Britain - stopping the cuts means fighting this rotten profit system!

Jul/Sep 2010

The first round of cuts announced by Cameron's coalition and its 22 June "emergency budget" leaves no doubt as to whom the new coalition government is targeting - the working class in general, and the poorest and most vulnerable in particular.

If this government is allowed to get away with its plans, it will deprive many workers of their livelihoods, empty the pockets of the labouring majority and, in general, drive down its standard of living. At the same time, it will hand back the resulting "savings" to the capitalist class, boosting its affluence even more.

This is more than just taking from the poor to line the pockets of the rich, which is ongoing in this society: it is pushing a growing section of the population back into poverty in order to placate the insatiable greed of the wealthy.

These austerity measures against the working class are supposedly designed to make up for the black hole in public finances and prevent it from causing another crisis, this time not just for the banks, but for the state itself. But, by a cynical twist, this black hole caused by the parasitism of the capitalist class on the economy, is being used as a pretext to reinforce this parasitism at the expense of the majority of the population! Claiming that this can do anything to resolve the imbalances of the capitalist system - as politicians of all stripe do - is just a barefaced lie.

Not that these policies should come as a surprise. The writing was on the wall from the very moment Labour embarked on its bailout of the financial system, in September 2007, after the near-collapse of Northern Rock. It was not a question of whether the capitalists and their politicians would try to make the working class foot the bill of the state's largesse to finance capital - it was only a question of when they would try to do it.

At last year's TUC and Labour conferences, Brown had already made it clear that what the bosses' mouthpieces called "payback time" had come for the working class. This March, Darling's last budget before the election clearly laid out the rules of the game: cuts, more cuts and even more cuts, on the backs of the working class, to prop up the profits of the capitalists. If the cuts contained in this budget remained largely on paper, it was only for lack of time and due to the relative "truce" of the subsequent election campaign.

During that campaign, the issue was never who was to bear the brunt of the cuts - all the main parties agreed that it could only be the working class. Their only differences had to do with packaging, timetable and which mix of expenditure cuts and tax increases would be best. There was no choice whatsoever for working class voters. No matter how the election dice rolled, the policies of the resulting government were already a foregone conclusion. They would involve an onslaught on the jobs and conditions of the working class majority. Working class voters were in the position of turkeys being invited to vote for Xmas.

This was reflected in the election results. Labour got its expected come-uppance, in recognition for its 13 years of pro-business policies. The Tories' topping of the poll was, at best, unconvincing and they failed to win a majority in the Commons. The Lib-Dems cashed in on voters' disgust for the political system represented by the two main parties - even though they, themselves, are an integral part of this system - and were the main beneficiaries of the very slight increase in turnout, compared to the previous general election.

After much horse-trading, the Tories co-opted the Lib-Dems as willing sidekicks rather than equal partners. Those who had "bought" the idea that the Lib-Dems would give a more "humane" face to Tory policies were soon disappointed. Not only did the Lib-Dems forget about their own long-standing commitments, but their leader Nick Clegg, now deputy prime minister, soon became the government's mouthpiece in its campaign against public sector workers.

The outcome of this process was a crisis government which prided itself in its determination to "make tough decisions" against the working population.

In Labour's footsteps

Cameron was quick to get to the real business - predictably so, as his priority was to reassure financial speculators who had been taken aback by the Tories' poor performance in the election.

And - surprise, surprise! - what came out of his conjurer's hat was a comprehensive combination of Labour's long-standing anti-working class plans, wrapped together with an almost unaltered version of Darling's March 2010 budget. None of which, of course, stopped Labour's top pots from calling the Con-Dems' kettle black.

But there again, this continuity was entirely predictable - quite simply because there are not all that many ways for the capitalist class to skin the working class in a given political context. Labour already had a long record of austerity measures, some of which actually went back a long way, before the crisis broke out. In addition, the previous governments had done all the ground work to prepare for the introduction of new, far-reaching attacks, at some point in the future. All Cameron had to do was to pull these plans out of Labour's top drawer and put them in neat Tory blue folders.

Just as Labour had prepared its attacks with demagogic campaigns aimed at those targeted - so did Cameron, with a remarkable lack of imagination.

Take the on-going campaign against public service workers, for instance. Last March, as part of a new "name and shame" policy, Brown published with much fanfare a list of public sector salaries worth £200,000 or more. Shortly after coming to office, Cameron did exactly the same, except that he used his own salary as a reference point (although not his expenses and perks!). Of course, neither Brown nor Cameron ever mentioned the millions of public sector workers who have to make do with low wages, let alone the significant proportion of part-timers, most of whom cannot possibly make a living out of what they earn. But then, of course, wasn't the only aim of this campaign designed to expose the "privileges" of public sector workers and to justify getting them to take a larger share of the "pain"?

Likewise for public sector pensions. They have been a favourite target of the CBI for years - but also for Labour politicians. Under past Labour governments, astronomical estimates of the alleged cost to the state of public sector pensions were floated repeatedly by ministers and official "experts", with the inevitable assertion that these pensions were just "unaffordable" in the long term. Today, it is the turn of Nick Clegg to go on the offensive in the Commons along exactly the same lines, using the same argument and virtually the same figures.

Never mind the fact that these astronomical figures were always based on assumptions covering no less than the whole 21st century, which made them totally meaningless - that is, in the absence of a crystal ball. However, all this nonsense also ignored one common sense argument: that the colossal growth of productivity in the economy, and the corresponding colossal increase in wealth produced by the working population, should be more than enough for society to be able to cater for the needs of a working class whose age expectancy is rising! Otherwise, it would simply mean that what is really "unaffordable" is the way society is organised today!

The past and present demagogic campaigns to deprive claimants of their benefits and "help them into work" reveal a similar continuity. In particular, they display the same kind of cynical disregard of the fact that, even for those claimants who can do some work, there are simply no jobs on offer - meaning that "helping" claimants "into work" really comes down to just pushing them off the benefit register. It was Labour which first introduced a poster and TV campaign targeted at so-called "benefit cheats". Cameron hijacked this scape-goating of the jobless, during the last election campaign, with his slogan: "Let's cut benefits for those who refuse work" It was Blair who started targeting single mothers to force them off benefit and Osborne is now increasing the pressure on them. It was Blair as well, who launched a media campaign against claimants on invalidity and incapacity benefits, and then introduced new compulsory checks on them - checks that Osborne now wants to increase and make more punitive.

Even the faces haven't all changed

The coalition government did not just dust off Labour's old anti-working class attacks and austerity plans. It also head-hunted the men who had drafted these plans for Labour.

For instance, Peter Gershon - Blair's former "efficiency" adviser, whose report on the civil service provided the basis for tens of thousands of job cuts under Labour - had already joined Cameron's team before the election. His brief, however, is now to extend his "expertise" to the entire public sector - a "safe pair of scissors" for Cameron to use against public sector workers, with the convenient cover of Gershon's past record under Labour!

Later on, Richard Hooper was brought in as well, to resurrect the part-privatisation of postal services which Mandelson had put on ice for lack of a private partner - the same Hooper whose recommendations had justified cutting tens of thousands of postal jobs under Labour. But whether the part-privatisation goes ahead or not, the change in government has made no difference to postal workers. Jobs are being cut, full-timers are replaced by part-timers and workloads are being increased to unbearable levels - just as they were under Labour!

However, Gershon and Hooper were just "independent specialists" who had been brought in by Labour to do the dirty work. Cameron wanted more than that - he wanted Labour "well-knowns". And he got them.

So, John Hutton, a former Labour MP and government minister, is now in charge of Cameron's pension review. No coincidence, either: as Blair's Work and Pensions minister, Hutton had been involved in working out the details of a pension "reform" (still theoretically due to be phased in from 2012 onwards), which was designed to discharge the bosses from most of their pension responsibilities, reduce pension costs for companies and hand over the bounty of an almost universal pension scheme to the finance sharks. In other words, Cameron's pension "reform" is bound merely to be a rebranded version of Labour's version, probably with a shorter "phasing-in" period, judging from recent official hints regarding retirement age.

Likewise, Frank Field, a current Labour MP who was once Blair's Welfare minister, has been crowned by Cameron as "poverty czar" - whatever this may mean. Field, however, was always well-known for his big mouth - either because he made a point of advocating openly the dirty tricks that his fellow ministers wanted to keep secret, or because he insisted on exposing their demagogy. Eventually it was his attitude - rather than differences over policies - which caused Field to fall out with Blair. What remained, however, was Field's obsessive advocacy of a more punitive policy against all benefit claimants - exactly what the likes of Cameron and Duncan-Smith need to serve as a cover for their plans to cut benefits to the poorest! Using the fight against poverty as a justification to attack the poorest and most vulnerable - what a cynical sleight of hand! But Cameron did not even invent it - Blair and Brown did, with their repeated turns of the screw on benefit claimants, under the hypocritical pretext of "fighting poverty" by targeting benefits at those who needed them most. Not surprisingly, this is exactly the language used today by Duncan Smith and his Labour sidekick, Frank Field!

Another of the advisers whom Cameron head-hunted out of the Labour party spheres is Will Hutton, who is to head a review of public sector pay. He has no record in government nor in Parliament, nor was his name associated to any of Labour's austerity plans or "reforms". He was, however, a champion of Blair's so-called "stakeholder" (i.e. classless) society - something which is reflected in his "Work Foundation", an academic body offering advice to both trade-unions and employers, as if the interests of workers and bosses were not fundamentally opposed! But Will Hutton is also well-known for his critique of big business' greed and for not mincing his words (one of his recent columns in the Guardian was entitled "There is no logic to the brutish cuts that George Osborne is proposing). Despite this critical stance, or rather, because of it, getting Will Hutton to head a review openly aimed at implementing Osborne's "brutish cuts in public sector pay, was certainly a PR coup for Cameron - although it is also a revealing indication of what the critical views of people like Will Hutton are really worth!

Cameron implements Darling's cuts

Despite the extraordinary media coverage surrounding it, the coalition's "emergency budget" was really a rehash of Darling's March budget. Being probably over-conscious of this striking similarity, Osborne made a point of boasting that he was adding £32bn worth of cuts over five years, on top of the £52bn already planned by Darling. He also ridiculed Darling for having confined himself to "making paper cuts" - by not spelling out what department or expenditure would be targeted - which was rather unfair to Darling's past austerity record. Besides, although Osborne did give a few details on some of the areas in which he intended to focus his cuts, he left most of the actual decisions to a spending review whose results will not be known before September - exactly as Darling had done.

In fact, most of the known targets of Osborne's cuts had already been singled out by Darling - public sector wages, benefits in general and housing benefit in particular, public investment in transport, etc.. The only difference is that Osborne has now put figures on the "savings" he wants to make in some of these areas. But what do they really mean?

For instance, "savings" worth £11bn a year are supposed to be achieved in 2015, by uprating benefits using the lower CPI index (excluding housing costs, currently at 3.4%) instead of the RPI index (including housing costs, currently at 5.2%) - under the ludicrous pretext that the jobless are too poor to have any housing costs anyway! This means that the purchasing power of all benefits will be slowly eroded year after year, making claimants poorer. But this was only the tree hiding the forest. No sooner was the ink on the "emergency budget" dry, than Osborne made a speech in the Commons, saying that he was now seeking to make an additional £13bn worth of "savings" on the benefit budget - this time by cutting the number of claimants.

According to Osborne, this combined £24bn a year stolen from the poorest is supposed to help him to reduce the deficit and the public debt. But how can he be so sure? No-one can tell what will happen over the next few years in this crisis-ridden world, not even Osborne. It is one thing to fill a deficit by using existing funds - those of the capitalist class in particular. But it is quite another to do it by reducing expenditure which will be required in the future and is, therefore unknown - yet it is with such a sleight of hand that politicians boast of being able to resolve their own crisis!

Indeed, what if unemployment soars, due to the crisis getting worse, due to a "jobless recovery" (something that many "experts" predict) or due to the job cuts caused by the government's austerity policy? In that case, the only possible way for Osborne to achieve his "savings" will be to deprive even more of the poor of any income and/or to cut actual benefit rates.

In any case, it is clear that all this talk about "saving" to rescue public finances, only conceals a vicious attack on all claimants, unemployed or otherwise, which will have to be countered, one way or another!

As regards the overall figure of expenditure cuts, it was estimated that Darling's March budget implied a 20% budget cut for all departments concerned. At the time, it had been calculated that these cuts would result in up to half-a-million job cuts across the public sector. Osborne's budget, on the other hand, implies, according to his own figures, a 25% budget cut for all the departments which are not "ring-fenced" (i.e. in theory, all departments except Health and parts of Education). A confidential Treasury document on the possible impact of these cuts was leaked by the Guardian on 29 June. This document reckoned that Osborne's austerity measures would result in up to 600,000 job cuts in the public sector, although it did not say whether this figure included temps and other casuals employed by public bodies, who are likely to be targeted first. In addition, this document estimated that up to 700,000 private sector jobs would disappear as a result of the same measures, due to cuts in investment and expenditure programmes, reduced funding for sub-contractors, etc.. - thereby bringing the total cost for working class jobs to around 1.3 million!

The implications of job cuts on such a scale for the working population as a whole, are easy imagine, in terms of collapsing services, degradation of public facilities, breakdown of safety in transport, etc.. But what about the implications for unemployment? From their profit-driven dream world, Cameron's ministers are arguing (and although Labour politicians have now changed their tune on this matter, this was also the argument used by Brown's ministers' before the election) that there will be a "recovery" and that it will be driven by the private sector creating at least 2.5 million jobs, which will more than replace those which will have disappeared as a result of the cuts.

Except that this just is another cynical fairy tale. Why would the capitalists start investing in new production - something they have consistently failed to do for a long time - at a time when consumption is bound to be reduced by lower state expenditure and a cut in the working class standard of living? Because companies have been awarded yet another cut in corporation tax, as Osborne had the nerve to claim in his budget speech? But who does he think he can fool? Since when have companies been using tax breaks - i.e., larger profits - to increase investment rather than to increase shareholders' dividends? The day they start doing it, the likes of Osborne and Cameron will fly!

More crisis threats

Of all the fairy tales and lies peddled by politicians these days, the biggest one is certainly what they call "recovery". Yet, all the glossy figures which are supposed to justify the measures included in Darling's March budget and Osborne's "emergency budget", were premised on precisely the fact that a "recovery" had already began. In particular, both budgets described an economy which was growing over the coming years at an increasing rate and neither made any reference to the possibility, let alone the risk of another spell of financial chaos. Both governments chose to conjure the crisis out of existence by just ignoring it. Instead they stuck to their claim that reducing their budget deficit by shrinking the standard of living of the working class, while carrying on lining the capitalists' pockets, was the guarantee that nothing would stop this "recovery" - since, after all, the main problem was to cajole the "market" into backing Britain's borrowing and the banks into lending to the economy.

However, judging from recent developments, the "market" - that is the speculators - do not see eye to eye with politicians. Osborne's ostentatiously drastic measures did not stop the London stock market from falling. So much so that on 29 June, the FTSE100 share index reached its lowest level since September last year, having lost 17% of its value in less than 3 months.

True, this gloom and doom on the London stock market was also shared by every other stock market across the world, prompting financial commentators to offer all kinds of justification for this unscheduled fall in the middle of a "recovery". Whatever the relevance of these justifications, however, the reality is that all the spheres which make up the financial system are interlinked - if only due to the fact that the same speculators intervene in all these different spheres using the same funds. Since the public debt crisis has hit a number of euro-zone countries - from Greece to Portugal, Spain and Italy - in the first months of this year, austerity plans have been introduced in every single country in the euro-zone, including the largest, in order to reassure speculators - thereby showing that these countries were all affected to some degree or other. In the meantime, speculators have been busy trying both to make a quick buck out of the public debt crisis and to cover their backs against a possible sudden extension of this crisis to the largest euro-zone countries, like Germany and France, for instance. And the speculators' attempts at anticipating such risky developments are affecting the whole financial system.

It is nonsense to pretend, as some politicians and most tabloids do, that Britain is somehow protected against such turmoil in the euro-zone, thanks to its great "independent pound sterling".

Firstly, like it or not, more than 50% of Britain's exports are sold to the euro-zone. So any trouble there, spells trouble for British companies relying on the export of goods and services.

Secondly, unlike the tabloids, speculators have no nationalist blinkers. They do not care whether they are trading in euros, in dollars or in pounds - all they care about is the profit they make. Of course, British politicians and financial experts keep repeating that this country's debt is of a much better "quality" than anywhere else in the world and they give all sorts of reasons in support of this claim. Significantly, however, this does not prevent the same politicians from showing again and again in their speeches, how eager they are to be seen on their best behaviour by financial operators - thereby proving that they are not all that confident about the alleged "solidity" of the government's credit. And for good reason, because, unlike the majority of the British public, which is told lies about the real state of the country's debt (since the official figure of the debt does not take into account the enormous cost of the banking bailout, among other things), speculators do know that Britain is just as badly indebted as Greece, if not more so, in proportion to the size of its economy. In and of itself, this knowledge could be enough to trigger a speculative run on Britain's government debt one of these days, should speculators decide that there is something to gain out of it.

And thirdly, the British banking system is itself heavily exposed to what happens in the rest of the world, since its loans to other countries - including to foreign governments - represent no less than the equivalent of 5 times Britain's GDP! If large economies came to be threatened with bankruptcy, the "independence" of the pound would definitely not protect British banks from a shockwave which could make the US sub-prime crisis look like a garden party.

However, the vulnerability of the British banking system is not just due to "foreign" threats: despite Labour's bailout, the banks are still very far from having recovered from the credit crunch. Worse even, symptoms of a possible new credit crunch have emerged lately.

The June issue of the Bank of England's "Financial Stability Report" tried very hard to put a brave face on the situation of British banking, even including a chapter entitled "The resilience of UK banks. However, the authors of this report reveal time and again their worries about the real state of the industry. The above-mentioned chapter explains, for instance, that "non-performing loans (which pay no interest) amount to two-thirds of British banks' core capital, while "write-off rates are high and continue to rise. Despite this high proportion of more or less "toxic" loans, this report reckons that British banks keep smaller reserves against possible default, than their US and European counterparts.

In passing, this means that for all the politicians' talk about "tougher banking regulations" and despite the government's control over a large part of the banking sector, the banks have not mended their ways and are sticking to their risky practices of the past in order to maintain their large profits and bonuses.

Probably the most striking symptom that something is definitely going wrong is revealed in a chapter of the report significantly entitled "Credit risks to the UK banking system. This chapter notes that British banking as a whole will have to borrow a total £800 billion before the end of 2012, in order to replace funds which have to be paid back to its existing creditors. This means, says the report, that the banks must borrow an average of just over £25bn every month over the next 30 months. The trouble is that since March, they have found it increasingly difficult to find new funds: in the 4 months to May, they only managed to borrow one third of what they needed.

This means that the big speculative funds which manage the capitalists' private wealth are keeping British banks at arms length, while banks are themselves reluctant to lend to each over, at least not without a significant interest rate premium. And this may well have something to do with the fact that the "safety net" used by British banks to guarantee their borrowing, includes a very large proportion of British government bonds which, like all European government debt, are now treated with suspicion by financial operators.

There again, however, this is not a British-only phenomenon. Similar symptoms have appeared in the rest of Europe, and probably for similar reasons too. And this shows that, for all the talk about "recovery", not only is the world financial crisis not nearly resolved, but having spread to the sphere of public debt, it is now threatening to freeze the economy for a second time.

A taste of the 1930s

It has become commonplace over the past three years to compare the present crisis to that of the 1930s. Such a comparison appears all the more relevant, since the crisis of the 1930s already involved a series of interlinked sub-crises which fed into one another over time, much like what is happening today.

In terms of today's political situation in Britain, another kind of parallel is worth making with the days of the 1930s, when MacDonald's "national government" took responsibility for a brutal offensive against the working class. With all due difference, there are indeed some similarities - and lessons - worth noting between today's coalition government and this "national government" of the 1930s.

It should be said first that Cameron's inclusion of the Lib-Dems in his government was by no means a necessity. Although short of an absolute majority, the Tories could have got just about anything they wanted through the Commons with the backing of the Northern Irish unionist MPs - not to mention, probably, that of a number of Lib-Dem MPs. Besides, there was certainly a lot of resistance from Tory hopefuls who resented the prospect of cushy government jobs being snatched from under their noses by potential Lib-Dem "partners".

If Cameron chose to ignore the reluctance of his own party, it was not for reason of Parliamentary arithmetic, but for reason of political strategy. Planning to launch a wholesale attack against the majority of the population is one thing; having the political clout to do it, is another. And Cameron's calculation was that a coalition, even reduced to the Tories and Lib-Dems, would provide his government's policies with a flavour of "national consensus" - encapsulated in Cameron's "we're all in it together - which these policies could not possibly have had under the Tories alone.

Much the same logic presided over the formation of the "national government" in 1931. Ramsay MacDonald, Labour leader and prime minister, had been in office for only 5 months when the Wall Street Crash marked the beginning of the Great Depression. The British economy was shattered, factories closed down and unemployment soared. But the City still insisted that the pound should retain its fixed value in gold, at a time when the price of gold was rising fast on the world market. Labour slavishly yielded to this crazy demand. As a result, the government had to throw more and more of its reserves onto the market to support the pound. This was the form taken at the time by the state bailout of the banking system and its cost was probably comparable to that of Darling's bailout. So much so that, by August 1931, public finances were in a state of virtual bankruptcy.

It was at this point that MacDonald decided that the only way to reduce the government deficit was to impose a 10% cut in unemployment benefits and public sector wages. But he came up against fierce opposition from within his own party. When 9 of his ministers opposed the cuts, MacDonald resigned. He then proceeded to form a so-called "national government" including 4 of his ex-Labour supporters (who had been expelled from the Labour party by then), 4 Tories and 2 Liberals.

This "national government" implemented MacDonald's cuts. However, they triggered an angry response from a most unexpected quarter, when the entire Atlantic fleet was brought to a standstill by striking Royal Navy ratings, thereby causing another speculative run on the pound. This time, MacDonald had to withdraw the pound from the "gold standard" and call a general election. The outcome was a reinforced "national government", which was dominated by the Tories but involved the same partners with MacDonald as prime minister.

Over the next 4 years, which saw, among other things, a devastating banking crisis, this government presided over another ruthless turn of the screw against the working class, allegedly in the name of a "national consensus" to save the British economy from the crisis - until the 1935 election, when the Tories finally decided that they no longer needed any "allies".

By that time, the capitalist classes of the rich countries had already chosen another way to resolve the crisis of their system - and to make the international working class pay for it even more dearly. The march to World War II had begun. Its colossal destruction of production forces was to give a new lease of life to a system which had proved itself bankrupt - at an exorbitant price for the international working class. MacDonald's "national consensus" to save the economy - justified by the need to suffer now in order to benefit later - had been seamlessly replaced with a "national consensus" aimed at defending the interests of British imperialism.

The working class needs a policy of its own

Cameron's attempt at covering up his offensive against the working class under the tired cloth of a "national consensus" aimed at "saving" the British economy - or Britain's public finances - should be a warning and a reminder of the not-so-distant experience of the 1930s.

If the capitalist system has demonstrated anything in the present crisis - once again - it is its incapacity to cater for the needs of mankind. Its chronic chaos, which results in the economy going permanently from crisis to crisis, causing always more damage and useless suffering for the population, cannot be mended because its roots are in the dictatorship of private profit itself. Indeed, the only purpose of the policies aimed at restoring the balance of the system is, in fact, to restore and protect private profit for the benefit of the capitalist class - by causing yet more damage at the expense of the working class majority, which has no interest in this private profiteering.

The extent of the damage caused by this crisis-ridden system goes much further than the billions which are stolen today from workers' pockets and from public services and infrastructure. The capitalist system has been in crisis for decades, with more or less brutal ups and downs maybe, but always involving, even in the periods of so-called affluence, cost-cutting measures on the back of the working class majority. The accumulation of these measures over time comes at an exorbitant price for society as a whole.

Arrogant politicians, with their 6-figure salaries and public school backgrounds, keep sneering at the illiteracy among working class youth and threatening to lock up petty criminals in working class areas. But what caused the increasing deterioration of social conditions in these areas over the years, which, in many respects, has turned the clock back for the poorest? What, if not the rising casualisation of labour and growth of unemployment - in other words the impact of the parasitism of a capitalist class only concerned with boosting its profits, by stepping up the exploitation of workers and diverting a rising proportion of the state's resources into their coffers? And it is for the sake of preserving these parasites that, once again, the working class should tighten its belt even more?

No, the working class has no interest in preserving the capitalists' parasitism and their system. On the contrary, the future of society lies in their downfall and their replacement with a social organisation free from the private ownership of the means of production, which is the basis for the capitalists' greed and the chaos it generates.

Today, as workers are confronted with a general offensive from the capitalists against their jobs, conditions and standard of living, they need a policy of their own, to fight off these attacks - a policy which has nothing to do with the unbelievable silence and passivity of the union leadership, nor with the ambitions of some union leaders to play the role of "austerity partners" with ministers and bosses.

On the contrary, the working class needs to set itself fighting objectives which can provide effective immediate solutions to the problems it faces, whether or not these solutions amount to a direct challenge to the dictatorship of capital over society.

Against the rise of unemployment, which is the main factor in the on-going deterioration of social conditions, the working class will need to see to it that all available work is shared out between all available workers, by cutting working hours without loss of pay, and to enforce an effective ban on redundancies.

Against the financial crisis, the working class will need to impose the expropriation of all the banks without compensation of any kind (after all they have already been compensated over and above what they were worth by Darling's bailout!) and their merger into one singe bank under the control of the population.

Against the recklessness and greed of the capitalist class, the working class will need to impose the direct control of the population over every form of economic activity, public and private, in society.

This programme of fighting objectives may well appear to many, today, as being for the long haul, only for some distant future. But who knows? The bankruptcy of the capitalists' system leaves no choice to their politicians but to launch attacks which are bound to be increasingly brutal. At some point, which may come far sooner than these politicians think, these attacks will trigger a response from the ranks of the working class, if only out of anger. At that point, when workers start getting into motion, they will need such a fighting programme, a revolutionary programme, and a party of their own to lead them first in their counter-offensive against the capitalists' attacks and then towards a new society, free of this chaos and parasitism of capitalism that has long been unaffordable for society.