first thoughts - pensions


The fight for pensions (see "Pensions plan threatened" in the News section) cannot take place in isolation. It has got to be part of the fight for the future of Britain. Our pensions are a vital part of our wages and salaries, and as with our wages, employers and their governments always seek to keep pensions as low as possible.

But there's another link. The decimation of Britain's wealth-producing heart, manufacturing, and the huge job loss associated with it, is steadily reducing the numbers of people in work (see "The relentless rise of unemployment", p13) and paying contributions. Those workers who have tolerated the jobs massacre are putting our and their own future pensions in jeopardy. And those who have tolerated the massive expansion of private pensions should reflect on how these have contributed to the decline of British industry — £250 billion of pensions money has been invested overseas since 1979.

With the state pension set up on the 'pay as you go' basis, each year's contributions are fully paid out to those who have retired, without any contributions being held back.

That is as it should be, but the whole idea is anathema to capitalism — because it implies some kind of social control over the level of pension.

On the other hand, private pension funds seek to accumulate more contributions than are needed for immediate payout. So the funds build up but at the same time they fall outside of our control. Financiers, out to make a fast buck from our money, use the funds to gamble on the stock exchange.

An expanded 'pay as you go' scheme would leave little room for robbery and speculation. No wonder capitalists want to get rid of State Pensions altogether.