The Coalition leaders,the Government front bench team of David Cameron, George Osborne and Danny Alexander are probably still laughing,at the lack of opposition from Labour, to their attack, in the autumn budget statement, on the most disadvantaged stratum of the working class, those of working age on state benefits, says Barry Biddulph.
George Osborne defined the rules of the parliamentary game: ‘Fairness is about being fair to the person who leaves home every morning to go to work and see’s their neighbour still asleep, living a life on benefits’. This is classic divide and rule strategy; victimize and stigmatize the poor. Blame the reserve army of workers, forced to be ready to provide cheap labour for any kind of job, even if one was available.
Ed Balls could have attacked and scored in an open net, but he remembered he was playing for the same austerity parliamentary team. He was not defending the unemployed, or those trapped in poverty, but capitalism or ‘our’ economy. On sky TV he expressed his outrage at Osborne’s comment. But he is hitting middle-income earners as well he spluttered. It’s not all about the feckless then! Some opposition!
Osborne was not only sticking to plan A to make the working class pay for the crisis and restore profitability by driving down wage rates and living standards, but extending the period of austerity until at least 2018. Benefits will rise only 1%, well below inflation to extract £3.7 billion from those who can least afford it.
The Institute of Fiscal Studies showed that the poorest 20% of the population would see their income cut by more than 1.5% as a result of the Autumn statement, while the richest 10% would see a 0.5 % reduction’ (Guardian 7/12/12) Moreover, the IFS calculated that a further £27 billion cuts would be required, in addition to those announced. Pensions, travel passes and fuel allowances could be under threat in future.
In Sheffield, Labour Council leader, Julie Dore, said more years of austerity and cuts would risk the collapse of council services. (The Star Dec 6 2012) Already the last two years has seen £130 million in cuts to services with 1,400 jobs axed in Steel City. A further 600 jobs are to be slashed next year. The Labour Party tactic of the dented shield, long advocated by Julie Dore, has failed completely to defend services or jobs, nor was it meant to do so. It was always an excuse for accepting the cuts. This reflects the situation in other major cities.
The Socialist Worker comment on the Osborne statement (Sian Ruddick 6/12/12) saw the Coalition as a Government using the crisis to drive down workers wages and conditions. But this understanding is upside down. The crisis of capitalism uses the parliamentary government and the capitalist state to boost profitability. The view that the coalition is using the crisis as an excuse to attack the working class, implies that capitalism in crisis can be made to work for the working class as does the rhetoric of the Socialist Party (6/12/12) stating that if the government was serious about improving the life of millions it would and so on. As if this kind of rhetoric is serious.
As long as Capitalism exists poverty and inequality will remain. The logic of the struggle against austerity can go beyond Capital. Why be nostalgic about Welfare Capitalism or assume it can be revived. Look for a future alternative.
8 thoughts on “government coalition targets working class poor”
Although there is a lot of Labour Party rhetoric about joining a war on Osborne and poverty there is still not a clear defence of the unemployed and others on benefits. Mainly it defends those in some kind of work and benefits.Significantly the Labour leader as yet to confirm the parliamentary party will vote against the benefit cuts.
New Labour capitulated to the tabloid attacks on welfare recipients and the poor. The Tories are merely picking the fruits of Labour’s betrayal. New Labour made the ConDems possible.
Better to have a left Labour in opposition than a right one in government.
I agree with your general points. But historically its a long time since Labour in opposition was left wing. There is no real opposition from the leadership of the Labour Party or the trade unions.
Edgar -just to add to what I have said. The parliamentary Labour party does not only capitulate to media attacks on the working class poor,But also share’s similar views as the media, particularly the followers of Blair. Someone like Will Hutton tends to express the liberal/social democratic views of the past. So in relation to Osborn’s statement, he said, it was an affront to British decency. Now if we only have a notion of decency between us and the ruling class offensive we are in trouble.
But he does make valid points which Ed Balls was unable to make, such as if like many people I have paid into the benefits pot in the past, when I am down on my luck,got sick through no fault of my own, or am bounced back on benefits because of insecure employment, I should get my benefits as a right. In other words I am not a shirker why stigmatise and victimise me.Its an argument for a fair Capitalism. But if Capitalism is unfair then the next step is to ask what is the alternative.
The Coalition is now piling up cut upon cut. As Hutton points out: the tax relief available to those building pensions to be further withdrawn.This comes on top of the capping of benefits,whatever the need,further limiting of incapacity benefits and the shrinking access to child benefits.
Edger -it now looks as if the parliamentary Labour party will vote against the bill cutting benefits, but on the grounds that it is a terrible miscalculation,not because it targets the poor, but because it hits working families. So the implication is that the governments framework is accepted strivers and shirkers. Osborne is incompetent.Not that the stereotype of everyone on benefits, not working, is a potential scrounger is wrong. Its the Labour party showing its fit to govern Capitalism in crisis.
Historically the Labour Party has always sided with capitalism when capitalism enters an economic crisis look at the 1930’s. Nothing new here then. What is different today is that the bourgeoise has over the last forty years managed to marginalist a socialist/communist perspective. Now for the first time for a long time capitalism is hegemonic.
Government propaganda that there is a culture of benefit dependence by families over generations has been exposed by the findings of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation who were unable to find such families in their research.
The media hype about benefit spending is out of control and is all about benefit cheats is exposed as cynical lies once you remember that the majority of people on benefits are Pensioners.
According to the institute for economic and social research, in 1979 unemployment benefit was 22% of average earnings,today it is 15% of earnings.
The claim that poverty is about shirking work is dishonest when you consider that the majority of children and working age adults in the UK, who are in poverty, are also in working households: 6.2 million people.This is due to very low income.
While the majority of people reading the Commune will not fall for the lies of the bourgeoise regarding those who receive welfare benefits there does not seem to be a consensus on how do we stop these attacks. Isn’t it time that the left comes together as a body to fight these cuts not organisationally but practically.
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