Social and Economic Policy

Labour: rebuild the welfare state

Author: 

Gemma Short

The welfare state created by the 1945 Labour government was a little bit of the “political economy of the working class” carved out of a still capitalist economy (a phrase Karl Marx first used to describe the victory of the fight for a ten-hour working day).

To some extent the ruling class has been forced to accept a minimal level of state provision. There is a constant battle over what proportion of profits is redirected, over who should receive support, and what sort of support is given. The ruling class has been winning that battle for some time.

The Labour manifesto is a significant shift from decades of neo-liberal consensus where the “political economy of the ruling class”, the rule of the market in every aspect of our lives, has almost destroyed the “political economy of the working class” carved out of capitalism in the shape of the welfare state.

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Grow old? Fall sick? Vote Labour!

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Editorial

The Tories used their general election manifesto to reveal their true callousness. They decided to squeeze more money out of elderly people to pay for social care, and hit less well pensioners by cutting winter fuel payments and ditching the “triple lock” on pensions (introduced in 2011 the triple lock guarantees that the basic state pension will rise by 2.5%, the rate of inflation, or average earnings growth, whichever is largest).

The Tories’ real intention is to open up new markets in the insurance industry for products to cover elder care. With private companies in on the “business of care”, after-death sale of homes will likely be forced.

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Letter: Taking them down a peg

Author: 

Martin Thomas

Andrew Northall (Letters, Solidarity 438) asks important questions about taxing the ultra-rich and the merely well-off. No socialist strategy, I believe, can escape the risk of a “counter-revolutionary reaction” from the rich.

That is not just because of our challenge to their income. It is because of our challenge to their wealth and their power. No socialism is possible without taking the top 1% down a peg, and they will resist that ferociously. At certain times they will shrug and pay more tax.

If a political overturn were to evict the top 1%, but leave the remainder of the top 10% or so with their current advantages, then before long the social hierarchy would be restored, only with a new 1% at the top.

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Labour manifesto: clawing back from the rich

Author: 

Martin Thomas

The output (value-added) of the UK economy these days is around £1900 billion a year. Of that, about £360 billion is goods and services bought by central and local government, about £320 billion is capital investment, and about £1,130 billion is stuff bought by households. The sub-totals do not add up to the overall total because of other categories, and the figures are rough, based on the last available official figures, for 2014.

The choice at this election is between a drive to make inequality even more hurtful, and an attempt to reduce inequality and institute some social solidarity and cooperation.

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Letters

I thought Charlotte Zalens’ article “Does £70,000 make you rich?” (Solidarity 436) was really useful, informative and thought provoking. Charlotte made three important points.

One, that £70,000 is way beyond the £22,400 median wage. Two, that a salary of £70,000 places someone in the top tenth of the population by income. And, three that income inequality at the top of the scale is far greater than at the bottom.

Taxation, the super-rich and the rest of us; Judges should be elected.

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Tories seek mandate to increase cuts, inequality, poverty

Author: 

Martin Thomas

“Mrs May”, writes the Tory-leaning columnist of the Financial Times, Janan Ganesh, “could not survive an election campaign saying so little so often if people paid attention”. Since so many don’t, “the repetition of slogans in lieu of answers carries no cost”. Fraser Nelson, another Tory, comments in the Spectator: “She seems to think that, if you refuse to give the press anything, the public won’t care. Worse, she seems to be right – for now, at least”. May’s purpose, so Nelson writes, is not to “seek a mandate”, but to evade one.

The Daily Mail front page headline on 19 April summed up how Theresa May sees the election serving her Brexit drive: “Crush the saboteurs”. That is, strengthen her position against all who ask questions, raise criticisms, demand information.

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Make the rich pay!

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Editorial

Wages are the clearest measure of how well or badly workers are doing in capitalist society. Between 1979 and 2008 the share of national output (GDP) going on wages fell from 65% to around 54%. This represents a huge shift of wealth in favour of the profit system and the capitalist class who benefit from it.

Labour’s policies — a £10 living wage, stronger employment rights from day one in a job, ending zero hours contracts and ending the 1% pay cap for NHS workers, restoring collective bargaining in the public sector, reintroducing bursaries for training NHS workers — will all boost working-class living standards.

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Reverse the rise in inequality!

Author: 

Martin Thomas

The Resolution Foundation, a statistical think-tank, reported in March on the economic prospects if the Tories win on 8 June.

"If nothing is done to change [the] outlook... [2015-20] will go down as being the worst [period] on record for income growth in the bottom half of the income distribution.

"It will also represent the biggest rise in inequality since the end of the 1980s".

The banks and high finance are central to the economy's functioning, and their greed for profit has been central to the economic chaos which has engulfed us since 2008. Banking should become a unified, democratically run public service providing banking, pensions and mortgages for everyone who needs them, and funds and resources for investment in public services and all areas of social need – instead of acting as an engine to devastate them and promote inequality.

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Labour needs a bold socialist programme for education

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Editorial

It’s about time! Labour has made a policy commitment to impose VAT on private school fees and use the money raised to finance the provision of free school meals for all children in primary schools.

Labour should present a bold, radical vision for education — levelled up and increased school funding, reversing cuts; converting academies and free schools into locally accountable community schools; free, high-quality nursery education and childcare provision; free further and higher education with grants for all students; and much more!

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End the "tampon tax” Stop funding anti-abortionists!

Author: 

Elizabeth Butterworth

In March last year, then Prime Minister David Cameron announced to Parliament that the 5% VAT levy on period-related products — the “tampon tax” — would soon come to an end. Parliament was told the European Commission would allow countries to extend zero rates on VAT, and more generally to have more autonomy over the VAT applied to individual products and services.

No one should be making a profit out of a basic biological function, especially one that mostly affects women.

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