The Left are caught up in an endless series of navel gazing activities that ignore fundamental struggles. The relationship between people and economics is one of the struggles that has ceased to be of any great interest to campaigners and political activists. The reason is plain and simple: Thatcher Won the Class War.
There are a broad range of issues that the “Left” seek to campaign on behalf of. Animal Rights, Anticapitalism, Antimilitarism and Antifascism are all proffered as being legitimate objects of interest. There is not criticism of anybody seeking to further any of these causes. These are simply offered as examples. They are offered as examples for a very simple reason: it is quite possible for someone to endlessly campaign on one of these issues knowing full well that it does not impact their immediate, practical existence and that it never need to.
Animal Rights campaigners can point to their ethical treatment of animals as the impact on their daily lives and antifascists can point to the misery and even death caused by fascism. This is not the genuine impact on peoples lives that is being referred to. For each of these causes there are those who simply, vicariously, latch on and defend a cause with such vigour and energy that any critique is overwhelmed and excluded. There is an intellectual component to these campaigns that lend to that kind of behaviour. It is easy to present and win arguments about how to treat animals or the idiocy of fascism.
In these respects, the “Left” fails a particular and important constituency: the Unemployed. Like it or not, unemployment is more important than Animal Rights in some situations. Like it or not, addressing unemployment is anticapitalist and antifascist and more important than organising a good kicking for some anti social criminal street warriors. Put bluntly: unemployment is the class war weapon of choice and always has been. The weapon of unemployment is being wielded with consumate technique – prod the “Left” to expend all its energy on subsidiary campaigns and leave them exhausted for the economic blow of being managed into unemployment.
The truth is that Unemployment and Low Pay have created an economy with such massive inequalities that people are suffering practical problems such as actually having no money whatsoever to live on. Any Anarchist suggesting that stealing necessities from a Supermarket is perfectly acceptable might also wish to volunteer to serve the almost inevitable prison sentence. Unemployment, unlike the other issues, is incredibly, relentlessly practical.
The Left, for all the very laudable campaigning it does pursue, ignores a very simple fact: more than ninety percent of the country relies on work for survival. In that huge number of people is a huge spectrum of opinion. There are little old ladies who respect policemen too much to steal their breakfast. There are mentally ill, badly medicated schizophrenics who do not appreciate they are starving to death because their voices are protecting them from the worst. There are graduates and educationally subnormal. The range of different people who depend on work and are suceptible to unemployment is too vast to make simple arguments such as “animals should be treated as persons, anything else is speciest” or “government has an intrinsic force of coercion” or “militarising a society breeds fascism”. Unemployment is individualised.
Not only is Unemployment individualised but, increasingly, it is being used as a form of slavery and imprisonment. Employers using training schemes to obtain free labour on a frictional basis – think supermarkets needing stackers in the weeks before christmas. This provides no income but does boost productivity. Anarchists can make broad and ideologically sound recommendations – but the truth is that the practicalities of refusing to be on such Unemployed Training Schemes is not as simple as refusal. The move of the Private Sector into the Welfare delivery sector has increasingly made it possible for the welfare models of Bevan – or even Callaghan, Wilson, Heath and Thatcher – to be thrown out. Increasingly, the entire experience of Unemployment is an exercise in managing slavery and criminalising the Unemployed.
This is a form of criminalising that affects every single person on the Left. Because it normalises the presence of a “Criminal Subclass” in the Community and “mandates” that the Unemployed should therefore be “managed” by a increased (and militarised) policing presence. The “Military Reduction Programs” around the world at the end of the Cold War involved a net transfer of Military Personnel into the Police. Which might well have a bearing on such practices as Kettling and the death of Ian Tomlinson or Charles de Menezes.
These are not meant to be sensational claims. These are claims made by direct observation of the Benefits System. Both from aquaintance with the “service centre approach” and being a former claimant. A former claimant because, in response to the unreasonable behaviour of my local office I quit. I simply quit unemployment and walked out.
Which results in me being viewed with suspicion because I must obviously have some alternative source of income. Which I do not. I simply have the same savings that were excluded from means testing when I made my claim some months ago. But being a graduate and tea total, I really do not see the purpose of going onto an anti-drugs, literacy and self esteem course. The most adverse pressure on my self esteem being the constant criminalisation of me for circumstances way beyond my personal control.
Which comes back to the Left failing to make any impact on the lie of the “credit crunch”. Which, my understanding, is due to the navel gazing of lifestyle leftists – so individualised and domesticated in their protest that they concentrate, to the exclusion of all others, on a single issue. All these issues are linked – no mistake about that. But the truth is, non of the separate cliques wants to acknowledge their issue is anything other than the most important.