a socialist society, and the crisis boils down to building the leadership to lead the working class to do just this.
The reply of the bourgeoisie is not only to mobilise the state to defend the established order but also to develop a line of ideology, that will grip the petty-bourgeois intellectuals, who can then be used to try and divert the masses from the overthrow of capitalism by disorientating as many workers as possible.
So how do the epigones of Thatcher currently infesting parliamentary politics put it, along with their hangers-on amongst reformism and revisionism?
They say that they want a moral version of capitalism, a responsible capitalism.
The real capitalism, meanwhile, is busying itself with moral bombing campaigns, blessed by Bishops and priests, in Libya, Syria etc under the moral smokescreen of ‘a humanitarian’ slaughter.
Both public schoolboy David Cameron and the jelly poured into the mould shaped by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, known as Ed Miliband, have been discovering morality.
They have put their minds to a moral deceit, to suffocate the masses from taking action.
There is a crisis because some Bankers are bad people, they are immoral, we are to understand.
The answer to the crisis is in morality, not revolution.
Trotsky advises us of the roots of this Anglo-Saxon morality as a common sense secular secretion hiding from its religious roots.
In bankers it is a lack of morality – not the operation of the laws of motion of the capitalist system: ‘the barely extending of a single passion too far or the continuance… of it too long, has brought irrecoverable ruin and misery’ as the Third Earl of Shaftesbury might have put it at the turn of the 18th century.
Their single passion: avarice, is after all one of the medievalists’ seven deadly sins.
That bankers are the gatekeepers and usurers of capitalism, without whose approving gaze (and handsome credit terms) nothing moves, escapes nobody.
But every credit is also simultaneously a debt, introducing a dialectic into the process; but only the godless Marxists in their ‘moral vacuum’ will avow that.
The utilitarians of the Conservative Party know only the moral criterion of money, but if pushed hard for a philosopher or two in justification of the defence of wealth will come up with the names of Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill: ‘the greatest possible happiness of the greatest possible number’, following Shaftesbury in snubbing religion, and going one step beyond Shaftesbury’s innate morality to something external.
However, we live in a world dominated by capitalist crisis and class struggle, with a class war government. Trotsky points out:
‘Morality is one of the ideological functions in this struggle. The ruling class forces its ends upon society and habituates it into considering all those means which contradict its ends as immoral. That is the chief function of official morality. It pursues the idea of the “greatest possible happiness” not for the majority but for a small and ever diminishing minority. Such a regime could not have endured for even a week through force alone. It needs the cement of morality.’
On January 19 this year, Cameron made a speech defending the morality of capitalism, even as capital was crashing about his ears.
‘And my argument today is this.
‘We won’t build a better economy by turning our back on the free market, we’ll do it by making sure that the market is fair as well as free.
‘While of course there is a role for government, for regulation and intervention, the real solution is more enterprise, competition and innovation.
‘In this debate about the kind of economy we want to see, my position is clear.
‘I believe that open markets and free enterprise are the best imaginable force for improving human wealth and happiness.
‘They are the engine of progress, generating the enterprise and innovation that lifts people out of poverty and gives people opportunity.
‘And I would go further: where they work properly, open markets and free enterprise can actually promote morality.’
And in October 2009, he summarised his election platform: ‘Family, community, country. Recognising that what holds society together is responsibility and that the good society is a responsible society.’
He spelled out the nature of irresponsible society for the weak of understanding: ‘But we are the party that understands how to make capitalism work; the party that has constantly defended our open economy against the economics of socialism.’
For the last three decades at least, it was taken for granted that the word capitalism should not be spoken except in jest. Now that the capitalist world is sinking under sovereign debt and austerity measures that smash every class compromise, calling the system by its name has become the norm – in order to defend its methods from the ‘morally’ indefensible.
The leader of her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition was not to be outdone by Cameron’s display of piety. On the same day, he made a speech so similar to Cameron’s that it was impossible not to marvel at the prospect of a national government to save the nation.
To take a few lines not quite at random, Miliband sank his gums into the demonically possessed:
‘From bank charges to train costs, from energy companies to low cost airlines and pensions, the Government can act.
‘I welcome the fact that other leaders are coming onto the ground that I set out in my Labour Party conference speech about the need to tackle predatory capitalism.
‘If he is serious about tackling irresponsible capitalism he needs to clamp down on the fact that train companies are ripping people off.
‘If he is serious about tackling irresponsible capitalism he needs to take action to break up the rigged energy market.
‘If he is serious about tackling irresponsible capitalism he needs to take action to stop those exorbitant bank charges.
‘We will have to make difficult choices that all of us wish we did not have to make.
‘So we must rethink how we achieve fairness for Britain in a time when there is less money to spend.
‘There are some who say that fairness is a luxury we cannot afford in tough times.
‘That it is inevitable that this country must become:
‘That fairness is something for good times, and nothing more.
‘I believe that is profoundly wrong.
‘Building long-term wealth creation, tackling vested interests, and being clear about our priorities – that is how we can deliver fairness even when there is less money around.
‘It’s my agenda for a fairer country and a more responsible capitalism.
The job of government is to tickle capitalism’s belly to make it smile.
That capitalism is a system of exploitation based on commodity production and class division with objective laws is avoided by both Tory and milk-and-water Labourite alike, though at least Cameron can claim a stronger sense of history: his examples of great Tory reforms (Peel and the Corn Laws, Disraeli and the Factory Acts) remind us that the Tories have a long history of throwing bones at the working class to avoid insurrection – and that the preferred party of the ruling class has achieved nothing of note in the intervening two centuries.
The other conclusion to which we are led by both these Lilliputians is that there is only capitalism and can only ever be.
On socialism they are both agreed: it is to be hung with a leper’s bell.
And the result of all this moral trickery: a bankers’ bonus denied, a knighthood stripped and Chancellor Osborne’s failed initiative over the banks’ refusal to issue credit, Project Merlin equals zero as the capitalist crisis deepens with entire states clinging by their fingertips over the edge of the abyss.
• Part Two on Monday