The discussion that follows was prompted by the article: We are all scroungers now. The discussion was initiated by jk1921.Below is the discussion so far. Feel free to add your own comments!
If the price of a modest flat in London consumes such a high percentage of workers' wages, how in the world does anyone afford to live there? What strategies are being resorted to? Of course, the situation in London is probably not tremendously different from many of the great Metropoles, such as New York, Toronto (although Vancouver is worse), Tokyo, Moscow, etc. How do we understand this phenomenon? How is it that in the grip of a severe economic crisis the cost of living (and rent in particular) actually goes up? And in some cities particularly more so that others?
"But the main thrust of Labour’s response to Osborne has been to say that the majority of recipients of benefit are not unemployed and not feckless shirkers. It might seem very reasonable and persuasive to argue that those who are working for a living are not shirking and so should not be denounced as scroungers. But we should note that this argument contains, albeit very quietly, the implication that there is indeed a fundamental difference between unemployed and employed workers, and carefully does not address the question of whether unemployment is voluntary. Otherwise they would have to address the issue of how unemployment actually does arise – which is a very awkward question, since it puts into question the very viability of capitalism."
This is trotted out all the time in the U.S.also in reference to the fact that the majority of families receiving food stamps do have an employed person at the head of the household. But is it perhaps the case here that not even we escape the trap? We talk about employed and unemployed workers--as if those who were unemployed would work only if they could. What if that person simply cannot work? Is it the case that everyone is always cut out for work?
This passage also reminds me of the often vicious debates regarding the nature of certain poorly understood disabling conditions like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromylagia, various forms of chronic pain syndromes, etc. Many patient advocates strenuously reject the idea that these are "mental disorders" suffered by people with poor coping skills who need to be toughened up through Cognitive behavioural therapy, graded exercise therapy, etc. so they can return to work. "I don't have a mental disease. I have a real medical disease. I am not a shriker." The implication of this, of course, is that there really are some other people with mental diseases who are using them to shirk.
These issues raise some really tough questions about the nature of work, "productivism," etc......Lafargue's "Right to be Lazy" comes to mind; of course, I would imagine that those who are excluded from the labour process because of these types of conditions would seriously reject the use of the concept of "lazy."
The 'boomerang generation' phenomenon is also pertinent: I think the statistics are something like 30-40% of 18-35 year olds who, by nature of the economic situation over the last few years, have been forced to move back home with their parents or other family members for varying lengths of time. I think it was Endnotes (may be wrong on that) who described the lack of reproduction 'rights' or opportunities for the proletariat since the 1970's- that our subsistence has become a non-issue for capital, we are just 'surplus population', particularly workers forced from productive industries and the long-term unemployed,and the growing population of declassed/semi-lumpenproletariat forced to live in slums and engage in illegal activity at least some of the time to meet their physical needs for existance.
Just to go back to the article, it’s maybe worth noting that the changes to the benefit system are not just about squeezing (viciously) unemployed and disabled unemployed workers, but also about creating a large, low-wage pool of desperate workers.
The 5 different workfare schemes are already forcing hundreds of thousands into unpaid work resulting in paid workers losing the overtime they depended on to make ends meet, or even being sacked as no longer needed. Now we’re seeing a massive cranking up of the sanction process whereby the unemployed and disabled are stripped of all benefits for infringing the petty rules and demands imposed on them. Each week tens of thousands are being handed out an initial 2 week sanction (the maximum period of sanction has just been raised to 3 years) often for such crimes as being 10 minutes late for an interview. A Guardian report showed how DWP staff are being pressurised to achieve sanction targets, and the numbers are being inflated by the private providers (like A4E) recommending sanction of their ‘customers’ for equally petty reasons. The state’s fist is clearly right in the face of the unemployed, creating a policed pool of almost free labour, and now the new Universal Credit begins in April. This will affect part-time workers and the poorly paid who, at the moment, get Working Tax Credit, the state’s use of the tax system to support low-wage employment. UC introduces ‘conditionality’ whereby an earnings threshold of 35 times the national minimum wage (currently £212.80) means that any worker who falls below this threshold can be required to seek additional hours or a supplementary job (up to 90 minutes commuting time away). This also applies to any single parent with a child 12 or over. A recent survey suggested there are already 3 million part-time workers trying to find extra hours, all of which adds up to a massive pressure to create a low-wage economy with a huge pool of easily disciplined workers – workers who will find organised resistance difficult because of their transient precarious employment.
Quote: The bourgeoisie’s supposed ‘denunciations’ of the welfare state – of their own monstrous system that reduces the workers to the status of permanent beggars – would pale beside the denunciations of the workers’ movement if the workers were better able to affirm themselves politically than they are at present.
The bourgeoisie have a complete lack of vision. Even when it supposedly worked, their Welfare system only tried to provide for those officially sick, with a "named" disease. The bourgeoisie has no grasp of what a healthy society might be, or that this would operate to reduce "illness" thus saving them money; which is all that matters after all! Similary, they have no idea what Education is and how it might be run. If you're rich you can have an expensive training that will equip you in theory to make better use of your leisure time: have lots of nice holidays, and appreciate art and music - or at least to know how pretend to via sophisticated chat, largely baloney. "I gave measured out my life in coffee spoons... In the room the women come and go, talking of Michelangelo." (T.S.Eliot. He too could see the gaping pointlessness of bourgeois life.) If you suffer the boredom of a typical working class education, and survive with any intelligence still working...you will have been adequately prepared for a life of nothingness in the guise of a scrounger - or possible trouble maker which is better.
The list of things the bourgeoisie can't do, and don't understand, even though they own all the limited money available - or all the debt nowadays - grows longer. They can't organize enough food, but are compelled from time to time to dump eggs and butter in the Atlantic to keep the price up. They can't take care of the environment. They've "hacked and wracked the growing green" (Gerard Manley Hopkins) till you'd be lucky to come across any that they may have overlooked. Like the Beatles' "Bungalow Bill" they see animals only as prey - but don't they see human beings finally in the same way: just something else to exploit, and if possible to buy and sell, like a tiger skin or an elephant's tusk; the hapless animal left for dead.
Even in all its triumphant perfection, the society they have "created", if that isn't to abuse the word, has been revealed as futility on a massive scale. Because even all their wondrous achievements, inventions and discoveries, in the fields of science and technology, finally flounder on the rocks of bankruptcy, as the bourgeoisie are unable to use their science for the betterment of humanity because there's not enough money to go round. And what are we workers left with? Even when we have a "job" - I won't credit the labour tbe bourgeoisie demands with the noble word "work" - it's frequently no more than institutionalized atrophy and stultification: "Sit on your arse for forty years, and hang your hat on a pension" (Louis McNeice). But even the golden reward of the pension has gone now, and all that's left is forty wasted years. How much longer are we going to be able to stick with this absurd system, and go on kidding ourselves that everything's alright, and life is still worth living?
The bourgeoisie call us shirkers and scroungers - they have moulded us in their own image. But "zombies" may be nearer the truth. We have become "the living dead" another image much loved by our rulers today, who, for themselves, should swiftly appropriate that other popular image of bourgeois culture, the blood sucking vampire. This they're good at.