Britain needs a pay rise and not even the right-wing state and corporate media can ignore the gross inequality in our society writes Communist Party General Secretary Robert Griffiths in the Morning Star.
As a recent Income Data Services report showed, the gap between the rich and the rest of us grows relentlessly wider.
An example are the directors of the top 100 companies on the London Stock Exchange, who lifted their incomes by more than one-fifth over the 12 months to June 2014. This figure includes salaries, bonus and incentive payments and cashed-in share options. It does not include pension increases or uncashed share awards.
On the other hand, workers across the British economy saw their average wage fall by 1.6 per cent.
These statistics confirm a long-term trend. Since 2000, Britain’s top bosses have almost trebled their incomes — up by 278 per cent — while workers received an increase of less than half, up by 48 per cent.
Where once chief executives took home 47 times as much as the average employee, now they grab 120 times as much.
As well as public-sector workers, this government has targeted the poor, sick, unemployed and disabled in its offensive against working-class living standards.
A substantial rise in wages, pensions and benefits is desperately needed to meet the rising prices of food, fuel, housing, transport, clothing and other essentials.
It would also have the immediate effect of boosting demand for goods and services. That’s a more secure basis for economic recovery than handing £375 billion to the banks in quantitative easing (QE) and hoping they will feed it into the real economy rather than hoarding or using it to gamble in the financial markets.
That QE handout would wipe out every year’s public-sector budget deficit to 2020 with more than £100bn to spare. Instead of slashing government spending on wages, benefits and public services, British governments could be investing in them on a growing scale.
Austerity is a giant fraud being perpetrated on behalf of the rich and big business. Their taxes are cut, they buy up public services for a song and the profits keep rolling in.
To its shame, the Labour Party leadership accepts this approach, along with the Tories and the LibDems. Labour, too, proposes more years of spending cuts, public-sector pay freezes and even a real terms cut in child benefit.
Its promise to increase the national minimum wage by £1.50 an hour by 2020 is an insult. It brings to mind the parody written by US trade union martyr Joe Hill:
“You will eat, bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky;
Work and pray, live on hay,
You’ll get pie in the sky when you die.”
New Labour pushed Britain down the austerity path after the 2008 crash, bailing out the banks, slashing public spending, throwing Remploy workers with disabilities on the scrap heap and cutting corporation tax on big business profits.
Squeezed by Ed Balls, leader Ed Miliband has failed to break decisively with that disastrous option. This has given the Tories the green light to intensify their offensive on behalf of Britain’s ruling class centred on the City of London.
Should they win the general election without their Lib Dem little helpers, they intend not only to slash and privatise yet further. A new round of anti-trade union measures will also follow, part of a wider attack on democratic rights including Britain’s possible withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights.
Labour is even joining the Tories and Ukip in a Dutch auction to see how little should be given to asylum-seekers and migrant workers.
No wonder working-class electors find little to inspire them in Labour’s policies, turning to Ukip and the SNP in a desperate quest for hope and solutions.
A 10-point programme like this might give them a reason to turn out and elect a Labour government on May 8 as the only possible alternative to a Tory one.
1. Boost incomes through a substantial rise in the national minimum wage, pensions and benefits and the enforcement of equal pay for women.
2. End PFI and the privatisation of public services including the NHS in England.
3. Increase taxation on top incomes, big business profits and large scale capital gains.
4. Cancel plans for a new generation of nuclear weapons in Britain.
5. Invest in health, education, transport, non-nuclear renewable energy and a massive council house building programme.
6. Direct state and private capital into productive, small and co-operative industries and services.
7. Replace the anti-union laws with real protection for women, young, disabled, migrant and all other workers.
8. Take the energy utilities, public transport, pharmaceuticals, armaments and banking into models of public ownership which fully involve employees, users and local communities in policy making. Why are we subsidising the profiteers with public money?
9. Devolve new economic and financial powers to Scotland, Wales and — where demand exists — elected regional assemblies in England.
10. Challenge all EU laws and directives which promote the interests of monopoly corporations over those of working people, their families and communities.
Championing such a bold manifesto might upset the Sun and the Daily Mail but they will be putting the boot into Labour without mercy in the run-up to the polls anyway. Much more importantly, it would inspire and mobilise millions of voters.
In the meantime, trade unions and the People’s Assembly should take united action to defend people’s interests and raise the political temperature across Britain.
A stronger Communist Party and a bigger daily readership for the Morning Star could play vital roles in developing the necessary momentum.
However, should the Labour Party lose the election or subsequently govern and fail on a feeble manifesto, the time will have to come when workers, socialists, campaigners and communists resolve to re-establish a mass party of labour based on the trade union movement.
Why settle for pie in the sky when we should be running the bakery?
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