By Julian Samboma
Ian Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary will this week unveil plans to force the long-term unemployed to do unpaid work or have their benefits stopped.
According to an article in the Observer - "Unemployed told: do four weeks of unpaid work or lose your benefits" - Duncan Smith is expected to say people who’ve been unemployed for more than a year should do mandatory jobs - such as litter-picking and gardening, for up to four weeks in order to continue receiving benefits.
The Nasty Party’s Class War
Coming on the heels of spending cuts projected to decimate half-a-million jobs in the public sector, the proposed scheme will be administered by private companies.
A source close to the government was quoted as saying that the plan was aimed at “breaking the habit of worklessness” and at making jobseekers “much more appealing” to employers.
These plans represent the latest salvo in the class war being waged by the Conservative party – a party which its former chairman and the ruling Coalition’s Home Secretary, Theresa May (right), once called “nasty.”
Not a serious attempt to get jobless into work
This ideologically-driven initiative may sound like common sense on the surface. What could be more reasonable than asking the long-term unemployed to do some unpaid work to, as it were, keep their hand in? The placements would last for no longer than four weeks.
Moreover, where’s the harm in asking people receiving benefits to give something back to society in the form of unpaid labour? And, while they were at it, weren’t they also getting into a work routine?
So far, so reasonable – on the surface, that is. What we actually have here is not a serious attempt to get the unemployed back into work.
Demonising the unemployed
On the contrary, it’s a well-thought-out public relations strategy aimed at demonising the unemployed and preparing the ground for a massive overhaul of the welfare state.
Let’s try to unpick this meticulously-planned strategy. The first clue can be seen in the proposal to order unemployed people to pick up litter or do community gardening. Would an unemployed plumber or receptionist increase their chances of getting work by doing these jobs?
I wouldn’t think so. If they were hell-bent on careers in litter-picking or gardening, then certainly that would be the way to go.
Boom/Bust cycle to blame for unemployment
A more sensible plan would be to suggest to people to seek volunteer work in their respective fields. The reason the class-warring Conservative “coalition” has come up with forced manual labour is so that people will refuse to do them.
They will then be demonised by the government as “scroungers who want something for nothing.” Thus will begin a process of creating in the public consciousness the idea that the "feckless" unemployed are responsible for their predicament because, presumably, they don’t want to work.
Conveniently forgotten is the fact that the major cause of unemployment in Western economies is the capitalist boom/bust economic cycle. A better strategy would be to abolish the capitalist system.
Instead, unemployed workers are blamed for being unemployed – castigated, in effect, for the defects of a system whose victims they are.
The class character of this war
This is not to deny that there are people who may prefer to not work. But they are a small minority. The numbers are yet to be quantified. The next best thing is figures which show that benefit fraud accounts for £1bn, or just 1.1%, of the benefits budget.
It is no secret why the numbers are so small. Why, if they could get a job, would anyone in their right mind want to live on £60 per week, in accommodation for which they had to top up inadequate housing benefit and pay for gas and light – from said £60?
The class character of this war is brought into bolder relief when you consider that close to £70bn is lost each year through tax evasion. Yes, you heard right: that’s £1bn in benefit fraud, as opposed to £70bn in tax evasion!
But because the culprits implicated in the latter are the Nasty Party’s own donors like Lord Ashcroft (right) and their friends and capitalist-class-mates, nothing is done about them, while the less well-off are demonised for the failures of the system. Like I said, it’s a class thang!
Modern-day equivalent of public stoning
Another aspect of this particular phase of the class war is that the Nasty party, their Lib-Dem coalition co-optees and powerful media friends are preparing an alibi which will be rolled out a year from now when tens of thousands more will hit dole queues as consequences of their punitive policies.
By then they hope to have succeeded in their public relations drive to brand the unemployed as work-shy and active collaborators in their own misfortune. It is here that one can see the brilliance of the scheme to get the unemployed to do manual work “in the community.”
It would be tantamount to punishing jobseekers for being unemployed, for the jobs they’ll be doing will be no different to the sanctions handed down as community order sentences by the courts. If this isn’t the modern-day equivalent of public stoning, then I’m a Nasty Party activist.
Divide and Rule
This image of the so-called work-shy being punished is calculated to conjure in the public mind the perception that the Nasty Party/Lib-Dem Coalition are doing what’s needed to get the economy back on track!
It is also calculated to drive a wedge between sections of the working classes in the best traditions of divide and rule.
This demonisation of the unemployed will have reached a logical conclusion when the Nasty Coalition succeed in passing through legislation limiting the period jobseekers can claim unemployment benefits.
This is class war and, like I said last week, it’s going to be nasty, brutish and very long.