The cost of rent, food, and fuel have risen dramatically in the last year. Millions of workers looking at the coming winter will be faced with the prospect of having to choose between either paying their rent, buying food, or heating their homes.
Rishi Sunak’s ‘fantasy Budget’ promised to address the astronomical rise in the cost of living. But instead, he cut the £20 a week increase to Universal Credit, pulling this uplift from under the feet of millions; increased taxes on workers; and gave his rich friends generous tax cuts.
Food prices are expected to rise by 2.3% over the next few months as the global supply-chain crisis remains unresolved. The Financial Times highlighted this by saying that “you can see food prices go up in real time as wages stagnate”.
The number visiting food banks has increased, including many who have never experienced poverty before.
“I never ever thought I would be walking through this door to get food,” stated one food bank user in a recent FT article, “but here I am.”
Another man remarked: “I can’t afford to get my five fruit and veg a day now. Everything is going up and up, but Universal Credit doesn’t.”
But it’s not only food prices that the crisis has affected. The current global gas shortage has triggered soaring wholesale prices, causing retail energy suppliers to increase their prices. The FT predicts a 30% increase in the cost of household energy bills as a result.
The cost of renting in the UK, meanwhile, has reached record-levels. In September this year, the average national rent rose to £1,053pcm: an increase of 6.9% compared to the same time last year, and up 2.3% from the previous month’s figures.
Blood-sucking landlords, it seems, are perfectly happy to siphon money off low-paid workers, even if it means tenants can’t afford to heat their homes or put food on the table.
Rishi Sunak recently announced a slight increase in minimum wage. This is a token gesture, however, which fails to compensate for the rising cost of living and the reduction in incomes for Britain’s poorest households, due to welfare cuts and changes to National Insurance.
It’s no surprise that under these conditions the Tories lead in the polls is dwindling.
This crisis is not the result of moral neglect on the part of the Tories, however, but is another symptom of capitalism’s decay and decline.
The system can no longer afford to maintain or improve living conditions. Periods of economic boom and upswing are in the past.
Instead, in order to boost their profits, the capitalists and their political representatives are going on the offensive, attacking all the gains won through the struggle of previous generations – including workers’ pay, pensions, and conditions, as well as public services.
This intensifying exploitation can be seen in the growth of the gig economy and fire-and-rehire tactics. According to The Guardian, 15% of workers receive their pay from platforms such as Uber and Deliveroo. This number has increased from 6% only five years ago.
These gig economy bosses say they offer employees ‘flexibility’ and ‘control’ over their working hours and income. But the reality for workers is low pay, poor conditions, and insecure hours.
Far from ‘levelling-up’, meanwhile, the Tories are continuing to carry out austerity. The cost of this crisis is being placed on the shoulders of the working class and youth.
But the situation is reaching breaking point for a growing number of families. This will fuel the mood of anger, and could lead to a social explosion.
Fight for socialism
Already workers throughout the labour movement are fighting back against gig economy employers and fire-and-rehire tactics. But this crisis is larger than one employer or ‘bad boss’.
The TUC and wider labour movement must link their struggles together and – armed with a bold socialist programme – take coordinated strike action against the bosses and Tories.
The money is out there to fund decent housing, living standards, and public services for all. But it is lying in the hands of the fat-cat bosses and billionaires.
The market has utterly failed. Capitalism is chaos. We need planning, not profit.
Under a rational, democratic, socialist economic plan, based on public ownership and workers’ control, we would be able to ensure that everyone has access to the basic necessities of life, and much more. On this basis, we could quickly eradicate hunger and poverty.
This is the future that workers and youth must fight for – in place of the bleak winter that lies ahead under the Tories and their bankrupt system.