Sunday, 14 March 2010

Lets all NOT bash the workers!

Lets all bash the workers! Thats where we seem to be at the moment. Buts lets just reflect on how we came to be here. We had an unsustainable boom, most importantly in the USA housing market, but also here, in which bankers in the casino of financial capitalism took ridiculous risks with other people's money. As a result the banking system went bust and would have completely collapsed if we - ordinary working taxpayers - hadn't bailed it out.

Now, bankers are making big profits and still trousering huge bonuses for doing work which isn't socially useful. But we are facing losing our jobs and homes as a result of the global recession the bankers created. We have been shafted. Not only that but we now have to borrow money off the very same banks that would have gone bust if we hadn't saved them. Sorry but I'm struggling to see how that can possibly be right.

Now we, not the bankers, are having to tighten our belts, the recriminations are starting. And who's getting it in the neck? The same people who bailed the banks out - workers. Not only are workers losing their jobs but they are having their pay and conditions cut. Amazingly, some people seem to think that this is a good thing. I read CiF on the Guardian website regularly and there workers in the public sector have been subjected to vitriolic attacks. Apparently they are lazy, featherbedded scroungers who do no useful work and have gold plated pensions. The recent strike by members of the PCS, the civil servants union, attracted particular vitriol.

But most of these workers are low paid. The same government that said bankers bonuses couldn't be cut because of contractual arrangements have ripped up the contracts of civil servants. This means that a civil servant who earns £24,000 could lose £20,000 if made redundant - small change for a banker. Similarly, workers at BA are being castigated for going on strike to protect their pay and conditions. The problems of BA are largely of management's making but workers at BA are being expected to bear the cost. When they defend themselves they get attacked not just by the right-wing press - with heartbreaking tales of young brides to be whose honeymoon trips will be ruined - but also by the government. According to Lord Adonis the strike is "totally unjustified". But it isn't and neither was the strike by the PCS.

Workers have a right to defend their standard of living. Thanks to anti-trade union laws introduced by the Thatcher government workers now have little option other than to go on strike to defend themselves. The alternative for BA workers is the low pay offered by airlines such as Easyjet. This is class war - a totally unjustified attack on working people by those who, like the bankers, are doing very nicely thank you. And workers low pay subsidizes their extravagant lifestyles. What is most disturbing about this is that workers, particularly those on the public and private sector have been divided and turned against each other. Workers ought to be showing solidarity with each other not gloating about someone else's reduced pension. Its time for workers to wise up and support each other at a time when their living standards are under attack by capitalists.

In the 1970's E P Thompson, the socialist writer and polemicist, wrote an essay called 'Writing by Candlelight'. In it he described the horror and angst of middle class people who were being inconvenienced by striking workers. In this case it was power cuts caused by striking power workers. What Thompson brilliantly illustrated was how the lives of the better off were subsidised by the poverty of working people. The unseen masses who keep the lights burning and the dustbins emptied. I strongly recommend you read this essay and the others in Thompson's book.

Nothing has changed since the 1970's. The same economic culprits - capitalists and bankers, and the same economic victims - working people. But its time this changed. We need an alternative economy where workers are in control of their own economic destiny. If you want to find out how this can be done - read some of my previous posts.