Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Work! Or Else!


Horatio Nelson hoisted this signal on his flagship, HMS Victory on October 21, 1805 before the battle of Trafalgar began: ‘England expects every man to do his duty.’

It’s not known if the chief secretary to the Treasury, Laura Trott, sees herself cast in the same mould as Nelson. Visual images of her do not demonstrate any shortage of limbs. Unlike Dud she would certainly satisfy Pete’s  criteria for the playing of Tarzan.

Ms Trott, whatever affiliations she may or not believe she possesses along with Nelson is now, however, invoking the famous exhortation although the British seamen wounded were not expected consequently to work from home.

Ms Trott said: ‘Of course there should be support for people to help them into work but ultimately there is a duty on citizens if they are able to go out to work they should. Those who can work and contribute should contribute.’

She’s also quoted as saying, ‘ we’re going to put the right mechanisms around you to help you with that. But ultimately, you have to engage with that, and that is an obligation on you as a citizen to do this. And if you don’t do this, we will look at sanctions.’

It’s not reported yet whether she has used Horatio to “shame” disabled people; look what he could do and he only had one arm and one eye! Don’t hold your breath. It will come.


The message, or should that be threat, is underlined on the official GOV.UK website: ‘Stricter benefit sanctions will also be enforced by the Department for Work and Pensions for people who are able to work but refuse to engage with their Jobcentre or take on work offered to them. Benefit claimants who continue to refuse to engage with the Jobcentre will face having their claim closed. The latest published data shows that there were 300,000 people who had been unemployed for over a year in the three months to July.’


There is of courses no reason at all why people who are are termed ‘disabled’, a very wide ranging term, should not participate in society in whichever way they see fit. Coercion, from whichever direction it comes does not go well with anyone whatever their ‘status’.

Unfortunately, the vast majority have a perception ‘disability’. They cannot see the way to abolish the social system which disables us all in one way or another. Abolish capitalism. Everyone is capable of playing their part in the achieving socialism .

Life on the Dole Socialist Standard March 1992

The first time that I walked into an Unemployment Benefit Office to sign on the dole, I pulled up my collar and glanced around surreptitiously in case anyone I knew should see me going in there. Socialist or no, forty-odd years of capitalist brainwashing can't fail to have some effect.

Despite having sold my labour power to the same employer for thirteen years, when "rationalisation" (what used to be called asset-stripping) strikes, the result is redundancy. It’s cold comfort to know that thousands of other wage slaves are suddenly finding themselves in the same position, through no fault of their own but due to the continuing tendency to recession, depression. over-production, crisis which is inherent in capitalism. Nevertheless, the result of the conditioning and propaganda is what its meant to be—guilt, shame and the feeling that losing your job is your fault. A local newspaper reports that there are 35 people chasing every job vacancy in the West Midlands. Another report tells of a man who is so desperate for work that he is offering to pay a thousand pounds to anyone who will employ him.

The real scroungers

With no previous experience of labour exchanges, and having perceptions of such places defined by Bread or Charlie Drake’s The Worker, it's little wonder that the "no longer gainfully employed” should approach the Unemployment Benefit Office with trepidation. For, in a society where an individual’s worth is measured not by personal qualities, but by their occupation, to lose your job is to lose your status in society and your personal identity. Try renting a television, or applying for credit to buy a car. When replying to the question what is your occupation with the answer “unemployed", the smile on the face of the salesperson will freeze, and you can bet your last ten pence that your application will be refused.

Perhaps they would be more impressed to be told that you are now an industrial reserve army member. More likely, the mistaken working class perception will flit through their mind—dole scrounger. For you have now attained that enviable state which those who still spend their days fighting through ever-worsening traffic chaos, and increasingly, their weekends, in order to spend their days doing boring, alienating jobs yearn for. You can please yourself as to what you do and when you do it. Unfortunately, for those working class members of the "leisured class" there is one small problem. We all still live in a capitalist society where every necessary means of life, from food to shelter to clothing to transport, is only available if you have the money to pay for it.

To belong to the real "leisured class” means being a member of that minority class who own most of the land, factories, shops, banks, transport, etc—those who real scroungers in society because their wealth is produced for them by the majority who have no other means of living but to depend upon having a job, pension or unemployment benefit.

Added to the obvious problems encountered by workers who find themselves in the position of unpaid wage slave, as opposed to paid slave, is the straitjacket imposed by the Unemployment Benefit Office. If you didn’t know it before, you very quickly discover that your sole purpose on this planet it to provide surplus value, i.e. profits and wealth for the minority ruling class.

Wage slavery

If the fact of living in a society where commodities are produced for profit, not need, isn’t sufficient incentive for you to try your hardest to get a job—after all, if you can’t pay for it, you can’t have it— the UBO, run by other wage slaves, will insist that you are "available for and actively seeking work” before it will even entertain your claim. Even when your claim has been initially accepted, there is likely to be a delay before you begin receiving the pittance known as dole money whilst forms are shuttled back and forth between UBOs and your previous exploiter to ensure that you are not trying to defraud the state. Nobody, it’s said, starves any more. If your previous employer decides that you were a troublemaker, they have the power to bring you damned close to it if they provide the UBO with negative answers to its questions.

On every visit to the UBO to sign on, you are required to prove that you have been "actively seeking work”. After a “permitted period” the 1989 Social Security Act restricts your right to refuse jobs because of the low pay offered. Why does the working class, employed, unemployed, pensioners, housewives and children. continue to put up with the economic exploitation and political control exercised by a minority class?

Understanding the social alternative—a wageless, moneyless, classless, leaderless, stateless society where goods are produced for need, not profit—is as simple as ABC’ compared to the minefield of bureaucracy to be traversed when trying to obtain paltry dole money. Despite the promises of Jam Today, forever being made by those lapdogs of the capitalist class, the politicians, most of us are still struggling to obtain bread and dripping.

The time to make capitalism redundant is long past. It’s the working class which runs capitalism from top to bottom for the benefit of the minority. Think what we could do with the opportunities presented to us by a new society— socialism.

Dave Coggan


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