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Anti-Capitalist Meetup: An Immodest Proposal by NY Brit Expat

2:40 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

For Preventing the Poor People in Britain from being a burden to Their Country, and For Making Them Beneficial to The Public

Un hommage á Jonathan Swift

Whenever I travel the country and listen to the newscasts and read the papers, it has become evident that the poor are a significant burden upon the country. Instead of working, women go begging at food banks to provide for their children. Others sit on the streets with their offspring begging money from their betters. Clearly these lazy creatures assume that we as a society have some responsibility to ensure the existence of their offspring. Moreover, since they have to care for their children, they obviously have no time to actually work to provide for their existence. Their lack of property and their inability to ensure their and their offspring’s survival is threatening the very nature of our society.

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Listening to the enlightened member of the government, Michael Gove, discussing their despair at the difficulty of providing for the poor in a period of falling profit and watching their sincere worry at the sheer indolence and decrepitude of so many that simply cannot take care of themselves due to their inability to divide their princely sums bestowed upon them by the government for their provenance one wonders at what can be done to eradicate the problems of her majesty’s subjects that are forced to deal with such laziness and drunkenness and lack of respect for the publick good? Their overabundance of children and dependent elderly and the poor choices of the poor have forced rising usage of food banks which simply cannot be tasked with providing for all this dependency. Imagine that 1 in 4 people cannot balance their munificent benefits to cover the costs of school uniforms; clearly they have too many children or are obviously spending their money on alcohol.
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A solution is demanded to get all these lazy people into work. But that is clearly not sufficient as provision for the children, elderly and infirm is needed so as not to undermine the working ability of those that are able-bodied but unwilling to be responsible to survive on wages below the social subsistence level. Imagine that some are working but not earning enough? Clearly that is their fault and they must be forced to work harder. It is insufficient that we cut their benefits further as demanded by our illustrious secretary of works and pensions, Iain Duncan Smith; surely they know that the going rate of wages is determined by supply and demand and that any interference by creating a living minimum wage will simply impoverish everyone?

Moreover, they insist on breeding more wretched versions that eat into the carefully determined minimum wage so carefully designed to ensure their bare subsistence and force their parents to eat insufficient amounts of food to be available at a phone call’s notice for availability of employment. Raised by the indolent with no knowledge of work ethic and wasting scarce resources of education, they drain the public purse. Needing a next generation of workers, we cannot simply cut them off but we should of course not sustain those unneeded in the future. Obviously, more than two children must be penalised. Some of her majesty’s ministers have suggested punishment by which benefits for children are lowered after more than two progeny. Far too soft-hearted as it gives the parents the opportunity of breeding more than two and then sacrificing their own food which then perhaps would impact on their ability to labour.

A greater bane is the elderly who simply did not have the wisdom to save sufficiently to live a dignified retirement and now are dependent upon the grand state pensions provided by the state. They dare to live past the age of usefulness to the society and are a drain on the public purse and on scarce resources such as food, the health system, housing, water, electricity and fuel for heating. They may require additional care which will eat into the subsidies for important sectors like the fracking industry working diligently to ensure our access to natural gas. This can simply not be allowed.

While some misguided members of the public may argue that in fact the problem is one of insufficient need on the part of our leaders of the business community for workers and that work could be created at union wages by her majesty’s government in the sectors of transport, housing, education and social care of children, the elderly and infirm these people are simply soft-hearted; simply not understanding that these people are lazy and must be punished in the harshest way possible so as to teach them that laziness has a price.

The creation of a national service suggested by Tory, Labour and Lib Dem members of Parliament has some merits. However, it only demands 1 year at minimum wages either in the (i) charitable work, (ii) social action, (iii) care for the elderly or disabled, (iv) overseas development activity, or (v) work connected with the National Health Service, the emergency services or the Armed Forces; imagine that it only provides one year of cheap labour! Clearly, the children of the wealthy can service overseas development activity and they would not be dependent upon the minimum wage; however, that is insufficient to teach the work ethic to the scions of our indolent so-called working class. While it will save money on wages for our illustrious business community, one year’s labour does not even begin to cover the expenses laid out for their education. Incredibly, it also points to the issue being one of labour demand and why should the government pay for these people’s poor education and choices, when there are more obvious answers?

My immodest proposal

As everyone in the know knows, poverty is a life choice; people choose simply to be poor and lazy. Their inability to manage the beneficence endowed on them by the state and not contribute by providing labour to the public is evidence of their immorality. Immorality should never be enabled. We must stamp it out.

Discussing the matter at length with historians, I have come to the conclusion that the past has much to offer. If the poor are lazy and unwilling to work as all unemployment is voluntary then we must force them to work.

We have many examples in recent history, but they may be too much for those silly believers in human rights, so we must go further back than the 1940s. Our past has excellent answers for dealing with an old problem: Mister Bentham and the creators of the 1834 Poor Law reform were on the right track.

Since work is punishment, we can open up poor houses. To not impact upon her majesty’s purse, these can be run by the private sector; they merely need to provide common housing, meals and clothes. Since they do not need to purchase things as everything is being provided, wages are redundant. That will save money for both state and business leaders as since they are poor there is no reason to pay them the munificent minimum wage, they can work for their benefits. Since they will be fed, housed, and clothed, and they as such do not need to purchase things as all their needs are provided for them, even wages are essentially redundant. While some may fear that this will impact upon their consumption and hence upon realisation of profitability of goods produced by the private sector, we are certain that the consumption of these poor souls does not drive the system; that power solely belongs to the savings and investment of the wealthy. These people can serve the publick good, they even can be used as test subjects for our pharmaceutical industry. If all else fails and they cannot learn the importance of serving their betters with their labour, the perennial shortage of organs for transplant and the use of their wombs to help the wealthy childless can easily be arranged and they will have provided a service to the public.
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While one may accept this for the abled-bodied, what of the disabled? Nothing to fear, as our inestimable Mr. Bentham states:

“A person deprived of all his limbs, or the use of all his limbs may still possess ability sufficient to the purpose of serving as an inspector to most kinds of work, so long as his mental faculties, and sight for observing, and voice for questioning are possessed by him in sufficient rigour (Bentham, 1796, p. 46-7).”

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Why waste money on education for the working classes? They only need to know how to be useful in their roles as workers. They are clearly not learning this from their lazy voluntarily unemployed parents. Happily, the inestimable Mr Bentham comes to the rescue again, alas it will cost the government some money, but it will be recouped with their labour and will teach them at a young age the importance of the work ethic:

“Position 47: From the labour of a Minor, brought up and educated at the public charge, the public may, without injustice, hardship or even deviation from established law, or usage, reap the utmost profit that such labour can be made to yield, consistently with regard due, [...], to the health and permanent welfare of the individual, and that, from the period, whatever it may be, of his being taken under public care, until the expiration of his minority (Bentham, 1796, p. 53).”

That brings us to those too young to provide labour, the disabled that are unable to work and are such a drain on society’s resources and those that are too old and are no longer of any use to society and were improvident enough not to ensure their independent survival. These answers are so obvious, it surprises one that they haven’t been implemented earlier.

Clearly, the size of the population and the difficulty of producing sufficient quantities of food are leading to the rising prices of food. After replacement of the next generation of the working class (which we scientifically estimate at two for each family), the rest are redundant.

Meat and feeding grain to the food supply is rising due to the need to sustain the profitability of agribusiness. We can help by increasing the supply of meat; the tender flesh of the very young will better the diets of the poor and can be supplied at a low price and this will improve the ability to labour of the poorest by varying their diets. The flesh of the poor that are severely disabled and elderly and since their organs may be of limited transplant value would certainly serve as fertiliser to ensure an increase in grain production which should cut costs of fertilisers for agribusiness and will also be organically produced.

Since we know that the capitalist system provides full employment, we have no need of supplementing their demand for labour through the creation of state jobs. Clearly those that are unemployed are lazy and do not want to work at the going wages. If workers wanted more bargaining power in contract negotiations they would stop breeding.

Instead of encouraging cooperatives and alternative forms of production and consumption, we know that competition and the steady invisible hand of capitalism will provide for all who are willing to contribute their labour.

Instead of creating jobs by the state in sectors in which there is dire need like green manufacturing, transport, education, health care, child care, care for the elderly and infirm and building desperately needed social housing and where people receive long term training to do these jobs, have job protection and are paid union wages, why pay wages at all?
Instead of taxing wealth (land and stock portfolios for example), taxing all financial transactions, capital gains and corporations as well as introducing a more progressive income tax, why should we worry about the needs of the vast majority?

Instead of guaranteeing access to drinking water, health care, energy, heating and transport for all, we only need to cover those whose wealth deems them deserving of these luxuries. The wealthy have earned these things due to their greater intelligence, foresight in saving instead of consuming, and their obvious greater abilities than those without property. Redistribution of wealth will only impoverish all of the country as the poor cannot make good choices about managing their largesse.

Instead of ensuring income and services from cradle to grave, we can provide physical subsistence as long as people are able to give their labour. The wage is what the wage is, demanding a relationship to the costs of living only undermines profitability and we cannot do that in a period where certain sectors are facing declining profitability.

Instead of dumping the whole capitalist system where people’s needs are subsumed to profitability, where the planet is being destroyed in the name of profit and where people themselves become economically redundant, we should extend the system to the point where profitability is the only concern of governments as well as business and where voting is solely done by the propertied classes.

I beg you give my immodest proposal the consideration it deserves. To quote the inestimable Jonathan Swift whose own writing has provided the inspiration for this essay:

“I profess, in the sincerity of my heart, that I have not the least personal interest in endeavoring to promote this necessary work, having no other motive than the public good of my country, by advancing our trade, providing for infants, relieving the poor, and giving some pleasure to the rich.”

My deepest gratitude to

Bentham, Jeremy, (1796) “Essays on the Subject of the Poor Laws, Essay I and II,” in Writings on the Poor Laws, Volume I, pp. 3-65.

Swift, Jonathan (1729) “A Modest Proposal For Preventing The Children of Poor People in Ireland From Being A burden to Their Parents or Country, and For Making Them Beneficial to The Public.” (http://art-bin.com/art/omodest.html)

and the ConDem government without whom this essay would be sincerely unnecessary …

Working Class Self-Activity III: Walmart Workers Rising & the Prospects for Radical Politics

3:56 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Walmart Strike in Seattle, November 15, 2012.

Written by Le Gauchiste

“The emancipation of the working class must be the work of the working class itself.”

- Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels, 1879

On November 6, an electoral coalition made up mostly of working class Americans prevented the election victory of a reactionary party and slate of candidates whose policies would have wreaked untold misery on working people, including the poor, and wrecked the macro-economy as well. But the working class’s real political move this November has occurred not in voting booths but in Walmart parking lots across the country, where Walmart workers protested their wages and working conditions, even as, halfway around the world in Bangladesh, more than 100 textile workers making clothing for Walmart were killed by a fire caused by unsafe working conditions.

We have global capitalism, but have we a global working class or not?

The ongoing grassroots labor activism at Walmart in the U.S. reminds us that while the election is over the class struggle is not, and that class politics moves now from the voting booth to the workplace and the streets. For any Progressive whose political imagination extends beyond the narrow ideological confines of today’s two-party discourse, that is good news indeed. For those of us who consider ourselves socialists or radicals, it is essential, because those confines have rendered electoral politics basically irrelevant to advancing working class interests, as opposed merely to defending them.

Part I: What’s Going On?

Starting in June, Walmart workers have unleashed an unprecedented wave of labor unrest that has shaken the retail behemoth and its global supply chain. The ongoing protests reached one peak on so-called “Black Friday,” when 1,000 strikes and protests were held across the country and at least 500 Walmart workers walked off their jobs, making it the largest U.S. strike in the history of Walmart.

The Black Friday walkout was organized by the “Organization United for Respect at Wal-Mart” (OUR Walmart), a year-old group of Walmart employees sponsored by the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW). OUR Walmart and its allies the Warehouse Workers United Union and the National Guestworker Alliance are pushing for an end to unsafe working conditions, a living wage, benefits, and an end to corporate retaliation against employees for organizing activity.

Notice what is missing: There is no demand, or even request, for the formation of a union. Whatever the current Walmart activism is, it is not a union organizing drive, at least not formally and not today. The reason for that lies in the fact that an organizing drive at Walmart at the present time would lose spectacularly, setting back labor organizing in the retail branch of the service sector of the economy by a generation.

In any union drive, there are three basic elements: the workers, the company and the law, and in the case of Walmart all three elements work against labor, at least for now: If asked today Walmart employees would vote heavily against a union; Walmart corporate is ideologically anti-union, once actually closing a store (in Quebec) after its workers voted in a union; and the law is so heavily tilted in favor of employers and against unions that formal organizing drives are virtually a thing of the past.

So OUR Walmart instead emphasizes respect for employees and the problem of wealth inequality within the Walmart company. A low-level Walmart employee averages $8 an hour and won’t get a pay raise until after 6 years of committed employment. And even then, the raise only brings the worker’s pay to $10.60 an hour or $22,048 a year, still below the national poverty line for a family of four in 2012. Low wages force many Walmart employees to rely on food stamps and other government assistance to provide for their families.

Of course, this being capitalism, this poverty is by no means shared equally across the company. In 2011 Walmart’s net income was $15.7 billion, and the net worth of the Walton family totaled $89.5 billion in 2010, as much as the bottom 41.5 percent of U.S. families combined.

Part II: What Does It Mean?

“This struggle about the legal restriction of the hours of labor raged the more fiercely since, apart from frightened avarice, it told indeed upon the great contest between the blind rule of the supply and demand laws which form the political economy of the middle class, and social production controlled by social foresight, which forms the political economy of the working class. Hence the Ten Hours’ Bill was not only a great practical success; it was the victory of a principle; it was the first time that in broad daylight the political economy of the middle class succumbed to the political economy of the working class.”

- Karl Marx, 1864

The Walmart activism, limited as it is both in word and deed, is remarkable because of the significant role–both practical and symbolic–that Walmart plays in the political economy of the 21st century U.S. Walmart’s business model, based as it is on a philosophy of intrusively authoritarian management, payment of the lowest wages possible, and intransigent hostility to unions, is the epitome of neo-liberal business theory. Based in right-to-work Arkansas, Walmart has stayed almost entirely union-free for most of its existence.

The point is that Walmart, with its global supply chain and network of stores, is today’s equivalent of U.S. Steel or General Motors–what we used to call the “commanding heights” of the capitalist system of production. Scaling those heights is the most difficult and most crucial task, for just as the successful organizing drives at GM and USS helped lead to waves of organizing of heavy industry, so too could victory at Walmart open up the service sector to unions.

The company has never before dealt with coordinated labor protest on this scale. Dan Schlademan, director of Making Change at Walmart, another organization backed by the UFCW which works closely with OUR Walmart, explains the significance.

“In the past, Wal-Mart would fire people, would threaten people … and that would be enough to stop people in their tracks. The difference now is workers are using Wal-Mart’s own tactics to challenge the company and not backing down. Really, for the first time in Wal-Mart’s history, the tools that are used to keep people silent and under control are now being used against them. That’s significant.”

“Here is what’s so significant about this: this strike was about sending a message to Walmart that these workers won’t be silenced. This wasn’t a strike to try to cripple Walmart’s operation. This wasn’t a strike to impact their Black Friday sales. This was an unfair labor practices strike to send a message to Walmart that your retaliation is going to get a response like this: it is going to get publicized, and a tool they’ve been using is going to be used against them.”

Although, as noted above, OUR Walmart isn’t pushing for union representation, Schlademan explained why OUR Walmart. “All the other things that are the heart and soul of the labor movement and of workers’ organizing are there, which is collective action, workers pulling their resources together so they have a bigger voice, and utilizing the public to educate and build power to change the company.”

Schlademan said that OUR Walmart is in it for the long haul.

“It’s gotta start somewhere. … Workers are having enough. You look at the sit-down strike, you look at the civil-rights movement, you look at the women’s rights movement, you look at anything, you look at Occupy, right? It started off with a few people sleeping in a park, and it grew,” Schlademan said. “So this is a process—people are building a movement inside of Wal-Mart, and they’re building a movement outside of Wal-Mart. What was in October was the beginning. What’s gonna happen on Black Friday will be a continuation of that … and this will just continue to build.”

The number of union-related work stoppages involving more than 1,000 workers, which reached an all-time low of just five in 2009, rose to 13 this year as of October. And unions aren’t done yet.

Nurses are striking this week at hospitals operated by Sutter Health in California; workers voted against concessions at Hostess Brands Inc., forcing the company’s hand; pilots at American Airlines are wreaking havoc on the airline’s schedule as it tries to cut pension and other benefits.

Julius Getman, a labor expert at the University of Texas, points out that labor activism tends to snowball.

“There’s a lot of agitating going on, people are unhappy. They feel that they’re not being well-treated. There is a swelling of annoyance at the rich. If there really is turmoil at Wal-Mart on Friday, it will set in motion a lot of other protests. There will be a sense of, ‘Well, they did it, why shouldn’t we?’”

Photo by OURWalmart under Creative Commons license.