Editorial from the June 2009 issue of the Socialist Standard
The European elections this month could not have come at a better time for a disgruntled UK electorate. While clearly fuelled by a media fresh from savaging merchant bankers and seeking new victims, the anger felt amongst the public regarding the "creativity" shown by MPs in relation to their expenses claims is undoubtedly genuine enough. Having had it confirmed recently in a government report that deprivation and inequality had risen for the third year running, the UK working class might find the maintenance costs of an MPs moat – to take just one example – a little difficult to understand.
Of course in the scheme of things, while the expenses claims make interesting reading, the whole issue is a bit of a storm in a teacup, and should be kept in some perspective. A few grand nicked here or there is crumbs compared to the wholesale legalised theft of value that occurs on payday when workers receive less than the value they have produced for their employer during that month
Socialists have little concern for the apparent moral consistency (or otherwise) of individuals, be they MPs or not. It’s the system we live under that we are interested in. As defenders of capitalism the right honourable gentlemen and ladies at Westminster have rarely been "right", and are certainly unlikely "honourable" role models. As exemplars of capitalism's principles, however they would appear to embody all the necessary tight-fisted, money-grabbing, elements.
If we didn't know it already, the last year should have taught us that capitalism is just not a "fair" system. There are many more important criticisms that can be levelled against capitalism, but the idea of "fairness" – the assumption that the society we live in should basically be a fair one, giving everyone an equal shout and an equal chance – is a political sentiment that seems to strike a very deep chord with people. On that score, capitalism is clearly found wanting.
More importantly, workers' confidence in the money system has clearly taken a significant bashing in recent months as pensions evaporate, redundancies are announced and house repossessions increase. The legitimacy of our leaders – whether business or political – is under increasing attack. Bankers have been an easy scapegoat for the fundamental failings of the economic system, capitalism. It is likely that some of that anger focussed on bankers has been generalised against those in power in the form of the political class represented at Westminster. And seldom before can the political choice provided for us have seemed so narrow. Threatened by ridicule from the public, the main political parties – between queuing up to show their contrition and denouncing their own excesses in terms reminiscent of some Maoist show trial – have spoken with one voice, the pro-capitalist voice. For brevity and clarity we can call them the Capitalist Party, the real political opponent of the Socialist Party.