Kick Lord Hutton out of the Labour Party
Those who collaborate with the Con-Lib Dem coalition betray the working class and bring discredit to the Labour Party, writes Eddie Ford
As expected, the report on pension ‘reform’ published on March 10 by Lord Hutton of Furness (a Labour peer, of course) represents another vicious attack on the working class, especially public sector workers. In order to tackle the supposed public sector pensions ‘crisis’, brought about by the obviously appalling situation where workers are living longer, John Hutton and his accomplices in the coalition government have come out with a brilliantly sophisticated solution - make us work longer for smaller pensions.
Hence Lord Hutton has made two key recommendations to bring “good Labour values” to the pensions system. Firstly, to raise the standard pension age in the public sector to match the state pension age, which will be 65 (for men and women) from 2018 and 66 by 2020. Secondly, to end the ‘gold-plated’ final salary schemes which link pension payments to salaries at retirement - local government workers in receipt of final salary pensions currently average a princely £4,000 a year for men and £2,800 for women. Instead, in order to cut back on such wasteful extravagance, they will now be linked to career average salaries - reducing payments overall, of course. This will directly affect six million public sector workers, who have suddenly found that the goalposts have been moved - almost out of view. But this is the only way, the Hutton plan tells us, to meet the cost of public sector pensions - which next year will come to £30 billion. Indeed, we are further told in Hutton-speak, these proposals represent the “least worst option” for workers - when compared, we presume, to receiving no pension at all. In which case, perhaps workers should be grateful to Lord Hutton.
Obviously, the March 10 report is an exercise in cynical deception. Quite risibly, and insulting our intelligence, Hutton has dared to suggest that his report is actually “socially just” and “fairer” to public sector workers. Under his scheme, he maintains, employee contributions would be “tiered”, so that the highest earners pay in the most - thus “redistributing payments” from the highest to the lowest earners. This would end the situation whereby the taxpayer is “subsiding” the highest paid workers in the public sector (senior civil servants, etc) and, according to Hutton, two-thirds of the poorest public sector workers will end up receiving more if his proposals were implemented “in full” by the government.
This is all pure baloney - and Hutton must surely know this. After all, the government has already announced a 3% increase in contributions, phased in over three years starting next year, and a switch in the basis for pension indexation from the retail price index to the markedly less generous consumer price index - at a time when many workers are facing a pay freeze, if not unemployment. Hutton’s proposals can only mean in reality that millions of workers will see a steady decrease - or plunge, in their living standards: they will have to work five years longer for a palpably worse pension. Very fair and just.
Here then is the penny-pinching future envisaged for us by Lord Hutton and the coalition government. A bleak future motivated by the transparent desire to make the workers pay the price, quite literally, for the ‘credit crunch’ and the global economic crisis - a crisis produced by the dysfunctional capitalist system, not an over-generous pensions system or workers’ longevity. Even Lord Hutton’s own report hints at the truth. It features an analysis based on statistics produced by government’s actuarial department - examining the cost of public sector pensions as a slice of overall GDP. And, yes, that figure has spiked up to nearly 2% and will stay there for the next few years. But then it slumps back down, to the extent that from the 2030s onwards - if present demographic trends continue - that cost will be below what it is today as a proportion of GDP, once the ‘baby boomers’ have retired over the next decade or so.
In other words, talk of the supposedly catastrophic pensions ‘crisis’ we hear so much about from the establishment is motivated by pure class interest, designed to get the bourgeoisie and the bosses out of a hole at our expense. Hence the onslaught on pension rights, terms and conditions. With Lord Hutton brought into the coalition government’s big tent to act as a political fig-leaf, attempting to lend spurious ‘progressive’ legitimacy to these vicious attacks.
Needless to say, communists utterly reject Lord’s Hutton’s recommendations. We agree with Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, when he blasted the report for its “blatant robbery” and for acting as a “stepping stone towards the wholesale privatisation of public services”. By contrast, our CPGB Draft programme demands that the “state pension should be set at the level of the minimum wage” - a real minimum wage, that is, which enables everyone to live a secure and dignified age - and should be available by right, paid to “everyone who has reached retirement age and wants to give up work”. Just as importantly, we say that there should be “no compulsory retirement on the basis of age” (whether it be 60, 65 or 66), as it is inhuman - not to mention obscenely wasteful - to remove people from social-economic life once they reach an arbitrary age, regardless of their wishes or intentions (or health). This right to retirement should be from age 60 for all workers, but also be made available at 55 for those workers in particularly unpleasant and dangerous occupations. No to both enforced idleness and enforced labour.
But the March 10 pensions report raises another vital question - John Hutton himself, a Labour Party member and politician. True, it cannot be denied, who could be better than Hutton to provide cover for the Tory-led attacks on the working class? The consummate career politician who was a member of the Tory, Liberal and Labour societies at his Oxford University days - always good to hedge your bets - and managed to manoeuvre himself into an array of cabinet positions under Tony Blair. Such as chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (replacing his close political confidant and former flatmate, Alan Milburn), then secretary of state for work and pensions, business and enterprise, and eventually defence. When he was not busy in his capacity as chairman of the Royal United Services Institute, founded in 1831 by the Duke of Wellington and dedicated to studying the art of war. Well deserving of a knighthood, you could well argue.
However, having said that, none of this detracts from the fact that John Hutton - even if he is a lord of Furness and an armchair general - is still a member of the Labour Party, a party set up to represent the interests of the working class (the clue is in the name). Or, to put it another way, a party which was founded to fight the Tory Party tooth and nail, even if it was dominated by a reformist leadership right from the very beginning - partly thanks, it should be quickly noted, to idiotic leftist sectarianism (like in 1901 when Henry Hyndman’s Social Democratic Federation petulantly walked out of the Labour Representation Committee, the proto-Labour Party). Does Hutton remember Aneurin Bevan in 1948 describing the Tory Party as “lower than vermin”, as it “condemned millions of first-class people to semi-starvation”? By producing such a report, he is directly collaborating with the Tories - for once, we agree with John Prescott for his vituperative reaction to Hutton’s original appointment by the coalition government.
Of course, Hutton is not the only one - regrettably. There is Milburn posing as the coalition government’s ‘mobility tsar’ and the truly repellent Frank Field, obviously enjoying himself as ‘poverty tsar’. Both working for a government which will send ‘social mobility’ into further sharp reverse by significantly increasing poverty and inequality - just as Hutton, the ‘pensions tsar’, wants to decimate pensions. Such individuals, by any reasonable definition, are clearly “bringing the party into disrepute” - an expellable offence under Labour Party rules (and under the rules and principles of any serious political organisation, the CPGB included). Bluntly, they are the enemy within. In which case, Alan Milburn, Frank Field and John Hutton should be kicked out of the Labour Party - along with anyone else who cannot resist Cameron’s oily embrace.
If the likes of Hutton are allowed to get away with their treachery, this will undermine resistance to the coalition government. Of course, the expulsion of Hutton and his ilk is part and parcel of a much wider battle to make Labour into a party that actually serves the working class. Communists unashamedly fight to claim the Labour Party for the working class. By this we do not mean capturing the top post within the Labour machine through some form of deep entryism. Rather fighting to make the Labour Party a real workers’ party, waging a protracted struggle to thoroughly democratise it, along with the trade unions, allowing left and revolutionary organisations to affiliate and openly organise, not least the CPGB, and winning the mass of the Labour Party’s membership to the politics and programme of Marxism.
- Section 3.13 - www.cpgb.org.uk/article.php?article_id=1002575#3.13