Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Sally Army Short On Understanding

The New Zealand Government's $25 increase to benefits isn't enough to get families out of poverty, the country’s Salvation Army says.

The Salvation Army's Major Campbell Roberts says the changes, they don't go far enough.
"The increase is insufficient to address the poverty and hardship that is impacting so many families that we work with." The Salvation Army doesn't back moves to require parents to return to work when their child turns three, rather than the current age of five. Major Roberts told MPs while work is an "important factor in helping to take people out of poverty", there is "clear evidence" it doesn't work for everyone in every situation. Major Roberts says those who came up with the proposed new measure don't have an adequate understanding of the nature and requirements of workplaces, or the nature and impact of poverty on families. There are situations where the work on offer, for example overnight cleaning work or short-notice on-call casual care work, may not ultimately benefit families and children.

The World Socialist Party (New Zealand) says the criticism from the Salvation Army does not go far enough. Poverty remains a running sore incapable of remedy while capitalism lasts. After over a century of patchwork tinkering this problem is still with us. Confident declarations by politicians and enacting of palliative reform legislation has not altered the situation. Is it not high time this poverty producing system was done away with once and for all? The problem is that religious do-gooders are no answer to the problem. Patronising the poor with charity is insulting and useless.

Nowadays every youngster is constantly bombarded from all directions with the message: “You can make it if you try hard enough.” This “motivation advice” is regarded as a big advance on the bad old days when low-caste children were taught humbly to accept their place at the bottom of the pile. But the new message is actually even crueler than the old one, because it carries the clear though unspoken implication that if you don’t make it that will mean you didn’t try hard enough. “You only have yourself to blame.” Those who perform this charade of “equal opportunity” must know very well, only a few of the children before whom they “dangle” the will ever make it and is an exhortation for poor kids to hurl themselves against a brick wall – again and again and again. The remarkable thing is not that some of them commit suicide but that most of them do not. Such are the fruits of efforts at reform – undertaken in many cases with the best of intentions – that leaves intact the capitalist structure of our society.

While those who are “poor” at a particular moment may be only a minority, though a very substantial one, studies of lifespan poverty experience show that many have the experience of being “poor” at some time in their lives. It is this continuous large-scale movement of workers into and out of “poverty” that gives the lie to the conventional idea of “the poor” as a separate social group or even as a sort of special “underclass”. A large majority of workers are always at significant risk of falling into poverty; the fear of poverty occupies a crucial place in their psyche. The typical suburbanite can become destitute and homeless very easily. All it takes is a single negative life-event such as the loss of a well-paying job, a serious illness or accident, imprisonment or divorce. Especially during a slump, masses of “middle class” workers find themselves stranded among “the poor.” Poverty and relative prosperity are alternate phases in the life of a single social class, the working class – a life marked by abject insecurity and dependence. Most members of the working class are not poor most of the time, but it is “the poor” who most starkly embody the essence of working class status.

The Salvation Army, according to the WSP(NZ), shrinks from presenting the truth - that the poverty of the working class is due to robbery and the remedy is to stop the robbers by ousting them, first from political, and then from economic power. Workers will get nowhere calling for capitalist justice. What we must do is unite anger with understanding and turn these upon the real enemy: those who rob us of the fruits of our labour. All over the world capitalism holds sway. Workers strive for a lifetime to achieve some level of security. The acquisition of money continually dominates their thinking. Blind to the basic realities of the capitalist system, they have yet to learn that their problems are inherent in it and can only be abolished by ending the social system which breeds them, and replacing it by world socialism, a moneyless, classless society.

WSP(NZ) website:


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