Build a no-cuts political alternative

Editorial of the Socialist

Build a no-cuts political alternative

Deep-seated anger at the seeming endless misery facing workers in Britain is growing with every passing day.

The Tories will fight the next general election promising austerity until 2020. There is no recovery in workers’ wages; on the contrary average real incomes fell by a further 2% in the last year.

The punishing squeeze on living standards is so severe that it has even been recognised by the government quango, the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, headed up by Blairite Alan Milburn.

Milburn has reported that today’s working class and middle class children will be the first in a generation to grow up markedly poorer than their parents.

The Commission report describes the nightmare that is already facing young people. Graduates are coming out of university with up to £50,000 of debt.

The number of 18 to 24 year olds unemployed for more than two years is at its highest since 1994. Meanwhile the proportion of 25 to 34 year olds who own their own homes has fallen from 60% to 40% in the past decade and is set to fall further as house prices spiral evermore out of reach.

In London house prices increased by 10%, or £50,000, in the last month alone, as international financiers put their money into the ‘safe haven’ of London property.

As private rents also soar, and social housing remains as rare as hen’s teeth, there is no ‘safe haven’ for those who merely want a secure roof over their heads.

Against this background, any opposition worthy of the name would be on course for a landslide victory at the general election.

When Labour announced the freezing of energy prices for up to 20 months, it received overwhelming public support.

No wonder, when fuel bills have risen by 40% since 2007. The right-wing media howled in horror at this very modest measure because they feared it could trigger a popular movement for wider and more far-reaching demands.

More than 70% of people would support re-nationalisation of the energy companies. And why stop there? What, for example, about nationalising the major food companies.

The cost of food and non-alcoholic drink has increased by 35.6% in the last six years, while the giant supermarkets have made huge profits.

Labour, however, has ruled out renationalising the energy companies, Royal Mail or any of the other privatised utilities.

As Ed Miliband has made clear, a future Labour government would do the bidding of big business, no matter what outrages the capitalists commit.

Writing in the Daily Mail he said: “I want to make capitalism work for working people, not destroy it.”

But capitalism is a system that works for the super-rich 1%, based on the exploitation and misery of millions of working people.

Labour’s failure to condemn the disgusting attempts at union-busting by Ineos at Grangemouth oil refinery, never mind to call for nationalisation of the plant, demonstrates which side it’s on.

It was the Labour leadership’s outrageous suspension of Grangemouth shop steward Stevie Deans as chair of Falkirk Labour Party that initially emboldened Ineos to launch their witch-hunt against him.


The recent shadow cabinet reshuffle was hailed by some as an indication that Miliband was shifting the party left, despite the fact that it included the ditching of Diane Abbott, the only remotely left-wing shadow cabinet member.

Immediately, however, the new shadow cabinet has shown its true colours. Tristram Hunt, shadow minister for education, pledged to continue with ‘free’ schools.

This means a Labour government would not reverse the decimation of state education that is currently underway.

And then Rachel Reeves, shadow minister for welfare, declared that Labour would be tougher on welfare than the Tories! With millions of the poorest currently facing destitution, this has rightly been met with indignation.

Eight trade union leaders sent a protest letter to the Observer. Polly Toynbee, writing in the Guardian (22 October, 2013), reports that her, “inbox crackled with the sound of people tearing up their party cards: ‘I rejoined recently, but I’m resigning again'” declares one.

Toynbee tries to defend Rachel Reeves’ stance, because it is necessary to bend to ‘public opinion’. Her own article inadvertently answers this when she argues that within six months of its implementation opposition to the bedroom tax has increased dramatically as a result of Labour’s opposition to it.

This gives a tiny indication of the difference a new mass workers’ party with a clear ‘no cuts’ position could make to the fight against austerity.

Of course, it is not only Labour’s verbal opposition to the bedroom tax, but people’s own experience of the tax’s inequity that has shifted public opinion.

Nonetheless, it is only with Labour support that the government has been able to get away with whipping up opposition to benefit claimants.

Toynbee doesn’t even attempt to explain why Labour isn’t also opposing other benefit cuts. But her vivid description of the human misery cuts have created in Reeves’ Leeds West constituency (which is part of a Labour-led local authority) proves the case that Labour should stand against all cuts in benefits in both words and deeds. One of Reeves’ constituents sums up the reality:

“One grandmother loses it big time in a group meeting, with her grandchild on her knee. Campaigning with others at risk of losing their homes, she explodes: The Labour council, Reeves as her MP, everyone is to blame! No use telling her it’s the government’s fault: ‘I can’t get to David Cameron, but I can get to you and the Labour council who shouldn’t collect this shocking tax!'”

Last week Southwark’s Labour-led council summonsed 5,800 of its poorest residents to court because they could not afford to pay the extra council tax demanded of them since the benefit cuts in April.

More than 400 attended a protest outside the court. According to Labour’s own figures, this tale can be replicated nationwide, with 157,000 people summonsed so far. The vast majority of these are in Labour-led authorities!

Every council, as a few have, could have refused to impose council tax increases or benefit cuts on its poorest residents.

Equally, every Labour council could have not only verbally opposed the bedroom tax but refused to implement it.

Instead, without exception Labour councils have implemented this senseless and punitive measure.

One of the biggest factors that have so far undermined the confidence of working class people to stand up against austerity is the lack of a mass political party that expresses their anger.

Labour again and again demonstrates it is another party of big business that echoes the anti-working class policies of the government.

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC is made up of socialists and trade unionists – including the transport union RMT – who are working to begin the process of creating a political voice for all those who are fighting austerity.

In next May’s local authority elections TUSC, will be aiming to stand as broadly as possible – with candidates in every major town and city where elections are taking place.

The handful of Labour councillors who dare to oppose cuts in the council chamber will have TUSC’s support, but TUSC will aim to stand against the many, many more who are implementing cuts.

TUSC appeals to every trade unionist opposing cuts and pay freezes, every anti-bedroom tax and benefit cut campaigner, to join together to make sure next May we can offer the strongest possible electoral alternative to the misery on offer from the three main parties.