WHEN the coronavirus pandemic hit the UK in March, and the Tory government was forced to order the first national lockdown, Tory chancellor Rishi Sunak made a temporary £20 a week increase in Universal Credit for the thousands of new claimants thrown out of work.
This increase is due to end in April.
Even this temporary increase was completely inadequate to protect the unemployed and low paid workers forced onto Universal Credit.
Unemployment benefits for workers before the crisis struck were around 34% of average income – less than at any time since the creation of the Welfare State in 1948, according to figures produced by the New Economics Foundation.
After a decade of Tory austerity cuts to benefits, unemployed workers today get £1,600 less on average than they would have got in 2010.
Tens of thousands of claimants who were thrown out of work in March under the first lockdown, and have been unemployed ever since, have been told by the Department of Work and Pensions that their benefits will be capped unless they find a job.
Households facing this benefit cap will lose about £250 a month following the end of a nine month ‘grace period’ which protected some new claimants.
The cap was introduced by the Tories in 2013 as an ‘incentive’ for people to find a job by cutting down the amount of benefits they can claim.
According to the Resolution Foundation, cutting Universal Credit in April will mean over six million households facing a cut of £1,000, thus pushing them into extreme poverty. This means six million families will be forced into a situation where they have to make the choice between feeding their children or paying the rent .
Official figures released yesterday confirm that unemployment in the UK has gone above 5%, and that unemployment will reach at least 2.6 million next year. Unofficially, it is estimated that over four million workers will be out of a job when furlough ends and companies close down.
The powerful British working class will not sit back and allow itself to be driven back to the poverty and mass unemployment that capitalism inflicted on workers in the 19th century. Then, the working class fought back, building trades unions to take on the employers in revolutionary struggles.
In the 19th century British capitalism was in its imperialist heyday, able to exploit almost the entire world through imperialist domination of its colonies.
The vast wealth generated through imperialism flowing back to the ruling class provided the means for British capitalism to try to ‘buy off’ the working class through reforms.
Imperialism enabled the British ruling class to avoid social revolution. Today the situation has completely changed.
The British imperialist past has long gone, and with it any strength or ability to offer any way out of the economic crisis engulfing capitalism.
Without an empire British capitalism stands alone, a weak bankrupt economy unable to withstand the tsunami of the world economic crisis that is engulfing it.
Sunak has already made it clear that there will be no permanent extension of even the meagre £20 a week increase in benefit. British capitalism cannot afford to pay any increase permanently – just as it cannot and will not continue to pay furloughed workers indefinitely.
The only way forward for the capitalist class is to fight it out with the working class by imposing mass unemployment and starvation while offering wage cuts to those who manage to cling on to a job.
What is needed is a call to arms for the working class to fight this Tory onslaught by mobilising the full strength of the trade unions in a general strike to kick out the Tories, seize power and advance to a workers government and socialism.
The trade union leaders who have refused to fight the Tories, and just beg for their help, must be thrown out and replaced with the revolutionary leadership of the Workers Revolutionary Party.
Now is the time for workers and young people to join the WRP to build the revolutionary party to lead the British socialist revolution to victory.