The crises facing the NHS, London Underground and housing are just a few examples of the results of austerity and privatisation argues Lindsey German
After 6 years of Tory rule, and more than a decade of Blair/Brown accommodation to neoliberalism, the impact of their policies are creating crisis upon crisis in everyday life.
Today's tube strikes are a totally justified response to systematic underfunding and cutbacks on the underground system. Ticket offices have been closed, leaving long, bewildered and frustrated tourists and non Londoners queuing for temperamental machines to issue the most expensive transport tickets in the world. The growing population of London should lead to a major increase in station staff, both in ticket offices and on dangerously overcrowded platforms and trains. The opposite is happening.
In the NHS, it is clear that the underfunding of public services, growing privatisation and dramatic cuts in care for the elderly has led to the worst crisis ever. The revelation by the Red Cross that it is being used as an auxiliary for NHS services and that the system faces a humanitarian crisis underlines that this isn't just a bad winter. Deliberate government policy is making the health service worse, to the detriment of patients and staff. Already these conditions will have certainly led to unnecessary deaths.
Schools funding has been cut, affecting the poorest children worst, and London's educational success in recent years is likely to be reversed once the 'savings' bite. Homelessness and the housing crisis is worse than at any time since the Second World War.
These are just some of the most pressing issues. Everywhere, the worsening conditions of working people in Britain and the infrastructure which is supposed to support it. Bus services outside the big cities are threadbare and often nonexistent. Overcrowded and expensive trains are being denuded of guards to save money for the privatised companies, who are already subsidised by public money. There have been several serious water main bursts in London in recent weeks, the culmination of years of under investment and lack of repairs.
The people who work in these industries know better than most what is really at stake. That's why there have been strikes and other protests across industry. Jeremy Corbyn's Labour should put itself in strong opposition to all this and give a voice to the millions suffering from austerity, privatisation, low wages and worsening conditions.
But it is going to take much more than a change in government or strong policies to defeat the priorities of a capitalist class which has happily presided over inequality growing, and the lives of most people getting worse. It means linking up trade union campaigns with other movements, and fighting to shift the balance of wealth and power away from those who run society at present.
That is a huge fight on our hands but it is the only way that we can stop these predatory exploiters. Solidarity with those striking and campaigning now is a first step.
As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.
Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.