Cost of living crisis worsens as inflation and energy prices soar

Our rulers are keen to blame ‘the Russians’ for the intrinsic failings of the capitalist system itself.

Proletarian writers

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The price of many budget food staples on which the poorest rely has doubled in recent years, far outstripping the massaged inflation figures produced by the Office for National Statistics.

Proletarian writers

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Last month, working-class food blogger Jack Monroe – known for her budget recipes for working families – wrote a brutally honest article on the realities of living on the breadline in Britain.

She was writing in response to those who claim that ‘the poors’ are only hungry because they simply aren’t spending their money properly. That a nurse, skipping meals in order to feed her kids, should be spending smarter.

Monroe, rightly outraged at this condescending attitude, tore apart this absurd myth and painted a vividly authentic picture of what life is really like for the many British workers struggling to make ends meet under capitalism.

Workers like Jack Monroe are to be commended for their efforts in gathering together hard evidence that demonstrates the dire conditions in which many workers live. In particular, her efforts to debunk the figure-fudgers at the Office of National Statistics (ONS) and their dishonest measure of inflation are extremely enlightening.

Monroe pointed out that the cost of the staple food goods used in her recipes have risen dramatically in recent years – in many instances, they have doubled. Meanwhile, the ONS occupies itself on such important questions as whether or not pet collars should be added to the basket of goods used to measure inflation (apparently, the answer is yes). One can’t help but pity the poor civil servants whose time was occupied by such a frivolous task.

For those wishing to get a better understanding of what is really driving inflation, we recommend to our readers the illuminating article Is inflation good for you? on this website. (5 December 2021)

Of course, it’s not just the rising cost of the food shop that’s ramping up expenses for workers across the country. Since February 2021, the energy price cap has risen from £1,138 to £1,971, and will again be increased to a whopping £2,800 in August this year.

That’s a staggering 146 percent rise – in just a year and a half! We must wonder what the point of an energy ‘price cap’ is in the first place if all it does is simply obey the diktats of an out-of-control market.

Energy ‘regulator’ Ofgem, under the guise of making “the market fairer and more resilient”, is currently considering moving from a six-month to a quarterly (ie, every three months) ‘update’ (ie, rise) to its ‘cap’. Shrouded in PR-speak, this statement really means “we’ll increase the cap at an even faster rate and stick even closer to wildly fluctuating world prices”.

This is what is meant by ‘resilience’ in the energy market: that the allegedly impartial ‘regulator’ should use whatever power it has been granted to give a respectable veneer to the profiteering of the energy monopolists, currently racking up record profits quarter after quarter as workers sink into poverty and anticipate with dread the prospect of having to choose between heating and eating next winter.

In 2017, the government decided to stop subsidising much of Britain’s gas storage capacity, leaving us with the smallest reserves in Europe. The result? The further subjection of Britain’s energy supplies to world market prices, since we no longer have the capacity to feed in extra and keep prices low during a supply crisis. The energy giants have us, in fact, over a barrel.

Naturally, the true ‘resilience’ of the energy market (or, indeed, of any market) is demonstrated by 200 years of the repeated and inescapable crises of capitalism. This is the true face of the market economy, and the ultimate cause of all our present woes. Not the Ukraine conflict – although the reckless stoking of that war has undoubtedly exacerbated already-rising inflation, further disrupted essential supply lines, and generally worsened all the problems workers were facing.

Ultimately, though, the war is being used as a conveniently-timed scapegoat for our rulers to distract attention away from the real economic issues caused not by this or that policy, but by the routine workings of their system itself.

People like Jack Monroe are fighting fiercely for British workers. Her efforts to relieve the terrible burdens placed on the shoulders of the poorest are to be applauded.

But the problems she is highlighting are systemic ones, and there is only one way to get at the root cause: we must take on the capitalist system itself.