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From The Socialist newspaper, 16 January 2019

Universal Credit: robbing the working class

photo Dan Moyle/CC

photo Dan Moyle/CC   (Click to enlarge)

David Maples, Lambeth and South West London Socialist Party

What is the real problem with Universal Credit? It's constantly in the news, with politicians criticising delays in payment and design flaws. But most do not address the fundamental issue: austerity.

The Universal Credit benefit system is part of the general Tory onslaught against the welfare state. The Socialist Party stands opposed to all these attacks, not just the worst features of them.

And some of the features of Universal Credit have yet to be widely publicised.

After decades of losing 'proper' jobs, many workers have had to resort to some kind of self-employment. They will soon be subject to the 'minimum income floor'. This assumes self-employed workers earn at least the minimum wage - regardless of actual earnings, which are often lower.

Universal Credit also includes punitive provisions aimed at forcing workers to increase their working hours - regardless of personal circumstances such as care responsibilities, or whether the additional work even exists.

Profit

These attacks are about propping up capitalist profit. Between 1966 and 1982, unemployed workers could get an earnings-related supplement to their unemployment benefit - up to 90% of previous earnings.

But having seen the potential strength of the trade union movement in the big battles of the 1970s, Margaret Thatcher's newly elected Tory government had a high priority of creating unemployment to try to weaken union power.

An overvalued pound made it harder to sell overseas. Combined with British industry's legacy of low investment levels - compared with rival capitalist economies like high-tech Germany - this resulted in mass redundancies.

Unemployment increased to three million. Against this background, the Tories wanted to reduce benefits to increase competition for jobs - to help drive down wages and restore profits.

Unemployment and underemployment are inherent within any economy based on market competition. Overall they are the fault of capitalism, not individual workers.

New system

A new welfare system needs to take this as its starting point, and also form part of a programme to replace profit-driven jobs chaos with democratic socialist planning - jobs for all. The Blairites instead pander to Tory 'benefit scrounger' myths because they defend the capitalist system.

A new welfare system must be based on a reasonable standard of living for claimants. Pro-capitalist politicians may criticise elements of Universal Credit. But they don't criticise the derisory level of benefits, exacerbated by the Tories' four-year in-work benefits freeze.

A new welfare system also has to have adequate administrative resources. PCS, the trade union for benefits workers in the Department for Work and Pensions, is calling for an extra 5,000 staff and a freeze on Universal Credit roll-out until its administrative disasters have been resolved.

Funding to advice bureaus, law centres and legal aid must be restored, so claimants can get help to receive their full entitlement.

Most urgently, Labour councils should use their existing financial powers to ensure no one is evicted, cold or hungry because of Universal Credit.

Jeremy Corbyn should promise to reimburse councils which underwrite all Universal Credit losses if he takes power. This could make the system unworkable, hasten the downfall of the Tory government, and prove to working-class voters that Corbyn is serious about fighting for them.

Tories out - scrap Universal Credit - fight for living wages and welfare. 21 billion a year in unclaimed benefits is the real scandal in the welfare system.

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In The Socialist 16 January 2019:


What we think

May facing Brexit vote catastrophe


Socialist Party news and analysis

After Grenfell, thousands still in high-rise firetrap blocks

Universal Credit: robbing the working class

30% of English secondaries in deficit

Them & Us


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

'Tories out' demo

A key task - strengthen Tamil Solidarity campaign


Council cuts

Glasgow: huge turnout to fight closure of Whitehill pool

Surrey: save our children's centres

Caerphilly: right-wing Islwyn Labour councillors fight to impose cuts

Nothing to declare? Dodgy councillors hide vested interests

North Tyneside: march to save our footbridge


Socialist history

The 1979 'Winter of Discontent'


International socialist news and analysis

USA: federal workers without pay - but immediate mass action can end shutdown

India: biggest general strike ever

France: union-led action and assemblies can defeat Macron

Mexico: police silence on horrific attack on CWI member


Workplace news and analysis

Unions must fight and demand nationalisation to save thousands of car industry jobs

Hundreds join Manc RMT picket line in solidarity after far-right attack

UCU: Vote Yes and Yes in the higher education pay and equality ballot

Re-elect Chris Baugh for AGS


Opinion

Sorry to Bother You: "Socialist film Botox that made me feel young again"

Brexit: The Uncivil War - an interesting but inaccurate portrayal of EU referendum

The Socialist Inbox


 

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