The Socialist 15 May 2004
Get The Troops Out
Cuts, Closures And Privatisation
Vote Socialist Alternative
Seven years ago, when New Labour was elected, there was widespread hope that working-class people's lives would improve.
After 18 years of Tory privatisation, cuts and job losses, New Labour was expected to be different. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
New Labour, like the old Tories before, consistently takes measures that make life harder for working people.
No To Cuts and privatisation
In New Labour's Britain privatisation rules. The government claim that privatisation can offer good public services. This is rubbish.
Private companies exist to make a profit. When they invest in our public services, their profits are coming from the taxes we've paid. That means money is being transferred directly from our services into the fat cats' pockets.
Not just from our services, but from those of future generations. PFI is mortgaging the future; it commits our children and grandchildren to continue paying the profiteers for many decades to come.
If you're denied a hospital bed, if your education services are cut, if your libraries are closed then chances are it's because big business has decided it can't make enough money.
Privatisation means massive risk-free profits for the fat cats and poor public services for us. Only 11% of people support privatisation, yet New Labour just keeps selling off the family silver.
Tories and Liberals are no better...
After decades of ceaseless cuts eating away at our living conditions like acid on metal, it could seem that we have no choice but to accept our lot.
After all, every mainstream party - New Labour, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats - stands for the same diet of cuts and privatisation.
On a local level, where they run local councils they are all cutting our public services to the bone, often combined with dramatically increased rates of council tax.
Nationally, they are attempting to outbid each other for who can privatise most if they win the next general election. In the privatisation race the Tories have a narrow lead, going even further than New Labour with their plans for the outright privatisation of health and education, but New Labour is not far behind.
And the Liberal Democrats, who previously posed as being 'nicer' than the other two big parties, are now neck and neck with New Labour with their plans to privatise prisons, the royal mint, and several other services that New Labour hasn't got round to yet!
Britain a rich country
But we do not have to accept the meagre lot currently on offer. Britain is officially the fourth richest country on the planet. And for a few at the top Britain is truly booming. Executive pay rose by 23% in 2003, compared to an average of 3.6%.
A few years ago it was estimated that Britain's 1,000 wealthiest men and women had over £108 billion stashed away! It is not a lack of wealth that has resulted in 25 years of cuts.
The policies of all the mainstream parties are dictated by the interests of the big corporations that dominate the British economy. So while the government has no problem spending money (for example, it has already put aside £5 billion for the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and is likely to spend far more, current costs are running at £5 million a day) it does everything it can to resist spending money on improving our living conditions - because it is not in the interests of big business.
This is the brutal logic of the system we live under, capitalism.
However, we do not have to accept the brutal logic of capitalism. Across Britain workers are being forced to take strike action over pay. The Socialist Party stands in solidarity with all those workers fighting to defend or improve their pay and conditions.
The Socialist Party also campaigns as part of local communities against cuts and closures in our services. If we put up a fight it is possible to win victories, like, to give just one example amongst many, the campaigners in Southampton who have just saved their local leisure centre.
If you vote for a socialist candidate in this election, it will send a message to all three 'Tory' parties that you are not prepared to accept their diet of cuts and privatisation any longer. Better still join us in the fight back!
Our Socialist Policies:
No Privatisation! No Cuts! Vote For A Socialist Alternative!
Privatisation is becoming the norm in Britain's schools. New Labour's latest 'new' idea is for City Academies. These schools are private companies, which only have to raise £2 million sponsorship, and then receive 100% state funding!
At the same time we are witnessing the abolition of comprehensive education and the wholesale reintroduction of selective schools. Comprehensive education, based on the development of all-round skills, was an attempt to partially overcome the greed and anarchy of the market which, of course, favours the children of the rich. Despite the limitations of the comprehensive system, its abolition will be a severe step backwards.
The Socialist Party stands for
New Labour tax and cut!
The Socialist Party fights for:
Since 1997 the council tax has increased by 70%. Millions struggle to pay ever-rising council tax bills while local authorities use the courts and the bailiffs to retrieve arrears. We are collapsing under a tax burden, yet the services we are supposed to receive in return are being cut to the bone.
The council tax is a deeply unfair, regressive tax where the poor pay most. Those living in the most expensive properties (Band H) pay only three times as much as the lowest. This means that the Blairs, with an income of at least £450,000, pay just £1,140 in council tax.
The government tries to claim that rises in council tax have nothing to do with them, but they're lying. Councils only raise 25% of their income from council tax, while 75% comes from central government. So a small increase in council spending or, more likely, a cut in the central government grant, results in a high council tax increase.
In addition, under New Labour the government grant is tied by a thousand strings to specific spending projects, mainly linked to privatisation. This leaves local councils with a pittance to spend on providing basic local services.
The government also decides at what rate the local business tax can be set at. Desperate to please big business, New Labour has continued the Tory policy of refusing to raise the business rate. This means that the proportion of local authority budgets provided by the business rate has fallen from 31% in 1990 to 22% now. The result is a higher council tax.
Business rates should be bought back under local control. Of course there should be rebates for small businesses but every area has massive multinationals like McDonalds that are currently getting away with paying minimal taxes.
But local councils are not blameless. Whether Labour, Liberal or Tory they have wholeheartedly accepted a diet of cuts, privatisation and council tax increases.
A socialist council would set a 'needs budget' based not on the dictats of central government, but on the needs of local people.
We would then launch a mass campaign to demand the necessary funds from central government.
The Right To A Decent Home
The Socialist Party is fighting for:
Do the repairs, renovate our homes - clear the £19 billion backlog with no strings attached.
A high-quality, affordable home is one of the most crucial elements of a decent standard of living yet it is a right now denied to most of us.
As house prices soar, it is impossible for many young people to stretch to a mortgage - on average the lowest-paid quarter of the population would have to earn five times their current wages to buy a property.
Private sector renting is all that is available to increasing numbers of people.
Millions of people are being forced to live in sub-standard, overcrowded private rented housing.
And private sector rents are following house prices into the stratosphere - they increased by 15% last year alone.
We campaign for the reintroduction of rent officers with the power to force landlords to pay a fair rent.
Stop the sell off - defend council housing
What would be the solution to the housing crisis?
For affordable, secure, good-quality public housing to be provided for all those who want it.
After all, from 1949-54 an average of 230,000 council houses were built per year.
The Socialist Party is campaigning for a programme on a similar scale that would refurbish existing stock and build enough new homes to genuinely solve the housing problem.
We also demand that the big banks and insurance companies, building societies and finance houses be taken into democratic public ownership.
Every mortgage holder in the country pays their bank or building society tens of thousands of pounds in interest.
Local councils also pay vast sums in interest payments to the banks.
If the banks were in public ownership they would be able to cancel all local authority debts and offer individuals interest-free, or very low interest, loans.
The result would be far cheaper mortgage repayments and rents.
In complete contrast to a socialist policy New Labour is hell-bent on worsening the housing crisis.
They are attempting to systematically sell off what remains of council housing.
Although they haven't yet met their target of selling off 200,000 homes a year, they have succeeded in selling off more council houses in the seven years they've been in office than the Tories managed to sell off in 18 years!
If they had got their way, far more housing would have been sold off, but in many areas tenants have ignored New Labour's bullying and have voted to stay with the local authority.
Tenants understand that, however much New Labour disguises it with quangos like an Arms Length Management Organisation (ALMO), their agenda is privatisation. And privatisation means higher rents and less rights and democracy for tenants.
Registered social landlords' (RSLs) rent levels are higher than the cost of buying a home in 55 local authority areas! And for new tenants no guarantees exist - for example, in 1998/1999 new tenants in recently privatised housing suffered average rent rises of 16%!
Yet New Labour has done everything possible to try and force tenants to vote for privatisation. Housing minister, Keith Hill, has told MPs that he is 'tearing up' tenants' rights to a decent home if they vote to keep their council landlords.
There is no objective reason preventing a massive increase in public sector housing.
The government should change their own regulations and completely lift the Tories' 'ring-fencing' (the Tory policy which prevented local authorities from spending the money from council house sales on social housing).
This alone would provide an extra £6.5 billion to spend on public housing.
Even the 25% of this money that New Labour has legally released from ring-fencing would be enough to create at least 100,000 new or refurbished homes.
The Right To A Living Pension
Pensioners should receive an immediate 50% increase, and this should be extended to all state benefits.
Work until you drop if you can't afford to retire - that's New Labour's grim message.
As far as big business is concerned we are living too long! A 65-year old in 2002 could expect to live four years more than a 65-year old in 1960. Government and employers say they can't afford state and occupational pensions to pay for this.
So New Labour's big idea is us working. Compulsory retirement at 65 will go. Teachers, civil servants and NHS workers, who can now retire at 60, will have to soldier on until 65.
When we eventually get to retire, a personal pension scheme will be the only option available to us if New Labour and big business gets their way. Yet, as recent scandals have shown, pension funds are reliant on the casino of the stock market, so even if we stretch to make the payments (pension experts estimate a 30 year-old needs to put away over £200 per month) receiving a living pension is far from guaranteed.
The Socialist Party is campaigning to try and ensure that the TUC demonstration on 19 June, called to defend pension rights, is turned into a massive show of opposition to New Labour's pension plans, as the first step to defeating them.
A socialist pensions policy would 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, and this should be extended to all state benefits. The link between pensions and earnings should be restored.
These measures would cost around £15 billion a year.
In addition, pensioners, having contributed to society all their lives, should be entitled to free housing, heating, telephone and travel.
This could be easily paid for by using some of the £35 billion a year New Labour are currently spending on so-called defence.
No To The BNP
The far-right, racist British National Party (BNP) claims that it is on the side of working people. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The BNP is a racist party that lays the blame for the problems local communities face - poor housing, privatisation and council service cuts - at the door of ethnic minorities and asylum seekers.
This is easy for the BNP, after all, the government and the tabloid press use the same kind of propaganda. The leader of the BNP has called Blunkett his "best recruiting sergeant".
By whipping up racism the BNP diverts blame from the real culprits for the problems of working-class communities - big business, the government and local councils. And when the BNP has been elected it has done nothing to fight for the local people it claims to represent.
In Burnley, the BNP councillors didn't even turn up to the council meeting where council tax rises and £1 million worth of cuts were voted through. In Stoke, BNP councillors voted in favour of a dramatic rise in council tax equal to almost double inflation.
The BNP even opposes the right of workers to take strike action and so condemned the firefighters' strike in 2002.
It is not enough for anti-racists just to condemn the BNP's record of racism, prejudice and hatred. We need to offer a clear socialist alternative based on working-class unity.
New Labour's Tory policies of cuts and privatisation boost support for the BNP whilst the government's attacks on the right to asylum for refugees fleeing torture, repression and war help make the BNP look more legitimate and respectable.
The campaign to stop the BNP must expose its real agenda but more importantly offer a positive alternative including mass community and trade union campaigns to improve council services, stop cuts and privatisation and prepare the way for a new mass workers' party to genuinely represent working people.
For a Socialist Europe
The Socialist Party is fighting for:
The European Union (EU) is an exclusive club run in the interests of the EU's ruling classes - a bosses' Europe.
All the treaties, agreements and summits promote a big-business agenda: the 'liberalisation' of trade, cuts in the welfare state, and racist immigration laws.
Workers across Europe are currently facing major attacks on their living standards, particularly on their pension rights. In response there have been massive movements, including widespread strike action.
The neo-liberal cuts that workers in France, Germany and other countries are currently attempting to derail are very similar to the attacks that Thatcher and now Blair inflicted on workers here.
We stand in solidarity with the struggles of workers across Europe - their victory can only help us in our struggle against cuts and privatisation.
At the same time we fight for a democratic, socialist Europe where the needs of working people come before the ruthless drive for profits by the multinational corporations.
These are just a few of the Socialist Party's policies.
For a fuller picture - including our policies on the NHS, pensions, universities, childcare and more - get a copy of our Manifesto for Socialism £1 (£2 solidarity) - available soon - by writing to PO Box 24697, London, E11 1YD, phoning 020 8988 8777, emailing Hannahsell@socialistparty.org.uk
or going to www.socialism.org.uk (cheques made payable to Socialist Party)
For A Socialist Alternative
The Socialist Party is fighting for every possible improvement in working-class people's lives, but we recognise that under this profit-hungry capitalist system, we will always face a constant struggle to defend our living conditions. That is why we are fighting for socialist change.
We don't want the kind of regimes that existed in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe which, while they were based on a planned economy, were completely undemocratic.
Socialism can only work with the fullest democracy. We want real socialism - a democratic society and economy run to meet the needs of all instead of the profits of a few.
Based on co-operation and equality, socialism would lay the basis for an end to poverty and all forms of discrimination and oppression.
We're not like the rest of them...
Socialists Are On Your Side
Most people will not vote in these elections - because they are so disillusioned with the mainstream parties. But not voting will not stop our public services being butchered. Nor will it stop our government supporting US imperialism's barbaric war and occupation for oil.
What is needed is someone working people can vote for - a completely different kind of political party - a party that is made up of ordinary working-class people and which fights for their interests.
A party that will fight to defend them against the billionaires who run this society for profit instead of people's needs.
Wherever we are able to, the Socialist Party is contesting these elections to provide working people with such an alternative.
Our party has a long and proud record of struggling to defend working class people.
For example, in 1990 we led the battle against the poll tax which successfully brought down Thatcher and defeated the tax. We are involved in hundreds of campaigns up and down the country, including the fight against privatisation, for better pay, to stop council house sell-offs, for free education, against the war in Iraq and to stop the pollution of our environment.
As well as these day-to-day struggles, we also fight for socialist change.
A socialist 'that money can't buy'.
In these local authority elections we are standing Socialist Alternative candidates in Newcastle, Sheffield, Huddersfield, Wakefield, Pontefract, Leeds, Doncaster, Barnsley, Merseyside, Stoke, Birmingham, Worcester, Coventry, Lincoln, Stevenage, Southampton, Gloucester, Swindon, Cardiff and Swansea.
We are also standing in the Lewisham and Greenwich Greater London Authority seat. We also support other socialist and anti-cuts and anti-privatisation candidates.
At the same time we campaign for the founding of a new party - that brings together forces such as socialists, trade unionists and the anti-war movement - and puts forward a programme for the millions instead of the millionaires.
The trade unions in Britain donate millions of pounds to New Labour every year - yet it doesn't buy them one penny's worth of influence with the government.
We argue it would be far better to use that money to begin to build a new party.
No to sleaze and corruption
But we don't want a new party that ends up the same way as New Labour - putting the interests of big business first.
We would campaign for any new party to adopt a genuine socialist programme.
We would also argue that it adopt a policy that its elected representatives taken only the average wage of a skilled worker in the area they represent, so that they remain in touch with ordinary working people.
In the past, when we had three socialist MPs, they took only the average wage of a skilled worker.
Today our councillors take the same attitude and, in Ireland, Socialist Party MP Joe Higgins also takes the average wage of a worker.
Even the tabloid press has felt compelled to describe Ireland's Socialist Party MP Joe Higgins as a socialist 'that money can't buy'.
In this issue
Socialist Party election campaign
Workplace news and analysis