Editorial: Administering poverty

Charity demands that we don’t draw any connections between the declining vote in Labour strongholds, the looming election, and the Labour government’s latest announcement of plans to deal with the inner cities. £130 million (already announced) are to be directed towards “community” schemes.

Apparently, what the inner cities need is more leadership—Labour’s cult of middle management rolls on. Officers will be appointed to “represent” local communities, and guide public spending in the area, to ensure that centrally-set targets are met. Clearly, the poverty and poor conditions on these estates are solely down to an administrative oversight. These officers will not be elected, indeed the already existing local councils seem to be being by-passed by this scheme.

Blair pitched this plan as a redefinition of the relationship between the state and communities, calling upon volunteers to come forward and to take responsibility for their communities, which the government will then support, rather than lead. This won him plaudits from co-operativists and Liberals. The by-passing, however, of any semblance of democracy shows what this redefinition means: the state will act like corporate management approving projects as it sees fit, and power and appointments will flow from the top down. And spending will remain under strict government control.

In the aftermath of the Damilola Taylor murder, ministers wrung their hands at the breakdown of community, and media commentators harped on about what could be done to help these poor estates. No one talked about abolishing poverty. No-one talked about ending the root cause of the soul-destroying conditions of the estates. The poor will always be with us, it seems. The politicians and commentators just accepted, and thus condoned, that poverty would continue to exist.

Forty years on from the beginning of the project of “slum clearances”, when high-minded city planners thought it would be a good idea to house people in towers coloured suicide-grey, the problems continue to exist, and the ideal of abolishing poverty has been quietly dropped. All we are left with is Labour’s ongoing attempts to administer poverty. At least that way, they can be seen to do something.

Poverty is the direct and necessary result of the way the capitalist system works, and nothing can be done to end poverty, so long as the capitalist system remains accepted as the first premise for action. If these communities truly want to help themselves, they will need to begin organising to end capitalism once and for all.

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