The Socialist 3 March 2011 |
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What we think:
Determination to beat the cuts
David Cameron's announcement that private companies and charities will be able to bid to run schools, hospitals and council services was a further declaration of no-holds-barred war on the public sector. His agenda was spelt out when he wrote in the Times: "We are in the process of opening up billions of pounds' worth of government contracts so charities and social enterprises can compete for the first time. The scale of this opportunity dwarfs anything they've ever had before".
Working class people are being hit from all sides, losing jobs, pay increases, services and chunks of their pensions, while paying more for all the basic costs of living. Reports have revealed that high street prices rose at the fastest rate for 20 years last month, while families suffered a record fall in their disposable incomes. Half of UK households have less than £5,000 of net wealth, so have almost nothing to fall back on.
Meanwhile, top bankers continue to receive multi-million pound bonuses and many major companies have more cash than they know what to do with - for example, it was reported that pharmaceutical company
GlaxoSmithKline may resort to spending £1-2 billion this year just in buying back its own shares!
It is therefore no surprise that anti-cuts protests are increasing in number and size throughout the country. It is one thing to make sacrifices if there is the prospect afterwards of improvements to living standards and services but quite another thing when there is no such prospect - when young people face a far worse future than their parents had.
The government is well aware that this movement of opposition has the potential to develop massively so it is trying to be make its savagery a rapid 'fait accompli', hoping this will demoralise and deter the movement. It is helped in this by the right-wing trade union leaders who condemn the cuts but adopt a stance that little can be done to counter them. If they have their way, the national Trade Union Congress demonstration on 26 March will simply be to let off steam, rather than being a vital initial step in building a mass movement that can halt the government's onslaught.
The Socialist, however, will be calling for and suggesting concrete steps to build an almighty, powerful movement capable of forcing the government headlong into retreat. This includes putting pressure on Labour-led councils to set needs-based budgets using their reserves and borrowing powers, so that local authority jobs and services are fully maintained while mass opposition to the government is being developed and organised.
As well as helping to build the many lobbies and demonstrations around the country, Socialist Party members will be fully supporting all moves towards public sector coordinated strike action, both at local authority level and nationally, including building for a one-day public sector strike.
The Socialist Party is also urging anti-cuts candidates to stand in the 5 May council elections taking place in most areas of England. Nominations for candidates have to be submitted during the week beginning Monday 28 March, which is only three weeks away, so anti-cuts alliances, trade union activists, community campaigns etc need to quickly discuss who will be standing.
As many as possible should stand as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), in opposition to all cuts in council jobs, services, pay and conditions (see www.tusc.org.uk/policy.php for TUSC's election policy platform).
Last month Kirklees council's cabinet was forced to retreat from seeking to turn Fartown high school in Huddersfield into an Academy, not least because angry parents warned councillors they would lose their council seats if they went ahead. Also last month, a huge campaign in Renfrewshire in Scotland forced the council to abandon a plan to axe 60 teachers' posts. The campaign included a 97% 'yes' vote in an indicative ballot of teachers for industrial action.
These victories indicate the route ahead to stopping council and government cuts; ie making it crystal clear, through mass action and standing candidates, that ordinary people are determined to defeat them.