Let 2011 be the year when they get what's coming to them!

6 January 2011

The year 2010 ended with corks popping out of the usual expensive Champagne bottles in the City.

And why would it be otherwise? Haven't share prices gained a comfortable 11% over the year, bringing them back to their June 2008 level? And haven't 2,800 banking and financial high-flyers, each "earning" a £1m-plus salary, shared £7bn worth of bonuses over the last year?

Crisis? Cuts? Austerity? Quite simply, these words are not part of the capitalists' vocabulary! Having had their losses "nationalised" by politicians the profit sharks have simply resumed their speculative spree, threatening the economy with further shocks, while the rest of us are supposed to foot the bill for the deficit created by their bailout!

A Blueprint for what they have in store

While big business is celebrating its publicly-funded affluence, this new year starts with a raft of vicious price increases targeting the working class.

On its own, the 2.5% VAT rise brings the present "normal" inflation rate well over the 6% mark. In the case of petrol, VAT plus a new hike in petrol duty and the speculation of the oil barons, means that petrol now costs 19% more than it did a year ago. And, of course, contrary to ministers' claims, the most affected will be those who, due to an inadequate income, have to spend almost all their earnings to cater for their families' daily needs - that is, working class people.

This is why the polemic between the Con-Dems and Labour over the VAT increase is so hypocritical. Arguing that a National Insurance contributions increase would be "fairer", as Labour does, is just another way of saying that the only choice is to tax workers, which is what the Con-Dems say.

As if the £12bn extra income that Osborne expects from his VAT increase could not be paid out of the fat cats' huge salaries, bonuses and dividends! Not to mention the hundred of billions or so of taxes that large companies manage to "avoid" paying every year by using the legal loopholes created for them by complicit politicians!

Likewise with transport. London's fares are up by an average 6.8%. But most bus fares are up by 8%, despite the fact that buses are the only affordable transport for the poorest! Across the country, rail fares are up by 6.2% on average. But again, the biggest hikes, reaching 12- 13%, are on some of the busiest suburban routes into London - those used by so many workers priced out of living there by the housing bubble, who must now commute into work!

We are told that these increases will fund the modernisation of a derelict transport system. But there again, why should the working class bear the cost of this modernisation? Not so long ago, many bosses used to organise coaches to bring workers to their factories and take them back home. Why shouldn't companies contribute towards a transport system which allows them to have workers in their offices and factories, day in and day out?

The best defence is to attack

While these price increases are taking place, workers at Wigan's Heinz factory are staging their fourth 24-hour strike this week against a proposed 3.3% wage increase for last year. Knowing that Heinz makes 37p in profit for every pound it spends in its factories, these workers are rightly insulted by an "offer" which effectively cuts their purchasing power by at least 3%!

Heinz is far from being an isolated case. Thanks to squeezing always more out of workers' labour, in particular by using the crisis as a pretext to cut jobs and real wages, the big companies' profit margins are at record level. And it is high time workers cut these bosses' arrogance down to size.

Of course, this may seem like a tall order when the Con-Dems are busy cutting hundreds of thousands of jobs across the public sector - directly in state organisations and indirectly, by getting local councils to do their dirty work for them - thereby forcing workers onto the defensive.

But no matter the circumstance, the best defence is to attack. It is only by confronting the bosses and politicians with hundreds of battles, across all industries and across the country, that we have the best chance of defending our collective interests and of regaining some of the ground lost.

At the end of last year, young university and school students showed, by taking action against the government's attacks on education, that collective protest on a large scale is possible today. It is in the interest of all sections of the working class, that we take our cue from this first step made by the youth. Stopping the service and job cutters in their tracks, stopping the attacks on the jobless and disabled and defending the right to free education, are part of the same struggle - the struggle to make the capitalist profiteers pay for the damage they have caused!