In the weeks and months prior to the 2015 elections in Britain, there were at least six variations on the theme of re-energising the capitalist mode of production, within these troubled Islands. Each political party, from the Green Party, through UKIP, the SNP, the Liberal Party, the Labour Party and the Conservatives, presented its programme for saving capitalism from its growing contradictions. Despite on the one hand, growing poverty, wide-spread long-term unemployment, precarious employment and welfare cuts for millions of ordinary citizens, the elections have resulted in a victory for the Conservatives. In other words, a majority of those in Britain who did bother to vote (approximately 60% of those entitled) – whatever their individual motives – in effect have collectively voted for – more of the same.
For the last period of UK Lib/Con government, that ‘same’ has been a rise in zero-hours working, an increase in the need for working families to visit food banks in order to feed their families, increases in basic amenity prices – such as electricity, gas and water, along with welfare cuts. On the other hand the very rich have got very much richer and those with sufficient spare wealth have managed at least to hang onto it or slightly increase it. This may go some way to explain some basic – and perhaps startling – changes in the voting patterns, which are quite unprecedented, if not entirely a surprise. Perhaps one of the most notable results of this election has been the almost total elimination of the Liberal Democrats in Scotland and England. Liberal Democrats are of course, politically ‘conservatives’ with slightly less enthusiasm than Tory leaders for neo-liberal capitalism.
The second most notable result is the almost total elimination of the Labour Party in Scotland and its severe decline in much of the north of England. The Labour Party has long claimed to be the party of the working classes, but despite this kind of rhetoric, it also has primarily been a party of welfare capitalism. That is to say its leaders have always wished to ‘manage’ the capitalist mode of production in such a way as to protect working people – but only from the worst hardships visited upon them by an unbridled capitalist system! For many years, this meant that until the advent of the Liberal Democrats, there were two main political parties in the business of managing a capitalism which – at that time – was no longer in crisis. The two were the Conservative Party and the Labour Party. With the later advent of the Liberal Democrats, there were three such parties.
However, the post-war decades of economic growth, in the UK were followed by decades of contraction and since the 1990’s by a decade or two of severe systemic economic and financial crisis. For an extended period of time, the political changes in the UK (as elsewhere) lagged behind the changes in the economic and social situation. Now these belated changes are making themselves felt. Many working people during the Blair period were already disillusioned with the Labour Party and are now increasingly abandoning their traditional voting loyalties. In seeking to protect or further their interests, many white and blue-collar workers are turning to UKIP in England and to the Scottish National Party in Scotland. At the same time a section of the middle-classes who previously saw the Liberal Democrats as representing a middle way between non-Blairite Labour and Conservatives have since the last five years of Con/Lib coalition, changed their minds and returned – perhaps mainly to the Conservatives.
During the previously noted pre-election speeches and documents, leading up to the May 2015 election, not one of the seven main parties in several televised debates, mentioned the crisis nature of the capitalist mode of production. It seems not to have dawned on these political leaders that the system they were competing to ‘lead’ was in almost terminal melt-down – economically, financially, socially, morally and politically. As with all the others on the various televised ‘show‘s, even the so-called ‘radical’ parties such as the Greens, SNP and UKIP, also saw the economic growth of capitalism as the way forward to solve the multiple crises facing the global system and its suffering subjects and economic rejects. And in terms of rejection, it is also interesting to consider the almost 40% of eligible voters who did not bother to vote.
This last point means that out of every five potential voters, up to two on average did not bother to vote. In other words, millions of people – amid the current dire crisis in the UK – rejected not only all the parties displaying their pro-capitalist wares, but rejected the entire system of voting for who would rule over them. Not only that but many millions, who did vote in Scotland, for example, have voted to opt-out of the current system of British politics. Add to these those who didn’t vote at all and this gives a measure of the socio-economic crisis facing the UK, but mainly – as yet – lurking beneath the surface. This election has revealed not only the death of liberalism in its previous social-democratic forms but also the emergence of more radical politics. This is a tendency which will continue – especially as the political representatives of capital, in the form of the Conservative Party – have manage to get a small overall majority.
This means the political elite solution to the five-fold crisis of Capitalism in the UK (as elsewhere) will be sought by further radical measures of austerity, further redundancies, further welfare cuts, and a further strengthening of the coercive forces of the state. The latter will be deemed necessary because these representatives of capital, realise there will be increasing levels of protest against their coming economic, financial and social policies. The radical right, under the umbrella of the British Conservative Party, will do its utmost to stabilise their capitalist system, by all means available to them. And these means will be considerable, given their direct and indirect control of the state machinery in Britain.
Roy Ratcliffe (May 2015)