Socialist Worker

People before profit: A charter for change

The government says the only way to tackle the economic crisis is more attacks on ordinary people. A new charter points to an alternative

Issue No. 2110

Deepening economic crisis is casting a shadow of fear and insecurity over millions of working people across the world.

In Britain every day brings more cause for concern as food and energy prices rise, job losses are announced and people descend further into debt just to pay the essential bills.

And things are set to get worse. Food prices have increased by an average 7.4 percent in the last year at a time when Gordon Brown and the bosses are trying to hold down wages to half of this or less.

Some 360,000 mortgage holders could face negative equity by the end of the year as house prices tumble. So they will soon owe the banks more than their home is worth.

The crisis hit Britain’s building industry last week with the announcement of 5,000 job losses due to the big decline in the number of houses being built.

This is not because there is no need for more housing – indeed thousands of people are crying out for decent, affordable housing. The job cuts are taking place because the companies can’t build homes profitably enough.

Persimmon said that it was cutting 1,100 jobs, a fifth of its workforce, after already slashing 900 jobs. Taylor Wimpey and Barratt Developments have cut 2,000 jobs. Bovis and Redrow are slashing 1,000 jobs, which is up to 40 percent of their workers.

The crisis threatens communities with devastation as workplaces close and jobs are lost. People’s lives will be wrecked as their homes are repossessed.

Most of the media presents the collapse towards recession as a natural disaster.

For them, and the politicians, all we can do is sit tight, accept cuts in our living standards, and wait for better times to return.

Gordon Brown’s government only answers are to demand that people stop throwing away food and that we “tighten our belts” to help the economy recover.

But the crisis is not natural and we can do something about it.

That is why trade union activists and other campaigners have launched the People Before Profit Charter.

Challenge

The Charter challenges the logic of a system that puts profits before people. It puts forward clear proposals to improve workers’ lives and insists that ordinary people should not pay for the crisis.

The Charter can be a rallying point for the resistance that is taking place across the country.

This week’s two-day strike by 650,000 council workers is the latest round of the fight against the government’s pay freeze. We will need more such strikes, coordinated across the unions and with a much higher intensity to win over this.

We also need a series of fights in workplaces for better pay and rights – and the superb victorious strike by Shell tanker drivers can be an inspiration to us all.

But we also need action over many other issues. Community activists will need to defend those threatened with eviction for being unable to afford to pay their rents.

Anti-racist activists have to step up their campaigns to ensure that the poisonous lies of the fascist British National Party do not gain ground among working people.

The Charter’s demands will strike a chord with millions of working class people who are fearful for the future or angry at Brown. Already hundreds have signed it.

Trade unionists, housing campaigners, anti-war activists, students and pensioners should raise support for the Charter in their local branch or campaign.

Everyone can take the Charter around their workplace, street or college and ask people to sign up to it.

The Charter can become a bulwark against the attempts by the right to benefit from the crisis.

It can be the start of a movement that will turn back the tide of the bosses’ offensive on workers’ lives. Make sure you put your name to it and campaign among everyone you know to win support for its demands.


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Features
Wed 16 Jul 2008, 18:58 BST
Issue No. 2110
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