Islington Labour Council sets police on anti-cuts protesters - 17 Feb 2011

On 17 February, around 200 demonstrators, including supporters of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!, marched on Islington town hall in north London to demonstrate against the council's 2011/12 cuts budget. The budget will contain £52 million in cuts to jobs and local services, including 350 job losses and swingeing cuts to youth services, day centres, transport services and rises in tenant charges. Demonstrators made their presence felt on the steps of the town hall, before entering the public gallery to make their feelings felt.

 

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Students mobilise against attacks on education

Students across the country have continued to mobilise to defend the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA – the grant of up to £30 a week that enables many sixth-formers to stay in education) and the right to university education for all.

In doing so they have had to challenge the abject failure of the National Union of Students (NUS) to support their direct action (see FRFI 218), forming student councils in many universities to democratically guide the new movement, outside the control of the NUS. Labour apparatchik Aaron Porter, President of the NUS, who originally condemned students who occupied Millbank in November as ‘despicable’, was forced to apologise for his comments. However, students are clearly not fooled by this opportunist: at a demonstration against university fees called by the TUC in Manchester on 29 January he was jeered and heckled, eventually having to be escorted away by police ‘for his own protection’!

 

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Stop the cuts! Defend the protesters!

FRFI supporters around Britain have been participating in demonstrations against tuition fees, the cutting of EMA and the creeping privatisation of education. On 29 January FRFI joined the national anti-cuts march in London and the student and trade union march in Manchester, where sell-out NUS leader Aaron Porter needed a police escort to protect him from angry students.

Since the third national day of action against fees and cuts on 9 December, hundreds of people have continued to take to the streets to protest. Newcastle FRFI has been active with Students Against Cuts, whose members have been among the most militant and consistent activists, occupying shops that support the cuts such as Marks & Spencer, protesting against high-street chains including BHS and Topshop that are owned by Philip Green, millionaire tax evader and government adviser on the cuts, and targeting the Local Government Offices and Newcastle Civic Centre. This resistance has been met with political policing: the HSBC 3 – Mark Pearson, Patrick Reay and Toby Hobbs – were arrested following protests on 18 December. On 30 December over 30 people picketed Market Street Police station in protest at this criminalisation, before moving on to shut down a local branch of HSBC. HSBC has dodged an estimated £2 billion of tax since 1993, and is among the real criminals of the capitalist crisis. On 14 January, Prime Minister David Cameron was caught out in Newcastle as protesters learned of his ‘secret’ meeting with local primary school children at Newcastle’s Centre for Life. Protests quickly grew, leading to one arrest.

 

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No cuts – full stop!

Throughout Britain, Labour-run councils are preparing to implement savage cuts in local services and drive thousands of workers out of their jobs. Not one council is stepping out of line. Robert Clough reports.

It is a repeat of the 1980s when, under a Tory government, Labour council after Labour council accepted rate-capping and the consequent job losses, and then Labour leader Neil Kinnock hounded Liverpool city council leaders for trying to resist. This time however there is no chance that Liverpool Labour leaders will emulate their predecessors: the council is expected to cut over 1,500 jobs next year on top of 580 voluntary redundancies to date, in an effort to save £91m in 2011/12.

 

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Bankers get bonuses: poor have to pay

The arrogance and self-confidence of the ConDem government took a knock on 25 January, when growth figures for the economy unexpectedly showed a fall in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 0.5% in the last quarter of 2010. With the annual inflation rate (CPI) shooting up to 3.7% in the year to December 2010 and youth unemployment hitting record levels, the government’s austerity programme is seriously being called into question. Far from the British economy being ‘well placed for a return to sustained, balanced growth’,[1] the talk is of stagflation – recession and inflation combined. The pound fell to a two-and-half month low against the dollar. The chancellor’s attempt to put the poor figures down to freezing weather in December was laughed out of court. This was, after all, in a period of relatively strong growth in the global economy and with a 25% depreciation of the pound since 2007 boosting manufacturing exports and growth. David Yaffe reports.

A day before the growth figures came out, the departing head of the Confederation of British Industry, Richard Lambert, a friend of the Coalition, told the government that it had taken policy initiatives for political reasons that could damage the economy, and it still had no strategy for growth. Nouriel Roubini, one of the few economists who predicted the financial crisis, grouped the UK economy with the crisis-ridden parts of the eurozone, saying that there was a risk of a double-dip recession. And George Soros, the billionaire international speculator, said the government would push the economy into recession unless it modified its austerity programme.

 

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Labour council raises the axe in Islington - 4 Feb 2011

islington_council

Across the country, Labour and Con-Dem councils are sharpening their axes, ready to make massive cuts to jobs and services nationwide. Islington is no different. The borough is facing an estimated £335 million in cuts, with £52 million set for this year alone. On 2 February 2011, Islington’s Labour-run council published an official list of 200 cuts to be made to services across the borough, to be introduced from April this year.  Speaking at a press conference, Labour council leader Catherine West said ‘We’ve done our best to provide a battered shield to protect the vital ser­vices people rely on.’ The cuts budget that she and her Labour colleagues has drawn up says otherwise.

 

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Migrant workers and the fight against cuts

This article has been written for Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! by Juan Carlos Piedra, an activist with the Movement of Ecuadorians in the UK (MERU)

meru

In the face of an economic, political and social crisis, it is important to consider its effects on vulnerable groups such as ethnic minorities and workers on poverty pay. For example, at around £1,000 per month, the average salary of a cleaner in London will barely cover the rent.

It is vital that we challenge the discourse and actions of the Con-Dem government. They want to place responsibility for the economic crisis on the working class, when in fact it is the ruling class who is responsible. It is the final straw that thousands of pounds in bonuses are handed over to the ruling class, almost as a reward for their negligence, when in fact their property should be seized!

 

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David Yaffe speaks on the crisis and the cuts - 8 Dec 2010

Below is an edited version of the 45 minute speech given by David Yaffe, editor of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! and veteran of the 1968 occupation at London School of Economics (LSE), on 8 December at the ‘cuts and the crisis’ meeting organised by the FRFI student society at LSE. David explained how the cuts are linked to the crisis of the capitalist system and the demands of British imperialism.

The meeting was also addressed by Juan Carlos from the London Living Wage campaign and the Movement of Ecuadorians in the UK and a representative from the student occupation then underway in University College London. A detailed report of the meeting is available here.

See our analysis of the capitalist crisis and the cuts here.

Click here to see the full speech.

 

Higher education for sale

At the end of October 2010, Lord Browne gave a speech at BPP. He said of tuition fees, ‘if prices rise too high, there is room for new providers to enter the market and deliver higher education more efficiently’. Who these new providers would be is transparent: BPP is Britain’s largest private higher education provider. It was granted degree-awarding powers by the Labour government in September 2007. BPP sells professional legal and financial courses, owns four law schools, business schools and human resource training schools. It was bought by the US higher education company Apollo Global in the summer of 2007 for £368 million. Apollo Global operates in 40 US states, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Chile, Canada and the Netherlands, selling courses up to doctoral level. Apollo Global is a joint venture, set up in 2007, between Apollo Group Inc and The Carlyle Group.

 

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The ruling class has ‘never had it so good’

Austerity for the working class

On 20 October 2010, the ConDem government announced its Comprehensive Spending Review, confirming plans to cut public spending by £81bn over four years in order, they claim, to solve the economic crisis. The spending review followed on from the emergency budget in June which slashed welfare benefits by £11bn. It promised the loss of at least 500,000 public sector jobs, average cuts in government spending of 19%, a further £7bn cuts in welfare and an increased retirement age to 66 by 2020. Additional measures include an increase of VAT to 20% from January 2011 and further attacks on social housing and education. Put together these represent a massive attack on the standard of living of the working class.

 

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Class against class - Fight the cuts

The ruling class has declared class war. The resistance has started, with the huge student demonstration on 10 November and the subsequent walk-outs, marches and occupations on 24 November, this time involving both higher education and secondary school students. As sections of the working class are driven to defend themselves against the assault on state welfare and spending, socialists and communists need to send out a clear message: socialism has to be central to building a new movement. Robert Clough reports

From the outset we have to reject the ruling class lies about the crisis. Determined to deflect attention from the fact that this is a crisis of the system as a whole, the ConDem coalition and the Labour government before it have claimed the solution lies in cutting state spending. Chancellor Osborne has gone so far as to claim that public spending was so high that urgent action was needed because Britain was on the verge of national ‘bankruptcy’. The fact is that Britain’s total accumulated public debt as a percentage of national income is lower today than for much of the last 200 years. The average public debt from 1688-2010 was 112% of national income. In September 2010 it was 57.2%, below that of the US, France, Germany and Japan. So unless Britain has been in a constant state of national bankruptcy this is simple deceit. It is a deceit perpetuated by all the political parties and their media allies.

 

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Schools out: Students fight back against assault on state education

The students’ response to the ConDem government’s plans to increase university tuition fees and cut access to higher education has been fitting and inspiring. It has struck a chord with millions of people in Britain who also face attack from this government and are pleased to see that the fightback has begun. We can be sure that the occupation of the Conservative Party headquarters on Millbank will be looked back on as the day we said ‘enough’ and started to build our own future. TREVOR RAYNE and UCL student ROB BARRIE report.

On 10 November 2010, supporters of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! were among over 50,000 students and education workers from colleges and universities from all over Britain in one of the biggest and most angry student protests in decades. The ruling class assault on higher education, with the tripling of tuition fees, fuelled the rage. This resulted in a much more radical and confident demonstration.

 

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Jody McIntyre BBC interview - 13 Dec 2010

Following the protests against education cuts on 9 December 2010, the BBC interviewed activist Jody McIntyre, who was dragged from his wheelchair by police on two separate occasions during the demonstration. The journalist attempts to blame Jody for this incident of blatant police brutality, implying that the police have a right to shut down protest as they see fit. Let us not forget the words of the BBC founder, Lord Reith, who said of the Government of his time,' They know they can trust us not to be really impartial'.

Jody McIntyre is an anti-imperialist activist who, among other issues, has written and campaigned extensively for justice for the Palestinian people. In the past Jody has spoken at FRFI meetings and supported our pickets of Marks & Spencer, Britain's biggest sponsor of Israel. FRFI pledges its support for Jody and all those who faced violence and repression for their part in the recent cuts protests.

 

Students take over Parliament Square to oppose cuts and tuition fees – London – 9 Dec 2010

FRFI student society members had contingents on yesterday’s protest, one starting at the London School of Economics and the other at University College Union. We joined forces to march into Parliament Square to oppose the government’s bill to raise university tuition fees up to £9,000 a year. Police had put up metal barricades to keep protesters out of the square, but as up to 30,000 school, college and university students poured into the surrounding road, the barriers were quickly flattened and the green taken over. Almost immediately police in riot gear, on horses and in vans blocked the entrances to the square ‘kettling’ the youth into the area. If you leave a kettle on it boils over.

 

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Day X2 – London students defy police to march against the cuts 30.11.2010

Student protests

On 30 November 2010, FRFI supporters were among over 4000 students demonstrating in central London against the increasing commodification of education and the brutal cuts being inflicted upon the working class to pay for capitalism’s crisis.

The National Campaign against Cuts and Fees (NCAFC) called the ‘Day X2’ protest to coincide with a parliament debate on the white paper discussing imminent tuition fee increases. The march assembled around Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square at 12.30pm and planned to take a short route to Parliament Square along a route agreed with the police.

A short way along the pre-planned route, the police formed a thick line across the road reinforced with metal barricades.  Fearful of being kettled again (kettling is the police tactic of containing protestors for hours at a time in small areas), the marchers turned around and sprinted through St James Park, attempted to reach Parliament Square. Flying squads of the Territorial Support Unit used violent tactics to try and re-apply the kettle and make arrests. A UCL student attempting to avoid a kettle was rugby-tackled by police into railings near Westminster Abbey and there are reports that police were armed with CS gas.

 

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School and college students step up the pace in Newcastle demonstrations

On Tuesday 30 November in Newcastle, hundreds of students from schools, colleges and universities made it through the snow to take action against cuts and rising fees. At the beginning of the demonstration, FRFI hosted an open mic against the cuts, including young people who had never spoken in public before, speaking out against the attacks on their future. Following a successful march coordinated by the occupiers of the Fine Arts Building at Newcastle University, hundreds went on to take further action against the banks and corporations whose interests are being served by the cuts. Over the next few hours protests took place inside local branches of Vodaphone, Lloyds TSB and HSBC. A large sit-down protest took place in the middle of Fenwicks, which hosts a Topshop department, owned by the billionaire, notorious tax-dodger and government adviser on the cuts, Philip Green. Police demonstrated once again the interests they serve, attempting unsuccessfully to prevent demonstrators from leaving the university campus to take action against banks in the city centre. But despite being harassed, pursued, threatened with arrest and at times kettled by the police, these demonstrators supported each other and refused to back down, and there were no arrests.

 

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These gilded men

ministers

‘It is the £60 million Cabinet. David Cameron’s coalition government may have adopted “fairness” as one of its defining slogans, but his team of Ministers has been drawn almost exclusively from the ranks of the financial elite – leading to accusations that politics is once again becoming the preserve of the wealthy. Of the 29 Ministers entitled to attend Cabinet meetings, 23 have assets and investments estimated to be worth more than £1 million’. (Daily Mail, 23 May 2010).

The British ruling class reproduces itself biologically and economically. It does so through marriage, inheritance, access to private education and the elite universities and by controlling key positions in the economy and state. It draws new blood into its ranks and in so doing retains the loyalty of wider sections of society, who aspire to join its ranks. The British capitalist ruling class was established towards the end of the seventeenth and beginning of the eighteenth centuries with a compromise between the feudal landed aristocracy and the financial interests of the City. The current government demonstrates its unwelcome durability

 

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Save South Manchester Law Centre!

smlcManchester FRFI is supporting the campaign to Save South Manchester Law Centre (SMLC).  On 25 October 120 people, mainly migrant workers, attended a packed campaign meeting at the Pakistani Community Centre in Longsight, Manchester. This was the third public meeting since the decision of the Legal Services Commission (LSC) to reduce funding to the Law Centre to deliver special legal services in asylum, immigration and human rights to vulnerable members of an impoverished community.

SMLC has been providing free legal advice for 35 years and is now under serious threat of closure.  On top of the cuts in immigration law funding, Manchester City Council is cutting funding to the Law Centre for housing, welfare, employment, and domestic violence and women's rights advice services. SMLC has already lost five of its 15 staff and has only weeks of funding left.

 

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UCL students occupy to protest against cuts and fees

FRFI student society members at the University College London (UCL) are among up to 200 students who occupied a central area in their university at midday today. UCL is one of 13 universities currently being occupied around the country, from Essex to Edinburgh as part of the national day of action against the three-fold increase in tuition fees announced by the ConDem government. FRFI supporters said: ‘We are using the occupied rooms and facilities as an open space for political debate, film screenings and to co-ordinate with the other university occupiers to build a national campaign against the brutal assault on students and the working class.’

The UCL occupiers’ statement says: ‘We stand against fees and savage cuts to higher education and government attempts to force society to pay for a crisis it didn’t cause. Promises have been broken, the political process has failed and we have been left with no other option. We stand in solidarity with all those fighting these cuts nationally and internationally. These cuts are a product of ideology and not necessity. Join us!’

 

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Thousands demonstrate in Newcastle against cuts and fees!

On 24 November, thousands of school, college and university students erupted onto the streets of Newcastle, protesting against the education cuts and fees which began under Labour and have been further escalated by the Condem coalition.

Students took over roads across the city centre for over two hours, stopping traffic and with little opposition from the police. The police Forward Intelligence (FIT) teams were on the streets however, taking footage of demonstrators to add to their databases for future use. On the second trip to Monument FRFI activists organised an ‘open megaphone’ at the centre of the protest, which demonstrators used to express their opposition to the cuts. Students Against Cuts, which was founded this week to coordinate the walk-outs at Heaton Manor School, Gosforth High School, Longbenton Community College, Newcastle College and Gateshead College, released the following statement ahead of the protest:

 

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Tony Benn – yet again

tony_bennFor decades the opportunist left in this country has touted Tony Benn around as the epitome of socialist resistance. Now it is doing so again. He has become the figurehead of one of several campaigns against the public sector cuts – the Coalition of Resistance. Never once has the opportunist left challenged Benn for his continued membership and support for the imperialist, racist, anti-working class Labour Party. They didn’t challenge him when he called for a vote for Labour in the last general election despite the fact that Labour was committed to implementing cuts in state spending which the then Chancellor Alistair Darling agreed were more draconian than Thatcher’s. Nor did they challenge him when he endorsed Ed Miliband as leader of the Labour Party, despite Miliband’s past membership of a war-mongering cabinet and his continued support for war in Afghanistanand attacks on state welfare.

The truth is that behind the socialist phrases Tony Benn has always been a reactionary figure. Throughout his political life British capitalism has remained the second most powerful imperialist power in the world. Yet in the late 1970s, whilst Britain was acting as the principal supporter of apartheid South Africa and ruthlessly suppressing the Irish people (much of it whilst Benn was a member of the 1974-79 Labour government), he said that

 

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Higher education for sale: the manipulations of high finance

studentdemo

The 80% reduction in the teaching grant from central government to universities and the introduction of higher fees are linked with preparations to privatise much more of higher education in Britain.

At the end of October Lord Browne, former boss of BP whose higher education review recommended higher student fees, gave a speech at BPP. He said of fees, ‘if prices rise too high, there is room for new providers to enter the market and deliver higher education more efficiently’. Who these new providers would be is quite transparent: BPP is Britain’s largest private higher education provider. BPP was granted degree awarding powers by the Labour government in September 2007. BPP sells professional legal and financial courses, owns four law schools, business schools and human resource training schools. BPP also owns Mander Portman Woodward (MPW) which runs private fifth and sixth form colleges. BPP was bought by the US higher education company Apollo Global in the summer of 2007 for £368 million. Apollo Global operates in 40 US states, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Chile, Canada and the Netherlands, selling courses from school to graduate to doctoral level. Apollo Global is a joint venture, set up in 2007, between Apollo Group Inc. and The Carlyle Group. This Group personifies the stealth and influence of high finance.

 

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Students fight back against attacks on higher education

Supporters of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! were among the over 50,000 students from across Britain who came together in London on 10 November to march against the attacks on higher education announced in the government's October spending review. More than 60 students occupied the roof of the Millbank tower, home to the headquarters of the Conservative Party. Windows were smashed and effigies of Coalition government leaders David Cameron and Nick Clegg set on fire in protest against the most savage attacks on higher education in decades.

 

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The Spending Review: the refined cruelty of the British bourgeoisie

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Bob Crow addresses the London anti-cuts march in London on Saturday 23 October, calling for national action against the cuts before the March 2011 demonstration to which the TUC have committed. Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! had a lively contingent on the short march.

If you want to see what arrogance mixed with contempt looks like, examine the 20 October Spending Review in detail. This is the biggest cut in government spending since the Second World War. Nevertheless, opinion polls taken immediately after the £81 billion welfare and spending cuts were announced found that six out of ten people in Britain agreed with the Coalition government that it was right to cut public spending. This is testimony to the success of the media campaign repeatedly drumming out the same message: Britain has to reduce its budget deficit. As befits a Cabinet with 20 millionaires out of 23 members, this is a deceit.

 

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Paying for the crisis

The wholesale assault on state welfare outlined by the ConDem coalition government in the recent Budget is creating divisions among supporters of the Liberal Democrats, well in advance of the savage cuts in public services to be announced in the autumn spending review on 20 October. Few seriously believe Chancellor George Osborne’s claim that his Budget measures are ‘tough but fair’ and that ‘we are all in this together’, while banking corporations amass vast profits and bankers continue to receive obscene salaries and bonuses. Leading Liberal Democrat members of the government attempted to cover up this reality and placate their supporters with radical sounding speeches during their conference in the third week of September. So the Business Secretary Vince Cable, who is fully behind the savage cuts in state spending, prattled on at conference about controlling the ‘murky world of corporate behaviour’ and regulating capitalist markets that were often ‘irrational or rigged’. David Yaffe reports.

 

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Benefit Cuts - them and us

The welfare system is broken. We have to accept that the welfare bill has got completely out of control and that there are five million people living on permanent out-of-work benefits. That is a tragedy for them and fiscally unsustainable for us.

George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, 9 September 2010

The ConDem emergency budget on 22 June announced cuts in welfare benefits totalling £11bn by 2014/ 15. On 9 September Osborne promised a further £4bn welfare cuts, the details to be given in the October spending review. It is no accident that the government has chosen to focus severe cuts on the poorest and the most vulnerable sections of the working class. While the Tories claim that ‘we are all in this together’, only some of us will pay the price. There is no doubt that the working class will be forced to pay the most for this crisis through a considerable fall in its living standards. To ensure public support for these cuts the ideological assault on the poorest sections of the working class has been renewed with vigour.

 

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Higher education cuts

Working class students are squeezed out

As the new university term starts, students are fearing for their degree prospects in the face of a massive attack on higher education. And they are the lucky ones – up to 200,000 would-be students have been left without any university place at all this year. Overwhelmingly, as always, it is working class students who are bearing the brunt of higher education cuts, and far more is to come.

In May, Chancellor George Osborne and Chief Secretary to the Treasury David Laws detailed planned cuts of £200m to higher education. £449m in cuts to the budget of the Higher Education Funding Council of England had already been announced by the previous Labour government earlier in the year.

 

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Coalition declares class war

This is the declaration of class war. It has to be resisted by millions of working people, young and old, in work and unemployed, determined to halt the destruction and privatisation of our public services’. Grunwicks strike, 1976

The arrogance and self-confidence of the new ConDem coalition government was highlighted by George Osborne’s emergency Budget presented to Parliament on 22 June 2010. It amounted to a wholesale assault on the public sector. No less than the Financial Times chief economics commentator, Martin Wolf, was driven to say that ‘nothing in the election campaign could have prepared the British public for this bloodbath’. It was a declaration of class war. David Yaffe looks at this remarkable turn of events.

 

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‘This is class war’

osborneSo said women in Deptford in south east London interviewed by the BBC after the coalition government’s 22 June emergency budget. ‘An admirably tough-minded statement of intent,’ said The Economist, noting that sterling and gilts had strengthened, demonstrating the City’s approval of the attack on public spending and on the working class (26 June 2010).

‘Overall, everyone will pay something, but the people at the bottom of the income scale will pay proportionately less than the people at the top. It is a progressive budget,’ claimed Chancellor George Osborne.  This brazen lie was quickly exposed even by the ruling class’s own Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Financial Times. The emergency budget will cost £113 billion by 2014-15, that is £4,300 a year on average for every household in the country. But the cost will not be borne equally; the incomes of the poorest fifth of the population will decline by approximately 8%, those of the middle fifth by 4% and the richest fifth by less than 3%. We are not all in this together: the poorest are being pushed into complete misery to try and maintain the capitalist system. From Latvia to Spain and Portugal, from Germany to Italy, France and Greece welfare benefits and services are being slashed to enhance profits and try and revive capital. Capitalism is in crisis - this is class war.

 

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The first cuts will not be the deepest

athens-early-may-4-2010

The Chancellor’s 24 May announcement of £6.2 billion of public spending cuts in the current financial year was a declaration of intent; far worse is to come. In FRFI 214 we reported that former Labour Chancellor Alistair Darling had promised the deepest cuts for decades. Before the General Election the Conservative Party called for immediate cuts of £6 billion; the Liberal Democrats and Labour preferred a delay, saying that they feared such a hasty move would push the economy into a double-dip recession. Now ensconced in the Cabinet, Liberal Democrat ministers have quickly acquired a taste for ‘fiscal responsibility’; Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury David Laws (now resigned) announced we ‘are moving from an age of plenty to an age of austerity in public finances’. Trevor Rayne reports.

 

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Tories and Lib-Dems join forces to make us pay for the crisis

Coalition stitch-up

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! was right to call the General Election a general fraud. Five days after it took place, millions of people who had voted Liberal Democrat because they were against any public sector cuts this year saw the Lib Dem leaders jettison this policy to form a coalition government with the Tories. As the party leaders negotiated their coalition agreement, the millionaire press ran stories about possible turmoil on financial markets if the discussions were not concluded quickly. This was no more than the ruling class putting pressure on its political hirelings to come to terms and establish a coalition in which it could have confidence. Robert Clough reports.

 

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