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Northern Rock

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From: Pamphlets and books Capitalism in Crisis, 24 February 2009: The defenders of capitalism were wrong and the socialists and Marxists were right. This is what the current economic crisis means - as well as hardship for millions of people. Over the last few decades...

Pamphlet dated 24/02/2009, later revised and republished as 'The Case for Socialism'

Search site for keywords: Banks - Northern Rock - Labour - Nationalisation

Where is the bailout for the rest of us?

Bus workers demonstrate over pay, photo Paul Mattsson

Bus workers demonstrate over pay, photo Paul Mattsson

For millions of working class people, however, the urgent question is: where is the bailout for us? For thirty years governments have told us that the only option is privatisation of public services, and that it is sacrilegious to dare to suggest that the state might intervene to save jobs by, for example, nationalising car plants threatened with closure.

Today that will no longer wash. We will see more and more workers demanding that nationalisation takes place in their interests, rather than the interests of the capitalists, and increasingly vocal support for socialist demands.


After all, why shouldn't the nationalised banks be run in the interests of the population, rather than those of the financiers? Since Northern Rock was nationalised it has continued to repossess more quickly than any other mortgage lender! In recent weeks the government has felt under pressure to help those facing repossession.

However, they have done nothing more than appeal to the better nature of the bankers not to evict until other options have been explored.

When Dai Davies, Blaenau Gwent People's Voice MP, asked whether the government had considering letting out repossessed homes as affordable, social housing for those in need, he was told firmly: "Northern Rock and Bradford & Bingley are run at arm's length from the government, on commercial principles."

As long as the decisions are left in the hands of the bankers, they will be taken on 'commercial principles' and repossessions will rocket.

Yet, why is it for the bankers to decide at all? The government has used taxpayers' money to buy up 60% of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), but has left the bankers in charge.

If the government chose to it could make sure that not a single person is thrown out onto the paving stones because they cannot afford to pay their RBS (or Northern Rock or Bradford & Bingley) mortgage.

Homebuyers who cannot meet their mortgage repayments should have the right to rent the property at an affordable, social rent.

The banks should provide cheap mortgages for personal homebuyers (with a ceiling to exclude luxury houses for the wealthy).

They should also provide cheap credit to small businesses serving the needs of local communities. However, these modest demands will not be achieved via New Labour's 'nationalisation lite', which are in reality state capitalist measures.

The trade unions and organisations of the working class should demand nationalisation of all the financial institutions, with compensation paid only to small shareholders and depositors on the basis of proven need.

This should be just a first step to the unification of all the banks into one democratically controlled system.

The labour movement should demand majority representation at all levels of these banks, drawn from workers including from the unions in the banking industry and the wider working class and labour movement, with the government also represented.

There should be a complete opening of the books and a rejection of 'business secrets', which the bosses say should be kept hidden to maintain 'competition', so as 'not to frighten the market'.

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

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  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
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