Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/385/4347
Pensions - the socialist future
THE SOCIALIST Party argues in its election manifesto that every person has the right to a living pension, which should be based around a socialist pensions policy achieving the following demands:
- Allow workers to start drawing a decent state pension at 55. Those who want to continue work could do so.
- Part-time work with part pension could bridge the gap between work and retirement for those who want it.
- Pensioners should receive an immediate 50% increase. This should be extended to all state benefits.
- The link between pensions and earnings should be restored.
- In addition, pensioners, having contributed to society all their lives, should be entitled to free housing, heating, telephone and travel.
We estimate these measures would cost around £15 billion a year. But, at a time when the government, the bosses' organisation the CBI and the media say Britain is facing a pensions crisis, how could such measures be afforded?
There has been talk of a looming pensions 'crisis' for years. But this 'crisis' has been caused by the actions of the bosses and the government in trying to boost the profitability of the capitalist system, rather than by workers living longer.
The Socialist Party argues that even within the priorities of a capitalist government in Britain, a much higher level of pension could be immediately paid for by using some or all of the £35 billion a year New Labour currently spend on so-called defence. The £25 billion surplus built up from National Insurance contributions in the last 20 years since the link between pensions and earnings was broken could also be used.
Also the £27 million a year in debt repayment and interest charges the government pays to financial institutions, could all be better used on providing decent state pensions and occupational pensions for public-sector workers.
If tax relief for the richest 2% of fat cats in the British population was abolished that would immediately release an extra £15 billion a year for decent pensions for the majority.
Britain's bosses have been raking it in for decades through the low level of corporation tax they pay and the super profits they have made. If corporation tax had remained at the same level as it was in 1974, over £100 billion extra would have been raised in those three decades.
And, Britain's banks are set to make over £30 billion in combined profits this year. If Gordon Brown imposed another windfall tax on them as he did to the utilities in 1997, after Labour came to power to pay for its job creation programme, that would add another £15 billion to the treasury coffers.
Of course, to do this New Labour would have to attack the profits of their big business friends. However, such measures could be won if the bosses and capitalist politicians felt the pressure of a mass movement on the issue of pensions.
What is really always at stake under a capitalist system is the division of society's wealth between the capitalist class and the rest of us. A mass struggle and the fear of their system being overthrown - as has happened in the past - can force the capitalist governments to concede more than they normally would like to.
But, the Socialist Party's election programme on pensions is only the first step to eradicate the effect of the decades where pension provision in Britain has been run down.
As well as carrying out the above immediate demands, a socialist society would allow pensioners a decent minimum weekly income - of at least £320 a week at today's levels - and ensure that they were not burdened with the cost of paying for accommodation, transportation, fuel or communication.
At the same time, a socialist economic plan would allow more resources to be provided in education, health and social welfare to ensure that pensioners' lives were more fulfilling. Pensioners would no longer feel like second-class citizens and know that they were contributing to society's well being in the same way as every other section of the population.
In The Socialist 19 March 2005: