THE COALITION government is determined to start 2013 as it means to go on: by making workers, benefit claimants, pensioners and young people pay for the ongoing economic crisis.
Austerity is now set to last till 2018 at least. A decade of pain.
Not for themselves of course. This government has looked after its super-rich backers. From April, top earners will receive a £3 billion tax break when the top tax rate is cut from 50 to 45 per cent.
Meanwhile benefits and working tax credits will no longer be linked to inflation, a move that will cost low paid and unemployed workers hundreds of pounds a year and push another 200,000 children into poverty. Benefits have been slashed by £32 billion.
How can that mean, “we’re all in this together”?
Big business winners
All this is designed to help out the same banks and corporations that caused the financial crisis which plunged us into recession. The debt – which is increasing, not decreasing – was caused mainly by the bank bailouts, where the government handed over a trillion pounds to save the system as a whole going under.
But the Tories have no intention of making the bosses pay for the crisis they created.
George Osborne has slashed corporation tax to a historic low. But even this is too much for tax dodgers Starbucks, Google and Vodafone, who pay less than 1 per cent in tax. Amazon pays a big fat zero. Goldman Sachs is leading the way for banks by delaying bonus payments so its top employers can take advantage of April’s tax break. How greedy can they get?
Well, very, it seems. Energy companies Centrica and EDF, which bought our gas and electricity for a song when they were privatised, have reported profits of £1.4-1.6 billion. But this hasn’t stopped them pushing up our bills by 6-10 per cent, forcing millions of elderly people and poor families to choose between eating and heating.
And, despite Cameron boasting about employment, thousands of workers join the dole queue each month, adding to the 2,500,000 already there, while public sector posts are being deleted left, right and centre. A million people have been jobless for over a year.
HMV: 4,500 gone
Jessop: 1,370 gone
Honda: 800 gone
Blockbusters: 760 gone
When HMV went into administration, retail workers in Limerick went into occupation. They demanded their wages and redundancy pay before letting the suits in, fully aware that creditors would claim any spare cash before the workers who earned it.
This is an excellent example to all of us. We need a wave of strikes and occupations to stem the job cuts – with ballots if possible, but wildcat action when necessary. The bosses never give notice of sacking us; why should we tell them before we strike back?
Over the coming weeks, teachers, lecturers and civil servants are planning strike action over pay, increasing workloads and job cuts. The European day of action, 13 March, is being mooted as a possible date.
Good. But we must learn the lessons from the pensions strikes in 2011. Magnificent strikes in June and November came to nothing as union leaders split away and signed rotten deals. Even the “left” union leaders failed to keep the struggle going.
This time, we need councils of action in every town and city to unite the strikes and continue the struggle even if – or rather when – the union leaders sell us out. Instead of frittering away our energies on one-day strikes, spread out over many months, we should sharply step up the action from one day to one week, then indefinitely: all out and stay out to win.
The TUC is currently consulting unions over the practicalities of a general strike. As if they need to ask – of course it’s practical! If they can hold general strikes in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Spain, then we can here. Then, pensioners, students, the unemployed and non-unionised, agency and temporary workers can join in – as a class against our common enemy.
But none of this will happen without those workers and young people who see the need for it uniting and conducting a political struggle inside the labour movement, in workplaces, housing estates, schools and colleges.
The far left in Britain – and internationally – has taken a battering recently. But there are still thousands of active socialists who see the need for revolutionary unity to stop the cuts and bring down this millionaires’ government. We call on them to unite – initially over an action programme of immediate demands to stop the cuts, but eventually to smash the system that makes recessions, poverty and wars inevitable.