The spineless, the bad and the ugly

Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials
30 September 2013

Last Saturday, Tory conference delegates were met by 50,000 protesters, marching against their job-slashing, ward closures and privatisation, in the NHS. And rightly so!

But isn't there some irony in the fact that the very same union leaders who called this march never thought there was any point in organising NHS workers to take direct action against these attacks?

This spinelessness spans right across the TUC. Faced with Royal Mail's rushed privatisation - which they oppose in words - the postal union leaders don't have the guts to call workers out against it, for fear of "breaking the law". Which just goes to show how little trust they have in their members' capacity to fight - but also how little determination they have to stand up to the capitalists who are milking society dry, on the back of working people.

The bad: Miliband and his fake promises

Of course, there's some logic to the union leaders' spinelessness. The only perspective they offer, is that of a Labour victory in 2015. As if the working class has anything to expect from a Labour government!

Because Labour won't make the capitalists pay their due. Miliband may have promised to cancel the planned 1% cut in corporation tax to 20%, but there's no question of restoring the 33% rate paid by big companies before Blair came into office! Nor is there any question of closing the tax "loopholes" created both by Labour and the ConDems, which have turned Britain into a tax dodgers' paradise.

For workers, Miliband promised to upgrade the minimum wage to take inflation into account - but that will still mean just £6.64/hr, which is still a slave-wage! Bosses who don't respect it will face higher fines, he said - but then, why is it that between 1998 and 2008 (under Labour), not one company was ever fined for not paying it?

On Welfare, Miliband did promise to repeal the "bedroom tax". But then this tax on the poor is only "saving" £548m anyway, while promising endless trouble to councils by causing a massive increase in rent arrears. However, there's no question of Labour repealing the ConDems' benefit "cap", nor the wide-ranging attacks against the jobless and disabled - some of which were actually introduced by the last Labour government!

As to Miliband's "18-month energy price freeze" which caused so much noise in the media, as little as this is, it promises to generate more competition among the private utilities - just as Blair's "energy market" did, resulting, at the time, in massive speculation and a huge increase in energy prices! As if energy could be cheap, or even affordable, as long as shareholders remain in control!

The ugly: Cameron and more attacks

Cameron's announcements in the run-up to his party's conference were designed to pull the carpet from under Miliband's feet - but also from under the feet of Ukip. The only difference is that, being in opposition, Miliband had to find some way of pretending that he had something "new" to offer, whereas the Tories only had to show that they will go even further in the same direction.

Hence their early privatisation of Royal Mail and the sale of 1/6th of the government's shares in Lloyds Bank. Hence too, the early introduction of the second strand of the "Help to Buy" scheme, to help "impoverished" households well-off enough to consider buying a house worth up to £600,000! And never mind if every economist in the land is already warning that another speculative housing bubble is developing due to this very same scheme!

But these handouts to middle class voters will cost money, including the sale of Royal Mail and Lloyds'. So, once more, the poorest will be expected to foot the bill. The jobless will have to work for their benefits, while the disabled and long-term sick will face more punitive terms, even if they are duly recognised as such. And those who refuse to be subjected to the degrading treatment invented by the private subcontractors operating at JobCentres (many of which are being investigated over fraud allegations!), will be thrown off the claimant register - period.

This is what the working class is confronted with today. On the one hand, politicians vying for the privilege of helping big business boost its profits on our backs. And, on the other, trade-union leaders who prefer to brush shoulders with politicians and bosses, rather than organise our collective strength to face up to these attacks.

This leaves us with only one way forward: building our own workers' party, one which doesn't shy away from showing the capitalists that it's us against them, nor from rocking the boat of their profit system, if it comes to that!