Socialist Worker

Unemployment is a crime of capitalism

Issue No. 2227

The Tories’ assaults on unemployed workers this week are part of a brutal tradition of what happens when capitalism is in crisis.

Instead of creating jobs through measures such as those we feature on the centre pages of this paper, governments target the people who are without work through no fault of their own.

This is backed by a media onslaught on anyone who can be portrayed as a “benefit scrounger”.

It is like saying that the NHS should be scrapped because someone went to the doctor when they were not really ill.

In the 19th century the “soaring costs” of keeping paupers alive led the ruling class to install the dreaded workhouse.

The unemployed were wrenched from their families, pressed into virtual prisons, and subjected to a vicious regime of compulsory labour.

By the 1930s, unemployment was so high that cities across Britain were described as “workhouses without walls”.

The governments of the day set up labour camps where hundreds of thousands of young people were made to break stones, dig ditches and clear trees.

In the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher brought in scheme after scheme to punish young people who couldn’t find jobs. The schemes were designed to humiliate people and dragoon them into low paid work.

In every case the aim was the same: break the jobless and threaten to grab the paltry benefit they receive unless they submit to being a cheap labour army.

But, more than that, governments have always used the unemployed as a terrible threat to every employed worker.

If you don’t want to be stigmatised and spurned like the unemployed, they say, shut up and accept pay cuts, worse conditions and do what the boss wants.

That is why we are all under attack when the Tories unleash their welfare “reforms”.

There should be no half-measures in confronting the Tories.

Last weekend deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman said she would wait to see the full details of the proposals before giving her verdict.

She should have called for outright opposition.

People do not want charity. They want a decent job with proper pay and conditions.

The fact that there are already so many out of work, and so much work to be done, shows the madness of the system.

The Tories’ only answer is to scapegoat the unemployed—and throw more on the dole.

It is capitalism’s crime that it cannot mobilise the energy and initiative of humanity and use it for the needs of us all. Instead it sentences some to overwork and others to enforced idleness.

Only a socialist society can do away with this scandal.

While fighting every cruel measure the Tories unveil – from attacks on the unemployed to assaults on education and students – we also need to organise the forces that will battle for a different and better world.


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What We Think
Tue 9 Nov 2010, 18:50 GMT
Issue No. 2227
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