Tony ‘war criminal’ Blair used to pontificate to all and sundry that talk of class war was irrelevant in the 21st century as a society had moved on and it was wrong to use such antagonistic phrases any longer. The “class war is over” declared the born again ‘Tory Blair’ in September 1999. What utter tosh. I remember rising to ask one of Blair’s enthusiastic acolytes in the Scottish Parliament, First Minister Donald Dewar, if he was an adherent to Blair’s proclamation about the death of the class war and if so ‘who won’? Mr Dewar stumbled and mumbled but as usual avoided the question while backing his New Labour Messiah.
The class war is far from over and the introduction of ‘austerity’ by the Tory/Liberal coalition Government elected in 2010 on the back of the bankers crash of 2008 was just another name for the explicit conduct of class war by the rich for the rich. Rich and greedy bankers, shamefully de-regulated by Blair’s New Labour Governments, where up to their necks in irresponsible and illegal financial deals and transactions which eventually erupted in the Lehman Brothers crash in 2008 which exposed the empty re-payment promises as the fiction they were and led to a catastrophic banking crash.
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The response of former ‘socialists’, Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his Chancellor Alastair Darling, was not to signal to the world that the fraud and fragility which underpins the so-called ‘free-market’ economy was finally exposed for all to see and set about reversing the years of tax cuts for the rich and deregulation of the finance markets and labour market. No, these Blairites decided to declare their loyalty to the millionaires first and foremost by bailing out the rich and fraudulent bankers to the tune of trillions of taxpayers pounds.
For years workers in the coal, steel, shipbuilding and motor industries had been lectured about the iron laws of the market and how ‘subsidies’ and ‘bailouts’ were unacceptable and evidence of a deep malaise in those industries that only collapse could remedy. Hundreds of thousands in the boiler suits and hard hats of the mines, steel mills, shipyards and car factories of the UK were left to rot when they ran into economic problems but not so for the sharp-suited spivs and charlatans in the banking industry. Incredible sums of public money were poured into save the banks and the bankers on their obscene salaries and shameless bonuses. Almost £1.2 trillion was found by a New Labour Government which had preached wage restraint to low paid nurses, carers, street cleaners and other public servants for years and foisted the economic lunacy of Private Finance Initiatives (PFI — Paying For Infinity) upon us to build new schools and hospitals and roads because we ‘couldn’t afford’ traditional, and much more economically sane, forms of public investment.
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Like magicians on a stage Brown and Darling found £1.029 trillion in non-cash Asset Protection, Credit Guarantee and Special Liquidity Schemes and £133 billion in cash loans to failed banks like Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds, Northern Rock and others. The real class nature of politics was laid bare for all to see. There was no money to save coalmines, shipyards or steel mills. There was no money to publicly build new schools, hospitals and roads. There was no money to improve the wages of low paid public service workers or essential service workers like the Fire Fighters. But as soon as the bankers went bankrupt the money was found in spades to bail them out. Within a year these economic parasites in the finance sector were sticking their middle fingers up to the foolish masses as bonuses and salaries of £billions returned and even arch Tory papers like the Telegraph had to admit:
“It is hard not to conclude that the bankers have somehow "got away with it". Unapologetically, although far more discreetly than at the height of the boom, they are making millions again.”
Those bankers should have been criminally prosecuted and jailed not rescued and allowed to resume their lives of luxury.
To pay for the bailout of the banks and the bankers the Tory/Liberal coalition Government decided in 2010 to punish those who were completely blameless in the economic crash. For the mistakes and greed of the bankers the Blue and Yellow Tories determined that already poor people on benefits, low paid council workers, hospital porters and carers in old folks homes should pay for the banker’s bailout through benefit cuts, wage freezes and local authority budget reductions resulting in thousands of job losses and local service provision being cut back to the bone. They called it ‘austerity’ and got their puppets in the press and media to punt the narrative that it was the ‘only alternative’ and it was everyone’s patriotic duty to ‘tighten their belts’ and accept the necessary medicine. It was the actions of class war under the guise of ‘pulling together’ for the greater good.
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The result has been yet more transfer of wealth and privileges, from the working classes to the upper classes. The use of fancy phrases and clever terms should not be allowed to confuse us. The Thatcherite policies of the 1980’s were naked class war. The Blairite policies of the late 1990’s and early 21st century were also Thatcherite but dressed as lamb while the Cameron and May Governments have continued the assault on ordinary living standards under the pathetic ruse of ‘all in it together’ austerity. Remember the sermons about the necessity to reduce the public debt? That’s why austerity was necessary we were told. Yet the £823.3 billion net debt of 2010 has not been reduced but grown to £1.781.9 trillion today. The UK debt burden has increased from 56% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2010 to 84% of GDP now.
The observation that the rich just keep getting richer is not a jealous jibe it is an economic fact which translates into wealth inequalities which are obscene and completely unproductive. The rich don’t spend their money on local goods and services the way the poor and average paid do. They hoard it and stash it away in tax havens thus compounding the corrosive effects of inequality.
I learned about the Marginal Propensity to consume while doing my Joint Honours Degree in Economics and Politics at Stirling University in the early 1980’s. It sounds complicated but it’s really straightforward. Give a low or average income family and extra £25 a week or £100 a month and they are likely to spend it all as they are nowhere near satisfying all their needs. But give a rich individual an extra £100 a month and they won’t spend it as they have already met their needs. They will save it or hoard it thus making it an unproductive £100.
Incomes for the vast majority in society are either stagnant or increasing only marginally. A recent Resolution Foundation study revealed average income for all households in 2017/18 increased by only 0.9%, the lowest rise for over four years and representing real terms cut when compared to rising rents, fuel costs, food costs, and transport costs.
The average chief executive in Britain today receives a pay package worth £4.5 million, an incredible 160 times greater the average wage and 262 times greater than the Living Wage.
Austerity, privatisation, wage freezes, PFI schemes, ‘living within your means’ are all just clever synonyms for class war. Tax evasion from multi-national corporations and individual millionaires and billionaires is estimated to have grown to almost £120 billion a year but these companies and individual culprits are showered with government grants and knighthoods instead of criminal prosecutions. Imagine what we as a society could do with an extra £120 billion a year in income?
A low paid Scottish cleaner is hunted down like a dog and imprisoned for fraudulently claiming £25,000 in benefits while trying to care for her dying elderly mum but a millionaire property tycoon is caught trying to dodge a £150,000 tax bill and is treated with kid gloves and offered a settlement when he is finally rumbled and a criminal prosecution is not contemplated. That’s class war.
The next time some overpaid BBC presenter tries to convince you that we really can’t afford to fund the health service anymore, or we can’t pay nurses, firefighters, carers, cleaners, refuge collectors or teachers a better wage I want you to recall the facts in this column. We can afford those things and a whole lot more. Money can always be found when it is needed by the ruling class. Whether it’s for one of their wars or to renew their illegal arsenal of nuclear weapons they always seem to find the funds for those projects.
If we actually employed enough tax collectors to compel the rich to pay their bloody taxes society would be a much brighter and better place to live. Everything the May Government does is in pursuit of their class war. They don’t talk about it they just get on with it.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect Sputnik's position.