What we think
Labour crosses the Rubicon – again
In a series of speeches last week, the Labour leadership crossed the Rubicon and completely betrayed the poor and working class. Except Julius Caesar only crossed once – Labour have crossed several times!
Scandalously, shadow chancellor Ed Balls pledged to stick within the Con-Dems’ spending plans, promising “iron discipline” and “big and painful choices” for “a tough deficit reduction plan” with “tough fiscal rules”.
In an abandonment of universalism, Labour made clear they would not reverse the cuts in child benefit to better off families and would end winter fuel payments to better off pensioners.
Then, in a speech in Newham, East London, one of the poorest boroughs in the country, Labour leader Ed Miliband pledged to cap social security spending.
Then came Balls’ promise to cap spending on the state pension: “I actually think that it’s important that you’re looking across all welfare spending as far as you can.”
This complete capitulation to the Tories and the right-wing hounds in the press was greeted with Hosannas.
Balls and Co think that by this they will mollify their masters, but they will immediately demand more retreats.
Andrew Rawnsley in the Observer remarked: “They are far from complete as an answer to all the voter doubts about Labour’s fiscal credibility.
“As one frontbencher puts it: ‘This is only a first step.’ At some point, which will come much closer to the next election, Mr Balls will have to tell us by when and by what means he would aim to reduce the deficit to zero.”
The bosses want two capitalist parties, offering variants of the same austerity programme.
Why should workers turn out to vote? Instead of answering Tory lies and propaganda about ‘scroungers’ and offering hope to the masses of suffering working class people, ‘One Nation Labour’ means ‘Austerity Labour’, with a few philanthropic crumbs thrown from the table.
The Independent commented: “The issue now is how, with so much conceded, Mr Miliband can find a compelling reason to vote Labour rather than Tory or Liberal Democrat in 2015… a fuzzy sense that he will do much the same thing as his opponents, just more kindly, will not suffice.”
The “kindly” points in Miliband’s speech were the appeals to employers and private landlords to be a bit nicer.
He urged employers to pay a living wage, and to private landlords to negotiate lower rents with councils so that some of the money that would have gone on housing benefit can be spent on building houses.
It is these ideas that Unite general secretary Len McCluskey has grasped at when he says: “Ed Miliband’s speech offers hope that there is an alternative to George Osborne’s punishing experiment with the national economy…
“If Ed Miliband continues in this vein, then he will win working people back to Labour.”
How can McCluskey make this statement? Instead of clutching at straws, he should be denouncing this attack on the working class and launching a fight against this capitulation to the Blairites.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies warns that, three years into the Con-Dems’ vicious austerity programme: “we are still as far away from the (budget deficit) target as we were in 2010…
“It would not be surprising if not just 2015 but also 2020 was an ‘austerity’ election”.
Councils’ funds are being cut by over a quarter. The National Audit Office says one in eight councils is at risk of not balancing their budgets, and one in ten is in severe trouble.
Hundreds of thousands of people will lose out as a result of the changes to disability benefits brought in this month.
The benefits cap, implemented in July, could, for the 30,000-plus households affected, make the amount of money lost by the bedroom tax, disastrous though it is, look like peanuts.
An opposition worthy of the name ought to be hammering the Tories in the polls right now. But the Independent’s ‘poll of polls’ puts Labour on 35%, with its lead over the Tories steadily falling since February, despite Tory divisions.
The most common response in elections at this stage is for the majority of working class people to stay at home.
But in this year’s county council elections a section of working class people voted for the right-wing nationalist Ukip in desperation.
The situation is crying out for an anti-austerity alternative. Ukip does not offer this. However it has been widely and wrongly presented as the anti-establishment alternative to the three parties of big business.
In reality Ukip is as anti-working class as the main capitalist parties. For example it demands a single ‘flat rate’ of income tax which would mean a bin worker and a banker paying the same rate.
The horrifying killing in Woolwich and the vile attempts of racist organisations to whip up division in its wake, and the racist attacks that have taken place since, are all terrible warnings of what could happen if there is no alternative that can galvanize the fear and anger felt by millions and direct it in a mass campaign against the government and against austerity.
The Con-Dems and their media mates have conducted a concerted propaganda campaign to convince people that there is no alternative to cuts, there is no money, and to demonise benefit claimants.
The job of a working class opposition is to challenge these lies and put forward a bold anti-austerity alternative.
Labour could end council cuts tomorrow by telling its councillors not to implement cuts or the bedroom tax, to use their reserves and borrowing temporarily to fund ‘needs budgets’, and pledge that they will underwrite councils once in power.
They could halve the housing benefit bill by capping rents and launching a massive house building programme.
Cancelling all PFI debts and a plan of useful public works would provide employment and the services people desperately need.
Because it is simply not true that there’s no option. The ‘tops’ of society have enriched themselves from the economic crisis.
The number of millionaires has doubled in two years. Thirteen new billionaires have been ‘created’. The big companies sit on £850 billion worth of hoarded cash piles.
Make the rich pay. Instead of cutting the top rate of tax, tax the super-rich. Nationalise the banks, and the big profit-grabbing major corporations that dominate the economy.
These demands, if tied to a campaign for serious trade union action, a 24-hour general strike, would see off this government of millionaires and the austerity programme.
Labour has once again confirmed its transformation into a big business party. The Socialist Party is part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), which we hope is a step towards a new mass workers’ party.
Such a party could fight for a democratically decided socialist plan to meet the needs of the vast majority of the population, instead of the enrichment of the scroungers at the top.