Time to get off our knees

A REPORT delivered last week from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) revealed that the growing inequality of wealth in Britain is “significantly” curbing economic growth. It found that inequality in Britain cost the economy almost nine percentage points.

The OECD also found that redistribution of wealth via taxes and benefits does not hamper economic growth. “This compelling evidence proves that addressing high and growing inequality is critical to promote strong and sustained growth and needs to be at the centre of the policy debate,” said OECD’s secretary general, Angel Gurría.

The Chancellor, George Osborne, has other ideas. His Autumn Budget statement last week had the pundits at the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) working overtime with their calculators to reach the conclusion that the increasing scale of cuts planned by Osborne over the next five years will force a “fundamental re-imagining of the state”.

The IFS director, Paul Johnson, said Osborne’s proposals to cut the size of the state back to a level last seen before the second world war showed there was now “clear blue water” between the major political parties, after Labour said it would borrow extra funds to boost investment in infrastructure and take longer to achieve a balanced budget.

The IFS predicted that many government departments could suffer budget reductions amounting to more than 40 per cent. Some departments may disappear altogether.

With health, aid and schools budgets having some protection, it will mean defence, local government, the police, justice and other departments all having to make massive savings, the IFS said. And it challenged Osborne to spell out exactly where the axe would fall.

Many of our vital public services — our social wage — will simply disappear. No doubt the private sector will step in to replace some of these services — for those who can afford to pay.

And we can be sure that welfare benefits will but cut even more savagely than now. Already thousands of people — even many with jobs — are dependent on food banks. And given the ludicrous reasons people are given for sanctioning (cutting off) their benefits it is becoming more obvious that the intention is to cut benefits from hundreds of thousands who really need them.

For the long-term sick and disabled, replacing the notorious French company Atos with the American Maximus will change little. The real ethos behind the Work Capability Assessment is the message that if you are too ill to work as far as the Government is concerned you should just go and quietly starve to death — or commit suicide. We will be right back to the social conditions in Britain when Jack London wrote The People of the Abyss.

This attitude must make any worker angry. We must get angry and get organised enough to fight back. The ruling class one per cent know we are going to get angry; this is why we have the threat of fascism growing in the wings — manifesting itself at the moment in the rising United Kingdom Independence Party.

We have already seen how the threat of fascism has been used in Greece and Ukraine to try to force the working class to swallow the most draconian cuts in services and living standards. The fascists have two roles, to divert working class anger and turn it against ethnic and immigrant minorities and also to intimidate workers into fearing to rebel against the one per cent.

But we have also seen that those workers in Greece and Ukraine have not been cowed, how they have fought back and how that battle is bringing about a revival of class consciousness and courage to challenge the one per cent.

The first thing to slow the advance of this onslaught against our class is to make sure that Osborne, Cameron and all the Tories and their Liberal Democrat running dogs are out of office at next May’s elections.

Even then we cannot assume that the Labour leadership would reverse the damage done by the Coalition unless the working class can get itself organised, ideally through the trade unions, to force Miliband to act for the workers.