Posts Tagged ‘Another Angry Voice’

Chris Smith: People Want the Advertising Standards Authority to Act on Political Claims

September 26, 2017

This is another fascinating little video from RT’s Going Underground. Host Afshin Rattansi talks to the former cabinet minister under Blair, Chris Smith, above his decision to oppose the Invasion of Iraq, his work in the Advertising Standards Authority, and Brexit.

Smith was Blair’s Culture Secretary, and the author of a book, Creative Britain. The cover showed him wielding a professional movie/TV camera. He states he opposed the Iraq invasion because it was ‘obviously the wrong the policy’. He also states that during his time with the Advertising Standards Authority, people wrote in asking them if they could possibly act against the misleading political advertising in elections. Smith states that this is sadly impossible. Their constitution limits them to commercial advertising only, and they have no power to prosecute or punishment politicians that lie.

On the subject of Brexit, he and Rattansi clearly hold different views. Smith appears to be a Remainer, while Rattansi believes that the EU is unreformable. Smith states that it was ludicrous to leave such a powerful grouping of countries. As for reform, this very much on the agenda now, with Macron advocating a series of them. After leaving office, Smith was elevated to the Upper House, and Rattansi asks him how the Lords will handle the government’s Brexit legislation. Smith states that they won’t challenge democracy, but they will scrutinize it very thoroughly to make sure that Britain gets the very best deal. And he states clearly that they will also examine very carefully the government’s Repeal Bill, which gives the government massive powers in all areas of life.

This interview is worth watching for Smith’s statement how people have written to him and the other members of the ASA because of the lies disseminated by the political parties. He didn’t mention them, but the most flagrant falsehoods have been made by the Tories and UKIP. Mike, Johnny Void, Tom Pride, and the Angry Yorkshireman, as well as DPAC, Stilloaks and others too many to mention here have spent years debunking and critiquing the lies spouted by David Cameron, Theresa May, and their Lib Dem enablers before the coalition broke up. The worst and most pernicious of these lies has arguably been against the disabled, defending a brutal and malign assessment system, which has seen millions of genuinely disabled people thrown off the benefits they need, simply because Blairite, and then Tory dogma, dictated that they had to be malingerers. This has left thousands in desperate poverty, and in hundreds of cases it result in that person’s death from starvation and misery. And despite the fact that some of these poor souls actually wrote down before they ended their lives with their own hands that they were driven to do so by the assessment system, Iain Duncan Smith, Damian Green, Esther McVie and the rest of the vile crew infesting the DWP have denied that there is any link between their deaths and the work capability assessment.

And the lies the Tories are spreading against the disabled are whipping up hatred against them. Thanks to the rags like the Heil, Scum and Depress informing their readers that the benefits system is awash with fraud when it really isn’t, disabled people have been subjected to increasing abuse and physical assault. Many of Mike’s disabled readers have posted comments describing their own experiences, or those of the people they care for. And I’ve heard the same thing from disabled friends of mine.

And then there’s the lies told by the DWP to defend the indefensible sanctions system, which has seen millions thrown off much-needed welfare support and onto food banks to keep body and soul together. These are imposed for the most trivial reasons, such as being a few minutes late. In very many cases there were extremely good reasons why the person could not make their interview: they were in hospital, or there was an emergency with a sick child. It makes no difference. They’re still sanctioned. Whistleblowers have said that there is a quota in place, so that Jobcentres must get a set number of people off their books. Those clerks, who have stopped the most people from receiving benefit get rewarded with Easter eggs and marshal’s stars. But the Tories go on lying about this as well.

Last week, the head of a jobcentre in Scotland claimed that Jobscentre staff weren’t cruel and heartless, but carried out their duties, including the imposition of sanctions, in ‘a supportive way’. You what? Too many people have made it clear that the treatment they receive by these wretched petty bureaucrats is deliberately demeaning and humiliating for this to be remotely credible. I’ve experienced it myself. And Thatcher even said that she wanted the welfare system to go back to the old attitude that the poor were to be discouraged from relying on the state aid to become more self-reliant and look for work. This is less eligibility, the ideology on which the workhouses were run.

As for the official unemployment figures, this have been subjected to political interference ever since Thatcher came to power nearly four decades ago. They are so unreliable that I give absolutely zero credence to the Tory claims that our unemployment rate under them is somehow miraculously low. Mike has himself put up the arguments from other economists and political activists showing that the real figure is much higher.

And the Tory Brexiteers are lying again now. Remember how BoJo the Clown told us that we gave £350 million a year to the EU – which was itself a lie – and then said on the Leave Campaign’s battle bus that if we voted to Leave, it would all be spent on the NHS? That was a lie. We left, and it hasn’t been. And Boris the Menace then went on air and the press to huff and puff in his Eton-cultured voice to say that he hadn’t made that promise at all. They just meant that it could be spent on the NHS, and things like it.

And now he’s back, repeating the same lie. He really has absolutely no shame. I’d say it was amazing, but it really isn’t. He’s a liar from an entire party of liars. These are people so crooked, that to borrow a phrase from Hunter S. Thompson, they have to get their aides to screw them into their pants in the morning.

It’s time to stop the lies, and end the culture of lying. It’s time to vote for Corbyn and a revived Labour party and get them into government.

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Book on Conservative, Anti-Left Bias at the BBC

August 24, 2017

The BBC: The Myth of a Public Service, Tom Mills (London: Verso 2016).

I managed to pick up a copy of this book, which came out last year, yesterday while poking around one of the secondhand book shops in Cheltenham. The BBC has become increasingly very blatantly biased against the Labour party, trade unions and the left in general. The Corporation has huffily denied this, but it’s been the subject of academic critiques by Edinburgh, Glasgow and Cardiff academics, who have concluded that there is a very real bias towards the Tories and business leaders, and against Labour MPs and trade unionists. According to the back flap of the dust jacket, Tom Mills is another academic – a lecturer in sociology and policy at Aston University, and a former co-editor of the New Left Project.

The blurb on the front flap states

The BBC is one of the most important institutions in Britain; it is also one of the most misunderstood. Despite its claim to be independent and impartial, and the constant accusations of a liberal bias, the BBC has always sided with the elite. As Tom Mills demonstrates, we are only getting the news that the Establishment wants aired in public.

Throughout its existence, the BBC has been in thrall to those in power. This was true in 1926 when it stood against the workers during the General Strike, and since then the Corporation has continued to mute the voices of those who oppose the status quo: miners in 1984; anti-war protesters in 2003; those who offer alternatives to austerity economics since 2008. From the outset much of its activity has been scrutinized by the secret services at the invitation of those in charge. Since the 1990s the BBC has been integrated into the market, while its independence from the government and big business has been steadily eroded. The BBC is an important and timely examination of a crucial public institution that is constantly under threat.

Barry and Saville Kushner have also pointed out how the Beeb and its journos unquestioningly accept the necessity of austerity, rarely inviting on their programmes anyone dares say otherwise. When they do, the interviewer promptly throws a fit and shouts them down. They heard one instance of this while listening to a radio interview on Radio 4 with a leading trade unionist, who was very abruptly stopped when he tried explaining that there was absolutely no need for it. See their book, Who Needs the Cuts.

The anti-Labour bias is acutely obvious in Laura Kuenssberg’s treatment of the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. It was also very evident with the reports on the Six O’clock news by John Pienaar and George Alagiah. Any number of people have complained about Kuenssberg’s flagrant bias, and got the same shirty treatment from the people in the media bubble. Those, who dare to complain, like Guy Debord’s Cat, get a haughty letter from one of its apparatchiks pompously informing them how the Corporations journalists are all scrupulously impartial, and they are mistaken. And the hackettes in the Groaniad immediately got on their high horses to claim that those criticizing la Kuenssberg were just doing it because they were sexist chauvinists, like the Bernie Bros in America. Which also didn’t exist, but were made up by Killary and her minions as a way of explaining why few people, including women, actually like this highly entitled, neoliberal, establishment figure, who befriends blood-soaked war criminals like Henry Kissinger.

And despite the Beeb’s protestations, several of their own journos don’t buy this rubbish either. Robert Peston, now the Beeb’s economics editor, was asked three years ago what he thought about the claims that it had a liberal bias. Peston replied that, on the contrary, the Corporation was ‘completely obsessed with the agenda set by newspapers’, naming the Heil and Torygraph. He added that it ‘quite often veers in what you might call a very pro-establishment, rather right-wing direction’. He forthrightly said that the claims that the Beeb is left-wing is ‘bollocks’. (p. 106).

But such claims have been around since the BBC was formally incorporated as a nationalized industry. When it was just a cartel of radio manufacturers and broadcasters, the Conservatives were accusing it of a Socialist bias. Glancing through the book reveals that there have been repeated attempts by the Tories to make it reflect their views. In 1947 Churchill launched one of these. Some of the most significant occurred in the 1970s with Keith Joseph and the other neoliberals around Maggie Thatcher. They got very upset in 1974 when the respected American economist, J.K. Galbraith, presented a series critiquing corporate power and the rise and crisis of industrial society, including Marxist and Keynsian perspectives, The Age of Uncertainty. This was too much for Joseph and the rest of the frothing mad Tory right. Galbraith was no liberal. He identified as Conservative, but had said the unsayable. Galbraith stated in the introduction to the ninth episode of that, ‘The Big Corporation’, that it was a myth that the consumer is sovereign and the corporation respond to their preferences, efficiently allocating society’s resources. The reality was that ‘corporations influence government, influence the consumer. Only the textbooks say otherwise.’ Joseph and Geoffrey Howe then organized a campaign to have another series set up, examination the question from a pro-Hayekian, free market perspective, presented by Milton Friedman. This was the Milton Friedman, who enthusiastically rejected democracy after realizing that his Chicago School would always been a minority. He therefore championed General Pinochet, who was also an enthusiastic Monetarist, when he overthrew the Marxist president of Chile, Salvador Allende, in a Fascist coup.

One of the most revealing sections is the chapter discussing how the Beeb’s massive pro-business bias was established about nine or so years ago, way back at the start of century around the year 2000. It was set up, and the treatment of business affairs expanded, by Greg Dyke. Dyke was a member of the Labour party, and a crony of Tony Blair. This explains why the Tories were constantly howling about how he was a dangerous Socialist, and there was a left-wing bias at the Beeb. In fact, Dyke had imbibed the same Thatcherite, neoliberal views as Blair, despite the continued whines that the Beeb had an ‘anti-industry culture’. It’s another example of how politicians on the nominal left, like Blair, took over and expanded the Conservatives’ neoliberal programme.

As for pro-Fascist bias, this even afflicted that great founder of the Beeb, Lord Reith. In 1933 Reith made a speech declaring that it was possible for someone to spread democratic values without being a democrat. Two years later, in 1935, he made a speech praising Mussolini. He personally believed the country needed a dictatorship. Fortunately, the rest of the Beeb’s governors and controllers didn’t, and forced him out.

This is interesting, as it’s an aspect of Reith’s life I hadn’t heard about before. There have been biographies of him – one of which was published in the 1990s, and, I think, reviewed by the Financial Times. However, from what I can remember, what was said about Reith’s personal failings was about his own puritanism, repressed homosexuality, and guilty infatuation with another man. I can’t recall any mention of Reith being a supporter of Fascist style dictatorship, although it should also be said that he despised the Fascists’ thuggery.

It would be too much to say that the corporation is pro-Fascist. They’re very proud of a quote made during the crisis of 1974, when one of the journos announced that the Beeb isn’t impartial – it’s strongly pro-democratic, and passionately feels this needs to be cherished. On the other hand, broadcasters tend to be Conservatives. And one aspect of the Conservative mindset is authoritarianism. See some of the pieces on YouTube discussing this by left-wing news sites like Democracy Now and so on. This would explain why they give more respect than they should to extreme right-wing movements like the BNP and UKIP. Guy Debord’s Cat has written about this over on his blog, if you want further information.

The book also places Mary Whitehouse, the moral crusader, who became the scourge of broadcasters from the 1960s onwards. Whitehouse is still a notorious figure today for her campaign against all manner of smut and filth on television with her group, the Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association. A year or so ago there was a book about her and her correspondence with the Corporation, Ban This Filth. Mills states that she is looked upon as an eccentric figure. Misguided, but essentially harmless. This isn’t quite the case.

Whitehouse was linked the Tories, and a friend of Maggie Thatcher. She and they thought that there was a plot by a left-wing elite to foist all this degeneracy and moral chaos on the British public. It’s a view that’s now become firmly established within the Right. And there was a very strong political dimension to her campaign. She believed that the liberal elite wanted to create sexual permissiveness and anarchy in preparation for a state of political anarchy, in which the fundamental institutions of British society would be torn down. And like many a bonkers conspiracy theorist, she was convinced that this was all being coordinated by Moscow. These days she’d probably be on Infowars with Alex Jones, along with nutters frothing about imaginary satanic paedophile rings operating out of Boston pizza parlours by Hillary Clinton, and those who think that the government is run by a secret cabal of aliens from Zeta Reticuli.

As for her views about political anarchism, this was also held by MI5, much to the amusement of the real anarchists in the Anarchist Federation. See one of the pieces on modern anarchism in the anthology of anarchist literature, Anarchism, edited by George Woodcock.

The book concludes that Reith’s vision of the Beeb’s role was the same as that as Matthew Arnold, the headmaster of Rugby, in his book Culture and Anarchy. The alienated laboring poor were to be incorporated into the culture and political structure of British society, but firmly under the leadership of the upper classes. The brief period when British society and the BBC had become more egalitarian due to rising affluence and the economic and social changes of the 1960s, has disappeared. This is partly due to the collapse of Communism. There is now no longer an exterior threat demanding that certain concessions be made to the working and lower middle classes, so that they don’t become too radicalized. Neoliberalism has increased poverty and jobs are precarious. At the same time, power has become more distanced and centralized amongst a powerful coterie of Oxbridge-educated managers. And just as this has occurred in industry and wider British society, so it as has also occurred in the Beeb.

This is an important study of the Beeb’s institutional right-wing, pro-Establishment bias. It’s another refutation of the Beeb’s repeated, and increasingly spurious claims of impartiality. Since Corbyn became leader, more people have become aware of how hypocritical and specious these claims are. It’s why more people are getting their news and information from the internet, and sites you can really trust. Sites like Vox Political, Tom Pride, Johnny Void, Another Angry Voice, DPAC, Kitty S. Jones, the Canary, the Squawkbox, Guy Debord’s Cat, Tony Greenstein and others too numerous to mention.

These people convey real news, and their under threat from the big corporations Google and Facebook, who only want you to view and read approved corporate, neoliberal propaganda. It’s why they’re demonetizing left-wing news shows like Democracy Now, The Young Turks, the David Pakman Show, Secular Talk and Sam Seder’s Majority Report, and changing the rules on Facebook to make it difficult for people to access the left-wing blogs.

Don’t let them get away with this. Support your favourite left-wing blogs and news shows.

American Comedian Jimmy Dore on the Jeremy Corbyn Commercial that Made Right-Wingers Cry

August 18, 2017

Remember the advert for Jeremy Corbyn that went around a week or so ago, which showed a group of very middle class people sneering at Corbyn and his supporters, while showing up how each and everyone was a hypocrite? Here the American comedian, Jimmy Dore, comments on the advert and why it’s so good.

The various characters featured sitting round a dinner type, guzzling wine and moaning about how modern kids want something for nothing, are all portrayed as having done exactly the same themselves. Such as a man moaning about how students don’t want to pay for their university tuition, when he himself never paid for his. The Tories and their supporters went berserk, claiming it was just bourgeois stereotypes, and that ‘Lenin would have been so proud’.

As Dore points out, these aren’t stereotypes. Mike also made the point in a blog post he put up about it that, for all their whining, the Tories hadn’t actually shown that these ‘bourgeois stereotypes’ were wrong. They clearly aren’t, as you can see by reading the Daily Heil or some of the letters from right-wingers in the press. There was one from a woman in the I newspaper a week or so ago which claimed that Corbyn was ‘bribing’ students with promises to make university education free.

Dore also goes on to discuss neoliberalism and globalism, and how they approach the economy the wrong way round. This should all be familiar to people who read Mike’s blog, and Another Angry Voice and Mainly Macro. He points out that these came in with Ronald Reagan. Neoliberalism wants taxes cut to give more money to those at the top. But this doesn’t work. F.D.R. showed that with his New Deal. If you give money to working people, they spend it and stimulate the economy. If you give it to the rich and the bosses, they don’t do anything with it. The money just sits in their bank accounts and stagnates.

As for globalism, this means simply taking domestic – American, in this case – jobs and offshoring them to another country where the people are even more desperate than in America. The corporation profits, but not America, because the profits don’t come back over here.

He also attacks the trend for great mechanization, and the craze for driverless cars and robots at McDonalds. This suffers from the same problem, as driverless cars and robots don’t spend money.

As for domestic poverty, a half of all American wage earners are paid less than $30,000. This is in the richest country in the world.

And Dore also points out that while Ronald Reagan introduced neoliberalism – a misnomer, as there’s nothing ‘liberal’ about it, it was Bill Clinton, who put it on steroids. So did Tony Blair, who, he reminds us, is like George Dubya, a war criminal.

In addition to these comments, it struck me that one reason the Tories went berserk over this is because Channel 4 screened a real-life programme that was very, very much like this shortly before Labour’s landslide election in ’97. It was called ‘The Dinner Party’, or something similar, and featured a group of very middle class individuals sat round a dinner table, making stupid, ill-informed and bigoted comments about the lower orders. The Independent, if I recall correctly, reviewed it, and said that it almost made the Labour victory inevitable.

Which is clearly what the Tories and their supporters are afraid of here.

They’re also upset because they can’t refute it. It strikes too close to home. So all they can do is moan about how stereotypical it is, without offering any real evidence to refute it.

Jimmy Dore Show: Bernie Sanders Supporters Chant ‘The Media Is Corrupt’ at Rally

August 14, 2017

This is why Google, Facebook and the mainstream media hate left-wing, progressive and Socialist bloggers and vloggers. People are sick of their lies, and know that they’re corrupt. And they say it.

In this clip from The Jimmy Dore Show from July 2016, the American comedian and his guests comment on a clip from a Bernie Sanders rally in Philadelphia. The crowd spontaneously turned towards the section of the stadium where the media were positioned, and chanted ‘the media is corrupt’, while pointing fairly and squarely at them.

Dore makes the point that not only are people fed up with establishment politics and its corruption, they’re also sick of establishment media. ‘How’, he asks rhetorically, ‘can it not be corrupt, when just five guys own it? Five guys!’ As for how the media felt having the crowd turn on them, he speculates that they’re already so soulless they didn’t feel anything. It’s all about money and simply getting on TV, whatever happens. It has nothing to do with presenting the news. It is, in his words, ‘all about selling soap to people’.

And their ears are so stuffed with money that they don’t hear it when the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future come calling. Scrooge should have been like them, and stuffed money in his ears when they turned up in Dicken’s story, A Christmas Carol.

Well, now we’ve seen how the corporate media is reacting to this, both in the US and this side of the Pond. They’re corrupt, they know they’re corrupt, but rather than doing anything about it, like raising standards and actually reflecting what’s important to severely normal citizens, they’re just taking the corporate money and representing the corrupt politicos and their corporate paymasters. It’s just business as usual.

And they way they’re responding to criticism is by trying to drive out and slander the independent media outlets, and the myriad bloggers and vloggers, who are telling it like it is. It’s why YouTube is demonetizing videos by left-wing broadcasters like The Young Turks, Secular Talk, David Pakman and Sam Seder. It’s why Facebook is prioritizing corporate content, to deprive independent bloggers like Mike over at Vox Political of an audience.

It’s why one of the soulless corporate shills from the Groaniad penned a piece last week loftily claiming that corporate media hacks like his paper were the acme of journalistic standards, while all you’d get from the independent media and bloggers like Mike are lies, sloppy reporting and fake news.

Despite the fact that a lot of lies and fake news has always come from the mainstream press.

As for Mike, he’s a qualified journalist, who worked on a series of local papers. He even edited one for a time. Mike cares deeply about what he writes, about professionalism and proper journalistic standards, and checks the accuracy of his stories.

And so do very, very many other bloggers. For example, Another Angry Voice. I don’t know the Angry Yorkshireman’s background, but his pieces are carefully and thoughtfully argued and meticulously footnoted.

And they’re not the only bloggers doing quality journalism on the Net. The disability websites, like DPAC and others are goldmines for information about the government’s attacks on disabled people, and the pseudoscientific nonsense on which the Work Capability Tests are based on. There are thousands, perhaps millions of others, all saying what the corporate, mainstream media, including the Beeb, do not want you to hear.

Support them. Read them, and reblog them if you like what they say. Don’t let them be silenced.

RT’s Lee Camp on Facebook Prioritization of Corporate Media

August 14, 2017

Mike’s already blogged about this issue on his website, including posting this snippet from RT America’s Lee Camp, one of the satirical hosts of Redacted Tonight.

Facebook have decided that they are going to prioritize material from corporate media. Mike’s been hit by this policy, along with numerous other left-wing bloggers trying to bring you the truth that the Beeb and the mainstream media don’t want you to hear.

Camp calls this what it is: censorship. 44 per cent of Americans get their news from Facebook. And Zuckerberg, Facebook’s head, for his protests to the contrary, does look he’s thinking of running for president. He’s hired a former Clinton aide, and went the other week to a small town in Iowa, where he talked about politics. As Camp says, if he isn’t planning on running for president, then he really needs to get some friends.

This policy is also running with a campaign to cut out ‘fake news’. Camp admits that there is fake news out there, but when the corporate media talk about fake news, they mean the small, independent network of bloggers, activists and small broadcasters, like The David Pakman Show, The Young Turks, Sam Seder’s Minority Report and Secular Talk, who stand outside the corporate big boys like TimeWarner, Comcast, Fox, MSNBC and so on. The algorithm designed to recognize fake news is being created with the assistance of the New York Times. The Times has published some excellent pieces, but it’s also just signed a $600 million contract with the CIA.

He then reads out Facebook’s guidelines for contributors, where they state they do not want clickbait. He also points out that they’re also not interested in showing how America’s bombing Yemen into the ground, and causing a massive famine in one of the Middle East’s poorest nations. Because that doesn’t fit corporate America’s agenda.

He also reads out a few Tweets from ordinary Americans, who are massively unimpressed with this censorship. And he also advises his audience that if they want to continue to hear genuinely independent voices, they need to support those bloggers and vloggers, use independent platforms, and occasionally throw the creators the odd dollar or five.

Absolutely. And this has come as part of a general corporate attack on independent news creators. Google are demonetizing various videos over on YouTube. These seem to be mostly those created by the independent, left-wing news programmes and shows that I mentioned above. It’s affecting David Pakman, and The Young Turks, as well as Sam Seder, amongst others.

Mike’s pointed out that Facebook stands to lose money by this policy. Well, they do, but they’re monopoly capitalists, so they’re confident about retaining overall control of the medium, or at least their massive share of it. What they don’t want is a load of progressives and Socialists coming through, telling people that another world is possible: that the poor aren’t all idle scroungers, that tax cuts for the rich aren’t going to make those at the bottom of the pile richer, that racism is a tool to exploit the White man as well as marginalize and persecute Blacks, Mexicans and Asians, and that single-payer actually makes far more sense than insurance-based health care.

As for the New York Times, Counterpunch have had the Grey Lady in their sights for a very long time for the way it acted as a media cheerleader for the Iraq War, censoring and sanitizing the horrors that American and western forces were committing in the name of ‘spreading democracy’.

These corporate policies, however, show that the mainstream media are on the back foot on this. Their monopoly is being challenged, and despite the bullsh*t and spin they’ve put out about representing quality journalism against independent ‘fake news’, their hold on the media is being challenged and weakening. Last week Mike wrote a piece tearing an article in the Groaniad to pieces when they tried this line.

And their even more terrified now that very many people have liked and republished Ismahil Blagrove’s diatribe about the way corporate television don’t understand and have no interest in representing the views and hopes of ordinary people.

So, instead of supporting corporate media, go and check out independent blogs and vlogs like Vox Political, Johnny Void, Another Angry Voice, Kitty S. Jones, Guy Debord’s Cat, RT, the Canary, Chunky Mark, Aye Up, Let’s Talk, Tony Greenstein, Stilloaks, and many, many others. These are the people worth listening to, the people, who really talk about the harsh realities of Conservative Britain beyond the confines of corporate news.

RT Report: 90 People a Month Dying After Being Found Fit for Work

August 14, 2017

Mike over at Vox Political blogged about this issue last week. In this piece from RT, the presenter interviews journalist Steve Topple over the official figures that 90 people a month are dying after being found fit for work under the Work Capability Test. In one instance, a man, Lawrence Bond, collapsed and died of a heart attack right outside the jobcentre. He had been found fit for work, despite having an underlying heart problem. Topple also goes further, and cites other, highly disturbing figures that show the immense harm the tests are doing to disabled people. Oxford University found that 590 people had taken their own lives due to them. The tests are also linked to 270,000 cases of mental illness, and the prescription of 800,000 drugs for people suffering from the stress of these tests.

Topple and the present also discuss how the tests were introduced by New Labour back in 2008 as a way of redefining disability. Topple states that we do need to cut the welfare bill, but the tests are a blunt instrument that harms the disabled.

Topple also makes the point that the tests themselves are uneconomical. They’re more expensive to administer than whatever savings are produced from them. Mike and the other disability bloggers and activists have pointed out that this isn’t about saving money. It’s about penalizing and harassing the poor and disabled, simply for being poor and disabled. It is part of the principle of less eligibility, the ideology behind the workhouse, which Maggie Thatcher so enthusiastically embraced as one of her vile ‘Victorian values’.

They also make short work of another scandal – the DWP’s refusal to hand over the precise figures on the pretext that this would damage ‘commercial confidentiality’. The document being requested is Maximus’ – the company that has been administering the tests since 2015 – own internal report into the results of their tests across regions. Topple states that in refusing to publish the report, the DWP is acting directly against the orders of the Information Commissioner, who has demanded that the figures be published.

The claim of commercial confidentiality is a nonsense anyway. If a company is performing the work of a government department, then it should be open to public scrutiny in the same way a government department is. If you want to argue philology here, the Latin phrase for ‘state’ was ‘res publica’, the ‘public thing’, which became our word, ‘republic’. By implication, if a company is therefore working as part of the res publica, it should be open to inspection by the public, as free citizens.

Of course, this is all deeply abhorrent to the DWP and its heads, Iain Duncan Smith and now Damian Green. These two and their underlings and fellow ministers have been determined to cull as many of the disabled as possible in what Mike has called ‘chequebook euthanasia’, while hiding the figures from the general public. Mike has said many times on his book about the immense struggle he has had getting the true figures from the DWP, who refused, stonewalled, and challenged his requests for them. Just as they did to other disability bloggers and activists.

To see the names and biographies of some of the people, who have been killed by this vile policy, go to Mike’s blog, as well Stilloaks, Johnny Void and Another Angry Voice, and see DPAC’s website for their criticisms and campaigns against the DWP.

As for the Department itself, I fully concur with Mike: it should be broken up, and the worst offenders in it, those determined to make the lives of claimants as miserable as possible, should be sacked with no chance of a golden handshake. Frankly, if there was an real justice, Smith, Green and the Wicked Witch of the Wirral, Esther McVie, should be behind bars on a charge of corporate manslaughter.

The Euthanasia of the Elderly in Stephen Baxter’s ‘Titan’

July 18, 2017

A few days ago I put up a post about the nightmare, alternative future described by the British SF novelist Stephen Baxter in his novel, Titan. Baxter’s a writer of hard SF, a subgenre in which the fiction is nevertheless grounded in solid, known science fact, though often with an element of artistic license. Titan was written in 1995, and is partly set in the decaying America of the first decades of the 21st century. A militantly anti-science president, Maclachlan, has been elected with the support of the Ku Klux Klan and Christian fundamentalists. Maclachlan shuts down NASA for good after a shuttle disaster. The launch complexes are closed down. Those that aren’t demolished become simply tourist attractions, as do the agency’s headquarters and mission control. One of these, a museum to the Apollo moon landings, is altered so that it promotes instead the spiritual experiences many of the astronauts did have during their missions. Maclachlan also introduces legislation demanding that only the Aristotelian cosmology of Thomas Aquinas, with its crystal spheres, is taught in schools. What is left of the agency is given over to the USAF under the paranoid and nationalistic General Hartle, who is very much like the rogue American General Jack D. Ripper in Stanley Kubrick’s classic nuclear black comedy, Doctor Strangelove.

Against this, the agency attempts to launch one last, great space mission, a crewed voyage to Titan, where the Cassini probe has found evidence of active biological chemistry.

I commented in my post on the remarkable similarity between the policies of the fictional Maclachlan and Donald Trump. Maclachlan is fiercely nationalistic, and withdraws American peacekeepers from their stations around the globe, as well as pulling America out of NAFTA and the various other free trade agreements. America also pulls out of the World Bank and the IMF, and the UN is kicked out of New York. Like the real anti-Semites of the America Far Right, Maclachlan believes that the US is under ‘Israeli occupation’. Maclachlan also dismantles the country’s welfare programmes, especially those benefiting Blacks and other minorities, and starts building a wall with Mexico.

He also devises a policy to deal with America’s increasingly aging society: euthanasia chambers for the unwanted or neglected elderly. These are euphemistically called ‘Happy Booths’. There’s a very touching scene in which the last, fictitious surviving Apollo spaceman, Marcus White, is gassed to death in one of these chambers by a couple of nurses, who are every bit as malign as Nurse Ratchet in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. By this time, however, White is so confused with dementia, that he is lost in the delusion that he is back as a middle-aged man at NASA in his prime, suiting up and breathing the pure oxygen in preparation for another flight to the Moon.

This is interesting, as it completely turns on its head one of the truly despicable pieces of propaganda the Republicans were running ten years ago to make sure the American public didn’t get single-payer healthcare. Instead, we had Sarah Palin and the rest of the maniacs screaming that the introduction of single-payer healthcare, where all Americans would have free medical treatment financed by the state, would lead to ‘death panels’. Palin herself made a speech about how she didn’t want her children facing them. The idea was under a socialist system, medical care would be rationed. Those individuals deemed to be a waste of state money and resources, such as the elderly, would thus be humanely killed.

It was a disgusting piece of propaganda, based partly on the murder of the disabled in Nazi Germany. The Nazis were also pro-euthanasia, producing propaganda forms with titles such as I Don’t Want to Be Born. It was also based partly on the vile views of some of the founders of the Fabian Society, particularly H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw, who were very much in favour of eugenics and the sterilization of the biologically unfit.

Unfortunately, many Americans were taken in by this bilge. There was a BBC report on the truly horrific state of American healthcare, in which a clinic offering free treatment in California immediately attracted 50,000 + prospective patients. These are the 20 per cent of Americans, who couldn’t afford their private healthcare before the introduction of Obamacare. The Beeb’s reported also attracted the attention of Republican supporters, who’d believed all the rubbish they’d been fed by Palin and her stormtroopers. One of these was an elderly man, who rushed up to the Beeb’s crew and shouted ‘Your healthcare system stinks!’ When they politely asked him how so, he looked confused, and began to mutter about ‘death panels’.

There are no death panels in Britain, or anywhere else with a socialized, or state-funded medical system. As for Germany, state financing of medical treatment for the workers was introduced by Bismarck in the 1870s, nearly fifty years before the Nazis seized power. There is a problem, where dying individuals may be refused treatment of expensive and/or experimental drugs or other procedures on the NHS because the costs far exceed any chance of success. This is very much a controversial issue, as we’ve seen the past week with the parents fighting to send their dying son over to America for treatment. However, there are no death panels.

The ‘Happy Booths’ described in the book are a piece of artistic invention by Baxter. Conventional Christian morality rejects euthanasia for the same reasons it has traditionally ruled out abortion, except in certain very restricted circumstances. This is because both judge that there are certain forms of human beings, such as the unborn and the disabled, who are held not to have the same rights to life. If it is permitted to kill the disabled and the unborn, it is argued, there is a danger that the same attitude will spread to other groups also considered inferior, like the Jews and other ‘untermenschen’ in Nazi Germany. And Baxter is aware of this, as elsewhere in the book he describes how the British relative of one of the astronauts, stricken by CJD or ‘Mad Cow Disease’, is going to a euthanasia clinic even though their parents consider it unchristian.

A president dependent on the support of right-wing Christian fundamentalists would alienate a sizable part of his constituency if he did. What happens instead is that, through its hostility to state medicine and the welfare state, Republican politicians of Maclachlan’s type make it impossible for the poor, severely ill to support themselves. Hence Bernie Sanders’ chilling statistic that 50,000 Americans die each year because they cannot afford private medical treatment.

This is basically the same attitude of Tory party under David Cameron and Theresa May. They have extended the sanctions system and the Work Capability Tests to make it as difficult as possible for the unemployed and the disabled to quality for state support. The result of that has been that researchers at Oxford University found that in 2015 alone, 30,000 people died through the Tories’ austerity policies. And Mike over at Vox Political reported yesterday that, according to the Skwawkbox, there’s a nasty clause in Universal Credit, which means that the claimant has to find a job in two years, or they lose their benefit.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/07/17/uc-gives-disabled-people-just-two-years-to-find-a-job-or-lose-everything/

This is a right-wing ‘genocide of the disabled’, as Mike, Johnny Void, Stilloaks, Tom Pride and the Angry Yorkshireman have said on their blogs, and Jeffrey, one of the great commenters here, has said on this. But it’s carefully hidden. The victims aren’t actually killed, they’re simply left to die. And the few politicos, who dare to call it what it is, are denied their ability to sit in parliament.

On Friday Mike commented on a piece in the Disability News Service about Mr. Jared O’Mara, a disabled Lib Dem MP, who has called the Tories’ policies towards the disabled ‘eugenics’, and stated that they want disabled people to ‘suffer and die’. Mr. O’Mara is to be commended for the way he tried to tackle Iain Duncan Smith, the former head of the DWP and therefore the government’s chief minister responsible for implementing this policy. However, Mr. O’Mara finds it impossible to find anywhere in the House of Commons to sit during debates. There is insufficient seating for all 650 MPs, and there is no form available for disabled MPs to fill in stating that they have particular seating needs. As Mike says, this is all very suspicious.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/07/07/disabled-mp-accuses-tories-of-eugenics-is-that-why-they-wont-let-him-take-a-seat/

As a religious person, I can’t say I’m happy about the anti-religious stance of Titan. I went to a Christian college for my undergraduate degree, and some of the students were Creationists. I am not saying that their literalist reading of the creation story in Genesis is correct, but I have to say that they were, by and large, decent people. Those I met weren’t racists or political extremists, and I know that one or two were actually left-wing. I also can’t say that they were anti-science, outside of the very specific field of evolution. Moreover, since the election of Donald Trump there has been the emergence of a religious Left in America, something which couldn’t have been predicted when Baxter wrote the book back in the 1990s. One of the authors of the collection of articles attacking the Neo-Cons, Confronting the New Conservatism, pointed out that the Neo-Cons were not necessarily going to be politically dominant for ever. Kansas, and many of the other mid-western Republican states, had in the 1920s been centres of the Social Gospel movement, which combined Christianity and Socialism. It’s possible that as more Americans recognize how truly disgusting Trump and his party are, Christians over the other side of the Pond may return to it.

However, Trump and his administration are anti-science. The Republican party is strongly opposed to climate change, and so there has been a concerted attack on environmentalism since Trump took office. Legislation protecting America’s glorious natural heritage has been repealed, and federal scientists responsible for monitoring the environment have been effectively gagged. They may not publish any scientific papers supporting climate change, and the federal agency itself has been effectively gutted.

Titan also portrays a future suffering from global warming and catastrophic climate change, as do very many of the SF novels written during the same decade, such as Bruce Sterling’s Heavy Weather. So far Trump hasn’t wound up NASA, though I don’t doubt that the agency is still under considerable pressure to keep expenses under control. But the real harm is being done by Trump’s deliberate rejection of climate change to appease powerful donors from industry, particularly the Kochs in big oil. This denial of climate change, and that of the other world leaders, will lead to the deaths of millions worldwide. If it hasn’t already.

More Hypocrisy from the Tories and the Daily Mail as They Accuse Labour of Bigotry and Intolerance

July 8, 2017

The Conservatives and Daily Heil are back to the old tricks of accusing the Labour party and its supporters, particularly those in Momentum for Jeremy Corbyn, of intolerance, vandalism and intimidation. Sheryll Murray, the Tory MP for South East Cornwall, whined in an article in the Fail about her treatment by Labour supporters. She claimed that

“I’ve had swastikas carved into posters, social media posts like ‘burn the witch’ and ‘stab the C’, people putting Labour Party posters on my home, photographing them and pushing them through my letterbox. Someone even urinated on my office door.”

Dominic Sandbrook, one of the rag’s journos, then went on to opine that “The fact is the overwhelming majority of the abuse, bullying and intimidation comes from the Left.”

Tory MP Nadine ‘Mad Nad’ Dorries put up a photograph of one of these vandalised posters with the accusation that it was done by Momentum supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, along with her judgement that Britain was heading back to the 1930s.

As Mike has pointed out on his blog about the article, citing Tom Clarke, the Angry Yorkshireman, neither Murray, Dorries nor Sandbrook has absolutely any evidence that this was done by Labour supporters. It’s just another unfounded accusation to smear the Labour party.

And Murray herself also has form when it comes to intolerance. At one of her rallies, she stated that she’s glad there are food banks in Cornwall. When a section of the crowd, not unreasonably, shows its anger, she first tries to wave it off by saying, ‘Let’s ignore these, shall we?’ As Mike also asks rhetorically, what does she mean when she refers to the protesters as ‘these’? When they continue, she threatens to call the police.

Mike concludes

This Writer reckons the Tories are on the back foot, and this is a desperate attempt to regain credibility with the public.

It must not succeed.

So, if you see a Tory trying to defame the Left in this manner, don’t let it pass; challenge it.

We’ll see how long their feigned indignance lasts when they’re made to produce evidence – or shut up.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/07/06/tories-accuse-the-left-of-intolerance-and-bigotry-without-evidence-pot-kettle-black/

There are a number of issues underlying the petulant shrieks of intolerance by the Tories, some going back to patrician attitudes to the working classes that predate democratic politics.

Firstly, as Mike and the Angry Yorkshireman point out, there’s absolutely no evidence linking any of this to the Labour party. Indeed, some of it is just as likely to come from the Lib Dems or indeed just from people of no fixed political opinions, who are fed with the Tories. In rural areas like parts of the south west, the main rivals to the Conservatives aren’t Labour but the Liberal Democrats, and I’ve heard from former Conservative local politicians that the real hatred isn’t between Labour and the Conservatives, between the Tories and Lib Dems.

Secondly, the Tories’ attitudes in many ways is simply a display of the old, upper class suspicion of the working class. Way back in the early 19th century the upper classes hated and feared the Labouring poor as prone to rioting, and potentially subversive and disloyal. The only way to keep the unwashed masses in line was through outright repression and stern policing. This attitude vanished, or at least was seriously weakened when the great unwashed turned up at the Great Exhibition. And instead of wanting to burn the place down, showed themselves orderly, responsible and interested. But this latest accusation from the Fail with its petit bourgeois readership shows that the old hatred and fear of the working class as a seething mass of social disorder, yobbishness and violence, still remains.

Thirdly, it shows just out of touch ‘Nads’ Dorries, Murray and Sandbrook are. If people are lashing out at Tory MPs and their propaganda, it’s because they’ve been driven to it by grinding poverty and an administration that ignores everyone except the richest quarter of the population. Many areas of rural Britain, including Cornwall, have high unemployment. There’s also a problem of getting housing, which is often well out of the price range of locals thanks to wealthy people from outside the area buying it as second homes. I’ve a friend from Cornwall, who was particularly angry about this nearly a decade ago. I can remember him getting up to tackle a group of ‘upcountry’ people about it in a pub, when he overheard them talking about how cheap property was down there.

Then there are the national problems of acute poverty, caused by stagnating wages and cuts to basic welfare support. People want and deserve proper unemployment and disability benefits, and very definitely not to be forced to support themselves through charity and food banks.

And then there’s the whole issue of the privatisation of the NHS. A few months ago I wrote another pamphlet about that, in addition to the one, whose contents I put up here a week or so ago. While writing this, and documenting the way a long line of right-wing governments have been aiming to privatise the NHS since Maggie Thatcher in the 1980s, I felt so furious that I really couldn’t face any kind of Tory propaganda. I felt so bitterly angry at the way the health service is being run down, in order to soften it up for privatisation and purchase by largely American private healthcare companies.

Given all this, the British public has an absolutely right to be angry, and while I don’t approve of people urinating in anyone’s letter box, I honestly can’t blame them for vandalising the posters. In Bristol popular anger against the Tories could be seen just before the general election in a piece of graffiti scrawled outside the Eye Hospital near the BRI. It read: Donate Tory Blood – It’s Worth More!

Nads’, Murray’s and Sandbrook’s sneering about ‘left-wing intolerance’ shows the complacency and complete indifference to suffering of the Tory middle and upper classes. They’re very comfortably off, thank you very much, and the Tories are serving them very well. So they have no idea, and indeed react with absolute horror at the very idea that part of the masses hates them with a passion, because they have no understanding, or sympathy, with the real poverty and deprivation many people are struggling with. We’re back indeed in the territory of Matthew Freud’s comments about how the poor should be more flexible than the rich, as they have less to lose.

There’s also an element of the old Tory landlord class, who expect their workers to put up and tug their forelock to the master, no matter how badly they were treated. A few years ago one of the BBC history programmes covered the Highland Clearances, the period in the late 18th and 19th centuries when the Scots aristocracy enclosed and forced their tenant farmers off their land so they could devote it to sheep rearing. The image of the wild, romantic Scots countryside actually post-dates this process. Before then the countryside north of the border was filled with rural communities – townships – and their people. It only became a wilderness when these people were forcibly evicted and their crofts and other homes pulled down.

And to add insult to injury, those workers, who managed to keep their jobs were expected to tug their forelocks and sing the praises of their masters. The programme mentioned how one ‘improving’ landlord, who was actually English, or half-English, got very upset when he decided to have a statue put up of himself. He expected his workers to pay for it, and was furious when many of them were less than enthusiastic.

It’s the same attitude here. The Tories still expect absolute feudal loyalty and subservience. When this is not forthcoming, and anger is shown instead, their own selfish indifference to the plight of the lower orders comes out, and they start screaming about how it’s all so unreasonable, intolerant, and, by implication, disobedient.

And lastly, it’s also massively hypocritical. The Tories have absolutely no business accusing anyone of intolerance, and especially not the Daily Heil. Not when sections of the party is still bitterly racist, with Mail and the Tory party championing even more stringent state censorship and surveillance of what we may read and post online, or say on the phone or other forms of social media. Not when they’ve created the legal infrastructure for secret courts, where you can be tried without trial, with having your lawyer see vital evidence against you, or even know who your accuser is, if the government decides this would all be against ‘national security’. Just like Stalin’s Russia, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy!

And the Tories certainly have no problem with violence and intolerance when it directed against the left. I remember how the Scum put up an approving story during the Miner’s Strike, about how an old lady struck the then head of the NUM, Arthur Scargill, with a tin of tomatoes she’d thrown. This old dear was praised for her pluck and daring at the evil Commie, who was destroying the mining industry and forcing all good, right-thinking Thatcherite miners out of the pits. Yet when the reverse occurs, and someone throws eggs at the Tories, they start frothing and screaming at their intolerance.

And if we’re talking about the Right’s intolerance during the Miner’s Strike, then how about the way Thatcher used military-style policing, including unprovoked charges, against the miners. This was done officially, and covered up by a complicit media, including the Beeb. Violence, and the savage beating of protesters, ain’t intolerance when it’s done by the Tory forces of law and order.

Dorries, Murray and Sandbrook show themselves with this article, to be intolerant hypocrites themselves. They’re all too happy to see people ground into the most extremes of poverty and misery, but panic when some few show their dissent by tearing down their propaganda.

Cartoon – Cameron and Osborne Laughing at the People, Who Elected Them

July 1, 2017

This cartoon is simply a straight drawing of David Cameron and George Osborne, based on photographs of them from Private Eye. These showed them laughing like a malignant, old Etonian Nazi version of the Chuckle Brothers. Of course, the Tories enjoy a good laugh mocking the Labour party, or anybody else in parliament who dares to tell the truth about the mass poverty they’re inflicting for the profit of big business. Remember the way May laughed robotically shortly before the election, when Jeremy Corbyn dared to remind her of it?

But it’s also not hard to imagine that they are laughing, not simply as a way of trying to shrug off the entire accurate attacks on them and their vile policies, but also at the poor and the very people, who are suffering through their policies. Mike put up a picture a year or so ago of Cameron and Ian Duncan Smith, the minister in charge of culling the disabled, having a real belly laugh in parliament at a speech, in which the sufferings of one disabled woman due to their welfare reforms, were being read out and described.

If you want a graphic demonstration of the Tories’ real attitude to the poorm that was it.

The Tories are dismantling what’s left of the welfare state and privatising the NHS, all for the benefit of the rich and big business. They have seen their tax rates cut, while the tax burden has increasingly shifted to the poor and working class through the imposition of indirect taxes. This has been a direct consequence of nearly forty years of Thatcherism. Left-wing economists, politicians, and writers have said that it is the largest redistribution of wealth upwards for decades.

The result has been massive wealth for the few, while the 75 per cent of the population who aren’t rich have been thrust further into poverty. Over a hundred thousand people are forced to use food banks. Seven million people live in food insecure households, just about feeding themselves today, but unsure whether they’ll have enough tomorrow. Wages are stagnant and below the rate of the inflation. The disabled and unemployed are thrown off benefit at the whim of jobcentre clerks and decision makers. Many of those fortunate enough to have jobs are stuck in short-term, part-time or zero hours contracts. Insecure short-term work, which does not pay enough to support them or their families. The majority of people claiming benefits aren’t the unemployed, but people in work hit by this type of poverty.

And the Tories are hitting the working poor as well. If you’re low paid and need benefits, it’s your fault for not being able to get a better job, rather than due to structural faults in the economy and decades of Thatcherite employment policies. So they’re busy trying to find ways of sanctioning these poor souls as well.

This is all done in the name of creating a fluid jobs market, enabling employers to hire and fire workers at will, and not having to pay those workers they do retain if they don’t need them that day. This is supposed to create employment.

But the Tories aren’t interested in creating mass employment. 19th century free trade economists and their monetarist successors wanted to keep a certain proportion of the population – about 8 per cent – unemployed in order to use the threat of unemployment to keep the working class in line and wages low.

This has made the rich much richer. And some of the Tories were very frank about what it meant at the time. Private Eye, reviewing one of the ‘heritage’ books that came out during Thatcher’s period in office about the wonderful lives and stately homes of the aristocracy, quoted Hugh Massingberd’s comments about it in the Times. After decades of attack by Labour governments, who had imposed death duties on them to break up their wealth, the aristocracy were returning to their old power and status. It was, he declared, ‘a social restoration’.

The anonymous reviewer pointed out what this meant for the rest of us. The rich were winning back their old seats in society, and the rest of us were going to be sat on.

Meanwhile, the Tories have sought to maintain their grip on power through lie after lie. They claim that only they represent the real working class, defending hardworking people against idle scroungers like the unemployed and asylum seekers. The NHS is being privatised and cut to the bone, but they then claim with a straight face that in real terms, there’s more money being spent on it than ever before. They aren’t depriving people of benefits, only reforming it so that it goes to the people, who deserve. Yeah, it’s because these reforms are so accurate that we have so many people dying of starvation.

As for food banks, people are only using them because it’s free food. It’s another lie. You can only use them if you have a chit from the jobcentre to say you have no money and can’t feed yourself. But the truth is irrelevant to Tories mouthing this nonsense, like Edwina Currie.

And at the top you get the sneers and condescension from very rich Tories, who are doing very well, thank you very much. Johnny Void, Mike and the Angry Yorkshireman at Another Angry Voice carried a sample of some of these a few years ago. One Tory patrician declared that the homeless were ‘the people you step over coming out of the opera’. And Matthew Freud, who was briefly a member of Blair’s New Labour before jumping ship and joining the Tories, declared that the poor should be more flexible than the rich, as they had less to lose.

These people are out of touch, and are sneering at the victim of the poverty they have imposed.

After the elections in the early 1990s, which saw John Major enter downing street as the new Tory pm, Spitting Image ran a series of sketches. These showed the Tories turning up outside the homes of ordinary people and asking them if they vote for them. When they said ‘Yes’, Major and his cabinet chanted ‘Stupid, Stupid’ at them. This was because the British public had voted them back in, despite massive poverty due to cuts and a housing crisis that had created a rise in homelessness as people had their homes repossessed for not being able to repay their mortgages.

Just as the lack of affordable housing now means that the majority of working people will be unable to afford their own home, and rents are also high.

So behind the carefully crafted veneer of ‘one nation’, ‘compassionate’ Conservatism – which is in fact anything but – it’s not hard to see that the Tories are having a laugh at the British public, sneering at the ordinary people, who elect them sincerely believing that they mean to serve them.

They don’t serve us, and have nothing in common with us, despite all that bilge about how ‘we’re all in it together’. They serve only the rich, and despise and hate the working and lower middle classes.

But for a genuine politicians, who does have the interests of the poor at heart, vote Labour and get Corbyn into office when ‘strong and stable’ May’s administration finally collapses.

End Workfare Now! Part 1

June 20, 2017

This is the text of another pamphlet I wrote a year or so ago against the highly exploitative workfare industry. As the pamphlet explains, workfare, or ‘welfare to work’, is the system that provides industry with cheap, unemployed temporary labour under the guise of getting the jobless back into work by giving them work experience. If the unemployed person refuses, he or she is thrown off benefit.

These temporary jobs go nowhere, and it’s been proven that the unemployed are actually far better off looking for jobs on their own than using workfare. And it’s very similar to other systems of supposed voluntary work and forced labour, such as the labour colonies set up in Britain in 1905, the Reichsarbeitsdienst in Nazi Germany, and the use of forced labour against the ‘arbeitscheu’ – the ‘workshy’, as well as the compulsory manual labour required of all citizens in Mao’s china during the Cultural Revolution, and the Gulags in Stalin’s Russia.

Mike over at Vox Political has blogged against it, so has Johnny Void and the Angry Yorkshireman of Another Angry Voice, and many other left-wing bloggers. It’s another squalid policy which New Labour and the Tories took over from Reagan and Bill Clinton.

Jeremy Corbyn has promised to get rid of the work capability tests. I hope also that under him, the Labour party will also get rid of this vile policy, so that big corporations like Poundland and supermarkets like Tesco’s will have to take on workers and pay them a decent wage, rather than exploiting desperate and jobless workers supplied by the Thatcherite corporate state.

End Workfare Now!

Workfare is one of the most exploitative aspects of the contemporary assault on the welfare state and the unemployed. It was advocated in the 1980s by the Republicans under Ronald Reagan in America, and in Britain by Thatcher’s Conservatives. In 1979 the Tory party ranted about the need to ‘restore the will to work’. Geoffrey Howe, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, declared that ‘The Government and the vast majority of the British people want hard work and initiative to be properly rewarded and are vexed by disincentives to work’. At its heart is the attitude that the unemployed should be forced to work for their benefits, as otherwise they are getting ‘something for nothing’. Very many bloggers and activists for the poor and unemployed, including Vox Political, Johnny Void, Another Angry Voice, and myself have denounced it as another form of slavery. It’s used to provide state-subsidised, cheap labour for big business and charities, including influential Tory donors like Sainsbury’s. And at times it crosses the line into true slavery. Under the sanctions system, an unemployed person is still required to perform workfare, even if the jobcentre has sanctioned them, so that they are not receiving benefits. Workfare recipients – or victims – have no control over where they are allocated or what jobs they do. The government was challenged in the courts by a geology graduate, who was forced to work in Poundland. The young woman stated that she did not object to performing unpaid work. She, however, had wanted to work in a museum, and if memory serves me correctly, had indeed got a place at one. She was, however, unable to take up her unpaid position there because of the Jobcentre’s insistence she labour for Poundland instead. A young man also sued the government, after he was sanctioned for his refusal to do 30 hours a week unpaid labour for six months for the Community Action Programme. The High and Appeal Courts ruled in the young people’s favour. They judged that the government had indeed acted illegally, as the law did not contain any stipulations for when and how such work was to be performed.

Iain Duncan Smith, the notorious head of the Department of Work and Pensions, was outraged. He called the decision ‘rubbish’ and said, ‘There are a group of people out there who think they are too good for this kind of stuff .. People who think it is their right take benefit and do nothing for it – those days are over.’ This is rich coming from IDS, who was taking over a million pounds in farm subsidies from the EU. Eventually, Smith got sick of the criticism he was taking for the government’s welfare policies, and flounced off early in 2016 moaning about how unfair it all was that he should get the blame, when the notorious Work Capability Tests inflicted on the elderly and disabled were introduced by New labour.

Those forced into workfare are in no sense free workers, and it similarly makes a nonsense of the pretense that this somehow constitutes ‘voluntary work’, as this has been presented by the government and some of the participating charities

The political scientist Guy Standing is also extremely critical of workfare in his book, A Precariat Charter, demanding its abolition and making a series of solid arguments against it. He states that it was first introduced in America by the Republicans in Wisconsin, and then expanded nationally to the rest of the US by Bill Clinton in his Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. It was part of his campaign to ‘end welfare as we know it’. Single parents receiving social assistance were required to take low-paying jobs after two years. Legislation was also passed barring people from receiving welfare payments for more than five years in their entire lives.

David Cameron, unsurprisingly, was also a fan of the Wisconsin system, and wanted to introduce it over here. In 2007 he made a speech to the Tory faithful at the party conference, proclaiming ‘We will say to people that if you are offered a job and it’s a fair job and one that you can do and you refuse it, you shouldn’t get any welfare.’ This became part of Coalition policy towards the unemployed when they took power after the 2010 elections.’ Two years later, in 2012, Boris Johnson, speaking as mayor of London, declared that he was going to use EU money from the Social Fund to force young adults between 18 and 24 to perform 13 weeks of labour without pay if they were unemployed. In June that year David Cameron also declared that there was a need to end ‘the nonsense of paying people more to stay at home than to get a job – and finally making sure that work really pays. Ed Miliband’s Labour party also joined in. Liam Byrne, the Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions, declared that

Labour would ensure that no adult will be able to live on the dole for over two years and no young person for over a year. They will be offered a real job with real training, real prospects and real responsibility … People would have to take this responsibility or lose benefits.

This was echoed by Ed Balls, who said

A One Nation approach to welfare reform means government has a responsibility to help people into work and support for those who cannot. But those who can work must be required to take up jobs or lose benefits as such – no ifs or buts.

Forced Labour for the Unemployed in History

Standing traces the antecedents of workfare back to the English poor law of 1536 and the French Ordonnance de Moulins of twenty years later, which obliged unemployed vagabonds to accept any job that was offered them. He states that the direct ancestor is the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act, the infamous legislation that, under the notion of ‘less eligibility’, stipulated that those receiving support were to be incarcerated in the workhouse, where conditions were deliberately made much harsher in order to deter people from seeking state
support, rather than paid work. This attitude is also reflected in contemporary attitudes that, in order to ‘make work pay’, have demanded that welfare support should be much less than that received for paid work. This has meant that welfare payments have become progressively less as the various measure to make the labour market more flexible – like zero hours contracts – drove down wages. The workhouse system was supplemented in 1905 by the Unemployed Workmen Act, supported, amongst others, by Winston Churchill. This directed unemployed young men into labour, so that they should not be ‘idle’ and be ‘under control’. Nor were leading members of the early Labour party averse to the use of force. Sidney and Beatrice Webb, two of the founders of the Fabian Society, were also in favour of sending the unemployed to ‘labour colonies’, chillingly close to the forced labour camps which became such as feature of the Nazi and Communist regimes. Weimar Germany in the 1920s and ’30s also developed a system of voluntary work to deal with the problems of mass unemployment. This was taken over by the Nazis and became compulsory for all Germans from 19-25 as the Reicharbeitsdienst, or Imperial Labour Service It was mainly used to supply labour for German agriculature. Because of its universal nature, the Reicharbeitsdienst had no stigma attached to it, and indeed was seen as part of the new, classless Germany that was being created by Hitler. In a speech to the Service’s workers, Hitler declared that there would be no leader, who had not worked his way up through their ranks. Much harsher was the Nazi’s treatment of the serially unemployed. They were declared arbeitscheu – the German word, which forms the basis of the English ‘workshy’. These individuals were sent to the concentration camps, where they were identified with a special badge on their pyjamas, just like those marking out Jews, gay men, Socialists and trade unionists, and so on.

Liam Byrne also harked back to the Webbs to support his argument for workfare as Labour party policy. He stated

If you go back to the Webb report, they were proposing detention colonies for people refusing to take work … All the way through our history there has been an insistence on the responsibility to work if you can. Labour shouldn’t be any different now. We have always been the party of the responsibility to work as well.

The Workfare Scheme

The result of this is that many unemployed people have been placed on the Mandatory Work Activity – MWA – scheme, which requires them to perform four weeks of unpaid work for a particular company, organisation or charity. The scheme also includes the disabled. Those now judged capable of performing some work are placed in the Work-Related Activity group, and required perform some unpaid labour in order to gain ‘experience’. If they do not do so, they may lose up to 70 per cent of their benefits.

This has created immense fear among the unemployed and disabled. Standing quotes one man with cerebral palsy, who was so afraid of being sanctioned for not performing the mandatory work, that he felt physically sick. Mental health professionals – psychiatrists and psychologists, have also released reports attacking the detrimental effect the stress of these tests are having on the mentally ill. So far they have estimated that upwards of a quarter of a million people with mental health problems such as depression and anxiety have had their condition made worse – sometimes very much worse – through the stress of taking these tests.

The system also affects those in low-paid part-time jobs or on zero hours contracts. These must prove that they are looking for more working hours or a better paid job. If they do not do so, they may lose benefits or tax credits. In 2013 the Tory-Lib Dem government made it even harder for people to claim tax credits by raising the number of working hours a week, for which tax credits could not be claimed, from 16 to 24.