Last Wednesday [September 29], around 5,000 people participated in rallies in Belfast and Derry, organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions as part of a European day of action against austerity measures and attacks on public services.
In the Six Counties, these rallies marked the first public action in opposition to the slash and burn cuts programme of the Conservative-Lib Dem government at Westminster. Though the total extent of the cuts won’t become known until British chancellor George Osbourne delivers the four-year comprehensive spending review on October 20, it’s predicted that around £2 billion [€2,3 billion] will be cut from the block grant for the Six Counties.
The Tories’ annual conference got underway in Birmingham yesterday [Sunday] under the slogan “Together in the national interest”, laughable given that the current British cabinet is dominated by millionaires, and that the first major announcement to come from the event was on the complete reformation of the benefits system.
Speaking in an interview on Sunday morning, British prime minister David Cameron said: “Over time it has the capacity to save huge amounts of money, because it will end a lot of the fraud, a lot of the error, a lot of the waste, and because it is always worth people going into work.”
Though right-wingers love to carp on about ‘benefit cheats’, the British government’s own figures state that £1 billion [€1.2 billion] is lost each year due to benefit fraud, while £2.2 billion [€2.5 billion] is lost through errors in the system. It has also been recorded that £16 billion [€18.5 billion] in benefits went unpaid last year.
The British government also estimates that it loses around £30 billion [€35 billion] each year to tax evasion, though independent assessments put this figure closer to £70 billion [€81 billion] per year. It doesn’t take much to guess which one of these sections of society is subject to publicly-funded ad campaigns calling for people to inform on them or media-driven moral panics about how they’re bringing society down.
In August, the Tories brought in billionaire businessman Philip Green to lead the review of government spending that will inform the comprehensive spending review. Green runs the Arcadia Group, which owns clothes retailers such as Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge, and Topshop, though the company is actually owned by his family, who live in the tax haven of Monaco.
The Tories clearly have no real interested in tackling the current economic deficit, using it merely as a smokescreen for their ideological mission of destroying the welfare state and the public sector in favour of their neoliberal Thatcherite wonderland. When the Tories speak of the “national interest”, they mean the interest of the millionaires and billionaires who make up their cabinet, who own large sections of the media and who look at the public service as a commodity to be privatised and torn apart in the name of profit.
The Tories and their Lib Dem partners do not stand for the interests of working class people, be they in England, Scotland, Wales, or in the occupied Six Counties especially. As the Tory conference started on Sunday, around 7,000 people gathered to protest the oncoming cuts.
Speaking at that rally, Mark Serwotka of the Public and Commercial Services Union said:
“Strikes are inevitable. We are stronger if we get together. Striking together will not just happen on its own. We need to plan it now. We need our union stewards meeting now in every town and every city and we’ve got to start planning.”
On Saturday, October 23, three days after George Osbourne announces the extent of the Tory assault on working people, trade unions in Britain and in Ireland will organise rallies to send a message that these measures will be fought. If this fight is to be successful, strike action needs to be more than a threat. If it’s to be successful, what’s needed most of all is the solidarity of the working class and of their representatives in the trade union movement as a whole.
“We are all in this together” is another slogan often used by the Tories to disguise their agenda. It should now be used as the maxim of the workers’ fight-back – all of our class, whether employed or out of work, pensioners or teenagers – we are all in this together.
The October 23 march in Belfast will assemble at the Arts College, York Street, at 1pm.
Different Name, Same Aim
Campaign for British withdrawal
We Only Want the Earth!
No British Royal Visits!
Workers in Struggle
Reclaim The Republic
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