Opinion » Columnists

When axing jobs is considered an investment

The modern Socialist Parties are alternatives to right-wing "Social Democrats"

They can be labeled in a number of different ways. Christian Democrats, Conservatives, Social Democrats, even Socialist Parties but basically, they all follow the same line of thinking - following the bottom line above the need to provide social protection for their electorate.

The "bottom line" approach is followed by the monetarists, who adopt a liberal stance regarding the economy, in which the end result justifies the means, so long as it produces an ever fatter profit, ever lower expenditure and ever leaner human structures. Basically, this approach is about streamlining companies and state departments, making them "efficient" and "accountable".

What this means in practical terms is sending families into the drama of unemployment, at a time when social security systems are making it as difficult as possible for those receiving state benefits. In Portugal for example, a newly unemployed person can wait up to seven months to receive the first cheque.

A classic example of the Socialist Party turned right-wing is provided by Britain's New Labour, led by Tony (or is it Tory?) Blair. The spending review published yesterday by Chancellor Gordon Brown is a shocking read.

In order to provide extra funding to upgrade Britain's public services, the Chancellor is going to axe up to 104.000 jobs. One hundred and four thousand jobs means at least one hundred and four thousand families.

While it is true that many of these will involve pre-retirement schemes with early pensions, not all will be covered and while it is true that new jobs will be created, there will certainly not be 104.000 of them.

Not surprisingly, the Trade Unions have threatened strike action. What else are they supposed to do? At a time when the right wing has taken the centre stage of world politics firmly in its grasp, it is time for the Left to analyse its options.

Among these options are the ability to speak through a free press and to point out the inadequacies of right-wing, monetarist, liberal economic policies, which lead to zero job security, extreme social instability, involving families living in the drama of not knowing if the next pay package will arrive, and creating the corresponding absence of quality of life.

They speak about a healthy economy in which dog eats dog and devil take the hindmost but is this what governments are elected for? Are they not supposed to do something in the social area, such as providing public services and ensuring that the labour market is secure?

How can anyone take a government which axes 104.000 jobs to create funds seriously? The New Labour Party of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown is the Tory Party with another face, another colour but the same creed.


John ASHTEAD
LONDON   UNITED KINGDOM