The labour army wants YOU!

An 1890 poem by Rudyard Kipling, Tommy, (from the slang for a soldier, Tommy Atkins), tells of the contempt held toward the working class member of the Army by the civilian population. Until that is, they were required to go off and fight some war on behalf of British capitalism. It’s reasonable to assume that economic circumstances drove a lot of Tommies into the armed forces.

Herbert Kitchener was the Secretary of State for War during the 1914-1918 one (he drowned in 1916). Initially, the armed forces were able to swell their numbers with volunteers, but as time passed and large numbers of young working-class men were being led like lambs to the slaughter on the battlefields of France and beyond it was necessary to introduce conscription in 1916. Probably Kitchener is most well known for the recruiting poster in which he stares out whilst pointing at the viewer: Kitchener Wants You!

The present Conservative Member of Parliament for Chingford and Woodford Green appears to fancy himself as another Kitchener. Iain Duncan Smith’s not exhorting the working class via a poster. He’s aiming at the industrial reserve army of labour, more specifically, those who through disabilities and sickness of various kinds are physically unable to be waged/salaried wage slaves. Smith used an Op-ed in The Sun headlined, ‘We must get thousands of people on long term sickness back into work for the sake of the economy – here’s how’.

Data from the Department of Work and Pensions analysed by the Centre for Social Justice suggests there are some 1.6 million more claimants since 2020, costing the state around £13 billion more in welfare benefits. Reducing this number by getting more people back into work will help the government find the room it needs to invest in public services and reduce the tax burden ( What Smith wants is to lessen the tax burden for capitalists.

Smith’s predecessor in that constituency, also a Conservative, was a minister in Margaret Thatcher’s government. Norman Tebbit was, in a similar vein, fond of bashing the unemployed. Tebbit said the unemployed should get on their bikes and go look for work and get a job as his father had in the thirties.

Writing in Liverpool’s favourite tabloid, and in a very similar vein, Piers Morgan targeted ‘work-shy wastrels’: ‘Official UK unemployment numbers are at a near-record low of just under 4%. Yet staggeringly, a quarter of the people of working age – that’s over 10 million – don’t currently have a paid job. That includes students and carers, but it also includes vast numbers of people claiming to be sick and disabled and living off government handouts, or who’ve just taken early retirement. Add the enormous number of people on some form of benefits – estimated at over 5 million, many of whom are clearly gaming the easy life system – and Britain’s become a nation of shamefully unhealthy, entitled, couch potatoes. No wonder a recent poll had the UK being No1 in the world for having citizens who would most want to quit their jobs and do nothing if money was no issue.’

Note the ‘gaming’ and its inference that they are perpetuating a fraud of some kind. Has Morgan ever tried living off unemployment pay, or a basic state pension?

‘How the hell has it come to this? We’ve always been a country of ambitious and industrious grafters who’ve taken pride in putting a shift in’ ( Ha, the delusions of the well-heeled!

And there’s more! In a Bloomberg podcast, on 19 May, with Guy Hands, the billionaire chairman of a large private equity company, said, ‘I look at the UK and see that, in 2030, Poland will be wealthier than we are. In 2040, we will be the poor man in Europe’.

He opines, ‘the UK should not have left the EU, as the country needs rule of law and consistency, but not a single politician is talking about going back.’ He lamented that ‘Brexit has essentially thrown the country back 50 years, to the 1970s, a decade that is widely remembered as a time of crisis, with skyrocketing inflation, high unemployment, strikes and power cuts.’

‘Since the UK left the European Union, it has been competing on the world stage, but the country’s current laws are not suitable for the new environment.’

Now that the UK is out of the EU, the British government could take a radical approach and change some of its laws, Hands said, citing the country’s ‘extraordinarily complex’ labour laws that are a ‘nightmare’ compared to other European countries.

Nightmare labour laws! Perhaps capitalists would prefer a throwback to nineteenth century industrial relations?

We, the majority, would prefer socialism.


Next article: Chile during and after Salvador Allende ➤

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