THE UNITED Nations rapporteur on extreme poverty, Philip Alston, has issued a damning attack on the Tory government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic describing it as ‘utterly hypocritical’ after years of Tory-imposed austerity attacks and savage cuts to the public sector.
Alston made this damning assessment in an interview with the Guardian saying: ‘My thoughts of course hark back to the sense of how utterly hypocritical it is now to abandon “austerity” with such alacrity, after all the harm and misery caused to individuals and the fatal weakening of the community’s capacity to cope and respond over the past 10 years.’
Alston continued: ‘And of course, many of the worst and most damaging aspects of “austerity” cannot and will not be undone. The damage caused to community cohesion and to the social infrastructure are likely to prove permanent.’
Alston’s blistering attack on the Tories’ decade-long attack on every single public service formed part of a wide ranging condemnation by him on the response of capitalism globally to the pandemic, where ‘the most vulnerable have been short-changed or excluded’ by policies that work only for the wealthy.
He said: ‘The policies of many states reflect a social Darwinism philosophy that prioritises the economic interests of the wealthiest while doing little for those who are hard at work providing essential services or unable to support themselves.’
The extent to which the bosses have spent the ten years of austerity enriching themselves was revealed yesterday by the High Pay Centre thinktank.
The 18 big companies that have publicly announced they are using the Tory furlough scheme have spent £321 million paying their chief executives over the last five years.
While workers are furloughed they receive only 80% of their wages – which the company claims back off the government. In other words, the government is subsidising these companies, but only until the end of June, while their workers suffer a 20% pay cut.
Much play was made that these bosses would take a cut in their own bloated pay but, according to the High Pay Centre, only 37% of the 100 top companies in the UK have cut executive pay and of these only 13% have cut the huge bonuses and share hand-outs that actually make up the vast bulk of their wealth.
With 11 million workers facing unemployment at the end of June the big British bosses, along with their counterparts across the globe, are demanding workers be forced back to work regardless of the cost in lives.
Not only that, but at the weekend a plan emerged to ‘encourage’ some of the millions of workers currently furloughed to become fruit and vegetable pickers in order to save the agricultural industry.
Tory Environment Minister George Eustice at Sunday’s daily briefing announced that plans are being put in place to fill the shortage of migrant labour due to the pandemic with workers who have been furloughed.
Eustice said: ‘We are working with industry to identify an approach’ but he didn’t to spell out how furloughed workers would be ‘encouraged’ to take on back breaking low-paid jobs. In all probability, the Tories will tell workers we are paying 80% of your wages so do what you are told or starve.
Today British capitalism is harking back to the conditions that prevailed in the US during the 1930s Great Depression, as chronicled by Steinbeck in his famous novel ‘Grapes of Wrath’ which vividly depicts the plight of American workers forced to seek fruit picking work as an alternative to starvation.
Alston, in his savage attack on the Tories’ handing billions to the corporations, calls for ‘deep structural reforms that will protect populations as a whole and will build resilience in the face of an uncertain future.’
Last week the ex-Tory chancellor George Osborne, the main architect of austerity, told a CBI conference that even greater austerity will be required in the future to pay off the billions borrowed by the government to bail out these bankrupt companies.
Capitalism cannot be reformed as Alston demands, it must be overthrown by the working class taking power and going forward to socialism.