A Business Plan For Every Human Activity

Great piece by John Pilger in the New Statesman over the weekend.  He argues the utter moral bankruptcy of the recent UK “austerity” cuts and its devastation of the welfare state.

Born of the “never again” spirit of 1945, social democracy has surrendered to an extreme political cult of money worship. This reached its apogee when £1trn of public money was handed unconditionally to corrupt banks by a Labour government whose leader, Gordon Brown, had previously described “financiers” as the nation’s “great example” and his personal “inspiration”.

This is not to say parliamentary politics is meaningless. It has one meaning now: the replacement of democracy with a business plan for every human activity, every dream, every decency, every hope, every child born. [italics added]

This is the sheer mundanity of neo-liberalism in its quotidian form, the becoming-business of everything from the social sphere to the psyche itself–and the reason why bohemia, the sheer dream of an outside not determined by the capitalistic–is itself vitally necessary.  As Nina Power has pointed out recently, the very idea of higher education has been itself sidelined as a useless pursuit , “predicated on the idea that three years is a very long time, especially doing subjects that are a ‘waste’” [that is, the humanities and social sciences which have been decimated by the Osborne review].  But as Powers rightly notes, the raising of the pension age means 45 years of wage earning, compared to the mere three spent at college or university.  What a waste of time, eh?  But there is no outside to the business rationale in public discourse from which to argue that knowledge (not to mention art and culture) is valuable in and of itself. Yes, even for the plebs not attending the country’s upper echelon of universities.

Yet as the UK struggles to come to terms with this dour new regime of misery, Pilger points out how blatantly untruthful the idea of false scarcity really is:

The theft of £83bn in jobs and services matches almost exactly the amount of tax legally avoided by piratical corporations. Without fanfare, the super-rich have been assured they can dodge up to £40bn in tax payments in the secrecy of Swiss banks. The day this was sewn up, Osborne attacked those who “cheat” the welfare system. He omitted the real amount lost, a minuscule £0.5bn, and that £10.5bn in benefit payments was not claimed at all. Labour is his silent partner.

Welfare cheats are the phantoms of contemporary discourse, the imaginary figure that allow us to focus all of our rage on this rort and not the larger, more damning picture in which it is the rich who caused the crisis who are committing welfare scams on an unheard-of scale – being forgiven their sins, while the rest suffer.  The super-rich have been the stealing of the very possibility of social welfare from the population itself.

And of course, to build on what I was talking about recently here, the language around the attacks on disability benefits suggest that disability is being figured as a form of welfare cheating itself, a burden which the public simply cannot shoulder (unlike the tax dodges of the super-rich).

It is here that the foundations for a collective struggle against the cuts must be found- those who are feeling the pain must band together, because they must.  Because the government has betrayed almost everyone, in the name of supporting a few wealthy and the appalling ideological agenda of the ruling class.

The BA workers, the firefighters, the council workers, the post office workers, the NHS workers, the London Underground staff, the teachers, the lecturers, the students can more than match the French if they are resolute and imaginative, forging, with the wider social justice movement, potentially the greatest popular resistance ever. Look at the web; listen to the public’s support at fire stations. There is no other way now. Direct action. Civil disobedience. Unerring. Read Shelley and do it.


Voting to make things worse

Thomas Frank, author of What’s the Matter With Kansas on point on Grit TV


If you look at what’s brought on the disaster we’re in, the economic disaster, we know what happened.  It was deregulation [on] Wall Street.  I mean, basically the unleashing of entrepreneurship on Wall Street.  We all know that that’s what did all this to us, and yet these people who are now in charge of the House of Representatives have basically run on deregulate more.  You know, they’re calling Washington DC a “red tape factory,” [that] we gotta do away with all this regulation…  they think the economy is overregulated, they think that’s the problem and by God “freedom!”   *laughs*

They’re going to do away with this stuff.  If there was ever  a case of voting for something that is going to make the problem worse, wow, this is it.

Why France Matters

Excellent post by Rick Wolff at Truthout about what the recent round of general strikes in France mean for that country, and why they should matter for those in the US too.

The French strikes and demonstrations are coalescing around some basic demands that go far beyond the rejection of Sarkozy’s demand for a two-year postponement of retirements for French workers. Contrary to so many US media reports, that particular issue was never what brought out millions of demonstrators and strikers; that was the bare tip of an iceberg. The issue that mobilizes the French is the basic question of who is to pay for (1) the collapse of global capitalism in 2008 and 2009, (2) the ongoing social and personal costs of high unemployment, loss of homes, reduction of job benefits, and the general assault on most citizens’ standards of living, and (3) the costs of ending the crisis. The French masses have already absorbed and suffered the costs of (1) and (2). They have drawn the line at (3). That they now refuse.

Instead, they demand that the costs of fixing capitalism’s crisis be borne chiefly by taxes on the banks, large corporations, and the wealthy. Those groups are declared to be (1) those most able to pay, (2) those who benefited most from speculations and stock market booms before the crisis began in 2007, (3) those whose investment and business activities were key causes of the crisis, and (4) those who got the biggest, earliest bailouts from governments subservient to them. As the Sarkozy government becomes increasingly isolated and reviled, the French capitalist elite — known there as the “patronat” — must begin to worry. That elite wants Sarkozy to preside effectively over a peaceful, docile, and profitable France, not one convulsed by such powerful oppositions.

Read the rest!

attacking the already vulnerable

via FWD/Feminists With Disabilities

In the UK, people with disabilities have been among the hardest hit by the recent Thatcher 2.0 ConDem cuts of the Osborne Review.  The employment support allowance (ESA) which was previously able to be claimed until the person finds a job has now been set with a limit of one year.  I’m sure that’ll be of great comfort to people, cos disabilities also expire after year amiright?

This will hit hardest people who are already vulnerable – Mute magazine reports that 75% of people with disabilities and 70% of people with disabilities are already living in poverty in the UK.  Taken in context with cuts to housing and education, and the future looks bleak.  As Mute rightly points out, these cuts will kill.

Natacha Kennedy recently wrote a post arguing that cuts to housing where single people under 35 won’t qualify for housing will disproportionately affect young trans people.  Young trans people are frequently kicked out of their homes, and are placed further at risk with transphobic sex segregated youth shelters.  We already have high rates of poverty, unemployment, and homelessness (further compounded by survival sex work and its associated dangers, most notably the astronomical HIV infection rates for trans sex workers) and the lack of governmental support for under 35s to get housing will only make things much, much worse.

Paul Krugman recently pointed out in the New York Times that there is no real reason for this comprehensive axe-swinging–the job cuts will almost certainly depress the economy even further.  He rightly points out that all the historical precedent is against austerity measures, and in particular those are Krugman draws the obvious conclusion – funding cuts are part of a pre-existing neoliberalist desire to do away with the welfare state:

It would cut government employment by 490,000 workers — the equivalent of almost three million layoffs in the United States — at a time when the private sector is in no position to provide alternative employment. It would slash spending at a time when private demand isn’t at all ready to take up the slack.

Why is the British government doing this? The real reason has a lot to do with ideology: the Tories are using the deficit as an excuse to downsize the welfare state. But the official rationale is that there is no alternative.

It is worth pointing out in the light of this that the fact that austerity measures will most affect vulnerable communities is not a bug, it is a feature.  It is no accident that the poorest and most vulnerable are being hit hardest, emerging as Laurie Penny suggested recently, from the “the ugly Conservative conviction that poverty is a moral failing.”  Indeed, the disparity between the attacks on the poor and the treatment of the rich is rather stark given the recent news that Vodafone had been waived 6 billion pounds of outstanding taxes – something people rightfully protested in London today.

One rule for us, another for them.  Plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose, eh.

Class war: Sneaky or just stupid?

It’s true, however, that they are very, very touchy about the idea that the rubes don’t appreciate being told to eat cake. When I wrote metaphorically that I was going to “sharpen my pitchfork” you could hear the frightened calls for smelling salts all over the blogosphere. So maybe they are really afraid the people are going to storm the barricades.

Whatever their excuses, it comes down to the same thing we’ve been seeing in all areas of our society the last few years. They wealthy simply don’t believe they should be required to be held liable for anything they do and certainly not by the common folk. So they are banding together to rig the game in secret.

No one does class war like Digby does class war.