Paul Callanan, Youth Fight for Jobs and Education, National Organiser
Monday nights Panorama looked at the effects that the economic crisis has had on ordinary people and looked at whether we may see the same response develop to this crisis, as was seen at the end of the 70’s. Towards the end of that decade when we saw huge industrial unrest as a result of falling living standards.
The programme started off by looking at Clapham in South West London. In the 70’s Clapham was home to, what presenter Adam Shaw described as, “ordinary man” – the average working class man. Nowadays, Clapham is out of reach for your “ordinary” family. The programme described how the area has become gentrified. Bankers have now moved into the area and as a result house prices have sky-rocketed. In the 1970’s house prices were 3 times average income, that has now gone up to 5 times.
Even those who were previously well to do are being squeezed as a result. Justin and Rosanne Pilditch, described how they have been forced to move their family away from the area as a result of rising property prices. They were used as an example of the “squeezed middle”. It is indeed an indictment of this system and it’s dire crisis that it is now in that even the middle class find their living standards spiralling downwards.
Nancy Kelly of the Rowntree Foundation described how their research has shown that is the poor who are being hit the hardest. As costs go up it is not the luxuries that becoming the most out of reach to working class people, but the basic necessities of life. Gas prices have gone up 16% on last year, while childcare is up 6%. Food prices to are of particular concern – in the last 4 years the cost of white fish has gone up by four times the rate of inflation, The price of a rump steak has gone up by 26%.
The programme also looked at the increasingly desperate situation facing young people. The programme took us to Stainforth nearDoncaster. In the 70’s a whole community had developed around the town’s coal mine. That has all gone now as a result of Thatcher’s attacks on working class rights and living standards. The programme described how ¼ of all young people in the town are not in education employment or training (NEETs).
With all this you’d have thought that the programme would talk about the ways in which people are fighting back. Instead the spectre of rioting was raised. When talking about the 70’s, the presenter claimed that it was a unifying hatred of the trade unions and a radical alternative in Thatcherite neo-liberalism that solved the problems. Complete nonsense of course – the crisis in the 70’s was overcome by the attacks on rights and living standards that the programme had itself described.
In spite of the fact that no representatives of the union movement were featured, the way that rich are getting richer as result of this crisis, was discussed. The presenter described the fact that the “rich had never had it so good”, as the top 1% have seen there share of the wealth go up by ¼ since 1970.
A survey carried out by the programme has found that 2/3 of all people have no faith in the government to solve the crisis. Haley Gay a single mother of two and a school admin assistant said she felt “that the government who makes decisions on behalf of the people, are out of touch with the people”.
I’ll leave the last word though to Crispin Oday a banker who took home 36,000,000 2010. He talked about how we need to “forgive the bankers” and that the untrammelled free market is the only way. Yet just as a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day, he did make one valuable comment. He claimed that when we have a crisis like this, it is dangerous brcause “people in second class start looking at those in first class and say lets storm first class”.
And the super rich should be very worried about that danger, the programme pointed out that we now have a unifying hate figure in the bankers. The working class have started to move with the massive public sector strikes last year. The demonstration on October 20th should be used to reignite that movement. The Youth Fight for Jobs and Education will be helping to build and united movement around a “radical alternative” to the crisis but also to this rotten system itself.