The Tories don't bother preaching class war because they're far too busy practising it.
They and the capitalist class they are part of have launched the most bitter assault on working-class people in living memory - as we persistently warned they would do, during the pandemic.
Inflation has reached the highest levels in at least 40 years.
The global food price index is at the highest ever recorded.
New official reports in Scotland confirm 20% inflation in the cost of supermarket shopping over the past 2 years.
And the poorest Scottish people suffer far higher inflation than the richest: 10.2% already, compared with 8.7% for the wealthiest tenth of people.
All the different schools of capitalist economists and their political echoes try to convince us that inflation is caused by rising wage demands. Andrew Bailey, governor of the Bank of England, who recently claimed under questioning at the Westminster Treasury Committee that he “can't remember” his salary of £575,000, lectured workers that “we do need to see restraint in wage bargaining”.
The Tories perpetrate the same lie and do everything in their power to slash wages and neuter the collective strength of trade unionists in the defence of living standards.
|ASLEF members demonised and granted some concessions|
Class Hatred Towards Train Drivers
We see their class hatred in response to the demands of a modest pay rise by train drivers in the face of inflation already at 9%, with forecasts of at least 14%.
The full might of the media - broadsheet and tabloid alike - has been unleashed to demonise these workers. MPs, 200 of whom have second jobs that brought them in an additional £9million on top of their £84,000 salaries – use the media to denounce the drivers as overpaid, with utterly false and hypocritical sudden ‘concern’ for the comparative wages of nurses and teachers, dredged up to try and isolate and defeat ASLEF members.
Of course, meantime not a word is muttered about giving inflation-matching pay rises to the very same NHS workers, after the hell they've lived through during the pandemic, with rampant burnout, early retirement, and a growing crisis in an underfunded, understaffed healthcare system.
Defend the Right to Strike
Faced with the power at the point of production held by London Underground workers and railway workers in general, and their critical role in the wider economy, the Tories have unleashed renewed threats of effectively banning the right to strike, with proposals to legislate ‘minimum service requirements’ on the railways (and other essential services) during any industrial action - which would effectively mean strikes were banned.
On that issue the Tories did preach class warfare, but only in the hidden depths of the Tory election manifesto, as we exposed at the time; they now aim not just to preach class war on railway workers but also practise it.
Like a second-rate echo chamber of Tory propaganda, SNP Education Minister Richard Lochhead has joined the shoddy chorus of demands that workers should restrict themselves to what he calls “sensible wage claims".
A vast variety of workers are already taking action on pay as the skyrocketing cost of essentials like food, energy, transport and housing devours their real wages.
FE College lecturers are striking for decent pay, with a claim for 5,000 staff which would only cost approximately £1.5million in total, whereas the combined salaries of 26 College Principals cost the public purse £2.7million.
School teacher members of the EIS have overwhelmingly rejected a 2% pay offer by COSLA, as have hundreds of thousands of local authority workers, ranging from Social Care staff to cleansing workers and many others.
RMT members in Network Rail and 15 Train Operating Companies have smashed the Tory anti-union barriers with a 71% turnout and an 89% majority for strike action, which would be the biggest such industrial showdown on the railways in 40 years.
The sheer scale of this vote for action may well force some concessions from the employers, but anything short of inflation-proofed pay rises after 2 years of zero increases, alongside reversal of the planned loss of 2,500 Network Rail maintenance jobs, would be unacceptable.
RMT members on ScotRail are voting for action after a derisory 2.2% pay offer, while the SNP/Scottish Green Party government try to square the circle, claiming credit for ‘nationalising' ScotRail on 1st April, then claiming “we are not in the room" when it comes to this pay dispute, whilst of course ScotRail is not only owned and funded by the Scottish government, but their (grossly overpaid) bosses have to get Cabinet permission for any pay rise above the same government's public sector pay cap.
Royal Mail workers are balloting to protect their pay, and are about to be joined by fellow members of the Communication Workers Union in the BT Group.
Countless groups of Unite the union members are likewise squaring up to the employers with demands on pay to catch up with inflation.
Tories Battered into U-turn
This rolling thunder of industrial fightback by hundreds of thousands of workers is what helped to terrify the Tories into a U-turn on a windfall tax on oil and gas companies, as they face fights on far too many fronts for their own liking.
After months of stubbornly rejecting the notion of taxation of the grotesque super-profits of the energy giants, as their profiteering drives millions into fuel poverty, the Tories have conceded a temporary 25% tax on the profits of North Sea oil and gas companies, which they claim could raise up to £5billion.
Whilst that figure dwarfs the pathetically weak windfall tax demands by the Labour leadership - which they themselves estimate would have raised £2billion - it still goes nowhere near matching the life-threatening hike to energy bills which have already been imposed, with an additional £800 increase forecast by Ofgem's chief executive for October.
Whereas the universal £400 energy subsidy is a welcome, hard-won concession, it doesn't match even half the rise in bills.
And in contrast to everything the Tories stand for, they've felt compelled to offer targeted (but totally inadequate) additional aid on mounting fuel bills, in a battle for electoral survival. To pensioners, a demographic with a higher than average propensity to vote; and to some of the most impoverished of the working class, to appease their rage in the so-called Redwall seats of northern England - former Labour fortresses recently conquered by the Tories. Classic ruling class tactics: limited reforms from above to prevent 'revolution' from below.
Public Ownership of Energy
And the windfall tax is tied to bountiful concessions to the Big Polluters, which threatens to not only subsidise their profits from taxpayers’ money but also vastly exacerbate the climate crisis.
Shell, BP and the other fossil capitalists have been promised 91 pence back out of every £1 windfall tax provided they invest in energy production - with absolutely no precondition that such investment should be in clean, green renewable energy.
It feeds into the renewed drive by Boris Johnson for increased fossil fuel production alongside a binge of nuclear power investment, neither of which offers any short-term answer to the energy crisis, and both of which only add to pollution and the threat to the lives of people and our planet.
And the super-profitable electricity generating and supply companies and privatised National Grid are sheltered from the Tory windfall tax, which targets only oil and gas producers - leaving profiteering out of people's misery intact.
Nothing short of public ownership of all forms of energy, democratically controlled and managed by elected boards comprising union representatives of energy workers, alongside representatives of the wider working class and governments, can begin to tackle the underlying energy crisis, cure poverty and pollution - all of which requires the planned production of clean, affordable green energy in a People's Energy Service. Made affordable by taking the profit out of it. And made clean by a worker-led transition to renewables.
|Tories party whilst thousands die in isolation|
Tories Can be Beaten!
However, the £15billion package of concessions on the cost-of-living crisis, wrung out of the hands of Rishi Sunak against all the Tories’ ideology and inbuilt instincts, holds rich lessons for the wider struggles of working-class people.
Despite their parliamentary majority the Tories are not invincible. They can be beaten. This is something like the 25th U-turn in their short period of office since December 2019.
They are in crisis, as is the capitalist system they are part of, and can be driven back or even toppled.
Public outrage at ‘partygate’ has laid siege to Boris Johnson's callous cabal, who arrogantly partied, quaffed alcohol to the point of vomiting all over 10 Downing Street and abusing cleaning staff, at a time when everyday people couldn't even say goodbye to dying relatives, at the height of the pandemic.
Fury at the outrageous behaviour of this entitled, upper-class razor-gang, led by a serialised liar, has fused with rage at the rising cost of food and fuel, leading to a very significant upsurge in the readiness of workers to strike back through collective action.
Coordinate the Strikes
Instead of allowing employers and the government to isolate and pick off one section of workers at a time, national trade union leaders should urgently organise coordination of strike action, including the potential for a 1-day general strike, with common demands on wages, prices and job protection.
The TUC’s ‘We Deserve Better’ national demonstration in London on June 18th is a welcome opportunity to rally the combined forces of the trade union movement.
It cannot just be an exercise in going through the motions and letting off steam. Instead, it should be used as the launch-pad for systematic coordination of struggles, including strikes, across different sectors, to demand pay rises that at least match inflation; in round figures, at least 10% across the board.
In doing so the TUC and individual national union leaderships need to take up the cudgels to bury the malicious myth that wage rises are what cause inflation. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Wages are lagging behind prices, and have been doing so for years. To illustrate the point, figures from the USA show that in the 20 years before Covid, corporations systematically suppressed wages, making labour's share of national wealth the lowest ever by 2019.
Wages Don't Cause Inflation
Real weekly wages only rose by 0.4% per annum, whereas annual growth in the national economy (GDP) was over 2% a year. In the period 2012-19, corporate America (excluding the financial companies) made $1trillion a year in profit; in contrast they made $1.7trillion profit last year alone.
Corporate profit margins are at their highest since 1950 – increased by a median 49% in the last two years, whereas workers’ wages have only risen by 1.6%. The same pattern applies across the globe, including in this country.
It's fattening profit margins which are causing inflation, not wage rises, which are failing to keep up with inflation. As the Economic Policy Institute sums it up, 54% of all price increases are due to increased profit margins, with labour costs only accounting for less than 8% of price rises.
One more stark example: the big energy companies recently reported their profits had doubled in the last quarter, at the same time as most people's energy bills have doubled, as their real wages are collapsing, after over a decade of wage stagnation.
Fattening profits fuel inflation, combined with the bottlenecks in supplies of certain goods because of snarl-ups in the logistics of shipping supplies across the oceans, which was previously hailed as the magic of globalisation, with its ‘just in time production’ slashing costs and turbocharging profits for global multinationals.
The impact of Covid lockdowns, including port shutdowns, has thrown the globalisation ‘dream’ into chaos, creating supply chain bottlenecks and terrible costs to the working class worldwide, as scarcity of supplies pushes up prices.
The crises of capitalism create inflation, not wage rises.
Demand Price Controls
The TUC London demo should also be used to demand price controls, as at least some governments did in the aftermath of a similar inflationary spiral caused by blockages of goods supplies in the aftermath of World War Two; to be monitored and implemented by Price Committees of workers and consumers. Cut prices and profits, not pay!
Going beyond that, the trade union movement needs to crank up a serious campaign for democratic public ownership of key sectors like energy, transport, construction, food production and retail, to end the grotesque profiteering and horrendous escalation of food poverty, fuel poverty, substandard housing and social isolation.
Trade unionists and socialists need to bombard the Scottish government and local authorities with demands for an emergency plan to retrofit every home free of charge, with insulation, draught proofing, new eco-friendly boilers and fast broadband – to slash energy consumption, fuel poverty, and create tens of thousands of skilled jobs into the bargain.
The Scottish TUC missed an opportunity for far greater mobilisation of workers in Scotland on 18th of June; instead of just laying on transport to London they should have organised a Scottish demonstration to pound the employers and politicians closer to home with demands for pay increases of at least 10% across the board, underpinned by a Scottish minimum wage of at least £12 plus inflation. And investment in a Socialist Green New Deal based on public ownership of energy, all forms of transport and construction, rather than allowing the Scottish government hide behind the limitations of devolution as an excuse for following fundamentally the same path of real terms wage cuts as that being pursued by the Tories.
Build a Scottish Mass Demo
The STUC summit on the cost-of-living crisis on 17th of June is a golden opportunity to plan just such a mass demonstration in Scotland, to build solidarity with the various groups of workers taking industrial action, mobilising communities alongside trade unionists, and to rally behind an emergency programme on wages, job creation and a Socialist Green Recovery Plan to combat the cost of living crisis - which in reality is the cost of greed crisis, the cost of profiteering inherent to a capitalist system of production.
|Protesting P&O, an obnoxious example of class war by employers|
Seize the Billionaires' Wealth!
We live in a fabulously wealthy economy, with no excuse for people having to choose between heating and eating; making all the more reprehensible the reports by Energy Action charity of people in Scotland literally burning furniture and floorboards to heat their homes.
The combined wealth of Britain's 177 billionaires rose by 9.35% last year, to £653billion. A rise of £55billion in a year for 177 bloated fatcats. No ‘sensible wage demands’ for these creatures, one in three of whom have funded the Tory party.
The state of crisis facing millions of working-class people screams out for seizure of these exploiters’ ill-gotten wealth. For a socialist overturn of the class-ridden system that condemns millions to impoverishment whilst blessing the billionaires with wealth beyond human imagination.
It’s time to meet the Tory class war on workers with equal determination and collective action. And we are many, they are few!