Men fight and lose the battle, and the thing that they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and when it comes turns out not to be what they meant, and other men have to fight for what they meant under another name. (William Morris - A Dream of John Ball)

Sunday, October 06, 2019

The next General Election - a matter of life or death

As if we didn’t already know how bad things were, authoritative research demonstrates that Tory-inspired (and Lib Dem supported) austerity has increased infant mortality.

The research – published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) finds that “overall from 2014 to 2017, there were a total of 572 excess infant deaths compared with what would have been expected based on historical trends” and that “about a third of the increases in infant mortality between 2014 and 2017 can be attributed to rising child poverty (172 deaths).” Not to put too fine a point on it, Tory austerity kills babies.

This is a startling reversal of a long term historical trend towards lower infant mortality. It is not a coincidence that the increase in infant mortality (which is disproportionately an increase in low income areas) has accompanied falling real incomes for much of the period since 2008. This has magnified the squeeze on wages over the last generation (as the TUC have reported; “For the last 30 years the British economy has seen a steady shift in the way national income has been distributed, away from wages and in favour of profits”).

These are the consequences of the historic defeats for our class over past decades. The Tories have got away with austerity over the past decade because our movement retreated following the strike action on 30 November 2011, and we continued to retreat because our movement is “shackled and timid and tame”. (and this is the proper link).

My generation of labour movement activists cannot shirk our responsibility for failing to reverse these defeats. We have bequeathed to our children a world in which their children are more likely to die as infants than they were. Our trade unions (at least the largest of them) are controlled by their paid officials, and therefore prioritise their own institutional survival over the vigorous pursuit of the interests of their members.

If we are to have hope for our movement (and our future), it must come from the possibility that we shall be able to copy our comrades in Portugal and secure a left-led Government which will loosen the shackles upon our movement, kicking off a virtuous cycle of progressive policies and rank and file militancy.

It’s a bit of a cliché to opine that a coming General Election is the most important in our lifetimes. However, if we can’t secure a socialist Government in the coming months there is a lot further down that we can yet go.

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