The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) recently reported that working class families with parents in low-earning jobs cannot afford even basic necessities. Basic necessities are those costs that families simply cannot survive without: food, clothing, rent, utilities, etc. This report, unsettling though it may be, can hardly be surprising to anyone who has been following how the crisis of capitalism, and a decade of austerity, has destroyed the lives of countless working class people in Britain and across the whole world.
A family with two children where both parents work full-time and earn the National Living Wage (NLW) falls £49 a week short of the income needed to provide basic necessities; the situation for single parents on the NLW is even more dire: they are £74 a week short. These figures go to show what a myth it is that we are constantly fed by the bosses – that if we just try hard enough and work hard enough, we can thrive under capitalism.
The NLW was introduced by George Osborne, the former Tory Chancellor, in 2015. It currently stands at £7.83/hour for workers aged 25 and over. The Tories claim that the introduction of the NLW has helped lift families out of poverty and has constituted a wage increase. However, the reality is that the NLW provides little to no help to working class people against rising consumer and housing prices, the freezing of tax credits, and the Tories’ continued assaults on benefit systems under the banner of “restructuring.” One need only look to the disaster that is Universal Credit to see that the brutal austerity politics of the last ten years have undermined the ability of working people to survive under the current system.
It is clear we need a radical transformation of society, starting with a living wage that will allow working class people to not only survive, but have a dignified existence. The government plans to increase the NLW to £9 in 2020 – but this is only a breadcrumb from the bosses’ table. There is enough wealth in society to provide every worker with a decent job and a real living wage, regardless of their age, but it is in the hands of the corporations and the banks, who are currently sitting on hundreds of billions of pounds of uninvested capital.
The only way to ensure a good standard of living for all people is to nationalise what we call “the commanding heights of the economy” – the 150 biggest monopolies – without compensation and put them under democratic workers’ control. All the wealth they have hoarded can then be used to satisfy the needs of everyone and end the shameful suffering of working class people under the current system. Capitalism and austerity have nothing to offer us – forward to the socialist transformation of society!
by Dora Dimitrova, UCL Marxists