The Everything Shortage

Working class poverty remains a running sore incapable of remedy while capitalism lasts. After a century of patchwork tinkering this problem is still with us. Confident declarations by capitalist politicians and enacting of palliative reform legislation has not altered the situation.

Twenty-five years ago the 1950 Labour Government Manifesto claimed that “destitution has been banished”. Do social reformers really believe that this is possible? Apparently so. Even though social surveys carried out during the ‘fifties and ‘sixties’ revealed that in fact poverty had not been legislated away, Harold Wilson was peddling the same line in 1970. When asked if he would set up a Royal Commission on poverty in Great Britain he replied that he would not:

    “This Government has taken substantial steps towards the abolition of poverty by increasing the levels of benefit and by other measures, and we are currently promoting further legislation to this end. (Hansard 17th February, col. 209).”

There are now 43 different kinds of aid available to the poor. Has this altered the problem? The 1974 Poverty Report carried out by the Institute of Community Studies was published recently. Commenting on it the London Evening Standard (13th March) says

    “Surveys of Camden and Bethnal Green households included in a national report on poverty show  . . . that in general the very poor in Great Britain are getting poorer all the time.”

Mrs. Lucy Syson of the Institute claims that 19 per cent of the households in Camden were below the poverty line. The figure for Bethnal Green was a staggering 30 per cent. These figures are only marginally better than those produced in the 1880s by Charles Booth. He estimated that of the population of Islington and St. Pancras (part of present-day Camden) more than 30 per cent lived in poverty. In Bethnal Green the percentage of poverty was 44.6.

This is the much lauded social ‘progress’ of the past one hundred years. Is it not high time this poverty producing system was done away with once and for all?

Gwynn Thomas

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