The Tory and media smear campaign against benefit “fraudsters” deliberately confuses fitness to work with disability. They want us to believe that only the “genuinely disabled” are unable to work.
But thousands of disabled people do work, while also being entitled to Disability Living Allowance. This (partly) compensates for the extra costs of disability whether those eligible are working or not.
Part of the reason for this is that the Tories’ attacks on benefits, pensions and public sector jobs are not just aimed at cutting the deficit. They are part of a full-scale assault on the welfare state.
Just as Labour’s cuts in the 1970s paved the way for the Tory privatisations of the 1980s and 1990s, New Labour’s policies opened the door to David Cameron. Once more, the Tories want to go even further.
They want to break hospitals and services up into independent “social enterprises”, forced to compete with private companies for contracts.
The “social costs of labour”—the investment needed to ensure a fit and healthy workforce and to maintain a measure of social stability—are a hot topic for debate among bosses. Much of the time, capitalists accept some social spending. But in recessions, this turns into rows over what to cut.
This is what is behind the attacks on disabled people and pensioners. The idea behind the “big society” is that individuals are forced to rely on services no longer run by public authorities, but by volunteers, charities or private businesses.
The welfare state remains a massive gain for working class people. Millions can be won to a fight to defend it. But history has shown us that the Labour Party cannot be relied on in this fight.
When profits are squeezed, spending on disabled people is often the first to be slashed. There is potentially huge support for fighting attacks on disability benefits alongside the rest of the cuts.
We need the widest possible resistance. The large numbers of disabled people already involved in the anti-cuts movement suggests that such unity is very much a possibility.