The massive public spending cuts being forced through by the Coalition are an attempt to make us pay for the failure of a system run for the benefit of a rich and powerful minority. We need to organise to resist the cuts and overthrow this system.
The biggest public spending cuts for three generations are being prepared by this Coalition government.
David Cameron and his Chancellor George Osborne want to hammer public expenditure. If the government sticks to its plans, its spending will fall by £67bn over the next few years.
The speed and the severity of this reduction mean nothing less than a fundamental attack on the welfare state in Britain. Expectations that we all had about the kind of society we live in, in which the sick and the elderly are cared for, and education is available to all, are under direct threat.
Only the very richest will be able to insulate themselves from these effects. Like the 18 millionaire Cabinet ministers, they can afford not to rely on public services. The rest of us face a bleak future.
All the evidence now suggests that the impending cuts are starting to damage the economy. By cutting demand for goods and services, public spending cuts have a huge knock-on effect. The risk of worsening the recession is very real.
Youth unemployment is already pushing 1m. Areas in the north, previously devastated by the destruction of industry and stable jobs, are predicted to be worst hit by the cuts.
The free market has led us into this economic crisis. The only solution the Coalition government offers is more of the same.
Business minister Vince Cable has just announced the complete privatisation of the Royal Mail. This means an end to post as a universal service, and an attack on workers’ pay and conditions. In Cable’s free market paradise, you won’t be able to pay 28p to send a letter anywhere. But underpaid agency workers will be staggering to push ever-greater piles of junk mail through your letterbox.
The government claim that these cuts are necessary because the welfare state is too generous.
Millions relying on state pensions, or disability living allowance, or jobseekers’ allowance may beg to differ.
It’s simply untrue that government spending in this country was “excessive”. Before the recession, under New Labour it averaged 39 per cent of GDP. Under Mrs Thatcher, it was 43 per cent. In the free-market US, it is currently around 43 per cent.
Either by historical or international standards, government spending is not “excessive”. And that spending pays for the public services we all need.
The reason the government deficit is now so large is entirely due to the financial crisis that broke out in 2007.
Bailing out the UK banks cost, according to the National Audit Office, £800bn. At the same time, the recession reduced tax receipts, and pushed up spending on unemployment benefits.
So it was the bankers, not public services, that have pushed the UK deficit so high.
And now the rest of us are being asked to pay for the costs of the bankers’ greed and stupidity.
You would have to be George Osborne not to see the injustice of this.
This government can be defeated. Already, thousands of local anti-cuts campaigns are springing up as people move to defend their local services.
But we also need a mass, national movement, like that we saw against the Iraq war, to be in with a chance of stopping them.
The government is attempting to play divide-and-rule with us. They hope to impose the cuts through hundreds of smaller slices. They want to play off locality against locality, service against service, worker against worker.
A united, national campaign can shatter that logic.
The Poll Tax was stopped by mass protests, with millions refusing to pay the unfair new tax, and huge demonstrations across the country.
The Poll Tax was removed - and Margaret Thatcher with it.
Tony Benn, along with MPs like Caroline Lucas and John McDonnell, trade union leaders, pensioners’ leaders and others across society launched their call, a month ago, for a Coalition of Resistance to oppose the Coalition of the rich. Thousands of people across the country have also now signed up, with more pledging their support each day.
The Coalition of Resistance is the first step towards building a mass, national movement. It has called a conference on 27 November in central London to help pull together all the local strands of opposition. There will be protests in London on October 20th when Osborne announces his cuts. Outside of London we should call for local protests.
Mass protests start to put pressure on the rest of the movement. The argument for strikes is stronger when hundreds of thousands are making it. Local councillors can be pressured into refusing to implement cuts.
But we also need to address the causes of the crisis. This government has completely failed to reform the financial system that created the crisis. As the bankers’ fat bonuses show, the status quo has been restored. Only now the bankers are gambling with public money.
And it’s the risk of another banking crash, needing another monster bailout, that is driving the government to cut spending now. The City of London is a huge white elephant but the Tories and Liberals are committed to feeding it.
The deep economic crisis means we face a choice. We can either maintain the bloated financial sector, or we can fund a welfare state. Both require public spending, but we cannot afford both. The millionaires’ government has chosen finance over welfare. We have to force a different answer on them.
Stopping the cuts will ultimately also mean having to redress the balance of power in the economy: away from finance and the rich, and in favour of workers and ordinary people. That means an assault on the power of the City and big business: taxing the rich, closing down the financial casinos, and building a green economy.
To win this needs organisation. Counterfire is a fast-growing network of revolutionary socialists that is part of building the campaign against the cuts and arguing for socialist politics. Join us.
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