Posts Tagged ‘Voluntary Work’

More on the Weird Psychology of Ian Duncan Smith

February 16, 2014

Ian Duncan Rimmer

Last week I put up a post showing how Ian Duncan Smith’s psychology conforms to the ‘drive to power’ identified by Nixon’s quondam psychiatrist, Dr Arnold Hutschnecker. As described in Alex de Jonge’s biography of Stalin, Hutschnecker

derives it from a painful sense of one’s own insignificance, a fear of death and the wish to have others die. It is associated with a low sexual drive and an inability to love. ‘It moves on the wings of aggression to overcome inferiority … Those whose power to love and consequently create has been broke will choose war inorder to experience an intoxicating sense of power and excitement’. (p. 510).

This seems to be a good diagnosis of a man, who has falsely claimed, amongst other things, to have a degree from an Italian institution that doesn’t issue them, and whose claim to have been an officer in the British army is also highly questionable.

laundry basket

A laundry basket, though not possibly the type IDS has been known to hide in.

Jaypot added a few more details to the discussion in her comment to the piece.

IDS is a narcissist and he enjoys the power he has over people’s lives. I truly believe that he enjoys hearing about the deaths of people as he can only feel enjoyment, and, perhaps a sexual release in his persecution of the poor.
Another emotion that IDS does feel is fear – he is absolutely terrified of everyone who is poor or beneath him, which has been seen on a number of occasions. One was hiding in a laundry basket in Edinburgh (PMSL) and one of the most famous ones is where he has the armed guards surrounding him when waiting to go into the committee about his “use of statistics and his waste of money on UC). Those armed police should NOT have had their guns pointed at anyone, least of all the small amount of people who had every right to also go into the committee hearing! I still think that should be dealt with by the police commissioner!
IDS is coming to the end of his failed “career”, just like his whole life has been one failure after another. Here’s hoping karma gets him and let’s hope it’s very soon.

Fear of the general public is another psychological trait IDS, and indeed Cameron and Georg Osborne, share with Stalin. None of them can be seen as ‘men of the people’ in the same sense of Hitler, Mussolini, or indeed, Oswald Mosely. While they like power, they seem to be definitely afraid of meeting the public except in highly organised and choreographed events. Until the 1930s, Stalin was very rarely photographed and granted very few interviews to the Soviet press. During the purges he was so terrified of the reactions of the Soviet people, that at the annual May Day parade in Moscow one year Red Square was empty of crowds, except for a group of children waving banner and slogans located a quarter of a mile away from Stalin and the other Communist leaders. All the cheering heard during that celebration of Communist power was recorded, and played over loudspeakers.

I similarly noticed that the Olympic Stadium was empty was David Cameron gave his speech imploring the Scots to stay in the United Kingdom. It was conspicuous that Cameron did not do the Scots the courtesy of addressing them directly in Scotland itself, but chose to make his statement in the London, the former metropolis of the British Empire. Furthermore, Alex Salmond has challenged him to a debate. Cameron has ducked this, saying that he will talk to the Scots people themselves later this year. This will, no doubt, be in a very carefully, micro-managed political walkabout, where hostile or dissenting voices can be side-lined or edited out to present an image of Cameron talking easily to an enthusiastic, or at least receptive, Scots public, rather than given the barrage of criticism and abuse he’s more likely to get north of the Border.

It also looks very much that Cameron knows that Salmond is the better debater, and is desperate not to lose face by being beaten in an argument with him in public. As for the general public south of the Border, it was very noticeable indeed that there was no-one except the media in the Olympic Stadium when he made the speech. If it had been Oswald Mosely, that stadium would have been full, along with heckling and mass fighting. This obviously wouldn’t look good for the leader of an ostensibly centre-right part, although Cameron shares Mosely contempt for the organised working class. And so Cameron stands to give a speech in an empty stadium.

George Osborne similarly appears anxious around the British public. One of my colleagues on the unemployment course I’m on at the moment remarked on how uncomfortable Osborne looked when he met a group of workers at an engineering factory on a political walkabout a few months ago. And so he well might. Osborne, like Cameron, is another aristocrat, who has nothing in common with the majority of the British people, and who clearly fears the reception he might get for his economic and social policies that are intended to shift the tax burden onto them and deprive them of even more public services in order to generate tax cuts for the rich.

As for workfare, Milovan Djilas, the Yugoslav Communist leader and dissident describes why the Yugoslavs tried to abolish forced voluntary work after their break with Stalin. He also states that he objected to it, not just because of the hardship and suffering it inflicted on the ‘volunteers’, but also because of the psychology behind it. He writes

Soon after Stalin’s death, we abolished voluntary mass physical labor for youth and disbanded the collective farms. The initiative for the first came from the youth leadership at its congress of March 6 and was promoted by economists: youth labor was too costly and inefficient. I supported their initiative, though more for political than for economic reasons. I felt that voluntary mass labor was an outmoded form that encouraged quasi-military, monolithic thinking among our young people-thinking more akin to slogans than to freedom.

This does, I think, also go straight to the heart of the thinking behind workfare in the definitely anti-Communist, private enterprise supporting Conservative party. The Conservatives like the army, or at least, they did until the Coalition decided to cut their funding too, and have tried to impose a military solution to social problems. I remember how they called for the re-introduction of conscription back in the 1980s to solve the problems of youth crime and poor education. A decade or so later, and Michael Howard was recommending US-style ‘boot camps’ to straighten out young offenders. The same mindset seems to permeate IDS’ and Osborne’s workfare. The Nudge Unit has been involved in shaping the various unemployment forms and procedures to that the unemployed see themselves and their own personal failings as the cause of their inability to find a job, rather than the economy or government policy. And mindless drudgery stacking shelves for Tesco and turning burgers also seems deliberately designed, not just to supply cheap labour to their corporate paymasters, but also to break the spirit of the unemployed. We have seen just how hostile the system is to anyone, who manages to get a fulfilling voluntary job outside of the menial drudgery prescribed by the DWP or Jobcentre Plus. Remember the case of the geography graduate, who was told that she couldn’t do voluntary work in a museum, and that she had to work instead at one of the supermarkets?

Now the army states that its training is designed to mould the psychology of its soldiers. A friend of mine, a former army officer, once told me that the army tries to break you, in order to put you back together. As with all the rest of the government’s policies, the Coalition has adopted only the negative parts of this process: the breaking of the individual’s spirit. While they claim that workfare encourages a proper attitude to work, clearly the other qualities the army seeks to inculcate in its soldiers and officers – courage, self-reliance, initiative, are not required. If they were, there would be absolutely no problem with that graduate doing her voluntary work at the Museum. But all that is really wanted is demoralised, obedient drones for corporate exploitation.

The Coalition conform to the psychology of tyrants like Stalin, who fear their own people, and attempt to destroy them physically and mentally. Workfare, like the mass ‘voluntary’ labour of the totalitarian regimes, is another tool in this process.

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Tories Planning Nazi-Style Work Camps to Build HS2?

February 12, 2014

Aidan Burley

Aidan Burley – Tory who organised Nazi-themed stag party. As Tory belongs to a party that supports compulsory voluntary work.

Reichsarbeitsdienst

Workers in the Reichsarbeitsdienst, the Nazi organisation of compulsory voluntary work. At least those on workfare don’t have to wear a uniform. Yet.

I found this piece of information on Guy Debord’s Cat discussing the possible reasons why Aidan Burley was treated so leniently by the Tories. Burley was the Tory politico, you will remember, who was prosecuted by the French authorities for holding a Nazi-themed stag party in France. The Cat points out in the article that Holocaust denial, the wearing of Nazi uniforms and toasting the Third Reich are all illegal in La Patrie. This is what you’d expect in a country that was defeated and occupied by the Nazis. After an investigation, an inquiry found that Burley’s decision to hold the party was ‘stupid and offensive’ but ‘not anti-Semitic’. Possibly not. There are all manner of people, who decide that dressing up as storm-troopers is great fun, who aren’t racist or anti-Semitic. I’ve known people, who play German soldiers in Second World War re-enactment groups, who very definitely aren’t Nazis in real life. Nevertheless, there are real questions of taste, quite apart from the fact that Fascist groups like the NF did use to dress up in Nazi uniform. Burley’s own lapse of taste can be compared with the scandal that erupted a few years ago, when senior students at Gloucestershire University in Cheltenham were vidoed abusing freshers and making them perform stupid and humiliating tasks while dressed as Nazis. In this case, dressing up and acting like Nazis seems to appear to a certain kind of bully, even if they aren’t actually racists.

The Cat, however, discusses the similarity between Burley’s others views and that of the Nazis, particularly regarding trade unions:

So what is so special about Burley that Cameron and the leadership of the party feel such a desperate need to protect him? Is he being groomed for the Home Office or Works and Pensions portfolio? We already know that when the Tories took office in 2010, Burley hit the ground running with his guaranteed-to-please-David Cameron venture, the Trade Union Reform Campaign. Like Burley, the Nazis didn’t care much for trade unions either and banned them outright. In their place, Hitler created the Deutsche Arbeitsfront (DAF), headed by Robert Ley, to organize workers along nationalist and militaristic lines. DAF subgroups like Strength Through Joy and Beauty Through Work were also added to provide diversions.

The Cat ends by noting the way the Reichsarbeitsdienst used conscripted labour from the unemployed, and suggests that there are plans to use a similar scheme to build the HS2 railway link:

The Reichsarbeitsdienst was created with the purpose of providing cheap (often forced) labour that exploited unemployed men, who were used for work on major infrastructure projects like the autobahn network. Is this what the Tories have in mind for trade unionists and the unemployed if they win the next General Election? There is already talk about creating work camps for the HS2 project.

This links to a post at the Independent reporting a plan for 12 per cent of the labour used to build the link to come from the ‘disadvantaged’, which comprises the disabled and the unemployed. The article is here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/let-disabled-workers-build-the-43bn-hs2-9069578.html.

I’ve already blogged on the similarity between the compulsory ‘voluntary’ work of the Reichsarbeitsdienst under the Nazis and the compulsory ‘voluntary’ work of the Coalition’s Workfare and Welfare to Work policies. The Void and other bloggers have also reported on the strong similarity between the Tories plan to set up compulsory work and training centres for the disabled and the workhouses of Victorian Britain. Now it seems that similarity between the Nazis and the Tory party is growing stronger every day.

Guy Debord’s website itself is well-worth a look. It has some excellent critiques of the propaganda from the New Right, including some people with truly terrifying news, such as those, who seem to wish to rehabilitate American slavery. See the post Telegraph Comment of the Week (#26) for the 9th February 2014 attacking one of the Telegraph’s pet columnists. Guy Debord’s Cat can be found at http://buddyhell.wordpress.com/

Reichsarbeitsdients flag

Flag for the Nazi Reichsarbeitsdienst. They don’t have one at the moment, but it’s probably only a matter of time before the Coalition decides on one.

Disappointment and Exploitation in Salvation Army Workfare for the American Homeless

January 30, 2014

Among the various charities, businesses and other organisations, who have attracted bitter criticism for their support and participation in the workfare programme is the Salvation Army. Johnny Void has extensively blogged about it, and encouraged others to criticise and write letters of complaint about the Sally Ann’s involvement in this form of participation. Anthony Marcus also briefly mentions the experience of one of his informants’ experience of doing voluntary work for the Salvation Army in New York in his book, Where Have All the Homeless Gone. I have blogged about the book before, and intend to write a full review of the book after I’ve finished reading it. Marcus was an anthropologist who did his Ph.D. research for a programme intended to aid the homeless in the Big Apple from 1989 to 1994.

One of the obstacles facing the homeless men Marcus studied was the way the financial restrictions placed on the amount of money homeless people collecting SSI, the welfare benefit given to them, prevented them from getting a properly paid job that would enable them to move out of the homeless shelters and not-for-profit transient housing into proper accommodation. The homeless in shelters received $850 in SSI per month. Of this, $700 was deducted to pay for their lodging, supervision and anti-psychotic medication given to those with mental health problems. This left them with about $100 per month spare cash, which was given to them in small sums as spending money. The amount of SSI they received automatically dropped to $508 a month, which would hardly cover rent. Furthermore, those on SSI could not earn more than $74 a week. Marcus notes how this system prevented many of the most optimistic and enterprising homeless men from finding an outside job. The moment they did find one that would allow them the chance of finding a home, the SSI was withdrawn, and they found they could no longer support themselves. As a result, they usually found themselves back in the shelter. The care workers employed to help them therefore did their best to frustrate their attempts to find outside work, in order to prevent them losing their SSI and their place in the shelter or not-for-profit housing. Marcus states that his ‘informants who followed the programs laid out for them by the workers at their residences languished in make-work programs, dead-end jobs, and piecework provided by voluntary agencies at significantly less than the minimum wage.’ (p.26). This was despite the fact that many of his informants took educational courses provided by City College in order to improve their chances of getting a rewarding career. These included a man, who was studying mechanical drawing in order to fulfil his ambition of becoming an architect. Others studied, computers and even history.

One of these ambitious men interviewed by Marcus, was Eugene, a Black American. He decided to move to one of the homeless residences run by the Salvation Army because he had been impressed by what he’d heard about their programme to get people back into work. After a a month or so living and working for them, Eugene became bitterly disillusioned. Their work programme did not live up to his expectations, and in practised consisted of him working in their stores for a pittance. He became so disgusted with them, that eventually he was thrown out for purloining their stock and selling it cheaply under the counter. Marcus writes

‘There were employment programs at the shelter that paid pennies per hour, but most of my informants avoided such low-paid and humiliating work in favour of day labor as a security guard. However, I had two close informants who were involved in a similar program at a Salvation Army residence. Eugene, an African American man in his 30s, had chosen the Salvation Army over several other facilities due to its work socialization program. He had heard about the importance of employment training to their program and told me that he would, “rather be getting some real work experience than sitting with a bunch of mental patients learning how to make friends or practice proper hygiene.” Although their facilities were older and less pleasant than the newly renovated “small not-for-profits” as he put it, “if I put in six months working in one of their stores, I ought to be able to get a real job somewhere and move out pretty quick.”

My first visit to interview Gene was about three weeks after his placement. They had not yet given him a job, but they were paying him 17 cents an hour to mop floors in the residence and had promised him that within the month they would find him a real job working in one of the thrift stores. He was not very happy with the housing, which was a rodent and bug-infested aging flophouse on the Bowery that the Salvation Army had converted into a transitional housing facility, but was optimistic and believed that he was on the way up.

The second visit, a month later, found him still mopping floors and becoming increasingly discouraged at how little his life was improving. As he put it, “I’m not saving any money at 17 cents an hour, I still don’t have a job, and I can’t even afford to go see a movie after work. The shelter was a much better deal.” When they finally moved him to the thrift store after several months, he was not given an actual job, but remained part of their work rehabilitation program and therefore had neither a job description, a job title, nor a minimum wage salary. As he put it, “I’m not a cashier. I’m not an assistant manager. I’m not a sales person. I’m not even an assistant to the assistant janitor. I’m a nigger that pushes a mop and unloads trucks for a couple of dollars a day. I must be some kind of idiot.” he went on to point out that “with my SSI, I am actually paying these crooks $900 a month to give me a seventeen cent an hour job.”….

However, it wasn’t long before Gene was back with his mop at the residence. Caught selling half price merchandise to a young women in front of the Salvation Army, he understood that they would never let him near merchandise again. He believed that there was no way into the formal economy for an uneducated and somewhat disreputable looking African American man with a criminal record and few of the social or job skills necessary for success. He used his psychiatric diagnosis to get out of the work training program and began to secretly disappear from the residence for freelance work. The residence was supposed to be as “supportive” and restrictive as the R.C.C.A. [an intensively supervised residence for the homeless on 48th Street and 10th Avenue in Manhattan], but there was virtually no paid staff to enforce the rules of the treatment programs. My other informant at this facility had recruited him to unload trucks on the street behind the residence for a Chinese store owner. The $5 an hour off the books wage was far superior to the work training program’s 17 cents an hour but it was a situation that would never enable him to get his own housing.’ (pp. 86-7).

I apologise for not censoring the ‘N’ word, but I felt that I needed to follow the text exactly. The term clearly expresses the disparaging racial attitude Eugen felt the Salvation Army had for him as a poor, Black unskilled labourer.

Now obviously, this is an American case, reflecting conditions in New York at the time. However, much of this is recognisably similar to the situation facing many of the unemployed in Cameron’s Britain, regardless of whether they are homeless or not. I’ve met people on my course, who are in a similar position to those homeless Americans, who are stuck in pointless, dead-end jobs in order to keep their benefit. This particular person is disabled and on benefit. The jobcentre is pressuring him to find a job he could do. However, he is afraid that if he did find one, signed off benefit, and then found that in fact he could not do the job, he would not be able to get back on benefit as he had declared himself fit for work.

I am also sure that there are probably others, stuck in a similar situation to the American homeless through the government’s restrictions on earnings from benefits, as part of their campaign to make sure that the ‘strivers’ in work don’t feel resentful and humiliated by the unemployed earning more than them.

As for the Salvation Army and its ‘work socialisation’ schemes, this really does seem merely to be a way of getting cheap labour. As Johnny Void has pointed out too many times, it’s exploitation. And the same thing is happening over here in their support for workfare. If the Sally Ann really is serious about helping the homeless, they should withdraw from the workfare programme. If they do wish to be part of national schemes encouraging the unemployed to perform voluntary work in their stores in preparation for finding real work, then this should be accompanied by real initiatives to get them a job, such as paid work placements. Even an increase in their Jobseekers’ allowance would be good, as it should reward their initiative in trying to find some kind of work rather than simply being a source of cheap labour. Unfortunately, I can’t see this occurring, as the current system seems designed merely to provide big business with a cheap, demoralised and so cowed workforce, thinly disguised as an attempt to tackle unemployment.

Paid Internships in the Cultural Sector in Bristol

November 26, 2013

And now something rather more positive, I hope, after the news of yet another death due to ATOS.

I’ve been going on a course here in Bristol at ‘M’ Shed, one of the City’s many fine museums. It’s run jointly by the museum and South Gloucestershire and Stroud College, and is designed to give people some of the employment and job seeking skills they need to get them back into work, as well as the opportunity to do some voluntary work at the Museum. I’m aware how close it is to workfare, but nevertheless I decided to go on it as I’m interested in working in the heritage/ museum sector. I’ve met a lot of very interesting people on the course, who’ve come from a variety of backgrounds and with different skills. And it’s been extremely interesting hearing their experience of the current job situation, and their views on the disgusting policies of the government. The lecturers running the course are by no means blind to the failings of various employers. When a few of the people on the course started discussing the truly terrible and exploitative employers they’ve had, one of the lecturers joined in with some other tales of bad employment practice, though diplomatically naming no names.

Yesterday they announced that they, along with the other museums and art galleries in Bristol, including the Arnolfini, had come together to form a scheme that has created 72 paid internships for young people in Bristol aged between 18 and 24, who wish to work in the heritage/ cultural sector. They urged us to spread the word about it, and pointed to one of the lads, who was assisting them on the course, as one of the interns.

I have to say that I have very strong reservations about internships. All too often they’re simply a way for already wealthy firms to profit from the unpaid labour of idealistic young people wishing to work in that industry. Private Eye has run several pieces in its ‘Street of Shame’ column covering the use of internships and extremely poorly paid junior posts in newspapers like the Times, which enable Murdoch to award himself the vast pay rises he and the rest of his board and senior editorial staff enjoy. The worst offender for this is actually the supposedly Left-wing Guardian, which is presumably trying to use them to stop it from losing even more millions by actually having to pay its journos. These internships are paid, and so, I hope, different from these other exploitative schemes.

I don’t really know much about them, apart from the fact that they exist, and are for people between 18 and 24. Thus they don’t benefit middle-aged people like me. Still, they may offer someone else a start in the museums and cultural sector, and so I thought they were worth mentioning.

The Arts Council page reporting the establishment of the scheme is at http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/news/arts-council-news/creative-sector-offers-new-employment-opportunitie/.

They give the following websites for finding out more about apprenticeships, internships and applications for wage funding cep@ccskills.org.uk and http://www.creative-employment.co.uk #sthash.QojyaxEU.dpuf.

Also according to the website, more information on Bristol’s Creative Employment Programme can be found from Sam Thomson at sam.thomson@uwe.ac.uk.