Paul Davies, Communist League parliamentary candidate for Manchester Central, is joined by Catharina Tirsén (Bradford ward) and Andrés Mendoza (Moston ward) standing for election to Manchester City Council for the May 7 elections.
In London, engineering worker Jonathan Silberman is the Communist League candidate for Hackney North and Stoke Newington.
“Whatever happens on May 7 won’t change which class rules,” Davies told interviewer Lou Beckett on Miners Internet Radio in Moston, a working-class area of Manchester. “Working people need to organize independent of big business and advance what we have in common on a path to overthrow capitalist rule. This is both necessary and realistic in today’s world marked by economic stagnation, declining living standards and attacks on the social wage.”
“These aren’t the results of mistaken government policies,” Davies said, “but the bosses’ response to the crisis of production and trade — as they make working people pay for their crisis.”
The economy is the central issue in the election. While admitting that the poor and young are “paying a heavy price” because of the economic crisis, incumbent Conservative Chancellor George Osborne said a small uptick in real wages at the end of 2014 showed change was just around the corner.
“We need a recovery that reaches kitchen tables across Britain,” countered Cathy Jamieson, opposition Labour Party shadow financial secretary to the Treasury, “not one which has left working people worse off.”
The U.K., which used to boast that the “sun never set” on its colonial empire, is now the sixth largest world economy, trailing Germany and France in Europe. Industrial exports remain stagnant.
Real wages in the U.K. have fallen nearly 10 percent since 2008. Temporary and part-time jobs have mushroomed, many where workers have “zero hours” contracts — that is, no guaranteed hours of work each week. While union membership stands at 56 percent for government workers, it has fallen to 14 percent in private industry and trade.
“Wages look better than they are,” Elizabeth McDougall, who used to work in a café and now looks after her granddaughter, told Davies and supporters of the Communist League campaign who knocked on her door in Newton Heath. “After paying rent, water, electricity, heating and food there’s not much left.”
“The problem is competition for jobs that the bosses use to lower wages,” replied Davies. “The Communist League proposes a massive public works program that can open up work for millions, at wages set by the unions. Fighting for this will increase our self-confidence and unity as a class.”
“We need to take power out of the hands of the ruling rich and govern ourselves,” Davies said. “History shows what workers can do.”
“That’s right,” said McDougall. “But they don’t think we can do it. Because we’re on the bottom of the pile, they think we’re too stupid.”
“It will take action by workers in their millions to overturn capitalist rule,” Davies said. “And we’ll need to build our own party to lead that struggle.”
Bosses scapegoat immigrant workers
The bosses’ parties target immigrant workers, in an attempt to weaken the unity and fighting capacity of the working class.
“Do you agree with controlling immigration so our economy and local services deliver for hardworking taxpayers?” the Conservatives say on their website. “Do you agree with the Conservative policy of banning EU migrants from getting in-work benefits and social housing for four years?”
The Labour Party is for requiring new EU migrants to wait two years before claiming welfare, while bemoaning firms that exploit legal loopholes to employ foreign workers at lower wages.
The populist U.K. Independence Party recently won two parliamentary by-elections and is looking to win more seats in May. It blames low wages on immigration and calls for the U.K. to get out of the EU.
In the absence of an independent working-class leadership, the UKIP gets a hearing from some workers.
“We’re too soft in this country,” unemployed care worker Elizabeth Downer said at her doorstep. “I am not a racist, but we need to stop immigration.”
“Newspapers, politicians, the BBC, they all talk about ‘we,’ as if working people have something in common with the bosses because of where we’re born,” Davies said. “But workers in Britain have more in common with fellow workers around the world. The bosses use immigration to lower wages for all workers. The only way we can counter this is by building unity within the working class regardless of nationality.”
National health care — won by workers after the Second World War — is a major issue in the election campaign, both for the capitalist parties and for working people. All the main capitalist parties say they want to keep the National Health Service, while looking for ways to cut costs.
Working people see health care being cut away with declining quality.
Hazel Bond is a former doctor’s receptionist who currently looks after her children. “I have to wait four days for an appointment to see my GP (family doctor), because there just aren’t enough doctors. The government always thinks it knows what’s best for us,” she told Davies when he knocked on her door. “But they haven’t a clue what our lives are like. They can afford to pay for private health care.”
“This is because for them health care is a commodity, something to make money out of. For us, it’s about everyone having access to the care they need,” Davies responded. “These are the values you see in Cuba, because workers and farmers took power there in 1959.”
“They are internationalists, acting in the interests of workers worldwide,” he said, “Two hundred fifty-six Cuban medical volunteers are in West Africa helping lead the fight against Ebola.”
“The only way for working people to defend and improve access to health care is to join those fighting for it. That’s why I joined the recent picket lines of National Health Service workers fighting for a wage rise, and care workers in Doncaster who struck for a total of 90 days last year to defend their wages from massive cuts,” Davies said.
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