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Why Stop the War opposes cuts in pensions and public services

Lindsey German
Stop the War Coalition National Convernor
29 June 2011

The week that the government admitted its spending on the war in Libya is running at £260 million -- rather than the tens of millions it projected only three months ago -- was the same week that ministers launched their war of words on public sector workers striking to protect their pensions.

Around three quarters of a million civil servants, teachers and lecturers will strike on 30 June against plans which would make them work longer before they received a pension, force them to pay much more for the privilege, and sharply reduce their retirement payments.

Ministers argue that the country can’t afford it and that anyway public sector pensions are much better than those in the private sector. That may be true after years of private companies attacking their own pension schemes. This is so typical of the race to the bottom, which has driven down wages and conditions in recent years.

But what about the "can’t afford it argument?" In every major country, working people are being told the same story since the economic crisis began nearly three years ago. We have all maxed on our collective credit cards, there is a huge deficit and the only way it can be reduced is for everyone to make sacrifices through wage freezes, pension cuts, cuts in benefits.

War always seems to be ring fenced when it comes to public spending. Costs that come in at ten times what was predicted are brushed aside as part of the price of war. Weapons and machinery which literally burn up millions of pounds a day are justified as absolutely necessary indeed essential to the public good.

Isn’t it amazing as well that while you won’t find a banker or top industrialist who will criticise bailing out the banks, you also will spend a long time looking for one who will criticise these wars.

That’s because wars have increased hand in hand with the spread of globalisation over the last 20 years or so. The same people who want the Greeks, the Portuguese and the Irish to accept austerity are happy for billions of pounds a year to be spent on bombing Afghanistan. They want to make countries safe for privatisation and western investment -- whatever it takes.

And the same people who tell us that the country "can’t afford" to pay pensions or provide public services have now entered into their third major war in ten years -- with no end in sight.

What about doing it the other way round? Ring fencing spending on pensions, welfare, education and health. And facing up to the fact that we can’t afford all these wars?

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