Liam Byrne, welfare and capitalism…

“Capitalism is a social cancer. It has always been a social cancer. It is a disease of society. It is the malignancy of society”. – Murray Bookchin.

Whilst it puzzles me that so many Labour activists would spend so long every day lambasting their leader, rather than spending energy into criticising the coalition, there are rightful grievances, especially when it comes to Liam Byrne’s recent article regarding welfare.

Byrne utilises the Beveridge Report to focus his attack upon the unemployed, supposed ‘idleness’ whilst ignoring the realities of capitalist relations. For instance, he refers to Beveridge’s support for full employment. Full employment was associated with Keynesian economics. Under the current capitalist system, the idea of full employment is a farce. As many influential thinkers have shown, full employment is impossible in a capitalist system, as we always need some sort of reserve army of labour in order to keep the system ticking over. Whether that be called the lumpen proletariat, NEETS or the underclass, these so-called parasites of the system are actually required to keep the capitalist neoliberal system in the balance.

Think of it this way. These people keep the competition for jobs and the ability for low wages alive. If full employment was achieved, which is possible if jobs were shared out and working hours were reduced to say a 21 hour week (as the NEF recommends), then we would have a healthier economy, a living wage and more time for creative endeavour. However, the catch is that for the economy to achieve full employment, for those who can work that is, there needs to be a removal of capitalist economics such as the profit motive, competition, greed and neoliberal ‘ideals’ of productivity.

The focus on the long-term unemployed Byrne has in his article ignores the realities of capitalism in another important way, as well. This is in terms of the problems with job creation, when the economy goes through a recession alongside the falling rate of profit endemic within capitalism and the self destructive dialectical nature of the capitalist system. In other words, as capitalism tries to adapt, we see more and more workers losing their jobs, as technology is often used to replace and downsize the workforce. In consequence, the ability for employees to reduce workers’ wages is reduced, thus to increase and maintain profit they have to increase the products costs due to the increasing capital costs. But because of the decreasing job rate, more people are unable to afford the rising product cost, therefore creating an even worse economic situation.

This is related to the increasing reliance on credit. Something Cameron said was a problem in terms of the economy’s recovery. That’s right, a capitalist criticising one of the very mechanisms capitalism relies upon. As train fares, bus fares, food, heating, water and so on all rise, as more and more people lose their jobs, as the gap between the rich and the poorest goes up – the leading parties look for someone to blame. Those with the least ability to kick back, to get their views represented in the parasitic media and tackle the misleading lies and information regarding them as people, are the ones targeted – like Byrne’s attack upon welfare claimants.

What do these people think benefit claimants are doing? Do they think all of them aren’t actively looking for a job? Do they ignore the fact that only £1bn of welfare fraud occurs, and that £16bn worth of benefits goes unclaimed every year? Do they ignore the fact that so many jobs don’t pay enough to survive adequately? Do they know how it feels like to lose their job and have little hope of finding an adequate replacement, as those at the top earn ridiculous amounts of money and receive knighthoods and £850bn of taxpayers money to make sure they don’t fail after nearly collapsing the country after their excessive risk taking and profit making activities?

Whilst attempting to defend disability benefits, Byrne still advocates some level of reform to disability benefit. The details of which are ignored. Yes, let’s not forget that Labour brought in ESA, used ATOS and still haven’t turned their back on this. There’s a long way to go before we have adequate mainstream representation within parliament fighting for groups such as disabled people. Too much focus on those with the money. Corrupt and perverse. Furthermore, there is a focus upon those trying to do the ‘decent’ thing and save up money. What about those who can’t afford to save up money? Those who will have to choose out of cutting down their food or leaving their house because of the housing benefit changes?

In sum, it’s the same tireless attack upon benefit claimants, the ignorance of capitalist social and production relations and the deflection of blame and responsibility from those at the top and those in power.

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4 thoughts on “Liam Byrne, welfare and capitalism…

  1. Excellent post! I’m really glad I found you.

    I wish people would realise that all these “austerity” measures are 100% political acts. They have nothing to do with the “deficit” or the “economic crisis”. It’s all political mind games.

    1. Thanks for this, glad you liked the post.

      I totally agree. It’s an ideological choice. Capitalism relies upon debt. It needs it to survive. To then say we have a debt crisis is so illogical. Wrote about this again in my latest blog post.

      I checked out your blog, looks interesting! Will have a better look asap.

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