The competition between the Tories and New Labour over who will be the most “responsible” at making cuts in public services and public pay if elected at the next general election has become an unedifying and foul spectacle. Here we have politicians trying to “prove” themselves on who will be the most adept at cutting the wages of low-paid workers, slashing benefits and further privatising vital services.
The Tories promise big cuts. Labour says it will save money by “improving efficiency” (cuts and privatisation), but will protect vital frontline services. David Cameron says he will not return to 1980s-style Thatcherite cuts.
But the Tories have also said they are prepared to become the most unpopular government since the war. And why would we trust, let alone want, New Labour to make “kinder cuts”?
Both parties want to make working class people pay for the economic crisis. Whichever party forms the next government, and the odds are it will be a Tory government, public sector pensions and pay will be a major target. Local government services will be further attacked, poverty-level unemployment benefits will be cut further.
The Tories and New Labour represent the interests of the bosses. When capitalism goes into crisis they give billions of public money to the banks; they want to keep the wheels of capitalist exploitation well-oiled.
Then when everything seems to be returning to “normal” for the rich, back come their million pound bonuses. But for workers, the jobless, the sick, everything is going to get a lot worse.
The trade union movement and local community campaigners need to prepared fight the cuts. We cannot rely on the leaders of unions to fight the cuts. We need to do it. We need to set up public sector alliances which can develop links between union activists and campaigners. We need to reinvigorate trades councils and local launch anti cuts campaigns when local authorities make cuts.
Above all we need to counter the arguments which say the only “reasonable” thing to do is make cuts. Doesn’t matter whether it is big cuts, smaller cuts, “kinder cuts” — all cuts must be stopped!
To their cuts we counterpose:
• Tax the rich and business to finance public services.
• Save money by reversing privatisation and contracting out!
• Put public services under the control of workers and service-users, not businessmen and bureaucrats.
• Sack the fat cat public sector bosses and give ordinary workers decent wages and pensions.
• Scrap nuclear weapons and cut back military spending.
The welfare state, local services, decent pay and pensions were won by workers taking militant action. We need to prepare to take such action in to defend and extend public services.