Statement by the News LIne Editorial Board
THE NEWS LINE Editorial Board sends its May Day greetings to the working class and the poor of the world who are confronting a bankrupt capitalist system gripped by the greatest economic crisis in its history.
Our special May Day greetings go to the struggling people of Occupied Palestine, to the Syrian masses that have driven the imperialists and their agents out of their country, to the struggling masses of the Lebanon, and to the anti-imperialist masses of Iran fighting brutal US-UK imperialist sanctions.
Our message is that 2020 is the year when the working class of the world, driven forward by the greatest ever crisis of capitalism, will come to your aid by smashing imperialism.
In fact the world crisis of capitalism is today driving forward the world socialist revolution in every corner of the planet.
The depth of the historic crisis of capitalism is terrifying bodies like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) whose managing director Kristalina Georgieva said last month: ‘We anticipate the worst economic fallout since the Great Depression.’
Georgieva stated: ‘Just three months ago, we expected positive per capita income growth in over 160 of our member countries in 2020. Today, that number has been turned on its head: We now project that over 170 countries will experience negative per capita income growth this year.’
Georgieva’s apocalyptic prediction is in fact an underestimation of the intense crisis of capitalism, and that crisis has only just got going. This is the death agony of capitalism, where the coronavirus pandemic has exposed the inherent bankruptcy of an entire system drowning in hundreds of trillions of dollars of debt.
According to the IMF: ‘This is a truly global crisis as no country is spared,’ adding: ‘For the first time since the Great Depression both advanced economies and emerging market and developing economies are in recession.’
Nothing summed up the despair felt by a whole section of the bourgeoisie more accurately than when the chief executive of the giant Ford motor company James Hackett announced to a stunned audience this week that Ford’s had lost $2 billion saying: ‘There is no future’.
Hackett was not just talking about Ford’s – the entire capitalist system has no future except crashing from recession into a worldwide Great Depression.
America, the world’s largest economy shrank, with analysts predicting the deepest recession in 80 years.
Today a third of the world’s population is living under lockdown regulations because of the coronavirus pandemic, throwing millions of workers into unemployment.
In the US, nearly 27 million workers have registered unemployment claims so far with the weekly unemployment rate increasing by a staggering 5.7 million.
In the UK, 11.7 million workers have been thrown out of work either by being furloughed or sacked as businesses and industry close down.
The same massive figures have been recorded throughout Europe.
In France, more than a third of all employees, nearly 10 million people, are estimated to have lost their jobs.
In Germany, the strongest of all EU economies, has shown a surge in unemployment in all its main sectors, manufacturing, construction, services and trade.
With every major capitalist industry and the hundreds of thousands of small businesses closed down, the fact is that the overwhelming majority will not reopen but instead crash into bankruptcy, leaving all these millions of workers along with the hundreds of millions of people in the emerging economies with nothing.
In Africa alone, the African Union is predicting that 20 million jobs will be lost due to the pandemic.
The response of the capitalist class to this crisis has been to pump hundreds of trillions of dollars, pounds and euros into the hands of the bosses and bankers in an attempt to keep them afloat.
In the US, Trump has authorised up to $6 trillion in emergency assistance to the corporations and banks while according to a study by the Washington Post in April at least 3 million workers have yet to be paid even the pittance of unemployment benefit they are due.
In Britain, the Tory government brought in its own stimulus packages totalling £80 billion handed out to the bosses in one way or another.
The European Union has offered to print half a trillion euros to bail out the economies of the Eurozone countries, a bailout that was rejected by the Spanish government out of fear that countries such as Italy would refuse to repay any ‘loans’ brought forward by the EU scheme.
Printing trillions of worthless paper money, piling debt upon an already massive world debt mountain is the only way capitalism has of trying to avert an historic crash.
Global sovereign debt soared to a record $2.1 trillion in March this year as governments rushed to raise funds to try and avert economic disaster.
Already before the coronavirus pandemic hit, the total global debt across all sectors of the world economy stood at $255 trillion, over 322% of the world GDP. In other words the capitalist world was bankrupt more than three times over.
With this latest round of debt this mountain has grown to 342% of GDP.
This debt has to be repaid and countries face very shortly having to refinance their debts through acquiring even bigger debt or going bankrupt.
The coronavirus pandemic is not the cause of capitalism’s massive debt time bomb but it has proved to be the sharp blade that has punctured the bubble and brought the capitalist financial system plunging into the abyss of corporate, bank and state bankruptcy.
At the same time, the coronavirus pandemic has ruthlessly exposed the fault lines of world capitalism.
It has destroyed all attempts at global cooperation between the capitalist states turning former allies in the EU into bitter enemies as each capitalist class retreats into their own nation state for survival.
In the US it has even seen individual states competing with one another over medical resources.
Capitalism is breaking apart under the impact of the world crisis, a bankrupt system based entirely on the pursuit of profit at all costs with the health of workers and their families of no consequence.
The drive for profit at all costs saw health systems systematically butchered across the capitalist world in order to claw back the money spent bailing out the banks from the 2008 crash.
All the warnings about the dangers of a pandemic that were made by the World Health Organisation, all the studies conducted by national health systems in the wake of the previous SARS epidemic that broke out in 2003 were ignored – particularly by the UK government.
No preparations were made to supply the medical equipment a pandemic requires, in fact supplies were deliberately run down in order to save money.
Under the ‘herd immunity’ policy promoted by the Tories in the UK and taken up by bourgeois politicians in the US and across the world, the deaths of millions of elderly workers was hailed as a price worth paying to keep industry going and the profits rolling in.
Only when workers across the world expressed their anger at this disregard for the lives of the elderly was the ruling class and its politicians forced to declare a lockdown.
Today in their desperation to stave off the inevitable worldwide crash the capitalist class are demanding an end to the coronavirus lockdown regardless of the danger to the lives of millions of workers.
The cry from the bosses is for a rapid return to work and that the ‘lockdown cure is worse than the cause’.
In the US, which has recorded over 1 million cases of the disease and nearly 60,000 deaths, Trump announced a three-phase plan to open up business in America regardless of tens of thousands of deaths.
In Britain last Monday, Tory Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that he is due to speak to Labour Party leader Keir Starmer about policies to relax and end lockdown.
Tory ministers have already held meetings with trade union leaders about ending the lockdown and the conditions for returning to work including ‘no strike deals’.
The ruling capitalist class has been shattered and cannot exist without massive multi-billions in state aid, while the millions of the middle class have been wiped out, losing everything and getting angrier and angrier.
For the majority of workers, some 11 million, there will be no jobs to return to.
Along with mass unemployment capitalism will seek salvation by inflicting savage cuts to workers’ rights, and the pay and conditions for those jobs that still exist while making strike action illegal.
The ruling class are under no illusions that any attempt to destroy workers’ rights will be met with revolutionary resistance from workers.
In this crisis the ruling class is forced to rely on the treachery of the labour and trade union leaders to answer the call for ‘national unity’ and join with the bosses and capitalist state in steamrolling through cuts to wages, hours and conditions with the ultimate prize being to ban strikes completely in order to ‘save’ bankrupt capitalism.
The trade union leaders are already collaborating with the Tories while the Labour Party leader Starmer is ready and willing to form a National Government with Johnson to save capitalism at the expense of the working class.
In fact, the social-democrats and reformist leaders of the trade unions in every capitalist nation are prepared to betray the working class and take on the mantle of the national saviours of capitalism.
However, the UK ruling class are under no illusion that they are sitting on a powder-keg of revolution.
This was spelt out in a recent article in The Daily Telegraph by John O’Connell, the chief executive of the right wing TaxPayers’ Alliance.
He wrote of the revolutionary implications of massive national debt by referring to the history of British capitalism, stating: ‘The 18th century saw British debt grow to unprecedented levels. It was driven by the wars of the Spanish and Austrian Succession and by the end of the Seven Years War in 1763 national debt eclipsed annual GDP for the first time at 103 per cent.’
O’Connell warns that there were revolutionary consequences of that debt. ‘By 1764 the British government had no choice but to address it with taxes in North America, teeing up the War of Independence in 1775.’
Paying off a national debt that exceeded GDP brought about conditions for the American Revolution.
Referring to the previous attempts by UK Tory governments to reduce the national debt he applauds Margaret Thatcher’s reign as prime minister in the 1980s when the Tories were ‘getting close to low debt levels’ – a reduction that was achieved through an all-out war on the miners, seafarers, Fleet Street printers, along with the introduction of the hated Poll Tax that finally brought her down.
Debt reduction was paid for by the working class and the ruling class across the world have no option but to unleash an even greater class war than Thatcher dreamt of.
O’Connell concludes that if the UK is to reduce debt at the post-1939-45 war pace, this debt would need to fall by 5.3% annually for eight years, and adds: ‘Whether the government can do that will decide the next chapter of our history.’
This is the situation that confronts capitalism internationally today – it must impose the most brutal conditions of a world Great Depression on a powerful, undefeated international working class.
It is clear that the capitalist class is too weak to carry out this counter-revolution on its own and relies on the treachery of the reformist leadership in the unions and social democratic parties to come to its aid, including forming national governments, to try to bar the road to a workers socialist revolution.
The UK working class must defeat the trade union and Labour bureaucracies efforts to sell out to the ruling class, by building the new revolutionary leadership of the WRP in the trade unions, supported by a mass youth movement of revolutionary youth in the Young Socialists to organise and lead the struggle for the working class to take the power.
In fact the historic requirement is to build sections of the International Committee of the Fourth International in every country, especially in the USA and throughout Europe to smash capitalism and imperialism in its main bases, to go forward to a Socialist USA and a Socialist United States of Europe.
This will create the conditions for all the oppressed nations to seize control over their own countries and for the working class of the deformed workers states of Russia and China to restore rule through workers’ soviets.
The message from May Day is to build the revolutionary party and sections of the International Committee of the Fourth International in every country to lead the struggle for the working class internationally to take the power in 2020, completing the world socialist revolution that was begun in October 1917, when the Russian working class took the power and established the first workers’ state.