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Editorial: Make austerity history

Fifty years ago politicians and pundits were promising that automation and increasing productivity would mean a shorter working week, an earlier retirement age and a doubling of the standard of living every twenty-five years. As late as 1979 Chris Evans, “a psychologist and computer scientist” was predicting that by 2001 “we will all have a 20-hour working week and retire at fifty” (www.computinghistory.org.uk/det/4236/The-Mighty-Micro). No, not Chris Evans, the celebrity radio presenter, though it might as well have been.

Listen to the politicians now. All the talk is about austerity, cuts and pain. Public sector workers, those on housing benefit and the jobless are the main targets but everybody (except for businesses and shareholders) will be hit one way or another. And the retirement age is to go up not down.

Why? Why this failure to realise the promises of yesteryear? Because we are living under capitalism, and capitalism is not geared to meeting people’s needs and improving our lives. It’s an uncontrollable system geared to making and accumulating profits.

In 2008 the accumulation of profits – which Gordon Brown foolishly thought would just go on and on – faltered as it regularly does from time to time. This presented the government with its own financial problem – tax revenues fell, so they had to borrow more – but also with the job of facilitating conditions for the revival of profit-making.

That’s why they’re axing government spending, freezing government wages, cutting benefits, keeping interest rates low and, last but not least, lowering corporation tax on profits.

There’s no guarantee that this will work, but there is a guarantee that people will suffer.

With millions of able bodied people sitting in enforced idleness, with factories closed or working short time, with an abundance of natural resources, skills and technical know-how, it’s surprising that we are being told that we will have to undergo a period of austerity. But it’s a lie.

If the profit system did not exist, and if we all owned in common the places where useful things are produced, we could reap the benefits of scientific advances and  modern technology to provide plenty for all, so making poverty and austerity history.

The resources to provide enough healthy food, decent housing, good health care and other amenities for all exist now and have done for many years, but the profit system stands in the way. All the advances in technology over the last fifty or so years mean that austerity is even more unnecessary today that it was then. In fact, every scientific advance, each new invention makes socialism all the more possible.

The fact that the politicians are now talking about a “New Age of Austerity” in a world of potential plenty is a damning indictment of capitalism.