Monday, January 23, 2012

Workers should defend claimants

The Tory Government's Benefit cap will further impoverish thousands (http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/news/content/view/full/114368).

The trade unions should oppose this dramatic attack on some of the poorest in our society not so much out of humanity (though there's nothing wrong with that) but out of enlightened self-interest.

Nothing is more vile than the suggestion from the Cabinet of Millionaires that they are driven to impose an arbitrary limit upon benefits payable to any household so as to avoid the "injustice" currently done to low income households not reliant upon benefits.

Given that the Coalition are deliberately pursuing policies to cut jobs, freeze pay, reduce pensions and weaken employment rights, it would indeed be strange if in this one area of welfare reform they were motivated by the desire to do right by social strata they spend the rest of the time beating up.

Of course that's not the case. Far from gaining any benefit from the worsening of the conditions of those on benefits, those on low wages are every bit as much victims of this attack.

The Tories are returning to type and, in the spirit of the New Poor Law of 1834 they seek to ensure that the condition of "paupers" is "less eligible" than even the poorest worker in employment (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_Poor_Laws). This facilitates the unemployed performing the function of instilling fear in the hearts of workers in employment, so that we shall moderate our wage demands and fail to fight for a better deal (being what Marx called a "reserve army of labour").

(This explains the paradox that political attacks on "benefit scroungers" aimed at the unemployed invariably increase as the availability of jobs for those same unemployed decrease.)

It is therefore in the direct material interest of trade union members in employment that our movement should show effective solidarity with claimants and campaigners opposing the benefit cap, resurrecting the demand of the National Unemployed Workers Movement in the 1930s for "work or full maintenance."

Unfortunately the leadership of the Party to which we are affiliated seems determined at present to position itself to the right of Lord Ashdown, Simon Hughes and the bishops on this question (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/16078).

The trade unions need to shift Labour policy on this, as on many other questions, in 2012 if we are to justify our continued affiliation to our members (and arm the Party with policies which will motivate our voters).

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

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