Posts Tagged ‘Jobs’

Trump to Criminalise and Take Benefits from Legal Immigrants

February 5, 2017

This is yet more anti-immigrant legislation from the orange Nazi. And this time, it’s not just about criminalising and deporting illegal immigrants, it’s about taking benefits and criminalising those, who have come to America perfectly legally and built lives and businesses there.

In this video from TYT Nation, Jeff Waldorf discusses Trump’s travel ban on immigrants from seven, Muslim majority countries. But he points out that one of the Muslim countries not on the list is Saudi Arabia, which is a major exporter of Islamist terrorism. 14 of the 19 hijackers in 9/11 were Saudis. But Saudis aren’t banned, because America has extensive trade links with that country. He’s also horrified that 49 per cent of Americans actually agree with the ban on Muslim immigration.

Trump is also amending current covering the various state benefits, which may be taken into account in determining whether an immigrant should be allowed to stay in the country. At the moment, the Department of Homeland Security may have an immigrant deported if they are considered to be likely to rely on welfare for their main subsistence. At the moment, the only benefits that can be taken into account are those involving money payments. They do not include food stamps or medicare. But Trump wants to change the law so that those are taken into account too.

Trump also wants to have legal immigrants holding valid visas deported if they use benefits beyond a certain level. And as well as the immigrant being deported, the person responsible for sponsoring them would be required to pay back the benefits paid to the deported immigrant. Legal immigrants would also be prevented from claiming child tax credit, even if the child was an American citizens. Waldorf calls this exactly what it is: birthright citizenship.

He also wants to begin compiling and publishing statistics on how much is spent on welfare benefits to immigrants, and compare this with what could be spent on America’s poor in the inner cities. As Waldorf makes very clear, this is disgusting. It’s pitting one group of poor against another in the oldest trick in the book, divide and conquer.

Trump is also planning an executive order designed to curb the ‘jobs magnet’ to America. This piece of legislation will allow the deportation of any foreign-born visa holder and cancel the workplace provisions if they are found to be against the national interest. Trump is also considering compiling statistics of naturalised Americans, who are doing jobs that could otherwise be done by ‘native’ American citizens. Waldorf states that this means that even if you have immigrated to America perfectly legally, you are still counted as someone, who has taken the job of a ‘real’ American.

He is particularly angry as this affects his family. His wife’s grandfather is a naturalised American. He’s actually Dutch. The man is very Conservative, and watched Fox News. Yet nevertheless, according to this new piece of legislation, he is not a real American. Waldorf also reminds his viewers how many immigrants have actually built and created jobs in the Middle East, like Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, whose father was Syrian.

Waldorf states that this is how Fascism starts. It has, in his view, the fingerprints of Steve Bannon, the White supremacist CEO of Breitbart and one of the Trump’s closest advisors, all over it. This Trump’s racist attitude to immigration. Only those ‘real’ Americans born in the country and White should have jobs, benefits and citizenship. No-one else. And Waldorf also states that the people causing poverty and sucking up the wealth are the top 1 per cent, the super-rich. However, they want to distract Americans from this by hating the people just below them.

I realise that many of you will probably be getting heartily sick of all this coverage of Trump and his vile maladministration. But this stuff doesn’t just affect Americans. Mike’s carried stories about how the Tories and the Kippers over here want to pass legislation preventing immigrants from claiming benefits or using the NHS. If Trump passes this in the US, it will encourage them to do so the same over here. Quite apart from rags like the Daily Heil regularly running headlines about immigrants overrunning the welfare state, when in fact the benefits system and NHS is in crisis because of deliberate Tory funding cuts and privatisation.

A few days ago I put up a piece about the Economist Intelligence Unit reporting that Trump combined with far right European politicians could be a real menace to democracy. This is absolutely right. It’s shown by the strong parallels between this proposed legislation, and that of the Tories and Kippers. If Trump succeeds, he will empower racists and racist movements throughout the West. He must be stopped.

Marine Le Pen Wants to End Free Education for Immigrant Children

December 10, 2016

Padraic Flanagan also wrote a story in yesterday’s I reporting that Marine Le Pen, the head of the French Front National, had recommended that immigrant children should not automatically qualify for free education. The report ran

The French far-right leader Marine Le Pen has called for an end to automatic free education for foreign children. She has said foreigners in France should go through a “waiting period” before benefiting from the country’s social services and that children whose parents are in France illegally should not be allowed access to free schooling.

Ms Le Pen, a candidate in France’s spring presidential election, took the subject in front of reporters yesterday during a stroll through the Paris Christmas market on the Avenue des Champs-Elysees.

The National Front leader also wants to stop what she calls “massive” immigration and is urging an exit from the European Union and its common euro currency. (p.13).

Mike’s covered similar issues in several of his blog posts. There have been demands from Tory and Kipper politicos to stop immigrants and immigrant children from qualifying for certain welfare benefits in this country. Mike has pointed out how this is not only grossly unjust, but also risks increasing the spread of disease, in the case of denying illegal immigrants medical care. He has also most recently stated that it is immoral to punish children for the crimes of their parents.

Much the same arguments apply here. This policy also risks pushing up immigrant crime. If immigrant children are denied the right to an education, this effectively blocks them from entering the jobs market. They will thus either have to rely on the welfare state, or turn to crime. And it will further radicalise them, by forcing them to turn inward to their own communities for support.

It’s a vile idea. But unfortunately, such ideas are becoming increasingly common in the post-Brexit, post-Trump world.

Vox Political: Tory ‘British Jobs’ Policy Taken from Mein Kampf

October 6, 2016

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Adolf Hitler and the previous Tory PM David Cameron. The face has changed, but its getting harder to tell the difference between the Tories and the Nazis.

Mike has a very ominous piece about the startling similarity between Theresa May’s ‘British jobs for British workers’ policy, announced yesterday, and those of the Nazis. The two policies are identical, as far as I can tell, and this struck the LBC presenter James O’Brien so hard that he announced it on his own programme yesterday. Amber Rudd had made a speech stating that companies will be compelled to list the numbers of foreign workers they employ, in order to give preference to British workers. Mr O’Brien read out Hitler’s statement of precisely the same policy, for the exact same reasons, as contained in chapter 2 of Mein Kampf. He said at first he was reading part of Rudd’s speech, but later corrected himself after he had read out the passage, and admitted where it was really from. He said

“If you’re going to have a sharp line of distinction between people born here and people who just work here, you’re enacting chapter two of Mein Kempf. Strange times.”

Mike also notes that the phrase ‘British jobs for British workers’ was a BNP slogan from a few years ago, and shows the proof in a picture of an election billboard on one of the Nazi organisation’s vans.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/10/06/radio-presenter-reveals-amber-rudds-speech-echoes-mein-kampf/

There have always been unnerving links between sections of the Tory party and the extreme Right. There was the Anglo-German Fellowship of wealthy businessmen and aristocrats advocating friendship with Nazi Germany before the Second World War. These links were re-established in the 1960s and 1970s, if not before, when the National Front coalesced from a number of different extremist groups, including Arnold Leese’s the Britons and the League of Empire Loyalists. Despite the Monday Club, then a section of the Tory party, banning members of the extreme Right from joining and opening its membership books to inspection by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the connections with the Fascist right continued under Maggie Thatcher. Thatcher was impressed with General Pinochet’s military dictatorship in Chile, and was personal friends with the mass murderer when he visited Britain. The libertarian section of the Tory party, the Freedom Association, also appeared several times in the parapolitics magazine, Lobster, for its dinners at which the leaders of various South and Central America death squads were the guests of honour. The links between the Tories and Fascism were so strong, that the BBC made a documentary about Nazi infiltration into the party, entitled Maggie’s Militant Tendency, after the Trotskyite entryist groups then a subject of controversy in the Labour party. Maggie showed her customary attitude tolerance and openness to tolerance and media criticism, and had the programme pulled.

Mike over at Vox Political has followed and described the increasingly authoritarian anti-immigrant attitude in Cameron’s government. Remember when he put the vans on the streets encouraging people to inform on illegal immigrants? And the posters which asked immigrants to turn themselves in, promising free repatriation back to their countries of origin if they did so? How long before the Tories start whipping up popular anti-immigrant hysteria, urging us to be vigilant and watch for illegal immigrants and foreign workers? Perhaps May will also start organising house to house searches for those that have gone underground, while those caught are rounded up and put into concentration camps for their own protection. Guarded, no doubt, by G4S, who have done such great work providing security staff for the present detention centres.

Mike commented on one of his blog pieces about the latest Tory attack on immigration that the Tories are trying to set Brits and immigrants against each other in divide and rule strategy. Keep the two at each other’s throats for scarce jobs and welfare benefits, all the while cutting down on the latter after running scare stories in the Heil and Murdoch press about immigrants occupying council houses and taking unemployment. All the while keeping from the public the fact that immigrants aren’t taking native Brits’ jobs, and are actually net payers into the welfare state, rather than a drain.

It isn’t immigrants, who are causing unemployment, lowering wages and cutting welfare benefits: it’s Thatcherite, neo-liberal economics, which is encouraging the outsourcing of industry, massive privatisation of whatever is left of the state sector, and the destruction of the welfare state. This is done with the deliberate intention of creating a cowed, fearful workforce, permanently in debt and on the verge of bankruptcy and destitution, ready to take any job, no matter how poorly paid and exploitative the conditions. It isn’t immigrants, who often work in poorly paid and exploitative jobs themselves, who are causing the immense profiteering of this country’s bloated rich. It is the wealthy industrialists, aristocracy and financiers and their puppets, the Conservatives and Blairite New Labour.

This is why we desperately need a genuinely socialist government to create proper jobs and restore the welfare state so that people can rely on decent medical treatment and the state support they need to care for them in sickness, disability, unemployment or retirement. Nye Bevan, the architect of the modern NHS, described the goal of such a socialist government in the title of his book, In Place of Fear. The Tories, on the other hand, believe in ruling by fear. And the grasping immigrant, ready to take British jobs, is another bogeyman set up to keep us afraid and divided.

Don’t be taken in. Immigrants are not our enemies. Our real enemies are in government and the CBI. We have to unite, and get them out. Only then can we start building a decent society built on proper compassion and respect.

Guy Standing’s Arguments against Workfare: Part 1

August 8, 2016

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. 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 Mike over at Vox Political, Johnny Void, the Angry Yorkshireman, 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.

They 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.

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.

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. 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 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.

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.

Guy Standing’s Arguments against Workfare: Part 2

August 8, 2016

The arguments trotted out to support the workfare policies are these.

1. Everyone has a duty to work. Those who take money from the state have a reciprocal obligation to work for the support they have received.

2. Following Moynihan in America, it’s argued that part of the problem of poverty in society is communities, where there are families, which have not worked for generations. In order to break the cycle of poverty, these people must be forced into work.

3. It’s also argued that many individuals have also been unemployed for so long that they, too, have lost the habit of working. These people must also be forced to work.

4. The unemployed are also socially marginalised and excluded. Workfare helps them, its supporters argue, become integrated into society and so become productive members of the community once again.

5. It is also claimed that workfare allows people to acquire new skills. In 2012 a report was published on the exploitation of the people forced to work for free as security guards for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. A spokesman for the ConDem coalition responded to the claim by stating: ‘The work programme is about giving people who have often been out of the workplace for quite some time the chance to develop skills that they need to get a job that is sustainable.’ As Johnny Rotten and the Sex Pistols sang back in 1977 ‘God save the Queen and the Fascist regime.’

6. Workfare somehow reduces government spending on welfare programmes. Liam Byrne, New Labour’s advocate for workfare, who was quoted in the first part of this article, said ‘The best way to save money is to get people back into work.’

In fact there are serious arguments against just about all of these points, and some of them simply aren’t factually true. Let’s deal with each of these arguments in turn.

The Duty to Work

If people have a duty to perform free work for the goods and services that are provided freely by the state, then the middle classes and the elite should particularly be targeted for workfare, because they use the state infrastructure and its services more than the proles and those at the bottom of society. But the middle and upper classes most definitely are not required to perform these services. Furthermore there are also strong objections to performing workfare for a profit-making company. Those who do so, like those poor souls working free of charge for the big supermarkets like Sainsbury’s, are helping to make these companies even more profitable. It isn’t society that profits from their work, but extremely wealthy individuals like David Sainsbury and his shareholders, and the people running his competitors, for example. This claim also implies that low income people have a duty to work in an inferior position for the benefit of their social or economic superiors in a master-servant relationship. This is a distortion of the concept of duty. The same idea also leads to the view that if you are unsuccessful in the labour market, you therefore have a duty to work for nothing, a view of society that is both regressive – harking back to some of the worst aspects of the Victorian era – an alienating. On the other hand, if you are performing work that is unprofitable, then there should be no duty to perform it. If it is genuine, valuable work, then the people performing it should be paid the current market rate, not simply provided with unemployment relief.

Standing also makes the point that the concept of duty has led to the belief that people should be forced to find work. But the use of coercion is divisive and actually undermines the commitment to work. He also argues that it actually amoral, because it takes away from workers their ability to choose for themselves whether to be moral. Plus the fact that workfare is not levied on the idle rich, or the friends and relatives of the politicians forcing it on others.

Multigenerational Families of the Unemployed

The number of families that actually fit this description is so small as to be negligible, both in America and over here in Blighty. The academics T. Shildrick, R. MacDonald, C. Webster, and K. Garthwaite examined this issue in their Poverty and Insecurity: Life in Low Pay, No Pay Britain (Bristol: Policy Press 2012). Their research revealed that only 1 per cent fitted the description of a family in which two generations were unemployed. Official attempts to find these pockets of intergenerational unemployment have similarly turned up next to zilch. The whole idea is rubbish, but that hasn’t stopped papers like the Daily Fail claiming it’s true.

Getting People out of the Habit of Not Having a Job

Researchers have also looked at this one, too, and guess what? Yup, it’s similarly rubbish. There are very few people like this. But rather than acting as an incentive to find work, actually being forced to work unpaid in poor conditions may actually act as a deterrent.

Integrating the Jobless Back into Society

Far from being calculated to help the long-term unemployed back into society, the type of work that they are forced to do under workfare is humiliating. In many cases, this is quite deliberate as part of the government’s ideology of ‘less eligibility’ and dissuading people from going on benefits. And studies by the researchers and the DWP itself have also found that workfare makes absolutely no difference to whether a claimant gets a job afterwards.

Enabling the Unemployed to Acquire New Skills

This is also rubbish, as the type of menial work people are giving under workfare, in which they sweep the streets or stack shelves, are by their nature unskilled. And if a skilled worker is forced to perform them for months on end, this type of work is actually like to make them lose their skills.

Workfare Cuts Government Spending

This is also rubbish. In fact, workfare increases government expenditure on the unemployed, as the government has to pay subsidies to the firms employing them, and pay the costs of administration, which are actually quite heavy. And the work those on the programme actually perform doesn’t produce much in the way of taxable income, so money doesn’t come back to the government. Furthermore, most of the people on benefits are actually working, which makes Liam Byrne’s statement that the best way to save money is to get people back into work’ a barefaced lie.

Guy Standing’s Arguments against Workfare: Part 3

August 8, 2016

In addition to demolishing the government’s arguments in favour of workfare, Standing also provides a series of further arguments against it. These are that the jobs created through workfare aren’t real jobs; workfare is unjust in its treatment of the unemployed; it stops the unemployed actually looking for jobs for themselves; it lowers their income over their lifetime; it also acts to keep wages down; it keeps the people, who should be working at those jobs out of work; it’s a dangerous extension of the power of the state; and finally, it’s a gigantic scam which only benefits the welfare-to-work firms.

Workfare and Real Jobs

According to the ideas of the market economy developed by the pioneer of free trade, the 18th century philosopher Adam Smith, workfare jobs don’t actually constitute real jobs. Smith believed that the market would actually produce higher wages to entice people into performing unpleasant jobs. On this reasoning, if workfare jobs were real jobs, then they would have a definite economic value. They would be created through the operation of the market, and the workers in them would also be paid proper wages for performing them.

There are also moral problems in the definition of what constitutes a ‘real job’ that someone on workfare should have to perform. If it is defined as one paying the minimum wage, then workfare is immoral as it puts downward pressure on the wages and conditions of the people already performing those jobs, forcing them into poverty. If those ‘real jobs’ are defined as those which are dirty, dangerous, undignified or stigmatizing, and so unpopular, they would have the opposite effect of what the advocates of workfare claim – that they are encouraging people to find work.

The solution for progressive is to make the labour market act like it is supposed to act, rather than it actually does in practice. Adam Smith was quite wrong about wages adjusting upwards for unpopular jobs in a market economy. The wages provided for work should match both supply and demand, and people should not be made into commodities as workers. They should have enough economic support to be able to refuse jobs they don’t want. Instead of assuming that people need to be forced to work, there should be the presumption instead that most people actually do. It is arbitrary and ultimately demeaning for all concerned to try to identify people who are somehow ‘undeserving’. Genuine supporters of equality should want the wages in unpleasant jobs to rise, until there is a genuine supply of willing labour.

Workfare Is Unjust

Workfare unfairly penalises the unemployed. For example, in 2011 the ConDem government made the conditions imposed on benefit claimants and the penalties for avoidance under the Labour government’s New Deal even more stringent. Those performing workfare were required to work for up to thirty hours a week for 28 days. The work performed was to be that which benefited the community. Taken as wages, this meant that claimants were working at a rate of £2.50 an hour, well below the minimum wage. If they turned the job down, or didn’t complete the course of mandatory labour, they had their benefits sanctioned for three months. This was increased to six if they repeated the ‘transgression’. This is unjust, because no-one else in society is expected to work for the minimum wage except convicts in prison.

It’s also unjust in that it makes the economically insecure even more so, and takes away the way long-accepted social right to refuse to work. At the same time, it gives power over the unemployed to the state’s bureaucrats and the private outsourcing companies. Also, forced labour is offensive against human dignity and does not lead to increased person development.

Workfare Stops People Looking for Jobs

Spending thirty hours a week on workfare actually cuts down on the available time the unemployed are able to spend looking for work. P.A. Gregg, in their book Job Guarantee: Evidence and Design (Bristol: Bristol University Centre for Market and Public Organisation 2009) actually found that because of this, workfare actually stopped people from getting jobs.

Lowering Incomes over Life

Workfare is also unjust, as instead of giving people the ability to acquire a career, or jobs leading to one, it may instead lower their long-term income by keeping them in a series of low-paid, temporary work. People should have the right to decide for themselves which jobs to take and what they should do when it affects their long term prospects. If the state instead forces them to take a certain course, then it should also be required to compensate them if the course demanded is the wrong one.

Workfare Keeps Wages Low

By forcing people to take low-paid jobs, and making this a threat to force other workers also to take jobs that pay less than they would otherwise take, workfare leads to lower wages. The Labour Party in the UK declared that it was in favour of a ‘national living wage’ above the minimum. However, it then contradicted this intention by stating that those performing workfare would do so at the minimum wage. The Labour party may have meant this to stop those on workfare competing with those in paid employment, though MPs like Liam Byrne have shown themselves to be every bit as spiteful and punitive in their treatment of the unemployed as the Tories. In any case, this policy still puts on pressure to force wages downwards.

For there to be a genuine living wage, politicians should increase and strengthen the ability of the unemployed to bargain for higher wages. It is only when workers really have an effective ability to bargain that employers are either forced to pay a living wage, or decide that the job is unnecessary and the potential productivity too low. Standing concludes from this that ‘The reality is that the utilitarian mindset does not care about the precariat’.

Workfare Labour Replaces Genuine Workers

If the jobs performed under workfare were genuine and productive, it would be unfair to workers in those jobs, and to the short-term unemployed, as the government-subsidized labourers supplied under workfare would replace existing workers, or stop them hiring other unemployed people. In 2011 Tesco collaborated with the Jobcentres to create 3,000 unpaid placements for those on workfare, who would work for the company for four weeks. Homebase and Asda were also keen to use such unpaid labour. As was Poundland, which also announced that it was taking on benefit claimants, though it denied that this would affect their existing recruiting activity. Whatever those companies said, clearly their use of cheap workfare labour was replacing paid workers and stopping the unemployed from getting permanent jobs with those companies.

Owen Smith Unveils His Policies, but None Are His Own

July 28, 2016

Mike yesterday put up a piece reporting that Owen Smith had finally unveiled 20 policies of his own, with which he hoped to challenged Jeremy Corbyn. They’re all good, as far as they go. The trouble is, none of them are his own. Mike reported that the Corbynistas have already pointed out that they were taken from the Institute of Employment Rights’ Manifesto for Labour Law, which Jeremy Corbyn had already adopted as the basis for future Labour policy last month. Mike quotes the response of the Jeremy Corbyn for Leader Campaign to Smith’s policies, who said that they welcomed Smiff’s support for policies announced in recent months by Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. They pointed out that Smudger’s speech showed that Corbyn did possess true leadership, and that a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn would reverse the damage caused by the decline in manufacturing jobs due to the failed economic policies of the last thirty years. Northern communities, hard hit by industrial decline, would be a particular priority, and would be regenerated through economic devolution that would put people and jobs first.

Mike also points out that several of Smudger’s policies are vague. They just appear to be cosmetic, and don’t address the real, underlying problems. Such as his promise to concentrate on ‘equality of outcome, not equality of opportunity’. Mike makes the point that this is so confused as to be almost meaningless. He also makes the point that Smiff’s promise to increase spending on schools and libraries is fine, but he doesn’t promise to end private-sector involvement in schools, or reopen the libraries that have closed. His promise to reinstate the 50p top rate of tax is also cosmetic, and will be attacked as such by the Tories. His promises to reverse the cuts to the capital gains tax, corporation, inheritance tax and his plans to introduce a new wealth tax similarly look cosmetic. They’ll bring more money into the treasury, but he says nothing about how they’ll be spent. As for ‘ending fuel poverty by investing in efficient energy’ – this is notable because he does not promise to renationalise the electricity firms, thus meaning that we’re still going to be paying the foreign owners of our energy companies.

Mike concludes his article with the statement:

Smith makes a big deal of being able to deliver these policies – asking us to accept that Mr Corbyn can’t. How do we know either of those things? We don’t. In fact, it seems unlikely that this list is anything more than a catalogue of empty promises and he’ll go back to right-wing neoliberalism if he gets the chance.

It’s not enough. It’s painting a new face on New Labour. It’s reacting to Jeremy Corbyn.

And perhaps this is the biggest point to be made:

Why have Fake Corbyn when we can simply keep the real Corbyn?

See Mike’s article: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/27/20-policy-proposals-from-owen-smith-but-how-many-are-his-own/

This is a very good point. Smudger is reacting to Corbyn, and while it’s welcome that Corbyn’s leadership of the party is forcing Smiff to embrace some left-wing policies, they aren’t as good as the full range of policies articulated by Jeremy Corbyn’s camp. And we have absolutely no guarantee that once in charge of the Labour party, Smiffy will carry out any of his policies. In fact, there’s a lot of evidence to the contrary. Smiff’s a New Labour, neoliberal privatiser. He left a job in the Labour party to work for Pfizer, and then returned to the Labour party. While at Pfizer, he pushed for the privatisation of the NHS. Back in the Labour party, he was part of the unit that maintained good relations with the company and the other private healthcare firms hoping to get a cut of NHS action. When questioned about his connection with Pfizer, Smudger lied about it, claiming that he worked for them before he joined the Labour party, thus hiding the fact that he was already working for the Labour party before he joined them. And while he has said that he doesn’t intend to privatise any more of the NHS, he hasn’t promised to renationalise what has already been sold off.

And his faction, New Labour in the form of Progress and Saving Labour, has a record of appalling mendacity. His rival, Angela Eagle, lied about having a brick thrown through her office window, just as she lied about being abused at a meeting for her sexuality. The anti-Corbyn camp have smeared and libelled decent people, many with a sincere and proud record of anti-racism and opposing anti-Semitism, as anti-Semites. This has included Jews and people of part-Jewish heritage. They have adopted the deceitful strategy of PR companies to try to present themselves as the victims in a concerted campaign to smear and discredit Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters. There was the ‘Eradicate Blairite Scum’ T-shirt, which was devised by a Blairite and her pet PR person. Mike has put up a piece today reporting that the elderly gentleman wearing that claims he was tricked by the two, and feels that he has also been smeared because of it. Then there was the letter by over 40 female Blairite MPs complaining that they had been abused in his name, when there is no evidence that anything of the sort had occurred. Quite apart from the staged heckling of Corbyn himself at a gay rights rally, done by another PR person from Portland, a company owned by Will Straw, the son of Jack Straw.

I also notice that he makes absolutely no proposal to tackle the New Labour and Tory welfare cuts, despite the fact that these have thrust millions into precarity and grinding poverty. The Work Capability Assessment has resulted in at least over a thousand seriously ill people dying after being found ‘fit for work’ by Atos and their successor, Maximus. In some areas, 80 per cent of those told they were fit for work had their judgements overturned on appeal. But the damage inflicted on very many vulnerable people through the stress of these tests is severe. It has made the mental health of nearly 300,000 people worse, sometimes seriously so. He hasn’t promised to end the system of benefit sanctions, despite the hardships and injustice these have caused. The blog ‘Diary of a Food Bank Helper’ has put up numerous cases of those working at the sharp end of poverty in the UK. Kitty S. Jones, Johnny Void and so many others have also put up their accounts of people, who’ve been thrown off benefit for often the flimsiest reasons. Like they’re turned up a few minutes late, because they had to arrange alternative means of getting their children to or from school. Or they were in hospital, and so couldn’t attend the interview. Or some other bullsh*t excuse.

I’m still haunted by some of these stories. Stilloaks on his blog put up the cases of some of the 590 people, who have died of hunger or through their own hands, after having their benefit stopped. This included a young mother, who leaped through an upper storey window, killing herself and her baby. There was an elderly couple, who committed suicide together, because they were starving and had come to the end. One of the accounts, not of a fatality, was of how members of the public came to comfort a young man, who broke down in tears outside the Jobcentre, weeping because they wouldn’t give him any money.

This is the kind of establishment bullying that had people marching in the streets back in the 1930s. It’s the casual abuse by the entitled privileged classes, that inspired the comrades of the National Union of the Unemployed to occupy the Ritz, leaving their patrons aghast because the proles had dared to show up! How dare they!

Some of these account of poverty were read out in parliament. It says everything you need to know about Cameron and IDS that they had a good chuckle about them, live on air. Yep, to the Tories, poverty and desperation are a damned good, jolly joke, provided those affected are just grammar school oik or the hoi polloi from the comprehensives and secondary moderns.

And from Owen Smith and New Labour – silence. Smudger abstained on the Tory welfare cuts. As did Eagle. Mind you, they couldn’t do anything else, as New Labour was responsible for introducing a fair part of the legislation on which they were based. Like the Work Capability Tests.

Giving people a decent wage is an excellent start. But it also needs to be coupled with policies that won’t lead to the starvation of those of on benefits. Smudger isn’t going to tackle this. And so whatever he says or does, he’s still content to see a fair chunk of the 3.7 million trapped in food poverty remain in it.

And then there is the authoritarian mindset behind these antics. Jeremy Corbyn is massively popular with grassroots Labour. And I’m confident that, if his parliamentary party actually bothered to take the trouble to represent their members and constituents, he’d be massively popular too with the electorate. After all, before the Tories shot into a 16 point lead ahead of Labour this week, there were only a single point ahead last week. And this despite all the abuse and smears.

But that’s too much for the Blairites. They can’t stand the idea that the neoliberal policies Tony Blair placed so much faith in as the electoral salvation of the Labour party, actually aren’t. And they definitely don’t see themselves as the ‘servants of the people’, as Andrew Rawnsley ironically titled his book on Blair and his coterie. They see themselves as the leaders, whom the grassroots members should automatically obey. And if they still persist, then they’re a Trotskyite hippy rabble wearing donkey jackets and smelling of patchouli, who should leave the party.

Smudger and his cohorts have an absolute contempt for ordinary people, who are to be sneered at, tricked and deceived. He and they have lied about Jeremy Corbyn. He will lie, and lie flagrantly, once he is in government. He and they cannot and should not be trusted with power. He will not restore the NHS. He will not renationalise the utilities, and he will not renationalise our failing railways. He’s a fake, and the genuinely progressive policies he’s adopted are their to disguise the privatising neoliberal underneath. And once he gets in power, it’s a fair bet that they’ll be forgotten, and he’ll carry on copying Tory policies as before. After all, it’s what Bliar did.

Anti-Feminist Pamphlets from Tory Free Market Thinktank

July 23, 2016

feminism pamphlets

The pamphlets in question. Picture courtesy CJ.

This will annoy nearly every woman and also a very large number of men. Looking round one of the charity bookshops in Cheltenham yesterday with a friend, I found a whole load of pamphlets from the Institute of Economic Affairs. They’re a right-wing, free market thinktank connected with the Tory party. I think they were also trying to promote themselves as non-party political when Tony Blair was in power, as I think he was also very sympathetic to their message. Put simply, their pro-privatisation, anti-welfare, anti-poor – one of the pamphlet’s was Alexis de Tocqueville’s Pauperism, anti-Socialist – another was Von Hayek’s Socialism and the Intellectuals. And anti-feminist. Two of the pamphlets were anti-feminist screeds, intended to encourage women to forget any notions of equality, independence and a career, and return to their traditional roles as wives and mothers.

The two pamphlets were entitled Liberating Modern Women…From Feminism and Equal Opportunities – A Feminist Fallacy. They were collections of essays on individual subjects within the overall theme of rebutting feminism. The contributors seemed to be an equal number of men and women. Among the policies they recommended were measures to preserve the family from break up and end ‘no fault’ divorces. They claimed that men and women pursue different goals because of innate biological differences. And rather than being a patriarchal institution, the family was actually a matriarchy. They also attacked women working, because it meant that the household economy was now based on two people having an income, whereas before it was only the husband’s wage that was important. And, almost inevitably, there was an attack on single mothers. Left-wing welfare policies were attacked for taking them out of the jobs market and placing them into ‘welfare dependency’.

My friend decided to buy them to see how extreme, shocking and bonkers they actually were. Though he insisted that I tell the woman on the desk when paying for them that we we’re buying them because we agreed with them, which raised a smile from her. While walking round town afterwards he said he would have felt less embarrassed holding these pamphlets if he’d had something less offensive to put them in, to disguise the fact that he had them. Like one of the porno mags. I didn’t recognise most of the contributors to the pamphlets, but one name stood out: Mary Kenny. She had been a journalist for the Guardian or Observer, but moved to the Torygraph. My friend was also shocked, as the Institute of Economic Affairs has been on Channel 4 News several times. It’s one of the organisations they’ve gone to for ‘balance’ discussing particular issues. My friend’s point is that they’re policies are so extreme, they really aren’t providing any kind of reasoned balance at all, just more far-right opinion.

There’s an attitude amongst some Republicans in America that feminism really is a terrible Marxist plot to destroy Western civilisation, despite the fact that it existed before Marxism, and its campaigns for votes for women and equal opportunities cross party-political boundaries. Despite the institute’s arguments, there really isn’t one of their views that isn’t vulnerable to disproof. For example, it’s true that men and women tend to perform different jobs, and have different personal goals and attitudes. But it’s very debatable how far this is due to biological differences. A few years ago, back in the 1990s there was a lot of interest and noise about supposed sex differences in the organisation of the brain. Men’s and women’s brains were made differently, and this was why men were better at maths and parking cars, and women were better at language and communication, but couldn’t read maps. Since then, the situation has reversed slightly. One female neuroscientist, Cordelia – , wrote a book a few years ago arguing that any psychological differences and intellectual aptitudes that differed between the sexes weren’t due to physical differences in the brain. With the exception of individuals at the extreme ends of the scale – very ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ brains, brains are just brains, and you can’t tell their former owner’s sex simply by looking at them.

As for feminism itself, it’s probably fair to say that many women do feel caught between their careers and their families, and would like more time to spend raising or attending to their children. But their entry into the workforce, and pursuing jobs, hobbies and interests previously reserved for men are the product of profound needs and desires on their behalf. It isn’t a case that they have been somehow brainwashed or indoctrinated by some kind of feminist ‘false consciousness’. For example, you can hear from older women how they felt when they were young, when they wanted to play with boy’s toys, like train or construction sets, like Meccano, but were forbidden by their parents. Or wanted to try their hand at ‘boy’s’ subjects at school, like woodwork. Or join in with boy’s games like footie or rugby. This doesn’t mean that all women wanted to do all of the above, only that a sizable number did want to do some of those, and felt frustrated at the social conventions that forbade them to. When the feminists in the 1960s argued that women had a right to do traditionally male jobs and pursuits, they were articulating the desires of very many women. They weren’t just abstract theorists speaking only for themselves.

As for the statement that the entry of women into the workforce has made family finances more difficult, because mortgages are now based on a double income, that’s also very open to query. It might be that the change to women working has had an effect, but I’ve also seen the argument that women had to go out to work, because the income from the husband’s wages alone wasn’t enough to pay the bills.

As for the family being a ‘matriarchal’ institution, the status of women has changed over time. But in the Middle Ages, women were basically their husband’s chattels. And in the West, women didn’t automatically have a right to hold their property independently of their husbands until the Married Women’s Property Act in the late 19th century. One of the early feminist tracts from 19th century Germany was a polemic attacking the way women’s property automatically became their husband’s on marriage.

I’m alarmed by the break down of the traditional family, rising divorces and absent fathers. I always have been, ever since we did ‘relationships’ as part of the RE course at school, when the news was full of it. But part of the problem isn’t the ease of divorce, although it became more difficult and expensive when Blair was in power. It’s the fact that many people do find themselves trapped in unhappy relationships. Some idea how much of a problem this was can be seen in some of the jokes about how awful marriage was and quarrelling spouses. At a far more serious level, you can also see it in accounts of men, who walked out on their families, and took up bigamous marriages elsewhere in the days when divorce was difficult and all but impossible unless you were very wealthy.

The two pamphlets were published a little time ago. One dated from 1992 – twenty-four years ago -, and the other from 2005, about eleven. But they represent an attitude that’s still very present in the Conservatives, and especially in right-wing newspapers like the Daily Heil. A week ago the Tories elected Theresa May as their leader, and will no doubt be presenting themselves as the ‘pro-woman’ party. This shows the other side to them, the one that’s beyond and underneath Cameron’s rhetoric of flexible-working hours, and the Tories’ embrace of female leaders like Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May.

Chunky Mark on Corbyn’s Solitary Stance in England against Trident

July 19, 2016

Okay, I know I’ve put several pieces from Chunky Mark the Artist Taxi Driver already today. And I know that some of you can’t listen to him because of the way he shouts. I tend to turn down the volume when listening to him as well, and I can appreciate how some find it off-putting. On the other hand, as others of you have pointed out, the issues he vlogs about are intensely important matters of justice, of peace, about combating poverty, neglect, misinformation and exploitation. Deeply emotive subjects, about which people do have a right to feel and express their rage and anger against an unjust and exploitative political and economic system.

The two pieces I reblogged from him earlier were about Jeremy Corbyn and the Trident debate respectively. Well, yesterday parliament voted overwhelmingly to renew Trident. 58 of the 59 Scottish MSPs were against it. South of the border, it seems that the only politico, who spoke against it was Jeremy Corbyn. In this rant, Chunky Mark describes how he appeared like a ghost, and compares him at the end to the last figure standing, staring out the wall, while everyone else is running about in panic at the end of the horror flick, the Blair Witch Project. Corbyn stood there, being heckled and vilified by everyone, even his own party. And at the end they all raised their fingers and pointed at him.

Mark makes the case that this is an indictment of most of the politicians in Westminster itself. He describes the sheer expense involved in purchasing Trident – £49 billion, according to one politician – as economically illiterate. It’s massively expensive, and adds to the growing threat of nuclear annihilation – the deaths of 8 billion people – all for just 15,000 jobs. He states once again that Britain could have shown the way forward for bringing about peace by rejecting it. And then there was Theresa May. When asked if she could kill 100,000 people, she declared ‘Yes’. She announced that she was willing to incinerate 100,000 men, women and children. And Chunky Mark points out once again that despite the mass hostility against him in parliament, Corbyn still has mass support from everyone, who wants a genuine alternative and believes another world is possible.

Vox Political on the Failings of Trident

July 19, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has put up a long piece on the many faults of the Trident nuclear submarines that the Conservatives, the Americans and Owen Smith would like to see adopted by this country as part of its ‘independent’ nuclear deterrent. His piece is quite a long one, containing a couple of memes laying out just how expensive Trident is, what else could be done with the money, and indeed the very many problems with Trident and Britain’s nuclear deterrent as a whole.

In short, the main problems are that it’s extremely expensive, to the tune of about £205 billion. The number of jobs it will create in the UK is minimal: about 520 in Faslane maintaining the subs. All the others are going to be in America. And oh yes, it runs on an obsolete version of Windows. We live in a world of built-in obsolescence, where products are designed to become obsolete within a couple a years so the manufacturer can get you to buy more, but this is taking the concept way too far.

And one of the more general problems with Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent is that it isn’t. We effectively gave control over our nuclear weapons decades ago. We’re basically paying for the privilege of having an American weapons system on our island. This may not do anything for us, but it will help defend America. I’m not being cynical. I can remember hearing about several simulations of a nuclear war with Russia, which ended up with us and the rest of Europe a radioactive cinder, but America effectively protected by its long distance and by having many of its nuclear missiles located outside the homeland, in the more vulnerable locations in Europe.

Mike’s article can be read at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/18/trident-debate-reveals-faults-of-uks-independent-nuclear-deterrent/

Trident is supported in the Labour party by Owen Smith, one of the challengers for the leadership of the Labour party against Jeremy Corbyn. Smith said on the Andrew Marr show that he was for disarmament through multilateralism. When pressed on whether he would push the button, Smith announced that he was indeed prepared to ‘annihilate millions of people’.

Mike comments: ‘What a nice guy!’

In this respect, Smith is actually worse, much worse than Ted Heath. Every Prime Minister when they take office has to write out the orders to be given to the commanders of the nuclear subs in the case of a nuclear attack. Blair when it was his turn understandably went white. Major insisted on making the decision over the weekend, as he felt he could only make it back in his constituency. And Ted Heath, so I’m told, wrote out a message that basically consisted of ‘Goodbye, chaps, and good luck. Don’t bother retaliating, as there’s nothing left to defend. It’s all been destroyed. Go and sail down to New Zealand or which other country has survived, and have a nice life.’

A civilised, philosophic response from someone who realised that nuclear war made all this futile.

The possession of nuclear weapons hasn’t made the world safer. Indeed, it’s made it even more dangerous, as increasing numbers of countries now have, or are developing nuclear weapons. And far from standing for peace, Barack Obama has actually increased America’s military spending and its nuclear arsenal. Of his possible successors, Donald Trump is a maniac, who looks all too unstable enough to start a nuclear war, while Shrillary is the ‘Queen of Chaos’, a hawk every bit as bloodthirsty and indifferent to the suffering of the weaker countries America and the West have ground under their jackboot as George W. Bush and his cabinet of horrors.

I’ve mentioned several times before that I and the rest of my generation have lived through one Cold War and the threat of nuclear Armageddon. I remember all the right-wing shouting when I was at school about how we needed nuclear weapons to defend ourselves. Part of this was just superpower posturing. Way back in the 1960s there was debate about Britain being a ‘third-rate power’ after the loss of the colonies. The possession of nuclear weapons seems to me to be a kind of psychological compensation. We’ve lost our place as a superpower, and other countries have overtaken us in terms of economy and manufacturing. But hey look! We can still turn somewhere into radioactive slag!

Unfortunately, all this military posturing and sabre-rattling is seen by most of the population as being self-evidently true and correct. So true that it hardly needs to be defended. We need nuclear weapons, just like we need the armed forces. Except that we don’t. They’re expensive, they’re not keeping us safe, and as I said, for much of the time it all looks like a scam by the arms industry to boost their profits. But it’ll be defended with all the establishment’s might and main, because Britain depends on it, the special relationship with America depends on it, and Jeremy Corbyn is against it.