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From The Socialist newspaper, 19 March 2005

Pensions - the socialist future

THE SOCIALIST Party argues in its election manifesto that every person has the right to a living pension, which should be based around a socialist pensions policy achieving the following demands:

We estimate these measures would cost around 15 billion a year. But, at a time when the government, the bosses' organisation the CBI and the media say Britain is facing a pensions crisis, how could such measures be afforded?

There has been talk of a looming pensions 'crisis' for years. But this 'crisis' has been caused by the actions of the bosses and the government in trying to boost the profitability of the capitalist system, rather than by workers living longer.

The Socialist Party argues that even within the priorities of a capitalist government in Britain, a much higher level of pension could be immediately paid for by using some or all of the 35 billion a year New Labour currently spend on so-called defence. The 25 billion surplus built up from National Insurance contributions in the last 20 years since the link between pensions and earnings was broken could also be used.

Also the 27 million a year in debt repayment and interest charges the government pays to financial institutions, could all be better used on providing decent state pensions and occupational pensions for public-sector workers.

If tax relief for the richest 2% of fat cats in the British population was abolished that would immediately release an extra 15 billion a year for decent pensions for the majority.

Britain's bosses have been raking it in for decades through the low level of corporation tax they pay and the super profits they have made. If corporation tax had remained at the same level as it was in 1974, over 100 billion extra would have been raised in those three decades.

Bank profits

And, Britain's banks are set to make over 30 billion in combined profits this year. If Gordon Brown imposed another windfall tax on them as he did to the utilities in 1997, after Labour came to power to pay for its job creation programme, that would add another 15 billion to the treasury coffers.

Of course, to do this New Labour would have to attack the profits of their big business friends. However, such measures could be won if the bosses and capitalist politicians felt the pressure of a mass movement on the issue of pensions.

What is really always at stake under a capitalist system is the division of society's wealth between the capitalist class and the rest of us. A mass struggle and the fear of their system being overthrown - as has happened in the past - can force the capitalist governments to concede more than they normally would like to.

But, the Socialist Party's election programme on pensions is only the first step to eradicate the effect of the decades where pension provision in Britain has been run down.

As well as carrying out the above immediate demands, a socialist society would allow pensioners a decent minimum weekly income - of at least 320 a week at today's levels - and ensure that they were not burdened with the cost of paying for accommodation, transportation, fuel or communication.

At the same time, a socialist economic plan would allow more resources to be provided in education, health and social welfare to ensure that pensioners' lives were more fulfilling. Pensioners would no longer feel like second-class citizens and know that they were contributing to society's well being in the same way as every other section of the population.

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Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our Fighting Fund.

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In The Socialist 19 March 2005:

Blair's pensions climbdown

Pensions attacks: United action can win

Pensions - the socialist future

Why we voted to strike to defend pensions

Anger turns to action over pensions

Fight for a better future

What is socialism?

Iraq: troops out now

Iraq: occupation and the resistance

Bush and the 'democratic revolutions'

'Scary prospect' of US economic catastrophe

Massive strike in France

'Third World Debt' - who gains from Brown's plans?

Oppose Clarke's 'hideous experiment'

Good result for Roger Bannister

Building a new NUT leadership


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