What's the point of the Chancellor drafting a Budget when he says himself that he doesn't know whether Brexit will allow him to implement it? Yet, this was exactly how Hammond prefaced his budget announcement in the Commons - although, predictably, he was immediately contradicted by Downing Street. Of course, the government's Brexiteers won't ever admit to the fact that they're completely clueless as to its consequences!
But, anyway, one thing this surreal Budget was at least useful for, was to show what the "end of austerity", recently heralded by May, really means. Indeed, beyond its usual long list of symbolic tweaks and additional handouts to the better-offs and wealthy, there is absolutely nothing in this Budget which shows that the past years of cuts inflicted on the working class are anywhere close to coming to an end - quite the opposite, in fact!
Heaps of fool's gold - but we're no fools!
Headline announcements are the only game in town at Budget time. And there are three attached to this one: tax cuts, welfare and NHS funding.
Regarding income tax, Hammond's tweaks involve the same trick used in every recent budget: most of the estimated £9.5bn tax cuts over the next 5 years will fill the pockets of the better-offs.
In fact, the Budget's small print even highlights this: in the next tax year, basic rate taxpayers will have their income tax cut by an average £66, while higher-rate tax payer (earning £50,000/yr and over) will enjoy a £387 tax cut! Hammond is, therefore, indulging the 4 million or so richest tax payers with a tax cut 6 times larger than what of the 26 million poorest tax payers. What's more, 4 million out of these 26 million won't gain anything at all - quite simply because they earn too little to pay any tax! If this is not welfare for the rich, what is?
The ill-famed Universal Credit (UC) is supposed to take care of the poorest's welfare. But even before being fully rolled out, it is pushing the working poor into dire poverty - and is a factor in the explosion in the number of food banks and the rise of homelessness. All due to nightmarish delays and its sanctions system, which penalises workers for failing to find more hours of work! As if Scrooge bosses forcing workers into 0-hours contracts shouldn't be sanctioned instead!
In any case, Hammond wanted to be seen to do something about UC - but £1bn over 5 years to make up for Osborne's criminal £12bn welfare cuts? Another £1bn-worth of cynicism!
As to the NHS, Hammond made big noises about a £20bn budget boost... by 2023! Except that this is exactly the same "boost" that May had already portrayed as a "Brexit dividend" a few months ago - and which had already been exposed as being just enough to pay for the NHS's pile of debt, but certainly not to allow it to recover from its current collapse! Worn-out fool's gold!
The need to fight for our class interests
Budgets come and go, as governments do - but they can always be undone. It is a matter of how far the capitalist class and its politicians feel they can go without causing an explosion of anger in the ranks of the working class.
Let's never forget that no matter how many blows the bosses have managed to deal the working class, they have a fundamental weakness: without our labour, the flow of profits which feeds their parasitic lives will dry up. And the one thing they always fear in the back of their minds, is the possibility of a backlash from our ranks.
It is not for nothing if politicians like Frank Field and some Tory backbenchers, have raised the spectre of "civil unrest", should Hammond fail to do something about UC and the rise of poverty!
And, yes, the capitalists should fear a reaction from our ranks. They've had a free ride for years, through the various stages of the capitalist crisis, making us pay for the chaos of their profit system. But there comes a time when too much is just too much.
This Budget and, in fact, all the policies of this government, are telling us in no uncertain terms that there is no "end to austerity" in sight. What's coming is "austerity 2.0", a repackaging of the same anti-working class policies dressed up in Brexit paraphernalia, complete with a 50p celebration coin!
This is what we, the working class, will have to deal with in the coming period. Nothing - neither a "people's vote", nor a Labour government - will help us to deal with this. Corbyn and McDonnell may talk about a society "for all, not for the few", but as long as it remains a capitalist society, it will be tilted against our class interests. Whether it is the crisis or Brexit chaos, we will have to challenge the right of the capitalists to impose their rule on us. We simply cannot afford the madness of their profit system.