So, Grant Shapps assures us that the government is committed to ending homelessness in response to the charity Crisis’s claims that cuts will increase homelessness. With the news that interest rates are probably going to suddenly shoot up whilst VAT is increased and benefits are cut, this is hard to believe. Furthermore, without an actual change to our political, economic and social relations, the potential to end economic hardship is seriously undermined.
Under our current political system we will never have full employment, and those on benefits often suffer through inadequate wages – as do many of those within work. Capitalism requires the employed to maintain low wages, as it an inevitable feature of a structure desperately trying to obtain endless profit through deskilling, as technology replaces workers, resulting in employers’ capital increasing whilst people are sacked or have lower wages etc etc. This is one of the main crimes of blaming the unemployed and those on benefits for not working. We have reached a stage in our society where there will always be those who can work but are unable to obtain a job (with the current relations, anyway).
There are connections between homelessness and things such as drug use and sex work. The latter needs to be considered in much more complex and diverse ways, as currently there is a simplistic moral approach that criminalises those involved pushing them further underground. Therefore, Shapps can assure us that this government is committed to ending homelessness, but before they face up to the system’s limitations and the problems drug policies and sex work policies (etc) create, there is an ignorance to the potential we have to change society so that there aren’t the few benefiting from the surplus value of the rest. This is an area that perspectives within anarchism have looked into. Ecoanarchist Bookchin, argues that through sharing our work via the use of technology, the rest of people’s time would be free for them to indulge in activities that are creative and enjoyable (as well as dealing with many of the complications life gives you).
However, we have a long way to go before we see anarchism being taken serious again by the majority. Bookchin warned about the problems of lifestyle anarchism undermining the value of this historical tradition before he eventually left the anarchist movement. Only if we challenge the negative associations that likens anarchism to senseless individual violence, will we be able to formulate better movements to challenge the social relations that allow the police to shove homeless people, as the state shows no consideration for the livelihoods of these people, off doorsteps to hide their visibility. Only when we see movements, such as the women’s movement, start to concentrate on challenging the system instead of hoping that working through it will bring the answers, will we see the reduction (I would never promise the end) of social injustices such as homelessness.
Therefore, whilst I don’t expect everyone to sign up to the work of theorists such as Bookchin, their insights will help assist movements development and account for the injustices that theorists such as Karl Marx have helped many understand. Unfortunately, the anarchist tradition is often cast aside as individualistic and ignorant to the social, economic and environmental context. There are some anarchists who fit the Daily Mail’s analysis of ‘anarchists’ as ‘thugs’ but they do a disservice to the majority of anarchists who are trying desperately to argue for a more equal and fairer system.
We will only begin to tackle problems such as homelessness and unemployment when we realise that it is a problem associated with the actual system. A system that promotes endless consumption, growth and production with no care for social and environmental justice. Only when we change policies included within this system, shaped by the hype of moralists such as the Daily Mail, will we help prevent social injustices such as homelessness. We must not forget that our own structural practices are also leaving many across the world homeless as the environmental effects hit them; only when we realise that these problems aren’t disconnected from the wider structural context will we help alleviate so much suffering. Furthermore, whilst I don’t pretend to know all the answers, a radical reclaiming of the anarchist tradition that Bookchin called for is required to understand and overcome the challenges an effective movement faces.