If George Osborne’s speech today at the Tory party conference is anything to go by we’re going to hear a lot about the ‘something for nothing’ society in the months ahead. The plan to force people to work for benefits comes from a skewed logic that not only takes the view that the market will provide but goes the whole hog by forcing it to when it fails. [The market fails consistently to provide the things we all need and yet it is able to provide us with things nobody knows what to do with, like investment banks. I found a couple behind the fridge just this morning, looking abandoned and lonely.]
In this world of neoliberal head case politicians we end up with a welfare system designed to work entirely for the market. The long term unemployed will be forced to work for free, helping the shareholders of massive corporations continue to do nothing but receive a mega something by way of share dividends (you see it works the other way around for them). Another proposal is for those unfortunate enough to be out of work for long periods to be forced into charity and community work. This work is worthwhile of course and necessary because capitalism creates muck and scum that needs cleaning up. It’s a system that forces people to put their elderly parents into homes, creates incentives for pharmaceutical companies to provide palliatives instead of cures, destroys the environment and a whole load of other negative stuff that requires dealing with. And if they’re not working for free for corporations or in care homes or charities they will be on training courses, being taught to fit in better with what employers want from a modern worker. Everyone’s a winner! Some stuff gets done with zero cost and the bosses are pleased. It does sound a bit like someone getting something for nothing though doesn’t it?
This is a far cry from the benefit system our families fought for just a few generations ago. Our family members, having been sent to wage the wars of the ruling classes so that Britain could continue to enslave whole nations in their name and having seen their communities rise and fall on the basis of the capitalist system demanded better. Our families demanded some say in the running of our country and they demanded a safety net so that those highs and lows in the economy didn’t hurt quite so much.
National Insurance was created so that by paying in a bit with each wage packet our families could be sure that destitution really would be a thing of the past rather than a crushing inevitability. This was the sound logic of combining together with everyone else in society to provide an insurance scheme against job losses and for healthcare etc. You pay in because one day you might need to rely on it.
When you do come to look for work and there are jobs available you should be able to have the job. In the skewed logic of George Osborne you’ll do the work but only get benefit payments for doing it! It really is time for them to find some big empty offices, perhaps those investment banks will do and re-create the workhouse.
When the institutions our class demanded to protect us have been turned into neoliberal circuses (roll up and see the long term unemployed work for free!) you have to wonder is it time to get that little bit more radical. Any one of us could lose our jobs and so we all have a shared interest in how this system works.
We desperately need people working in the benefit system to stand tall and set an example in what they are willing to do and what they aren’t. Far too many just follow their Tory orders and this needs to stop. Unions working within the system need to set an example and they need to combine their efforts with benefit campaign groups. Only if people come together and fight for the rights we grew up with will we be able to keep them.
That little phrase “we’re all in it together” doesn’t get much of a mention these days. They know it doesn’t work because actually it’s true. We are all in it together and that scares them. We need to prey on that fear and change our world.
- George Osborne’s welfare war: Go to jobcentre every day or lose benefits – The Independent (independent.co.uk)
- George Osborne: jobless benefit conditions are ‘tough love’ (theguardian.com)
- I wish George Osborne had to live on benefits (wigangirl.wordpress.com)