- Friday, 28 September 2012
- Written by Socialist Appeal
On October 20th we will witness another massive display of opposition to the Coalition government. Hundreds of thousands of angry workers will take to the streets in an attempt to push back the Tory austerity programme.
This is part of a European-wide movement of opposition to austerity measures, with the latest mass demonstrations being held in Spain and Portugal. New protests have also erupted in Greece.
Workers have lost their jobs and services have been cut to the bone as millions are being been forced to pay for the on-going crisis of capitalism. While millionaires shift their money abroad to avoid paying tax, ordinary people are faced with the growing nightmare of austerity. The Coalition is busy pushing in the knife whilst its friends in the City are still taking their fat bonuses.
“We are all in it together”, they say with tongue firmly in cheek but with less than 30% of spending cuts having been introduced, the brutality of a further 70% of cuts has only just begun for the poorest sections of society. The Coalition is presently looking for a planned £10bn in cuts. As a result welfare benefits are being slashed and those on disability benefits are being forced to look for work. They are weighing up freezing all working-age benefits for two years to “save” £4bn. Even ending some benefits for pensioners is being considered, allowing several billion to be “saved”.
But with the economy in recession and tax income falling, the Treasury is set to borrow £48bn more than forecast in 2015, with the government’s debt ratio rising to 90% of GDP. Therefore, the Institute of Public Policy Research believes a further £14bn in spending cuts are needed in the last year of this parliament to meet the deficit target. Spread across the board, this would mean a £3.7bn cut in education or the equivalent of more than 70,000 teaching posts.
In 2010, the TUC produced figures to show that since 1979 the share of GDP going to labour had slumped from 65% to 53% and the share to profits had risen from 13% to 21%.
This is the biggest fall in any advanced economy except the US. The number of workers now in part-time work has risen to 8.12m, the highest level since records began. Temporary employment and self-employment has also risen, while the numbers in full-time work fell.
The Coalition is asking people on the lowest incomes to take a cut in living standards when the rich in Britain have never been richer.
They want to eliminate the deficit, caused by the crisis and the bank bailout, on the backs of the poor.
We are looking at years and even decades of austerity. That is why support for the Tory-Liberal government has collapsed. It is why there is panic in the ranks of big business, who are now urging a fiscal stimulus to help lift the flat-lined economy.
However the Tory Right want to go much further in their attacks on the working class. Backbench distrust is growing and the knives are out for Cameron. They see Boris Johnson as a safe pair of hands to carry the Thatcherite flag. “We need a kill Cameron strategy” stated Tory MP Nadine Dorries. Liam Fox and David Davis have now set up a new group to argue for a more rightwing, pro-business and anti-Europe message.
The Liberal Democrats have become the doormat of the Coalition. They have carried the can for their open betrayal and broken promises. One opinion poll gave them 8% support, the same as UKIP. Nick “I should never have promised it” Clegg, despite his recent groveling, has become politically toxic, together with the rest of his party. A recent Yougov poll found that 47% of Lib Dem supporters favoured getting rid of Clegg.
It is the relentless rise in the mood of anger against the political establishment and their austerity regime that has pushed the TUC into considering a general strike as part of their campaign against the government.
This is the first time since 1926 that this has been discussed at the TUC, which is a reflection of changed times. Steve Turner, the executive policy director of UNITE the Union, told the conference: “We are at our best fighting back, roaring like lions, not cowering in corners.”
We whole-heartedly agree with this sentiment. For too long the TUC, the expression of organized labour, has been cowering in the corner. “There are real cracks in the Coalition at this time”, stated Steve Gillan, General Secretary of the Prison Officers’ Association, “and I think we should stick the boot in and finish them off.” The TUC should turn words into deeds and name the day for a 24-hour general strike.
George Osborne has said a general strike would “send a terrible message across the country.” While this is true for big business, it would serve to inspire and rally the working class across all industries and workplaces. It would serve to raise the working class to its feet after being on its knees for so long. It is time for bold action at this critical time.
The Labour leaders are playing a terrible role. Instead of supporting a bold campaign, they are pouring cold water over the fight back. Ed Balls had the cheek to go to the TUC Congress and support the government’s public sector wage freeze. He then went on to say that Labour would not reverse the Coalition’s spending cuts. No wonder he was booed. He was in reality talking not to the trade union delegates but to the City of London, reassuring them of Labour’s moderate intentions.
Balls was then followed by Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, who opposed union strikes. “The public doesn’t want to see strikes. Nor do your members. Nor do you”, he told a TUC dinner. The unions should be trying to persuade the government to change tack, he said. But the millionaire Coalition is not listening, except to the bankers and property speculators.
It is not a question of persuasion but of kicking out the Coalition government. As Nick Wrack, FBU general secretary, correctly said, we don’t want to see “a government that attacks us replaced by a [Labour] government that attacks us.”
We want a Labour government that fights for the interests of the working class. That means the trade unions taking up a fight for real socialist policies within the Labour Party. Already the UNITE union has decided to send thousands of its members into the Party “to reclaim it for the working class.” That is the way forward.
The Labour Party needs to be cleansed of careerists and place-seekers. We need a party that fights for us, a party that will fight capitalist austerity with socialist policies.
We want not only the nationalisation of the banks, but to take over the “commanding heights” of the economy under workers’ control and management.
Only then can we end the horrors of capitalism and plan the economy in the interests of the majority of people. This is the only real alternative.