Their "Plan for our Recovery": Over Our Dead Bodies

The Government say things are getting better. They say jobs are being created. They say wages and prices are stabilising, whatever that means. They say the housing market is breathing again so that’s alright. So why does the Chancellor tell us that we need to have £25 billion more in cuts to the welfare budget? And why does the Labour opposition agree that more welfare cuts are needed? For us there is no recovery. Friends are still losing jobs. The replacement versions are part-time and precarious at best. Prices for basic needs like food, electricity, water and rents are not “stable” but rising steadily. The so-called housing “boom” just means that renting is even more unaffordable. And for those on benefits the outcome of the long blame campaign against the vulnerable is now obvious. Not only are benefit rates essentially frozen, so falling behind creeping inflation, for many the government is making savings by cutting them off completely. More and more people are being ‘sanctioned’, i.e. having their benefits reduced or stopped, for the most ridiculous reasons.

The last Labour government introduced the sanctions. The Coalition has tripled the numbers victimised. Since 2010, 2,250,000 people have been ‘sanctioned’, i.e. had their benefits reduced or stopped, usually for the most ridiculous reasons. For the disabled the consequences have been even more dire. As is well known the Work Capacity Assessment is carried out by the French IT firm ATOS. It uses a tick box system which has been condemned as useless by the medical profession. Under ATOS, according to the Government’s own figures, 1,300 persons have died after being put into the work-related activity group, 2,200 more people died before their assessment was completed and 7,100 people died after being put into a support group. ATOS-related deaths are thus estimated at over 10,500 but they are fulfilling their purpose to cut welfare to those who need it.

Claimants did not cause the current slump. That was the fault of a speculative bubble created by the long-term capitalist crisis. Those at the top of the financial capitalist groups benefitted from that bubble. They got huge bonuses for gambling with other people’s cash and had the legal knowhow to avoid paying taxes on their wealth. Today Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs [HMRC] has 300 staff investigating tax evasion of an estimated £120bn. The Department of Work and Pensions [DWP] has 3250 staff investigating so-called benefit fraud of an estimated £1.2bn.

But our rulers know their priorities. Get the government debt down to impress international finance. They will then (they hope) bring their billions to the UK. It’s not ATOS that KILLS but the Capitalist System. ATOS is just one of its agents. Cutting benefits is not just about attacking the most vulnerable. It is about making all of us feel insecure. Got a job? Crap pay? Poor conditions? Never mind – keep your head down and be grateful. Blaming “benefit scroungers” and migrants as the cause of all our woes it also a useful political diversion. If they can get workers at each others throats then they will not see the real enemy.

So we salute all those who are trying to resist cuts, who give support to those under most duress. We are promised ten more years of austerity whichever party is in power. This means that we have to think long-term. If the current demonstrations, petitions, and agitation can spark off a wider resistance, all the better.

Our task is to go to the root of the problem – which lies in the overall failure of the capitalist system to live up to its boast that it is best of all possible systems, the end of history. Austerity and all capitalism’s attacks will not solve its crisis. They could have us living on fresh air and that still would not be enough to get accumulation going again. Our rational hope is that our current troubles comes before a new dawn of class awareness. We need to organise ourselves as a class and rediscover our collective capacity to fight back. In the final analysis we need to create a new society which does not make the weak, the old and the disabled its principal victims.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Aurora (en)

Aurora is the broadsheet of the ICT for the interventions amongst the working class. It is published and distributed in several countries and languages. So far it has been distributed in UK, France, Italy, Canada, USA, Colombia.