Scotland: Not if people fight back, but how

October 30, 2010
National Shop Stewards Network protest against the cuts. October 10, Manchester. Photo by Manchester Socialist Party

The British people have a long and proud history of defeating repression, tyranny and injustice. They defeated Conservative Party prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s poll tax in 1991 by invoking an inspiring spirit of resistance against seemingly insurmountable forces.

And it’s just a well because they need to call on these traditions once again to defeat the unprecedented and brutal cuts proposed by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government for our public services. Chancellor George Osborne has announced planned public spending cuts of £81 billion pounds.

When you stand back from discussions like the one BBC Scotland broadcast on October 14 in which an invited studio audience was quizzed on where the axe should fall, you realise there’s an enormous injustice at the heart of this debate.

It is the people, the masses, the vast majority, who are being forced by the elite, the rich, landowners, factory owners, bank owners and those who “own” our politicians to pay for this crisis.

As usual the hired “commentariat” cannot see “the wood for the trees”. They are apparently oblivious to the fact the victims of this economic crime are again being punished by its perpetrators.

The audience was not asked the one question on everyone’s lips, namely: “Who is in favour of these cuts?”

Who says they are inevitable? Who says “there is no alternative”?

Let’s look at the facts.

The British government ran up debts, we are told, of £580 billion after spending £1.3 trillion bailing out the banks, £100 billion on a second generation of nuclear weapons, and £100 billion invading and occupying innocent countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.

It spent £600 billion on ill-advised Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contracts, which mean, for example, that a £300 million hospital such as Edinburgh’s new Royal Infirmary actually costs £900 million.

It granted tax cuts to the obscenely wealthy.

All these decisions were hugely unpopular. None of them enjoyed the support of the public, yet we, the people, our opinions apparently counting for nothing in this debate, must pick up the tab.

The economic recession, the possibility of which former Labour PM Gordon Brown foolishly claimed to have banished forever, occurred alongside an unprecedented financial collapse. Together, they led to the current political crisis.

All four establishment parties in Scotland backed those decisions to one degree or another, and all four now clamber for cuts in the very services working people rely on.

So those who caused the crisis are forcing those who didn’t to pay for it. That’s the blatant injustice at the heart of this debate. It is a con, a “Con-Dem con”.

The rich and all their kept politicians now insist on two “fundamental truths”. First that there is no alternative to inflicting lacerating cuts in our vital public services like health, education, transport, housing and care if we are to reduce our debts.

The second is equally false — that “we are all in this together”.

We could self-evidently do much to avoid the cuts. We could own the banks’ profits, not just its losses. We could take their huge profits and obscene bonuses and invest them in services for us all.

We could cancel plans to threaten the world with nuclear annihilation. We can bring home our soldiers from Afghanistan and end our pointless occupation.

We could, and should, part company with the private firms who own our hospitals, schools, prisons and roads. We can make the rich pay their fair share of tax for a change.

But we don’t hear any politicians on the BBC make such suggestions, do we? No, they all say we, but not them, must make sacrifices.

Working people must be laid off. Jobs must be surrendered, houses repossessed and living standards must plummet.

The fact is there are plenty alternatives to making millions more unemployed and denying students the chance to study by enforced indebtedness. Homelessness, increased violence and crime and social disintegration are all avoidable.

But only if we jettison Labour, Tory, Liberal and Scottish Nationalist Party politicians who say the cuts are inevitable and working people must suffer.

They are all defending the indefensible. Their system got us into this mess and it now insists the victims not the perpetrators must be punished.

The Scottish Socialist Party is opposed to all these cuts. We simply do not accept they are necessary. They will have a devastating impact on the lives of millions of working people who rely on those services.

Working people are being held responsible for crimes they did not commit. There are better ways of tackling the national debt than cutting services to the vulnerable.

It is not a matter of “if” the British people resist, but “when”, “how” and “where”.

[Abridged from Colin Fox is the Scottish Socialist Party’s co-spokesperson and former member of the Scottish parliament for the Lothian. A founder member of the SSP, he has been an active militant for more than 30 years.]

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