Socialist Worker

Gordon Brown’s Britain: Building things up to knock them down

Issue No. 2038

“Gordon is not going to have his leadership ambitions up-ended by a bunch of rabid trade unionists.” That is the future prime minister’s message to the unions according to a senior Treasury official.

What has so enraged Mr Brown? Trade union leaders have questioned his taxation policies – which encourage asset stripping.

The GMB and T&G unions have started campaigning against private equity firms, while various candidates for the deputy leadership of the Labour Party have added their concern.

Private equity companies buy other companies as cheaply as they can. They borrow huge amounts to finance the purchase, and then use the cash flow to pay off the loan, while ruthlessly cutting costs by sacking workers, cutting wages, and selling off assets. Sainsbury’s and Birds Eye are current targets.

The Treasury grants greater tax relief on debt than on profits. So borrowing money to buy a company and running it into the ground is immensely profitable. The value of the firms involved has tripled since 2004 but no one really knows how much the asset strippers own. Private equity companies are exempted from laws that require firms to disclose such information.

Gordon Brown is happy to let this corporate looting continue, letting it be known he is opposed to reducing corporate tax relief for interest payments. Such is the future under Brown.


The people of Guinea challenge a president

Martial law had been declared in the West African state of Guinea as Socialist Worker went to press. President Lansana Conte’s regime was battling for survival in the face of a general strike and mass protests against his rule.

During the battle which began at the start of this year, the trade unions have become the focus for a movement across society against Conte and his multinational backers.

And the demands of the movement have grown as people learn in struggle that they cannot trust the elite to act democratically.

At first the unions demanded that Conte dilute his power by appointing a prime minister.

He agreed to that, and managed to get a general strike called off. But then he appointed one of his stooges and the battle began again – except this time the unions want Conte himself to go.

If the struggle continues and is not held back by the union leaders, then the democratic demands can grow over to a battle for a transformation of society with workers in control – permanent revolution in the 21st century.

Language courses

Government hypocrisy means losing out twice

First the government cut funding for courses in English for speakers of other languages (Esol).

Then this week the government’s welfare minister, Jim Murphy, announced plans to cut benefits of people who are unable to speak English if they can’t show they are learning the language. There are thousands of people on Esol waiting lists, and demand is growing all the time.

The government’s hypocrisy has more to do with saving money than its much called for “integration”.

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What We Think
Sat 17 Feb 2007, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 2038
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