Savaged to the Bone

Issue section: 

Regarding the Walrus article on pensions 'Move Over Darling' (April SR), I think the article is too detached from the struggle and has no clear class content. There are also some important omissions.

The push for funded pensions was instigated by employers but it could not have worked without the support of the trade union leaders. The promotion of funded pensions by union leaders, instead of a struggle for decent state pensions with sufficient employer contributions, now looks so stupid that one queries if stupidity is all it was--or is.

Continental union leaderships rejected this course and stuck with a struggle for almost exclusive social insurance pensions, thus forcing up employer contributions. One consequence is that even small attacks on their state pay as you go pensions have been met with massive and successful resistance, while British workers' pensions have been cut to the bone.

The big pension funds of the former nationalised industries are no longer big players because they have been savaged to pay for redundancy, but British pension funds as a whole account for half the market valuation of the City, about 90 percent of all EU pension funds (400 times that of Italy, for instance) and more private capital than Germany, Italy and France put together.

The fight for decent pensions is led by the pensioners' movement which is, at least, clear about the centrality of state pensions. I think the Socialist Alliance should call on its supporters in the unions to forcefully back their demands for action over state pensions as the priority, hand in hand with exposing the con trick over private pensions.

Hugh Lowe
West London