Anyone who cares about falling living standards, rising poverty, the trashing of public services and this authoritarian government’s role in promoting racism and sexism should join the protests outside the Tory Party conference.
Over more than a decade now they have implemented policies which have not reduced the public sector deficit or debt, as claimed. They have not spurred economic growth and have actually led to the biggest fall in living standards on record.
And, despite transferring enormous sums of money from poor to rich and from workers to business it is not at all clear that they have met their key objective. There is no decisive evidence that there has been a significant improvement in profitability as a result of austerity, certainly not enough to spark a profits-driven upturn in business investment.
That explains why Tory circles are already discussing even more austerity – after more than 13 years of it.
Commentators and thinktanks are already discussing breaking the triple-lock on state pensions again, even though British retirement pensions are already among the lowest in Western Europe. They also seem to have reached a consensus that all welfare benefits should be cut in real terms. This is at the same time they are also discussing abolishing or severely reducing Inheritance Tax, which would only benefit a tiny and very rich minority of the population.
It is not clear whether any of these will be implemented before the next general election. It might be politically expedient to wait until after polling day.
What does seem certain is that further attacks are in the pipeline. If the economy is barely growing at all, and government policy is to benefit big business and the rich, then they can only find the money by once more robbing workers and the poor.
The same applies to wages. The frontal attack on public sector wages (and other areas that the government effectively controls such as rail) is an attack on all workers. As government is by far the largest employer in the country with well over 5 million public sector workers, it has been the aim to set a ‘going rate’ below inflation for all workers. They have not abandoned that aim.
But the resistance to government policy continues. Rumours of the death of the strike wave have been greatly exaggerated. Over 1.8 million strike days have taken place in the first 7 months of this year. This compares to just over 300,000 strike days in the same period last year.
Politically there is an unprecedented level of public support for strikes in all sectors, which is why the government propaganda efforts to weaken and isolate the strikes have been so ineffective. The lack of political support has been a hindrance but has not derailed the strikes.
We are in this for the long haul, with government intransigence meeting deep and broad levels of militancy. The next step is the demo at the Tory party conference.
Michael Burke writes regularly for Socialist Economic Bulletin