Students can’t trust the main parties

19 October 2009

The first issue of this paper gave space for representatives of the three biggest political parties to explain how they would help out graduates hit by the recession.

In a major indication of things to come, all the writers were busy dressing up reactionary policies in progressive language.

The Tories, predictably, want lower corporate taxes and an “attractive market for employers,” which means rejecting wage claims and slashing workers’ rights. The LibDems want to raise VAT, a tax which is not based on ability to pay.

Labour can claim nothing but the creation of a handful of internships for graduates. The problem is, internships legitimise unpaid or low-paid work, and lower people’s expectations.

Are we supposed to be grateful for jobs with paltry pay, no union protection, and no guaranteed future?

Everyone should have decent conditions at work, whether they have been in the job for three months or thirty years.

Labour keep reminding us of the “bold action” they took to avoid a Depression.

They reluctantly carried out bank nationalisations as an alternative to economic apocalypse. But the heads of these people’s banks are still taking away their bonuses and pensions.

This is not real nationalisation, giving working people control of the economy, but a stop-gap before these institutions are to be sold back to the very people who ran them into the ground.

Where was the government’s “bold action” to save green jobs at the Vestas wind turbine plant on the Isle of Wight?

Failing industries should be nationalised and control given to the people who know how to run them, the workers.

We have a government, in fact an entire Parliament, of political zombies whose long-held convictions were shattered by the crisis, but who cannot let go of their free-market capitalist dogma. Their only solution is for government to cut its way out of the red. Whoever wins, public spending will be slashed after the election.

To claim this can be done without frontline services being hit is a right-wing myth.

The lecturers’ union, the UCU, already has a list of thousands of jobs that are likely to go in Higher Education. At councils across the country, the axe is beginning to fall too.

Of course, the way the main parties see politics is to regard ordinary people as a passive canvas upon which their grand plans can be painted.

It is alien to them that students and workers may actually struggle to defend their livelihoods. Yet that is exactly what is beginning to happen. Socialists have been at the forefront of many such battles, at Lindsey Oil Refinery, Vestas, and Visteon for example.

We never got anything handed to us by politicians and businessmen out of the goodness of their own hearts.

Better job prospects, just like any other advantages won within the boundaries of a capitalist system, will only be secured through students and workers organising and fighting for them.

We can put no trust in the class of people who got us into this mess and their friends at Westminster. Our slogan must be “We won’t pay for your crisis.”

Ed Mustill

Ed Mustill is Head of Cambridge Socialist Students.