The Coalition leaders,the Government front bench team of David Cameron, George Osborne and Danny Alexander are probably still laughing,at the lack of opposition from Labour, to their attack, in the autumn budget statement, on the most disadvantaged stratum of the working class, those of working age on state benefits, says Barry Biddulph.
George Osborne defined the rules of the parliamentary game: ‘Fairness is about being fair to the person who leaves home every morning to go to work and see’s their neighbour still asleep, living a life on benefits’. This is classic divide and rule strategy; victimize and stigmatize the poor. Blame the reserve army of workers, forced to be ready to provide cheap labour for any kind of job, even if one was available.
Ed Balls could have attacked and scored in an open net, but he remembered he was playing for the same austerity parliamentary team. He was not defending the unemployed, or those trapped in poverty, but capitalism or ‘our’ economy. On sky TV he expressed his outrage at Osborne’s comment. But he is hitting middle-income earners as well he spluttered. It’s not all about the feckless then! Some opposition!
Osborne was not only sticking to plan A to make the working class pay for the crisis and restore profitability by driving down wage rates and living standards, but extending the period of austerity until at least 2018. Benefits will rise only 1%, well below inflation to extract £3.7 billion from those who can least afford it.
The Institute of Fiscal Studies showed that the poorest 20% of the population would see their income cut by more than 1.5% as a result of the Autumn statement, while the richest 10% would see a 0.5 % reduction’ (Guardian 7/12/12) Moreover, the IFS calculated that a further £27 billion cuts would be required, in addition to those announced. Pensions, travel passes and fuel allowances could be under threat in future.
In Sheffield, Labour Council leader, Julie Dore, said more years of austerity and cuts would risk the collapse of council services. (The Star Dec 6 2012) Already the last two years has seen £130 million in cuts to services with 1,400 jobs axed in Steel City. A further 600 jobs are to be slashed next year. The Labour Party tactic of the dented shield, long advocated by Julie Dore, has failed completely to defend services or jobs, nor was it meant to do so. It was always an excuse for accepting the cuts. This reflects the situation in other major cities.
The Socialist Worker comment on the Osborne statement (Sian Ruddick 6/12/12) saw the Coalition as a Government using the crisis to drive down workers wages and conditions. But this understanding is upside down. The crisis of capitalism uses the parliamentary government and the capitalist state to boost profitability. The view that the coalition is using the crisis as an excuse to attack the working class, implies that capitalism in crisis can be made to work for the working class as does the rhetoric of the Socialist Party (6/12/12) stating that if the government was serious about improving the life of millions it would and so on. As if this kind of rhetoric is serious.
As long as Capitalism exists poverty and inequality will remain. The logic of the struggle against austerity can go beyond Capital. Why be nostalgic about Welfare Capitalism or assume it can be revived. Look for a future alternative.