21st century Britain is glaringly unjust and getting worse

cameron osborne laughing by Jonathon Shafi The UK is now so far down the path of privatisation and austerity, that deviating from it will take a movement on the scale of the Chartists to turn back the tide. Twenty per cent of young people are unemployed, and today they are told they must work until 70 before receiving a pension. And even when they find a job, it is statistically likely that it will be poorly paid, impermanent and without career prospects. It is a sad fact that for the poor death is more likely than seeing retirement.

This is life in 21st Century Britain: it’s glaringly unjust, and it’s getting worse. All of the Westminster parties have constructed an essentially false narrative around the economic crisis. Firstly, the broad claim is that the problem with the economy is the amount of spending allocated to the public sector and to services and so on. Only through cutting this – and with it the living standards of millions of people – can the economy be returned to strength, the argument goes. What is actually happening here is that the Tories are using the economic crisis to pursue far more profound ideological objectives. They are choosing quite deliberately to make working people pay for the crisis, and to create, in Cameron’s own words, an era of ‘permanent austerity.’

This is not a flash in the pan. This process which we have seen unfold for several years now is not easily stopped. And it won’t be stopped by a Labour government from Westminster. Britain’s ruling class is an old one, and experienced too. They have been through many battles, and sometimes pushed to the edge of defeat. Britain has seen its share of uprisings and revolts, from the 1926 general strike, to the set piece union battles of the 70s and 80s, to the mass mobilisations against the war on Iraq.

But one thing in particular they do well is to plan for the future. Thus Thatcher’s achievement was far more than defeating the miners, but to define the coming decades socially and economically. To wed society to neoliberalism and to ensure that her economic doctrine would survive regardless of who was in power, Labour or Tory. The only thing that has changed is that this generation of Tories are increasingly radical in achieving their goals. They are embedding what will be the shape of things to come for a long time – not withstanding nothing short of a mass peoples movement that will challenge neoliberalism.

The Office for Budget Responsibility says public spending by 2018-19 will be its lowest as a percentage of GDP since 1948. It is that serious, and it is that stark. Everything, from the Bedroom Tax, to attacks on the disabled, the raising of the pension age, the hundreds of thousands now reliant on food banks and so on, is part of the logic of the system defended by a tiny, privileged elite. For them, the ‘difficult decisions’ that Carmichael and his like speak of are not so difficult. In fact it’s quite the opposite.

The richest 200 people in Britain have a combined wealth of £218billion. That figure is nine times as high as it was in 1989. This is no freak of nature: this is by design. As the World Health Organisation corroborate, child poverty in Britain is avoidable. It is in their words a ‘policy choice’. Whenever you hear them say ‘these are tough times, and in leadership is about tough decisions’ just remember that rhetoric is saved for only two occasions: undermining peoples living standards, and going to war.

Despite this situation, the politics of Westminster is a minority sport in Scotland. Challenging the establishment successfully is not easy. But voting against them in the referendum is an important staging post in the history of the relationship between the British ruling class and the population at large. But this is not a just a protest. It can be a catalyst for action that can bring about real social change. We can propose, in much more favourable terrain, and with the political momentum of a victory against the British state behind us, a genuine break from the neoliberal orthodoxy. So we must win. And to do so we need to mobilise the masses.

That is why RIC is calling another national mass canvass, for 6 August. This is the evening after the televised Salmond – Darling debate. We will say that the referendum is not ‘Salmond versus Scotland,’ but about our future. We can be sure that a No vote will lead to an entrenchment of the anti-working class politics we’ve seen for decades. We must use a Yes vote as a platform for socialist change, lets make sure we win it.

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