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Jean Jaurès: The Anniversary of his Assassination, July 31st 1914. A Tribute.

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Jaurès was killed blindly, yet with reason:

‘let us have drums to beat down his great voice’.

The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Péguy. Geoffrey Hill.

A hundred years ago today, Jean Jaurès the leader of French socialism (SFIO, Section française de l’Internationale ouvrière), and Editor/Founder of l’Humanité were preparing an article against the coming war. Jaurès had supported the call of the Socialist International, launched by Keir Hardie and the Frenchman, Édouard Vaillant, to launch a general strike if armed fighting broke out.

By 1914 Europe was on the brink of war. At the end of July an emergency meeting of the Socialist International was held in Brussels, which endorsed a call for peace. On the 29th of July Jaurès spoke with Rosa Luxemburg, at a rally of seven thousand people against militarism and the coming confrontation at the Cirque Royal. He had already warned that fighting would lead to a catastrophe, “Quel massacre quelles ruines, quelle barbarie!” (Discours de Vaise. 25th July 1914) Now he talked of his “hatred of our chauvinists” and that we would not “give up the idea of a Franco-German rapprochement”. This looked less and less probable. Jaurès’ newspaper column (published after his death) would describe of the climate of “fear” and “anxiety” spreading across the continent.

Jaurès paused from his journalism and went to the near-by Café du Croissant to eat. At 20.45, the nationalist student Raoul Villain approached him and fired two bullets. One stuck his neck and was fatal. Villain claimed to have acted to “eliminate an enemy of the nation.”

The assassin was associated with Alsatian nationalists close to the far-right Action française. But hatred of Jaurès had been whipped up across the political spectrum. The Catholic libertarian socialist, poet, critic and Dreyfusard, Charles Péguy had been baying for his blood. Péguy described the Socialist leader as the representative of “German imperialism” in France, a “traitor” to the motherland in the service of “bourgeois parties”. (1)

Geoffrey Hill asked if Péguy had effectively incited the killer. (2) But there were many, many, others – not least amongst the ranks of the Action française and the ‘terre et ses morts’ nationalists like Maurice Barrès  – who loathed the inspirational clarity of Jaurès internationalism.

Today, as commemorations of the murder take place in France, Jaurès remains a moving figure for many people, in his home country, and in the socialist movement across the world.

The ‘Jaurésian synthesis’ has in many respects outlived the historical record of Jaurès the founder of the first united French socialist party. That is, his ability to capture and bring together ideas from Marxism, above all the ‘class struggle’, the understanding of capitalism and its historical development, with “social republicanism”, support for democracy and human rights.

One of his most celebrated campaigns was to back Dreyfus, a combat that led him into conflict with anti-Semitism, and religious intolerance. Jaurès advocated strongly secular public institutions, above all in education, a position which has still to make headway in countries like Britain where religious authority still holds sway over a large part of the left – with pretensions today to “multi-culturalism”. Secularism, he argued, does not mean imposing atheism, it is to free our common institutional life from the hold of any particular faith. Absolute freedom of personal belief was his watchword. These views, backing the 1905 law on the separation of Church and State, reflected the importance of the issue in France during the first decade of the 20th century. They were opposed, with venom,  by nationalists and the majority of practicing Catholics.

Above all Jaurès, while perhaps inclined to a romantic vision of the universalism of the French Revolution and its enduring influence inside French institutions, was equally prepared to fight with all his might against chauvinism, nationalist hatred….and war.

This, all of this, should be remembered.

On France-Inter this morning it was noted that the French Prime Minister, Michael Valls, claimed this year that Jaurès would have supported his deal with the employers, the ‘pacte de rèsponsibilité”. Former President Sarkozy claimed him for his educational ‘reforms. Even Marine Le Pen’s party organiser, Louis Alio,  has hailed his patriotism, suggesting during one European Election that the SFIO (the French section of the Workers’ International) would have backed the Front National. (3)

It is fitting that Jaurès should have made his last major public speech in the company of another martyr, the beloved Rosa Luxemburg. One doubts if any of the figures cited above would have felt comfortable in her company.

Reformist, compromiser, agent of German imperialism, able to bring people together, or to divide them, there are as many judgements of Jaurès as there are books and articles.

The war that broke out in earnest in the first week of August 1914 redrew the political map, as socialist parties across Europe rushed to support ‘their’ governments in the battle. It is worth recalling that some of his most virulent critics on the left, such as Gustave Hervé and Jules Guesde became rabid nationalists during the Great War, the latter joining the Union Sacrée  as a Government Minister.

Villain was put in gaol  and stayed there during the war. He was brought to trial in 1919. The murderer was acquitted in a jury trial on March 29.  Jaurès’s wife, plaintiff, was convicted in costs. Villain  later fled to Spain where he was killed by Republican soldiers during the Spanish Civil War.

Jaurès, above all the controversies, continues to loom large, and for many of us, flaws included, remains greatly honoured.

(1) Notre Partie. Vol. ll. Oeuvres en prose de Charles Péguy. La Pléaide. 1959

(2) “Did Péguy kill Jaurès? Did he incite the assassin? Must men stand by what they write as by their camp-beds or their weaponry or shell-shocked comrades while they sag and cry?” The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Péguy. Geoffrey Hill. Collected Poems. 1985.

(3) This use of Jaurès, which extends right through the French political spectrum, was recently analysed in L’art de tuer Jaurès. Jérôme Pellisier, Benoît Bréville. Le Monde Diplomatique. July 2014. See also Le Monde. Mélenchon, Valls, Aliot, Sarkozy… tous jaurésiens !,  Jaurès, un héritage très disputé. L’Humanité « Jaurès, un être engagé, complexe, comme chacun d’entre nous »

This is the FN’s claim,

Update.

Le président François Hollande signe des autographes lors de la commémoration du 100e anniversaire de la mort de Jean Jaurès, à Paris.

Le président François Hollande signe des autographes lors de la commémoration du 100e anniversaire de la mort de Jean Jaurès, à Paris. | AP/Yoan Valat.

See also this,  generous, piece, “Jean Jaurès Leon TrotskyKievskaya Mysl July 17, 1915

Mélenchon to take a Back-Seat on French Left?

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Now to Take a Back Seat? 

The co-President of the Parti de Gauche, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, has expressed his weariness, and his wish to take some distance. He estimates that the Front de Gauche has suffered a setback.

(Interview à Hexagones,Exclusive Interview with Jean-Luc Mélenchon. The leader of the Left Party announces his willingness to take a step back,  recharge his batteries, and says that it is time for him to pass the baton of leadership to others. He also noted the failure of the Left Front, and denounced the role of the media in the electoral breakthrough of the National Front.)

Mélenchon cited the need to escape from the pressures that his intense political activism, over the last five years, have brought.

He expressed the view that as a “big tree” he risked stunting the growth of the others in the left political “forest”  from growing.

It is time, the former Presidential candidate for the Front de gauche said, for new faces inside the Parti de gauche (his own group inside the bloc) to take a more prominent roles.

Mélenchon offered a critical balance-sheet of the Front de gauche, notably against the Parti Communiste Français (PCF) and their electoral arrangements with the Parti Socialiste (PS).

He did not hesitate to criticise the “functionaries” who had attempted to isolate the great man. (1)

concluded that his time would be spent in giving a detailed content to the general ideas of the left. Above all, “La question pour nous n’est pas de faire un parti révolutionnaire, c’est d’aider à la naissance d’un peuple révolutionnaire». The issue for us is not to build a revolutionary party, but to help a revolutionary people be born.

Adpated from Libération.

This follows troubles inside the Parti de Gauche earlier this month.

A small number of leading figures resigned their posts, protesting at the “centralisation” of the small party.

Tensions et démissions au sein du parti de Jean-Luc Mélenchon 3.7.2014.

The set-back of the European elections has produced a number of responses.

The Parti Communiste Français has talked of building a “people’s front”, (Passer du Front de gauche au front du peuple.)

It is known that dissatisfied members of the ruling Parti Socialiste (‘frondeurs’) are upset above all with plans to cut spending and toe the line of budgetary ‘rigour’.

Ensemble, the third force in the Front de gauche (grouping a number of left currents), has proposed expanding to a broader  “anti-austerity” front.

Is something like a French People’s Assembly on the cards?

(1) Les Echoes fills in the dots,

“Sans les nommer, il met en cause Pierre Laurent, le secrétaire national du Parti communiste ainsi que Ian Brossat, adjoint communiste d’Anne Hidalgo, responsables d’une stratégie d’alliance qui a « complètement décrédibilisé ce qu’était le Front de Gauche, explosé entre ceux qui ne voulaient pas d’alliance avec le PS et ceux qui se sont vautrés dans cette alliance.»

Se montrant très critique sur la ligne adoptée par le Parti communiste « plus institutionnelle, plus traditionnelle, où on continue à penser que la gauche est une réalité partiaire, organisée et qu’on peut rectifier le tir du Parti socialiste »,

 

France: Pro-Palestinian Protests and anti-Semitism at Sarcelles, Defending the Right to Demonstrate.

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Defying  the Ban on pro-Palestinian marches in France, on Saturday,

About 6,000 mostly peaceful protesters assembled in the Barbès area of northern Paris in defiance of a government ban. When the march was blocked by police lines after only 500 metres, a minority of young protesters started to hurl stones, bottles and sticks at the riot police.

There is a range of accounts of the responsibility for the incidents that took place, see L’Humanité, and Libération and an important direct reportage in the same paper, here.

A leader of the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste (NPA) said, “«La solidarité avec les Palestiniens doit pouvoir s’exprimer à Paris», a expliqué samedi à l’AFP Sandra Demarcq, membre de la direction du NPA, qui juge l’interdiction «illégitime et scandaleuse». We should be able to express solidarity with the Palestinians, explained to AFP Sandra Demarq, part of the leadership of the NPA, who judged the ban “illegitimate and scandalous”. According to the reporter at around 15.40,

Soudain, des groupes extrêmement équipés et organisés ont commencé à fendre la foule pour monter au contact des CRS. Ils avançaient en ligne, le visage couvert. A l’évidence, ils n’avaient rien de militants venus défendre la cause palestinienne. Certains arboraient des tee-shirts du virage Auteuil, une tribune du Parc des Princes.

Suddenly, extremely well organised and kitted out groups pushed their way through the crowd towards the front row of the CRS (riot police).

They advanced en bloc, faces covered. From what could be gleaned they had nothing of the look of activists who’d come to defend the Palestinian cause. Some of them were wearing the colours of Auteuil, a supporters’ group named after a football stand at the Parc des Princes.

In Sarcelles on Sunday however  events took a clearly and illegitimate  anti-Semitic  turn,

France’s interior minister on Monday slammed “intolerable” acts of anti-Semitism after a rally against Israel’s Gaza offensive descended into violence pitting an angry pro-Palestinian crowd against local Jewish businesses.

Sunday’s demonstration in the north Paris suburb of Sarcelles was the third to deteriorate in a week, as shops were looted and riot police lobbed tear gas and rubber bullets at the crowd.

The rally had been banned amid concern the Jewish community would be targeted after protesters last weekend tried to storm two synagogues in Paris.

“When you head for the synagogue, when you burn a corner shop because it is Jewish-owned, you are committing an anti-Semitic act,”Bernard Cazeneuve told reporters outside the Sarcelles synagogue.

In the Paris suburb sometimes nicknamed “little Jerusalem” for its large community of Sephardic Jews, the rally descended into chaos when dozens of youth – some masked – set fire to bins and lit firecrackers and smoke bombs.

Eighteen people were arrested after looters wrecked shops, including a kosher foodstore and a funeral home as protesters shouted: “Fuck Israel!”.

News 24.

The Independent says,

Riot police held back a mob of youths who tried to attacks two synagogues in the town of Sarcelles in the northern Paris suburbs.

A pro-Gaza demonstration in a town with a large Jewish population began peacefully but degenerated into attacks on Jewish and Chaldean businesses and four hours of running battles between youths and police. Several cars were burned. Three shops, including a Kosher grocery (1), were burned and pillaged. A railway station was severely damaged.

The interior minister, Bernard Cazeneve said today: “When you menace synagogues and when you burn a grocery because it is  Jewish-owned, you are committing anti-semitic acts…  That is intolerable. Protest against Israel is legitimate. Nothing can justify such violence.”

…..

Roger Cuikerman, head of the French umbrella groups of Jewish organisations, CRIF, said there was a growing anxiety amongst French jews.

Protest against Israeli government actions was one thing, he said. Attacks on Jews for being Jews were “deeply disturbing”. “They are not screaming ‘death to the Israelis’ on the streets of Paris,” he said. “They are screaming ‘death to the Jews’. They are attacking synagogues which are places of prayer.”

Bernard Cazeneuve, speaking at Sarcelles this morning, said (Le Monde),

Devant la presse, il a estimé qu’il était « légitime » de pouvoir exprimer une position sur les événements de Gaza, où au moins 502 Palestiniens ont été tuésdepuis le 8 juillet. En revanche, il a jugé « intolérable que l’on s’en prenne à des synagogues ou à des commerces parce qu’ils sont tenus par des juifs. Rien ne peut justifier de telles violence ». Dix-huit personnes ont été interpellées après les heurts, selon la police.

In front of the press he considered that it was “legitimate” to be able to express a position on the events in Gaza, where at least 502 Palestinians have been killed since the 8th of July. By contrast he judged that it is “intolerable that people attack synagogues and businesses because they are run by Jews. Nothing can justify such violence.” According to the police 18 people have been asserted after the incidents.

(1) The shop had been already the subject of a grenade attack in September 2013 (see here).

In an important Editorial today Le Monde says that the government’s ban on demonstrations is an admission of its impotence, “Manifestations interdites : l’aveu d’impuissance du gouvernement.”

The statement  notes that President Hollande is right to be concerned about the “importation” of the Israel-Palestinian conflict into France.

But they note that the right to demonstrate, within reasonable limits, is part of the foundations of the Republic.

They cite the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man, “ nul ne doit être inquiété pour ses opinions, même religieuses, pourvu que leur manifestation ne trouble pas l’ordre public établi par la loi ». 

Article 10, “No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.”

Le Monde then accuses the government, through its ban on demonstrations of solidarity with the Palestinians, of playing, “aux pompiers pyromanes.” (firefighting arsonists, figurative, “fig., personne qui provoque volontairement les maux qu’elle est censée combattre.”, somebody who creates the very problem they claim to be solving).

“Toute manifestation doit être déclarée à la Préfecture de police, en indiquant, au moins trois jours avant, sa date, son heure et son parcours. En d’autres termes, le droit de manifester fait partie des libertés publiques, mais il est légitimement encadré.”

Every demonstration, its timings, and its route,  must be notified to the Police authorities, at least 3 days in advance. In other respects the right to demonstrate, within defined limits, is part of our public freedoms.

Le Monde is absolutely right.

Positions of left parties:

Parti de Gauche “L’interdiction de la manifestation de soutien à la population de Gaza contre l’agression décidée par le gouvernement israélien était bien une provocation et une manipulation.” NPA, “La solidarité avec les Palestiniens est légitime et n’a rien à voir avec de l’antisémitisme !” Front de Gauche, “”Amplifier la solidarité avec le peuple palestinien, défendre le droit de manifester”.

Update: Declaration today (Monday 12st July) against ban on demonstrations by the Ligue des Droits de l’Homme, GAZA CROULE SOUS LES BOMBES, ISRAËL S’ENFERRE DANS LA RÉPRESSION, LES INTERDICTIONS DE MANIFESTER DU GOUVERNEMENT FRANÇAIS ATTISENT LES TENSIONS

Demonstration  on Wednesday now  authorised, Le Monde. 

Ex-Front National Candidate Gets 9 Months Prison for Racist Facebook Post.

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Far-Right Racist Attacks on Socialist Minister Taubira.

This was a major story on the French media this morning.

A former French local election candidate for the far-right National Front (FN) has been sentenced to nine months in prison for comparing the country’s black justice minister to a monkey. (1)

The court decision has sparked controversy in France, with anti-discrimination associations welcoming it as a reminder that racism should not be allowed to flourish but the party itself denouncing the move as “grotesquely disproportionate” and politically motivated.

Anne-Sophie Leclere provoked a storm last year when she compared Christiane Taubira to a monkey on French television and admitted to posting a photo-montage on Facebook that showed the justice minister, who is from French Guiana, alongside a baby chimpanzee.

The caption underneath the baby monkey said “At 18 months,” while the one under Taubira’s photograph read “Now”.

Leclere had been an FN candidate in Rethel in the northeastern Ardennes region for 2014 local elections, but the party soon dropped her and went on to do well in the March polls.

On Tuesday, a court in Cayenne — the capital of French Guiana — sentenced her to nine months in jail, barred her from standing in elections for five years and fined her 50,000 euros ($68,000).

It also slapped the FN with a 30,000-euro fine, putting an end to a case brought by French Guiana’s Walwari political party founded by Taubira.

Daily News.  AFP.

On France-Inter it was suggested that the absence of the accused (in French Guiana – South America) played a role in determining that there was a prison sentence.

Leclère said,

«Je n’ai pas tenu de propos racistes, j’ai juste reçu un photomontage sur Facebook dont je ne suis pas l’auteur. Je ne suis pas raciste», a affirmé l’intéressée, d’un ton empreint de colère contenue. «C’est une injustice, c’est un jugement partisan et politique», a-t-elle ajouté.

«On n’a trouvé aucun avocat pour nous représenter à Cayenne et je n’avais pas les moyens de me payer le billet d’avion», a expliqué Anne-Sophie Leclère au sujet de son absence au tribunal de Cayenne, saisi d’une plainte du mouvement guyanais Walwari destinée à «dénoncer le fond idéologique d’extrême droite du parti de Marine Le Pen».

I did not make racist remarks, I just cut and pasted a photomontage on Facebook (which I did not create). I am not racist” she asserted, her voice marked by anger, “It’s not right, it’s a politically biased decision.”

“I couldn’t find a lawyer to represent me at Cayenne, and I don’t have the resources to pay for a plane ticket there.” Anne-Sophie Leclère went on, explaining why she did not attend the Court in Cayenne, which was dealing with a complaint initiated by the Guianese movement, Walwari, which was aimed at “denouncing the basis of the extreme-right ideology of Marine Le Pen.”

Libération.

There will be appeals.

(1) The insult was truly vile: Taubira/guenon (female ape).

Reactions here.

The Work Agenda: What happened to the leisure society? Rory O’Kelly. Review.

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How Should We Look at Work? 

The Work Agenda: What happened to the leisure society? Rory O’Kelly.

Chartist Free E-Book.

O Laziness, have pity on our long misery! O Laziness, mother of the arts and noble virtues, be thou the balm of human anguish!

Paul Lafrague. The Right to Be Lazy. 1880.

One of the sections of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twentieth Century deals with the justification of colossal salaries and wealth. The media, he observes, is full of stories about business ‘stars’. They are used to indicate how graft and talent are rewarded. There is a “just inequality, based on merit, education, and the social utility of elites.” (1) Everything is slanted to suggest that that the majority of high-earners and the well-off deserve their rewards. Criticisms of pay and bonuses come when these are gained without apparent hard work.

Piketty enjoys pointing out that is impossible it is to demonstrate any connection between effort and reward in the modern economy. The part of social wealth going to Capital, and the well-off, increases regardless of individual cleverness or toil. Much depends on “luck”, the ability of top mangers to fix their own pay, and the influence of the wealthy to press for low taxes. Entrepreneurs, like Bill Gates, turn into rentiers, with more cash as they get older, they live off an initial innovation that was rarely one person’s discovery in the first place. In sum, to those that have, shall be given.

Many accept this case. But there are deeper problems. It is not just that certain kinds of elite work are valued, leaving others – the majority – aside. Why is ‘work’ itself such a self-evident virtue that it makes those not-in-work look as if they are afflicted by vice? O’Kelly begins the excellent and thought-provoking The Work Agenda, by stating, “Work is seen as good in itself and maximising the number of people working and the amount of work done as self-evidently right.”

This assumption looks strange in the light of 1960s (and much later) predictions about automation and the ‘leisure society’. Paul Lafargue looked forward to a time when, thanks to the abundance created by technology, slogging your guts out was not the goal of existence. The 1970s and 1980s saw criticisms of ‘productivism’ and the cult of labour in socialist ideology. André Gorz’s Adieux aux proletariat (1981) took up these ideas. He suggested that in a “post-industrial” society people should control what is produced. They could share work according to need, and wants, with a universal guaranteed income, and more and more free-time. More modestly the French left in the late 1990s thought that the 35 Hour week would be a step in this direction.

Today, however, O’Kelly says, the obsession with the absolute value of ‘work’ blocks people from considering a “rational way of sharing the output of a society across all the members of society.” Many people may well spend time on benefits, over the course of a lifetime. Others, of a whole range of reasons, may be on them for much longer. Structural long-term unemployment is a feature of all Western societies, as is the need to help those who are incapacitated

Instead of recognizing this, and adapting social spending to it, governments, from Tony Blair onwards, have tried to push everybody into work – regardless of their medical condition, the needs of the labour market, and the rights or wishes of those to be pushed in this direction.

Putting the Disabled to Work.

The Work Agenda does not dwell on the ideology of work. Instead it is devoted to how the doctrine is used to undermine the basis of social benefits. This is most obvious from changes to the benefits for the disabled. The idea that ‘work is the best form of welfare’ is applied to the sick (which covers a multitude of diverse categories of people). There is an economic rationale, “Getting people into work is pursued primarily as a way of reducing transfers between working and non-working people; in simple terms: the cost of benefits.”

Fitting square pegs into round holes barely begins to cover the injustices that have resulted from these policies. Known to the general public through the scandals surrounding ATOS, and the ‘assessments’ of those claiming disability benefits, these are part of a much wider picture. O’Kelly’s background in the social security system helps him come to grips with the detail. He clearly knows the operations of what is now the DWP inside out, and uses them to great advantage.

The Work Agenda lays out the history and rationale of the present structure, “The driver behind the Welfare Reform Act 2007 and the creation of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) was the belief that by changing the definition of incapacity sick or disabled people could be made capable of work.” As he notes, “Until recently the medical situation was taken as an objective starting point to which the benefit system then had to respond. The great change in 2007 was to take the needs of the benefit system as the starting point (my emphasis) and to change clinical definitions to conform to those needs.” This was, as we know, a Labour government, or ‘New Labour’,  that made this turn.

O’Kelly argues (on the basis of close acquaintance with the civil service decision-making) that there never was a time when large numbers of people were classified as medically unfit in order to reduce the unemployment figures. There were always rigorous tests. What has changed is that governments have decided to change their nature.

Now it might seem reasonable – and it’s repeated often enough – to assert that there are large numbers of people who “choose” not to work. But in the case of invalidity benefits there is a simple way of determining this: medical advice. Present legislation is designed to alter the character of this criterion. Instead even ill people can be judged “capable” of working – according to a fairly loose test of what being able to carry out basic tasks is, including those even those objectively unwell can do. This O’Kelly says, means. “Effectively moving sick people into employment without improving their health”. This process is “likely simply to transfer the costs of sickness from the benefit system to statutory sick pay and private sick pay schemes.”

The problem then is not that ATOS is a particularly venal organisation – though opinions might differ on this after the company’s dissembling and bleating about being harassed. It is the changed nature of the tests for incapacity that drives the injustices that they have caused.

A persistent case is that mental troubles are rarely easily definable according to a check-list of questions and a short interview with an assessor. There are plenty of other not always ‘visible’ illnesses. As the pamphlet indicates, “It is a striking fact that the classes of people whom the government is most anxious to take off benefits for incapacity overlap very largely with those whom no rational employer (in either the public or the private sector) would want to take on.” As somebody who has sat, during various employment courses, with people with very serious mental-health issues, and others with deep health problems, we might equally ask why they are obliged to take these “preparation for work” training schemes.

Back to First Principles.

Returning to question the principles he began with, O’Kelly makes the observation that “Work (i.e. paid work) is essentially economic activity; the creation of goods and services. It is not a form of welfare, it is not a form of therapy and it is not a punishment. It can of course be used in any of these ways, rather as a stiletto heel can be used to hammer a nail into a wall. It does not do the job very well, however, and it is not very good for the shoe either.”

The work agenda is used, in effect, to “Micro-manage the lives of the poor”. Not only the disabled on what is now the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), but anybody on benefits,

are now subjected to close surveillance over their lives. This erodes personal autonomy, and increases dependency. The DWP, and private companies gaining rent from public contracts, are entrusted with the power to grossly interfere in people’s lives. They claim rights over claimants. They have fewer and fewer responsibilities to them.

For those “success stories” who get off benefits, O’Kelly notes, “The present system does also however offer scope for giving notional employment (or self-employment) to people who are able to do very little and who will continue to get the great bulk of their income through the benefit system whether nominally ‘employed’ or not. Some of these people will get psychological benefits from ‘working’; for others the effect will be the reverse.”

It might be suggested, as O’Kelly does, that the Ministers in charge of these policies have little experience of the world of ordinary work themselves. More insidious is the influence of the welfare-to-work industry. They influence policy to an undue degree, essentially with their claims to propel people into the – self evidently good – world of work. That claimants dislike them and that they are unable to meet the demands of their contracts (notoriously over the Work Programme) and capable of dissembling about their operations, is ignored.

In the meantime few people question the absolute value of this “work”, or why so many people spend their lives in low-paid, insecure, unrewarding employment. Or why those with Capital get so much more, including a slice of the revenue of those obliged to claim benefits – forced onto the welfare-to-work schemes run with the profits of wealthy private contractors foremost in mind. The culmination of this process will come when claimants will, as the Help to Work programme intends, have to work for their benefits. (2)

*******

(1) Page 419 Capital in the Twenty-first Century. Thomas Piketty. Harvard University Press. 2014.

(2) Picketty suggests that some free marketers propose the following “Instead of holding public debt via their financial investments, the wealthiest European households would becomes the direct owners of schools, hospitals, police stations, and so on. Everyone else would then have to pay rent to use these assets and continue to produce the associated public services.”(Page 541 – 2 Op cit). This is in effect happening in the United Kingdom, beginning with PFI. The welfare-to-work industry in effect is given a chunk of the welfare state and everybody’s taxes are used to pay rent to the owners of their enterprises.

You can read The Work Agenda as a free E-Book by clicking here.