By Richie Venton, SSP national workplace organiser
|photo: John Lanigan|
As the council election caravan moves on, working class people continue to face appalling cuts to their living standards; they are left with no option but to 'struggle or starve'.
The chief architects of the cuts to pensions, wages, benefits and community facilities were hammered in the council elections. The Tories lost over 400 councillors, in a tidal wave of revulsion at their cuts and their sleaze.
Their junior partners in crime fared even worse at the hands of a furious population, many of whom feel cheated and betrayed by the LibDems. The carnage included the loss of 80 out of 151 LibDem councillors in Scotland.
Despite the SSP vote suffering from the crushing squeeze between the two tribes of Labour and SNP going to war, enhanced by the brutal, self-fulfilling media lie that this was a two-horse race, we beat the LibDem party of government in many of the seats we contested! Mind you, so did an Edinburgh 'penguin'!
No mandate to rule and ruin
The millionaires' Coalition has even less of a mandate for their eye-watering butchery to jobs, services and incomes than they had before May 3rd. That applies with special force in Scotland, where they have plummeted to the status of fringe parties, mostly isolated to a few rural pockets in the Borders and South Ayrshire in the case of the Tories.
The Westminster butchers are in deep disarray, drowning in a sea of sleaze around the Murdoch scandal and the descent of the economy into a 'double-dip' recession for the first time since 1975 - and the longest economic depression in decades.
With that background, Cameron, Clegg & Co are all the more ruthless in their desire to make working class people pay for the crisis, whilst those who perpetrated some of the worst cuts are wallowing in wealth.
But they are weak, vulnerable and divided, with right-wing Tories decrying the presence of the LibDems, and even a Tory MP publicly sneering at Cameron and Clegg as "two posh boys who don't know the price of milk" - an assessment that finds massive resonance amongst those at the receiving end of their upper-class callousness.
Slasher Hutton on £100,000 a day!
Millions of public sector workers have had their first taste of increased chunks of their wages being deducted as pension contributions last month - with a lot worse to come next year and the year after unless the government is defeated by united action.
Meantime, Labour Lord John Hutton - 'Slasher' Hutton to those suffering the assault on six million public sector workers' pensions that he was chief author of under the previous Labour government - has landed a £100,000 a day job as chair of the part-privatised civil service outfit, MyCSP.
68 is too late!
Opinion polls confirm massive opposition to the later retirement age being pushed through, which means every female worker under 36 faces an extra 8 years in work before she can get a state pension, and every male worker in that age-group an extra 3 years.
Whilst over one third (36 per cent) of families currently rely on grandparents for child-minding, and councils jack up the cost of council nursery places as part of the cuts agenda, the government wants to force millions to work longer, denying them a healthy retirement and robbing them of time with their grandchildren.
A child born today will have to work well into their late 70s if Coalition plans are not derailed by strikes, protests and civil disobedience.
Even Tory voters are rebelling against this abomination of a plan! A recent YouGov poll found 53 per cent of Tory voters against raising the retirement age, with 35 per cent of them criticising the fact it will lead to even fewer job opportunities for young people.
Across the board, 62 per cent of people oppose making workers work longer for less on retirement - despite an incredible 38 per cent of those polled not even being aware of the planned delay in retirement!
This country is poised to have the latest state retirement age in Europe, as well as some of the lowest wages, longest working week and poorest holiday entitlements.
The moneyed class and their governments try to drag us out of recession by preaching the gospel "shop 'til you drop" - whilst slashing workers' spending power!
Now they want us to literally "work 'til you drop" - to ensure the CEOs of big private businesses can continue to wallow in their current average pensions of £175,000 a year.
M10 strike rekindles the fires of resistance
The strike of up to half a million public sector workers on 10 May - including PCS, UNITE, UCU and RMT members in the civil service, health, MoD and education - should be the flame to re-ignite the fires of resistance that too many trade union leaders have tried to dampen since the magnificent strike of two million on 30 November.
These unions plan further coordinated action in late June. PCS is also taking industrial action in specific departments and sectors, alongside a generalised overtime ban from now until late June. And they have raised the call for a united demo against the cuts this side of the summer.
Demand an immediate mass demo
One of the trade union 'leaders' who did most to stall the momentum after N30 is UNISON's Dave Prentis. Now, in an attempt to save face amongst members increasingly angry at being 'sold a pup' by Prentis, he has called for a mass trade union-led demo in the autumn.
Why wait that long? Active members of every union should argue for a huge Saturday demo over the next couple of months, demanding that either the STUC call it in Scotland or a 'coalition of the willing trade unions' do so.
Not instead of a broader, bigger strike in June, but in addition to it, as a means of reaching out to workers in local government, education and the private sector who are not part of the M10 strike. Not just on pensions, but on other cuts and attacks on rights, jobs and benefits.
Coalition can be beaten
The recent council elections saw hundreds of thousands voting either SNP or Labour as a means of punishing the Westminster cuts Coalition. They won votes primarily because they are not the Coalition!
The electoral decimation of the chief architects of cuts should be the green light for the trade unions to unite with community groups and socialists in decisive, early action to drive the crisis-ridden Coalition back further. They can be beaten. They can be driven out of office.
The response on the streets to the SSP's central message 'no cuts, tax the rich' was infinitely larger than the votes cast for our uncompromising socialist case, partly because people were browbeaten with the media message of a 'two-horse race', partly because Labour and the SNP lied through their teeth with talk of creating jobs, and people often gave one of the 'big two' their first two votes, giving the SSP third or fourth preference.
Pound new councils with demands to reverse the cuts
In several councils, the biggest party has changed from one to the other, so the trade union movement and community organisations should join with socialists in pounding these councillors with demands to reverse the cuts of their predecessors - or stand exposed as fakers gaining votes under false pretences, engaged in a cynical exercise of shuffling deckchairs on the Titanic. Now is the time to besiege them with such demands, fresh on the heels of them taking office.
Capitalism doesn't work
The battle against cuts, both at local council level and nationally on the pensions issue, is critical in the broader resistance to the systematic dismantling of workers' rights, benefits and frontline services gained by past generations through struggle.
Plans to usher in regional pay; slash the right to challenge unfair dismissal from work; curtail the right to have functioning union shop stewards to stand up for members; and the core aim of rampant privatisation of what remains of public property - all these and more are the inevitable product of a capitalist system that is based on exploitation for profit, that simply doesn't work, that condemns a whole generation to permanent mass unemployment, and that seeks to slaughter working class conditions in defence of profit margins and privileges for the obscenely rich minority.
Capitalism means cuts, mass unemployment and mounting poverty from the cradle to the grave.
Socialism - based on taxation of the rich, wealth redistribution and democratic public ownership - is the only means of escaping 'eternal austerity'.
Those who strike back in May have an important part to play in building a future worthy of the name - a socialist future based on people, not profit.