“What way forward for our movement? The solution is deepening this resistance at all levels, and that means joining demonstrations, occupations and the picket lines.”
By John McDonnell
The situation we are facing is not only a deep economic crisis, but also deepening political, environmental and social crises — and these crises are not going away.
In recent weeks, the new Prime Minister and Chancellor have especially wanted the markets to know that the Bank of England and the government are “marching in lockstep” — they are, but with a common agenda combining austerity and increases in interest rates that is pushing us into a deepening recession, which will exacerbate many of the problems the country faces.
Already, after 12 years of austerity, many people simply do not have the financial resilience left to avoid the hardship that this will inflict upon them, and more austerity will increase levels of poverty, unemployment and inequality.
On top of this, the energy price cap is now being lifted to £3,000, tax thresholds are being frozen, and mortgages and rents are rocketing.
A key part of this commitment to a new wave of austerity, which has not been addressed enough in discussions concerning the recent Autumn Statement and the overall economic situation, is wages.
Wages today are lower than they were in 2007 and are not forecast to reach 2007 levels again until 2028.
With high levels of inflation, we are experiencing the largest drop in living wages on record.
Average wage rises in the private sector are 6.6 per cent and just 2.2 per cent in the public sector. To give just one example, nurses’ pay in real terms is £2,500 lower today than it was in 2010.
However the Tories try to spin it, this situation is why up to one million workers will be taking industrial action over the coming months and deserve our full support.
It is also important to remember that the political crisis isn’t going away, including in terms of divisions in the Tory Party itself, and in terms of understanding this it’s worth recapping what has happened.
We’re on the third Prime Minister in under six months, and we have seen a situation where there has been absolute political chaos month after month.
First, we had Boris Johnson, who ran amok in terms of respecting basic democratic values and who you couldn’t determine at any one stage whether he was telling the truth or lying.
He went, but then instead of having a general election to elect a new government, we had to rely upon the vagaries of the Tory Party’s selection process which forced Liz Truss on us.
Then after Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng’s disastrous “mini-Budget,” exactly the same happened, only even the Tory members didn’t get a vote that time, with their MPs giving Rishi Sunak a coronation.
The combination of this disregard for democracy — and the cost-of-living emergency — has led to a situation where people are beginning to question the whole nature of our political and economic system, because they see a system where a small ruling elite is able to assume office without any form at all of democratic participation of the general populace, who have lost control of the government.
Yet despite this, the Tories are now imposing upon us another round of austerity which they have no mandate for whatsoever.
We need a general election then, but they are so far behind in the polls there is no way Tory MPs are going to vote for one.
Therefore the only recourse we have is to mobilise on a mass scale outside of Parliament, both against “austerity 2.0” and to try and force a general election to get the Tories out.
We need to be out there in the streets, taking every opportunity we can to hold this government to account and linking up all the forms of resistance taking place.
As well as the large numbers of people taking industrial action to try and secure decent wages, there are renters campaigning against eviction, people with disabilities campaigning to ensure their benefits are not cut, climate justice campaigners and a whole range of social movements saying no to the Tories’ agenda.
So, what way forward for our movement? The solution is deepening this resistance at all levels, and that means joining demonstrations, occupations and the picket lines — and it also means discussing the alternatives we need around a socialist policy programme.
This programme must be based on redistributive taxation that will fund our public services and address the poverty and inequality that scar our society. And it must include securing stable, long-term investment in our infrastructure and in our people — including through extending public ownership — so we can mobilise our whole economy to tackle the challenges ahead and the rising challenge of climate change.
- You can follow John McDonnell on Facebook, Instagram and twitter.
- This article was originally published by The Morning Star on December 7th, 2022.
- John McDonnell is speaking at the Solidarity * Struggle * Socialism Conference this Saturday, December 10th, at Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL.
- Take part alongside Nadia Whittome MP, Richard Burgon MP, Jon Trickett MP, Sarah Woolley, BFAWU general secretary, Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, Dave Ward, CWU general secretary, Mick Whelan, Aslef general secretary, Ben Chacko, Morning Star, Zita Holbourne, Black Activists Rising Against Cuts, Lord John Hendy KC, Hilary Schan, Momentum, Heidi Chow, Debt Justice, Steve Howell and more. Register and see the full line-up here.