A Future that Works is One Without Capitalism

Cuts, Cuts And More Cuts: The War Without End

Here, as everywhere the bosses and their state are ferociously attacking our ability to live in remotely acceptable conditions. Wages are being frozen or reduced, benefits are being slashed with tens of thousands being declared ineligible, pensions are being postponed and reduced, local facilities such as libraries and community centress are disappearing while charges for those that remain are soaring. At the same time costs of basics continue to rise at an alarming rate. All this is wrapped up in the word “austerity”.

Working class people are beginning to experience levels of deprivation not felt for generations.

So far only 40% of the original seven-year planned cuts have been introduced. By the government’s own admission, the vast majority of day-to-day spending cutbacks are yet to come. And that’s not counting the extra £10 or £11 billion of cuts that would be required this year alone as ‘slowing economic growth’ has reduced government tax revenues. Be in no doubt though that the Coalition are busy working up various schemes, many of which will hit the poorest hardest. In Cameron’s recent Cabinet reshuffle Ian Duncan Smith refused to leave his post as Work and Pensions Secretary, so devoted is he to pushing through his plans for Universal Credit. This will bring six different benefits together into one single payment and is due to be launched next year. If it goes ahead as planned over 1 million part time, low paid workers will lose the income support that is supposed to guarantee them a living wage. People on benefits with a spare bedroom are likely to find themselves out of their homes. Benefit payments will no longer rise in response to sky high prices while claimants will be paid every month rather than every two weeks, apparently to replicate what happens in the workplace. But since these are benefits and not wages, thousands of families could be plunged into serious debt as a result.

The scheme shows where the government’s priorities are. They’re determined to cut back on benefits no matter what the social cost or, for that matter, the financial cost. The Universal Credit scheme is estimated at £3.1bn to set up, £2.5bn a year to run and will handle £50bn in welfare payments. Last year, Whitehall officials put the plan at the top of their warning list of projects that could fail and threaten the coalition. (We should remind ourselves here that the coalition doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to dodgy schemes; the government’s largest welfare-to-work provider, A4E is currently under police investigation for fraud).

Nick Clegg knows that further cuts before the next election will lose them votes. The Conservatives are divided between the millionaires who want to cut benefits, like Ian Duncan Smith, and those who believe boosting public spending on the infrastructure will boost growth (including those who, in the desperate hope that building home extensions would somehow kick start the economy, backed the relaxation of planning regulations, as though that would make any difference to the £20.8bn deficit).

Labour in the meantime are pushing out all the usual phrases about finding ‘strong, credible policies’ to get the country out of the mess it’s in. So far those policies are pointing in the direction of public sector pay freezes and ‘zero-based spending,’ at the very least continuing the cuts implemented by the Coalition.

And what about the TUC? How is it going to protect workers against the onslaught on their living and working conditions, the worst for generations? Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary is calling for more state spending. He points to the post-war period as an example of how the state spent it’s way out of austerity. What he misses is the fact that the post-war boom didn’t immediately follow the misery of the 1930’s. The misery of the second world war came first, the deaths of millions and the mass destruction of machinery and equipment, all had to happen before capitalism could revive itself and its profits.

Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay

Meanwhile most of us continue to live under the cloud of cuts to come; cuts to the needy (half a million more disabled people are to lose their benefits); cuts to the NHS, education and local councils (where over 100,000 jobs are under threat); cuts to pensions and unemployment benefits at a time when unemployment and underemployment are escalating. And for those still in work, wage freezes and more deductions from take home pay. (The latest being the obligatory enrolment of low paid workers into the National Employment Savings Trust (NEST) which is being brought in under the radar and means an automatic 1% pay cut.)

All this garbage is being thrown at us simply to keep alive a capitalist system which can only mean misery for the vast majority. Whichever party is in power the effects of this crisis will last for generations. Capitalism can’t do what the TUC says, it can’t become a more equal system because it is incapable of providing us with any future that doesn’t involve increasing attacks on our living and working conditions, growing unemployment, under-employment and poverty. It’s failing as a society but it is ordinary working class people and their families who are paying for that failure.

As far as the fight-back for workers is concerned, the unions can’t and won’t think beyond token marches, one-day strikes, or campaigns limited to this or that sector, all of which give you a feeling you’ve done something but ultimately leave you isolated. The only alternative is to get together and organise independently. Whether on the estates, in the workplaces or in the Job Centres and benefit offices we need to find ways to resist. Any meaningful fight backs will be by ourselves, for ourselves. Above all, we need to steer clear of those “false friends” of the ‘Labour movement’. Once we learn to stand on our own two feet then the way will be open for the only real way to fight the cuts which is for the whole working class to fight the system that’s caused them.§

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Aurora (en)

Aurora is the broadsheet of the ICT for the interventions amongst the working class. It is published and distributed in several countries and languages. So far it has been distributed in UK, France, Italy, Canada, USA, Colombia.