Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

Archive for May, 2013|Monthly archive page


In Guest Feature, O. Adams on May 2, 2013 at 12:31 pm

NEVER again – I can recall the words emblazoned against images of concentration camps and other Nazi atrocities from my school history lessons. Our minds boggled at how the majority of any population could put up with such tyranny and colluded in it: well now, in 2013, I think I understand.

Through a mixture of propaganda and the credible threat of being pushed into the same position if we dare blow a whistle and speak up against cruelty or even show sympathy – the poorest people in British society are being marginalised, demonised, abandoned with zero funds and left to trawl food skips, beg or try their luck at food banks. People with disabilities, mental illness and terminal cancers are being judged unworthy of any social security or welfare.

Campaigners have alleged 50 people a week are dying despite or as a result of being judged fit to work by ATOS, and a Guardian investigation discovered 680,000 people between January and October 2012 had their benefits “sanctioned”, that is, stopped altogether. Jobcentre staff are facing threatening performance reviews from their DWP managers with the threat of dismissal if they don’t plunge enough people into absolute poverty.

These Jobcentre employees are surely aware that, according to figures from 2010 (probably worse now), that on average 23 people are chasing one job, with the ratio rising when it comes to skilled work. If they don’t pull their finger out and do the evil deed, they themselves will face the same nightmare.

Instead of receiving sympathy and empathy the jobless are seen as somehow less than human, with ever more indignities, abuse and insults piled on them.

Despite policies that call for the wholesale privatisation of the NHS, nuclear rearmament, a ban on climate-change education, a doubling of prison places, and measures amounting to the establishment of a military state, media reports tell us UKIP’s support is soaring.

So as the nation apparently swings further to the right, now we have all but 40 of Labour’s MPs, at the orders of Liam Byrne and Ed Miliband, sitting on their hands as the Government forces through legislation to negate a High Court judgement brought by two plucky workfare victims. The judge found their forcible work terms at Poundland wrong but to avoid paying half-a-million fellow workfare victims compensation – instead parliament in concert has set a dangerous precedent for retrospective legislation.

Yet another punitive measure to be visited on the poorest is the Bedroom Tax – forcing social tenants to pay up to 25% of their rent if they are deemed to be “under-occupying” their house. Rather than exposing from the rooftops the screaming hypocrisy of a cabinet of millionaires forcing the most skint to pick up the tab for their casino-capitalism misadventures, we instead have witnessed bun-fights between different elements of the left, accusing each other of hypocrisy and sabotage.

Grassroots campaigners in Merseyside felt sidelined by a new Labour Against the Bedroom Tax initiative which sprang up after they’d been fighting for months – ironic as Brown’s government introduced it for private tenants in 2008. A large rally in Liverpool was spoilt with brawls between left campaigners attempting to expel known fascist troublemakers from their midst; Labour Party stewards protected the fascists. Meanwhile, in Manchester, a Revolutionary Communist Party supporter faced off “Labour hypocrites” with a megaphone, leading to ugly scenes. Those non-politically aligned could only look on in bemusement.

As protests were held in more than 50 cities, many subjects of the bedroom tax were instead logged on to Facebook, content to blame immigrants rather than politicians – rumours of conspiracies to get “our own” out of their homes to make way for a new wave of foreigners abounded: no matter that official statistics show that immigrants who will work incredibly hard for less than minimum wage and are so attractive to exploitative employers, are very rarely able to get social housing. Asylum seekers are entitled to less than £40 per week and not allowed to work.

By the time this is published, the Forest Anti-Bedroom Tax Action Group (FABTAG) will have launched its first action – a pyjama party in the Coleford district council offices, with a demand FODDC follows the example of Scottish and Brighton councils in guaranteeing no one will be evicted due to inability to pay bedroom tax. FABTAG hopes not to be deterred by inter-left battles; nor does the new People’s Assembly beginning on June 22, and promoted by Tony Benn’s Coalition of Resistance and Independent journalist Owen Jones, among other prominent left faces.

While the far-right-wing, propelled by the Daily Mail and Sun, is gaining strength, many on the left are waiting for a movement to take up cudgels and fight on our behalf. I’d conclude by saying there’s no time to waste waiting for a saviour, and we all need to get stuck in and fight this class war and stop this cruel, fascistic tide from enveloping us all. That means leaving our particular hats – be they Labour-left, Socialist Party, Green or anarchist – at the door and getting stuck in fighting the common foe: capitalism and the ruling class. Fascism? Never again!