New Year — new struggle

IF NOTHING else the VAT hike this week brings home part of the price working people are going to pay to maintain the living standards of the ruling class throughout the current slump. And this is only the beginning. The Tory-led coalition is set on massive cuts in welfare, health, education and what’s left of the public sector in its drive to put the entire burden on the backs of the working class.

They believe they’ve got four years to do it. They think they can get away with it by claiming that the crisis is largely due to past Labour policies and that the only way out is by massive spending cuts. The labour movement must prove them wrong.

Ed Miliband and his supporters clearly believe that all they have to do is sit it out, wait for the Liberal-Democrat vote to collapse and get swept back into office on the anti-Tory backlash. The new Labour leader spent his first 100 days trying to distance himself from the support of organised labour that put him there in the first place. His team floated all sorts of ideas such as capping union donations to Labour and reducing or even eliminating the union role altogether in future Labour leadership elections rather than directly challenging the Con-Dem coalition.

Miliband has now dropped these proposals. This is partly because the only takers for these anti-union plans were the Tory media and some clapped-out old Blairites who didn’t support him in the first place. He also knows that ultimately Labour is dependent almost entirely on union funds to run its organisation and fight its election campaigns.

So Miliband is now beginning to challenge Cameron and the Tory leader’s vision of a “big society”. But what is saying? Essentially very little apart from claiming that had Labour won last year’s election they would have continued with the “soft landing” economic policies that Gordon Brown had introduced during his spell in Downing Street.

While there’s no doubt that Brown’s late in the day adoption of neo-Keynesian policies helped save some jobs and some small businesses, the Brown government refused to tackle the fundamental problems of the British economy or seriously defend the interests of the millions of working people who the Labour Party ultimately depends on at election time.

Now in the greatest economic crisis since 1929 the ruling class has launched a new anti-working class offensive. Only Greek-style mass resistance by the unions and on the streets can halt it. At the same time the left of the Labour Party has to mobilise to argue the case for public ownership and central planning. Our old welfare state can be restored but only by renationalising all the utilities and corporations privatised since 1979 and raising income tax to 1970s levels to finance it.