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Proletarian issue 67 (August 2015)
Benefit cuts: Who are the real parasites in our society?
Stealing from the poor for the benefit of the rich.
As the capitalist crisis of overproduction inflicts yet further suffering on the mass of working people, and even pushes us closer to world war, the ruling class increasingly spares no effort to intensify divisions within the working class.

Since the working class is the only class capable of overthrowing capitalism and establishing a socialist society, such methods of ‘divide and rule’ are a matter of dire necessity for our capitalist masters. As a part of this, we are being earnestly beseeched by the political whores in Westminster, along with the puppets of those puppets in the press, to hate foreigners, immigrants, single parents, and anyone on benefits – whether they be disabled, homeless, jobless, children or elderly.

According to the narrative of these, the real parasites, Britain’s poorest, most vulnerable people are all ‘scroungers’, living off the backs of decent, honest British workers!

This is the background to the announcement of another round of benefit cuts whose main victims will once more be found amongst the poorest and most vulnerable sections of the working class. Yet, contrary to what we are led to believe, Britain already spends less per head on welfare benefits than most similarly wealthy European nations.

Be that as it may, both sets of puppets (in the ‘House’ and in the press) portray Britain as a ‘soft target’ for foreigners from the oppressed world, who supposedly come to Britain because they want to live for nothing. This is then advanced as a further reason for cuts – supposedly to stop the allegedly ‘massive’ amount of immigration into Britain. Of course, their argument goes, the cuts will also make the home-grown feckless poor stir their stumps and seek work.

Attacks on the poorest and weakest

The indignities and summary punishments daily meted out by the benefits agencies to the poor who survive solely on benefits are numerous and often devastating in their effect. They include sanctions (the taking away of a week’s or even a month’s benefit) for being late to an appointment (or even for being too sick to attend), for not answering a phone when it rings, and so on.

Those ‘punishments’, just like the cuts to benefits, are not ‘victimless crimes’ – the depressions, break-up of families, homelessness, children going hungry or into care and the suicides that result are directly attributable to the demand from the top echelons of the ruling class for maximum profit and minimum social spending.

We know that between January and November 2011, 10,600 people died while claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Many of them would have died as a result of natural causes, but it is also known that 1,300 of those deaths were in the ‘Work Related Activity Group’ (WRAG) - that is, the group whose members have been declared to be well enough to return to work within a year.

The suicides, strokes and heart attacks brought about by the stress that gravely-ill people are put under while trying to prove that they are not ‘scroungers’ are a direct result of the cuts, and yet the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the body charged with delivering the cuts and punishments, is brazen enough to claim that “the link between deaths and benefit cuts is tenuous”.

Although a case under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) was brought and won, and the Information Commissioner’s Office has said there is no reason not to release the statistics, the DWP and the governments since 2011 have still refused to release any further figures relating to deaths on benefits. This can only be because those figures do show the link between cuts and increased deaths among those targeted! (See ‘Release the death statistics on benefit cuts to show their full impact’ by Maggie Zolobajluk and Mike Sivier, Huffington Post, 14 July 2015)

Lies to cover up theft

Two of the leading political puppets of imperialism also double as ‘journalists’ of the most yellow and disgusting type. George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith jointly penned a letter to the Sunday Times in which they claimed (without any proof) that, “this country accounts for 7 percent of all welfare spending in the world, although we have just 1 percent of its population and produce 4 percent of its GDP”.

However, this assertion is based on a false premise. As we have already noted, compared with most other European imperialist countries, we lag well behind on welfare spending. Meanwhile, a number of countries where we have had a direct involvement in recent years – namely Libya, Syria and Iraq – have, as a result of imperialist aggression, gone from being countries with fairly advanced welfare provision to ones where the mass of people have been reduced to destitution and misery.

When looking at the previous Labour administration, Osborne and Duncan Smith speciously accused it of throwing money at the poor (‘If only,’ we can almost hear from the ranks of those who suffer most in this spiteful society!), and they finally came to this conclusion: “Not that any of this debt-fuelled largesse improved lives.”

We would beg to differ, however. When you are financially crushed at the bottom of an uncaring system, every penny gained adds a little relief, and every penny taken away brings distress and anguish. When these two representatives of the vampire class said that “Britain’s welfare bill was fast becoming completely unsustainable”, they, of course, ignored the huge profits ripped from the world by their friends and masters – wealth which could have amply funded decent welfare care not only here in Britain, but also everywhere else where these parasites currently suck the lifeblood from workers and appropriate their wealth and natural resources.

But we cannot expect imperialists to not be imperialists; they will only stop being so when they are overthrown, expropriated and prevented from returning to power.

Waxing lyrical about the policies of the current management team of imperialist Britain (government, if you will), the two hacks stated that “We also took action to cap the rise in benefits so it was in line with the incomes of those in work.” Often, the lies of our presstitute fraternity are buried in amongst truths and half-truths, so as to provide a little camouflage, but our two ministerial wordsmiths did not feel the need to worry about such niceties, making a string of bold and utterly dishonest statements.

We’ll just correct this one: since 1980, the main out-of-work benefits have risen in line with prices, rather than earnings. Jobseeker’s Allowance fell from being worth a fifth of average earnings in 1980 to a tenth in 2010. So what was that cap for again? (‘Our fight to make work pay better than the dole has only just begun’, 21 June 2015)

Malign propaganda against claimants

Being a benefits ‘claimant’ is not a lifestyle choice, and it often carries a huge stigma with it to boot. Indeed, this stigma, and the dehumanising treatment meted out to claimants as they attempt to navigate the myriad official processes, stops many people from even claiming what they are entitled to. Those who don’t/won’t claim their entitlement include disabled and unemployed people, carers and pensioners.

The negative portrayals of people on benefits on TV and in the press are a big factor in discouraging claims. And the government’s attitude to people on benefits seems calculated to produce a culture of shame. Last year, an Ipsos Mori survey found that the general public believed that almost a quarter of all benefits were claimed fraudulently, showing how deep-rooted this misconception is.

In fact, the official figures estimate that fraud runs at about 0.7 percent or £1.2bn a year – a tiny amount relatively speaking, and certainly not worth the amount of airtime and column inches devoted to it. On the other hand, figures quietly released last month by the Department for Work and Pensions revealed that the total amount of benefits that remain unclaimed is likely to be between £11.6bn and £13.23bn a year. This adds up to tens of millions of pounds unclaimed every single day and is around ten times the amount lost to benefit fraud.

Added to all this is the fact that most claimants are actually people in work, who are forced to claim to make ends meet because their employers pay such pitifully low wages. The benefits they receive are nothing more than a subsidy to their employers and landlords, who are in this way enabled to pay below-poverty wages and charge extortionate rents. All this presents a very different picture to the one we are constantly presented with by corporate media and politicians. (See ‘Lies, damned lies and the welfare debate’ by Emily Thornberry, Huffington Post, 13 July 2015)

The fact is that all working-class people, regardless of their employment status, skin colour, gender etc, have only one real enemy – the capitalist system that appropriates the collective wealth and uses it to keep the working-class masses poor and weak.

It is way past time that we recognised this simple fact and joined together to sweep this archaic and exploitative system into the history books. Bring on the day when future generations may marvel that sane, intelligent people would allow themselves to be ruled in such a way.
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