CHANCELLOR Rishi Sunak opened his Budget speech on Wednesday with an appeal to ‘put aside party politics, and act in the national interest’ in order to confront the economic and social crisis that is overwhelming British capitalism.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady was quick to respond to this call.
In her statement on the Budget, O’Grady pledged the support of the TUC and its willingness to collaborate with the Tories in rescuing British capitalism at the expense of the working class – collaboration with a government that is preparing to try and smash the unions by making strikes illegal!
She said: ‘Ministers must now urgently bring together unions and employers to talk about how to support jobs, including through wage subsidies for short time working schemes, and further help for public services – especially social care.’
She went on to welcome the Budget stating: ‘This spending U-turn is badly overdue. The priority now must be to repair the damage of ten years of Tory devastation.’
This enthusiasm for the Tory Budget was taken up by Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, the second largest union in the UK. Prentis said: ‘This was a budget to calm the nation and showed the government’s been listening – to a point.’
Prentis added: ‘It’s just a pity it’s taken a national crisis for the government to see the value of our public services and the need to invest in them properly.’
He then went on to endorse the collaborationist position saying: ‘Government, businesses and unions all need to work together to get the country through the next few difficult weeks and months.’
While the TUC and Unison were falling over themselves to offer up the unions as willing partners with the Tories and bosses to save British capitalism, the Unite union slammed the Budget.
Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: ‘Sunak boasted his first Budget as Chancellor represented the government’s biggest spending plans on record … But Unite has highlighted that such pledges will not be enough to reverse a decade of severe austerity, nor will they be enough to weather a recession that’s increasingly likely with the added economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak.’
Turner concluded saying: ‘The Chancellor has ripped through the magic money forest to try to inject some life back into the ailing UK economy. The question is, will it be enough to repair the vandalism of ten years of deliberate austerity and lowering of living standards and cope with the economic crisis that could accompany the spread of the coronavirus?’
The answer to that is a resounding No.
All the money Sunak promised to inject into the UK economy would only reverse about a quarter of the cuts made by the Tories since 2010 according to the Resolution Foundation.
At the same time, the £30 billion extra he pledged to spend will come from borrowing on a massive scale, increasing the national debt ‘by no less than £125 billion’ according to the official Office for Budget Responsibility, driving the debt pile above £2 trillion for the first time.
The Tory Budget was not an end to austerity as the TUC would have us believe. Instead it opens the floodgates to massive inflation and an all-out austerity offensive against the working class as stock markets collapse and industry closes down throwing millions out of work.
What is clear is that there can be no ‘national interest’, only class interest, and the TUC’s offer to become partners in managing capitalism on behalf of the ruling class is a massive betrayal.
The crucial issue for the working class is to take independent action by sacking this treacherous leadership and building a new leadership in the unions.
Such a leadership will immediately organise a general strike to kick out the Tories and bring in a workers’ government that will expropriate industry and the banks, placing them under the management of the working class as part of a planned socialist economy.
Only a socialist revolution can put an end to capitalist austerity and provide every worker and young person with a healthy future. There is not a moment to lose!