Britain: Labour – party of cuts

Oppose the ’logic of capitalism’

Election polls continue to show Labour and the Tories running neck and neck. This is an indictment of Labour: After five years of the most vicious attacks on the working class, of wage cuts, job losses and cuts in public services etc, they cannot decisively pull ahead of the Tory toffs, those braying millionaire MPs so clearly serving their own class interests – cheering budget after budget that attack the living standards of the working class and transfer wealth to the rich.

There is growing anger at the manifest unfairness of ordinary people paying for austerity while the bankers continue to get their bonuses, ever rising boardroom pay, and the rich getting richer.

Labour has been pushed to acknowledge this – hurriedly bringing in the phasing out of ’non-dom’ status for tax-dodging millionaires, gaining a bit in the polls as a result. The Tories are panicking too. When Labour announced some limited extra funding for the NHS, the Tories rushed out their own pledge, but were unable to explain where the money was going to come from!

We understand that many working class people will vote for the ’lesser evil’ of a Labour government to get the Tories out. Others will vote for parties such as the Scottish National Party (SNP) or Greens to protest, or simply abstain.

Manifesto

However, Labour remains a capitalist party committed to austerity and sticking to Tory spending limits. Shadow welfare minister Rachel Reeves has promised to be tougher on welfare than the Con-Dems.

In its manifesto released on 13 April, Labour pledged to cut the deficit every year it’s in power. In an attempt to portray itself as "fiscally responsible", Labour aims to bring currentgovernment spending into surplus "as early as possible in the next parliament."

At the manifesto launch, Miliband said: "I am going into anelection doing what no other Labour leader has done, which is saying outside protected areas – the NHS, education, international development – spending is going to fall until the books are balanced. I couldn’t be clearer."

But even in the ’protected areas’ of health and education th ey will not put in the money needed to maintain levels of service.

Labour will not reverse privatisation. For example, while pledging to repeal Lansley’s 2012 Health and Social Care Act (England) it puts forward no solution to the funding crisis in the NHS, caused in particular by money haemorrhaging into the private sector through PFI contracts (see page 2) and private service providers. Labour will also implement the massive cuts in local government proposed in Osborne’s budget.

Many workers will vote Labour because they will see them as the only choice to get rid of the Con-Dem government but what will be the reality of life under a Labour government?

It will be the continuation of cuts to local services and the public sector as a whole. Trade union leaders, who call for a Labour vote, will have to explain to their members why they are still losing their jobs under a Labour government and in many cases Labour councils.

Education

There may be a reduction in university tuition fees but students will still leave university under a huge burden of debt, facing an uncertain future of low wages and insecure jobs and housing. Schools will have to find annual savings of more than £1 billion (equivalent to 20,000 full-time teacher posts), whichever capitalist party or combination of parties wins the election.

Austerity is the logic of capitalism, and therefore of all parties that seek to stay within the constraints of capitalism – a profit system based on exploitation of the 99% by the 1%. The capitalists seek to maintain those profits at all times, at the cost of the living standards of the working class and sections of the middle class.

All policies are measured by what is necessary for ’the markets’ but what are the markets? They are big business – the spivs and speculators, the bankers and the hedge fund owners, the super-rich. If the markets call for cuts, then cuts are necessary.

But socialists base themselves on the working class and what is necessary for the majority in society and for humanity as a whole. We reject the logic of big business. What use is a system that guarantees unimaginable wealth for a few at the expense of the majority, where soon the richest 1% will own more wealth than everyone else?

Why can’t all that wealth be used for the benefit of all, of society as a whole? Why can’t profits be ploughed back into society, rather than being salted away into the tax havens that around the world hold anything up to £20 trillion; or the £850 billion lying idle in the coffers of big business in Britain? Surely that would be the rational approach?

Nationalisation

That is why the Socialist Party calls for the nationalisation of the banks and the big companies. This would be a first step to democratically controlling those resources and using them to provide what is needed. Houses are needed – then they should be built; hospitals, doctors and nurses are needed – they should be trained and employed. Young people are the future of society – they should have access to free education, training, decent jobs and housing.

The parties that do seem to present an alternative, that say they are opposed to austerity, like the Greens, theSNP and Plaid Cymru, are all growing in popularity as a result.

But ultimately it is what they are actually prepared to do that counts. Where they are in power, at both local and national level, they are implementing cuts. They are not prepared to challenge capitalism.

Just like Labour, these parties will bend to the demands of big business and the banks. It is significant that, given the chance in the first leaders’ debate, none of these parties mentioned public ownership.

That’s why the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) and the question of working class political representation is so important. Guardian readers replying to a survey asking what policies Labour should have, came up with TUSC policies!

And voters in England saying they would vote for the SNP because of their anti-austerity rhetoric, also shows the potential support for the TUSC programme. But few workers know our policies because of the lack of coverage in the media and because of the silence of the pro-Labour trade union leaders.

A workers’ party, basing itself on socialist policies – like Clause 4 (which called for public ownership) that was expunged from Labour’s constitution by Tony Blair – and backed by the might of the trade unions and the working class would get enormous popular support to challenge the powers that be and turn the tide against austerity.

Whatever the result of the election, the next government will continue to attack working class living standards. We will need to build that working class alternative, and the stand of TUSC in these elections is part of that process.

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