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Editorial: Hopes for the New Year?

January 2015, the start of another year. Time for looking back on past failures and for promising ourselves we will do better in the future. Do politicians indulge themselves in this game? Perhaps they do, but if so, it would give us scant reason to hope that a better future was in prospect for the working class.

Back in 2010, the Tories promised to eliminate the structural deficit by the next election, to be the greenest government ever, and to ensure that the NHS would be ‘safe in our hands’. They promised a ‘Big Society’ (remember that?) which would give power back to the people and encourage individual enterprise. They said they would rescue working people from the benefit trap by making work pay. Later they promised to replace every council house sold with a new, ‘affordable’ home. At the last election, did the British working class trust the Tories and Lib Dems to keep their politicians promises? Did they believe such promises would make their lives better in future? Or did they merely react against the long list of failed pledges made by the previous Labour governments: to keep debt stable, to keep inflation down, to cut youth unemployment, to borrow only to invest, not to raise income tax. Did not Brown, in fact, assure us of increased prosperity; did he not tell us that he had beaten back the trade cycle and there would never be mass unemployment again?

Failure to keep promises is a defining mark of all governments pledged to run capitalism. Sometimes such failures are the result of opportunistic manoeuvring (the Lib Dem’s promise not to raise tuition fees comes easily to mind). Sometimes the promises themselves are no more than convenient lies, bait to catch unwary voters, or balm to sooth working-class anger or pacify their resistance. But when all the parliamentary squabbling and finger-pointing is done, the fundamental underlying cause of such failures is not the stupidity or greed or ignorance of politicians but the workings of capitalism. The economic system, a tightly-woven web of social and legal relationships driven by profit, is its own master, following its own anarchic way, ceaselessly undermining the attempts of governments and corporations to tame or control it.

Perhaps the politicians, servants of capital, eventually come to believe their own promises – it often seems that a capacity for self-deception is a hallmark of a successful career in parliament. But whatever motives lurk behind politicians’ eyes whenever the glib promises come tumbling out of their mouths, capitalism will have its way with them. And it will have its way with us, too, the working class. It was never set up to meet our needs or to fulfil our hopes or dreams. It was not designed to provide for the fulfilment of humanity as a whole.

Whatever hope this new year may bring, it will not lie in the prospect of working people finally electing a capitalist political party that can keep its promises, for unless it is promising us further exploitation, conflict and unfulfilled hopes, such a party does not, and cannot, exist.