The government bails out their system, but we must bail ourselves out

25 March 2008

The financial crisis is starting to hit the rest of us - not just the 5,000 workers whose jobs are under threat in the City or the 2,000 facing redundancy at the "nationalised" Northern Rock bank.

Home buyers reaching the end of "cheap" fixed-rate periods are finding that the interest rate they will have to pay is higher than expected. More and more are squeezed into interest-only mortgages to keep repayments down - meaning that they are unlikely to finish paying before retirement age.

Those who hoped to raise cash by remortgaging their homes, are finding that they have lost value while interest rates were going up. They are left with more costly bank overdrafts and plastic cards as their only source of additional cash.

The financial crisis is far from having revealed all its devastating power. The week before last, the US had to bail out Bear Stearns, one of the world's largest mortgage lenders. Here, last week, despite Darling's claim that the crisis is "under control", the Bank of England threw another £15bn of taxpayers' money at the system. Yet, rumours that Halifax-Bank-of-Scotland (HBOS), Britain's largest mortgage lender, had problems, were enough to trigger a run on its shares - showing how little trust stock market players have in their own system!

Even before this crisis began, our standard of living was down. A recent survey shows that the monthly cost of living of an average household, increased by 100 more than its income over the past year. This is without the rising cost of housing and imported goods: since the bosses have turned the economy into a bingo machine, the pound is more exposed to a financial crisis than most other currencies and has gone down as a result.

Whether it is through allowing the private utilities to make super-profits on our backs, through direct injection of cash into the financial markets, through the so-called "nationalisation" of Northern Rock or other undisclosed mechanisms (in the name of "commercial confidentiality") designed to help out this or that bank, the government is putting public funds at the service of the capitalist class.

The rest of us cannot expect such goodwill from the Darlings and the Browns, who are just errand boys for British capital. The working class cannot stop the crises of the capitalist system, but it can, if it decides to use its collective strength, turn the heat on the bosses and force them to foot the bill for the madness of their own system.