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Give us jobs not cuts
Hannah Sell, Socialist Party deputy general secretary
April 2013 will be remembered as the month when the government trampled millions of people at the bottom of British society into the dirt while millionaires got a £100,000 a year tax cut. Under the Con-Dem government 400,000 more children are going to be growing up in poverty.
In the last ten months alone the Trussell Trust has issued food parcels to 346,000 individuals and families, compared to 60,000 in 2010. Many of those queuing for food parcels are in work but in a world of pay freezes, benefit cuts and soaring rents and utility bills, are no longer able to make ends meet.
While prices are growing twice as fast as wages, the Resolution Foundation shows the median wage has fallen by £3,200 since 2009, to £21,700.
The Con-Dems say that the bedroom tax and the universal credit and other vicious cuts to benefits are to 'encourage people into work' but, as the PCS civil service union has been pointing out, there are not enough jobs. Many of those that do exist are low-paid and precarious.
John McInally, vice-president of the PCS, said: "The coalition government's cuts and privatisation austerity programme is working for the super-rich but for no one else - 2.5 million are unemployed and 6.8 million under-employed but there are less than half a million vacancies.
"Yet the coalition is determined to continue slashing public sector jobs and services in its ideological war to 'shrink the state'. This is despite the fact that for every public sector job lost, one, probably two and sometimes as many as three will also go in the private sector.
"PCS is fighting back against these attacks. The TUC should be implementing its policy of organising coordinated industrial action across the public and private sectors to oppose austerity and get rid of this government of gangsters and spivs."
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka recently pointed out: "The real issue for the government is not making work pay, but making work exist."
There is plenty of work that needs to be done - a massive programme of high quality council house building to be let at rents which people can afford would immediately create thousands of jobs. The health service is running with dangerously low levels of staffing - filling those gaps with well-trained and properly paid workers would create more thousands of jobs. There are many more examples. The work is there and there are millions of people needing decent jobs.
What is missing is a democratic socialist plan of production which could run society in the interests of the majority, not the millionaires. If you want to fight for such a socialist society - join us today.
Editorial of the Socialist
Labour's offer limited to austerity-lite
Anger at the Con-Dem coalition is growing as the prospect of endless austerity and economic crisis stretches out in front of Britain's population.
A massive 65% of people now say that they expect their children to have a much harder life than they have had.
In this situation Labour - as the opposition party - ought to be racing ahead in the polls. Instead, while it does have a clear poll lead this has softened in recent weeks.
This does not represent a surge of support for the governing parties, but disbelief that Labour has any real alternative.
Guardian columnist John Harris blurted out the fears of millions about a future Labour government: "If it carries on as it is, the party risks a national version of the tragedies currently being played out in Labour-controlled places all over the country, where councillors wail about Tory cuts and instigate them nonetheless. So 2015 is a date now fraught with danger: will it somehow mark the beginning of the end, or the same basic nightmare, unchanged but for the faces at the top?"
Harris is a loyal Labour supporter who normally puts the most optimistic left gloss possible on Labour's policy pronouncements.
However, the sight of every Labour council relentlessly implementing Con-Dem cuts is too much for him.
What a contrast with Liverpool city council, led by the Militant (now the Socialist Party) alongside others, which 30 years ago came to power promising to build high-quality council housing, leisure centres and nurseries, and to create good jobs.
By mobilising the population of Liverpool in a mass campaign it was able to defeat the Tory government and to introduce all these policies and more.
Last weekend 500 people attended a rally in Liverpool to celebrate the anniversary of that heroic council coming to power, a real demonstration of the enthusiasm that still exists for councils prepared to fight, declaring 'it is better to break the law than break the poor' (see below).
Labour leader Ed Miliband, however, is attempting to crush any hopes that his party would reverse austerity.
Labour's failure to offer anything fundamentally different to the Con-Dems was summed up by its abstention on the Workfare Bill, thereby denying thousands of unemployed people the compensation they were entitled to after enforced slave labour in the likes of Poundland.
Unite and Labour
When Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, the biggest trade union in Britain and Labour's largest funder, warned Miliband he would be defeated if he was "seduced" by the Blairites, Miliband accused McCluskey of a "reprehensible" attempt to "divide the party" and take it back to the 1980s.
If Miliband was to put as much energy into attacking the millionaires' Con-Dem government as he put into his attack on McCluskey, Labour would certainly be further ahead in the polls.
Miliband also put out a press statement in which he denounced a general strike against austerity "as a terrible idea".
So Labour is demanding that trade unions do not organise strike action against the worst attacks on the public sector in 80 years, but instead wait for a Labour government... which is not promising to reverse the worst attacks on the public sector in 80 years!
Without doubt right-wing trade union leaders are pleading with their members to sit tight and 'hold on for a Labour government'.
But to fail to call a 24-hour general strike, as the next step in an on-going serious struggle against austerity, would be a terrible dereliction of duty.
Such a strike would be enormously popular; opinion polls have shown over 80% support for it.
As Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT transport union, said at the National Shop Stewards' Network (NSSN) lobby of the TUC on 24 April: "If the TUC calls a 24-hour general strike, the young, the unorganised and the unemployed will join the unions".
Unfortunately, that TUC general council meeting did not name the day for a 24-hour general strike, although it did agree to organise a meeting to discuss coordinating action between those unions that are considering action. This must be immediately followed up with the maximum possible coordinated action.
Local government workers are facing a continued pay freeze - strike action on this issue could combine with at least the PCS civil service union and teachers in the NUT to create action on a similar scale to 30 November 2011.
This would be a vital step forward, but alone it would not be enough. Rank-and-file trade unionists need to conduct a major campaign to demand that the day is named for a 24-hour general strike.
At the same time the working class needs a political voice. Len McCluskey has argued that it is necessary to fight to reclaim Labour from the Blairites.
Central to his strategy has been a campaign to convince 5,000 Unite members to join the Labour Party.
So far, fewer than 1,000 have joined, reflecting that a majority of Unite members do not see Labour as 'their party'.
Even those who have joined have generally found an empty party, devoid of democratic structures for Unite members to participate in.
Miliband's attack on McCluskey shows that a fight to transform Labour requires far more than the removal of a few 'ultra-Blairite' shadow cabinet ministers.
A serious campaign would have to demand that Labour adopts a socialist programme. Key demands would include the repeal of all the anti-trade union laws and a pledge to reverse the cuts in public services.
It would be necessary to demand that Labour councils stop wielding the axe and 'take the Liverpool road' of refusing to implement cuts.
Also crucial would be the rebuilding of democracy within the Labour Party, which is currently non-existent at national level.
The trade unions no longer even have the right to move motions at the toothless annual conference.
A serious battle by Unite to reclaim Labour would be a step forward. However, the Socialist Party does not believe it would be possible to wrench the Labour Party from the iron grip of pro-capitalist politicians.
If we are proved right Unite would urgently need to draw the conclusion that it should join the struggle to create a new mass party of the working class organised around a socialist programme.
The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is doing vital pioneering work to help lay the foundation for the creation of such a party.
It has the support of Bob Crow and the RMT, along with other key trade unionists and socialists, including the Socialist Party.
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In The Socialist 1 May 2013:
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party review
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party reports and campaigns