But what they actually mean is that workers, young people and the middle-class have to bear the brunt of the economic crisis created by the bankers and speculators. Many workers have already suffered pay cuts, loss of hours or changes to their conditions under pressure from bosses determined to defend their profit margins. Now, we are expected to accept an unprecedented assault on vital public services. It is estimated that in Northern Ireland this could mean £2 billion cuts over four years, leading to an estimated 40,000 job losses. The cuts will have a devastating impact on working-class communities.
Much of the right-wing press are determined to portray public spending itself as being the problem, saying that we’ve all been “living beyond our means”. This is an attempt to legitimise the cuts. Workers should be clear that it is the bail-out of the banks and the greedy pursuit of profits by the stockmarket speculators which caused this financial black hole. After decades of telling us there was no money to improve public services, the government threw £850 billion at the banks to shore them up. These banks are now back to business as usual. Royal Bank of Scotland has returned to massive profits and paid out £1.3 billion in bonuses this year to market traders, after sacking 17,000 of its workforce. Lloyds TSB has paid out bonuses worth over £1 million each to its top directors.
Socialists reject any assertion that workers should sacrifice one job, one service, one penny to pay for a crisis which we had no role in creating. It is the bankers, big business and the super-rich who must foot the bill! As for the public deficit, who is it that the state owes this money to anyway? The vast bulk is to hedge funds, finance houses, speculators and big banks – exactly the people who are to blame for the economic collapse! Workers and young people owe them nothing.
In order to maintain and develop our public services, the £123 billion tax which the rich avoid paying every year should be aggressively pursued. Subsidies to big business should be removed to ensure they pay their share of tax. Crucially, we demand that the banks are nationalised – not to bail them out, but to nationalise their profits too – under the control of elected representatives of workers and consumers, and their capital used to invest in socially useful projects and services which would provide employment.
The Comprehensive Spending Review to be announced on 20th October will contain savage cuts. On 23rd October, workers from across the North will descend on Belfast for a demonstration to send a message to the governments in Westminster and Stormont that we won’t pay for the bankers’ crisis. There will also be demonstrations and rallies across Britain to send the message that cuts will be fiercely resisted.
The position of the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and the majority of trade union leaders towards the cuts falls well short of what is required. Instead of taking a firm stance against cuts, they have called for cuts to be made at a slower pace and spread out over a longer timescale. This is an acceptance that working class people should pay for the bankers’ crisis, it is merely a question of how much and when. October 23rd should be the beginning of a real and determined fight by the trade union movement to defend all jobs and all services. The Socialist Party and the Stop the Cuts Alliance will support every action and protest initiated by the unions against the cuts but more importantly will assist workers and local communities on the ground in organising to fight the cuts.