The Sunak-Hunt Spring Budget was delivered on the same day as workers from 8 unions were staging the biggest walkout since strikes first began last summer.
The strikers are up against bosses, both public and private, who are maintaining their squeeze on wages in the face of the worst cost of living crisis in 60 years. They refuse to increase real pay, even though, by their own admission, they can’t find enough workers to fill job vacancies.
Instead, the capitalists and their government are sitting tight, hoping the wage claims of the working class will just go away! Of course (state!) child care should be provided to help workers go to work. But by adding just 30 free hours for 1 and 2-year-olds and holding the energy price cap down for 3 months, Hunt is hardly addressing the poverty which millions of workers are facing.
And it’s not only wages that need improving: so do working conditions and pensions, if the bosses want to fill vacancies! Isn’t the NHS alone critically short of 170,000 workers? As for the social care sector, rock-bottom pay is the main obstacle to solving its crisis!
By now it’s obvious that the only effective “cure” for the bosses’ and government ministers’ ongoing state of denial, is the strike cure. So for good reason, industrial action is set to continue beyond Budget Day! In fact this week junior doctors have led the way by walking out for 72 hours, in the most disruptive NHS strike seen so far.
As for Sunak and Hunt’s “growth” budget, it’s yet another example of tinkering within a failed system, offering crumbs to the poor, while cake with icing is provided for the rich. Not one word was said about public sector pay! These latest representatives of a rotten system can only fiddle while Rome burns.
The cracks in their system
And the fire is not just singeing the capitalist system in Britain, of course. The world’s financial system is again showing its cracks.
True, the recession is cushioned for now by state interventions, with billions spent on defence and thus injected into a massive arms industry. But nevertheless, the economy is not behaving as its biggest players expect. Inflation remains high, despite Central Banks raising interest rates to try to curb it.
And it is precisely this interest rate rise which ensnared Silicon Valley Bank when its attempt to capitalise on the new rate backfired. It found itself without enough free cash to remain “liquid”... and it collapsed. New York’s Signature Bank followed in its footsteps within hours.
These banks may be small fry. But despite the reassurances of the US President himself - and his puppy dog, Rishi Sunak - the financial system is not settling down... Both banks, including the British arm of SVB, have been taken over by larger banks, but markets (so we’re told!) remain “nervous”.
Government spokespersons say this won’t be a repeat of the banking crash of 2008. But then again, the fall of SVB has followed exactly the same pattern as the fall of Lehman Brothers which heralded the “Great Recession”...
All that said, the real problem for big and small capitalists today - and their governments - is probably not the nervousness of the financial markets, even if they are unstable. No, bosses and ministers are far more worried about the reaction of the working class on the ground. “Civil unrest”, they call it...
Their austerity killed 250,000 +
Everyone remembers the austerity following the 2008 crash. Pay and conditions never recovered - and no surprise there! But evidence for the so far untold human cost to the working class, was provided this week by the Economist, certainly not known for its pro-worker stance.
It explains in a leader entitled “The missing quarter of a million” that since 2010, not only has life expectancy been falling across all working class age groups, but that there were 250,000 excess deaths - mainly among the poor - not accounted for by the pandemic.
It concludes that any turnaround of this trend, “will come from raising the living standards of the poor” who die earlier than their counterparts in the other rich countries and earlier than the middle and upper class in Britain, simply because of poverty... having “less money to spend on home insulation or nutritious food and [due to] the stress of financial insecurity”. Honesty from the Economist for once!
For the rest of us, this is no big discovery. What’s obvious, though, is that neither this government nor any other which upholds capitalism, can or will change this: to increase their profits, capitalists increase workers’ exploitation. It’s simple. Their interests and those of the working class are diametrically opposed.
By now no worker can be taken in by the idea that there is such a thing as “compassionate” capitalism. Today the capitalist class has to be forced by collective action - if not “civil unrest” - to make even the smallest concession! But if the working class is to get the change it needs, not just to eat, not just to survive, but to really live, the whole lethal system will have to go!