This year’s TUC Congress took place in a backdrop where governments across Europe have pursued policies attacking the living standards of the many for the sake of a small, powerful elite – including many made up of traditionally social democratic forces. In response, an alternative approach to the crisis has emerged – one that moves away from the tried and failed neo-liberal framework and instead moving towards building an economy based around the needs of the majority of society.
Ordinary communities are having the life sucked out of their economic prospects by the austerity offensive, blocking the services and employment needed to generate much sought after growth and improve the lives of millions.
Labour must present a vision of a better future than the failure and misery of cuts in order to attract the electorate and fulfill its purpose (to advance the cause of the real wealth generators – working people). Far from being a form of economic medicine, as claimed by its advocates, austerity is a poison, and one that it is vital to abandon, rather than take in reduced doses.
As opposed to taking resources out of the hands of a society that needs them, the strategy increasingly advocated by the trade union movement, representing six million workers, is one that seeks to take the mountain of finance currently sat on by the creators of the crisis into those who can generate the solution. Among the motions adopted by TUC Congress were calls for the creation of a state investment bank that could pump backing to much-needed infrastructure projects to tackle unemployment, regenerate life into the economy and raise the living standards of those currently at the end of a beating from the cuts coalition of the Tories and Lib Dems.
The call for investment was a regular pattern – Congress also called for resources to be put into education, pensions and environmental jobs, amongst other sectors. The call from austerity advocates is that there ‘is no money left’, but this deliberately misses the point. The fundamental question is not one of whether there are funds – but in whose hands they lie.
The Labour government led by Gordon Brown were right to take the step of bringing banks into public ownership – but this action alone is not sufficient. The logical progression of state ownership is to use its power to invest those funds currently siphoned off by an elite of speculators into programmes that can stimulate the economy and ensure that the position of ordinary communities moves forward as opposed to the decline offered by austerity.
Adopting such a strategy is not only economically justified but politically crucial for Labour if it is to buck the trend of European left parties implementing policies that hurt and alienate their mass bases (see the fate of PASOK in Greece). Indeed, who better to turn to than those who founded the party – the organised labour movement – for a plan that defends and advances the interests of its supporters?
The Tories are standing up for who they represent – their funders in the city, and those raking in ever-increasing profits. Labour should do the same thing for the millions who look to it for a political voice. Let’s make Saturday’s march the day when the tide turned against austerity – not just in public opinion, but in Labour party policy.
This article first appeared on Next Generation Labour‘s blog