Posts Tagged ‘Subsidies’

Tories Waste £120 Million in Two Years Persecuting Disability Claimants

September 2, 2020

Mike put up another excellent article yesterday about the news that Johnson’s government had spent £120 million over the past two years fighting appeals against rulings by the DWP and Maximus against disabled benefit claimants. These are people, whom have been ruled ‘fit for work’ under the Fitness for Work tests. As Mike and others have reported for a very long time, three-quarters of these rulings are overturned on appeal. This means that the Tories have spent something like £100 million on trying to get people, who have every right to benefit, thrown off them.

Mike also states in his article that under the internal regulations of the DWP, each new claim is subject to ‘mandatory reconsideration’ during which time the claimant receives no benefit for a period of four weeks. It is only recently that this policy has been overturned by the courts. Any claim that this is fighting benefit fraud is spurious. The actual number of fraudulent claims is less than 1 or 2 per cent, whatever bilge rags like the Daily Mail tell you. And the increase in expenditure against appeals by the disabled is far greater than the 13 per cent rise in new claims. Which means, as Mike points out, the Tories have been spending this money and trying to stop people with real needs claiming benefits simply out of a vindictive hatred of the sick and disabled. He concludes

So the huge proportion that the Tories refuse – and the amount of time and money wasted in the appeal process – can only mean one thing:

The Tories hate disabled people and want them to die.

Why isn’t this a national – if not international – scandal?

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/09/01/tories-have-wasted-120m-in-two-years-trying-to-tell-people-theyre-not-disabled/

This isn’t about saving money. I’ve got a feeling the amount of government expenditure on ordinary welfare claims is trivial. Especially compared to the handouts the Tories have given, even before the Coronavirus, to big business through tax breaks, the bloated contracts awarded to the private outsourcing companies, and subsidies to the banks and other industries, like the railways. And the situation in America is even worse, thanks to the greater advance of corporatism in the American system and the massive expenditure on the military-industrial complex and armaments. It’s why there are books like Take the Rich Off Welfare attacking it.

Left-wing critics and activists have pointed out that Thatcherism has represented nothing less than a massive transfer of wealth upwards, away from the poor, the sick, the disabled and the rest of the working class. As a result, the 1 per cent have become massively richer.

This is all about persecuting the poor for the benefit of the bloated rich. And I would like it to be a national scandal. I would like the same kind of mass demonstrations that spontaneously erupted with the Black Lives Matter movement to occur and be organised against this horrendous persecution of the disabled. I would like people to march, holding placards denouncing the Tories – and New Labour, for their part in creation of this disgusting policy – showing the faces of the people, who’ve died after being found fit for work, and starved to death or took their own lives after being thrown off benefit.

Because, dear Lord, there have been more than enough of them. I lost count of the number who’d starved to death after it hit five hundred. And the number of disabled people, who’ve died from their conditions after being found fit for work is 113,000. Or more. One of the last victims was a Black man, Errol Graham, a diabetic who also died of starvation after he was declared fit to go back to work. Black Lives Matter have protested – rightly – against the shooting of unarmed Blacks by lawless cops in America. They’ve held protests here about institutional racism, and pulled down statues of slavers. But why aren’t they marching against the institutional murder – ’cause that’s what is – of disabled Black people. Because Blacks and Asians have been especially hard hit by austerity because of their general poverty and lack of opportunities compared to Whites.

The Tory persecution of the disabled is a real scandal. And it’s not going away. We need mass demonstrations against it until the message gets through.

Rishi Sunak Goes Social Credit

July 6, 2020

Zelo Street put up another piece yesterday showing the glaring hypocrisy of the Tory party and their lapdog press. According to the Absurder, the Resolution Foundation had been in talks with chancellor Rishi Sunak to give everyone in Britain vouchers to spend in shops and businesses. Adults would receive vouchers worth £500, while children would get half the amount, £250. Sunak was being urged to accept the scheme as it would stimulate the economy, which has been badly hit by the lockdown. The Tory papers the Heil and the Scum also reported this, and thought it was a great idea.

This contrasts very strongly with their attitude last May, when Jeremy Corbyn also floated the idea of giving the British people free money in UBI – Universal Basic Income. The Scum claimed that if everyone was given £70 a week, then this would raise the welfare bill from £188 billion to £288 billion a year. The Heil reported that when the scheme was tried out in Finland, it made people happier but didn’t improve employment levels and would prove ‘unsustainable’.

But it isn’t just Finland that is experimenting with UBI. It was introduced in Spain a few weeks ago as Mike reported on his blog. Spain is a poorer country than Britain, but their willingness to try it contradicts the government’s excuse for not doing so, which is that Britain can’t afford it.

But now Rishi Sunak is considering it, and the Tory papers are praising him for it, whereas they vilified Corbyn. Zelo Street commented

‘Clearly, since May last year, a “free money” handout has stopped being a ghastly socialist aberration, and is now an excellent wheeze. Cos Rishi will be doing it.

The press will do anything to flog more papers. Including a little socialism.’

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/07/government-handouts-yeah-but-no-but.html

Of course, the reason the right-wing press are supporting Sunak whereas they condemned Corbyn, is because the two men have very different reasons for recommending it. In Corbyn’s case it was a desire to help empower ordinary people and stop the poverty the Tories have inflicted on them through low wages, job insecurity and the murderous system of benefit cuts and sanctions. The Tories, by contrast, heartily despise the poor. In the interest of maintaining healthy profits, they have always pursued low wages and punishing the poor, the sick, the disabled and the unemployed with minimal state welfare provision. This is now for many people below the amount needed to keep body and soul together. Where it is available at all, that is. That’s if people are able to get it after waiting five weeks for their first payment, and not getting sanctioned for the flimsiest excuse. This is all done to reduce the tax bill for the 1 per cent. Those able to work must be kept poor and desperate so that they will accept any job and won’t be able to demand higher wages. As for the long-term unemployed and the disabled, they are biologically inferior ‘useless eaters’, exactly as the Nazis viewed them, who should be allowed to starve to death.

Sunak’s motive for embracing UBI is so that the proles can spend it, thus keeping businesses afloat and maintaining or boosting profits. It’s socialism for the rich, as modern corporatism has been described. Just as welfare benefits are cut or completely removed for working people and the poor, so corporatism rewards business, and particularly big business, through a system of subsidies and tax breaks. It’s why one book attacking this system was titled Take the Rich Off Welfare.

Sunak’s version of UBI also harks back to a similar scheme founded in the 1920s by the British officer, Major C.H. Douglas. Aware of the widespread poverty of his day, Douglas argued that it was ‘poverty in the midst of plenty’. The goods were available to satisfy people’s needs, but they were unable to afford them. He therefore recommended that the government should issue vouchers to solve this problem and enable people to buy the goods they desperately needed.

The idea has never really taken off. It was included among the policies Oswald Mosley adopted for his New Party after it split from Labour in the late ’20s and early ’30s. There was also a Social Credit party in British Columbia in Canada, though I believe that’s an extreme right-wing, anti-immigrant party for Anglophone Whites which doesn’t actually support the Social Credit economic policy.

I’ve also seen something extremely similar to Social Credit used as the basis for an SF story. In Frederick Pohl 1950’s novella, ‘The Midas Plague’, the poor are bombarded with expensive goods and services which they must use and consume. They are punished if they don’t. As a result, in terms of material conditions the position of rich and poor is reversed: the poor live opulent lives, while the rich, who have to own their own possessions, live much more austerely. The whole point of this is to keep the economy booming and industry expanding.

We haven’t yet got to that point, and I don’t we ever will, if only because the wealthy ruling class, on whose behalf the Tories govern, are so against letting the poor get anything for free. Even when they need and deserve it. But unemployment is set to increase due to automation in the workplace. It’s been forecast that over the next 20 years about a 1/3 of jobs will be lost. 21st century Britain, and indeed much of the rest of the Developed World, could look like Judge Dredd’s MegaCity 1, where over 95 per cent of the population is unemployed and lives on welfare.

If that ever happens, then the government will need to implement something like Social Credit in order to give people both enough to live on and support business and industry.

Not that Sunak need go that far just yet. One of the reasons F.D. Roosevelt introduced state unemployment insurance for Americans as part of his New Deal was also to support industry. He, and liberal and socialist economists in Britain realized that if you give people money to support themselves during a recession, they will spend their way out of it. Both the poor, the unemployed and industry benefits. We could do the same now, by giving people a genuine living wage, raising unemployment and other benefits up to a level so that people can actually live on them and abolish the five-week waiting period and the sanctions system so that people don’t have to rely on food banks to save them from starvation.

But this would contradict the Tories’ favoured policies of keeping working people and the poor hungry and desperate.

Shaw’s Classic Defence of Socialism for Women Part Four

May 16, 2020

George Bernard Shaw, The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism and Fascism, foreword by Polly Toynbee (London: Alma Classics 2012).

Conclusion

While this a great book I immensely enjoyed, it also very much the product of its time. Shaw is unrealistic and more than a little sectarian himself in his advocacy of the equalization of incomes. He regards it as the real, fundamental goal of socialism and that unless they too believe in it, others advocating nationalisation aren’t real socialists. But the Soviets and various other socialist groups have tried the equalisation of incomes, and it didn’t work. But nevertheless, even if wages shouldn’t be exactly the same, the differences in wealth should very definitely be far less than they are now.

Similarly, I don’t entirely agree with his views on the unions. Now other socialists also struggled with the problems they posed for working class power. Trade unions by themselves aren’t socialist organisations. Their role is to fight for better wages and conditions for the workers, not to replace capitalism, and Lenin himself pondered how workers could go from ‘trade union consciousness’ to socialism. In the 1980s it was found that trade unionists often voted Tory, because of the improved quality of life they enjoyed. But the unions are nevertheless vital working class organisations and are rightly at the heart of the Labour party, and have provided countless working class leaders and politicians.

Shaw was right about the coal mines, and his description of the results of the great differences in viability between them and the comparative poverty or wealth of the mining companies was one of the reasons they were nationalised by Labour under Clement Attlee.  He’s also right about nationalising the banks. They don’t provide proper loans for the small businessman, and their financial shenanigans have resulted, as Shaw noted in his own day, in colossal crashes like that of 2008. He is also right about the rich sending their money abroad rather than contributing to the British economy. In his time it was due to imperialism, and there is still a hangover from this in that the London financial sector is still geared to overseas rather than domestic investment. It’s why Neil Kinnock advocated the establishment of a British investment bank in 1987. Now, in the early 21st century, they’re also saving their money in offshore tax havens, and British manufacturers have been undercut and ruined through free trade carried out in the name of globalisation.

His arguments about not nationalising industries before everything has been properly prepared, and the failures of general strikes and revolutions are good and commonsense. So is his recommendation that capitalism can drive innovation. On the other hand, it frequently doesn’t and expects the state to bail it out or support it before it does. I also agreed with Shaw when he said that companies asking for government subsidies shouldn’t get them unless the gave the government a part share in them. That would solve a lot of problems, especially with the outsourcing companies. They should be either nationalised or abolished.

I can’t recommend the book without qualifications because of his anti-religious views. Shaw also shows himself something of a crank when it comes to vaccination. As well as being a vegetarian and anti-vivisectionist, which aren’t now anywhere near as remarkable as they once were, he’s against vaccination. There are parts of the book which are just anti-vaxxer rants, where he attacks the medical profession as some kind of pseudo-scientific priesthood with sneers at the religion of Jenner. He clearly believes that vaccination is the cause of disease, instead of its prevention. I don’t know if some of the primitive vaccinations used in his time caused disease and death, but it is clear that their absence now certainly can. Children and adults should be vaccinated because the dangers of disease are far, far worse.

Shaw also has an unsentimental view of the poor. He doesn’t idealise them, as poor, ill-used people can be terrible themselves, which is why poverty itself needs to be eradicated. In his peroration he says he looks forward to the poor being exterminated along with the rich, although he has a little more sympathy for them. He then denies he is a misanthrope, and goes on to explain how he likes people, and really wants to see people growing up in a new, better, classless socialist future.

While I have strong reservations about the book, it is still well-worth reading, not least because of Shaw’s witty turns of phrase and ability to lampoon of capitalism’s flagrant absurdities. While I strongly reject his anti-religious views, his socialist ideas, with a few qualifications, still hold force. I wish there were more classic books on socialism like this in print, and widely available so that everyone can read them.

Because today’s capitalism is very much like the predatory capitalism of Shaw’s age, and becoming more so all the time.

 

 

 

Labour Plans Rail Nationalisation that Will Save Commuters £1000 a Year

December 3, 2019

This is another story I found in yesterday’s I. It’s by Harriet Line and it’s about how Labour plans to cut rail fares to save passengers money by nationalising the railways. The article runs

Regulated fail fares in England will be cut next month if Labour wins the general election, the party says.

Jeremy Corbyn intends to renationalise the railways when contracts expire if he wins on 12 December, and has announced plans to cut regulated rail fares by 33 per cent from January 2020.

The party estimates the policy would save the average commuter more than £1,000 a year, and says it would represent the biggest ever reduction in rail fares.

It comes after Britain’s train companies confirmed over the weekend that they will raise prices by an average of 2.7 per cent next year.

Labour has also pledged to deliver a simple ticketing system across the nation – with “islands” within which zonal rail fares will apply across all public transport. There would also be a daily price cap.

Labour estimates that the policy will cost £1.5bn per year and would come from exiting Department for Transport budgets. Mr Corbyn said: “Taking back control of our railways is the only way to bring down fares.”

Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary said: “This is another desperate attempt from Labour to distract from their inability and unwillingness to be straight with people.”

A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group said: “Rail companies have been calling for some time for changes in regulations to enable an easier-to-use, better-value range of fares, but it’s a red herring to suggest that reforming fares needs a change of ownership.”

There are two comments to make here. First, it is one again a piece of massive hypocrisy for Grant Shapps – of all people – to accuse Labour of not being ‘straight with people’. As we’ve seen time and again, it’s the Conservatives who lie and suppress documents. Like that report into possible dangerous Russian influence in the UK. And their reputation for telling the truth is so far down the tubes, that it provoked nothing but laughter from the audience during the Beeb leader debates when Boris decided he wanted to talk about transparency. As for Shapps personally, I remember a little while ago that he got caught trying to charge the taxpayer for Hebrew lessons, either for himself or for his boyfriend. I’ve got nothing against people learning Hebrew, and certainly not Biblical Hebrew. Or indeed any other language. But unless it’s something a politician needs as part of their job, they shouldn’t expect Joe and Josephine Public to pick up the bill.

As for the Rail Delivery Group, their objection is also easily dismissed. Since Thatcher privatised the railways, we’ve been paying more in subsidies for a poorer service. This is partly because of the way the service was privatised, so that rolling stock was separate from track, but it’s also because it’s directors want to make a profit for their shareholders. And that means cutting services while raising fares.

There is going to be considerable opposition from the Tories, as they represent the interests of big business, the proprietors and managers against working people and the ordinary people, who actually use public services. But people are fed up of poor services and the same old excuses being trotted out again and again by the rail companies. Nationalisation won’t make it perfect. British Rail was something of a joke when I was when growing up. But it’s better than what’s replaced it.

A Corbyn victory and nationalisation can’t come soon enough!

‘I’ Newspaper: Rail Franchise System Not Working and Needs to be Changed

February 27, 2019

I found this report in the I newspaper on our country’s failing rail network. The article states that a recent report has found that the current system of rail franchising doesn’t work and cannot continue as it is. The article, ‘Rail franchising ‘no longer delivers clear benefits’, on page 4 of today’s paper, 27th February 2019, by Neil Lancefield runs

Britain’s rail franchise system no longer delivers clear benefits and cannot continue in its current form, according to the man leading an official review of the network.

Keith Williams told industry leaders that operators were not adapting to changing consumer demands.

The contracting out of passenger services has drawn heavy criticism, with some contracts failing and customer complaints rising. The rail industry has said it accepts that the status quo cannot continue.

Mr Williams was appointed by the Government last year to lead its “root-and-branch” Rail Review. Speaking in London, he said: “I have heard a great deal about the franchising model… driving growth in passengers and benefits to services.

“But with this growth, the needs of passengers have changed, while many of the basic elements of our rail system have not kept pace. Put bluntly, franchising cannot continue the way it is today. It is no longer delivering clear benefits for either taxpayers or farepayers.”

Mr Williams said the current “one-size-fits-all” approach to franchising did not work for every part of the UK and every passenger. Delivering the annual Bradshaw Address, named in honour of George Bradshaw, the author of Victorian railway guides, he added: “I believe for the railway to be successful it needs to put passengers at its heart.”

His comments came as MPs warned that rail passengers faced “another difficult year”, with further timetable alterations and more engineering works.

Okay, this isn’t a condemnation of rail privatisation, but of the way the franchise system, in which they are given to private operators, is managed. The attitude seems to be that if this was fixed, then everything would work perfectly. As Williams says, he has heard a great deal about how franchising has driven growth in passengers and benefited service.

This is absolute rubbish. I’ve seen no evidence that privatisation has been behind the growth in passengers or brought any benefits whatsoever. You could speculate that any growth in passenger numbers may be due to a variety of factors, like the increasing cost of running a car, difficulties finding a parking space, traffic congestion and delays and other factors such as the ban on drink driving. As for the benefits of privatisation, the British taxpayer is now paying more in subsidies to the rail network than it did when it was all under state ownership as British Rail. And the service is actually worse. It was almost 20 years ago, when I remember talking about it to a rail engineer. It was bad then, and is now even poorer. We have seen one train company after another fail, and have to be taken back into public management. Unfortunately, this doesn’t last, and that section of the rail network is almost inevitably given to another wretched private rail company. Services are being axed, as in so much of the service industries, in order to boost shareholder dividends and executive pay.

It is not the franchise system that is failing, but privatisation. There is a growing movement to see the railways renationalised, and even Tories like the wretched Lady Olga Maitland have backed it at times. Labour have pledged to it, and this is one of the party’s policies that is immensely popular. But this is too much for the corporate establishment, which clearly wants to try and preserve this part of Thatcher’s grotty legacy – though the railway was actually privatised by John Major – as long as it can.

Rail privatisation, like the rest of Thatcherism, is a dismal, utter failure. Get rid of it, get rid of the Tories and renationalise them. And get Corbyn into No.10.

 

Adolf Hitler, Fascism and the Corporative State

January 1, 2019

A week or so ago I put up a passage from Hitler’s Table Talk, in which the Nazi leader made it absolutely clear that he didn’t want Nazi functionaries and members of the civil service holding positions or shares in private companies because of the possible corruption that would entail. He illustrated his point with the case of the Danube Shipping Company, a private firm that got massively rich in pre-Nazi Germany through government subsidies, because it had members of the ruling coalition parties on its board.

Which is pretty much the same as the recent fiasco in which Chris Grayling has given 13,800 pounds of public money to Seaborne Freight, a ferry company that has no ships and no experience of running a shipping company, to run a ferry service to Ostend as part of the preparations for a No Deal Brexit. Other companies also wanted to be considered for the contract, like Brittany Ferries, but despite Grayling’s huffing that there were extensive negotiations, the contract wasn’t put out to competitive tender. It seems instead to have been awarded because Mark Bamford, whose maritime law firm shares the same headquarters as Seaborne Freight, is the brother of Antony Bamford, who is a Tory donor.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/01/01/the-corruption-behind-the-tory-freight-deal-with-a-shipping-company-that-has-no-ships/

When a monster like Adolf Hitler, who killed millions of innocents, starts talking sense in comparison to this government, you know we’re in a very desperate way.

Despite his desire to outlaw personal connections between members of the Nazi party and civil service and private corporations, Hitler still believed that business should be included in government. On page 179 of Mein Kampf he wrote

There must be no majority making decisions, but merely a body of responsible persons, and the word “Council” will revert to its ancient meaning. Every man shall have councilors at his side, but the decision shall be made by one Man.

The national State does not suffer that men whose education and occupation has not given them special knowledge shall be invited to advise or judge on subjects of a specialized nature, such as economics. The State will therefore subdivide its representative body into political committees including a committee representing professions and trades. In order to obtain advantageous co-operation between the two, there will be over them a permanent select Senate. But neither Senate nor Chamber will have power to make decisions; they are appointed to work and not to make decisions. Individual members may advise, but never decide. That is the exclusive prerogative of the responsible president for the time being.

In Hitler, My Struggle (London: Paternoster Row 1933).

Hitler here was influenced by Mussolini and the Italian Fascist corporate state. A corporate was an industrial body uniting the employer’s organization and trade union. Mussolini reorganized the Italian parliament so that it had an official Chamber of Fasces and Corporations. There were originally seven corporations representing various industries and sectors of the economy, though this was later expanded to 27. In practice the corporate state never really worked. It duplicated the work of the original civil service and increased the bureaucracy, as another 100,000 civil servants had to be recruited to staff it. It was also not allowed to make decisions on its own, and instead acted as a rubber stamp for the decisions Mussolini had already made.

Once in power, however, the Nazis quietly discarded the corporate state in practice. The economy was reorganized so that the economy was governed through a series of industrial associations for the various sectors of industry, to which every company and enterprise had to belong, and which were subject to the state planning apparatus. When the shopkeepers in one of the southern German towns tried to manage themselves as a corporation on the Italian model, the result was inflation. The Gestapo stepped in, the experiment was closed down and its members interned in Dachau. However, the Nazis were determined to give their support to private industry and these industrial organisations were led by senior managers of private firms, even when most of the companies in a particular sector were owned by the state.

Something similar to the Nazi and Fascist economic systems has arisen in recent years through corporate sponsorship of political parties, particularly in America. So important have donations from private industry become, that the parties ignore the wishes of their constituents once in power to pass legislation benefiting their corporate donors. The result of this is that public confidence in Congress is low, at between 19 and 25 per cent, and a study by Harvard University concluded that America was no longer a functioning democracy so much as a corporate oligarchy.

The same situation prevails in Britain, where something like 75 per cent of MPs are millionaires, either company directors or members of senior management. New Labour was particularly notorious for its corporate connections, which had already caused scandals under John Major’s administration. Tony Blair and his cronies appointed the staff and heads of various government bodies from donors to the Labour party, giving them posts on the same bodies that were supposed to be regulating the industries their companies served. The result of this was that the Labour government ignored the wishes of the British public to pass legislation which, like Congress in America, benefited their donors. See George Monbiot’s book, Captive State.

It’s time this quasi-Fascist system of corporate government was brought to an end, and British and American governments ruled for the people that elected them, not the companies that bought their politicians.

Jacob Rees-Mogg and Tory Self-Delusions

March 31, 2018

I found this little gem in the ‘Pseud’s Corner’ column of an old copy of Private Eye. Amid the usual, very pseudish remarks from football pundits and cookery writers comparing that last goal by Arsenal to Julius Caesar crossing the Tiber, or literary types extolling the virtues of their last excursion around the globe, where they took part in the ancient tribal ceremonies of primal peoples, was a truly astounding quote from the Young Master. This is, of course, the current darling of the Tory party, Jacob Rees-Mogg, who declared.

“I am a man of the people. Vox populi, vox dei!”

This was in response to Andrew Neil questioning him about the influence of public schools on British political life.

Rees-Mogg probably does see himself as ‘man of the people’. He’s in a party, which considers itself the natural party of government. Decades ago, the Tory ideologue, Trevor Oakeshott, tried to justify the overpowering influence of the middle classes by saying they were the modern equivalent of the barons who stood up to King John, in providing a bulwark against the power of the state. True in some case, but very wrong when the middle classes are in power, and the state functions as their servant.

Rees-Mogg has never, ever, remotely been a man of the people. He’s an aristo toff, who has made his money from investment banking. He holds deeply reactionary views on abortion and homosexuality, which are very much out of touch with those of the genuinely liberal middle and lower classes. And he has always represented the aristocracy and the rich against the poor, the sick, and the disabled. He began his political career in Scotland trying to folks of a declining fishing community that what this country really needed was to keep an unelected, hereditary House of Lords. In parliament, he has continued to promote the interests of the rich by demanding greater subsidies and tax cuts for them. For the poor, he has done nothing except demand greater tax increases on them, to subsidise the already very wealthy to whom he wants to give these tax cuts, and voted to cut welfare services and state funding for vital services. No doubt he genuinely believes all that Thatcherite bilge about making life as tough as possible for the poor in order to encourage them to work harder and do well for themselves.

Personally, he comes across as quiet-spoken, gentlemanly and polite. But he is not a man of the people. He hates them with a passion, but clearly thinks of himself as their champion and saviour against the dreaded welfare state.

Let’s prove him wrong and throw him out of parliament!

Tony Crossland on the Oppressive British Class System

March 29, 2018

I found this devastatingly perceptive criticism of the British class system by Tony Crossland in 100 years of Fabian Socialism 1884-1984, edited by Deirdre Terrins and Philip Whitehead (London: Fabian Society 1984).

Class feeling, and general social malaise, still persist in England to a deplorable degree. The feeling among workers of an external and irreconcilable conflict between wages and profits, capital and labour: their feeling too of non-participation in the control of the firm for which they work, and so of non-responsibility for its well-being: the acute sense of class that goes with different accents: the knowledge that differentials in education mean differentials in opportunity – these are all signs that Britain still is, and feels itself to be, a class society.

The purpose of socialism is quite simply to eradicate this sense of class, and to create in its place a sense of common interest and equal status.

From ‘The Transition from Capitalism’, in New Fabian Essays, 1952.

The situation is arguably worse now than it was when he wrote in 1952. Despite successive governments’ push to get more young people into university, the result has not been greater social mobility for graduates, but the reverse. Young people with degrees are instead forced downward to take unskilled work, which in turn puts more pressure on less educated, unskilled workers, who really need these jobs.

Social mobility died under New Labour, and it has most definitely not revived under David Cameron and Tweezer. Rather the reverse. The gap between rich and poor is now greater than it has been in over a hundred years. And working people are most definitely denied any say in how their firms are run, through the decimation of the unions and the imposition of exploitative contracts, and the repeal of legislation protecting workers’ rights.

As for the class basis of the British parliament, which legislates in favour of the upper and upper middle classes, you only have to look at the stats which show that something like 77 per cent of MPs have at least one or more directorships. Dave Cameron’s administration was a cabinet of toffs. So is Theresa May’s, even though she opened one session with the statement that none of those present were members of ‘the elite’.

And so is the Tories’ current darling, young master Jacob Rees-Mogg, a very patrician aristo, who has voted consistently to take money away from the welfare state and the poor and disabled, while voting in tax cuts and subsidies for the rich like himself.

It’s time to stop this, vote out the Tories and the Blairites, and vote in Corbyn and a government which will actually do something for working people.

Nationalisation Is Better: Bail-Out of South East Trains Shows Privatisation Doesn’t Work

January 17, 2018

South East Trains was in trouble again last week, and had to be bailed out by the government. The Labour Party made a statement that this showed the precarious state of the entire privatised rail network, as many of the other train companies could also claim they are in serious financial trouble, and pull out of the contracts.

This isn’t the first time aa privatised rail company has had to be bailed out by the government, or an alternative company found after one of them collapsed. And it shows very clearly that private railways don’t work.

Remember the old arguments for privatisation? State industries didn’t work. Instead, the state was subsidising inefficiency and these companies were a burden to taxpayers. They should be privatised, which would then make them more efficient, because they would have to respond to Maggie’s sacred ‘market forces’. If they couldn’t compete, they should be allowed to collapse. As happened with the mining industry.

Except that it hasn’t worked like that. We are now paying more in subsidies to the rail companies than we did when they were nationalised as British rail. And the service is actually worse than in the last days of the beleaguered nationalised rail network, when it was operating under the Operating For Quality programme.

Privatisation doesn’t work. Nationalisation of essential utilities, like railways, does.

But you won’t find this view promoted in the press, because the billionaires and magnates in charge of it consistently promote the idea that private industry is better, even when it is absolutely obvious that it isn’t. This is because, as businessmen, they see the rail network in terms of its money value to them. The corporate capitalism created by Maggie Thatcher and the Tories means that taxpayers are always bailing out inefficient and failing private firms, while punishing the poor, the unemployed and the disabled. It’s all about giving more money to the rich, regardless of whether the services they provide is any good. Capitalism has to be supported and promoted regardless. And if anyone says anything, then the Tories automatically rant on about the inefficiencies of the state sector in the 1970s, and how wonderful it was when Thatcher sold everything off.

But the failure of South East Trains, and the parlous state the other rail companies are in, show that this argument doesn’t work. It’s time to call end to the private ownership of the railways. They need to be renationalised, and a proper, public service given to the people of the Britain.

End Workfare Now! Part 1

June 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

End Workfare Now!

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was echoed by Ed Balls, who said

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

Forced Labour for the Unemployed in History

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

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

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

The Workfare Scheme

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

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

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