The Socialist 14 December 2016 |
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photo Mike Mozart/Creative Commons (Click to enlarge)
You could be forgiven for thinking that Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol was just a work of fiction. But the characters are in fact alive and well and living in 21st century Britain.
A friend of mine works at a major supermarket chain and applied for 27 Dec off work so that she could visit her family. When the request was refused she explained to her manager that public transport wouldn't be running, so she would have to miss seeing her family completely in order to work. Echoing Scrooge, her manager simply replied "Why do I care?" It's only once a year, sir!
Similarly another friend works for a hospice charity. Her father has been battling cancer this year and she booked time off to be with him at Christmas. However, her 'charity' employer reversed the decision and told her she must be prepared to come in at any time if she gets the call. Humbug!
Capitalism clearly cannot provide a future for the working class, in fact austerity is sending us back to conditions from 100 years ago. We know we can't rely on the benevolence of charity and the Scrooges of the world to have a change of heart - see how they treat their own staff! We have to fight for ourselves this Christmas.
Tessa Warrington, Leicester
It's a lottery
The Tories are gambling with all our futures, but the game is rigged, and the primary beneficiaries of this lottery are the billionaire class. Corporation tax plummets, while our cost of living increases by the day.
Since 2010 the government has cut the grant for local authorities (that is derived from the taxes we pay) by 50%. And every year the super-rich corporate scroungers use legal loop-holes to avoid paying £120 billion of tax.
Vital public services that benefit the most vulnerable in society are being cast by the wayside.
In response, Conservative authorities are now following the regressive American model in setting up local lottery schemes to fund vital local services. In the same way that the council tax is a regressive form of tax, so are lotteries.
As demonstrated in the landmark book Selling Hope: State Lotteries in America (1991), regressive tax is a form of taxation that ends up making the poorest in society pay a higher proportion of their income for the provision of public services.
Melton Borough Council is the third Tory-run local authority to back lottery schemes.
Apparently the lotto is meant to "cushion the impact of government cuts".
But the most effective way of reacting to such drastic funding cuts would be for Labour to refuse to put up with such institutionalised theft.
Certainly the leader of the Labour Party opposes austerity, as do the majority of his party's membership. But unfortunately most elected Labour representatives seem intent on blocking any fightback against cuts.
Mike Barker, Leicester
Since Brexit, the election of Trump and the rise of the so-called 'populist right' in Europe, many of those who would call themselves 'progressives' or 'left liberals' seem to have been thrown into confusion. They seem unable to find a coherent explanation of what is happening. Many blame the 'white working class' - very wrong in my view.
I think the reason for their bewilderment springs from their failure to comprehend the class nature of capitalist society. It's as if they've accepted Thatcher's claim that there's "no such thing as society, just people and families".
But once you recognise that capitalism divides society into two main classes, you begin to realise that politics is driven overwhelmingly by the struggle between these two classes.
Progressive liberals reluctant to accept this analysis believe instead that progress can be achieved through the force of ideas, reason and logic.
The futility of this approach was brought home to me when I read about Yanis Varoufakis. As finance minister during the Greek financial crisis - prior to the betrayal of the Greek workers by the Syriza leadership - he was negotiating with EU ministers.
The article spoke of the "surreal levels of incomprehension" faced by Varoufakis. He put forward arguments which were "logically coherent", only to be faced with "blank stares". What he didn't seem to realise was that the EU ministers were defending pro-austerity, pro-capitalist policies. Arguments about "fairness" were irrelevant to them.
Steve Appleton, Sutton