Peasants of Britain Unite and Kick Out the Pay Day Loan Sharks

In my last blog post, I looked at the similarities between a community power company set up by the people of a village here in England, and the various schemes for the cooperative reorganisation of society from Thomas Spence’s Land Plan, for the communal ownership of land by each parish community, and Bulgarian Agrarian National Union’s plans for a national and then international society of cooperative peasant communities.

There’s another policy of the party of the Bulgarian peasantry, which I feel very strongly should be adopted by 21st century Britain: legislation and the reform of the banks to cut out and suppress the pay day loan companies, like Wonga and the rest of the sharks. After the liberation from Ottoman rule hundreds of villages in rural Bulgaria had been forced into serious debt to private moneylenders. Many of the Muslim and ethnic Turkish landowners had emigrated or fled to Turkey, leaving large amount of land available for the Bulgarian peasants. There were, however, no banks available to provide them with the loans and credit they needed to purchase the land and essential tools, and so they turned instead to private moneylenders.

The Bulgarian peasants’ party, BANU, and the peasants’ union which preceded it, attempted to combat this by establishing credit cooperatives. After BANU took power in 1919, they attempted to prevent the moneylenders from reappearing by passing legislation insisting that the banks lend money to the cooperatives on reasonable terms.

Britain too in the 21st century has seen the return of the loan shark and moneylender as thousands, perhaps millions, have got into serious debt. Some of this has been through the absurdly easy credit that was offered in the boom years, when people were encouraged to spend as much as they could through credit cards. Other causes include rising rents and mortgages as well as an increase in prices, while pay has been frozen or even cut. The government’s cuts to unemployment benefit have also forced some to turn to private moneylenders, as the amounts provided by Jobseekers’ Allowance is inadequate, sanctions are imposed seemingly arbitrarily according to the whim of the government and the targets set by the DWP to get people off benefit. Those, who are considered to have left their job without good reason are denied benefit for weeks, and the government is considering imposing a waiting time of about three weeks for new claimants before they can get their money.

As a result, Britain has seen a resurgence, not just in criminal loan sharks, but also in the payday loan companies, like Wonga, which offer easy loans at truly extortion rates. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Julian Welby, is recommending a system of Credit Unions to tackle this. Critics fear this will be inadequate. It may well be, but that doesn’t mean that Credit Unions need not part of a broader programme to combat this. We need legislation to cut down the rates at which Wonga and the other loan companies can lend, to reduce them from the 5,000 per cent odd interest rate they are at the moment to something far more manageable. In America, surely one of the most capitalist nations in the world, they aren’t allowed to lend at over 20 per cent. Passing legislation to insist that everyone gets a living wage would also be a massive improvement, as would a complete stop on benefit sanctions, delays in payment and actually raising the amount of money paid to something people can actually live on.

All this, however, would mean abandoning the harsh, neoliberal economic orthodoxy that demands that the poor be penalised, simply for being poor, under the pretext that somehow their poverty is their own fault. And the Tories and their Tory Democrat allies really don’t want to do that by any means. It’s time for the British peasants to follow the Bulgarians of 1919 to throw out the payday loan companies, and kick the Tories out of office.

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3 Responses to “Peasants of Britain Unite and Kick Out the Pay Day Loan Sharks”

  1. Mike Sivier Says:

    Reblogged this on Vox Political.

  2. jess Says:

    “Britain too in the 21st century has seen the return of the loan shark and moneylender as thousands, perhaps millions, have got into serious debt. Some of this has been through the absurdly easy credit that was offered in the boom years, ”

    The availability of ‘absurdly easy credit’ was one of the cornerstones of the neo-liberal agenda.

    Way back in 1958 the IEA published their apologia for the money-lending industry ‘Hire Purchase in a Free Society’ [Harris, Naylor & Seldon]

    A typical IEA publication of the period, it contains a few gems;

    “Social Impact;
    Criticism of hire purchase has not come only from moralists who condemn the practice on the grounds that it ensnares people into debts they cannot afford to repay’ morphs into, with an aside from Walter Greenwood’s condemnation of ‘tick’ in ‘Love on The Dole’ to the assertion that;

    “Harry [the character condemned by supposedly old-fashioned notions of debt as a weekly ‘mill-stone around the debtors’ neck’ got his new suit…”

    Just how deeply the tally-man was disliked, generally, is suggested in this song from Graham Gouldman, (recorded with great reluctance by Jeff Beck)

    “To our house on a Friday
    A man calls every week
    We give him a pound
    When he calls on his round

    To our house on a Friday
    A man calls every week
    We give and we get
    And we’re always in debt

    With his plan he carries all we’re needing
    With his plan most anything is ours
    He’s the Tallyman, oh yeah
    He’s the Tallyman

    Shoes and socks, hard wearing for the children
    Village frocks all in the latest style
    From the Tallyman, oh yeah
    From the Tallyman

    To our house on a Friday
    A man calls every week
    We’ve made him a friend
    So he’s here to the end

    From cradle to grave
    We expect him to say
    Here’s tick to the end
    So we’ve made him a friend
    Here’s tick to the end
    So we’ve made him a friend”

    [Beck objected to Mickie Most’s insistence on a ‘catchy’ follow-up to ‘Silver Lining’ and hated the production, rather than Graham Gouldman’s lyrics]

  3. prayerwarriorpsychicnot Says:

    Reblogged this on Citizens, not serfs.

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