The Reality of Coalition Neo-liberalism
I was up close and personal with the reality of the austerity coalition's policies this week as the redundancy axe began to fall in my workplace.
For those still deluded enough to think the coalition is just about "Deficit reduction" and getting rid of "unproductive workers" the coming few months is going to be instructive. A tsunami of job losses in local government is coming along with the proposed total transformation of the National Health Service and a slow but sure dismantling of locally democratic controlled education. The shared (Neoliberal) aim of the two coalition party leaders, Sauron and Saruman, is the final dismantling of the post war settlement in Britain. That is effectively the end of anything resembling a welfare state and the beginning of a new age of corporatism. At the same time they hope to finish off what remains of anything approaching effective trade unionism by decimating the public sector and shaving off services left right and centre to corporations, religious groups, charities, philanthropists and the like. Their ideological attack dogs in organisations like Policy Exchange are already slavering for even more restrictive anti-union legislation and attacks on freedom of speech and assembly. So much for the "libertarian" rhetoric of the Cameroons and Orange Bookers.
The reality of this at the grassroots is likely to be disruption in the short term and in the longer term the creation of a two (or more?) tier system of services with the encroachment of private insurance, religious charities and corporate asset strippers.
At my workplace I have sat amongst devastated people who are going to lose jobs or workmates. We have people being made redundant on the grounds of "sickness points" who have otherwise exemplary performance and disciplinary records. That means people who have been unfortunate enough to have cancer in their families, who have had swine flu and even work related injuries, who have been coping with immense stress due to personal and family problems - these people are to pay for their bad luck with their jobs if they and their unions cannot win their appeals. This is people who have worked in a public sector employer that has been ranked amongst the best of its' kind in the country and in one of the most successful workplaces of that employer. And the 70% or 80% who remain may only have a temporary reprieve before the axe swings again, and again and again. Looking for jobs in this socially deprived part of the country will not be easy - the jobs that there are will probably pay half or less than what those being made redundant were paid and may be temporary or otherwise insecure.
Fortunately I sense that even those who went along for a while with the Coalition's rhetoric are now seeing the reality of what they are about - an ideological project to cement the power of certain sections of society even more firmly. They see the Bankers' bonuses, the sucking up to Murdoch and the political two-facedness and turn away in disgust. A mood of resistance is developing that goes far beyond the students that were the first to take the field. What is more, there is an awareness that alone in our workplaces and communities we are unlikely to be able to mount anything more than fragmentary resistance. What is needed is a movement across industries and society, across barriers of age and culture that takes inspiration from those resisting at the knife edge of the neo-liberal totalitarian project.
We need to work towards such a movement and as we do, the dream of ages past - the social general strike, the general expropriation of the expropriators becomes less of a dream and more of a possibility on the way to concrete necessity.