Editorial from the November 2010 issue of the Socialist Standard
The details of a long-planned offensive in the class war were finalised and announced by the Chancellor on 20 October. The millionaires who lead the government, backed by the business elite, unsurprisingly decided that the burden of the state debt should not fall onto those most responsible for it, nor those most able to pay it. Instead, it should be used as an excuse for an attack on working-class living standards. If you’re not sure if this means you, let us tell you, it almost certainly does. If you rely on the labour market or state benefits for your living, you’re working class. If you rely on investments for your living, you’re capitalist class. An understanding of this simple fact will cut through no end of political propaganda and put you on the road to the truth.
And the truth is that the capitalist class, represented for now by the coalition government and led by the Tories, has no real interest, despite the rhetoric, in individual freedom or rolling back the state. Despite the cuts, everywhere described as ‘savage’, state spending will actually continue to rise. As Lex points out in the Financial Times, the cuts are “all very radical by the standards of the modern state”, but government spending will still rise by a total of 5 per cent over the next three years. This is because the government is not daft. It knows that real-world capitalism can only prosper with the backing and support of the state. The banks and the capitalist class and the businesses that they own all rely on massive state support to survive. What is not acceptable, to them, is for the working class to rely on similar support. This is an “unaffordable” burden, to be cut out entirely where politically possible, or cut back to the bone where not.
The details of the cuts have been widely reported. They total £81bn, and include a massive £7bn cut in welfare spending, a rise in the retirement age to 66 (French workers at the time of writing are on the street to prevent a raise to 62), and cuts to higher education and council spending. Ruling-class propaganda has been so effective that the government could announce, as if everyone should be pleased and proud of the fact, that the cuts to government departments would not be as severe as expected because it had managed to be especially severe on welfare. Workers who understand their own position and interest will know that there is nothing to be gained from throwing those people who rely on state benefits, even those who really are ‘swinging the lead’, onto the labour market. Although the capitalist media does its best to whip up resentment against benefits claimants – and what a good job it does – those benefits are exactly what we might all one day have to rely on to survive (let alone live). Unless, of course, you have been thrifty, wise and hard-working enough to avoid being born into a working family, and have taken measures to ensure that in the future you will never lose your job, get ill, get injured, get old, or get blown up in one of capitalism’s wars. But even if you have taken these elementary precautions, throwing current benefit claimants onto the labour market will just increase competition for jobs, and act as a downward pressure on wages.
There is not, insists the government, any political choice about any of this: the cuts are just inevitable. To their inevitable facts of life, we must pose our own: resistance and socialist education. They started this particularly nasty and vindictive phase of the class war, and we’re all in it together whether we want to be or not. But ask not what the class war can do for you. Ask what you can do for the class war.