Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It's going to get worse

Workers will take part in the biggest day of strike action for decades as around 2.5 million public sector workers prepare to walk out in protest over changes to public sector pensions. The action is in response to Government plans to increase the amount of money public sector workers pay into their pension, raise the age of retirement and introduce career-average pensions.

The government has now told public sector workers and the low paid that they will be the ones to pick up the bill for his attempts to kick-start Britain's stagnant economy, and warned that weaker growth and higher borrowing would force the country to endure a record breaking six years of austerity. The chancellor imposed a fresh public-sector pay freeze and cut financial help to the lowest paid workers by setting a two-year 1% ceiling on public sector pay increases – well below the current inflation rate and by scrapping an increase in child tax credits that will result in an additional 100,000 children dropping below the government's poverty line. He also signalled the end of national pay bargaining within two years, setting different rates of pay for public-sector workers depending on where they live in the country. The Office for Budget Responsibility suggests 710,000 public sector jobs could go within the next five years.

The age at which people qualify for the basic state pension will rise to 67 from 2026, 10 years earlier than planned. The move will affect anyone below the age of 52.

Bob Crow, the general secretary of the RMT union, accused the chancellor of wanting "...the workers to keep taking the hit while the rich get richer. With inflation over 5%, and the increase in pension contributions, that means nurses and the others we rely on will be around 25% worse off after four years of this ConDem government, while top bosses' pay goes up by 12% a year. That's a scandal."

Dave Prentis, the general secretary of Unison said: "The government's cuts and austerity agenda is hitting women, the young, and making those who are less able to pay plug the deficit. Meanwhile, it is still billions in bonuses for bankers. This is only storing up trouble for the future."

Osbourne as the man in charge of the finances of the capitalist state in Britain, he has to find the money to pay for the government's activities. But because he couldn't find enough, at least not without undermining profit-making, he has had to cut back on government spending. Governments are entirely dependent for their finances on the profit-making sector of the economy. This is the sector where the profit motive reigns supreme. Where unless businesses calculate they stand to make sufficient profits they won't employ workers to produce wealth. As governments are not engaged in producing wealth themselves, the only way they can get money is by taxing or borrowing from this sector. So they have an over-riding financial interest in the health of the profit sector and in doing nothing that would adversely affect the profit-making, and profit-taking, that goes on there. So government spending, coming in the end as it does out of the profits of the profit-making sector, has had to be squeezed. And, as usual, we are the victims. Workers should and will fight back. But the crisis has shifted the balance of forces even more in favour of employers. In the best of circumstances, when production is expanding and there is a labour shortage, unions have to work hard to get wages to go up a bit more than inflation. Now, with falling production and rising unemployment, unions can only try to put a brake on the downward slide, only try to stop things getting worse, .

Whereas, in the past, politics was about politicians telling us how they were going to improve our living standards, today politics is about the pace and duration of the cuts that are going to bite into our lives in the future: the political Right, abetted by the craven Centre, thinks the pain of economic retrenchment should be fully applied now; the Left argues that less pain over an extended period is preferable. The fact is the profit system can never be reformed so as to work in the interest of the majority of the population. It can only work as a profit system, by giving priority to making profits over all other considerations. And governments have no alternative but to dance to this tune.

Why should we have to fight the same battles over and over again? The profit system is not the only possible way of organising the production and distribution of the things we need. There is an alternative. Workers can and should organise to end capitalism which forces them to work for wages to live. We should organise to replace it with a system based on producing the things we need simply because we need them and not to make a profit. Production for use, not production for profit. But we can’t control what is produced unless we also own and control the means of production. In short, we need socialism, the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production.

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