Unity! Why we need an alternative economic strategy by John Foster Last year George Osborne announced austerity cuts that would reduce public spending at a real rate of 3.7 per cent a year till 2017. This year we have seen the first results: a double dip recession now lasting for nine months, benefit payments up 6 per cent, tax receipts down 1 per cent and the government having to increase its borrowing in June. Now Osborne is threatening even more cuts – on the Greek scale – to be announced this October. What crazy economics! The government’s only major intervention has been through the Bank of England’s ‘Quantitative Easing’: which has handed £375 billion to the banks to back up their reserves and use for short-term speculation. None of it has gone into the real economy. Industrial investment is at an all time low. And no wonder. There is no demand. Real disposable income has fallen to its 2003 level. The only way to reflate the economy is to stop cutting public sector jobs; invest in job creation and skills training to increase high street spending power and renewing the call for a shorter working life as an important element of tackling long-term, crippling unemployment.
Britain’s economy is now over 4 per cent smaller than it was in 2007 – the only major economy to have contracted to such an extent apart from Spain. It is still contracting. This is why alternative economic policies, based on active state intervention, are so desperately needed, as Unite argued strongly in its motion to last year’s TUC. We need specific demands that can unite trade unions and communities to campaign politically – demands which also add up to a coherent strategy that can rescue our economy. The first demand is obvious: stop the cuts. This is the quickest way of restoring consumer demand: end the insecurity of imminent job loss, halt the new pensions levy, reverse the benefit cuts and end a wage freeze that is currently cutting real incomes by up to 3 per cent a year. The second demand is for the nationalisation of the retail banks that handle the savings of working people – to stop these savings being pillaged by the investment banks to the benefit of the super-rich and instead invested in the productive economy. The third is for the government to create real, well-paid jobs and hence boost tax income as well as demand for goods. Council housing is one obvious area. There is
Communists at the TUC 2012 Monday 10 September
COMMUNIST PARTY LUNCHTIME MEETING ALTERNATIVES TO EU AUSTERITY
Brighthelm Church & Community Centre (just aroud the corner and up West Street/Queen's Road) Tsiaples Anastosis PAME and president regional TU centre of Larissa in Greece Alex Gordon RMT President Chair Anita Halpin Communist Party trade union organiser
desperate need and the private sector has failed – house building has collapsed from 180,000 in 2006 to 120,000 last year, the lowest since the 1920s. Building houses under local democratic control also makes it possible to introduce comprehensive energy saving with green technology - another key area for investment. Equally essential on this front is the demand to take water, energy and transport back into public ownership, end extortionate pricing, stop the state subsidies to monopolist owners and make the investments in infrastructure so desperately needed. There must also be government action to stop closures in the productive economy, to take over failing manufacturing enterprises and to penalise companies that shift production overseas – even if this means defying the neoliberal directives laid down by the EU. Key to rebuilding manufacturing would be the introduction of controls on the export of capital and limits and/or taxes on the import of manufactured goods, both ready-made products and components. Can this be paid for? Yes, easily - by imposing a tax on the City’s financial transactions; reclaiming the £100 billion lost through tax evasion; closing down Britain’s many tax havens, and reversing Osborne’s tax cuts for the rich and on company profits. Achieving this requires a mass movement that can remove this government of financial speculators and ensure the Labour Party adopts the alternative policies needed to save our productive economy – in the interests of the vast majority of the population. John Foster is a member of the Communist Party economic commission and is the party’s International Secretary
WORKING WITH YOUTH AND STUDENTS by Mick Carty A number of motions of direct relevance to Britain’s youth are on this week’s agenda. Motion 8 deals with the necessity of developing a political education programme in order to educate young workers, and potentially students, about the past achievements of Britain’s trade union movement. The call from the TUC Young Members’ Conference for such a programme should be welcomed. This is especially the case because in the motion the necessity for young workers to both value and defend the past achievements of our class against the current ruling class assault is recognised. The focus on industrial issues in isolation as opposed to the wider industrial and political achievements of the organised working class through the labour movement, the Communist Party and the YCL, should not detract support from the
motion but rather encourage participation in and careful scrutiny of the programme’s development. Motions 28 and 29 deal directly with youth unemployment. In addressing the growing (and deliberate) stratification of the working class, and ultimately the creation of a subservient under-class substantially comprised of Britain’s youth, motion 28 sees the National Union of Teachers point to the exacerbation of existing income inequalities through commodified education and unpaid internships. The motion goes on to outline a number of key campaign demands which reflect policies reaffirmed at the 46th Congress of the YCL, including the call for workplace based apprenticeship schemes leading to guaranteed employment paid at least at the national minimum wage, the call for an apprentice quota to be included in public works commissioned and procured from public funds (necessitating at least an
nemployment amongst 18-24 year olds has risen from 13% to over 21% from 2005 to 2011 reports the Financial Times.This rise is not unique as youth unemployment in Greece rose from 26% to over 41% and in Spain from under 20% to over 45%. The youth unemployment rate is not evenly distributed, neither geographically nor in terms of gender, ethnicity or disability. There are sectors where youth unemployment is above 50% and LSE research for The Guardian into last year’s riots showed how most of the youth were from ‘impoverished backgrounds’. There were, said the ‘Reading the Riots’ report and the even the Cabinet Office, a feeling of ‘desperation at the very limited options’ for ‘disadvantaged youths’. There is now emerging a serious problem of graduate unemployment with nearly 10% of graduates still out of work six months after graduation. More serious in its social impact is graduate under-employment whereby graduates displace those others who would normally have filled jobs where a degree was not previously required. This knock-on effect ends with those with the fewest qualifications forced out of work altogether. Government attempts to be seen to be doing something about this betrayal of the hopes are far too little and too late for many already sunk into a culture of despair. A paltry increase in ‘apprenticeships’ will do little to provide long term solutions for most of the youngsters involved. The ‘apprentices’ are mostly offered little worthwhile training and relatively few get permanent jobs on completion as they are often replaced by another young hopeful. On these placements
approach towards a national industrial strategy), the eradication of unpaid work for young people and acceptable employment contracts. In terms of education the restoration of EMA and the abolition of tuition fees are also demanded. The Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen note that the Government’s agenda will ‘irrevocably damage their [youth] long-term earning and employment prospects’ and the forcing of ‘older people to work until the age of 68 …will …entrench the cycle of long-term youth unemployment, depressed wages and restricted career progression’. Whilst the YCL believes that this is a deliberate and central part of the ruling class strategy (and not simply ‘misguided’ or ‘ineffective’ policies as the motion states), the recognition of the threat to our future and the call for the TUC to further address the issue of youth unemployment must be welcomed. The important features of both these
youngsters are at the beck and call of their employer and fearful of the loss of benefits if they are sacked. Those graduates who have at least some parental support are directed towards ‘internships’ at which they are expected to work for nothing, or at best their expenses, in the vain hope that this experience will look impressive on their CV - or an opportunity to make a useful connection with other employers on the lookout for those with the right attitude to work (i.e. prepared to work for a salary that leaves them little in the way of meeting their obligation to repay student loans, find suitable accommodation or save for the future prospect of family life or adequate pension provision). There is little possibility of a solution to this wastage of talent and skills within the confines of the current austerity programmes being implemented by the countries of the European Union and within the straightjacket of IMF loans. It will take a much more decisive implementation of a programme of government intervention in the economy for any impact to be made upon this ‘Great Recession’. This will only happen however as a consequence of a much more decisive political intervention in Government to implement a social programme that develops an alternative economic and political strategy building on initiatives such as the Peoples’ Charter in order to take state power away from those who would otherwise condemn a whole generation to an insecure and unfulfilling future. Young people themselves must be mobilised as part of this campaign. A society that sacrifices its own children is sowing the seeds of its destruction
motions are that they call on the incoming General Council to undertake work specifically orientated towards Britain’s youth, which has the potential to broaden the TUC’s role in the struggle against the onslaught which both current and future workers are facing from Britain’s capitalists, and their rivals across the European Union. At the 46th Congress of the Young Communist League of Britain, it was agreed that ‘YCL notes the disproportionately low level of youth membership of trade unions, and understands that this can only be challenged through the development of a genuine class consciousness among Britain’s youth.’ Support for these motions could potentially push the TUC towards contributing to that development. Mick Carty is general secretary of the Young Communist League www.ycl.org.uk
We are all working for a big turnout for the October TUC demo but it is going to take more than demonstrations to defeat the ConDem’s public service cuts. We need a strategy that will create the conditions to bring about a change of government to a Labour government that will support our demands. Central to this is unity with public and private sector unions developing joint action and building alliances with working class communities. Local anti cuts committees - with trades union councils playing a key role - have the potential to create mass local movements which can then compel local elected councillors to fight the attacks on public services by setting needs budgets rather than meekly implementing cuts dictated by central government. Without such extra parliamentary movement any talk of setting illegal budgets is just an ultra left pipe dream. The sustained attack on pensions, the introduction of regional pay, the privatisation of public services and the attacks on trade union rights are all part of the ruling class strategy to redistribute wealth from the poor to the rich through cuts to our terms and conditions. Smash the unions and it’s a green light for this big business agenda. At the heart of our campaigning must be a political campaign which goes beyond the usual industrial relations rhetoric. The politics of resistance has to be taken into every workplace and community where we have organisation. Over the past months in the pensions battles, working women and men were won to take action as they realised that was about so much more than ‘just’ pensions. It’s about pay freezes and pay cuts, extending working life, cutting jobs and services and dismantling our welfare state at the very time when demand for these services is rising. The overall effect is misery for millions, declining living standards and quality of life. Workers who at one point were saying ‘well at least I’ve got a job’ are now saying that ‘enough is enough’ and will be part of the fight back. Even workers not in public sector pension schemes were willing to strike because they were sick of the decline in their current and future living standards. Concern for the lack of opportunity for their kids who will have nothing to look forward to but working till they drop; that’s if they can get a job at all. May’s local election results confirmed that the majority of voters had had enough, but the low turnout indicated that many people have already given up voting in the belief that all politicians are the same. That is why it is crucial that Labour councillors become ‘champions’ of their communities, working alongside local trade unionists and community groups. Labour authorities must maintain a dialogue with their local trade union movement, no matter how tough the conversation. And if Ed Milliband is serious about fighting for the rights of ordinary working class families and winning back trust he must act quickly and imaginatively to ensure that Labour controlled councils get the support they need and that they and a future Labour government act in the interests of those that elected them. But the fightback is not just about resistance to Tory-led policies. Our movement has policies which, if implemented, would begin to eat into the power and wealth of the ruling class and lay the basis for real advance for our class to a better future. The need of the hour must be to build for the October demo by politicising the fight and making the case for getting rid of the ConDems and replacing them with a government that will be held to account by the organised working class and their communities. Articles in Unity this week will highlight key elements of the left wing programme for a future that will work in favour of the millions not the millionaires. .
END MEDIA MONOPOLY by Richard Bagley
Phone-hacking, corruption and abuse. Neither the links between those in power nor the rock-bottom tactics overseen by newspaper editors will surprise any thinking person. But the Leveson inquiry, initiated following the first grubby revelations that multibillionaire anti-union boss Rupert Murdoch’s print titles had systematically hacked into the phones of various victims, has nevertheless put the issue of our media front and centre. Among those putting their point across are the National Union of Journalists and the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom (CPBF) - rare voices from within and around the industry calling for substantial change to failed self-regulation and increasing consolidation within the trade. The idea that the poachers can be gamekeepers via a voluntary code is bitterly defended by the upper echelons of the journalistic establishment. But it has become clear that the wealthy individuals who own the bulk of the media, and the editors who do their bidding, need not just a watchdog but massive scrutiny of their every action. A properly functioning layer of well-trained news-gatherers is central to democracy. Media owners have no such concerns. Almost every month comes the news of fresh closures of local and regional papers.
Talking to those journalists still clinging on to their traditional role of actors and chroniclers within our communities, holding the abusers locally and ultimately nationally to account, it is clear that the agenda of the industry’s big players is total shutdown. Profit margins remain large but mass staffing cuts and long-term pay freezes are now standard practice. It is this ongoing onslaught by big industry owners interested not in the role of newspapers, or even news stories themselves, that led to an overwhelming 80 per cent vote in March backing strike action at one behemoth, Newsquest. Other names include Mirror group, Johnston Press and Archant. All adopt the same approach. It is now common for a ‘local’ newspaper to be based in a regional warehouse being produced by a handful of journalists rewriting press release stories for a raft of titles, the main difference being the title on page one. Not for nothing do professionals in the trade bitterly label the owners’ approach to the trade ‘churnalism’. And it’s no surprise either that readership of these increasingly thin, poorquality newspapers continues to plummet. Yet millions still buy daily papers. That means Leveson is important. It has put the issue of the media front and centre for the first time Ownership control is massively important and there must be limits on the maximum stake controlled across the full spectrum of our
Time for the People’s Charter The People’s Charter for Change is supported by the TUC, sixteen trade unions and many trades unions councils up and down the country and it is included in the TUC’s plan of work for the trades councils. It promotes a progressive alternative set of policies not only as an antidote to ConDem cuts, but also for the expansion of the economy through a programme of directed investment, control over the export of capital, public ownership, the development of sustainable industries, a reduction in working hours, and a programme of skills training and retraining. The Charter’s 6-point programme demands HA fairer economy for a fairer Britain.
H More and better jobs. H Decent homes for all. H Protect and improve our public services – no cuts. H Fairness and justice. H Equal pay for women. H A secure and sustainable future for all. Impossible? Far from it! The Charter shows how these could be brought about through the implementation of an alternative economic strategy to bring about a fundamental shift in wealth and power in favour of the working class. The People’s Charter deals with the whole of society and aims to promote a positive alternative instead of just saying Stop the Cuts. The Charter six points are aspirations which any political party purporting to represent working people should be proud to put forward and demands that the Labour Party must adopt it as a winning alternative political strategy .
TIME FOR A CHANGE
media to prevent individuals such as Murdoch and co manoeuvring themselves into a position where their pronouncements are heard more loudly by politicians than the electorate. But we must go further. Access to the market is increasingly in the grip of a handful of supermarkets. Distribution networks are prohibitively expensive since Murdoch smashed the comprehensive system during the Wapping war on the unions. And unlike countries such as France or Norway there is no concept that media outlets without the big bucks backing of an oligarch should have support to give an alternative voice, backed by law in the interests of a healthy, thinking, functioning democracy. Leveson at worst will result in another voluntary code and a lot of heat and light. The industry will ultimately revert to type. But even if the outcome is one with real teeth it should not be deemed the end of the struggle. Trade unionists, socialists - every decent person - need to put the issue of media ownership, coverage and ethics front and centre in their campaigning. The NUJ's submission to Leveson is required reading. The union knows, like anyone close to the industry, that if the battle is lost we face a future where knowledge is dictated by a cabal for whom ‘journalism’ is solely a means for money-making and political power. Richard Bagley is editor of the Morning Star
£2 Based on an expanded and revised series of articles that first appeared in the Morning Star in March 2012.