Demonstrations have taken place across Britain this weekend in opposition to the hated “Bedroom Tax”.
Blaming the poor for poverty
When the Bedroom Tax comes into force on 1 April, 14 percent will be cut from housing benefit for households with one ‘spare’ bedroom and 25 percent from those with two or more.
An estimated 660,000 working-age social tenants across the country will be hit, losing an average of £14-16 per week, and facing the stark choice of moving home or being forced into even deeper poverty. Evictions and debt levels will skyrocket.
In order to justify this move, politicians and journalists have been spinning a fairy tale of housing ‘shortages’, but it is actually one- and two-bed flats that are in short supply, so where are people supposed to ‘downsize’ to?
If our rulers really want to do something about the affordable housing shortage, why not set rent controls in the private sector, build lots of new social homes and requisition all those empty ‘deluxe’ flats?
It’s a classic privatisation strategy – first reduce the amount and quality of a service, then blame the service users for the problem and use it to justify the next privatisation move! How many times have we been told that our NHS is under threat because poor people are suffering from diet- or smoking-related ailments, or that burdensome pensioners are ‘bed-blocking’?
The answer? Instead of creating new hospital wards and putting more nurses and doctors into them, more outsourcing to dodgy profiteers and more cuts in bed and frontline staff numbers to pay more PFI debts!
In reality, this tax has nothing to do with ‘freeing up social housing’; it is a callous scapegoating of Britain’s poorest people – after all, only those who are claiming benefits will have to pay, even though many of them are already impoverished to the point of malnutrition.
Disabled people, single parents who are not designated as the ‘main carer’ for their children, couples sleeping apart owing to medical conditions … all will be hit. Children of the same sex will be required to share a room until they reach 16, and of the opposite sex until the age of 10.
Labour party hypocrisy
Grassroots campaigns to oppose the tax have been launched by workers all over Britain. But a dangerous pattern is emerging as these campaigns take shape – their hijacking by Labour’s so-called ‘left’ wing and the exclusion and silencing of all non-Labour-affiliated organisations and individuals.
Many supposedly ‘non-aligned’ events have been seized and monopolised by a ‘committee’ that has censored anyone who tries to tell the truth about Labour’s support for and implementation of the capitalists’ cuts. Non-Labour people have been systematically blocked from Facebook event and campaign pages all over the country.
The hypocrisy is staggering. Labour, far from building new homes, recently oversaw 13 years of sell-offs and privatisation that massively accelerated the ghettoisation of Britain’s remaining social tenants, while ‘Red Ed’ Miliband, in whom we are asked to put our hopes of a ‘worker-friendly’ capitalist government next time around, has actually endorsed the bedroom tax.
When it comes to cuts, privatisation, and all other attacks on working people’s living standards, the Tories, Labour and LibDems are all as bad as each other, because they all serve the same capitalist interests. The ‘debate’ that they distract us with is only about how soon or how fast to make the cuts that capitalists demand – or who to blame, and where to wield the knife first.
What they are all agreed on is that British imperialism must at all costs be saved from the current crisis, which is the deepest ever seen – even worse than the fabled Great Depression of the 1930s, which led to WW2 and the deaths of millions of poor people all over the world.
Let us recall that the $20bn cuts ‘required’ to be made to our health service were first announced by the Labour government – and that all the parties agreed with them. They also all agreed that £1bn on bombing Libya’s hard-won infrastructure – health, education, housing, industry, electricity and water – into the dust was money well spent.
Desperate to stop workers drawing the obvious conclusion that no capitalist party can serve their interests, Labour has been working hard to rebrand itself as the ‘anti-cuts’ opposition. Glossy leaflets and online campaigns abound, but the concerted effort to remove all other voices from the bedroom tax campaign is proof that the party is not interested in uniting the opposition and defeating the tax, but only in getting a bit of free advertising. Labour’s fake ‘opposition’ to cuts is just a cynical PR exercise.
If more proof is still needed of this, let us look at the case of Newcastle’s Michael McDonald. As an anti-cuts organiser, he must be a thorn in the side of the Labour-led council that is busy implementing drastic cuts in the city.
Following an anti-cuts demo in February, where Mr McDonald told council-leader Nick Forbes what he thought about these attacks on Newcastle’s poorest, this Labour scoundrel sent police to drag McDonald out of his bed and charge him with a ‘public order’ offence!
The Labour party’s true role as policeman of the workers’ movement could not have been more clearly illustrated!
To injure one is to injure us all
We need to understand that no representative of a capitalist party is on the side of the workers, however much (s)he may pretend to be. Nor is anyone who tries to incite us to blame each other for the poverty in which we find ourselves.
It is not immigrants, fat people, poor people, smokers, benefit claimers, council-house tenants, hoodies or pensioners who are ‘bleeding the country dry’ but the free-market-fundamentalist gangsters who rampage all over the globe in search of profit, profit and more profit.
Today, our forces are divided, not only by the racism and scapegoating that we are encouraged to indulge in, but by the pigeon-holing of struggles as ‘separate’ issues, each one of which is presented as being relevant only to a small minority of people.
We have lost sight of the fact that ‘an injury to one is an injury to all’, and so our forces are dispersed and our attention is diverted by every new media-created distraction.
If we unite, however, we can use our collective power to sabotage all attempts to make us pay for the capitalists’ crisis. A real tenants’ movement, instead of Almo-led eviction organisations, is needed to defend our homes.
If we join together we can refuse to be resettled or moved. We can patrol our estates and stop bailiffs from evicting our fellow tenants. We must defend ourselves – and our neighbours – from the thugs and hired servants of the rich.
And we must refuse to let our campaign groups be hijacked by Labour politicians who do nothing to defend the working class from the assaults of capitalist bloodsuckers. They are helping the state to rob the poor to pay the rich – kick them out of our communities!