In the UK politicians are fooling themselves as well as us with the pretence that their policies can deliver the country from the effects of the crisis of capitalism. Blinkered by ideology, their solutions are only going to make things worse. The anti-immigration clampdown comes at a time when the hard-line Brexit deal has caused a labour shortage by preventing EU nationals from working in the UK. This has damaged health and care sectors alongside agriculture. By including foreign university students in their immigration numbers and imposing restrictions on their visas, higher education is also suffering. The Government responds with a fresh squeeze on pay and conditions, moves to raise the pension age again, and a draconian regime of benefits cuts to force the sick and disabled back into the workforce.
But while the exceptional greed and stupidity of a hard-right Tory Government is undoubtedly deepening the impact of the crisis, if you think the answer lies in the sensible, centrist politics of our European neighbours look again.
In France the massive protests against the raising of the pension age began on the streets and have spread to the workplace with mass strikes. The scale of the opposition forced Macron to cancel a visit by King Charles.
In Germany staff at airports, ports, railways, buses and subways walked out shortly after midnight on Monday in a 24-hour ‘mega strike.’ They are seeking wage rises between 10% and 12% to keep up with inflation. The Government and the bosses have called the claims unreasonable. But they are not alone. Other public sector workers have gone on strike in recent weeks and earlier this month postal workers won an 11.5% pay rise.
In the UK the NEU teaching union is recommending its members reject the latest pay offer. Civil servants will be stepping up their action in April, culminating in a one day strike by 133,000 members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union on April 28th.
Even Israel is not immune to the crisis. Plans by Netanyahu to increase political control of the judiciary and curtail the judges’ right to veto new laws that they deem unconstitutional have been met with thirteen weeks of protests that have grown in strength and came to a head this weekend. When the defence minister was sacked for voicing his concerns about the new laws, workers at Ben Gurion Airport came out on strike. Faced with the prospects of a general strike by Israeli labour unions and even the Israeli President Isaac Herzog calling on Netanyahu to “Come to your senses!” the proposals have been postponed for a month while talks are held with opposition leaders.
The crisis that is currently gripping world capitalism expresses itself in different ways from country to country. But in every country the solution lies, not with the politicians, but with using the power of organised labour to challenge the system.
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