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Austerity


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From: The Socialist issue 1116, 13 January 2021: Our health and livelihoods before their profits

Search site for keywords: London - Cuts - US - Austerity

Londoners suffer and Khan piles on pressure

At Hackney Downs station, London, May 2020, photo JB

At Hackney Downs station, London, May 2020, photo JB   (Click to enlarge)

Nancy Taaffe, Waltham Forest Socialist Party

One in 30 of us in London now have the virus, and in some of London's poorer boroughs, like Barking and Dagenham, it's one in 15. All of us know people that are infected, and many of us now know people who have died.

London mayor Sadiq Khan declared London is facing a major incident due to rising rates. But workers' experience of him though the pandemic is one of failing to protect their health against the Tory government or the bosses.

He failed transport staff in the first wave, which saw over 30 bus drivers lose their lives. In total 57 Transport for London (TfL) workers have died. Then Khan agreed to more austerity for Londoners in the summer in a botched TfL funding deal.

Now he expects working-class Londoners to pay the price, announcing council tax increases. He has failed to protect working-class lives and livelihoods at every stage.

London faces nearly 500 million worth of cuts. This is after ten years of austerity, which has impacted on the current Covid crisis. Many Londoners live in overcrowded conditions, with little access to testing or space to isolate.

The London Fire Brigade has already been cut by 100 million and police by 850 million. Emergency services complain they cannot meet demand. As the NHS has declared its inability to cope, these already-cut services are now being dragooned in to plug the gaps.

London Underground has 900 less staff than 2016, and has 139 fewer cleaners. You'd think Khan would have learnt that the consequence of cutting services leaves the city ill-prepared for future emergencies.

London has a tradition of fighting Tory cuts. Throughout the 1980s the working class was mobilised again and again to stand up to the Tories and fight Thatcher. Unfortunately, Khan isn't such an opposition.

Now we face a worse assault on our health and living conditions. The cuts being proposed will push many over the edge.

They have to be resisted. We need an industrial and public sector fightback, and we need an electoral challenge in the Greater London Authority elections in May, or whenever they are.

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) has called an online meeting in London on 20 January, to bring together all those in London who want to resist all cuts. Wherever you are, whatever union you represent or community group or renters' campaign, we can't just accept more cuts and more misery.

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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.
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