Britian: The three ghosts of Christmas - Elections past, present and future

Elections can provide us with a snapshot of the political mood of society at a given moment. Yet if we restrict ourselves to who won and who lost they can teach us very little. This is the editorial from the current issue of the British Socialist Appeal.

Elections can provide us with a snapshot of the political mood of society at a given moment. Yet if we restrict ourselves to who won and who lost they can teach us very little. For example, if one acknowledges simply the headline result of the recent US elections, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that George Bush won and his policies are popular. This is the line we read generally in the press. Yet the US elections tell us a great deal about the present and future state of the US. They reveal a society more divided than at any other time in recent history; they foreshadow not years of social peace, but a new period of turmoil and instability. The US elections continue the trend we described earlier in the year in relation to the European elections. Both illustrate a sharp polarisation of society.

The 'present' elections looming are those promised in Iraq for the end of January. Having 'completed' their barbaric assault on Fallujah leaving thousands of dead and wounded in their wake, the imperialists are not one step nearer peace and stability. Any elections held in the ruins of Iraq under foreign military occupation will be a farce.

An election will also be taking place here in the near future, and Labour remains odds on to win. Does this mean a general acceptance of Blair to be followed by years of stability? Far from it. In the first place although a Labour victory is the most likely outcome of that poll, it is far from guaranteed. A great deal can happen in the next few months.

The impact of the ongoing slaughter in Iraq, and the lack of any electoral alternative, will see turnout continue to be historically low. Workers disillusioned by Blair and co. will not vote for any of the various sectarian fringe groups but will generally stay at home.

The Tories have recovered some ground but probably not enough to win. The Liberals' pipedreams of overtaking them have turned to dust. As for the 'success' of UKIP in the Euro elections, there will be no repeat in a general election. They, like the defenders of the hunt, the Countryside Alliance etc. are a nasty foretaste of future reactionary groupings inside and outside the Tory Party.

Labour third term

The most likely outcome is a Labour third term. International events will have a big impact on that election, but so will events at home. Under the cover of the 'fight against terrorism', Blair and co. intend to introduce identity cards, create a British 'FBI', introduce trials without juries - these are not the plans of a ruling class confident of years of social peace and stability to come.

Meanwhile, Blair and Brown continue to believe their own myth that they have abolished slumps in the economy. They are in for a rude awakening. The insoluble contradictions of capitalism have not gone away. At the root of the failing economy is the same old crisis of overproduction and overcapacity to produce. With no market for their goods at home or abroad the capitalists do not invest in production, instead they squander their profits on acquisitions, mergers, and speculation. Investment has been cut by 40% in the last five years. While the decimation of manufacturing industry has continued apace, with 750,000 jobs destroyed since Blair came to office, Britain does lead the world in the league table of credit. At more than £1 billion, British indebtedness is the same size as its GDP. Increasing interest rates was meant to bring this under control, and cool down the overheated housing market. The problem with bubbles is that sticking pins in them is far more likely to make them burst than gently deflate. Already house prices have begun to fall, by 1.1 percent in October according to the Halifax. Five interest rate rises have raised mortgage payments as a percentage of income from 14 to 19 percent. According to Nationwide new mortgage approvals were 30 percent lower in September than a year ago.

First time buyers can no longer afford to climb on to the property ladder. Young workers and their families don't earn enough to buy, so those wanting to sell to them can't sell; they in turn can't move up the ladder and so on. So prices stop rising and begin to fall. House prices are so overinflated they could fall by as much as 20 or even 30 percent according to Steve Nickell of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee.

Interest rate rises have meant falling investment and production and an increase in credit to pay for credit. This is unsustainable. As Marx long ago pointed out credit takes the market beyond its limits, using up tomorrow's money today. Yet tomorrow always comes around.

Disposable income will fall next year for the first time since 1998. Already car sales are at their lowest level since 1992 according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. John Lewis and Marks and Spencer have recently announced a drop in sales. Only credit and the consumer spending it fuelled were keeping the economy afloat. Now there is little left to keep it from sinking. The economy is grinding to a halt.

A Labour victory in 2005 will not be a precursor to years of social peace. Economically, politically, socially the conditions are being prepared for almighty battles. This is the spectre that will be haunting Blair this holiday season.

Of Scrooge's Christmas Eve visitations, the ghost of things to come was by far the most disturbing. It forced old Ebeneezer to change his ways. The vision of the future offered to us by capitalism is just such a nightmare of war, hunger and misery. For millions this is already the reality. Another future is possible, but only if we fight for it. Join us in the struggle for a socialist world.