Working class demands hold the key to progress in 2018

BIFAB BATTLE: 2017's successful outcome of the battle to protect the green jobs and skills at the BiFab engineering yards was a rare and highly welcome victory for workers and their unions. (Photo: Craig Maclean)

by Ken Ferguson • The hangover that greeted the dawn of 2018 wasn’t just down to too much Prosseco but based on the experiences of the events of the old year and the challenges of the new.

The fairy lights were still glowing when the first blow came in the form of yet another hike in train fares, way ahead of pay rises—if any—by the thousands forced to stump up to keep the likes of Brian Soutar and Richard Branson’s wallets full.

The Voice fully supports the case made in this edition of the paper by Scottish RMT organiser Gordon Martin for taking the railways back into public hands and ending the 25 year fat cat bonanza of privatisation pouring money into shareholders’ pockets rather than services.

Indeed, in line with the SSP, we would advocate going further and introducing a system of free public transport on all buses and trains. Such a move would slash car use and pollution, cut road accidents and their costs to the NHS and be a major boost to social inclusion on both work and leisure.

Similarly, as this is written, the mercury is at -5ºC and once again the brutal realities of fuel poverty face thousands held to ransom by the greed of the shareholders of the privately owned energy firms.

Again it is high time Scotland’s energy resources were back in public hands and prices set at an affordable level free of the need to feed shareholders bank balances.

The case for public ownership of energy is underlined by the growing development of renewables—in private hands—and the potential financial and environmental Eldorado they represent.

It is close to an obscenity that Scotland’s tides, wind and hydro power are corralled by private owners—often the landed gentry—to milk our natural resources for profit while thousands face the choice of food or heating in 21st century Scotland.

Again the realities of the “free market” are exposed as a racket favouring the rich above the rest and taking energy into public hands it vital to ending it.

Not only is this environmentally and socially just, unions have estimated that the publicly owned planned development of the new green energy systems could create around 1 million skilled, long term, secure jobs.

In a year of horrors, 2017 will forever be marked by the charred remains of Grenfell Tower not just for the unfathomable depth of human suffering caused but also for the dramatic way it exposed the contempt of the powerful for social housing and tenants who use it.

The nauseating festival of hand wringing from those who have engineered today’s crisis over 30 years by a policy choice selling off council houses and feeding a boom for private landlords and cut throat insecure rents cuts little ice with thousands on ever-longer waiting lists for decent homes.

Again the answer stares us in the face. There needs to be a massive programme of building homes for rent for people too live in and not to treat as chips in the casino of the housing market.

In 2018, we also face the increasingly dangerous antics of self-styled “genius” Trump whose move to shift the US embassy to Jerusalem menaces further the shaky stability in the middle east and Korean bluster threatens nuclear war.

If the state visit proposed to Trump by a grovelling Theresa May does go ahead then it will be the duty of all progressives to organise the most massive protest seen for years to drive home the message that the racist, women-hating, warmonger is not welcome.

As 2018 begins, the left faces a myriad of other challenges—zero hours contracts, pegged pay, service cuts and the horror of universal credit—but the reality is they all have one common root, the class nature of the society we live in.

No amount of fashionable talk or learned articles posing the divide as between men and women, young and old or black and white—important as these are—can alter the fact that class and its power relations is key.

Class will largely determine the place you live, the school you go to, the food you eat even how long you will live.

That’s why the grand canyon gap between the fat cat few and the rest of us isn’t just a moral question of fairness but a political question at the heart of everything else.

As the left faces the battles of the New Year, it needs to be both at the heart of these battles but clear also that the defeat of today’s planet trashing poverty making capitalism’s replacement by a society putting people before profit is vital no just for justice but the survival of the planet.

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