Editorial from the November 2011 issue of the Socialist Standard
It’s simple really. Your wage or salary is the money necessary to reproduce your ability to work. Your pension is your wage or salary deferred until you retire. Concerns over the effect of increasing life expectancy – sometimes described as a “burden” – are only a smokescreen. We need to be clear. Lowering pension levels and raising the retirement age are cuts in real pay.
Pensions are a transfer payment from the profits of the capitalist class, which come from what workers as a whole produce. That there is at present a “problem” once more proves that the market economy is incapable of going beyond the limits of the wages system. It cannot adequately provide for the needs of the class that produces and distributes all the wealth in the first place.
Advances gained from the increased productivity of our labour – including an increased lifespan – are being clawed back by capital to its advantage, pushing the burden from the capitalists onto the workers.
The capitalist class encourages us to see their interests and problems as ours. As a result we find our lives opened up to the chaos and uncontrollable insanity of the market. The market system cannot provide any security for us in the long run, which is why we need to turn the current struggle over wages, salaries, and pensions into a politically organised movement for a society based upon the direct satisfaction of human needs.
It is encouraging to see the fight-back. The gains made by wage and salary workers on pay, pensions and other related issues have not, after all, been granted by benevolent governments or employers. They had to be fought for. If those gains are to be defended, democratic and unified action by workers is necessary. If governments and employers win on pensions and wages they will try it again with something else.
Nevertheless, important as activity of this sort is today it still does not get to the crux of the question.
The Socialist Party urges all workers to consider their position. As workers we have to strike because they are wage slaves to the capitalist class who buy our lives by the week or by the month. So, besides making the greatest possible use of trade unions, we ask for recognition that even at their best such action cannot bring permanent security or end poverty. No strike can overcome the power of the market. In the end the logic of capitalism will always win out.
While trade union activity, including strike action, is necessary as long as capitalism lasts it can’t work miracles. There can be no lasting solution to the problems the market economy creates within the market system itself. Austerity and insecurity in a world of potential plenty is always the lot of the working class. In addition to trade union action socialist political action is needed on the basis of a clear understanding and awareness of our class interests.
Unions cannot make revolutions. Only the working class themselves can do that, through clear, democratic, determined political action.
Reform is no answer.
The single, simple fact we urge working people to recognise is that capitalism generates problems it is incapable of solving. The remedy – the only remedy – is to consciously end the property system that divides and oppresses us.