Fighting the cuts

BARELY a day passes without a Coalition announcement of more reviews and cuts to come in the drive to destroy what’s left of the public sector and the welfare state in the name of cutting the budget deficit. While “fairness”, whatever that’s supposed to mean, is the watchword of the Tory/Liberal Democrat coalition as it prepares its austerity programme there’s nothing remotely equitable about the Cameron government’s plans to slash public spending, along with the jobs and services it provides and scapegoat the poorest and economically weakest in society to justify it.

This week’s targets are students who face higher tuition fees along with the disabled and those suffering from long-term illnesses whose benefits are under attack. Benefit claimants are in the firing line because it’s so easy for the bourgeois media to scapegoat them as “work-shy” and “scroungers” while telling students that higher education is a passport to high income and therefore they should be eternally grateful for their degrees and be prepared to pay an even higher price to get them.

Means-testing, extending the retirement age and cutting benefits will bring stress and misery to hundreds of thousands. Millions more will be hit when the health and education budgets are slashed.

Though Cameron’s people will tell us that these draconian measures are “fair”, necessary and unavoidable they are nothing of the kind. They go far beyond the cuts planned by the last Labour government and they’re motivated as much by the need to ensure that working people carry the entire burden of the slump and by Tory dogma that has always been opposed, even in the good times, to public spending and state welfare.

TUC Conference last month voted almost unanimously to defend public services with a mass campaign of demonstrations and co-ordinated strike action. At Labour Party conference the new leader, Ed Miliband, pledged to fight some, but not all the cuts, though it was clear that there was considerable support for the unions’ position amongst rank-and-file delegates.

Miliband’s fight against to the cuts will be confined to parliamentary opposition and calls for a Labour victory at the next general election while the TUC as a whole is unlikely to go beyond organising mass protests in the struggle.

Miliband and his supporters can afford to wait five years for the next election. Working people can’t. Greek workers paved the way in the fight against the ruling class offensive across the European Union. Now millions of working people in Spain, France and Belgium are rallying behind union campaigns, protests and general strikes against the attacks on jobs and living standards.

Some union leaders, including those who claim to be on the left of the movement, are fearful of challenging the Tory labour laws that were used to vicious effect to hamstring the NUM during the miners’ strike in the early 1980s.

The Tories are already thinking of bringing in new anti-union legislation and there’s no doubt that the Cameron Government won’t hesitate to use its entire legal arsenal against any union call for solidarity strike action against the cuts. Whether they win is another matter.

The first step is to build a mass campaign to unite millions of working people behind the union efforts to defend public services and, while there’s no guarantee that mass industrial action can reverse the cuts or bring down the Coalition, one thing is certain.

If there’s no mass fight-back then everything the Tories intend to implement will come to pass.