First, Johnny Void strikes again. No blog last week or next – I was at the Green Party conference, and next week I am on holiday. For the next few weeks I intend to concentrate on fracking and growth, but as I expected, the welfare benefits (removal) debate drags me back again. What is Kiwi and Lime? They are Green through and through. Some of us believe that the influence of Watermelon (red under the skin) is great, is increasing, and ought to be diminished (with apologies to whichever Nineteenth century politician first used that turn of phrase).
Johnny Void’s blog
DWP Reveals The Real Agenda Behind Universal Credit And Welfare Reform
For over two years now Iain Duncan Smith has been pretending that his brutal and bodged welfare reforms have been about encouraging people back to work and making that work pay.
Throughout this period it has often been suggested that a more brutal social security system is really intended to increase competition for jobs and allow employers to force down wages and working conditions for everyone. Vastly increased benefit conditionality has led to hundreds of thousands of benefit claims being stopped or sanctioned. With workfare or destitution the only option left for those unable to find a job, exploitative employers have free reign to treat workers like shit, knowing full well if they leave, or are sacked, they will face increasingly desperate poverty.
Few have been cynical enough to suggest that Universal Credit will also make it easier for employers to casualise their existing workforce and make it easier to cut worker’s hours in times of ‘business troughs’. Yet just released DWP guidance for employers explaining Universal Credit suggests that this – along with increasing competition for jobs – is the real thinking behind the new benefit regime. [End of Johnny Void quote]
The rest of Johnny Void’s blog give s the facts behind the real government agenda. It is a must read. So I am certainly not criticizing, but the debate needs taking further. Regular readers of this blog will know that I have been saying for years – long before Iain Duncan Smith’s antics – that a Citizens Basic Income must be the basis of social justice, at least until somebody brighter than me thinks of something better. But we don’t need to go further than IDS’s own literature to estabish this. As I have said before, but it is worth repeating:
Dynamic Benefits, is supposedly the basis for the government’s welfare benefits (abolition of) policy. IF you click on the link, Dynamic Benefits was published on 16th September 2009. It is in the right hand column in ‘Publications’. The first part is a devastating critique of means testing. IDS and I are agreed that means testing is an evil which must be removed. But we have very different agendas, so we would solve the problem in diametrically different ways. The rest of ‘Dynamic’ cleverly avoids the obvious conclusion, which is a Citizens’ Basic Income. Even so, IDS has moved along way from its recommendations. On being appointed as Work & Pensions Minister, IDS produced a White Paper ‘21st Century Welfare ’, which already retreated from the recommendations in Dynamic., It contains some ambiguous expressions, for example:
“The benefits system has shaped the decisions of the poorest in a way that has trapped generation after generation in a spiral of dependency and poverty.”
That would not look out of place in the case for a Citizens’ basic Income.
But IDS could even be confronted with that weak document and asked what the Hell he thinks he is doing now! There are what seemed in July 2010 matter-of-fact references to the need as IDS saw it for a requirement to seek work, but not the brutal regime Johnny Void now exposes in his blogs. There is no mention of the, er ‘housing benefit excess bedroom reduction’. Honestly, that is the official name of the Bedroom Tax. Iain Duncan Smith has finally given the game away. Johnny Void always thought he wasn’t very bright. I wish IDS’s opponents would use the ammunition he has himself provided to destroy his plans.
The Aesop fable has the wind and the sun trying to get a traveller to take his coat off. The wind tries force first, but the sun wins with persuasion. At first sight a Citizens’ Income looks like a Scroungers’ Charter – no one need work from the cradle to the grave! But the government have already played that card with their gibes about workers looking up at neighbour’s closed curtains, so they cannot use it against the Citizens’ Income. We can play the card that the Citizens’ income actually re-creates a work incentive.
I shall deal with Kiwi and Lime in more detail later, but just to put down a marker, some of us in the Green Party are uneasy about some features of the Green Left. There is a spectrum of opinion within the party from those of us who were poleaxed by the study Limits to Growth, with its 1972 warnings that the end of the world might be at hand before 2000 if rampant growth wasn’t reined in (it was, unintentionally), to others whose natural home would have been the Labour Party as it was before Tony Blair handed it over to the enemy. Dialogue is possible and necessary between the two wings, All are clear on the need for social justice as a part of the answer to the original problem, which has not gone away.
But Green Left operates quite brazenly as a faction within the Party. It has a separate subscription based membership system and a parallel officer structure – including regional officers. It has its own newspaper, which clearly states its intentions. I have been told “The party has moved on. You must do the same”. Another comment I read spoke of ‘purges’. Whether of policies, people like me, or both was not clear.
Those of us who believe the Party should not ‘move on’ could retaliate by forming a counter-faction. I hope this does not happen. I believe that dialogue between those whose starting point is similar to mine, and those whose starting point is socialism first and foremost will prevail, but I, and Kiwi & Lime are appealing to that group to realize what a minority are doing with their apparent support.