THE Tory chancellor, Philip Hammond, closed his autumn budget statement on Wednesday with the announcement that this would be his ‘first and last’.
Faithfully obeying the instructions of the IMF, Hammond and May have decided to abolish the autumn budget on the grounds that it leads to ‘uncertainty’. What is certain is that the Tory strategy for dealing with a British capitalist economy that is being crushed by a mountain of debt has not changed one iota from the previous Cameron-led government.
Far from veering away from the vicious austerity cuts of his predecessor George Osborne, implemented to ‘balance the books’ after the massive bail-outs of the banks after the crash of 2008, this budget signalled an increase in the attacks that have driven millions of low-paid workers and the unemployed onto the bread-line and dependent on the charity of food banks just to feed their families.
Hammond was forced to admit that the past years of austerity cuts, that have seen wages and benefits driven below poverty levels at the same time that all public services from education to the NHS have had their budgets cut to the point where they are facing bankruptcy, have not worked to save British capitalism.
On the contrary, the massive national debt that Osborne was intent on reducing has been driven up. It now stands at over £1.6 trillion and is projected to go over £2.1 trillion by 2020. According to the Resolution Foundation, living standards for the vast majority of people will dramatically fall as a result of past and future cuts by the Tories, with the bottom 30% of earners suffering a huge cut in wages as low pay and benefit caps hit home.
Low-paid workers will lose up to £1,000 a year due to all these austerity measures.
The only people to gain are the top 1%, the bosses and bankers who will see their salaries boosted by the cuts in corporation tax. This will certainly create the ‘uncertainty’ that Hammond is worried about, or rather, it will create a tidal wave of anger in the working class at the prospect of being driven into even more unbearable levels of poverty in order to maintain a capitalist system where the wealthy get their obscene wealth and the rest of us starve.
Working class anger is now developing explosively and will quickly drive forward the revolution. This anger was palely reflected in the statements issued by trade union leaders on Hammond’s speech. Leaders from all the major unions issued statements condemning the Tory onslaught on jobs and wages, although the majority ended by lamenting the ‘missed opportunities’ to revive a capitalist system that is on its last legs.
Only the leader of the civil servants union (PCS), Mark Serwotka, made any call for action, insisting that it is time to bring the Tory pay freeze to an end, saying: ‘We will be talking to other unions in the coming weeks about taking action together to bring the pay freeze to an end, so we can put money back in people’s pockets and help revive our flagging economy.’
Serwotka is correct, the time for talking is long over. Now is the time for the trade unions to take action. Every union branch and committee should demand the immediate re-call of the TUC conference in an emergency session to plan for an all-out fight against all the Tory cuts and privatisation plans.
A real fight is called for; this means the organisation of a general strike to bring down the Tories is the only way of defending the right of workers to any kind of life. Where Serwotka is wrong is his belief that bankrupt capitalism can be revived in any way. It is a system that has long only been able to survive its economic crisis by dumping the full weight of it onto the backs of the working class. Now the masses will take no more austerity.
They are ready for the general strike to kick out the Tories to go forward to a workers government and a socialist planned economy. This will expropriate the bankers and bosses to secure the future for workers and youth. There is no doubt that a British lead on this vital matter will be rapidly supported and then followed by the workers of the world.