After Labour threw the election away by betraying the working-class voters who elected it, we now have a Tory-LibDem coalition government. The ConDems have launched an onslaught on our public services, our pay and conditions, and our rights. And we need to fight back to defend ourselves.
After urging people to vote LibDem to keep the Tories out, the LibDems have put the Tories in. This coalition stitch-up shows that the LibDem party is in no sense a friend of working people.
The toffs are back in charge. David Cameron and Nick Clegg are rich men, products of two of Britain's top private schools, and are committed to ensuring that our class, not theirs, pays the price for the economic crisis. Clegg's much-vaunted ‘fairer taxes’ will not see the super-rich made to pay back the fortunes they have made off the backs of working-class people.
They have already announced ‘reform of party funding, which sounds like an innocent effort to clean up a sleazy system under which fat cats buy political power. But Cameron and Clegg have repeatedly attacked the right of trade unions to fund political parties and candidates, and behind the cloak of ‘reform of party funding’ lurks a threat to our right to sponsor candidates, through our unions, who support workers' rights.
The first Budget is even harsher than the measures of the Thatcher government thirty years ago. £82 billion of cuts in annual public spending. A wage freeze for 6 million public-sector workers: with inflation steadily if unspectacularly rising, that is a pay cut.
Two items in this Budget sum up its vicious class character. Corporation tax is to be reduced by 4% over four years. VAT on everything has been raised by 17.5% to 20%. VAT hits at everyone buying goods and services, and takes a bigger slice from the poorest than from the rich.
The Budget amounts to a big cut in the standards of living of the poorest people in Britain. It is also a job-cutting Budgets. Hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs will go: some estimates say up to one-and-a-half million.
And we are once again hearing the Daily Mail rhetoric about ‘gold-plated’ public sector pensions - as if! Most rail workers still have a final-salary pension, but we hardly live our retirement in luxury! And yet Nick Clegg says that because other workers have had their pensions slashed, we must too. The reverse is true: we should defend our pensions and hope that helps other workers to restore and improve theirs.
The labour movement must respond in kind to the gathering assault by this government of millionaires which, above all, serves the interests of the rich. The labour movement must do what workers in Greece have done: mobilise, agitate, demonstrate, refuse to let the Tory-Liberal coalition do what it wants to do.
The proper answer to the atrocity of raising VAT by two and a half per cent is to fight for wage rises.
The unions in the TUC organise over six million trade unionists. The unions must prepare to fight back, and prepare also to fight in defence of those workers, in the public sector, targeted first by the government. Big public meetings should be organised all over the country to explain the significance of the Lib-Tory assault.
Bob Crow has, quite rightly, called for an emergency meeting of the Trade Union Congress and ‘general and co-ordinated strike action across the public and private sectors to stop their savage assault on jobs, living standards and public services.’ All our unions need to take up this call and turn it from words into action.
Rail workers need to link up with other workers across the public and private sectors, and with community groups, passengers and service users, to defend our jobs and our services. We should form a coalition of our own - for jobs, public services and trade union rights.