It has recently been revealed that the government is seeking new brutal across-the-board spending cuts. Despite what the Tories have told us, it seems that the Age of Austerity is far from over. In fact, it is being renewed on an even more destructive level.
In a letter to all Cabinet ministers, PM Boris Johnson and Chancellor Sajid Javid have ordered that cuts of at least 5% be identified for Whitehall department budgets. Ministers have also been told to suggest 10 areas of government spending that could be scrapped altogether.
Tory propaganda has been attempting to paint these cuts as necessary in order to ‘refocus’ on what the government calls its ‘priorities’: health, fighting crime, and tackling regional inequality. The idea that the Tories can be trusted to address these issues is absurd, let alone all the other services facing cuts. Boris Johnson has only one ‘priority’ - himself!
A decade of Tory austerity has left public services in this country in a desperate state. The NHS; the education system; social care: vital services everywhere have been stripped to the bone and are close to collapse.
A recent report has found that local councils across the country are in a dire financial situation. Three-in-four councils view their finances as ‘unsustainable’. One-in-five are on the verge of bankruptcy. This means that further cuts are inevitable, locally and nationally.
We should call austerity by its real name: a direct attack on the living conditions of the working class. In the 1840s, Friedrich Engels wrote that the working class had coined a phrase to describe their awful conditions: ‘social murder’. Given that austerity has given us over 120,000 excess deaths and tragedies such as Grenfell, such a description is very apt today.
Labour and the unions must take a militant stand against this attack. Such a stand has been made before. In the 1980s, a mass movement was built up across Labour-controlled councils to oppose Thatcher’s cuts, with Liverpool City Council being at the forefront of this fight.
The slogan then was ‘better to break the law, than break the poor’ - echoing the words of George Lansbury and the other Poplar councillors in 1921, who were prepared to go to prison in order to defy attacks on working-class communities.
Labour councillors everywhere today should see it as their duty to oppose further cuts. The Labour Party and the trade unions should take up the mantle and organise a mass campaign against austerity and for a socialist alternative.
Capitalism in Britain and across the world is in crisis. Another economic slump is on its way. Continued austerity is all we are ever going to see if we stick with this decrepit system. And yet the super-rich have never had it so good!
We say: make the bankers and bosses pay for this crisis! Only the fight for socialist policies can offer a way forward, in order to stop the cuts and reverse the deadly impacts of austerity.