Posts Tagged ‘Jobseekers’ Allowance’

Video of Corbyn’s Speech Describing Labour’s Proposed Reforms to the DWP

September 29, 2019

Mike put up a piece yesterday about a speech Corbyn had made in Iain Duncan Smith’s constituency of Chingford in which he outlined the Labour party’s reforms of the welfare state. Top of the list was to change the DWP back into the DSS and scrap the welfare to work tests. This was pretty much a provocation to Smith, who presided over the DWP under the Tories under relatively recently, and was directly responsible for the immense harm and the mass deaths of the poor, the sick and the disabled that came from the Tories’ welfare reforms. The Guardian has put up a video of the speech, or at least this part of it, on YouTube. It’s two minutes 20 seconds long. In it the Labour leader states that

They will change the DWP’s name back to Social Security to bring back real Social Security for people. But changing it’s name doesn’t mean anything on its own, so there are a number of things Labour will leading up to the scrapping of Universal Credit in its entirety.

Firstly, they will end the work capability tests that are so brutal to people in their lives.

They will end the bedroom tax because it is unfair, unjust and wrong.

They will raise ESA by £30 a week so that people have something reasonable to survive on.

They will raise carer’s allowance to the same level as Jobseekers’ Allowance in recognition that carers do an amazing job for the people they love, and shouldn’t be impoverished in doing so.

They will end the two child policy in benefit distribution.

They will pay Housing Benefit direct to landlords so that claimants don’t get in problems with housing debt or arrears.

They will end the sanctions system as a whole and replace it with 5,000 benefits advisors coming into the DWP.

He also outlined some great policies on education.

Labour would have a properly funded education system, so that head teachers won’t have to raise funds for their schools to make sure they are properly funded.

Family education will be brought back under the control of Local Education Authorities by a National Education Service.

He also calls for unity, saying that the Labour party has so much to do and so much to achieve, but they can only do it if they are united, and that they have to go out there to engage in that debate and that conversation with people in order to ask them to lend Labour their support so that they can deliver all those things.

All I can say about this is what we used to say in the playground as schoolchildren back in the ’70s and ’80s: Brill! This really is exactly what the country needs. And it’s really going to annoy and upset the Tories, the Lib Dems and the Blairites because it’s another outright attack on Thatcherism. It dares to say that the sanctions system and the welfare to work tests, so beloved of Chingford Petty Dictator, Iain Duncan Smith, are keeping people in poverty.

And it also dares to say that the privatisation of the British school and education system too is an abject failure. They’re really going to hate that, as if Labour brings schools back under national ownership or at least local authority control, how are all these wretched academy chains going to find their money, the money they give to the Tories? And before the Tories and right-wing press start raving about Communism here, Corbyn is only voicing a policy that Thatcher herself had to back to. She also wanted to take schools out of local authority control, and so set up what were ‘academies’ in all but name under Norman Fowler. There was only thing wrong with it, as Blackadder famously said. It was rubbish. The new academies didn’t work, and the scheme was quietly wound up. Until Blair took the idea out of the dustbin and relaunched it, and his wretched reforms were then carried on and expanded by Cameron and the Tories and Lib Dems in turn.

Academies don’t work, and it’s long past time this was recognised and the recognition given practical expression in the renationalisation of British education.

So how did Iain Duncan Smith react when Corbyn opened a frontal assault on his welfare reforms right on the nasty little creep’s doorstep? He appears to have commented on the Express’ ‘Comment Is Free’ site attacking it because it would be unfair to taxpayers!

He declared that

Corbyn’s plot to axe universal credit is cynical and would be devastating to the taxpayer. The fearmongering Labour have whipped up over Universal Credit is counterproductive. They refuse to accept the objective truth work is the best route out of poverty.

To which Corbyn replied

No, “cynical” and “devastating” is making sick and disabled people pay for the financial crash. Your policy pushed hundreds of thousands of people into poverty, made families lose their homes and denied benefits to the terminally ill. That’s your legacy. That’s what Labour will end. 

Mike comments on the Labour leader’s reply

I have been waiting years for a political leader to pin the deaths of the innocent on the former Work and Pensions Secretary. It was exhilarating to read this.

But he also points out it doesn’t go far enough. The Tories haven’t just killed disabled people, but also individuals, who could have led fit and productive lives if they hadn’t been thrown off benefits. Mike concludes

We need an undertaking from Labour to investigate the fate of everyone who suffered as a result of that man’s decision to pervert the benefit system into a punishment for being poor.

And then we need to see prosecutions. In the words of Kipling, nothing is ever settled until it is settled right.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/09/29/weve-waited-years-for-someone-to-say-this-but-will-iain-duncan-smith-face-justice/

Absolutely right. Iain Duncan Smith and the Tories are directly responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands, no matter how they blusher, obfuscate and lie about it. And it’s interesting to see that the first point the Gentleman Ranker tries to make in his wretched attempt at a refutation is that replacing the welfare reforms would be harmful to the taxpayer. Once again, we see the Tories worried about their rich donors actually having to pay a bit more tax, rather than tens of thousands die in misery and poverty.

His second point is that work is the best way out of poverty. This little gem is also discredited. It comes from a piece of research written by a doctor sponsored by the American insurance fraudster, Unum. As Katie S. Jones and Disabled People Against Cuts have shown with copious documentation, this is completely false and utterly bogus scientifically. But the Tories cling to it because it justifies their attitude towards the poor. It provided the basis for Smith’s article in one of the papers which began, I believe, with a justification of that infamous phrase above the Nazi concentration camps, ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ – ‘Work Makes You Free’. That paragraph mysteriously disappeared after people started noticing it. Smith has been challenged on the scientific validity of the statement, and when he has, he’s retreated into saying that he knows or feels it to be correct, without citing any supporting evidence.

Which tells you everything you need to know about how spurious the real science is behind IDS’ vile, murderous policies.

He and the rest of the Tories, who continue to implement and support this horror – the sanctions system and work capabilities tests – need to be charged and put into the dock to face the consequences for their actions.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Corbyn – Regenerate High Street by Handing Vacant Shops to Community

August 24, 2019

Last weekend’s I, for Saturday, 17th August 2019, carried a report by Nigel Morris on page 4 about the Labour party’s plans to revive ailing high street. Under the scheme announce by Corbyn, the local authority would take over empty business premises to let them to new businesses or community organisations. The article read

Plans to revitalise “struggling his streets” by reopening thousands of boarded-up shops will be set out today by the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. Labour would give councils the power to take over retail units which have been vacant for a year and hand them to start-up businesses or community projects.

Town centre vacancy rates are at their highest level for four years, and Labour says an estimated 29,000 shops across the country have been abandoned for at least 12 months.

It has also registered alarm over the preponderance of charity stores, betting shops and fast-food takeaways in areas which previously had a better mixture of businesses.

The plans, applying to high streets in England and Wales, will be set out by Mr Corbyn in a visit to Bolton today. He is expected to say that boarded-up shops are “a symptom of economic decay under the Conservatives and a sorry symbol of the malign neglect so many communities have suffered.”

Labour revive “struggling high streets by turning the blight of empty shops into the heart of the high street.” The proposals are modelled on the system of “empty dwelling management orders” which entitle councils to put unoccupied houses and flats back into use as homes.

Jake Berry, minister for high streets, said the Government had cut small retailers’ business rates, was relaxing high street planning rules and launched a £3.6bn Towns Fund to improve transport links and boost broadband connectivity. 

I think Corbyn’s idea is excellent. One of the problems of struggling high streets is the ‘smashed window syndrome’, as I believe it’s called. Once one shop becomes vacant, and has it’s windows smashed or otherwise vandalised, it has a strange psychological effect on the public. They stop going into that particular area for their shopping, and the other businesses start to close down. This is why it’s important to prevent it. Business rates might be part of the problem, but I’ve also heard that it’s also due to economics of the private landlords. I can remember my barber complaining to me about it back in the 1990s. He was angry at the increase in rents he and the other shops in his rank had had foisted on them by the landlord. He also complained that despite the high rents, there were shop units that were still unlet, because for some reason the landlord found it more profitable to keep them that way than to let an aspiring Arkwright take them over.

I’ve long believed in exactly the same idea as Corbyn’s. It struck me that with the expansion of higher education, we now have an extremely well-educated work force. But the current economics of capitalism prevent them from using their skills. If successive governments really believe that the increase in university education will benefit the economy, then graduates need to be able to put their hard-earned skills and knowledge into practice. They should be allowed to create businesses, even if these are not commercially viable and need community support. Because it’s better than forcing them to starve on the dole, or climb over each other and the less educated trying to grab low-skilled jobs in fast-food restaurants. And if these new businesses don’t make a profit, but keep people coming back to the high streets, but give their aspiring entrepreneurs skills and experience they can use elsewhere, or deliver some small boost to the local economy, then they will have achieved some measure of success.

This is an excellent idea. And if it’s put into practice, I think it’ll demonstrate that Socialists are actually better for business than the Tories.

Regenerating the High Street through National Workshops

January 7, 2019

Last week Tweezer announced her plan to revitalize Britain’s failing high streets. Many of our shops are closing as customers and retailers move onto the internet. City centres are being hit hard as shop fronts are left vacant, inviting further vandalism, and further economic decline as shoppers are put off by empty stores and smashed shop windows. In America, it’s been forecast that half of the country’s malls are due to close in the next few years. Tweezer announced that she was going to try reverse this trend in Britain by allocating government money to local authorities, for which they would have to bid.

I’m suspicious of this scheme, partly because of the way it’s being managed. In my experience, the Conservatives’ policy of forcing local authorities to bid for needed funding is simply another way of stopping some places from getting the money they need under the guise of business practice or democracy or however they want to present it. It’s the same way Thatcher would always delay the date when she’d give local authorities they funding they needed for the next year. It’s a way of disguising the fact that they’re making cuts, or simply not giving the money that’s really needed.

As for how local authorities could regenerate their town centres, I wonder if it could be done through a form of the national workshops suggested by the 19th century French socialist, Louis Blanc. During the Revolution of 1848, Blanc proposed a scheme to provide jobs for France’s unemployed by setting up a series of state-owned workshops. These would be run as co-operatives. The workers would share the profits, a certain proportion of which would be set aside to purchase other businesses. This would eventually lead to the socialization of French industry.

Needless to say, the scheme failed through official hostility. The scheme was adopted, by the state undermined it through giving the unemployed on it pointless and demeaning jobs to do. Like digging ditches for no particular reason. It thus petered out as unemployed workers did their best to avoid the scheme. There’s a kind of parallel there to the way the Conservatives and New Labour tried to stop people going on Jobseeker’s Allowance by making it as degrading and unpleasant as possible, and by the workfare industry. This last provides absolutely no benefit whatsoever to workers on it, but gives cheap labour to the firms participating in the scheme, like the big supermarkets.

The national workshops, on the other hand, were at least intended to provide work and empower France’s working people.

In his Fabian Essay, ‘The Transition to Social Democracy’, George Bernard Shaw suggested that Britain could painlessly become a truly socialized economy and society through the gradual extension of municipalization. Town councils would gradually take over more and more parts of the local economy and industry. He pointed to the way the local authorities were already providing lighting, hospitals and other services.

I therefore wonder if it would be better to try to create new businesses in Britain’s town centres by renting the empty shops to groups of workers to run them as cooperatives. They’d share the profits, part of which would be put aside to buy up more businesses, which would also be turned into co-ops.
Already local businesses in many cities have benefited by some radical socialist ideas. In this case, it’s the local currencies, which are based on the number of hours of labour required to produce an article or provide a service, an idea that goes all the way back to anarchist thinkers like Proudhon and Lysander Spooner in the 19th century. These schemes serve to put money back into the local community and businesses.

I realise that this is actually extremely utopian. Local governments are perfectly willing to provide some funding to local co-ops, if they provide an important service. I’ve heard that in Bristol there’s a co-op in Stokes Croft that has been funded by the council because it employs former convicts and drug addicts. However, you can imagine the Tories’ sheer rage, and that of private business and the right-wing press, if a local council tried to put a system of locally owned co-operatives into practice. It would be attacked as ‘loony left’ madness and a threat to proper, privately owned business and jobs.

But it could be what is needed, if only partly, to regenerate our streets: by creating businesses that create jobs and genuinely empower their workers and provide services uniquely tailored to their communities.

Hitler and the Imprisonment of the Unemployed in Concentration Camps

December 15, 2018

A week ago I put up a passage from Brady’s The Spirit and Structure of German Fascism about how the Nazis prevented anyone, who had left their job without good reason, to receive unemployment benefit for several weeks. I pointed out that this was similar to legislation passed in the 1990s by John Major’s Conservative government, which also prevented those, who had voluntarily made themselves unemployed from getting benefit for a set period of time. And a few years or so ago now, I also put up pieces about the Nazis’ incarceration of the long-term unemployed, whom they stigmatized as ‘workshy’ – arbeitscheu – in concentration camps.

Flicking through Hitler’s Table-Talk (Oxford: OUP 1988), the Nazi leader’s dinner conversation as recorded by Martin Bormann, I found Hitler’s own ideas about it. Hitler said

The ten or fifteen thousand professional loafers who were lounging around Germany at the time of our assumption of power, and who showed no inclination to take a regular job when once German industry had started to function again, have been put into concentration camps. For it is ridiculous to try to deal by ordinary methods with muck of this kind. The fear of being put into a concentration camp has had a most salutary effect, and it greatly facilitated the gearing up of the gigantic industrial activity which our rearmament programme demanded. (p. 559).

This supports the case of one of the left-wing Labour supporters, who was falsely accused of anti-Semitism by the Blairites and the Israel lobby. He was accused because he’d put up on his webpage a photo of a jobcentre, with its sign reading Arbeit Macht Frei. This was the infamous slogan the Nazis had placed on the gates of Auschwitz, hence, presumably, why the poor fellows accusers tried to claim he was an anti-Semite. But the slogan simply means ‘Work Makes You Free’, and it was put over the top of many of the concentration camps even before the Nazis embarked on their vile ‘final solution’. And among the prisoners in them were long-term unemployed. The accused man was also quite justified in using the slogan to attack the Tories’ attitude towards the unemployed, because one Tory minister – I’ve forgotten who it was – had actually started an article in the online version of one of the papers defending the Nazi slogan and saying it was quite right. Until someone had a quiet word with him and told him that supporting the Nazis in anything was not the way to gain support and would just alienate people. As it would and should. So that part of the Tory’s article vanished soon after.

The Tories haven’t yet started imprisoning the unemployed in concentration camps. But they are killing them through their reforms to the benefits system, reforms which have seen tens or hundreds of thousands of people thrown of benefits for even the slightest infraction of the rules. Even when it involves matters beyond their control, such as if they were in hospital when they were supposed to attend their appointment at the jobcentre. And the very many disabled people, who have been forced into misery, starvation and death because they were declared ‘fit for work’ under the unscientific and fraudulent Fitness for Work tests.

The unemployed have also been used as a supply of cheap labour for private industry through the ‘welfare to work’ scheme. In this, they have been forced to take unpaid work in various firms and charities, if they wish to continue receiving their jobseekers’ allowance. This is supposed to prepare them for work. But research has shown that it does not, and in actual fact those forced onto these schemes are actually worse off at finding proper employment, than those who are able to make their searches.

The Tories aren’t working the unemployed to death in concentration camps just yet, but they have the Nazis contempt for them, which is poured out regularly in the pages of right-wing rags like the Scum and the Heil. But you do wonder how long before the Tories get sick of pretending to support the welfare state, and end unemployment benefit completely, leaving the poor to starve and die. Or else start opening concentration camps in which to imprison the jobless in order to teach them how to support themselves by working.

It would only be a natural extension of workfare, after all.

The Nazi Labour Front and Tory Employment Policy

December 4, 2018

I found this very interesting passage in Robert A. Brady’s The Spirit and Structure of German Fascism (London: Victor Gollancz 1937). It’s about the Labour Front, or Deutschearbeitsfront to give it its German name.

This was the Nazi organization which was set up to replace the trade unions, which the Nazis declared were ‘Marxist’ and banned. This provided some recreational services to German workers through the Strength Through Joy movement and a minimum of restraint on employers. Instead of the trade union committee, there was a Council of Trustees, elected by the workers, but selected by the employer, whose job was to explain and promote the boss’ decisions, and give him any complaints the workers had.

But German employer-worker relations were strictly hierarchical, and followed the Nazi Fuhrerprinzip or ‘Leader Principle’. Just as Adolf Hitler was the Fuhrer of the German people, so the employer was the Fuhrer of his workforce. German employment law forbade the sacking of workers, who had been employed for over year without giving them due notice. And mass discharges in plants over a certain size had to be preceded by giving the Council of Trustees due written notice.

But the workers were also bound to their employers, and could not leave them if they worked on farms, while those that were employed in industry would not receive unemployment benefit for six weeks if they left their previous job without proper cause. Brady writes

Here as elsewhere the whole machinery redounds primarily to the advantage of the employer. Every effort is made to cut down labour turnover. In late chapters various methods for achieving this effect will be discussed. But the Labour Front has not been content with programmes for attaching workers to a given plot ground,, and hence to a particular employer, nor with an absolute prohibition against strikes of all kinds. These it heartily endorses, but it goes even further.

It goes so far, for example, as to declare workers who leave agricultural employment during the crop season saboteurs and unworthy of German citizenship. It warns all that “to gather well and surely the harvest is your foremost and weightiest task. Whoever neglects this duty and leaves his position with the farmer without due warning in order to into industry is a saboteur, and must be excluded from the community of the German people…” There are other and more direct punitive measures: “A labourer who gives up his work place without important or justified grounds or who has lost his position through a situation which justified his immediate discharge can receive as a rule no unemployment subsidy for six weeks…” Simultaneously, he can be “locked out” from his place of last, and all other employment until such time as he can submit proof of the reasons for losing the first job. (pp. 130-, my emphasis).

So far, workers aren’t being stopped from finding another job if they leave their previous employment, and farm labourers who give up their jobs aren’t being denounced as saboteurs. But it is Tory policy not to give unemployed workers unemployment benefit for a certain number of weeks. I can remember when it was brought in under John Major. You weren’t given unemployment benefit for a set period if you had made yourself ‘voluntarily unemployed’. And this policy has been extended to any unemployed individual, regardless of whether they left their job voluntarily or not, through the delays Cameron and May have built into the benefits system, and particularly with the problems accompanying the rollout of Universal Credit. So far, however, the Tories haven’t also followed the Nazi policy sending the ‘workshy’ – arbeitscheu – to the concentration camps. But perhaps its only a matter of time.

Tony Greenstein on his blog showed how completely false the accusations of anti-Semitism made against Corbyn’s supporters in the Labour party were by discussing the case of one man, who was so accused because he put up a photoshopped picture of a Jobcentre sign saying ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’. This was the Nazi slogan on the entrance to Auschwitz, ‘Work Makes You Free’. But there’s nothing anti-Semitic in the photo. It’s a comment on the government’s policy towards the unemployed. Particularly as Ian Duncan Smith, or some other Tory minister with a similar hatred for the proles, had actually written a newspaper column with a paragraph stating that ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ was quite right. Someone else spotted the paragraph, and had it removed from the website on which it was posted, before they thought too many had seen it. But they had, and many had taken screenshots.

It is no exaggeration in this respect to say that the Tories are following Nazi policy towards the unemployed. And this is likely to get even worse the longer they’re in power. And if they carry on as they are, eventually the Tory conferences will start with May goose-stepping on to the stage to cries of ‘Sieg Heil!’ and ‘Duce, Duce!’

Aide Who Walked Out on May Wants British Public to Stop Trolling Her

July 5, 2017

Mike yesterday put up a piece reporting that Katie Perrior, who was one of the two aides, who walked out of May’s cabinet a week or so ago, appeared on Paul Ross’ show on Talk Radio to tell the country that we should all stop sending the PM nasty messages on Twitter.

She said: “We need to stop with the abuse, we need to stop trolling our politicians on Twitter”, and followed this with the comments that there is no money, people need to realise that” and “She [May] would be devastated right now.” She also said that “people need to get real” and allow Mrs May to do her job.”

Mike points out that there are perfectly good reasons why May is receiving abuse: she’s been the worst excuse for a Prime Minister we’ve ever suffered. He points out that she called a snap election, which she lost, and is now spending £1 billion of our money to keep herself in power through an alliance with the terrorist-linked bigots of the DUP. Mike also points out that her remark that there is no more money also undermines her credibility, but concurs that May should be left to do one job: clear out.

He concludes

The only way we can have any kind of “strong and stable” government – as Mrs May herself described it – is by holding another general election and electing a Labour government.

I really don’t have any sympathy with Perrior or her former mistress in No. 10. Despite May’s repeated statements that there is no ‘magic money tree’, there clearly is if it means securing an alliance that will shore up her tottering minority government.

It’s also a flat-out lie. The budget for the NHS has been cut disastrously, to the point where tens of NHS healthcare trusts are millions in debt, and just about ready for privatisation by a Tory government intent on destroying this most precious of British institutions. But in 1979 a report concluded that, contrary to Maggie Thatcher’s ideas about privatising the Health Service, the NHS provided excellent value for money and would easily be funded by expected changes in taxation.

The Tories have gone back to lying about ‘high spending Labour’ to justify their brutal, swingeing cuts, but the Labour party never overspent on the NHS, which was in budget when they left office. Unlike now, after Andrew Lansley, Jeremy Hunt, and their masters David Cameron and Theresa May. Furthermore, Labour actually spent less than previous Tory administrations.

Perrior and the rest of them are, of course, terrified of the spectre of Jeremy Corbyn getting into No. 10, and undoing the forty years of harm successive Thatcherite regimes have done to this country. Hence all the bleating about there being no money. But there is money available. Corbyn and Labour costed all their proposals, unlike May and the Tories. And the La Chat Francaise Philosophique over at Guy Debord’s Cat has pointed out that it actually costs money to cut taxes. All that needs to be done to fund the renationalisation of the NHS, stop benefit sanctions and renationalise part of the energy industry and the other proposals, is to start taxing the upper five per cent of the population again.

But this gives the Tories a fit of the vapours, as it means taxing the rich to support the poor, while everything the Tories do is the reverse: to impoverish the poor in order to give greater power and wealth to those, who already have more than enough of it.

I also don’t have any sympathy for the supposed personal distress this is causing to May herself. In fact I find this highly hypocritical.

Thatcherite welfare policy, since the days of Thatcher herself, is modelled very much on the principle of Less Eligibility, which was at the heart of the Liberal’s New Poor Law of 1833. Conditions on welfare are to be made so harsh, that it will deter everyone except the very needy from going on it. Hence if you sign on at the jobcentre, the clerk will belittle you and put immense amounts of pressure on you to get a job, even if it is unsuitable. And it works. I personally know people, who are unemployed and who have not signed on, because of the insulting, demeaning way jobcentre staff have treated them.

That’s if you are sufficiently lucky to qualify for benefit in the first place. The government, like the Thatcherite administrations before it, is committed to dismantling the welfare state. And this means making qualification for jobseeker’s allowance and disability benefit as difficult as possible. This means that Maximus, like Atos, regularly and fraudulently decides that severely disabled, and even terminally ill people, are capable of holding down a job. And unemployed people have been sanctioned for the flimsiest of reasons.

The result of this is misery, mass poverty and starvation.

I’ve mentioned enough times the number of deaths this has caused, the numbers forced to use food banks, and the millions who don’t know if they’ll be able to eat tomorrow. But psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health professionals have warned several times about the rise in mental illness caused by the distress those with such problems suffer in filling out the forms and going through the assessment process.

One very graphic illustration of the distress this has caused ordinary Brits is the case Mike put up on his blog a few years ago. This described how members of the public came to comfort a young man, who was left crying outside the jobcentre, when they turned his application for benefit down.

Where the cries of Perrior’s and her colleagues then about distress? There weren’t any. Indeed, the whole attitude of the Conservative party, and its vile organs like the Daily Heil is that those on welfare are scroungers and malingers, who should be demeaned and vilified at every turn.

So I have absolutely no sympathy with Perrior’s wails about how upsetting it is for her former employer to get such horrible Tweets. May is presiding over a malign political system, which sees humiliation and distress as legitimate tools for managing the hoi polloi.

The best thing May can do is to end the distress she’s causing the rest of us, and resign to make way for a Labour government.

New Book on Foodbank Britain

November 20, 2016

Also going round the bookshelves in Waterstone’s on Friday, I found a book with the title, Foodbank Britain, or something similar. It was about foodbanks, and people’s experiences of using and working on them. This is interesting and very much needed. I’ve reblogged pieces before now from the website, Diary of a Foodbank Helper, as has Mike over at Vox Political and a number of other great, leftwing bloggers. ‘Diary of a Foodbank Helper’s’ written by a lady, who, as her blog’s title says, helped out at her local food bank. She describes the people she encounters, who come for its aid, and gives their often heartbreaking stories. These are hardworking people, who’ve been made redundant, or been forced to leave work through invalidity, who’ve found themselves sanctioned by the DWP under any one of the various petty excuses they use to make sure people can’t claim Jobseekers Allowance. Or else they’ve been declared ‘fit to work’ by ATOS/ Maximus, when they clearly are very much unfit for work.

Against this, we have the continued lies of the Tory party, particularly the heads of the DWP Damian Green and Iain Duncan Smith, and poisonous former ministers like Edwina Curry. They repeatedly refuse to release the statistics showing how many people have died after being declared fit for work, and when they’ve been finally forced to release them, have fiddled them to make them misleading. They also repeat the lie ad nauseam that no-one in Britain is really starving, and that people are using food banks voluntarily, because they’re a source of free food. This has shown to be a lie over and over again, but they keep on repeating it. They’re all students of Goebbels, who said that the secret to successful propaganda was repeating the lie again and yet again, until enough people believe it. And aided by an equally lying and mendacious press and a disgracefully biased Beeb, people will.

I didn’t buy it, as I’ve bought several books recently on poverty in Britain. But I thought this one was a useful addition to the armoury of books criticising government policy and the mass poverty its created. Unfortunately, I think we’re going to need many more of them before we can break the lies that supports the mass starvation food banks are intended to alleviate.

Owen Smith’s Rhetoric of Domestic Abuse

July 25, 2016

Mike also put up another piece on Owen Smith rhetoric and demeanour as he launched a campaign against misogyny, following the comments of one of his readers, who had been a victim for ten years of domestic abuse. Owen Smith pledged Labour to a ‘zero tolerance’ policy on misogyny. To show the current double standards in the Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn was vilified when he promised that Labour would end workplace discrimination.

In fact, as Mike shows, Smiff himself has previous on what some would regard at sexism. He told one of the female regulars on Question Time that she was only there because of her gender. But Mike’s female commenter picked up on the language he uses to denigrate and demean Corbyn. She states that after undergoing a 12 week course to deal with the effects of the decade-long abuse she suffered from her partner, she found that Smiff fits the profile of one type of domestic abuser: the headworker. This is the person, who constantly wears down his victim’s sense of self-worth, by telling them that they’re worthless, and using that insult to justify his assaults on them.

To test this analysis, Mike supplies a sample of Smiff’s comments about Corbyn, to see if they fit this profile. They do. They are all just remarks about how useless he is, and how unfit he is to lead the party, without any substance behind them. Mike also checks to see what personal smears Corbyn has cast over his opponents: precisely none.

This bears out Mike’s commenter’s observations.

See the article: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/23/headworker-owen-smith-resembles-domestic-violence-perpetrator/

I wonder how far this culture of New Labour bullying is the creation of Blair, Brown, Campbell and Mandelson. Blair’s coterie was notorious for their determination to micromanage everything they could to make the Dear Leader appear popular and acclaimed, and ensure that MPs and officials were properly compliant and ‘on message’. When they went ‘off message’, as Claire Short did on numerous occasions, then they went on the personal attack, briefing against them.

I also wonder how far this is due to a general culture of bullying within a middle class marked with a very strong sense of entitlement. David Cameron, for example, claimed that he wasn’t a toff, but a member of the ‘sharp-elbowed middle class’, who were determined to get all they could. It was a risible claim, as Cameron is demonstrably a toff. He can’t remotely be described as ‘middle class’, except in so far as that term also describes the haute bourgeoisie. Nevertheless, this is a class that feels that it has an absolute right to rule, and to bully those it considers a threat. You consider the sheer venom Peter Lilley, the former Tory Secretary of State for Welfare, and the right-wing press has for ‘benefit scroungers’. The signing-on at the Jobcentre Plus for Jobseekers’ Allowance, the Work Capability Assessment and Workfare are all forms of bullying, set up to degrade and intimidate the unemployed claimant so that they only sign on if desperate. It’s explicitly based on the Victorian doctrine of least eligibility espoused by Thatcher as one of her ‘Victorian values’. Thatcher’s regime also saw the rise of ‘macho management’, in which company officials bullied their staff in order to get their absolute obedience and raise standards. Allegedly. Thus, a couple of managers appeared in Private Eye for threatening to hang a member of staff at a branch of Asda. And I was told by a former journalist on one of the Bristol papers that the editor there would call people into his office every morning to criticise them. This was all done for no reason, except that it was supposed to make them ‘better journalists’.

That type of management went out with John Major. But I do wonder if it hasn’t left its mark in the bullying psychology of New Labour, and their absolute determination to hang on to power. New Labour won its electoral victories by appealing to middle class swing voters. Blairite MPs still talk about ‘aspirational voters’, even though for the bulk of Labour supporters this is not an issue. They just want to survive unemployment, zero hours contracts and workfare. The Tories have survived and gained their votes partly by playing on status insecurity in parts of the working and lower middle classes. They exploit the fears and snobbery of the wealthier sections of these social classes against those below them. And so you have the Tory rhetoric about ‘hardworking people’ who want to make life more miserable for the unemployed, as they don’t want to see their closed curtains when they go to work. This was reflected in the pledge of one London Blairite MP that Labour would be even harder on the unemployed than the Tories if they got into power.

That kind of rhetoric alienated Labour’s core voters, who have now returned with Jeremy Corbyn. And the entitled Blairites can’t stand it. So to hang on to power they have gone back to a Thatcherite culture of middle class bullying and abuse to keep these awkward proles in line, and stop them losing the favour of the ‘sharp-elbowed middle classes’ with whom they wish to ingratiate themselves.

John Strachey on Using Welfare Spending to Break Capital’s Control of Working People

July 12, 2016

Strachey Socialism pic

Yesterday I put up John Strachey’s six point programme for a radical Socialist reform of the economy from his 1940 book, A Programme for Progress (London: Victor Gollancz). In the same book, Strachey makes the point that spending money on welfare services and public works is, contra to the Tories and classical economists, not wasteful. He then goes on to make the point that the state, by giving welfare provision to workers in the form of pensions and unemployment benefits, breaks the absolute grip of the employers over them. He writes

Welfare Spending Is Not Wasteful

Before going on to the underlying theory of the function of money in such a society as ours, it is necessary to establish that this is no less true of our third, last, and most startling plank – the proposal of giving people newly created money as a remedy for unemployment. For there is a very strong prejudice in our minds which almost compels us to suppose that giving away money for nothing in this way (by way, say, of old age pensions or children’s allowances) is a wild proceeding; that a government which did that would be for instance, far more profligate than on which spent a like sum on public works; that to give money away is sheer waste; that such a government would “get nothing for its money”. But this is not the case. The truth is that a decision to give people money is a decision to have more consumers’ goods and services produced, while the expenditure of money on a public works programme is a decision to have more means of production produced. That is the difference.

All talk of it being waste and squandering to give otherwise destitute or severely straitened people money with which to buy consumers’ goods is nonsense. The money will circulate through the system at least as well if it is put in at this point as it will if it is put in at the means of production end. If it is given to the ultimate consumers, it will flow first into the hands of the producers of consumers’ good, next to the producers of producers’ goods, next to the banks, and finally back to the Government itself, just as surely as if it were spent on building new factories in the most orthodox manner. It is necessary to insist up this point, for our minds have been so condition that we almost all tend to believe that money given, say, to the unemployed, or the old, is spent and gone, used up once and for all-if not actually wasted-in a sense in which money invested (a much more respectable word than spent)in a new factory, or in public works, especially if they are of an income-producing type, is not.

But there is not a word of truth in it. The one sum of money is spent on consumers’ goods, the other and producers’ goods. And that is all the difference there. (pp. 93-4).

This is a point which the Keynsian economists cited by Mike over at Vox Political, and by the Angry Yorkshireman, have been making time and again. It’s entirely correct, and was one of the reasons Roosevelt’s New Deal was so successful.

Breaking the Employers’ Grip

Of the effect of welfare spending breaking the stranglehold employers have over working people, Strachey writes

Is it, then, mere intellectual error which makes the dominant, ruling, financial section of the capitalist class so vehemently oppose all policies of this sort for re-employing the factors of production? We shall find, on the contrary, there is quite a rational explanation of their opposition. We have seen that private enterprise knows no way of getting extra money into the hands of the ultimate consumers except by employing them on the production of producers’ goods, or of durable goods such as houses. But now look at the proposition from another standpoint. From the point of view of the ultimate consumers, this means that they cannot live until they can get some private entrepreneur to employ them. It expresses, in a word, the dependence of the people of a capitalist society upon those who own the means of production. It expresses the monopoly of economic power which rests in the hands of these owners. It is precisely because all those who do not own, and have no independent access to the means of production cannot get money into their hands in any other way than by selling their ability to labour, that the owners are enabled to dictate the terms of sale of labour power. it is this which enables them to reap for themselves a rich harvest of the fruits of the labour of others. But what if a new channel is dug by which money can come into the hands of the mass of the population without their having to sell their ability to labour to the employers? To the extent that this is done the employer’s hold over the population is weakened; his power to dictate the terms of employment, rates of wages, hours of work, etc., is qualified. For the worker can now live without him. Nor is there the least doubt of the immediate, strong and practical effect which the provision of decent scales of old age pensions, children’s allowances, and any other distributions of purchasing power will have upon the bargaining power of the wage-earners. The real reason, then, which the great capitalists, and those who consciously or unconsciously speak for them, will always feel that direct distributions of money to the ultimate consumers are a grossly unsound measure, is that it weakens the absolute character of their control over the working population. The capitalists are bound to object that if you give the workers money for anything except work in private profit-making industry, they will get “out of hand”. And so they will; they will get out of their employer’s hand. Surely no democrat will deplore this? But if the employer’s capacity to impose dictatorially the obligation to work upon the rest of the population is ended, it will ultimately be necessary for society to devise a democratic form of self-discipline by which the natural obligation to labour is enforced by society itself.

Experience tends to show, however, that this necessity is far more remote than might be supposed. the conservative’s nightmare that if, for instance, the Government paid really adequate relief to all the unemployed, no one would come to work the next day, is grotesquely incorrect- though no doubt the strengthening of the bargaining position of the workers which would result would be remarkable. Moreover, it is perfectly possible to arrange the giving of money to the ultimate cons8umers in such a way that any tendency to enable the slacker to live without working is reduced to a minimum. For the money can be given to sections of the population who are not required to work in any case. The obvious sections are the old or the very young. Really adequate old age pensions, or children’s allowances, paid out of newly created money, are a most valuable part of a programme for re-employing the factors of production in the conditions of economic stagnation which have recently obtained in contemporary Britain and America. (pp. 98-100).

And this is what the Tories do indeed fear, and have done. One of the first things Thatcher did was to cut the entitlement of striking workers to social security benefit. It’s why they have been so hard on the unemployed, and replaced unemployment benefit with ‘Jobseekers allowance’. And it underpins the whole of workfare and the sanctions system. It is part of keeping a cowed, powerless workforce desperate to accept any job, no matter how tenuous and poorly paid. And it needs to stop. Now.

Shirley William on Demands for Cutting Tax and the Myth of the Social Security Scrounger

May 26, 2016

SWilliams Book Pic

Yesterday I put up a couple of pieces from Shirley Williams’ book, Politics Is For People, in which she attacks the free market ideology of Milton Friedman, and notes how bureaucracy actually grew under the Tories, despite their declared concern for cutting it in the name of efficiency.

The former Labour MP and founder of the SDP also has a few critical observations of the various campaigns to cut taxes, and the myth that people on social security/ jobseeker’s allowance/unemployment benefit/the dole are scroungers.

She writes

A second line of attack, clearly closely related to the reaction against ‘big government’, is on the high public expenditure necessitated by the welfare state. The taxpayers’ revolt began in France with the Poujadist party, wand was later taken up in Denmark, where Per Glijstrup’s anti-tax party had a remarkable, if brief, period of success. it was an element in the 1976 defeat of the Swedish socialist government, and then reached its high-water mark in the triumphant passage of California’s Proposition 13 in 1978. Proposition 13 tied local property taxes to their 1976/7 level, and imposed a 1 per cent maximum on the annual increase, effectively halving the property tax yield. But as the effects of Proposition 13 have been felt on education and other publicly financed services, public enthusiasm for tax cutting has waned. An attempt to pass a similar proposal, known as Jarvis Two, to halve California’s state taxes was heavily defeated in June 1980. The recent history of anti-tax movements is one of dramatic advances which are not then sustained.

One particular form the attack on high public expenditure takes, one that is popular and easy to get across in electoral terms, is the allegation that many people are living off the welfare state who could perfectly well survive on their own. Popular newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic give a lot of space to individual cases – and there always are some – of people proclaiming how they have milked the social security system of thousands of dollars or thousands of pounds. Everybody has heard of somebody who can’t be bothered to get a job, or who stays at home living on welfare because his wage in a job would be little more than his welfare cheque. The ‘poverty trap’ – incomes-related benefits which are lost or reduced as the breadwinner’s income rises – provides a rationale for ‘scrounging’. It really is true that some heads of large families may be better off not working.

Yet the evidence for large-scale ‘scrounging’ is thin; most people much prefer a job to enforced leisure. Nor is the popular hostility against scroungers a by-product of the welfare state. It has a much older history. Ricardo himself inveighed against the Speenhamland system, under which wages were subsidized by the parish if they fell below a minimum level which was linked to the price of bread. ‘The principle of gravitation is not more certain than the tendency of such laws to change wealth and vigour into misery and weakness’, Richardo wrote in On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation (1817). It might be Professor Milton Friedman speaking. At the end of the eighteenth century, the indefatigable Utilitarian Jeremy Bentham turned his mind to the rehabilitation of convicts, many of them indigent people without work. He proposed to establish a panopticon, a sort of multi-industry establishment, which he described, chillingly, as ‘a mill to grind rogues honest, and idle men industrious’. Similar wishes are still expressed on the floor of Congress or the House of Commons by ardent Conservatives; only the language alters. (Pp. 30-1).

Williams here is exactly right. Mike over at Vox Political, the Angry Yorkshireman and many other bloggers have noted that Thatcher and the Conservatives have consciously adopted the Victorian principle of ‘least eligibility’ in their welfare reforms in order to make living on benefit as humiliating and degrading as possible for those on it, such as the disabled and the unemployed. The incident Mike reported on his blog on Tuesday, in which a woman with dementia was insulted by a member of the DWP, when she failed to answer a security question due to her disability, is an extreme example of this attitude. This just shows how long the Left have known about the extremely illiberal attitude to poverty at the very heart of Thatcherism and its explicit Victorian antecedents.

As for the Poujadists, they were a petit-bourgeois, anti-Socialist, anti-trade union party founded in the 1950s. Poujade was a French shopkeeper, who launched a campaign encouraging shopkeepers not to serve striking workers. One of the books I read a few years ago on Fascism included them as one of the forms it took in the post-War period. And Michael Heseltine was less than impressed with them, and used them as an insult in his spat with the Leaderene when she was goose-stepping around Downing Street. He called her a ‘Poujadist’, which accurately reflects her socio-economic background as the grocer’s daughter, and her petty hostility to the organised working class. It was a reference lost on the gentlemen of the press, however, who thought he meant she was a ‘putschist’. Well, that too, when it comes to petty Fascism.

Williams in her book has many good ideas. It was too bad that she and the rest of her cronies were more interested in splitting away to form the SDP and attacking Labour than squaring up to the Tories.