While the Tory government gets embroiled in another political crisis of its own making, life gets harder for the rest of us. The picture was already bleak in 2021, when in November inflation rose to 5.1%, its highest rate in a decade. The price of certain goods was already skyrocketing, most notably fuel. The average price of petrol soared by 29.5%, while the average gas bill rose by 12%. These figures are unfortunately set to go from bad to worse, with inflation largely predicted at a further rise of 6%.
The gas price cap is also set to be removed, which many experts fear could lead to a further price hike of up to 50%. Also in the pipeline are rises in council tax and national insurance, while personal income tax allowance will remain the same. The capitalist think tank Resolution Foundation has predicted that these measures will cost the average family around £1,200 this year. And to top it all off, after repeated reassurance that free lateral flow tests would not be scrapped, it now looks like they will be scrapped at the end of June (whether this latest U-turn is a deliberate attempt to confuse and mislead us or just another blunder due to sheer incompetence is anyone’s guess).
In light of the rising cost of just about everything, not to mention the conditions we have had to endure throughout the pandemic, and what with the infamous labour shortage so widely lamented in the capitalist press, you might think that at least a long overdue pay rise would be on the cards. But although the 6.6% rise in minimum wage looks good on paper, it continues to trail behind the rate of inflation. So in a word, we are set to become worse off as a class, not better.
It’s Still Class vs. Class
But of course, this “year of the squeeze” will not be squeezing everyone equally. While the capitalist press will continue to tell us that we are “all in this together”, the ruling class it represents continue to dine out on the fruits of our labour while insisting that we “tighten our belts” in these times of “universal hardship”. Research by the High Pay Centre indicates that in only a week the average top company director had already 'earned' more than the average annual earnings of a full-time worker in the UK (i.e. by around 9am on Friday 7 January). Meanwhile, though most FTSE100 firms have yet to report their CEO pay for 2021, over half of those who have done so have reported increases. The scandal here is not merely one of sheer proportion, though that alone is obviously shocking enough. The truly galling part is where those vast amounts of money come from. Their profits are derived entirely from the appropriation of the product of our labour. The whole capitalist system is based on the fact that the money we each spend the whole year earning for ourselves is but a fraction of what we make for the bosses (and indeed, let’s not kid ourselves, it’s the smallest fraction they can get away with giving back to us to keep us coming to work, be that the legal minimum wage, or the natural minimum set by the limits of what we’re willing to put up with). So when we’re told by the capitalist press that 2022 is set to be the “year of the squeeze”, we must always remember who’s squeezing whom.
The Capitalist Crisis
But the bosses’ system plunges deeper into a crisis of its own creation, and so squeeze us they must. If, over 160 years ago, the ruling class could be compared to a “sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells”, this insight has only become truer with each day that has passed since. Yet again, their only solution is to stretch the working class to breaking point in every direction. That, or a massive devaluation of capital, such as through world war, which could restart a new cycle of accumulation at the cost of untold destruction of human life and material resources.
And so it is that fighting back against their constant attacks on our pay, conditions and standards of living becomes more necessary by the hour. Whatever the political persuasion of the clown the bosses put in charge, we cannot expect them to act in any interests but their own; that is, against ours. Our power to fight back lies in our own hands as a class, and it is down to us to express it through our own organs, be they strike committees, neighbourhood assemblies and ultimately workers’ councils. We cannot afford to put this power into the hands of politicians and union bureaucrats, however much they pretend to be on our side.
The above article is taken from the current edition (No. 58) of Aurora, bulletin of the Communist Workers’ Organisation.