Skip to main content

Rolling back our rights

The Chancellor's prescription of a further £25 billion of cuts in public spending continues his government's austerity philosophy

No-one can fail to understand, after George Osborne's Birmingham speech, the consequences of a Tory return to office after the next general election.

The Chancellor's prescription of a further £25 billion of cuts in public spending continues his government's philosophy of hammering the poor to provide tax cuts for the rich.

He wants to means-test better-off council tenants out of their homes and to end housing benefit for under-25s, despite them already being restricted to the pitiful shared accommodation rate.

Neither measure would raise a great deal, so his efforts will be concentrated on axing benefits to hit the working poor most disproportionately.

Crucially, Osborne dispenses with the pretence that his austerity agenda is linked to tackling the effects of the 2008 financial crisis.

He declares openly that government and the welfare state must both become "permanently smaller."

This is the economic agenda of the international financial agencies that tell individual states to compete in a race to the bottom by privatising publicly owned industries and hacking the social wage to reduce corporation tax for big business and income tax on wealthy individuals.

The capitalist class has waited for decades for the opportunity to eradicate the postwar improvements won by workers in Britain and other European states.

Left-wing parties vowed then that there would be no return to the mass unemployment, poverty, ill health, slums, ignorance and work-till-you-drop mentality dictated by our rulers.

The NHS, state education, council housing, decent pensions, unemployment and other welfare services and benefits constituted a social wage to make life bearable.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, communist parties have lost ground while many socialist/social-democratic parties have adopted the neoliberal policies of capitalist orthodoxy.

Osborne and his ilk see their opportunity to roll back working-class historical gains by challenging opponents to offer an alternative approach to the austerity agenda.

An alternative certainly exists, which the Chancellor acknowledges, even though he ridicules it by references to a "magic wand" to allow more to be spent on public services.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg parodies the Tory approach as "cuts for cuts' sake" and Labour's as "spending for spending's sake" in a desperate effort to divert responsibility for his party's criminal collaboration with the Tories.

The Liberal Democrat leader continues to play political games by raising again his pre-election radical proposal for a mansion tax even though he led his MPs through the No lobby when Labour actually proposed the measure.

Unfortunately, Labour remains as scornful of a real alternative to the austerity agenda as the conservative coalition.

Despite identifying the cost of living as the real crisis facing Britain's working people, the Labour leadership appears to have decided to rest on its laurels, having caused a frisson with its modest proposal of a temporary freeze in energy bills.

This translates as Ed Balls accepting that "Labour will have to make cuts and in 2015-16 there will be no more borrowing for day-to-day spending" - the austerity-lite option.

The gap between rich and poor has been growing for years.

Tackling this, together with the cost-of-living crisis, requires higher taxation of big business and the rich, ending tax avoidance loopholes and boosting the share of national wealth devoted to wages and pensions.

Workers don't need platitudes. They need a distinctly alternative economic approach that prioritises working people's interests over those of a parasitic rich elite.


We're a reader-owned co-operative, which means you can become part of the paper too by buying shares in the People’s Press Printing Society.

Become a supporter

Fighting fund

You've Raised:£ 9,262
We need:£ 7,462
8 Days remaining
Donate today