After the Conservatives' humiliation in the May local and European election, prime minister David Cameron, is not looking too good. He made a fool of himself with his anti-Juncker campaign in Europe - opposing the favourite candidate for the job of European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, former prime minister of Luxembourg, as being a "danger" to Europe - and to Britain of course. Never mind that Juncker, despite his "federalist" stance in Europe, is a leader of the centre-right European Peoples' Party which might well stand in the same camp as the Tories on many other issues.
Anyway, Cameron found himself in a minority of two, alongside the right-wing Hungarian premier, and Junker's presidency was endorsed by every other European head of state. The more Cameron said about how "sad" a day it was for the EU, the more he was ridiculed by his European counterparts, including his German fellow-conservative, Angela Merkel.
But of course this was all in aid of his anti-European political image for a domestic audience; an over-the-top stance which is forced on him by the current electoral success of the upstart UK Independence Party (UKIP). One was reminded of Margaret Thatcher waving her handbag, during the advent of one of the first major European Treaties - Maastricht - in 1991. It was shortly afterwards that she was hustled out of office by her own ministers, but not due to her stance on Europe: it was thanks to her extraordinarily unpopular poll tax.
Of course, Cameron's premiership is not being challenged by any rivals, so far at least. But he is increasingly under siege by his own party and has clear problems with his usual electorate, since the May elections this year (and successive by-elections), in which the Tories made a very poor showing.
In May, the words "earthquake" and "seismic" were used to describe the far-right's effect on the election results. Of course, it did win a fairly large share of the vote in the European parliamentary elections in just about every European country and thus took a chunk of votes out of the scores of all the moderate right-wing parties.
But it was not the EU poll which gave the British Conservatives such a shock, because, in this election, Labour and the Tories were dealt a similar, and more or less equal, blow by the right-wing UKIP. Indeed UKIP topped the European poll, with 27.5% of the vote. Labour came second with 25.4% and the Tories 3rd, with 23.9%. UKIP got 10 more seats than 5 years ago - gaining 24 altogether, while the Tories and Labour now both have 18, and the Tories' partner in the current coalition government, the Liberal Democrats, were left with only one seat, losing 9.
So no, it was in fact the Tories' score in the local elections which were held on the same day, which really shook them. Unlike the EU elections, which use a system of proportional representation, the British local elections and of course, the general election, are decided by first-past-the-post. This means that a credible - for whatever reason - right-wing contender can split the traditional Tory vote and allow the opposition in. In other words the Labour Party would benefit in most cases. This is what happened where UKIP stood candidates in usually Conservative constituencies, raising a problem for Cameron and the Tories for the general election of May 2015.
The local election was thus a foretaste of things to come - even though the turnout was a very low 36%. Out of the 161 English councils and 11 in Northern Ireland that were up for renewal this May (4,232 seats being contested), the Tories lost 230 seats with 29% of the vote, ending up with 1,360 seats, compared to Labour's 2,101 - a gain for Labour of 338 seats, and 31% of the vote. UKIP, which only put up 2,150 candidates got 163 of them elected - getting 17% of the vote. In fact this is less than UKIP achieved in 2013, when its overall score in the local elections was 23%, and when it stood mostly in Tory heartlands.
Some UKIP voters are undoubtedly voters who usually vote Labour. For the time being, a large number of those who chose UKIP, are merely registering a protest against the on-going austerity and declining living standards being experienced, not just by the working class, but also by a section of the middle class. There were even defections of councillors in the run-up to the local election from Labour to UKIP, for instance in Barking and Dagenham and Redbridge, ostensibly over the issue of immigration.
But of course everything is relative. In the scheme of things, UKIP's success in the British EU election and local elections for that matter, is hardly earth-shattering (and certainly not "seismic"!) if one considers that its 27.5% in the EU ballot came from just 9% of the electorate. But that is still a substantial number and it is possible that it is enough to destabilise the Conservative vote next year.
Cameron's posturing over the appointment of EU Commission President Juncker has, in this context, been understandable, from his point of view. But it was also quite hilarious and it is a bit of a shame that Labour's leader in opposition, Ed Miliband, does not have the imagination to make fun of him in the House of Commons, to at least liven up the boring proceedings.
Obviously, there is no way that Cameron could have done anything about the appointment, and he knew it. But during his one-man campaign - and he made as much of a meal of it as possible, he even threatened that as a result, Britain may have to pull out of the EU. In the end the only support he got was from the Hungarian prime minister who is also overbidding to his right - but this is against the neo-Nazi "Jobbik" party, which gained 21% in Hungary's recent general election.
As for pulling Britain out of the EU, everyone knows by now that Cameron has offered a referendum on this already - but only after the next election, and only by 2017, if he is re-elected. So now Eurosceptic Tory back-bench MPs are trying to take out an insurance policy on this referendum by reintroducing a private members' bill to the House, which will guarantee in law that an "in-out" referendum will take place in 2017, come what may. Apparently Tory MPs are prepared to use the Parliament Act to force the bill through in the 3 weeks left (at the time of writing) of the current session of parliament.
This is what the BBC website says about the Parliament Act: "little-used act - sometimes described as Parliament's 'nuclear deterrent' - invoked when MPs and peers cannot agree on a Bill. Once this happens, the Bill may be passed in the next Parliamentary Session without the consent of the House of Lords under section 2 of the Parliament Act 1911, as amended by the Parliament Act 1949."
Whether the instigator of the bill, Tory MP Bob Neill will succeed or not in his endeavour, remains to be seen. But if he is seriously trying to turn Tory policy against the EU and/or prevent defectors going to UKIP, one can only wonder why he did not ask for a referendum to be carried out straight away?
The fact of the matter is that even the most naive of Cameron's right-wing backbenchers has to be aware that the majority of the British bourgeoisie, like it or not, is "pro" Europe and expects its governments to protect its interests accordingly, inside Europe. And since these are the interests which every government has to represent, any anti-European politicking is just that - empty rhetoric to pander to the historical nationalism and flag-waving of the petty-bourgeoisie, be it in the spirit of Little-Englander parochialism, or old British Empire imperialism.
Managing the crisis
Yes, and this politicking by the government over Europe is also designed to conceal the record of the coalition from 2010 up until now. Of course, this is nothing other than the record of the British bourgeoisie - the capitalist class - carrying on from the period since 2007, during which a Labour government was managing their crisis for them.
This ConDem government has carried out a particularly reactionary and destructive policy from day 1, whether it be legislating for the last stage of NHS privatisation, the actual privatisation of Royal Mail, the undermining of welfare benefits via the Universal Credit reform, or the abolition of youth benefits like the EMA, the increase in university tuition fees, introducing so-called "free schools", the list goes on... But it has all been in aid of cutting the government's social expenditure in order to bring in the lowest possible tax regime for the rich. And indeed corporation tax is now down to 21%, the lowest among the rich EU countries.
The government claims that this is now resulting in economic growth. But the real "growth" is a growth of poverty, while the tiny rich minority increased its speculation, fuelled by the artificial injections of cash underwritten by government and those profits obtained, not by growing the real economy, but by squeezing more out of the existing manufacturing base through a huge increase in the rate of exploitation of workers.
The rich have got very much richer, thus expanding the inequality gap significantly. The Sunday Times Rich List reported in May this year that the 1,000 richest people in Britain had doubled their wealth in the last 5 years.
In the same period, the working class and particularly its poorer sections, including the unemployed, have been more severely impoverished, having already been paying dearly for the crisis since 2007. And while the growing inequality gap has been a feature of the crisis, it has been widening faster in the last 5 years under the ConDems.
An Oxfam report ("On the Breadline", published on 9 June 2014) spells it out: the richest 1% in Britain own as much wealth as 54% of the population. And the five richest families are wealthier than the 12.6 million who make up the bottom 20% of the population!
Oxfam's report produced statistics on food poverty - a particularly damning indicator of the poverty which has been imposed on the working class and poor and particularly in the ConDem years, when the cuts in welfare benefits have begun to bite. Indeed, it used to be said that what made being poor in the developed world so different from being poor in the undeveloped countries, was the fact that in the rich countries you would never starve. Not so any more. In the last years, there has been a rapid rise in food poverty, for the first time since the Great Depression of the 1930s. 20.2m free meals were given to the poor in 2013/14 - a 54% increase on 2012/13!
The Trussell Trust which is the country's main national foodbank provider (run by a Christian charity) said that it gave 3 days emergency food to 913,138 people between April 2013 and March 2014. A 163% increase on last year!
Of course, there is always a delay in the impact both of a sudden economic downturn, as well as a recovery. But what one can see in terms of growth in wages, improvements in benefits, greater access to childcare, health and education, better transport - all of the things which are essential in working peoples' lives - is nothing but stagnation at best and on-going reductions and cuts at worst. So today, in the 7th richest country in the world, 13 million, over 20% of the population, still live in poverty.
Working to starve
The most recent figures from the government tell us that the number of people out of work has fallen to 2.2m, giving an unemployment rate of 6.8%. They say this is the lowest since early 2009. Employment, we are told, "grew" by 283,000 in the last year, and we are told that employment is thus "recovering", standing at 72.7%, and close to the pre-recession level of 73%!
Well, this is incredible! How can there be record numbers of people who have not got enough to eat and record numbers in work?
The answer is simple: there is a growing new category of workers who are "under-employed". Indeed, today there are more poor families in working households than in unemployed households. Not because benefits are higher than wages (they aren't), but because the unemployed are forced into non-jobs paying slave wages and thus now, the "working poor" outnumber the unemployed poor.
As many as 52.9% of adults and 55.3% of children in poverty live in working households. This under-employment takes two forms - the straightforward inadequate part-time work with its latest slave-labour version, under the notorious "zero-hours" contract, and the hidden kind, which is registered as "self-employment". In fact some zero-hours contracts also fit into this category.
So, going back to that 283,000 "increase" in employment in the last quarter, it turns out that 183,000 of these workers are "self-employed"!
The TUC points out that while self-employment constitutes just 14% of employment as a whole, more than 50% of the jobs growth over the past year has been "self-employment". And though the growth in self-employment is the continuation of a trend, the current acceleration is remarkable: in 2001, there were 3.28m self-employed; by 2007, 3.82m. But today, after the downturn, there are 4.56m!
What is more, 53% of self-employment has been part-time. So such self-employed workers are likely to earn less and be "under-employed"... In other words, these are not people starting their own businesses, as one might have thought. No, they are subcontracting, freelancing, or are forced by a temping agency to sign a special contract which makes them self-employed for tax and other purposes, meaning the agency has no responsibilities to the worker and does not have to pay sick or holiday pay.
This has happened to many care-home staff who find themselves subcontracting themselves hour by hour. It leaves them even worse off than the standard zero-hours contract worker, if that were possible! But for a long time already, bogus self-employment has been the case for construction workers and even skilled trades on building sites, who have to "subcontract" their labour and thus also place themselves in a precarious position with regard to cover in the case of injury or other health and safety issue.
On top of this, the Office Of National Statistics estimates there are 1.4m workers on zero-hours contracts, the worst form of part-time work. These contracts can be either with an employer or workers can be asked to sign an agreement which de facto makes them "self-employed". The TUC thinks there may be twice as many workers on zero-hours contracts - 2.7m in its own estimate.
Pay down the drain
Yes, today's workforce has become a temporary and part-time workforce. And as such, the wages paid are the minimum wage at best. However, even that is avoided in various ways, especially by the use of split shifts and the zero-hours contract.
But anyway, who can live on the current minimum wage (£6.31/hr)? It is nigh impossible, unless a worker is able to work a full 40-hour week (or more) and lives outside of London or the South-East. And even then, it is difficult.
This is, of course what has given rise, in the last 4 years, to the so-called "living wage" campaign - which has become a cause celebre among reformists of all kinds, including high finance and business consultancies like KPMG. Not that it has done much good. The big companies are still paying the minimum wage in London, as is the public sector. Local councils almost exclusively use workers on temporary contracts on the minimum wage or close to it, and have done so for many years.
So how does one manage on the minimum wage? If a worker is lucky enough to have a full-time job he/she would earn £252.40, before taxes and deductions. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimated, however, that a single person needs an income of £197.86 excluding rent per week to achieve its "Minimum Income Standard". This would pay for food, clothing, bills, transport. That means that someone working full-time on the minimum wage would have just £54 per week left over to spend on rent.
In the cheapest borough in London, this might just be possible if you rented a room in a shared flat, but only if you were two or more to a room. In fact most people spend 40% of their income on their rent or mortgage. So with £252 one would pay £100/wk on rent - and yes, a single room can be found in Outer London for this, but that would leave only £152 for everything else... In London, a weekly bus pass is £20.20, and a tube pass for 6 zones, to your outer-London room, is £70. But what if you can only work half the hours - or less, and are in the situation of an estimated 1.4m workers on so-called "zero-hours" contracts? Then you have no hope at all!
It is estimated that 21% of the workforce, that is, around 5.8 million, are on low pay and could be called "working poor". But even those workers who are on permanent contracts, both in the private and public sector, have seen their wages go down with respect to rising costs in fuel, transport, and goods and services.
It is this which has seemingly (finally) forced the hand of the union leaders representing local government workers, teachers, fire fighters and civil servants to call action on pay (albeit for one day so far) on 10 July. Public sector workers like these have seen a 20% drop in their real wages over the past 7 years. The last 5, under the ConDems saw a 3-year pay freeze, a 1% (1.5% below inflation) increase last year and 1% offered for this year.
Some workers fared slightly better: for instance postal workers got a 3-year deal last year, as part of the bribe to accept the flotation of Royal Mail, consisting of a 3% rise per year for 2 years and 2.8% in year 3. But the RPI (as opposed of the minus-housing costs CPI) at the time was between 2.7% and 2.8%. So this was only just about keeping up with official inflation, which anyway is always an under-estimate of real cost rises.
Hitting the most vulnerable
Using the excuse of Britain's budgetary deficit, the ConDem government began to attack social welfare from top to bottom as soon as it came to power in 2010. Four years later Iain Duncan-Smith's "Universal Credit" reform is reaching the final stages of its implementation - but all through these years the attacks against the unemployed were vicious and sustained. Universal Credit supposedly simplifies the benefit system, but in fact imposes radical cuts in benefits and even more stringent conditions for claiming than before - affecting in particular the most vulnerable among the unemployed, i.e., those with disabilities.
The final "reform" is being rushed in at the last minute to achieve "deadlines". And thanks to the redundancies at the Department of Work and Pensions, combined with the lack of training and support of the temps who now make up most of the government workforce - at very much lower cost - the system is unable to cope. So Oxfam, in its "Below the Breadline" reported that 70,000 job-seekers had their social security payments withdrawn, leaving them to rely on food banks and family and friends to eat.
The Rowntree Foundation's Minimum Income Standard report shows how the benefits which are meant to help the poor today, provide less than 40% of what is needed for childless adults and less than 60% of the minimum income needed for families today. Admittedly, this is based on a minimum of £20,287 per adult for couples with 2 children and for a single person, £16,284. It perhaps looks rather high, but this has been calculated to take into account rising costs (bus travel is up 37% since 2008), and the cost of food and energy - which have risen by 26% and 45%(!) respectively since 2008 (By the way, the CPI inflation index only registers a 19% increase in the cost of goods and services in the same period!).
The point which the Rowntree Foundation makes, is that workers have to earn a lot more than they did in 2008 and yet they are in fact earning a lot less. But on top of that, there have been real-terms cuts in Child Benefit and tax credits (for in-work poor). Lone parents in particular, find it hard to make up for these cuts because each time they increase their earnings (by working more hours for instance, if they indeed can) they may lose over 90% of the increase by corresponding deductions in their tax credits and Housing Benefit, and pay more income tax! That is the "bad old" poverty trap, which never went away.
The cuts in the health service and the progressive privatisation which have followed the ConDem's Health and Social Services Act 2011 (even though watered down a bit) mean that there is no way that Britain will somehow turn around the deterioration in health - shown by indicators such as child mortality, for instance. Today it is on a par with Poland and twice as high as Japan.
"Labour" and labour...
Given the state of the working class and poor, there can be no doubt in any politician's mind that it is this section of society which has paid most heavily for the crisis and is still paying. And that as a result, politicians and politics must be increasingly discredited among workers - which UKIP's vote in the elections showed to some extent (indeed, in the local elections UKIP deliberately targeted the working class vote, even if this is not its usual constituency).
All along, of course, there has been a strong political chorus blaming immigrants for the lack of jobs, the low wages and the lack of social provision and housing - and even the waiting lists in the health service. This reactionary chorus emanates from those who defend capitalism of course and it began under the last Labour government when, for instance, Alan Johnson pointed a finger at immigrant workers as being at least partly responsible for queues in doctors' surgeries.
The purpose of the reactionary chorus is of course to deflect the blame from its real cause - the greed of the capitalist class. The bosses have always deliberately played on any differences between workers to set them against each other. And this is for one reason only: to cheapen the cost of labour. For them, the bigger the reserve army of labour - i.e., the ranks of unemployed - the more competition in the labour market and the further wages can be pushed down. They are not employing more workers though - just increasing the rate of exploitation and therefore their profits, by making fewer workers work harder.
But blaming British bosses is not something that either Labour or, of course, the ConDems dare to do. Much better to point a finger at "immigrants" or "foreigners" themselves. Labour is just a little uncomfortable doing this, as are the more liberal ConDems, so they also differentiate between the good and bad immigrants - ie., those who come here and contribute to the economy and those who don't...
But then it gets much worse. Below, the latest Labour propaganda is reproduced to give a taste of what Labour is offering today. It is very telling...
"Here are the 10 steps Ed Miliband will immediately take if we win the next election. Sign if you agree.
Labour's Cost-Of-Living Contract With You
* Freeze gas and electricity bills until 2017 and reform the energy market.
* Get 200,000 homes built a year by 2020.
* Stop families that rent being ripped off and help them plan for the future with new long term predictable tenancies.
* Cut income tax for hardworking people through a lower 10p starting tax rate, and introduce a 50p top rate of tax as we pay off the deficit in a fair way.
* Ban exploitative zero-hour contracts.
* Make work pay by strengthening the Minimum Wage and providing tax breaks to firms that boost pay through the Living Wage.
* Back small businesses by cutting business rates and reforming the banks.
* Help working parents with 25 hours of free childcare for three- and four-year-olds.
* Tackle the abuse of migrant labour to undercut wages by banning recruitment agencies that only hire foreign workers and pressing for stronger controls in Europe.
* Back the next generation with a job guarantee for the young unemployed and more apprenticeships.
This is our contract with you. Vote Labour to make Britain better off.
In the last but one promise Miliband reiterates Labour's line on "migrant labour". The argument is that low wages are due to migrant labour undermining the decent wages that bosses would otherwise pay! The bosses, of course, just can't help themselves when they see a foreign worker and "have" to pay them less! Labour also differentiates here between the good and bad recruitment agencies - i.e., those which only employ immigrants and those which employ others - never mind on what terms - like, low wages, part-time hours and bogus self-employment. At least there is a promise to ban zero-hours contracts (assuming that Labour considers that all zero-hours contract are exploitative, as it should..). But where is the promise to raise the minimum wage to a living wage? In fact it is bosses who pay a "living wage" who will get a tax break! And let us not forget that it was Labour that cut corporation tax to the lowest level yet - the Condems are just continuing what Labour had started. As to the only tax rise for the rich - the plan to raise the top rate of income tax to 50p in the pound - it's hardly radical when you think that under Tory Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s this was 60p.
Never mind that there is more than enough money in the system - available to take from the capitalist class. The wealthy have been hoarding, ever since the crisis began, using some of their cash to speculate and inflate the housing bubble. But that means lots could be done by any politician who dared to confiscate this hoard. Huge house-building schemes could be started, money could be pumped back into the health service and into schools, etc., etc. But of course no-one in the political class would dream of taking a penny from the rich. It will be up to the organised working class to do this, one way, or another...
Fine names, fine words
Despite Labour's stated intentions to carry on with the same pro-business policies, voting Labour is the only perspective offered by the union leaderships to the working class. It was only a few months ago that Len McCluskey, the leader of Britain's largest trade union, Unite, which organises workers right across the public and private sectors, said that he would put his union's financial support for Labour into question, if leader Ed Miliband, who Unite had backed during the Labour leadership campaign back in 2010, did not come up with some pro-working class policies.
And now, as the election looms, apparently the current "contract" which Labour has produced, is enough for him! He has now stated unequivocally, despite the fact that Labour has not changed its policies by one millimetre, let alone an inch, that Unite is fully behind Labour.
"We have a clear and vital choice before us. It's whether we can evict the present ruinous Conservative coalition from office and get a Labour Prime Minister into Downing Street. There is no third option," he said. "So let there be no doubt. Unite stands fully behind Labour and Ed Miliband in the increasingly radical agenda he has outlined. It is a people's agenda and this union will be proud to fight alongside Labour to secure it."
So the "contract" is a "radical agenda"? As McCluskey made his predictable climb-down and vowed his loyalty to Labour, on the very same day, Ed Balls, Labour's shadow chancellor, was addressing an audience at the London Business school to explain how he was a devotee of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown's 'Third Way', the New Labour philosophy of "marrying free markets to social justice"!
He claimed that the spread of free markets over the past 20 years had led to "significant reductions in poverty and increases in living standards". Which planet he was referring to, because it clearly was not the planet earth the rest of us live on - this Oddball did not explain. But it was all in the context of Labour's "new pro-business plan for Britain and business to succeed together", in the context of which he favours getting tax rates down. The promise of a 50p top rate of tax is less and less likely to be in the next election manifesto!
Incidentally, Balls also made it clear that he did not support the 10 July local government strike: "I have said since 2012 there should be pay restraint in the public sector," he said. "We have to be committed to fiscal discipline and we will from time to time make decisions that will be unpopular with the trade union movement. There will be times when we disagree."
Of course he would not support it. It was Labour which brought in the public sector pay freeze in the first place, precipitating the downward spiral in wages.
Ironically, Labour's "trump card" as commentators call it - for business - is to remain committed to Britain staying in the European Union. But no doubt when it comes to addressing audiences who want to hear anti-EU rhetoric, Labour will find it. Just as it has found a way to play to the anti-immigrant lobby by its "contract" commitment to ban employment agencies which only recruit immigrant workers. The idea that all agencies which pay low wages and bypass the minimum wage should be banned - is of course, out of the question... After all, aren't these agencies part of "British business" and a quite lucrative part, at that?
Up until the announcement of the 10 July public sector strike, all that the union bureaucracy was offering in terms of a "response" to the worsening crisis, since its last "day of action", a whole 2 years ago (and there was only one day for the whole year) - is the "Britain needs a pay rise" march and rally planned for the 18th October 2014.
The 10 July strike on the other hand called out local government workers, teachers and ancillary staff, fire fighters and civil servants - an almost general strike across the public sector but unaccountably excluding the biggest public sector battalion, ie. the NHS workforce! Unaccountably, because NHS workers are also facing a 1% pay rise after a de facto pay freeze (which means a cut in real wages for 3 years in a row, just like their counterparts in local and central government), not to mention pension cuts like the fire fighters and everyone else!
The other noticeable deficiency in this apparent switching back to a strategy of industrial action is the absence of any attempt to involve the private sector - not that there has ever been any instance of this in the recent past!
As to the 18th October, besides its apparent attempt at nationalistic appeal (its logo is even the same as UKIP's "£" sign!), this demonstration is also very conveniently timed for the general election campaign, which will be in full swing after the annual party conferences (Labour's will have taken place on 21st-24th September and the Conservatives' on 28th September to 1st October). So 18th of October is really going to be an occasion for full-on electioneering for Labour by the union bureaucracy. And little else.
Stopping the downward spiral?
The attacks on workers' conditions have gone from bad to worse since 2007. No matter what is said about a "recovery", as everyone can see, the recovery has not touched the working class at all. Anyway, now that the bosses have seen that they can get away with turning the screw as much as they want, with no significant response from "the unions" to use their terminology - why should they stop?
So whatever happens in the next period - workers are faced with the same problem - having to stop the attacks and to try to regain ground which has been lost since 2007 and before that. How?
There is no magic new way to confront the bosses despite the twitter revolution and other similar absurdities. The capitalist class will only be stopped by working class force. Fortunately today that can still be achieved by withdrawing ones labour, collectively, and going on strike. And of course it would require all the sections of the working class to be out together, and for as long as it takes. And what the working class is out for - that is, the content of the demands it makes, is crucial. Because to win, it is necessary to choose goals which all workers can fight for together. But even this is not close to being enough to do the trick. Because unless workers are organised politically and have a clear conception of the changes needed to construct a different society along new lines - without profit - history will just continue to repeat itself.
It is to this end that the working class needs to take seriously upon itself the task of building a new political organisation for itself - one which represents its interests and only its interests. Because it is only through such an instrument that society can and will be transformed in the future. It is possible and necessary. Our lives depend upon it.