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Memo to McCluskey: you can't fight the ConDems with hot air

The second wave of austerity without end, if not halted, will mean the end of many public services, a huge increase in unemployment and huge subsidies for big corporations so they can cash in on infrastructure projects.

A continuing massive transfer of wealth from taxpayers to the private sector is what lies at the heart of the ConDems’ latest budget cuts pencilled in for 2015-16. They are intended to commit the next government to the planned spending cuts.

There won’t be a problem for the Tories. And with Labour pledged to stand by the coalition’s cuts, it means that the general election scheduled for 2015 will be as meaningless as the 2010 one in terms of voter choice.

A vote for any of the mainstream parties will bring massive, sustained cuts in public spending on services provided by local councils, further real wage cuts as well as further attacks on welfare benefits. Your vote will count for very little indeed.

Ed Miliband’s party says it needs “time” to think about its response to chancellor Osborne’s decision to extend the time before unemployed people can lodge a claim to seven days. In other words, Labour supports it, as they do other benefit cuts.

The more you look at Osborne’s plans, the more astonishingly savage it all gets. To finance more roads, nuclear power stations and a railway project designed to favour shareholder dividends, the latest package – £11.5bn of spending cuts for 2015-16 – is in addition to what will have been five years of austerity.

It will lead to the sacking of another 144,000 public sector workers, delivers student debt into the hands of private sector specialists in extortion, ends pay rises for public sector workers and forces millions of unemployed and those in work but dependent on benefits into increased reliance on food banks and payday loans.

There will be a sell-off of publicly-owned land,  social housing rents will rise faster than inflation and vital services provided by local councils will simply cease to exist. And yet, the savagery does not begin to match the scale of the crisis facing capitalism in Britain and globally.

As revised figures revealed by the Office for National Statistics show, the sadistic scale of this new round of slashing cuts in government spending fails by light-years to match up to task set for the coalition by the 2007/8 crash and its aftermath, as  the spending review will have been based on earlier, much more optimistic estimates. The recession was deeper than thought. Compared with the 1997 to 2008 average, output is now 17.7% below that line.
The growth in output that the system requires to expand is simply not coming through. Instead, the crash continues to take its toll. With mountains of debt still in the system – with trillions added by central banks since 2007 through “quantitative easing” – worse is to come.
Institute for Fiscal Studies director Paul Johnson said the scale of cuts would have caused social unrest in any other era.

At almost any other moment in the past 60 years, announcements of spending cuts of this scale would have created a storm. As would an announcement that 144,000 public sector jobs would go in one year as part of a programme that could see one million jobs lost by 2017-18.

The absence of the “storm” that Johnson refers to is down entirely to the Labour and trade union leaders’ response – or should that be lack of one. Labour has effectively endorsed the government’s plans, including the singling out of benefit claimants.

As for the union leaders, it is hot air all round. Last week, Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite union, talking of making Britain “ungovernable” while TUC general secretary Francis O’Grady also made militant noises about resisting the ConDems. Well, Osborne’s new attack is a golden opportunity for them to make good on their rhetoric.

Don’t hold your breath.

Gerry Gold and Paul Feldman
28 June 2013

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