Labour and Tory are on the same side in the class war
In early December, when Gordon Brown said that Tory plans for inheritance tax had been dreamt up "on the playing fields of Eton" David Cameron knew what he had to do. He pointed out that "I never hide my background" but "if they want to fight a class war, fine, go for it."
With a general election due in the next few months it's time for the political parties to try and look as though they offer alternative approaches to the running of the capitalist economy and its state machine. It's all propaganda to make it look as though there's some sort of choice on offer between the different competing teams.
The ‘class war' language is not very fierce in the hands of Labour and its left-wing supporters, but it has succeeded in convincing a third of voters that the Tories are the party of the ‘upper classes'.
In this campaign you get Ken Livingstone (Guardian 28/1/10) say of a future Tory government that "Those on average incomes, the least well-off, the unemployed, teachers, health workers and others must suffer the effects of a savage attack on social and public spending....These are the real open class-war policies". To his right David Miliband (on the Andrew Marr Show 24/1/10) declared that changes to inheritance tax will bring the "biggest redistribution of wealth to the wealthy in two generations." From his left Socialist Worker (16/1/10) can see that "behind the Eton toff's smiles is the real, vicious face of the Tories".
The trouble with such rhetoric is that for it to have an impact we have to forgot what's happened during the 13 years of the Blair/Brown regime, one that's been in office for twice as long as any previous Labour government.
Livingstone talks of the effects of policies on the unemployed or least well-off and describes them as "open class-war policies" - as though they were something exceptionally terrible in a Tory future. In reality attacks on the conditions of work and life of the working class have been undertaken throughout the life of the Labour government, in continuity with its Tory predecessor, as well as with any future governing team.
Because Labour retained most of the Tory manipulations of statistics (and added some of their own) it's difficult to know exactly how many million people are out of work in the UK. But this is clearly an area where the working class has been seriously hit and, whatever the official figures, the situation is every bit as bad, if not worse, than under Thatcher in the early 80s. Official statistics put unemployment at about 7.8%, but the official rate for ‘underemployment' (that is those who want to work longer hours, obviously for the money, not for the good of their health) has risen to nearly 10%.
The British economy shrank by nearly 5% in 2009, the worst drop since the 1920s, and it's the working class that has had to pay the price. Officially 1.3 million people lost their jobs in the current recession, and those who have returned to work have typically taken a 30% drop in income. In 2009 10 million people had their pay cut, frozen or got a rise that was below the inflation rate. According to various estimates: 1.7 million people were not made redundant because they took pay cuts or were prepared to work part time; more than a million people are working part time who explicitly want full time work. As for what is to come, 6 million public sector workers face effective pay freezes for the foreseeable future because of Labour measures. A ‘think-tank' has proposed that the middle-aged are left to fester on the dole as it's more important to try and find jobs for younger workers. Suicides are on the rise. Mental health co-ordinators are being introduced into Job Centres who will be able to recommend the quick fix therapy of CBT without a doctor's referral.
The working class is suffering from capitalism's crisis, yet more than 90% of bankers' mega-bonuses still get paid. The gap between the wealth of the rich and the poverty of the poor is much the same as it was 60 years ago. The class struggle exists because different classes have opposing interests. As communists we are open about defending the interests of the exploited class; but both the Tories and Labour (and its left wing hangers on) have long ago proved that in this war, they are firmly in the camp of the ruling class.