Britains corporate lobby group, the CBI, were offered a clear choice today on how to approach negotiations with the European Union in the run-up to Britain’s exit in March.
Theresa May offered her same old steady-as-she-sinks formula for a gig economy, where full employment figures are proclaimed alongside the reality of a benefit system encapsulated in a poisonous universal credit scheme that drives people into taking two, three or four zero-hours “jobs” to survive.
Inability to even think of buying their own home is compounded by an inexorable drive to “improve” council estates by knocking them down, building luxury flats to guarantee developers’ profits, housing some “decanted” tenants and condemning most to joining the other millions looking for a decent roof over their heads.
This appalling vista doesn’t happen by accident. It is the logical — and planned — outcome of the capitalist austerity agenda.
This agenda, delivered in Britain, Germany and France and then enforced throughout the EU by the EU Commission, the European Central Bank and the European Court of Justice, slashing living standards, especially in Ireland, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain, was portrayed as a regrettable but necessary means of tackling the 2008 global financial crisis and supposed state spending excesses.
In reality, it was a pan-EU political decision to weaken working class organisations, especially trade unions, to enable greater exploitation and transfer a greater share of the value created by labour power from workers’ wages and pensions to profits and shareholder dividends.
It has proven successful, but has generated misgivings, even among the bourgeoisie, that a society with such a growing gap at its heart is unsustainable.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s pitch to the CBI was of an altogether different kidney, pointing out that a game in which the rules “aren’t working for the overwhelming majority” means that those rules have to change.
Corbyn has upset some pro-EU enthusiasts in his own party by emphasising that, rather than following the Lib Dems and other anti-democracy zealots by demanding a “People’s Vote” — or any other PR agency’s euphemism to disguise a call to keep on voting till we get it right — he wants to examine and understand why people voted as they did.
Corbyn surveyed a Britain in which a million families were using food banks, over four million children were living in poverty and real wages were lower than in 2010.
“Wealth hasn’t trickled down. Instead, rigid and outdated economic thinking has helped create a situation where 20 per cent of Britain’s wealth is in the hands of just 1 per cent of the population.”
Working-class voters who had not visited a polling booth in years made up a large proportion of the 17.4 million people who poked the political elite, the City, the CBI, BBC and the rest of the Establishment in the eye in June 2016.
The Labour leader sees why they voted as they did and understands the perils of disregarding this democratic expression or undermining it through sleight of hand.
That’s why he urges a Leave settlement that rejects the capitalist austerity agenda in favour of a model based on government involvement, driving higher investment in infrastructure, education, skills and the technologies of the future and taking sections into public ownership.
Increased inequality is a consequence of the capitalist austerity agenda shared by the EU and Britain’s neoliberals. It is integral to May’s shabby EU deal, which should be rejected along with a demand for Corbyn’s Labour to replace the Tories.
This article appeared in The Morning Star, Monday 19th November 2018 .