Life had a price in New Orleans last week. The rich survived. The poor — and especially the black poor — were abandoned to their fate.
The ruthless market logic that has been rammed down our throats was there for all to see. Rampant neo-liberalism, putting profit before human need, has created a society whose culture and class divisions mimic those of the “Roaring 1920s”, as captured by F Scott Fitzgerald in his novel The Great Gatsby.
In 1927 a great flood swept down on New Orleans. Black people were rounded up into work camps, held by armed guards and prevented from leaving as the waters rose. A half-empty steamer, The Capitol, played “Bye Bye Blackbird” as it sailed away.
Local white politicians intentionally opened the levees and flooded poor districts to divert water from the rich areas. It was an era of assaults on workers’ rights and savage scapegoating of immigrants. Two years later came the Wall Street Crash and a world economic depression.
Today the deep divisions and inequalities mirror those of 75 years ago. Twenty years ago, top executives received 40 times the pay of their worker. Now they receive 300 times the pay.
Figures released this month showed that the US poverty rate has risen for the fourth consecutive year. This is the “vigourous market economy” that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown offer us as a model.
Education secretary Ruth Kelly has signalled a full-blooded attack on what is left of our comprehensive education system.
She says schools deemed to be “failing” by Ofsted’s privatised inspectorate will be closed within 12 months and either turned into city academies — which are outside democratic control — or taken over by other outfits, including selective schools.
Her announcement comes as opposition to the spread of city academies mounts.
As with foundation hospitals, city academies go far further down the road of privatisation than the Tories ever dreamed of. Blair says that extending both schemes is central to his third term and to his legacy. Trade unions must put the battle to stop them at the centre of politics.
It’s over a year since the big four unions came to the Warwick agreement with Labour Party leaders over policies for a third term government.
After a summer which has seen sackings and victimisations at Gate Gourmet, Rolls Royce and Sefton council, it is clear that those warm words at Warwick mean nothing for working people. The reality of workplace Britain is not “partnership”, but increasingly ruthless management backed by a government that is wedded to big business and prepared to inflict mass sackings and pension cuts on its own workers.
That’s the background to the TUC conference meeting in Brighton next week. Empty praise for a meaningless agreement will do nothing to revive the union movement. That depends on declaring open opposition to New Labour.
Bosses unleash misery on ordinary people