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From The Socialist newspaper, 22 April 2009

Fight the cuts

Big business parties attack our services

Whether a Labour or a Tory government is elected at the next general election, either will try to make extensive public spending cuts. Labour chancellor Alistair Darling intends that this week's budget will lay the basis for stepping up "efficiency" cuts, especially after the election.

Judy Beishon

If the Tories - presently ten points in the lead - are elected, the onslaught will be similar. Tory shadow chancellor George Osborne claimed "a very serious period of spending constraint" is needed. He wants "a very powerful signal throughout the public sector that the age of excess is over".

He referred to top-end public sector pay as a justification for this particular attack, but also made remarks showing that he aims to target the pay of all public-sector workers. Yet low-paid health workers, civil servants and education workers have certainly not had any 'age of excess'. It's painfully clear that the excess has been for the rich. The wealthiest 1,000 people in Britain were 'worth' 412 billion in 2008, which despite the credit crunch, was an increase of 53 billion over the previous year.

Now, with public borrowing predicted to escalate to 180 billion, the Institute for Fiscal Studies reckons that 40 billion a year of extra spending cuts or tax rises will be needed by 2015-16 to bring borrowing 'under control'.

Working and middle class people are horrified at this level of public debt, a proportion of which is hanging over the heads of every household in the country. We are told that spending cuts and universal tax rises are the only ways to reduce it. But how about the options the government tries not to mention; for a start, of taxing the rich and taking all the major finance companies into public ownership?

Instead, Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling are rescuing and helping the rich. The IMF estimates that the bank bailouts already amount to 135 billion of public funds, and the government is setting aside still more money for failing banks. Also, Darling drew back from increasing the top rate of tax on earnings over 100,000, timidly only applying a 5% increase to earnings over 150,000.

And Brown and his fellow ministers continue to worship market forces. When launching a 'New Industry, New Jobs' report, they stressed they will not opt for state ownership of industry or "override market forces". They will merely use the government for "supplementing" the market and for "correcting significant market failures".

But the avalanche of job losses that is causing terrible hardship to workers is not seen as a "significant" enough market failure to warrant intervention to stop it. Instead, government ministers play up the most optimistic economic forecasts, in that way signalling that we must just wait for better times.

But even if economic growth resumes as early as 2010, it is expected to be so low that it won't initially stem the rising tide of unemployment.

So we can't simply wait. The bosses and the rich are being served extremely well, while workers have no parliamentary representation at all and have a Trades Union Congress that refuses to mobilise the enormous potential strengh of the union movement.

On the political front the initiative of the rail workers' union to stand candidates in June's European election is an important early beginning [see page 5]. Industrially, the struggles of refinery construction workers and Visteon car workers [see page 2] have shown that workers are willing to fight.

These and coming battles in both the private and public sectors need maximum support and solidarity across the trade union movement. Co-ordinated industrial action, including building for a one day general strike, is vital in defence of workers' jobs and living standards.

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In The Socialist 22 April 2009:

Fight the cuts!

Environment and socialism

New Labour's environmental ploy: How green are electric cars?


Visteon workers stand up to bosses

Taking the Visteon struggle forward

Basildon workers picket Ford showrooms

Solidarity with the Visteon Workers

Enfield workers say: "Do a Visteon!"

Disbelief at Visteon bosses' offer

Socialist Party election campaign

European elections: a workers' alternative to New Labour takes shape

No2EU - yes to democracy

Socialist Party youth and students

Youth Fight for Jobs

Socialist Party campaigns

G20 Summit death: Independent inquiry into police violence, now!

Tesco: Every billion helps

CIA torture

International socialist news and analysis

Tamil action to stop the war continues

Ireland: Budget savages workers

Marxist analysis: history

Betrayals that led to Thatcher's victory

Hillsborough - 20 years on

Socialist Party workplace news

Stead McAlpin: Protesting in London

Unison: a fighting and democratic union needed

Postal workers' solidarity action

Wales FE funding: Victory, but keep the champagne on ice

National Shop Stewards Network conference

Saturday 27 June


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