editorial of The Commune
On 7th November the ConDem coalition announced its plan to force unemployed people to work a 30-hour week of manual labour to ‘earn’ the £65 Jobseekers’ Allowance.
Tory Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said the Work Activity scheme will “make work pay”. Quite the opposite. It will make people work for free, slaves to the state.
Government rhetoric claims that people in work are having to support the “work-shy”, and that this tax is unfair. Yet the whole coalition cuts project means that working-class people will get less services for the tax money they have to pay to the state, which is of course as high as ever.
The cuts project will make the employed and unemployed alike do more work for free, reproductive labour the state was previously responsible for. Cuts in education, health, and care for elderly, sick and disabled people and children, will mean that more of the burden of keeping society running will fall on the shoulders of working-class people. ‘Volunteering’ is ultimately a liberal figleaf for this development.
Women will be most sharply affected by rising unemployment as well as taking on more responsibility for care work now abandoned by the state.
This at the same time as unemployment soars: already 2.5 million are out of work, five people chasing each vacancy (not to mention whether the vacancies are appropriate for their skills and interests). Cuts in public spending will mean hundreds of thousands of public sector workers are laid off, and the resulting dip in spending may lead to yet more private sector redundancies.
Those jobs that are available will be increasingly precarious and subject to downward pressure on wages. Many with caring responsibilities will have to juggle multiple part-time jobs with increased pressures at home. Housing benefit cuts will force many to move to cheaper accommodation further away from workplaces and services they need.
The Labour Party, which itself introduced the idea of ‘workfare not welfare’, has cautiously supported the government plans to make the unemployed work for free. Tony Blair’s New Labour project led some to say that there were now merely three colours of Conservative Party: now there are three Forced Labour parties.
We do not demand ‘jobs for all’, the ‘right to work’. The utterly regressive cuts programme will mean we do more work for free and less work we are paid for, while our bills are the same or greater still. The ruling parties want to throw people on the scrapheap, then demand they work longer, harder, for less.
Communists are for a society without employers and employed, the state and taxation. We do not at all valorise the ‘work ethic’ or the organisation of work as it currently exists. We are for a society of co-operation and fulfilling work where people can use their creativity and skills as they desire and to each others’ mutual benefit.
So we must fight these attacks. Fighting the government sector-by-sector, the needs of the unemployed counterposed to the needs of the employed, is a dead end. They want to divide us with an avalanche of individual cuts on different groups of people, and pick us off one-by-one. To resist this we must understand how the attacks are interlinked and what alliances we can build together against the cuts.