Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Difficult Decisions.

To say that the cabinet led by David Cameron has been busy lately is euphemistic, this government is suffering from hyperactivity and has taken advantage of the small window of opportunity open to them. Reform, either radical or reactionary, is best pursued in the early days, while your opponents are weak, to ensure that the legislation can be rammed through despite any public opposition. Since Labour has been preoccupied with presenting themselves as a socialist party once more - never mind the upcoming and mediocre leadership contest - the Con-Dems have had enough time to kick start the class war. It was early days when Cameron unveiled 23 bills (and one draft bill), which is more than the 15 bills that Roosevelt rammed through during his first 100 days.

The Con-Dems like to describe their reforms as "progressive" and "radical", even Melanie Phillips called the coalition "social democratic", but nothing could be further from fact and closer to fiction. These reforms that seem to have emerged on a weekly basis are deeply reactionary on closer inspection. Cameron is intent on continuing, if not completing, the neoliberal programme of privatisation and deregulation, lower taxes for the rich and lower public spending at a higher cost to the poor. Tories and Liberals are indistinguishable from one another as they claim that these spending cuts will not hurt the most vulnerable. It's hard to see how £11 billion cuts to benefits and a 20% VAT hike will not harm working-people, let alone the under-class. This is just the tip of the shit-heap mislabelled "radical".

The coalition government have unveiled plans for reforms of education, health-care and housing, which the Con-Dems promise will not harm the vulnerable. But the cuts to housing will probably drive thousands of poor people out of cities and onto the outskirts of cities. The "free schools" that Michael Gove talks about will be propped up by private companies and such schools will get the best resources, because they can afford it, at the expense of the rest of students in the country. The cuts to benefits and national insurance could lead to less unemployment, but the stagnation of wages for working-class people would continue for years to come - which are effectively lower wages due to inflation and the VAT hike. In a nutshell, the working-class and the under-class will suffer most during these cuts.

The current government consists of 18 millionaires, 19 men and 22 white people, it's a product of affirmative action for rich-white-men essentially. To call such a coalition "radical", or even "progressive", is to demean such a word. In spite of this, the Con-Dems insist that they are "progressive" whilst pretending that the decisions to slash and burn, which they made before the election, are "unavoidable" and "difficult". The words of Margaret Thatcher come to mind "There is no alternative." Even though government debt is at around 70% of GDP today, it should be remembered that this is not unusual, in between 1920 and 1960 we always had debt over 100% of GDP. Particularly after the Second World War, which left us with a government debt that made up 250% of GDP, but we still created the welfare state and nationalised several industries.

The Con-Dems also claim that government spending under Brown was unsustainable, which was true in a sense and false in another. It was unsustainable as the recession had led to a massive drop in tax revenue, which led to the "massive deficit", but it was sustainable in the sense that tax revenues would rise following the recovery. An estimated £100 billion is lost through loopholes in the tax system and active evasion every year, closing such loopholes and cracking down on evasion should be a major priority. Increasing taxes on the wealthy (a mortal sin in our economy) to rejuvenate the manufacturing industry, which could be used to provide jobs and training for the unemployed, whilst extending and improving public services for the Common Good. This probably wouldn't shrink the deficit immediately, it could set in motion the "shrinking" over a longer period of time and hold those responsible for the crash accountable.

Tony Benn, Caroline Lucas, John Pilger and Salma Yaqoob, among others, were right to advocate mass-participation in active resistance to the cuts. The social democratic reforms of the 1930s and 40s were imposed to keep the masses at bay, to prevent a revolution. But that was because there is a strong labour movement in those days and there was the Soviet Union, which was still young in those days and represented that revolutions could succeed. Today the unions have been decimated, the Soviet Union is gone, which is why the need for change is not going to be followed without a serious "push" from below. Change comes from the grass-roots upwards and can shake the very foundations of society. It's not going to be easy, but we must act now. The remnants of the welfare state, particularly benefits, education and health-care, are under threat.

Related Links:
100 Days of Dave
How Dave Hit the Ground Running
The Time to Organise is Now 
Countering the Cuts Myths
Shameful Health Gap
The Great Tax Parachute

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