Sunday, November 27, 2011

Concentrating upon the political expression of the economics of the pensions dispute

Some bald Russian bloke once said that politics is the concentrated expression of economics. In current circumstances that means that the lamentable failure of the “leader” of the Labour Party to align himself with the vital struggle of the trade unions next Wednesday is a concentrated expression of the devastating setbacks being experienced by workers in the real economy.

These are laid bare brilliantly by Income Data Services (IDS) in their blog, as follows;

“In the year to April 2011, the median gross annual earnings for full-time employees were £26,200, an increase of 1.4 per cent compared with £25,900 in 2010.” (This compares with price increases running around 5%, and shows that overall the decline in real wages is continuing).

“This year’s ASHE (Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings) survey reveals some remarkably low movements in earnings over the year to April 2011. For example, the hourly earnings, excluding overtime, for full-time employees at the bottom decile grew by just 0.1 per cent to £7.01 an hour, compared with growth of 1.8 per cent at the top decile to £26.75 an hour. There is an overall stretching of the earnings distribution towards the top end.” (So we are all, on average, getting poorer, but the poorest workers are getting poorer fastest).

“The overall salary movement of 1.4 per cent is for those people who were in continuous employment between April 2010 and April 2011. The picture is bleaker if all full-time employees are included, including those changing jobs or re-entering the labour market. For this larger group, median gross weekly earnings for full-time employees were £501, up just 0.4 per cent from £499 in 2010.” (So workers who are losing their jobs are generally only getting back into employment by accepting lower pay than they were previously earning).

As IDS conclude, with remarkable restraint; “The reduction in the real value of wages and salaries is without precedent in the modern era and is the major cause of the consumer caution which is inhibiting economic recovery.”

Whilst the lamentable politics of the Labour “leader” may be a concentrated expression of these depressing economic realities, we can only change those realities if we can change the politics of the Labour “leader”. The Labour Party needs to support the working class fighting back against austerity.

For public service workers, well into a multi-year pay freeze, the further assault upon our living standards consequent upon the Government's plans to destroy our pension funds doesn't just add salt to our wounds, it deepens them considerably. We really do now have "scars on our backs" from defending public services, and we expect politicians who seek our support to support us now as we make a necessary stand.

At least in relation to Wednesday’s strike action, Alan Johnson has this right. So does Ian Davidson. So does Lambeth Labour Group. It isn’t just those of us on the left of the Labour Party.

The Government have declared class war upon us and we need both the political and industrial wings of our movement to mobilise effectively against them. The practical and legal restrictions upon mobilising nationally against cuts in jobs and services that fall locally have meant that the trade union movement has had to coalesce around the attack on public service pensions – and we need and are entitled to the support of any politician who calls themselves “Labour”.

We need to reverse the economic attacks upon our class, but to do this we need political power, and to achieve this we need to completely recondition the Party built a century ago for that purpose.

Wednesday is a time to choose sides. All Labour politicians need to realise this.

No comments: