Labour’s unemployment policy means handouts for the rich
The Labour Party’s response to the Tories’ ending of the Job Retention Scheme, also known as the furlough scheme, was to launch its “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” campaign. The slogan is clearly designed to make it appear as though the Labour Party puts the interests of workers ahead of the interests of the capitalists.
However, Labour has not announced any major policies designed to support the unemployed, nor any to defend workers from employers cutting their jobs, hours, or pay. The policies that the party is proposing mostly involve support for business owners, such as the £1.7 billion “fightback fund”. As we saw during the last economic crisis in 2008, businesses will always prefer to pocket this money, often using it to buy back their own shares rather than to create jobs.
Labour has also led the calls for schools and workplaces to be reopened, despite the virus making it unsafe to do so. Reopening workplaces and schools effectively means the ending of serious attempts to prevent the virus from spreading. The push for reopening comes from the capitalists’ concern for their profits rather than any concern for the welfare of the public. Keir Starmer has clearly returned to the standard Labour Party practice of putting business and profit ahead of workers and their families.
If the Labour Party really wished to defend the interests of workers, it would demand workers’ control over the return to work and school – the right to decide what safety measures are necessary and how to respond to any outbreaks of the virus. They would also insist on full pay and no dismissals for furloughed workers, and that any businesses that collapse be taken into public ownership, without any compensation.
Since Keir Starmer became leader, the Labour Party’s primary concern has been to prove its pro-business credentials to the establishment, and to distance itself from the left wing policies of the last five years. It has spent the entire coronavirus crisis either cheering the government on, or remaining silent as the Tories try to ensure that the working class, once again, pays for the bosses’ crisis.
We in Red Flag think that socialists should remain inside the Labour Party to defend the policy gains made by the left while Corbyn was leader, resist the return to Blairism and organise the Labour left to fight for the interests of the working class in the pandemic and economic crisis.
However, workers should have no illusions that the Labour Party will act in their interests, particularly with Sir Keir Starmer in charge. Therefore, in order to defend itself from the capitalist onslaught, the working class will need to fight on its own behalf, forming its own organisations and campaigns, and demand that the trade unions and the Labour Party support us in doing so.