Archive for July, 2013

Workfare: A Nazi Policy

July 31, 2013

Godwin’s Law states that at some point any debate or discussion on the internet will eventually degenerate into one or other of the two sides accusing their opponent of being a Nazi. Unfortunately, sometimes the accusations of totalitarianism and Fascism are accurate. Like most administrations, the Nazi regime had to deal with the problem of unemployment. This was tackled through a programme of public works. They also sought to combat it through a series of laws regulating the movement and providing for the compulsory conscription of labour and its direction by the state.

Amongst its other provisions, the Law for the Regulation of Work Allocation of 15th May 1934 prevented rural workers from migrating to big cities with high unemployment. It also made it difficult for farmworkers to take up other forms of employment. On 26th February 1935 a further law was passed, the Law for Meeting Labour Requirements in Agriculture. This allowed the authorities to interfere in working conditions, and return to agricultural work employees and labours, who had left it for other jobs. The work book was also reintroduced. This was a compulsory record of an employee’s or worker’s employment history. This had been abolished in the second third of the 19th century due to freedom of movement within the Wilhelmian reich. It was reintroduced in order to allow the Nazi regime to control and allocate labour.

The Nazis had set up a voluntary work scheme, the Reichsarbeitsdienst, (Reich Labour Service) or RAD. This had originally served to support the young unemployed. On the 26th June 1935, this was made compulsory for the unemployed. Those, who had been unemployed since 1924 had to perform a year’s service in it. Men between 19 and 25 years old served in it for six months. It became a new state organisation linking the Nazi school system with preparatory training for military service and the state’s direction of the labour supply.

Now workfare is, in theory, still voluntary. You are free to turn it down, but if you do, you’ll lose your benefits. As grotesque as Cameron is, he isn’t a Nazi. Nevertheless the Conservative’s workfare policy is similar to that of the Reichsarbeitsienst in its authoritarianism and the way an ostensibly voluntary system is supported through considerable state coercion.

Source

Martin Broszat, The Hitler State: the Foundation and Development of the Internal Structure of the Third Reich (Harlow: Longman 1981), pp. 154-5.

‘Labour Service (Reichsarbeitsdienst – RAD)’ and ‘Unemployment’, in James Taylor and Warren Shaw, A Dictionary of the Third Reich (London: Grafton 1988), pp. 213, and 262-3.

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The Void on the DWP’s Suggestion for the Return of the Workhouse

July 31, 2013

Over at Pride’s Purge, there’s a piece of satire about Serco and G4s getting the contract to run a Victorian Britain Experience, so foreigners can see what it was like here in the 19th century, complete with cholera, typhus and rickets, and the workhouse. The article’s entitled ‘Serco Wins Bid to Run UK as Victorian Theme Park’, and is at http://tompride.wordpress.com/2013/07/30/serco-wins-bid-to-run-uk-as-victorian-theme-park/. People have been making the same joke since Margaret Thatcher. There’s exactly the same joke about Maggie setting up the Victorian Britain Experience in the Private Eye/ Spitting Image spoof of her autobiography, Thatcha! The Real Maggie Memoirs.

Mr Pride has said that his article is satire, but only just. I have to say it may not be satire for very much longer. The Void has a well-researched and very disturbing article about a report commissioned for the DWP about the expansion of residential training centres offering workfare training for the disabled. The report recommends that it should also include the long term unemployed. The article’s at http://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/report-calls-for-expansion-of-residential-workfare-for-unemployed-and-disabled-people/

The article begins

An independent report, commissioned by the DWP, has called for greater use of Residential Training for disabled people and an extension of the scheme to include long term unemployed non-disabled people.

The report also accepts that this kind of training, which can involve periods of workfare away from home, should be opened up to the market. This process may begin with a open tender exercise next year.

Residential Training is a little known scheme available for disabled people who are long term unemployed and in the words of Jobcentre Disability Employment Advisors, are the ‘hardest to help’.

This is chilling. Mr Void states that at the moment there are only nine such centres and the accommodation they offer is actually quite comfortable. If the scheme expands and goes out to market tender, then conditions will deteriorate and the usual workfare parasites will demand their share of the scheme. He also links to the ‘less eligibility’ sensibility that informed the Victorian workhouse. Under less eligibility, conditions were made as hard as possible to dissuade people from entering except as a very last resort, and so becoming a drain on the state.

If this report is taken seriously, then it really would mean the reintroduction of something like the Victorian workhouse. Although the workhouses are mostly associated with the Victorian era, they were actually only closed with the arrival of the welfare state in 1948.

It thus appears that the government really is considering returning this country to the 19th and early 20th centuries by dismantling the NHS, and replacing it with ‘indoor relief’: in other words, the workhouse.

There’s a good chapter on the workhouse in E.C. Midwinter’s Victorian Social Reform, published by Longman. It’s a short book for ‘A’ level and undergraduate university students. It does have a collection of contemporary sources at the back, and these include the descriptions of the horrific level of starvation to which the residents of one workhouse were reduced. This should be essential reading for anyone even remotely interested in this policy, if only to correct the view that they were somehow picturesque institutions gained from seeing Oliver! once too many.

Vox Political on Cameron as Political Whore, and Political Parties as Corporation Power Brokers

July 29, 2013

My brother, Mike, has an interesting piece reporting on Michael Meacher’s description of Cameron as a corporate whore on his blog. Entitled, Cameron, Corrupt Corporate Whore, According to Meacher, it begins

It seems opponents of the Coalition have realised its degraded claim to be a government is worthless and have decided to pour contempt on it at every opportunity.

I mention this after seeing Michael Meacher’s excellent column on David Cameron. The fake Prime Minister’s instincts, according to Mr Meacher are “that there is no such thing as the rule of law, and that the only things that ultimately matter are power, fear and money”.

These words should come as hammer-blows to Cameron’s credibility. It is to his credit that Michael Meacher has written them – but also to the shame of the Labour front bench that none of them had the guts to come out with it first.

Mr Meacher supports his claims by laying out a wealth of evidence that, while the comedy PM crows on and on about Labour’s (non-existent) pandering to the unions, “there is almost nothing… that Cameron won’t do, no commercial interest he will disdain, no policy he will refuse to alter if it will ingratiate himself with the sources of money and power… He has prostrated himself before a wide range of commercial interests by changing government policy to suit them in order to recruit their money and power for himself and his party in the lead-up to 2015″.

Mike and Michael Meacher then provide the proof in various policies Cameron has adopted due to lobbying from different companies.

Now I have to say that I think political parties, through forging links with private industry and think tanks, are rapidly changing from institutions of government above the organisations, corporations and social groups they regulate, into power brokers, whose role is to allow these private interests access to governmental power. If you look at all three parties, including New Labour, their conferences are sponsored by industries and corporations. Their leading members frequently have careers in those corporations, or use staff on secondment from them, and the policies they enact have been drawn up by those very same companies. The only role the parties have is to choose which parties they will favour, and provide a democratic front for policies that have been formulated in private by private companies or associated think tanks in their own interest.

Now there has always been corruption and influence peddling in politics. American politics is notorious for the way a big corporation, which sponsor a politico’s election campaign all the while expecting him to return the favour once in office. Under New Labour and the Coalition, however, this type of corruption has become institutionalised. Private industry has supplied legions of Special Advisors, in opposition to the Civil Service, which traditionally had the duty to supply ministers with suggestions for future policy.

As for what can be done about, a good start would be listing, which MPs have connections to which companies, and how they have voted in these companies’ favour. Private Eye did this during Major’s government, when he did his best to put off any legislation against the tobacco and alcohol industries.

Historical, Constitutional and Philosophical Observations on the Tories’ Plans to Privatise the Courts

July 28, 2013

I have to say that I’m still somewhat stunned by the Conservatives’ suggestion that the court service should be privatised. This seems to be absolutely barking mad, and attacking the most fundamental, basic duty of the state, at least as it has existed in the West since the ancient world. In the Middle Ages the basic function of the state was to provide military protection and promote justice. There were private courts on the manors of the feudal aristocracy, along with the system of royal courts that also dispensed justice at local and county levels. These were the hundred and shire courts of Anglo-Saxon England. After the Norman Conquest, Henry I introduced the ‘justices in eyre’, judges that went on regular set circuits around England hearing cases. I believe the assize system was introduced by that other ‘lion of justice’, Henry II. One of the reasons England never developed the more extreme versions of feudal serfdom that existed on the Continent was because Henry I insisted on his right as king to govern and enforce his laws over the peasantry through the royal courts, thus preventing the aristocracy having the absolute control over their tenants and villeins that their counterparts in the rest of Europe had.

It was during the Middle Ages that the system of royal courts, such as the Court of King’s Bench, developed. In the Middle Ages and 16th and 17th centuries, kings were expected to dispense justice as they were God’s anointed through the coronation ceremony. This did have a very authoritarian aspect to it, as in the views of some constitutional theorists in the Tory party, it meant that as the king was the fountainhead of justice, he was above the law. This view was gradually altered and finally rejected with the growth of constitutional checks on the crown and the Glorious Revolution. Social Contract theory also supplied a rationale for royal government: the king was the people’s representative. Kings had been chosen and set up by their subjects at the very beginning of human society, in order to protect them, their livelihoods and property. As their representative, he had the right to rule them, preserving their freedom and protecting them from injustice and attack. Finally, in an age when all government is personal government, kings had a right to rule because the countries they ruled were literally theirs. It was their property, in the same way landowners lower down the social scale owned their estates, and administer justice over the serfs there.

Clearly the decline of feudalism has removed these circumstances as the basis of royal government, just as centuries of secularisation means that extremely few people would argue for the return of an absolute monarchy on the grounds that they had a sacred right to govern through their coronation. They did, however, act as the core of the modern state through their establishment of the central institutions of justice. Since the time of Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth, at least, the state has been recognised as a separate institution to the kings that governed it. Hence Charles I was executed for his crimes against England, an idea that was so radical that it was almost unthinkable then. Nevertheless, the execution established the fact that Crown and state were separate, and that the judicial system, as part of the state, had the power to judge the monarch. Justice and the courts thus became the core feature of the modern concept of the state.

This is threatened by the privatisation of the courts. The ancient conception of the state was t6hat it was something that belonged to the public. For the Romans it was the res publicum, the public thing. The term has survived in the modern English word ‘republic’ and similar terms in the other European languages, including the Russian respublik. 16th and 17th century political theorists, like Locke, used the term ‘commonwealth’, from the words ‘common weal’, the common benefit or wellbeing. The state is therefore something that belongs to and affects everyone, even if it is effectively governed by a very select view, as it was before the extension of the franchise in the 19th century. This is threatened by the privatisation of the courts, which places justice in the realm of the private, rather than the public.

There are important constitutional problems with this. Courts have had the right to impanel juries, and try and punish offenders because they received their legitimacy from the state, either through itself or as a crown institution. If privatised, the courts would not have this source of legitimacy. They would be a private company, acting in its own interest. They would have the administration of justice as their function, but like other companies their main role would be to provide profit to their shareholders. Essentially, the justice they dispensed would be private justice, albeit administered on behalf of the res publicum. Now I can imagine that some traditional Conservatives would object to this. Peter Hitchens on his blog for the Mail on Sunday has stated that he objects to private prisons on the grounds that only the state has the right to persecute and punish crime. This is a very good point. If the courts are privatised, it raises the question of the difference between them and, say, a protection racket run by a local gangster. Both can claim to be providing protection for the people under their rule, and both are equally acting in the interest of private individuals. A privatised judicial system might still have the claim to be providing public justice if it has a contractual relationship with the state, or some other constitutional tie that establishes it as the legitimate source of justice. Nevertheless, its constitutional legitimacy as a public institution would still be considerably weakened.

The idea that courts can be privatised is something that the Tories have taken over from American minarchism and Anarcho-Capitalism. One of the founders of modern Libertarianism, E. Nozick, believed that the functions of the state should be reduced to the barest minimum. This was to be enforcement of contracts. Rothbard, the head of the American Libertarian party, argued that the courts should be privatised and opened up for competition. They would have no power beyond the voluntary acquiescence of the parties in dispute in the courts’ decisions. It’s a small detail, but it also shows the difference between American Anarcho-Capitalism and the libertarianism now promoted by the Tories. Anarcho-Capitalism is peculiar, in that although it promotes capitalism to its fullest extent, it shares many of the same concerns and features as left-libertarianism, such as Anarcho-Communism. Both forms of Anarchism share a common belief in the absolute sovereignty of the individual. Both also view the state as inherently oppressive. The great Russian anarchist, Mikhail Bakunin, declared ‘He, who says ‘the state’, says oppression’. Both types of libertarianism also stress individual’s sexual freedom. They consider that people should be able to engage in whatever kind of sexual relationship they choose, provided that it is reciprocal and between consenting adults. Thus Right Libertarians tend to differ from other Conservatives in their acceptance of homosexuality and free love. There is also a tendency in Right Libertarianism to demand the legalisation of drugs, on the grounds that the individual should have the right to consume whatever recreational substance they choose. Again, this is in marked opposition to traditional forms of Conservatism, which tends to be far more puritanical.

Now it seems to me that the Tories here have lifted some of the ideas of Anarcho-Capitalism but have very definitely rejected the ethos behind them. Margaret Thatcher believed very strongly in ‘the strong state’, reinforcing the powers and providing more funding for the police force and the security services. In doing so, she alienated many Libertarians, who bitterly resented her authoritarianism. Robin Ramsay, the editor of the parapolitical magazine, Lobster, wrote a piece on the death of one of the founders of the Libertarian Freedom Association a little while ago. Ramsay is a member of the Labour Party, although very critical of New Labour and the influence of the transatlantic Right in the Party since the Second World War. He stated in this article, however, that he had been supported in publishing Lobster by the aforementioned Libertarian. This gentleman regarded him as another Libertarian, albeit socialist, rather than capitalist, but felt that he had a common cause with him against the growth of state power. And he bitterly resented Margaret Thatcher for what he saw as her betrayal of libertarian principles. It thus seems to me that if and when the Conservatives privatise the courts, they will nevertheless retain and possibly extend their powers as the agents of state control.

And this raises a further point on the legitimacy of these courts derived from Anarchist theory. 19th century Anarchism and its predecessors denounced the state and its system of justice, particularly because of its class basis. Europe was governed by the very rich – the aristocracy and the rising middle classes – and the laws they passed protected and enforced their power. During the early 19th century, for example, the British government passed a series of punitive legislation curtailing working class dissent and protest in order to prevent a popular uprising, similar to that which had occurred just across the Channel. The governing class was composed of rich landowners, who passed laws heavily penalising poaching. At the time poaching was regarded as a traditional right held by rural labourers. It allowed them to feed themselves during times of famine and economic depression. It did, however, represent a threat to landed property, who responded by passing laws prescribing long sentences and transportation for poachers. Most of the legislation passed in 18th century England was designed to protect property, not human life. Hence the enactment of the death penalty for crimes like sheep stealing. It was in this legal environment that the Anarchists attacked state justice as aristocratic, capitalist justice, and believed that only through the destruction of the state would a truly classless society emerge.

Since the extension of the franchise in the 19th century and the gradual ascension of the House of Commons over the House of Lords, the state and its institutions have had a greater claim to be genuinely impartial. This has been especially true since the rise of the classless society in the 1960s. This would, however, be undermined by a privately-run court system. The courts would be run by their shareholders and investors, who are by definition capitalists, for their own profit. Justice would mean private justice on behalf of the rich. And almost certainly it would lead to corruption and conflicts of interests. How would a system of private courts successfully prosecute a leading shareholder or the chairman of the company that runs them? Everyone is supposed to be equal before the law, but in those cases there would be great opportunity for the accused to interfere with the judicial process in his favour. In short, he could put pressure on the judge, as a friend or employee, and gain acquittal.

The Conservatives have claimed that they are rolling back the frontiers of the state. They aren’t. They are privatising its institutions, but these still have all the authority and coercive power of the state, but are far more likely to be partial in their decisions.

The privatisation of the courts is a profoundly immoral idea, that completely undermines the idea of the state as the dispenser of impartial justice regardless of social origin. It should be rejected without hesitation.

The Thurrock Heckler on Zero Hours Contracts

July 28, 2013

I found an excellent post on the insecurity, poverty and fear generated by zero hours contracts over at the blog The Thurrock Heckler. It begins

According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of workers on zero hours contracts doubled during the last year to 200,000. A zero hours contract is a way that legally allows employers to take on staff without any guarantee of actual work or income. In 2005, there were 55,000 workers on zero hours contracts. This rose to 110,000 between April and June last year. That nearly doubled to 200,000 between October and December last year. As it is now April and the trend appears to be going upwards, it would be a reasonably safe bet to assume that there are way more than 200,000 on these contracts. Over a quarter of major employers in Britain now use zero hours contracts. We need to do a bit of digging around to see how many small to medium companies also use these contracts as the figure of 200,000 seems very much on the low side to us.

This is all part of the ‘flexible’ labour force that is heralded as keeping unemployment numbers lower than they would be in the depths of an economic crisis. Supporters of zero hours contracts claim they allow employers greater flexibility in planning their workflow as they can use and discard staff as demand rises and falls. Sure it’s great for employers but it’s utter crap for workers who have no choice but to accept a zero hours contract or have no work at all.

I’ve friends, who were placed on zero hours contracts, and all of this is true. The article does not mention the problems they had with their local jobcentre. They tried claiming benefits for the period they were not working. The DWP demands that you provide a payslip indicating that that week you were not paid. At the time, however, they were working for the Post Office, who only gave you a payslip for the days you worked. My friend was thus placed in the position where he was unable to claim unemployment benefit, because of the payroll system used by the Post Office. I’m sure he wasn’t the only person in this position, or that it was confined to the Royal Mail.

Zero Hours Contracts are a nasty way of providing employers with a cheap labour force, in which those on the contracts are trapped going from one day to another. It’s the return of casual labour of a type that the Labour party made illegal earlier in the century for dockworkers. Now it’s come back, and is being used in wider industry. I’ve also no doubt that the Heckler is right when he says that if Labour comes to power, they will be under increasing pressure to maintain or expand Zero Hours Contracts in order to increase competitiveness.

The articles at http://thurrockheckler.wordpress.com/2013/04/05/zero-hours-contracts-total-insecurity/. It needs to be read.

Can Anyone Help Katrina

July 28, 2013

Following my post on ‘The Creative Incompetence of the DWP’ I had this comment from Katrina

‘Yes after ATOS turned my partner down at the reassessment even though his condition has worsened the benefits office telephoned after weeks to tell him of their decision, when we tried to find out more they denied phoning. We were told to wait for the letter which on arrival we could not make any sense of, it left us one week to appeal and arrived after they had stopped our benefits. We have no money coming in at the moment because all claims were halted and can receive no help and no explanation. Friends and family have helped us put electricity on our meter and we received some food from the food bank. We live in a village with no public transport so when our last bit of petrol runs out we will be able to make it to the food bank without walking a total of 10 miles. We have no idea how long it will take for the DWP to receive the appeal and they had given us an addressed envelope which the job centre told us was the wrong address. I was lucky to take it to the local JBC as they would never have received it. No one will speak to us about why this has happened or give us any indication as to how we are meant to live in the mean time. If anyone has any suggestions would love to hear from you.’

I’m afraid I’m not really qualified to help her, as I only have limited personal experience of Atos and don’t really have the knowledge of the benefits system to be able to offer much in the way of advice myself. I’ve no doubt that there are many people like her. Mike and Mrs. Mike over at Vox Political live in mid-Wales. It’s a great community there, but it is very isolated, and there is an unemployment problem. A year or so ago, Ian Duncan Smith or one of the other Tory loudmouths showed his ignorance of mid-Wales and its employment problems. He declared that unemployment in that part of the Principality wasn’t really a problem, as the unemployed could simply commute to those parts of Wales, where there is work. All you had to do was get on a bus, ‘and within an hour you would be Cardiff’. Well, that is if there were any buses running. The last one from Mike’s part of the world had been axed some time before. Wales is certainly not alone in this problem. Bus services to villages in England have cut since the 1980s, with the result that you need a car to travel anywhere if you live in the countryside.

As for the incomprehensibility of the letter from Atos, I was talking to a friend of mine, who has had experience dealing with the DWP. He told me that the reason they were incomprehensible is because the law itself is confused and incomprehensible. It’s been altered and amended so often, without any regard for consistency, that it is now a confused, self-contradictory mess of separate legislation. As for the letters, they’re computer-generated. Sort of like a bureaucratic Max Headroom, but without the wit, sharp suits and personality. The stutter, however, has been ramped up to ‘irritating’. When the decision is made and inputted that someone no longer qualifies for benefit, the machine automatically spews out the appropriate letter. No human intelligence is involved, which is why the letters don’t make sense. That also tells you that we are a long way from developing Artificial Intelligence, and that real intelligence in these bureaucracies is also in short supply. It also shows that if you thought Atos was a cold, inhuman organisation run by automatons, you’re right. Literally.

So, if anyone out there does have any suggestions to help Katrina and her partner, please send them in. You’ll not only be helping them, but also thousands like them in a similar situation.

The Discreet Charm of Lord Coe

July 28, 2013

Lord Coe has been on TV a lot lately. It’s been a year since the London Olympics, and the BBC has been full of pieces on their sports programmes debating whether it has been successful in encouraging more Brits to take up sport. The Beeb’s opinion on this issue has been ‘yes… and no’. More people are taking up sport, and thanks to the Games more facilities have been built, and the area of east London on which the Games were held has been regenerated. On the other hand, some sports still have no funding, and not enough facilities are available everywhere. In fact Private Eye noted that many people, who wished to take up a sport, simply couldn’t because the Conservatives had closed and sold off many venues. Those that remained were massively oversubscribed.

Coe himself, because of his leading role in the Games’ management and promotion, has effectively become their public face. Many voters will no doubt consider voting for him simply because of his role in the Games, and the ‘feel-good’ factor their success has generated. So it’s worth reading Another Angry Voice’s article on Coe’s connection to a number of healthcare companies looking to profit from the privatisation of the NHS. It’s entitled ‘Lazy Lord Coe and Tory NHS Reforms’. Coe is lazy, as his voting record in parliament is extremely low. When he does appear, it’s to defend his own commercial interest by voting against amendments to preserve the NHS. The Angry One’s article states

‘Sebastian Coe is a lazy lord. He has occupied a place in the House of Lords since the year 2000, and since then he has bothered to participate in just 136 out of 1,714 votes, which works out at a feeble 7.9%.

It is interesting to note that of the 11 votes he has bothered to participate in over the last 24 months, 4 have been in support of Tory NHS reforms.

As you should know, the Tory Health and Social Care Bill and the keystone SI257 amendment (which compels NHS commissioners to tender virtually all services to the private sector and to accept the lowest bid, irrespective of other considerations such as patient safety, quality of service or long-term continuity of service provision) have been designed to carve the NHS open in order to allow the private sector to cherry-pick the most lucrative services.

In October 2011 Coe voted with the government three times in order to help the hugely controversial Health and Social Care Bill pass through the upper house, including a vote against allowing a specialist health select committee to scrutinise the bill properly before it became law.

In April 2013 Coe voted against a motion to overturn the secretive anti-democratic SI257 amendment on the grounds that it went against assurances that were made in both houses of parliament that “NHS commissioners would be free to commission services in the way they consider in the best interests of NHS patients”. So along with his fellow Tories, and all but one of the Lib Dem peers to vote, Sebastian Coe voted against NHS commissioners freedom to commission services in the best interests of patients.

One must wonder which interests Sebastian Coe places above the best interests of NHS patients?

Is there a possibility that it could be his own financial interests?’

He then supplies numerous evidence to show that this is very definitely the case.

The article is at http://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/lazy-lord-coe-and-tory-nhs-reforms.html

It’s worth reading, especially if you’re inclined to believe that ‘he’s all right’ or a ‘good bloke’, because of what he did for the Games.

Coalition Enters Weird World of Anarcho-Capitalism: Tories to Privatise the Courts

July 27, 2013

There is another important piece posted by my brother, Mike Sivier, over at his Vox Political blog. In ‘Court Privatisation – What Happened to the Lord Chief Justice’s Objections’ he discusses and critiques the latest Tory wheeze. This time they want to sell off the courts. The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Igor Judge, had previously criticised the suggestion on the grounds that it contracted the injunction in the Magna Carta against selling justice. It now seems he supports the move.

Mike’s article on it can be read here: http://mikesivier.wordpress.com/2013/07/27/court-privatisation-what-happened-to-the-lord-chief-justices-objections/#comments

A week or so ago I wrote a blog piece noting that the Tories seemed to have lifted an awful lot of their policies, like private police forces, from Rothbard and the American Libertarians. I asked, somewhat rhetorically at the time, whether even they would be so mad as to privatise the courts, as suggested by the great Anarcho-Capitalist. I thought that even they wouldn’t be so greedy and bonkers as to sell off the core function of the state. I was wrong.

We are rapidly entering the kind of dystopian world portrayed in 1980s SF films. (I’m thinking in particular of one directed by Paul Verhoven).

A world where crime is rampant. Where Big Business owns the police and the city they serve and protect. Where the cops are under siege, gunned down by savage gangs.

And where corruption goes all the way to the boardroom.

Only one man can protect us from this urban nightmare.

robocop

The Creative Incompetence of the Benefits Agency and DWP

July 27, 2013

I was reading the grimly fascinating piece on Benefit Tales about the way Disability Benefit claimants have not been told Atos’ decision on their benefits, in order, it would seem, to prevent them from appealing against it. It shows the bizarre world that Atos inhabits, and is all too eager to inflict on the most vulnerable members of society. I’ve compared it to Kafkaesque’s novels, particularly The Trial and The Castle, where the heroes are arrested and condemned without knowing the evidence against them, nor the charges on which they have been arrested. These novels have, with more than a degree of justification, been viewed as ominous prefiguring the gross miscarriages of justice committed by the later totalitarian regimes of the 20th century, Nazism and Communism. Their more immediate inspiration in humdrum reality is just as relevant here. Kafka was an insurance clerk, and he based his novels on his experience of the bureaucracy in dealing with compensation claims for injuries. And a cold bureaucracy that does not tell its claimants why they are being persecuted, nor present the evidence on which they could make an appeal sounds very much like Atos and the current DWP.

Reading some of the comments to the post also revealed another tactic used by the DWP: that of notifying claimants of the decision to deny them benefits just in time for them to miss the appeal deadline. I’ve also heard about that from some of the my own friends on Jobseekers’ Allowance. This has happened repeatedly. Friends have also told me of repeated instances where the centre dealing with their claims has repeatedly lost their details, or claimed it never received them. This has happened to the same people not once, or twice but several times.

This suggests that it is not an accident, nor incompetence, but government policy.

The DWP has been caught acting like this before. A few years ago under New Labour one of the centres was revealed as having a secret policy by which they were to remove a certain percentage of their claimants from Jobseekers’ Allowance through similar manipulation of the claims system. Something very similar appears to be going on here. And it’s disgusting.

How can disabled people appeal if not told the assessment result?

July 27, 2013

More evidence of the weird, Kafkaesque world of Atos and the DWP, in which you are not told of the decision against you, in order to prevent you appealing. If the system by which Atos and the DWP judge and deal with disability benefit claimants was applied to the justice system, it would be denounced as a ‘kangaroo court’. Comparisons would be made to Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Russia. As the people being abused in this way are the disabled, and its part of the benefits system, it seems to the media to be perfectly acceptable and of no interest whatsoever.

Benefit tales

2 years ago I was placed in the (disability benefit) Work Related Activity Group without a medical so have to attend job centre every 6 months, my advisor is great and has stated that she is not qualified to over rule my psychiatrist, psychologist or GP so basically we chat for 10-15mins thats it. In late April/early may this year I got the dreaded med form to fill in waited till last minute took all info I could get from what is posted on FB and sent it in, I have been waiting in torture since. This week I had my meetin with my job centre advisor and she asked if I had been for a medical , I said no but told her about the form, she then told me i had been placed in the wrag group again for 2 years, I stated it was bad that they…

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