They can live on £53/wk? let them try!

Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials
8 April 2013

From the comfort of his £1,600/wk salary (after tax), work and pensions secretary Ian Duncan Smith dared to boast on Radio 4 that, if he had to, he would manage to live on - or just under the lower rate of the Jobseekers' Allowance. He was being challenged by a member of the audience who was working on market stalls after being made redundant.

Well, let him try and live on £53/wk! These well-off ministers may not have a clue about the realities of life - but they certainly aren't short of hypocrisy. Anyone who has to live on such an income knows how impossible it is! Especially now that the government has started to slash, in a big way, all the other benefits that low-income households could claim - pushing an even larger section of the working class into worse poverty.

Gutter politics

Duncan Smith's arrogant boasting wasn't the end of it, however. Osborne felt he had to add his own cynical charge against welfare claimants. Having already claimed that JSA was "generous", he proceeded to lend his support to a campaign launched by the Daily Mail, which claimed that Derby child-murderer Mick Philpott, who had just been sentenced to life, was the product of a "benefits' lifestyle" - something that Cameron endorsed the next day!

If Philpott is the product of anything, it is of this dysfunctional society itself. Firstly, of its justice system focused on punishment rather than rehabilitation. Wasn't this man, who was obviously deranged, judging from his long history of domestic violence (including a prison sentence for attempted murder), let loose without any medical/psychiatric treatment nor follow-up by social workers? And secondly, wasn't Philpott also the product of this system's profit-driven media? Just as the Daily Mail's owners are hoping today that their current campaign will be a good "seller", Philpott was repeatedly invited by TV shows to parade his sick contempt for women, in a bid to boost their audiences, by appealing to the crassest prejudices! And who objected then?

So, yes, the Philpotts of this world are products of a society which puts money first and has no way of dealing with criminals other than through a blind system of punishment, in the name of "law and order".

But that millionaire politicians like Osborne and Cameron, who don't even know what the word hardship means, should dare to use the sickness of Philpott's crimes to direct the hostility of their electorate against the welfare system, and therefore against its claimants, is even more sickening. For all their public school and Oxbridge upbringing, these men really belong to the gutter into which they are trying to drag the poorest section of the working class!

Disconnect capital's drip-feed!

Behind this crude demagogy, there is, of course, the ConDems' need to rally the ranks of their electorate behind a policy dedicated to drip-feeding the tiny layer of big shareholders who control the economy through the banks and largest companies.

Hence their scape-goating - of the jobless (for being "lazy"), of the poor (for being poor), of migrants (for coming here), and of all workers for being a "burden" on welfare and public services.

But who's a "burden" on the state? Is it the 660,000 households who are facing a "bedroom tax" they can't afford, for having one or two tiny spare bedrooms in their tiny social lodgings, with no possibility of finding a smaller flat nearby? Or is it the 13,000 millionaires, in their large mansions, who have been awarded a tax cut on their income over and above £150,000/yr? As if these fat cats needed that extra money!

Are welfare benefits such a "burden" on society that it warrants capping their increase to 1% a year - well below inflation - and depriving hundreds of thousands of disabled claimants of any benefit? This, when the tax rate on company profits is being cut by yet another 2% this year - thereby loading big shareholders' wallets even more?

The problem with welfare is not that it's a "burden", but that it's needed at all. In a rational society, people would produce value according to their abilities and receive according to their needs - regardless of their age, health, etc.. But in this society, which is run as their private property by a tiny minority of big capitalists, only the greed of this minority matters. And it is this parasitic minority which is the real "burden" on society - because it bleeds workers' labour and milks the state as much as it possibly can. If anything is to change, if the attacks on the working class that are taking place today are to be stopped, it is the stranglehold of this minority over society that will have to be targeted by the working class.