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Posted on 6 December 2012 at 13:41 GMT

Osborne's budget: more pain, more reasons for a 24-hour general strike


 20 October 2012 TUC demo against austerity , photo Paul Mattsson

20 October 2012 TUC demo against austerity , photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Osborne's autumn statement is yet another attempt by the vicious Con-Dem government to transfer more wealth from the public, the 99%, to the pockets of their friends, the 1% elite.

While they cut the corporates' tax bill both workers and those struggling to find work will see a real terms cut in their benefit entitlement.

But they can be stopped - strike action is winning in education, health, and in the private sector: remember the Sparks electricians historic victory against the building companies last year.

So don't just get angry with Osborne. Get organised. Get socialist.

Demand a date for a 24-hour general strike: Lobby the TUC general council on Tuesday 11 December from 8.30am at Congress House Great Russell Street London WC1B 3LS

Called by the National Shop Stewards Network, www.shopstewards.net

Join the Socialist Party: text 07761 818206 with your name and postcode


 20 October 2012 TUC demo against austerity , photo Paul Mattsson

20 October 2012 TUC demo against austerity , photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

In September 2007, as Northern Rock collapsed and the economic contagion started to spread the Socialist warned that "when recession comes it will be working and middle class people, not the City financiers, who will be expected to pay the price".

As anti-poverty campaigners warn the Con-Dems' autumn statement promises a "decade of destitution" - that has been borne out.

We also said that: "Capitalism remains a cyclical system, at a certain stage economic crisis is inevitable; and the unprecedented use of credit to prolong the boom will only make the crisis worse when it comes." This has been borne out as the budget promised more years of misery.

Even the House of Commons seemed to ring with the hollow laughter as Tory axe-man Chancellor George Osborne opened his autumn budget statement saying: "the British economy is healing".

But around the country workers, unemployed, pensioners and others watching it or hearing the reports will not have laughed for long as he promised 900,000 public sector job cuts and austerity until 2018.

No solutions

NSSN lobby of the TUC 11 December

NSSN lobby of the TUC 11 December   (Click to enlarge)

In many ways it felt a bit like the film 'Groundhog Day', with the Chancellor trotting out his favourite phrases, used in previous budget statements: "we're all in it together", "there are no miracle cures", and so on. But behind the lacklustre, somewhat smug, presentation lies a world of pain.

Millionaire Osborne began with a list of who he likes to blame for the fact that the government will not meet its targets on deficit reduction: the previous government, the Eurozone, and so on.

But what he was actually reporting is growth forecast cut from 0.8%, hardly growth at all, to -0.1%, a contraction and lower forecasts for future years too.

It's hard to know if we face a triple-dip recession or just a constant bumping along the bottom.

In reality the truth is the capitalist class in Britain, as elsewhere, have no solution to the deep-going crisis of capitalism they face.

Witness the US's 'fiscal cliff' dilemma. We've quoted Einstein's definition of insanity before, "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results", but it certainly is apt.

Christmas for the rich?

Osborne pledged that a further cut in the rate of corporation tax to 21% from April 2014 - already among the lowest of the world's main economies - would bring us growth and jobs.

But there is no evidence to show that previous reductions have had that effect - the opposite has happened.

On the one hand you have Amazon, Starbucks and co, corporate tax-dodging on an industrial scale. On the other hand you have 800 billion lying idle in the vaults of the big corporations.

Big business cannot be induced to spend this money on investing in jobs and services because it sees no easy way to do so and no profit in it.

A government serious about improving lives of millions would make a 50% levy on that stashed cash and use it to put money where it will make a difference - in our pockets, through wage and benefit increases and real job creation not workfare, so we can actually spend money, raising 'consumption'. But they refuse to consider tapping their super-rich big business pals.

Osborne reiterated one of his favourite lies - 'that those with the broadest shoulders should bear the most pain'. Does he think we're living in the world of George Orwell's '1984' and that simply telling us this will blind us to the reality? After serious deliberation he decided against a mansion tax, so no pain for the rich - quelle surprise!

Answer Tory lies

Anti-cuts and disabled activists protesting against Welfare Reform Bill, London 28.1.12 , photo Ben Robinson

Anti-cuts and disabled activists protesting against Welfare Reform Bill, London 28.1.12 , photo Ben Robinson   (Click to enlarge)

This budget presented Osborne with an opportunity to ride one of his favourite hobby horses: "being fair to the person who leaves home every morning to go out to work and sees their neighbour still asleep, living a life on benefits ... we have to have a welfare system that is fair to the working people who pay for it."

When he used this line at Tory conference he followed it three minutes later with: "We're not going to get through this if we set one group against another - if we divide, denounce or demonise."

But is that not exactly what he did when he argued that "with pay restraint in businesses and government, average earnings have risen by around 10% since 2007. Out of work benefits have gone up by around 20%."

Instead of taking action then to raise the minimum wage to a living wage rate of at least 10 an hour and invest in a massive programme of socially useful public works to create jobs, this budget limits most working-age benefits to a 1% rise for three years, breaking the link with inflation and meaning misery for millions.

This will affect all of us - those relying on measly JSA payments of up to 56.25 for under 25 year olds and up to 71a week if you're older - and workers relying on working families tax credits, child benefit, etc.

Meanwhile food, utility bills, and other costs sky-rocket. While some will welcome the cancellation of the 3p a litre increase in fuel duty this will come nowhere close to offsetting the pain.

The government's big lie, that we are divided into 'shirkers' and 'workers', must be smashed. They want us to blame each other for the poverty conditions we face - but it is them and the capitalist system they defend that are to blame.

Look at the figures: on average there are more than five job seekers for every vacancy. And the majority of new claimants for housing benefit are working people - stuck in precarious, low-paid work.

The real shirkers are the millionaires and billionaires whose wealth is continuing to pile up even as we are being put on rations.

Infrastructure

Again we heard about Osborne's fantasy infrastructure plans - this time 5 billion to go into roads, broadband, science, etc.

We'd all like to see investment in socially useful and planned infrastructure, bringing jobs and improved living standards but this will be paid for by fresh cuts across most government departments.

While the Ernst and Young Item Club said that this amount would have "minor, almost negligible impact", neither does the government's track record inspire.

The Guardian has also researched the commitments made in the 2011 autumn statement and found that very few of the projects announced have progressed.

This year the Chancellor pledged 1 billion for roads but the Guardian reports that of the 18 road schemes in last November's budget work has not begun on one.

That the gas strategy is to include consultation on incentives for shale gas represents a threat to the health and safety of those local to the fracking process and to the environment generally.

Pay

PCS members on strike 10 May 2012 outside Parliament, photo Paul Mattsson

PCS members on strike 10 May 2012 outside Parliament, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Unions have been able to welcome one item in the statement, but not announced in Osborne's 50-minute speech - that plans for regional pay in the civil service and public service have been scrapped, at least for now.

However teachers will face the prospect of performance-related pay, a bully's charter in effect.

Education spending shows a blatant transfer of wealth from the pockets of ordinary people to the rich vultures preying on our public services.

A smug tory education minister Michael Gove will be given 1 billion, 'saved' from government departments to spend on expanding his pet academy and free school project - in effect privatising schools, eroding education workers' rights and democratic accountability and transferring land from the public to the private sector.

Fail, fail, fail

Where should working class people turn to express their anger at this promise of pain today and pain tomorrow? Labour MPs made speeches attempting to show that the Con-Dems are "failing, failing, failing", as Ed Balls, shadow chancellor put it. But Labour is failing - failing to put up any alternative to austerity.

Osborne has promised austerity into the next parliament. Imagine if Labour announced that they would cancel all these measures if they won the next election.

The support that would bring Labour would guarantee them a win. But they haven't said that and all previous experience of this Labour leadership shows they are determined to carry on the cuts.

Local government is to have a year's respite from the massacre of its budget, notwithstanding enormous cuts coming down the line in April.

But the year after there will be a 2% reduction in spending. What does this mean? No let up from the Tories handing the axe down to local councillors - without an end in sight.

If councillors cannot find the courage, as the rebel councillors in Southampton and Hull have done, to vote against this annihilation of local services, they must step aside or face a challenge from people who will - and that means trade unionists and anti-cuts campaigners standing as 'no cuts' candidates.

The case for building a new mass workers' party that would actually oppose cuts is getting clearer. If it were to demand nationalisation of the big corporations instead of cutting their tax and allowing them to privatise our public service it could win huge support.

The Trade Unionist and Socialist coalition is a step in that direction, involving the RMT transport union and other leading trade unionists.

Action needed

TUC demo 20 October 2012 placard for a 24 hour general strike , photo Becky Davis

TUC demo 20 October 2012 placard for a 24 hour general strike , photo Becky Davis   (Click to enlarge)

Now cuts are affecting us all - and polls found that almost two-thirds think things are going to get worse.

Based on Osborne's austerity promises they're right. Everyone is angry with this government - let's show it.

The best way to do that is to support the call for a 24-hour general strike. When the public sector unions came out in 2011 it gave a glimpse of the potential power workers have.

To combine that with the private sector would have a massive impact - in 1972, the last time the TUC planned a general strike, the government caved in before it took place.

The next step in the campaign for a one-day strike is the lobby of the TUC general council, demanding it follows up on the overwhelming vote to consider general strike action at the TUC in September by setting the date.

That would give trade unionists an opportunity to coordinate their ballots and communities to organise support.

There is no question the mood id there. As we have reported elsewhere: "All 200 delegates representing 160,000 Unison members working in local government, health, education etc have unanimously supported a motion from the Glasgow city branch calling for a coordinated industrial action strategy, beginning with a one-day strike across Scotland.

"The motion also calls on the Scottish TUC to coordinate the one-day strike in Scotland with action by trade unions across the UK."

The PCS union has announced a ballot for strike action in the New Year - that will provide the basis for other unions to join the action.

The Socialist Party calls on the union leaders to prioritise this at the general council on 11 December.

Such action would terrify this posh-boy government - look at the measures they take to try to weaken the unions.

Strike action would also massively build the confidence of working class people that we can defeat the Con-Dems.

Socialist alternative

With all this comes a questioning of what kind of a society we live in that sees children malnourished, pensioners dying in the cold, and hospitals closing - while there is no shortage of wealth.

It's unsurprising that a Gallup poll has found 39% of Americans now have a "positive image" of socialism, 53% among Democrat voters.

The 30% vote for a Socialist Alternative (CWI) candidate in Seattle in November's US elections is further evidence of the search for an alternative to rotten capitalism - in the belly of the beast itself.

While that may not yet represent in all cases a developed understanding of how a democratic socialist planned economy could work - using the vast resources of the world to meet the needs of the overwhelming majority - it represents the music of the future.

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