Socialist Party documents

Socialist Party Election Manifesto 2012


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There is an alternative - socialism!

Students protest 24 November 2010, photo Senan

Students protest 24 November 2010, photo Senan   (Click to enlarge)

For the Socialist Party another important reason for taking part in the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition is to raise the profile of socialist ideas.

We do not accept the endless mantra that There Is No Alternative to austerity. Capitalism has created enormous wealth, science and technique.

We have technology today that was unimaginable a generation ago. The world economy is 17 times the size it was a century ago.

In Britain the major corporations are hoarding an incredible 750 billion in profits, which they are not investing because they do not consider they would make sufficient profit from it.

Yet we are being told that the most basic public services - a public national health service, the right to retire at a reasonable age, a job with a living wage, the right to a secure affordable home - cannot be afforded by capitalism.

The current crisis is not caused by a bloated public sector but by the worst crisis of capitalism in 70 years.

Yet all the major capitalist parties - Tories, Lib Dem and New Labour - agree that it should be the working class and public services that pay for it.

Capitalism is in crisis and it is the 99% that is expected to pay the price, while the 1% is richer than ever.

But it doesn't have to be like this. At the moment it is just accepted that the rich can't be expected to pay 'too much'.

Osborne's justification for cutting the 50p tax rate was that the rich would find ways to avoid paying it anyway, and so cutting it would only cost 100 million a year! What a society, if you are poor - and are caught claiming a few more pounds in benefit than you are legally entitled to - you face opprobrium and being sent to prison for you crime.

If you are rich individual or a big corporation and avoid paying tax, the chancellor's just accepts it and changes the tax system accordingly! In fact the small print of the budget included proposals that make legal tax avoidance by the big corporations easier, not harder.

The proposals have been masterminded by a senior manager of the international corporate tax accountants KPMG.

He was seconded to the treasury for 20 months to develop the rules that will be pushed through in the small print of the budget.

His speciality: 'advising multinationals on tax-efficient cross-border financing and restructuring' - tax avoidance by another name!

To start with socialists argue that a major campaign should be launched for the 1% to pay their taxes. As the civil servants (including tax collectors) trade union, the PCS, points out, there is about 120 billion in taxes that goes uncollected every year, almost enough to wipe out the deficit at a stroke.

Socialists argue that the rich should be the ones who pay for the crisis, via dramatically increased taxes for the super-rich and the big corporations.

For most of the 1970s the tax rate for the highest band of income was 83%. Likewise, for most of the 1970s, big corporations paid 52% of their profits in tax. But that percentage has been reduced step-by-step ever since, to just 24% now.

We also demand the immediate reversal of all privatisation of public services, including the NHS.

Public services should be run to meet the needs of the population, not to make profits for big business.

The major corporations that dominate the British economy should open their books to representatives of their workforce and the trade unions.

Up and down the country corporations are slashing pensions, cutting jobs and holding down pay, claiming that they cannot afford to do otherwise, despite the 750 billion sitting in the vaults of the big companies.

We demand they open the books and let the workers see the reality of their finances. We also argue for an immediate levy - of at least 50% - of the un-invested funds of the big corporations, in order that it can be used to be invested in developing socially useful production, jobs and services.

We support taxing the rich and big corporations, but we also recognise, however, that the 'markets' - that is capitalism - will never meekly accept dramatically increased regulation and taxation.

Capitalism is an economic system driven solely by the capitalists' need to maximise their profits, increasing exploitation of the working class, the majority in society, in order to do so.

Nationalisation under democratic workers' control

So what is the alternative to this market madness? We call for the nationalisation of the big banking and finance companies.

Compensation should be paid on the basis of proven need. Not one penny should go to the speculators who are demanding that the working class pay for the crisis for which they - the speculators - bear responsibility.

It would then be necessary to introduce full government control of all incoming and outgoing foreign trade.

That would enable a democratically elected government and the working class - not the market - to control imports and exports including capital.

A socialist nationalised banking sector would be democratically run by representatives of banking workers and trade unions, the wider working class, as well as the government.

Decisions would be made to meet the needs of the majority - for example, offering cheap loans and mortgages for housing and for the planned development of industry and services, and ending all repossessions of peoples' homes.

That would only be the start, however. Capitalism has led to enormous economic destruction. In Britain around 10% of wealth has already been lost as a result of the recession, due to factories and workplaces closing, resulting in over 2.5 million officially unemployed with the number rising.

Nor is there any prospect of a return to healthy growth. This is the real difference between now and, for example, the end of the second world war when the total national debt was far higher than it is today - over 200% of GDP compared to around 60% now.

Then, however, Britain entered a period of significant economic growth, thereby shrinking the national debt.

Today, the best prospect that can be hoped for under capitalism is a prolonged period of economic stagnation.

That is why a crucial step towards solving the economic crisis would be to take the big corporations that dominate Britain's economy into democratic public ownership.

This would allow for production to be planned for need and not for profit. A democratic, socialist plan of production would make it possible to very quickly transform the lives of millions of people. Just to give a few examples:

Unemployment and the working week

As unemployment soars Britain still has one of the longest working weeks in the European Union. New Labour has consistently fought for the right to opt out of EU laws limiting the working week to a maximum of 48 hours.

More than four million workers in Britain work longer than that each week in order to make ends meet.

At the same time workers are being told they have to retire later and later. This is the lunacy of capitalism - millions thrown on the scrapheap while others work their fingers to the bone.

By introducing a 35-hour week with no loss of pay - in other words sharing out the work - it would be possible to dramatically decrease the number of unemployed while simultaneously improving the quality of life of working class people.

If this was combined with, not only an immediate halt in cuts to public services, but a massive increase in them it would be possible to eliminate unemployment.

This would allow us to develop a vastly better public transport system, build more housing, and train and hire more teachers, doctors and nursing staff.

Housing

Meanwhile there are five million people, two million households, who are desperate for social housing.

The pipe dream propagated by Thatcher of a 'home owning democracy' lies in ruins. In London the average deposit required to take out a mortgage on a house is 85,000, while the median wage is just 24,500.

More and more people are being forced into the private rented sector, in sometimes substandard, and almost always expensive and insecure.

The million families in private rented accommodation are ten times more likely to be forced to move than those in other forms of accommodation.

And homelessness is soaring - with an 18% increase in the number of officially registered homeless in the last year alone.

A socialist government would immediately institute a mass programme of building high-quality, affordable council houses.

In the past even Tory governments, under mass pressure from the working class supported a mass house building programme.

From 1949-54 an average of 230,000 council houses were built each year, such a house building programme today would not only provide work for the hundreds of thousands of unemployed building workers, but would also immediately cut the amount of money paid to private landlords in housing benefit.

Of course, a socialist government would have to take the protection of the environment into account when building housing.

At the moment the big construction companies build purely for profit with little concern for the environment, the standard or affordability of the housing.

A mass house-building programme would mean careful planning to ensure the protection of green spaces.

In many cases, it would be possible to build on fully decontaminated brownfield sites (abandoned land formerly used for industrial purposes).

Moreover, pleasant and safe homes for all forms a crucial part of a decent environment.

Childcare

Childcare in Britain is the least regulated, hardest to obtain and most expensive of any country in the European Union.

The average weekly cost of a nursery place is 160. Lack of decent childcare means that increasing numbers of parents, in particular women, do not have the choice of going out to work.

Others are forced to rely on unqualified child carers. New Labour's solution was to introduce the Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC) and some parents are able to struggle through with this.

In total, the government spends around 5 million a year on helping pay for childcare via the WFTC. The Tories are cutting this, like all other benefits, but even at its height it was no where near enough.

Instead of handing money over to private nurseries, it would make far more sense to spend the money building and directly funding free, publicly-owned nurseries, after-school and holiday clubs, with fully qualified, decently paid staff.

Young people

Half a million, one in five, young people were unemployed even before the economic crisis hit. Now a million young people have been thrown on the scrapheap.

Student fees have gone through the roof, while EMA has been abolished in most of England and cutback in Wales.

A socialist programme for young people would start with the right to high quality training, and a job and/or college place for every school leaver.

It would also include the abolition of tuition fees and the immediate introduction of a living grant.

To do this for all students would cost a maximum of 15 billion per year. It would also mean introducing a living minimum wage of at least 8 an hour, with no exemptions on the grounds of age, or any other basis.

Pensions

Capitalism expects workers to rely on private pensions; a living state pension is considered out of the question.

Yet capitalism has failed to provide. Private sector pensions have been decimated. Back during the boom in the 1990s, according to Inland Revenue figures, big business saved itself 18bn through pension holidays, while employees continued to contribute.

As the stock market declined many pension funds went into deficit -employers cut pensions rather than repay the monies they avoided.

Fewer and fewer companies are providing a decent pension for their employees. The number of private sector employees in defined benefit schemes has fallen from 34% in 1997 to 11% last year.

Public sector workers are then being told that they have to follow suit and accept vicious pension cuts, accepting working longer, paying more and getting less.

At the same time the value of the state pension has been in decline for 30 years. In that time the pension has gone from being worth 25% of average male earnings to just 15%.

The capitalists increasingly expect us to 'work 'til we drop'. A socialist pension 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 or inflation, whichever is higher, should be restored. These measures would cost around 560 million a year.

This may sound a lot, but the big pension companies get more than half this amount in tax relief every year! In addition, pensioners, having contributed to society all their lives, should be entitled to free housing, heating, telephone and travel.

For a decent national health service

The NHS was one of the great achievements of the 1945 Labour government. Now the ConDem government is systematically destroying what is left of the NHS, which had already been undermined by the New Labour government.

In England massive privatisation is being combined with brutal cuts. In Wales privatisation is not yet on the same scale, but the cuts now threatened are even greater than in England.

A socialist policy for the NHS would mean an immediate end to privatisation and a reversal of all the privatisation already introduced.

However, this does not mean that we just want to go back to the NHS of twenty years ago. The NHS needs to be democratically run with the full involvement of NHS workers and users.

It also needs to be better integrated (between hospitals, primary care, community care, social services, dentistry etc) in order to give people the best possible service.

All charges for health care, including for dentistry and eye-care, should be completely abolished. How could this be paid for? A socialist government would redirect money currently spent on war and occupation into the health service.

We would also take the pharmaceutical and drug companies into democratic public ownership. In 2002, the wealth of the global pharmaceutical industry was estimated at $406 billion.

It is a closely guarded secret exactly how hefty a chunk of the billions the pharmaceutical companies make in profit comes from their sales to the NHS, but there is no doubt that it would save the NHS billions if it didn't have to buy drugs from the drug profiteers.

In addition, a nationalised pharmaceutical industry would direct research at finding cures for diseases and developing treatments for less common illnesses which the current drugs industry ignores - because it is not profitable to do otherwise.

At the same time a socialist government would carry out measures to increase living standards - such as a decent living pension, increased annually and linked to earnings, and the right to a job with a living wage for all.

It should not be underestimated how much such measures would improve peoples' health. Ill health remains a class issue - even according to government statistics, low-paid workers are almost three times as likely to suffer from chronic ill health as high-level managers.


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