No, Britain hasn’t got the “fastest growing economy in the G7" - as Johnson and his ministers boast over and over again. But yes, there certainly is “record” growth happening somewhere: workers are experiencing the highest jump in the cost of living in decades!
Of course it’s no surprise that the government pretends that it has done a great job steering the economy through the pandemic, not least because King Boris is about to have his head chopped off, metaphorically speaking...
But the truth of the matter is that economic growth has been among the slowest of the rich 7 countries. And now workers’ incomes are falling fast.
As the Bank of England explained, we are seeing the “weakest growth of real post-tax labour incomes in more than 70 years”- already! And right now, no worker is getting a “real” pay rise. In fact, all pay offers have been below even the official measure of inflation, let alone the higher RPI measure, already over 7.5% and likely to reach 10% by April.
Never mind that, though! The Bank of England governor is telling workers to “exercise restraint” in their pay demands. This is based on that old lie that pay rises “cause” inflation. When it is rising prices, the “normal” result of the capitalists’ greed for ever-higher profits, which are the real “chicken before the inflation egg”! And this makes pay rises absolutely mandatory, if workers are to keep the wolf from the door!
Politicians protecting profiteers
The latest and most blatant example of greedy profiteering is provided by oil and gas companies, BP and Shell, who just announced their highest profits in 8 years. Combined, these amount to £24 billion. And this is despite the supposed “losses” they “suffered” (!) during the pandemic.
It was no surprise that Labour politicians immediately called for a windfall tax on them, a favourite measure of theirs, which leaves the whole rotten bunch of extortionists and most of their profits intact. Labour suggested a tax of just 10%, amounting to £2.4bn. With their proposed 5% VAT cut, this is meant to cut energy bills (only) by an amount “almost” (but not quite!) equivalent to the increase workers face...
Naturally, the crooked super-billionaires from BP and Shell said an emphatic “no” to Labour’s proposal. They’re going to use a large part of their profits for “share buy-backs” - with Shell planning to hand back $8.5bn to shareholders immediately! Yes, making the rich even richer.
But isn’t it these companies, precisely, who are at the root of today’s hike in energy prices: the 54% increase in April, linked to the rise in the price cap by Ofgem, which is going to push many working class families over the edge, into poverty, very, very soon?
The government is stepping in - it says - to "help" workers with spiralling bills. Which is a bit of a joke, since it is the government which has made matters so much worse, by imposing the 1.25% National Insurance Contribution increase, also from April!
So it is offering a £200 “discount” (when most households face a rise of over £600 right away) on electricity bills... from October. But next year it's all going to be clawed back! A further £150 will go to council-tax payers (hardly everyone!) in the lowest 4 bands. Anyway, even after the government's £200 rebate, the energy price rise for households will still be as much as 39%!
Yes, our determination can win!
There is only one way for the working class to deal with falling living standards, due to falling wages in the face of a spiralling cost of living. Quite obviously, there has to be a concerted, all-out fight for higher wages, in line with what's needed.
Many workers, especially those among the lowest-paid, are already taking strike action. Like subcontracted NHS cleaners, porters and security workers employed by Serco, for instance.
Among some sections however, for instance on the railways, the fight is still to be organised. But others, whose pay was settled 2 or 3 years ago, when inflation was lower, are now seriously lagging behind. So there is not one section of the working class that does not have a direct interest in taking to the offensive on wages.
And the bosses, struggling to fill vacancies, know they should be worried about workers' reactions. As one Financial Times columnist wrote: "...such a multiple whammy will make workers even more determined to recoup their lost real incomes via higher wages”.Indeed, it's workers’ determination to recoup their losses which the bosses most dread. And that determination is precisely what the working class can and must show, in the weeks to come.