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Monday, 31 January 2011

are our governments turning more authoritarian ?

As we have seen over the last few months with more and more protests taking to our streets around the globe. Be it in North Africa in Tunisia or Egypt where the main news is focussed on heavily at the moment.

In 2010 we saw towards the end of the year mass scale protests on the streets of London and Greece towards their governments . In Britain it was the student movement taking to the streets to fight against the trebling of tuitian fees and the scrapping of the EMA allowance.

Whilst out on the streets i have noticed more and more reports that police tactics during these protests is becoming more and more heavy handed. I find this quite worrying. The oppressed in these countries are already oppressed so why do the governments of these countries feel the need to clamp down even more on them.

Even in Britain i'm hearing noises from the government and Labour that strike action by unions trying to protect jobs will be frowned upon and the laws may even be changed to prevent strike action. This to me is nothing else but authoritarian and governments around the world are becoming more and more like this.

Whatever happened to our right to protest ?

We seem to be dictated to when and how we can protest. Fair enough we must keep within the law but saying people cant strike or protest and flex their democratic right then waht kind of society are we really living in ?
It would seem as though we are turning into a police state in this country, Britain that is, With heavy handed police tactics being enforced on our streets on protesters it looks as though they are coming down on people with a opinion in a heavy way.


To even have the leader of the labour party and various MP's critesise unions for even wishing to strike and take industrial action to protect their jobs and conditions of their workers is a sign of how far we have come. This also shows how much the labour party is now in the hands of the capitalists it likes to protect. The labour party used to be out to protect workers rights and the workers movement this seems to be a distant memory now as they look to prop up our banks and protect big business who continuely exploit their workers year after year.

So it is a worrying sign if our governments are looking to clamp down on us having a voice. It seems they want a society as do as i say and follow us and you can only have a say if we allow you too.

It certainly does feel like we are heading back to the past where in victorian times there was a huge gulf in class's and a real distinction between class's.

I do hope either the lib dems or labour realise their roots and stand up for ordinary working people wishing to protest to protect their lives, jobs, benifits, working conditions and everything that is currently under threat peacefully and lawfully and without attacking them for doing this.

We wait and see.....

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Is democracy really the way forward ?

Let me start by saying i am all for democracy and think it is a good thing, but my point with this post is to ask is it right we try and inflict our version of it on other countries and continents around the world ?

We see over the last week or so in Egypt a huge uprising on the streets of Egypt fighting back against their oppressive governments. I applaud their efforts to rid themselves of a leader who has a too strong grip on the country.

But democracy this idealistic system we seem to talk like it is the holy grail of living your life. Is it compatable for everyone around the world ? Could it not be modified to allow people a greater say. As lets be honest what we call democracy is not a real democracy is it ?

The real working people of this country dont really have a say

Ok we have a vote we can cast every 5 years or so but what does that get us, a elected bureaucrat who sits in parliament telling us waht to do. If we try to lobby our MP's which i have tried before we get a set of templated waffle of what their party line is. These Mp's claim they know about the people, in reality they havent a clue. SO this lovely thing we call democracy starts to look more of a farce the deeper you look into it.

On the face of it compared to a dictatorship it is certainly a better system but as far as giving people ordinary people on the street a true voice it still fails as far as i can see. I'm not against democracy at all i just feel that this form of it suits our ruling class and the capitalist system the best and so the leaders of the world will continue to promote it as it tightens their grip on the worlds finances. So i wonder if democracy could be reformed for want of a better word. Looked into and allowing the people to have more control of the wealth of a country and the power. Rather than it being held all at the top by a elite few who we democratically elect could we not give them less power or give more power to the people as cliche as that sounds.

When America and Britain invaded Iraq to over throw Saddam Hussain it was being touted in the name of democracy, giving freedom back to the people. Although this was true to a degree it will only allow the chance for another leader of similar nature to cease power in this country. Is it not the case that some nations are not ready for democracy to be forced upon them ? Should they not come to that decision by themselves rather than western nations thinking oh your people have no say lets invade you and give you democracy without stopping to think if this is good for them or will lead to a eventual better place for people to live. Giving a country democracy when it hasnt had it before can be a risky thing and i think the west should be warey of appearing as teh policeman of the world looking out for countries and meddling in their internal business. Afterall we wouldnt like it if other countries tried to inflict a way of life on us so why do we do it to others in the name of fairness and freedom.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Is a social elite running our country ?

Watching posher and posher : why public school boys run britain last night presented by Andrew Neill who himself has done very well for himself made me realise that the social elite who make it to the very top of running this country and decisin making is shrinking.

To many at the bottom of the ladder this is no surprise but to many in the middle class this is a big surprise. To many who still stand by the belief that labour is for the working class will have gained a stark reality check last night if they watched this show that i watched.

As further down i have posted an article i found about this programme aired on wednesday 26th of January further outlines it isnt just the tories becoming more elitest and exclusive boys club.

For all their gushing rhetoric about change and inclusiveness, MPs of all parties tend to look remarkably similar. And for all their talk about diversity, it is worth noting that a pitiful 11 out of 306 Tory MPs are black or Asian, while Labour boasts just 16 and the Lib Dems none at all.

The figures on education are even more revealing. Of our 119 Government ministers, 66 per cent went to public schools, compared with only 7 per cent of the population as a whole. And what is more, a staggering 10 per cent went to just one school, Eton.

The Old Etonians themselves insist none of this matters. ‘What people are interested in,’ Mr Cameron recently insisted, ‘is not where you come from but where you’re going, what you’ve got to offer the country.’

But, of course, this is precisely what you would expect him to say. And in the BBC2 documentary, we are treated to the entertaining spectacle of the Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg — the Old Etonian son of a former editor of The Times who once, almost incredibly, campaigned alongside his old nanny — denying that he belongs to a privileged class. ‘I’m a man of the people,’ he says, barely bothering to ­conceal a smirk.

As the fortunate beneficiary of a public school and Oxbridge education, I am hardly well placed to start throwing stones. But my own cloistered experience only reinforces my fear that politics is becoming the preserve of a narrow, gilded elite.
Eton crop: David Cameron and Jacob Rees-Mogg are products of England's most exclusive private school



The tragedy is that in the past few decades, we have taken a historic step backwards. Between 1964 and 1997, not only had every British Prime ­Minister been educated at a grammar school, but many came from distinctly humble working-class backgrounds.

They were the beneficiaries of a golden age of social mobility, an age when the education ­system promoted bright children from poor backgrounds and Britain’s booming manufacturing ­industries offered a ladder up to working-class youngsters with few qualifications.

From Harold Wilson and Ted Heath to Margaret Thatcher and John Major, Britain was ­governed by men and women who had won their laurels through hard work and talent, not birth and breeding.

And one obvious reason why Mrs Thatcher won so many ­elections was that — as the grammar-school-educated daughter of a Grantham grocer — she instinctively understood the values and ambitions of so many ordinary people.

By the time she became Prime Minister in 1979, however, mobility had stalled. Grammar schools had been scrapped to make way for comprehensives, manufacturing industry was in deep decline, and generations of poor youngsters were ­condemned to low-paid jobs in the service sector.

But if the contrast between Conservatives past and present is only too glaring, then so is that between the working-class MPs who once led the Labour Party and their metropolitan, Oxford-educated successors.
Leader: Ed Miliband
Picked: Yvette Cooper
Bright: Ed Balls


With Alan Johnson gone, Labour is dominated by three people — Ed Miliband, Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper — with remarkably similar backgrounds.

The son of a Marxist academic, Miliband grew up in the heart of the North London intelligentsia, while Ed Balls went to the ­private all-boys Nottingham High School. All three of them were educated at Oxford, and all three went on to Harvard.

And although Ed Miliband can point to a comprehensive school education, his alma mater was hardly your typical state school. Like his brother, David, he went to Haverstock Comprehensive in North London — effectively a ­finishing school for what even The Guardian calls the ‘trendy, arty and liberal’ teenagers of Camden and Hampstead.

None of Labour’s senior figures, needless to say, has ever held a serious job outside politics for more than a few years. And as if that were not enough, it is worth noting that all five of last year’s Labour leadership ­candidates had been to Oxford or Cambridge.

But it is not only the party ­leaderships that seem worryingly out of touch. In his BBC2 film, Andrew Neil visits Stoke-on-Trent, a safe Labour seat that last year faced a highly revealing choice.

With Stoke’s long-serving MP stepping down, many people expected the seat to go to the secretary of the local Labour Party, Gary Elsby, who had lived all his life in the area and had been a party member for 30 years.

But, of course, Mr Elsby’s background was all wrong. He had not gone to private school; he had not gone to Oxford; he had not even gone to Cambridge.

Chosen one: Tristram Hunt
So Labour’s national executive ensured that the seat went to someone supposedly much ­better equipped to represent the ­ordinary people of the Potteries: the TV historian Tristram Hunt, son of a Labour peer, ­educated privately at University College School, Hampstead, and Oxford, and a close friend of Peter Mandelson.

For all Mr Hunt’s brains, he could hardly be said to reflect the anxieties and ambitions of the typical Stoke-on-Trent family. His elevation, sadly, was all too ­typical of a political elite in which self-made men such as Alan Johnson and David Davis remain rare exceptions.

Thanks to the death of grammar schools and the decline of manufacturing, the ladders have been kicked away. The process has become self-reinforcing: with an increasingly wealthy, narrow elite in charge at the top and a broad, under-educated, neglected mass at the bottom, few working-class children now even imagine they could ever get to the top.

Reversing the slide back to the 18th century, when politics was the plaything of a rich metropolitan elite, will take more than one parliamentary term. An obvious first step would be to bring back state grammar schools, which at their peak offered a real chance to thousands of bright working-class boys and girls.
Another would be to invest in apprenticeships in manufacturing industries, so that school-­leavers no longer troop to the nearest call centre. And a third would be to institute open ­contests for all parliamentary candidates, with shortlists determined by local activists rather than Westminster party fixers.

What makes this issue so urgent is that in the next few years, with the Government’s cuts beginning to bite and a quick recovery highly unlikely, ordinary Britons will be forced to pull in their belts tighter than at any time in living memory.

For many people, economic austerity will mean real pain. They are unlikely to be mollified by pictures of Coalition ministers enjoying themselves on the ski slopes. And if they doubt that the political class understands or shares their hardship, they are likely to look outside the mainstream for answers.

The death of social mobility was one of the greatest betrayals of the past 40 years. And Mr ­Cameron’s priority must be to turn back the clock.



All this is very interesting to me. I feel that this programme reflected on a culture at the top. A political ruling class that is extremely hard to break into and even harder if you are from a working class background with little money to spare to get you to one of these top colleges or universitys.

I personally feel it is wrong of labour to portray itself still as a working class party as in my opinion it doesnt represent ordinary working people anymore. Was it thinking about the ordinary people when it tried to sell off the post office to consignia ? was it thinking of ordinary people when they propped up the banks and pumped our money into them ? course not, they like the tories are on the side of business and capitalism. Dont get me wrong labour wasnt always like this. It used to represent working people and represent their views at a national level. I think maybe at a local level this is still the case but the ones you find in Westminster today are from a different world to the rest of us.

Unless you have grown up with wealthy parents happy to pay to send you to Eton or any other of these exclusive private schools you are severely impended as to how far you can actually go in life.

As a socialist i dont crave power or fame but the modern day labour party appears to crave both with claiming all sorts when it comes to elections. It is not and will never be a socialist party they support capitalism and what socialist party can seriously say it does that ?

They sold its members out to the big corperations years ago. The big trades unions dont even have a big say in labours internal politics much anymore. It is a sad state of affairs for a once great workers party.

Ed miliband has a huge task on his hands i feel and i'm not sure how far he can go with his modernising the party the party will be unrecognisable from the early days of its creation if Ed and other political careerists get their way i'm afraid.

As the documentary rightly explains the private schools provide nearly all of our modern day polititians and i do feel personally that the abolishment of all private schools bringing class out of the education system would fix this. Having no school better off than another will discourage elitism and lead to a much more fairer society in my view.

The Socialist Way: Egyptians demand: No to poverty, No to unemploymen...

The Socialist Way: Egyptians demand: No to poverty, No to unemploymen...: "Poster reads: No to poverty, No to unemployment, No to torture' Well there is one definite, precise, explicit and clearly defined mood..."

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

A Very Public Sociologist: Socialist Party on NSSN Anti-Cuts Campaign

A Very Public Sociologist: Socialist Party on NSSN Anti-Cuts Campaign: "This has been circulated to Socialist Party activists after Saturday's conference of the National Shop Stewards' Network agreed to set up it..."

The Broken Of Britain: Early Day Motion on the Disability Living Allowanc...

The Broken Of Britain: Early Day Motion on the Disability Living Allowanc...: "The Broken of Britain is delighted to announce that an Early Day Motion (EDM) has been tabled in the House of Commons on the DLA reform cons..."

Coalitions plans clearly not working

So today the national office for statistics published its results of growth between October 2010 and December 2011 and reported that the UK's economy shrunk by a estimated 0.5% between those dates. a huge well done to the con-dems. your plan is successfully failing. Another quarter like that early 2011 and we will be back in recession. Fantastic work guys. Is this what they meant by change vote for change at the election last year ? must have been. MOre and more cuts and record VAT on items and rocketing inflation.

The tories have unveailed a time bomb now and i think they will struggle to get the economy going again. It seems as though they are obsessed with cuts and this shrinking of the GDP of the country will probably only encourage them to carry out more cuts more harder and deeper.

They think that cuts are the answer, well are they the answer so far ? i would strongly say not

what is their plan B if we do slip back into recession, carry on cutting ? god help us

from the bbc :
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/

Monday, 24 January 2011

The Socialist Way: Bankers party and the young suffer...

The Socialist Way: Bankers party and the young suffer...: "Unemployment has now reached 2.5 million, according to the Office for National Statistics, and of course that’s if you trust these figure..."

What is the Gay agenda ?

Alot of talk today on twitter has been a bout this article by Melanie Phillips in the Daily Mail
http://istyosty.com/81u

She describes the gay agenda taking over british society and now our children will be indoctranated by having gay examples rammed down their throats effectively.

How this woman can write such inflamatory comments and get away with it astounds me personally.
I am not gay myself but have a lot of gay friends who are lovely people who i respect very much. Some have had to overcome a lot of struggles in their life already.

I treat them just like anyone else as they are just like anyone else, What they choose to do behind closed doors is no business of mine. I find the Daily mail becoming more and more contravertail in their stories these days. Is there not a week that goes by they dont offend a certain minority group in society ?


As a person who likes to stand up for peoples rights and freedoms i find these comments by Miss Phillips intensely sickening and do little to help bring this country to a more equal standing for gay and bisexual people. Why we have to make such a big deal out of it i dont understand anyway.


I would like to hear more about waht the "gay agenda" actually is as i really dont see it at all. It is just hysteria created by a journalist with a axe to grind it seems with the gay community.

It is a crying shame that kids and young people cant feel free to be what they want to be and face no discrimination is unreal.

The fact of the matter is that if this article had been about a different group in society lets say foreigners for example imigrants to this country there would be no end of trouble after this article.

I feel people like Melanie need to consider waht they are doing to help gay rights by publishing these thoughts of hers and how her article has progressed things.

There is still a hell of a lot of homophobia in this country sadly and i still do feel we are along way away from ending any prejudices, indeed if we ever do when articles like this persist in surfacing in our daily national newspapers.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

The extreme weather of late

So i just read on the bbc news that 800 people are known to have died in Brazil with a further 400 presumed dead or missing. With just last month and still now there have been some terrible floods in Queensland in Austrlia where they have had droughts for years and years now under huge amounts of water.

In brazilThe Brazilian government has said it will set up an early warning system to alert communities of impending danger.

The flooding is considered the worst natural disaster Brazil has ever experienced.

According to figures compiled by the newspaper O Globo, a third of all victims were under age.

The youngest fatality was a five-day-old baby buried in a mudslide in Nova Friburgo, the worst affected town with 324 dead.

Continuing danger

The number of missing has been declining as forensic experts identify more bodies, but rescue workers fear the full extent of the disaster is not yet known, with some remote communities still only reachable by helicopter.


Funeral workers said some dogs were guarding their owners' graves for days Emergency workers say their priority is to make sure no new deaths occur.

They are warning of the risks of contaminated water.

Three people are known to have contracted leptospirosis, an infectious bacterial disease, which is caused by exposure to water contaminated with rats' urine.

In Teresopolis, doctors have been administering thousands of tetanus vaccines.

In Sao Jose do Vale, workers were erecting more than a hundred tents sent from the UK to house those whose homes were swept away or flooded.

Volunteers in Rio de Janeiro held an adoption fair in the hope of re-homing some of the 5,000 animals left without owners as a result of the disaster.

The government has allocated $240m (£150m) in emergency reconstruction money for the area.


Two points really one is are these more frequent natural disasters a natural problem that we cant do much about or is this another consequence of global warming affecting us now. As my blogpost earlier detailed the affect of capitalism and industralisation is having such a huge impact on our planet and i still dont think we have seen the true consequences of all this.

The trouble is alot of these disasters that mostly the west and now China now are creating due to excessive pollution into the earth's atmosphere over a number of years most of the natural disasters are happening to 3rd world or developing countries who have little infrustructure to deal with large scale disaster. From teh article from the bbc i just posted above the small fund the brazilian government can give to disasters like this is low compared to if this kind of disaster happened in the western world. I do conceed that when America and New orleans faced wide spread flooding and destruction after hurricane Katrina they to were slow to react but i partly think that was down to them not being ready or prepared properly not lack of funds.

But my second point is that howcomes disasters in the 3rd and developing worlds recieve such little attention in our news these days ? Our news seems very biased towards western based news stories and rarely make a big deal of disasters like this i have just posted. Why is this do we think ?

link to bbc article on brazilian floods :
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-12263166?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

capitalism and its effects on global warming

I've taken a greater interest in our environment in recent years and have been reading various green activists blogs and articles from the eco movement. I thought i'd run a little blog piece on the affects of capitalism on our planet and our environment as a whole.

As well as capitalisms many bad points i disagree with one of the worst parts of it the greater need for more and more money to keep the few at the very top of society pleased while the many suffer could not be any better summed up than on the point of the environment. Where industry is catapulted into the fore front of everyones mind in the western world during the times of the industralil revolution for example we almost grew so quickly we barely stod still to think of waht affect this will have on our planet and the world we live in today.

Now in the 21st century our western world is very commercialised with factories and industy in nearly every part we have severely lost sight of what is fundamental to human life surviving on this planet in its current form.

As we continue to grow as a largely capitalist system in the west anyway i see less and less thought being shown to the environment and the planet.

I have been doing a bit of research into this topic about how the capitalist system effects the planet and found this little short article interesting.


The issue of global warming has received increased attention in the major media, following record warmth in a number of regions of the globe. Studies have been published indicating that the effects of global warming are manifold, and are already beginning to show themselves. While much of what appears in the press is merely speculation, it is becoming increasingly obvious that something must be done to halt the flow of heat-trapping gases responsible for warming—most importantly carbon dioxide, which is released through the burning of oil and coal.

The environmental effects of global warming include increases in sea levels and precipitation; more severe weather patterns (hurricanes, etc.); and greater prevalence of illnesses transmitted by mosquitoes and ticks, such as malaria and Lyme Disease. Potentially more devastating would be the effects of climate change on agriculture, especially in developing nations, which lack the technology that would help developed nations adapt to climate shifts. It goes without saying that the immediate consequences of global warming, like the consequences of other natural disasters, will fall most heavily upon the poor.

The oil and coal industries are major economic forces, and thus the environmental issue of global warming takes on an economic and political character. In order to understand the current and possible measures to reduce global warming, it is necessary to understand how the political and economic factors interact. This is the problem that Ross Gelbspan deals with in his book The Heat is On, published in 1997 and revised in 1998.

The politics of global warming


The leading cause of human-produced CO2 comes from the combustion of fossil fuels, especially oil and coal. At present, oil and coal are essential energy sources for all of humanity. Thus, it is not possible simply to limit the consumption of oil and coal, as was done with ozone-depleting CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons). Indeed, as various countries such as China and India continue the process of industrialization, and as human population in general increases, more energy will be consumed.

In order to curb the process of global warming there must be a change in the means of energy production on a world scale, from oil and coal to more efficient sources such as solar power. If no societal restrictions were placed on human development, this in itself would certainly be a solvable problem. Already the basic technology exists that would allow for such a change. In a capitalist society, however, the main stimulus for change is not concern for human or environmental welfare, but rather the continual drive for profit.

The major point that Gelbspan makes in his book is that the conflicts over global warming policy are for the most part fueled by the contrary interests of different sections of big business. Certain sections of the capitalist class, most notably insurance industries, stand to lose a lot of money if the environmental effects of global warming are not prevented. There also exists a prominent group of corporations calling themselves the International Climate Change Partnership (ICCP)—consisting of AT&T, Dow Chemical, DuPont, General Electric and others—who have invested a lot of money on research in alternative energy sources and see in an energy source switch a potential for large increases in profit.

Opposed to these groups stand the enormous oil, gas, mining and automotive industries. These industries can strongly influence political decisions in a direct manner via campaign contributions. During the period of 1995-96, oil and gas companies donated $20.8 million to candidates for the United States Senate and Congress. During the same year, mining industries gave $2.7 million, and auto industries $3.8 million.[1] All these sectors have a vested interest in seeing oil, coal and gas continue as the principal energy sources. Their enormous size and capital reserves put them in a position to spend large amounts of money to contribute to politicians, hire scientists, and inundate the public with media campaigns supporting their practices and interests.

Gelbspan goes this far in his analysis. He claims that measures to stop global warming are blocked due to the political influence that these economically powerful industries can exert. Certainly this factor is important. To stop at this level, however, is to fail to realize that oil and coal play a much larger role in the economy of nations than other commodities, and that the effect of these commodities on political processes extends far beyond the lobbying of interest groups. All countries must have a source of energy in order to survive. Moreover oil and coal—to a greater extent than any of the other basic commodities (e.g., agriculture)—are localized commodities; they exist only in certain portions of the globe.

Thus, the ability to access these areas is a major measure of world power. Those nations that control oil can assert themselves on a global scale. The United States has fought two wars in the past 10 years—in Iraq and in Yugoslavia—in which access to oil was a major factor. On the international scale, capitalist competition exists not only between individual corporations, but also between individual nations (i.e., competition between states representing rival capitalist classes). Because of the peculiar character of the energy commodity and its importance on a global scale, competition between corporations for access to energy transforms itself into competition between nations over world markets and world power. Those nations who currently and potentially have control over oil and coal reserves have a vested interest in maintaining the energy status quo.

Given these facts it is not surprising that every attempt to institute carbon emission reduction measures has proved ineffective. The treaties upon which the international capitalist community has actually reached an agreement have been utterly useless. The Kyoto treaty signed in 1997 was so full of loopholes (euphemistically called "flexibilities" by the US government)—such as "emissions trading," whereby the industrial nations can buy CO2 credits from other nations whose emissions were below the level stipulated in the treaty—that no basic change could occur. In addition, a viable means of enforcing such treaties does not, and will never, exist. Nevertheless, the treaty failed ratification in the United States Congress, and has proved ineffective on an international level.[2]

In addition to the failure of carbon emissions reduction treaties, oil and coal industries continue to receive subsidies from all major developed nations.[3] These subsidies serve to drive down oil prices, disrupting the "natural" process of capitalist competition, and ensuring that oil and coal maintain their dominant position in the energy market. Within the capitalist system, these subsidies will necessarily continue; imperialist powers will continue to fight over oilfields and world power, contributing to the inexorable development towards future wars and the breakdown of the capitalist system.

I found this article very interesting for several reasons but the main point which worries me the most and is the main point i'd like to make from this blogpost here is taht it is very concerning that the richa nd the people in the world who focus on their money would rather care more for how much money they have made per week than how much of an affect their exploitation of the planet we all share has had over that given week.

All the signs are very worrying from environmentalists and scientists alike that our earth is on a course for disaster not that long off.

People living today may feel that this may never happen in their life time but it really can and well might if we keep on developing in the shape and speed of which we are.

With the fast growing countries like India and China this will only add to the speed of this process.


Socialist views on global warming :

Socialists as i will detail below in Marx's thoughts are not all environmentalists and care for the planet but there are a strand of eco-socialists which tap into the green movement who do care deeply about our planet and the destruction capitalism is having on our planet. I would like to see if socialism ever gets re-introduced into peoples thoughts that environmental issues become an important factor in socialism too. I for one would love to see a class less system which focus's on protecting our planet while at the same time providing for everyone in a efficient manner. Be that food or energy. I believe this can be done with a change in the way we think.

As some of you may or not know i have been reading a lot of what Karl Marx has said a bout socialism and his written pieces are becoming very relevant i feel. So below i have found a piece of what Marx thought on the environment.

Marx thoughts :

Marx is, for a lot of people, seen just as being a single-minded proponent of industrialism, and the extent to which he was a critic of industrialism - or of capitalist industrialism - is sometimes overlooked. And certainly there were a lot of Marxists who were anti-ecological, just as there have been anti-ecological thinkers in all of the major political traditions. The text that people most often read is The Communist Manifesto, and they remember his panegyric to the bourgeoisie - the first part of the manifesto where Marx glories in capitalist industrialisation, the constant revolutionisation of the means of production, the development of modern industry and its expansion across the globe. What they fail to recognise is that at the same time Marx was seeing this as a major development - in many ways a progressive development - he was also critical of it in many ways, seeing the other side of industrialism not only with respect to class but also with respect to the environment. Marx's more ecological writings are usually skipped over or ignored. In his work Capital he wrote about the effects of the industrialisation of agriculture and the destruction of the soil.


There is a lot of propaganda, misinformation and some facts of history about Marx's ecology that give people these perceptions. The irony is even though Marx is portrayed as anti-environmental, we are increasingly relying on his ideas in order to understand the relationship between environment and society.


He actually came up with an understanding of sustainable development. He specifically argued that we have to protect the earth - he talked about what would happen if we destroyed the soil, creating the metabolic rift between human beings and nature. The Marxist notion of metabolic rift is now being used by various thinkers to analyse the problems of the oceans, global warming and so on. There are no other thinkers of that period, the 19th century, who really had such a penetrative insight into the relationship between ecological crises and the construction of our society.



So to conclude i do think that capitalism and globl warming do go hand in hand. Global warming for me is a by product or a effect of capitailism and a ending of one will end the other. So when opposing capitalism we must never forget the environmental issues and arguements too which will add further weight to our arguements for a better society for all.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

The dirty tactics of our modern day media

I've been wanting to blog about this topic for some time now but this last week has urged me into it with the resignation of one Andy Coulson as David Camerons communications chief whatever one of those is these days. I think from how i understand it is so out of touch tories can stay in touch with what the everyday person on the street thinks so they dont have to enter out of their ivory towers.

Cynical i know but no more cynical than a lot of newspapers and our press in this country. Andy coulson was forced to resign in the end for reported phone tapping to famous members of the celebrity world and important polititians. While i do think polititians do want things both ways sometimes their right to privacey yet the headlines when they want them i do think phone tapping is a step too far in all this.

In Britain we have one of the most intrusive medias in the modern world you can argue it is due to us wanting to know this apparently is why they do this, in our interests. Well i'm not interested and find a lot of their tactics they use to gain a story and a scandel is downright rude and intrusive sometimes.

Newspapers in this country are turning into being nothing more than being worth the paper they are written on. All they focus on now is celebrity scandels big shocks and big headlines that will grab the imagination.

Gone are the days of great investigative journalism and well researched stories on factual information. Oh no its got to be a scoup or a scandel for you to wake up on a sunday morning to read about.

Recently it has been the football world which has been shamed with a lot of these sex scandels that come up very often now. England footballers playing away from home being photographed and caught with their pants down is all we seem to read these days.

So i make two points do we rally want to be reading this ? and if not why do we continue to buy this tosh and secondly how are these various media sources the press for a want of a better word allowed to get away with such crude dodgy often dirty tactics to get their story.

Why cant we have the news reported that we actually want to know not what they think we should know.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Another shameful attack on the young with Gov axing EMA

So tonight MP's in the houses of commons voted by a majority of 59 votes for the scrapping of the Educational maintanance allowance.
A report here from the bbc outlines details
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-12228466

I'm saddend to hear of this latest cut. This will affect many young students who wouldh ave stayed on to study at college or at sixth form at their schools. The grant which was brought in by the last labour government encouraged students from less well off backgrounds to stay on in education beyond the age of 16. The grant which was open to any of those students who's families earned less than 30 thousand pounds a year was widely regarded as a success with lots more students staying on to further their education.

Now with the governemnt breaking yet another of its pre electin pledges it remains to see what will happen to millions of students and young people in this country who will be forced to leave school now to find employment as staying on is simply not fainancially viable.

I tonight sit and think of those poor students from working class backgrounds who's hopes now will have been dashed. With last months decision to treble university tuitian fees it is becoming increasingly clearer to me that this government do not want young working class people to make anything with their lives. Unless you can afford to stay on in education and can afford your university fees it is either the doll or low paid work for you.

Where is the aspiration in this country anymore to help and support our youngsters of tommorrow. The future of our country. With rocketing unemployment up today up to 2.5 million i can only see that tipping 3 million by the end of 2011. With the addition of thousands of youth with no futures with little job prospects to look forward to.

Another bad decision from this awful right wing government of ours. Really depressing times.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Britain slowly slipping back towards recession

So as we hear today inflation rose from December, Retail Price Index which shows most accurately reflects cost of living, up 4.8% with public sector pay freeze and low private sector pay rises is resulting in a negative growth for the first quarter of 2011 for sure.

With the rise of VAT not being taken into account yet having only just been introduced in early January and with most of the big cuts to hit in the next few months. Things really do look bleak now. The picture is slowly starting to unflod of what a mess we are going to be left with. With hundreds of thousands of jobs set to go in the public sector which will consequently have a knock on in the private sector i can only see us heading back into recession crippling the poor even further as the government will set a bout more harsher cuts to try and pull the ship around.
But the damage is already set in i feel the ship is sinking and teh attemptst o keep it afloat are failing badly. With the tories at the helm what else should we expect really. This is worrying times indeed for the country and i cant see this working all these cuts.

With interest rates still being forced down at 0.5% to help government borrowing figures this wont change i doubt and with food and fuel prices rocketing as i have posted in previous blog posts things are looking grim.

When will the terms recession and double drip recession be rolled out as we are slowly slipping backwards i think. It is inevitable that this will happen now with all these cuts hacking apart all what is good about our welfare state. I also think the abolishment of the EMA grant to students to stay on in further education will have a bigger effect than many think. It is estimated that as much as 7 out of 10 students will be forced to leave school as they wont be able to afford to carry on. With a whole generation out of education what will they turn to ? there are very few job opputunities out there for the youth of today so that will have a big impact. Alot of kids will grow up again just like under Margret Tatcher not having any job prospects and waht affect that will have on the country will be devastating.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Is football not living in the real world ?

Taking this blog on a different direction now. As some of you may or may not know i'm a big football fan but i think this recent story of Darren Bent a average premiership striker at best is set to move to Aston villa from Sunderland for 18 million pounds.

Outrageous sums of money this is. When will football join the real world while people aer struggling to get by with paying their bills these super rich sports stars are getting paid silly amounts of money.

Take Manchester City for e xample Carlos tevez gets paid roughly 200,000 pounds a week and if any new player joins the club on a higher salary his wages will match that. I just think it sets a really bad example to the rest of the country in times of hardship.

I know alot of this money coming into the game has been though various sources like Sky Television money and selling the rights to show live games around the planet. But also foreign ownership with rich benifactors buying up english clubs pumping huge sums of money into the top teams. That money rarely trickles down to the lower league teams forcing many to go out of business.

Football is a cruel game which must look at its actions if it wants to continue to be a well respected sport on the national and world stage. As was shown with FIFA over their decision for the world cup in 2018 and 2022 there is a hell of a lot of corruptin involved in the game still.

Speaking of corruption it hasnt erally been touched on but is sure to attract attention from groups like UKuncut in next few months and years is the fact alot of rich footballers avoid paying large sums of their tax. Wayne Rooney, one of Englands best players and best paid players earns an estimated 250 thousand pounds but dodges paying tax on a large amount of that. What UKuncut ask is that money better spent on the NHS rather than being in your back pocket.

more and more questions will be asked like this if fotball continues to live in this rich fantasy world turning into a game no longer for the working class who already find it hard to afford to attend games turning into a game and a play thing for the very rich.

Keep your grubby little hands off our NHS Cameron

so this morning any of you who tune in to the today programme on bbc radio 4 this morning will have hard our prime minister David Camron running our NHS down calling it a second rate service and calling for big reforms. Well maybe it is to you Mr Camron but seriously this is a insult to the great people of this country who rely on the NHS's great service.

The staff especailly which make the organisation will not be happy to hear these words from him. These reforms planned by the tories which incidentilly were never in their manefesto in fact they stated the opposite that the NHS was to be ringfenced would appear now that was all hot air as is the case with alot of the things that come out of a tory MP's mouth these days.

I am worried now the tories have their hands on the steering wheel our NHS is at great threat. You can never trust the tories with th NHS. With the news last week of the Post office being voted by the commons to be sold off to the private sector these words today from the prime minister worry me greatly.

It will be a very sad day if we see the NHS privatised and i really hope we do not. Labour and whoever has a say and can vote this down must do. If the tories plan cuts and mass scale reforms to the NHS we all know where they are leading with this, eventual selling off of our greatest public sector organisation this country has ever and will ever see in my opinion.

I do hope people wont take this one lying down as this will be a big fight if the tories do push ahead with their plans.

There has already been mumerings from within the NHS about how dangerous this will be and what a risk to patients this will be, but do the tories care ? no is the answer they only care about their money not about peoples lives.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Why Ed miliband is wrong to bash the unions

so this morning on the bbc Ed miliband the labour party leader set about bashing the very same unions which helped him get elected. How ungrateful really.

reading this article here
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12201252

suggests what the media dubbed red ed is starting to shake off his red image. Ed who i never truely thought was left wing or pro union is now setting about making sure no one thinks he is red or left at all.

When Neil Kinnock boasted we have our party back now with ed in charge how wrong could the guy be. I'm sorry but bashing the unions who helped you get elected whilst playing to them promising to march with them on TUC protests and stand shoulder to shoulder with working people was all a ploy to get elected. I'm sorry Ed but your honeymoon is over and i'm quickly going off you i'm afraid to say. The man seems to be more interested in attracting lib dems to his party and getting re elected than standing up for workers rights and their jobs. I'm deeply saddend by this and people have told me on twitter i sound very anti Ed well i feel let down by him really. I thought he'd be a change a new start for labour a chance to get back to the old labour traditions. Fat chance now reallly when the leadership is more out of touch than ever and winning by-elections is more important than supporting unions wishing to take action to defend peoples jobs and rights.

I think as another blogger i'm friendly with
http://harpymarx.wordpress.com/2011/01/16/which-side-are-you-on-mister-ed-not-ours/

rightly blogs abouthis similarly we are becoming less and less sure of what side of the fence does Mr Miliband stand on.

This situation where ed startst o turn on the unions who elected him was always going to happen since the leadership elections made him leader. But we didnt expect it so early on in his reign. Ed is running the danger of leading labour down a route of abandoning the unions and just becoming a party all out for winning elections and not fighting for workers and teh working class, which it always used to represent strongly.

People in the working class still vote for labour i feel as they know no different, they feel as a working class person that is who they should vote for without thinking do this lot really represent me truely ?

On another note there was the LRC conference 2011 on saturday in London which i did not attend but from what i could gather was a lot of left leaning labour MP's and members who call themselves the labour left. THis is teh sort of movement that does not need labour and its way of ignoring its left leanings they could go it alone or join with a trades unions movement. All of the things they were saying sounded very grand and lovely but they still think they can change the party from within. Well i myself am not very confident that can happen so i dont know where they get their confidence from.

It seems the labour left gets totally ignored by the labour leadership as they are deamed unelectable if they look too left or show any sign of being left. It is almost the case where the labour PLP and leadership feel that being left is a crime and we cant be seen showing signs of this.

Like Ed who seems to be taking pot shots at so called militant unions who want to strike to show a fight back i think is short sighted. How is ed defending peoples jobs instead then ? thing is he isnt him and his party would support cuts and tory cuts but just at a slower pace. SO effectively they are saying oh we will still cut you and you will still loose your job but just not yet so it you dont have to worry. Crazy how people still think this is a alternative i cant get my head around. For myself i am against all cuts to any public service and any job lost that doesnt need to be lost. If tax loop holes were closed properly banks taxed to teh hilt and true socialist policies introduced not fluffy ones this class war going on would be fairer. Afterall why should the working class's have to pay for the mistakes of rich irresponsible bankers.

Going back to Ed milibands bashing of the unions. A blog post from me earlier in the week stating about boris johnsons similar attack on ASLEF train drivers union who he had heard somewhere that were planning to strike on the day of the royal wedding. This was of course and Ed miliband will do well to remind himself of this too was never proposed or suggested by the union so to attack a union on a strike that may not even happen does make you look a little bit stupid if i may say so.

Now this blogpost is not all a anti labour or anti Ed miliband post as i'm not totally just feel that they are heading down a dangerous route that will put them in a impossible position where they will look so similar to the tories no one will take a look at them. So some true labour values would be nice to hear MR Miliband and some well over due support of the unions who support and fund you wouldnt go a miss too.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

A sad day for the british post office as its set to be sold off

So we hear tonight that the government of this country has voted in favour of selling off and privitising the Royal Mail. Story courtesy of teh bbc here
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12177668

This is such a sad day for many of the post office's workers and a sad day for this country as a whole. One of our great institutions going off to the gready capitalists out there. Lets not forget it was a labour government which tried time after time to try and do exactly this during itst ime in government. We willa ll remember the consignia mess that Adam Crozier and his cronies were involved in.

THis move to sell off the post office comes as no real surprise to me knowing what kind of government we now have. A very right wing idealogically driven government set in their ways to carry out waht Margret Tatcher failed to finnish off. THe public sector.

I feel sorry for all the hard workers of the post office who will no doubt be loosing their jobs now when it is taken over by a private firm. As the private firm will look to slash job numbers, restructure, possibly re-finance it and make it "more efficient".

Campaigns such as keep the post public fought really harda nd still will have their say i'm sure of this and hopefully a backlash will arrise but this is sad news i feel for one of britains best known high street outlets.


A month or so ago i attended a stevenage against the cuts rally where Billy hayes of the CWU spoke to us. you can find this post here :


http://markwrightuk88.blogspot.com/2010/12/billy-hayes-of-cwu-speech-to-stevenage.html

Billy who still believes in the labour party turning themselves around stated that his union had fought off attempts to close post offices across the country and had battled with the last labour government to fend off this very same event we hear of tonight. I would love to hear billys views tonight on what has just been voted through in parliament.

We need councillors who will fight the cuts

i just thought i'd share this article i read on the TUSC website. it summerises things excellently. It highlights the issues and problems many councillors will run into this year. With a large amount of labour councillors set to win big this year i suspect this will become a bigger and bigger issue. It will sort out which labour members/councillors have the bottle to stand up for their local peoples rights and services or bend over and allow the tory cuts through which will show a real weakness. In this article it outlines ways labour councillors can oppose teh cuts and keep public support on their side. THis can be done and has be done successfully in the past. It just needs people to be brave enough to stand up to the coalition governemnt and not let working class people suffer at the hands of the tories.

Here is the article from the TUSC website. check it out if you can.

The Con-Dems' savage austerity plans announced in October's comprehensive spending review put local councils firmly in the front line. Funding for councils from the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) will be cut from £31 billion in 2009-10 to £22.9 billion in 2014-15 - a 27% fall, the biggest 'departmental cut' of all.

At the same time councils will be expected to administer many of the cuts announced under other budget headings. These include the cuts to housing benefit funded from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) budget but administered by councils; the Department for Education's 12% cut in 'non-school' spending on young people (including the abolition of educational maintenance allowances for 16-19 year olds); and a 're-adjustment' of NHS social care funding.

Setting council tax benefit, averaging £900 a year and currently paid out by councils on behalf of the DWP, will be devolved to councils, but with a 10% cut in overall funding.

Councils will also become the final agency to apply the £500 'total household benefit' cap, through housing benefit deductions. "Outsourced", was an apt headline in The Guardian - "town halls must do Osborne's dirty work", it went on.

To say councils "must do" this dirty work, however, is wrong. Not unexpectedly, Labour councillors are already saying there is 'nothing we can do' to stop the cuts from being implemented locally, even where they control the council. But that is just not so. Councillors have a choice.

That's why the decision of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC - see box) to facilitate the widest-possible challenge in the local elections that will take place in England next year is an important part of building the anti-cuts movement. 32 million people will be able to vote in these elections, in every part of England bar London. TUSC is also involved in discussions to ensure an anti-cuts challenge is organised in elections to the Welsh assembly and the Scottish parliament, also in May 2011 (there are no local elections in Wales and Scotland).

The TUSC steering committee has agreed a draft policy platform for the English local elections, which will now be open for discussion in trade union branches and anti-cuts campaigns and finalised at a conference of prospective candidates in January.

It starts from the basis that councillors can refuse to pass on the cuts. Voting in May, it argues, can be not just a 'protest vote' but can actually stop cuts to local jobs, benefits, and services. Building support for TUSC candidates can be an important means of putting pressure on current councillors when they decide council budgets in March, and in shaping how they respond to the 'new responsibilities' they will have to administer.

What can councils do?
WHAT ROLE could councils play to stop the cuts, if the political will was there to seriously oppose the Con-Dem government's austerity measures?

Over the years councils have been stripped of direct funding responsibility for many different services. The TUSC election platform notes that former Tory prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who began this process, famously said: "I must take more power to the centre to stop socialism" - in other words, that public services that 'crowded out' the private sector should be curbed or, where they exist, should be opened up to private companies to make profits from public needs. New Labour continued this process throughout its 13 years in office - the turnover of private companies running public services reached over £80 billion in 2008, for example, 126% higher than 1995-96 under the previous Tory government. Now the Con-Dems' spending review announcement includes plans for 'private provider quotas' for councils' elderly care, early years, youth and family support services.

Despite this however, as the TUSC election platform states, councils still have enormous powers and responsibilities. They control budgets totalling billions of pounds spent on services from housing to schools, youth clubs, libraries, adult social care, crime reduction, sports centres, highways maintenance and refuse collection, to name but a few. They have legal powers over non-council provided services, including many of those now 'outsourced' that could be used, if the will was there, to defend jobs and services.

Councillors could - and TUSC councillors would, as the policy platform states - "vote against the privatisation of council services, or the transfer of council services to 'social enterprises' or 'arms-length' management organisations, which are first steps to privatisation". They could - and TUSC councillors would - push for councils to "use all their legal powers available" to "oppose both the cuts, and government polices which centrally impose the transfer of public services to private bodies".

That could mean that, for example, faced with the Con-Dems' housing benefit cuts, councils would refuse to evict council tenants who fall into arrears as a result of the changes - and withdraw from 'partnership agreements' with housing associations (HAs) and other 'social landlords' who fail to do likewise (and actively support HA tenants' organisations to fight for this policy).

Councils could also intervene in the private rented sector. The government hypocritically claims that its aim is to 'bring rents down', after housing benefit payments have ballooned to £21 billion - although the Tories began this by abolishing rent controls in 1988 and slashing council house-building (policies not reversed by New Labour). Councils cannot impose a legally-binding private rent limit but they could, for example, threaten compulsory purchase proceedings against multi-property landlords who move to evict tenants suffering housing benefit cuts.

But housing is just one area where councils with the political will to oppose the Con-Dem government could play a key role in resisting the cuts. They could use their powers to 'call in' and refer local NHS re-organisation proposals, for example. With a King's Fund survey showing that fewer than one in four doctors believes the government's new GP consortia commissioning plans - opening up £80 billion of NHS primary care funding to private companies - will improve patient care, councils could galvanise opposition to the Con-Dems' dismantling of the NHS.

Defending councils' budgets
Even some Tory and Lib-Dem councillors are criticising the government's 'free schools' plans (particularly in relation to faith schools) as endangering socially cohesive local education. Councils could use their 'schools organisation' and admissions monitoring powers, governor appointments etc - and initiate consultative parents' ballots, for example - to build a public campaign of opposition to these and the equally divisive accelerated academies programme. Councillors, it is clear, have a choice - they don't have to do the government's 'dirty work'. They can resist.

But what can councils do when faced with government cuts to the centrally allocated 'revenue support grants' they receive to pay for council-funded services? The TUSC draft election platform states that councils should refuse to implement these cuts, and reject above inflation increases in council tax, rents and service charges to compensate for them. If even a handful of councils were to make such a stand it would electrify the mass opposition to the cuts that is developing.

As Margaret Thatcher's resignation 20 years ago this November shows, in the face of mass non-payment of the poll tax, even the seemingly most imposing government - and the Con-Dem coalition is not that - can be forced to retreat if it faces a sufficiently powerful mass campaign of opposition. Not only was Thatcher removed but the Tories were forced, within weeks of her downfall, to put an extra £4.3 billion into local government funding (around £7 billion today) to finance the abolition of the poll tax.

The TUSC policy platform argues that the best way that councils can contribute to mobilising the mass campaign necessary to defeat the cuts is to set budgets that meet the needs of their local communities, without massive council tax hikes, and combine together to demand that the government makes up the funding shortfall. That is the 'Liverpool model' which in 1984 enabled the city's Labour council, led by Militant supporters, the predecessor of the Socialist Party, to compel Thatcher's government to concede extra resources to the city worth up to £60 million (£98 million today).


The campaign built by Liverpool city council in 1983-87 to win extra funding inspired thousands of workers, photo Militant (Click to enlarge)
But the campaign in support of Liverpool's 'needs budget' had been long prepared, even before Labour won a majority on the council in 1983. A 25,000-strong demonstration was organised in November 1983 and the budget meeting itself, in March 1984, just weeks after the start of the miners' strike, took place against the backdrop of a city-wide one day strike and a 50,000-strong march to the town hall. The anti-cuts movement will grow rapidly, given confidence by events such as the student demonstration in November and the combative stance of unions such as the Fire Brigades Union, the PCS civil servants' union and the RMT transport workers, but it is still at an early stage. There is certainly no group of councillors who have prepared the ground as the Liverpool councillors had in 1984.

So, for the next budget-setting period, the draft TUSC policy platform also includes support for councillors who are prepared to use councils' reserves and 'prudential borrowing' powers to avoid passing on government cuts. Such a policy is completely within a council's legal powers.

Council finance officers can challenge a budget they believe to be 'knowingly unbalanced', in other words, a planned deficit - which a 'needs budget' without massive council tax rises would be - but they can only question an individual council's ability to meet short-term debt re-payments. The use of reserves to meet such initial debt re-payments, for example, is legally a 'matter of judgement' for councillors to make. Councillors have a choice.

In some respects this approach would be a 'Liverpool in reverse sequence'. In 1984 the mass campaign led by the council was able to extract extra resources from the government. The campaign continued in 1985 but, with the defeat of the miners' strike, and under ferocious attack from a Labour Party leadership doing Thatcher's work for her - effectively, with Liverpool left isolated - the council had to resist cuts and sustain its house-building programme for a second year by using its borrowing powers.

'Legality' and a mass campaign
COUNCILS USING their reserves and borrowing powers to avoid making cuts in this budget-setting period would only be buying time before they faced an inevitable showdown with the government for extra resources. Ultimately, there is no 'clever tactic' that can avoid the need to build a mass campaign against the cuts.

There is, of course, no guarantee in any struggle. Most Labour councillors are 'New Labour', indistinguishable from the Tories and the Liberal Democrats in their pro-market policies and outlook. But even those who sincerely want to oppose the cuts still hesitate before the Liverpool road. Eventually, having defied the government for four years and won lasting gains for the city, the Liverpool councillors were surcharged and dismissed from office in March 1987.

The law has changed since the 1980s. The 2000 Local Government Act abolished the power of surcharge, for example, except for cases of personal gain. As importantly, the actual course of the events in Liverpool needs to be rescued from right-wing myth-making. It was not the setting of a needs budget or the later decision, in 1985, to fall back on the council's borrowing powers, that the councillors were surcharged for. It was the decision to delay setting a rate at all (rates were the local tax levy then), that was used as the legal pretext to charge the councillors with 'wilfully incurring financial loss' to the city.

This 'no rate' strategy was decided on by the leaders of 20 other Labour councils, ironically against the Liverpool councillors' advice (Liverpool went along with it to keep a united front), who then all - bar Lambeth council - backed down to leave Liverpool to fight alone. Nobody is proposing not setting a council tax rate today.

It was also significant that the councillors were only taken on by the district auditor in 1985 and not in 1984, when they had also delayed setting a rate (as some Labour defections meant no party had been able to get a majority for its budget in the council chamber). It was only when the mass campaign had ebbed - not in Liverpool but elsewhere - after the miners had been defeated, the other Labour councils had capitulated and Liverpool had been attacked and left isolated by the Labour Party leaders, that the Thatcher government felt confident enough to 'apply the law'.

The situation today is different. The Con-Dem cuts are the worst in generations, permanently changing life in Britain, as Cameron himself has explained. They will be resisted, no matter what the axe men decide - in parliament or the council chamber - and the opposition has only just begun. Councillors who are prepared to fight could play a historic role in the inevitable resistance

Fight or stand aside - or face a challenge
THE CLAIM that there is 'nothing Labour can do' to stop the cuts 'until the next election' - leaving aside its support for 'less deep and fast' cuts if it did come to power - is disproved by one simple demand.

If Ed Miliband was to stand up tomorrow and commit an incoming Labour government to meet the debts incurred by councils who borrowed rather than made the savage cuts demanded of them, then not one council would have a reason to make the cuts. The same pledge could be made to other public and semi-public bodies like universities, health authorities, school governing boards, housing associations etc which incur 'temporary' deficits to avoid implementing cuts.

Many trade union leaders still hope that 'Labour will listen' and resist the cuts. Let them ask for such a pledge, which would, in local government, save the 100,000 jobs at threat and the services they provide. But if, as is almost certain, they don't get it, then they must admit that the only option is to fight and build a mass campaign, including standing or backing candidates in the 2011 local elections who will fight the cuts.

Some Labour councillors will no doubt sincerely wish to oppose the cuts but draw back at the prospect of taking a bold stand. They should resign and make way for those who will. Whatever, it should be made clear to all councillors: councillors can fight the cuts and TUSC candidates will - and will contest the seats of those councillors who vote for cuts.


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What is TUSC?
The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition was set-up in 2010 to enable trade unionists, community campaigners and socialists who wanted to resist the pro-austerity consensus of the establishment parties to stand candidates in the 2010 general election. By registering TUSC with the electoral commission, candidates could appear on the ballot paper as Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition rather than as 'Independent' which they would otherwise have to do under electoral law.

TUSC came out of a series of discussions by participants in the No2EU - Yes to Democracy coalition, which contested the 2009 European elections with the official support of the RMT transport workers' union, the Socialist Party, Solidarity - Scotland's Socialist Movement, and others.

TUSC is a coalition with a steering committee which includes, in a personal capacity, the RMT general secretary Bob Crow, and fellow executive member Craig Johnston; the assistant general secretary of the PCS civil servants' union, Chris Baugh, and the union's vice-president, John McInally; the vice-president of the National Union of Teachers, Nina Franklin; and the recently retired general secretary of the Prison Officers Association, Brian Caton. The Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party are also represented on the committee.

TUSC was established as a federal 'umbrella' coalition, with an agreed core policy statement endorsed by all its candidates but with participating organisations accountable for their own campaigns. Its core policies include, amongst others, opposition to public spending cuts and privatisation, student grants not fees, the repeal of the anti-trade union laws, and a clear socialist commitment to "bringing into democratic public ownership the major companies and banks that dominate the economy, so that production and services can be planned to meet the needs of all and to protect the environment".

The draft local elections policy platform agreed by the steering committee is a supplement to the core policy statement. It will be finalised at a conference in January and will form the basis on which any prospective council candidate can stand under the TUSC name in May's elections.

supporting the job centre workers

Reading this piece below just makes things clear to me that this government are not really interested in helping people back into jobs with this news it seems they couldnt care less if people cant get a job just as long as the banks dont run off and bring down the capitalist system. Heaven above we must protect taht first not jobs for real working and unemployed people. Here is the article i found on a socialist based website but outlines the disputea nd both sides. I will summerise and put a few thoughts after the piece.

Around 3,000 members of the PCS civil service workers’ union in seven call centres are to strike for two days next week after the collapse of intensive talks with Jobcentre Plus management. This is the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The workers, based in Bristol, Manchester Chorlton, Makerfield, Newport, Norwich, Sheffield and Glasgow Springburn, are set to strike on Thursday and Friday of next week.

Some 69 percent of members had voted for strikes over their transfer into the Jobcentre Plus call centre network, which means worse working conditions—and a worse service to the public.

They had been set to take action in December until talks were offered.

However, it has become clear that management remain intent on compulsorily transferring all members on the seven sites into the Contact Centre directorate (CCD). This is part of management’s plan to make CCD the contact centre organisation of the future and to take on work from other parts of the civil service.

Currently CCD has the highest rates of sickness and turnover of staff. The concessions made in the talks around flexible working hours and lunch breaks were inadequate and, even then, will be subject to review if the bosses got their way.

The union had urged management to ease the way they use oppressive targets such as call handling times. But the employer had refused to budge on this issue.

When PCS decided not to call the strike in December, management agreed to implement some interim arrangements as a sign of good faith. Their subsequent failure to do so shows their contempt for their staff. At Manchester Chorlton they proceeded to extend opening hours until 6pm, despite having previously agreed with the PCS not to do this while the talks took place.

The strike will be followed by action short of a strike action from 24 January.

Members in the existing 30 call centres have overwhelmingly supported the call to escalate the dispute throughout the network. Escalation is the key to winning this dispute.

The PCS group executive, which runs the union’s work in the DWP, is to meet next week to discuss the next steps in the dispute




A few short thoughts from me....

This dispute sounds like maddness to me it completely goes against the idea of helping the unemployed back into work which the tories seem to think is what they want to do very loosely. Well by changing working patterns and laying off of staff to cut down staff numbers in the one place that can identify and support people back into work is just complete loonacy in my view. I know it is a public service and maybe there are a few things they can become more efficient on perhaps but cuts and changes to the way the systm works is just crazy. Whoevers idea this was be it the job centre or governments they really do need to think again.

So i here by offer my solidarity to all those taking part in the strike planned. We need people like this to help this country back on its feet. Lets not pull the rug from under the services that are doing their best to help that.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Socialism: Signs of things to come - the UK Police State

Socialism: Signs of things to come - the UK Police State: "Today we saw an 18 year old protestor and his family rewarded for 'doing the right thing' by being locked up for 2 years and 8 months. In th..."

Monday, 10 January 2011

Shameful changes to employment laws

In this article this morning in the telegraph
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/8249491/Firms-get-powers-to-sack-the-slackers.html



David Cameron hopes that relaxed employment laws will help to boost the private sector and encourage firms to take on thousands of new workers Photo: PA
By Andrew Porter, and Robert Winnett 10:00PM GMT 09 Jan 2011 243 Comments
The new “employers’ charter” will allow companies to sack workers during the first two years of their employment without the threat of being taken to a tribunal for unfair dismissal.

Currently an employee can bring an unfair dismissal claim after only a year.

To reduce the number of vexatious allegations, workers will face a fee when lodging an employment tribunal claim.

The Daily Telegraph can disclose that the Government is also launching a review that is likely to see small companies excluded from some stringent employment laws. The length of time that firms have to pay workers statutory sick pay is set to be reduced as part of the shake-up.

David Cameron hopes that relaxed employment laws will help to boost the private sector and encourage firms to take on thousands of new workers.


I read all through this article and saw no where where this helps people feel more safe in their jobs. Taking a personal perspective if i got a new job and they could get rid of me without a tribunal and no reason given within 2 years i'd be very upset and disapointed. To me this is taking rights away from the workers in the private sector. This can only help the boss's and their profits of being able to get away with not paying for employment dismissal tribunals.

It is disgusting i feel and peoples rights are impeeded by this. I do wonder waht the EU would make of this being inflicted on our good hard honest workers.

It is a ploy to get cheap labour in and get rid of them easily when you no longer need them for next to nothing. Big corperations will be rubbing their hands with glee with the sound of this.

Very shameful and saddening for workers rights in this country.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Marxist thoughts towards disabilities

i was just reading this excellent article on international socialism in the latest issue of their publication

http://www.isj.org.uk/index.php4?id=702&issue=129

This article was wrote by

Roddy Slorach


you may find this interesting as i did .
Many young women full of devotion and good-will have been engaged in superficial charities. They have tried to feed the hungry without knowing the causes of poverty. They have tried to minister to the sick without understanding the cause of disease. They have tried to raise up fallen sisters without understanding the brutal arm of necessity that struck them down… We attempt social reforms where we need social transformations.1

Evidence shows the recession in the UK has already hit disabled people hard.2 The new government’s huge public spending cuts include further attacks on meagre but vital disability benefits.3 Their aim is to roll-back hard-won ‘social reforms’ affecting all sections of the working class.. Understanding the nature of disability discrimination can therefore play a part in defending these reforms and uniting resistance to the attacks which lie ahead.

This article aims to articulate a Marxist approach to the issues of disability and impairment and to begin a debate which is perhaps overdue. Is the discrimination faced by disabled people a form of oppression like that suffered by other minorities under capitalism? What happened to the disability movement and the social model of disability which inspired it? Is it possible—and desirable—to achieve a society free of disability?

The nature and extent of impairment
Disability is a widely misused and misunderstood concept, as illustrated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) definition:

Disabilities is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations. Thus disability is a complex phenomenon, reflecting an interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives.4

These definitions reflect the progress made since disabled people were referred to officially as spastics, imbeciles and cripples. However, they also obscure the vital distinction established by the disability movement between individual impairment and disability as social discrimination.5 Leaving aside terminology for the moment, WHO figures do indicate the extent of impairment globally:

Hearing loss, vision problems and mental disorders are the most common causes of disability… Worldwide, an estimated 650 million people (10 percent of the total population) live with disabilities, the vast majority in low-income and middle-income countries… A significant proportion of disabilities are caused by traffic crashes, falls, burns, and acts of violence such as child abuse, youth violence, intimate partner violence, and war…up to one quarter of disabilities may result from injuries and violence. [These] include: physical and/or cognitive limitations due to neurotrauma; paralysis due to spinal cord trauma; partial or complete amputation of limbs; physical limb deformation resulting in mobility impairments; psychological trauma; sensory disability such as blindness and deafness.6

The WHO’s 2008 report also highlights mental disorders as among the 20 leading causes of disability worldwide, with depression alone affecting around 120 million people. Fewer than 25 percent of those affected have access to adequate treatment and healthcare. In 2004 the Labour government estimated Britain’s disabled population to be 10 million. The statistics show beyond doubt that a very large number of people are disabled. Second, many of their impairments are socially caused, and third, a large majority of disabled people are poor.

The creation of disability
Weaker, older or impaired members of pre-class societies were more likely to survive with the development of settled agricultural production and surplus crops. Feudal societies saw impairment in religious terms, as a mark of either good or evil, which meant those affected often faced persecution. However, the rural production process, and the extended nature of the feudal family, allowed many to make a genuine contribution to daily economic life. Families living and working as large groups were able to provide networks of care for children and the elderly. This way of life, typical for much of the world’s population for thousands of years, was to virtually disappear in the last three centuries.

The rise of capitalism forced people off the land. In Britain production for the market began on a scale sufficiently small as to be carried out in the home, and therefore impaired people could still play a role. However:

the rural population was being increasingly pressed by the new capitalist market forces, and when families could no longer cope the crippled members would have been most vulnerable and liable to turn to begging and church protection in special poor houses. Market forces soon favoured machinery which was more efficient and able to produce cheaper more plentiful woven material. Those working larger looms would more likely survive and cripples would have had greater difficulty working such equipment.7

The Industrial Revolution accelerated the pace of change enormously. Larger-scale machinery concentrated in factory towns increasingly destroyed the old cottage industries as well as traditional family structures, with members forced to find work away from the home or patch of land. The new factory worker “could not have any impairment which would prevent him or her from operating the machine. It was, therefore, the economic necessity of producing efficient machines for large-scale production that established ablebodiedness as the norm for productive (ie socially integrated) living…production for profit undermined the position of physically impaired people within the family and the community”.8

Working lives previously shaped by the hours of daylight and the seasons were now determined by the rhythm of the factory—even more so with the invention of gaslight and round the clock working. People’s bodies were now valued according to their ability to function like machines:

Factory discipline, time keeping and production norms broke with the slower, more self-determined and flexible work pattern into which many disabled people had been integrated. As work became more rationalised, requiring precise mechanical movements of the body, repeated in quicker succession, impaired persons—the deaf or blind, and those with mobility difficulties, were seen as—and without job accommodations to meet their impairments, were—less “fit” to do the tasks required of factory workers, and were increasingly excluded from paid employment. [The Industrial Revolution] removed crippled people from social intercourse and transformed them into disabled people.9

Specialisms were developed to help maintain and reproduce the new working class. Poor Law officials and an expanding medical profession developed pseudo-scientific categories to identify those of the poor who were unfit for work—”the sick, the insane, defectives, and the aged and infirm”. Dependence on others was now identified as a social problem and impairment equated with sickness and illness. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries those identified as disabled were segregated into workhouses, asylums, prisons and special schools. This had “several advantages over domestic relief: it was efficient, it acted as a major deterrent to the able-boded malingerer, and it could instil good work habits into the inmates”.10

Isolating disabled people in institutions—barbaric and oppressive as they were—led to the intensive study and treatment of impairments, creating the basis for clearer scientific understanding and classification. Mental impairment, for example, was seen as a single category until Langdon Down’s reports for the London Hospital in 1866. These identified, among other conditions, what later became known as Down’s Syndrome.11

With labour power now a commodity whose components were separately identified and valued, people with mental health problems were also increasingly categorised and placed in segregated institutions. In 1826, the first year for which statistics are available, fewer than 5,000 people were confined in asylums throughout England. By 1900, this had increased to 74,000.12

Capitalism represented a huge advance from previous societies in many ways. For the first time in history the productive capacity existed to feed, clothe and house the entire global population, while scientific and medical advances offered the prospect of understanding and curing diseases. But the new working class creating this wealth were excluded from any say over what was produced and how, suffering for their pains physical and mental impairment on an unprecedented scale. Those marginalised or excluded from production, either by injury or already existing impairments, also became marginalised or excluded from wider society. In this way capitalism created disability as a particular form of social oppression.

Reform and reaction
Life expectancy in the industrial towns was incredibly short. Manchester’s Medical Officer of Health reported in 1875 that “the average age at death of the Manchester upper middle class was 38 years, while [for] the labouring class [it] was 17; while at Liverpool these figures were represented as 35 against 15”.13 Cholera epidemics, poor hygiene and sanitation were not only a threat to the poor, and social reformers increasingly saw an unregulated free market as counter to the interests of British capitalism. Charities such as Barnardo’s and the Spastics Society took a growing role in caring for disabled people. Their often wealthy patrons lobbied for state intervention, better standards of treatment, and education for their disabled children.

The years of explosive strikes and growth in trade unions known as “New Unionism” also saw the formation of the British Deaf Association and the National League of the Blind and Disabled (NLBD). Founded as a trade union in 1899, the NLBD affiliated to the Trades Union Congress three years later.14 Its members (including blind war veterans), mainly working in sheltered workshops, campaigned for better working conditions and state pensions. The league organised a national march of blind people on Trafalgar Square in 1920, carrying banners with a new slogan—”Rights Not Charity”. Despite the small numbers, its aims were widely supported. The first legislation specifically for blind people was passed in the same year, followed by more in 1938.15

The upsurge of reforms also led to a reaction from the right. Eugenicists believed that, just as weaker or “inferior” members of a species weren’t meant to survive in nature, they were not meant to survive in a competitive human society. From the late 19th century,

advocates of eugenics…propagated the myth that there was an inevitable genetic link between physical and mental impairments and crime and unemployment. This was also linked to influential theories of racial superiority, according to which the birth of disabled children should be regarded as a threat to racial purity. In the notorious Buck v Bell decision of 1927, the US Supreme Court upheld the legality of the forced sterilisation of disabled people… By 1938, 33 American states had sterilisation laws and between 1921 and 1964 over 63,000 disabled people were involuntarily sterilised… Whether or not codified into law, the sterilisation of disabled people was common in a number of countries in the first half of the 20th century, including Britain, Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden, and Canada.16

Eugenics theory advocated the enforcement of a new concept, “normalcy”, through the elimination of “defectives”. It attracted widespread establishment support in Europe and the US, but was taken to its logical and genocidal conclusion by Hitler’s fascist regime. The extermination of disabled people was the first stage in its plans to “purify” the Aryan race of those considered weak or unproductive:

Nazi ideology considered disability to be a sign of degeneracy and viewed nearly any disabled person as a “life not worthy of life” [or] as [a] “useless eater”... Compulsory sterilisation for people with disabilities became German law in 1933. More than 400,000 people with disabilities were forcibly sterilised… A formal killing operation known as Aktion T-4 quickly followed, designed specifically for people with disabilities. The Nazi mechanisms for mass extermination of Jewish victims, such as carbon monoxide poisoning in “shower rooms”, were first developed and perfected through the disability programme. As a result, more than 275,000 people with disabilities were murdered in the Aktion T-4 programme, not counting all those who lost their lives in the concentration camps and after the formal phase of T-4 ended.17

The Holocaust was unique in its scale and barbarity, but it was also the product of a system that sees human beings as commodities to be bought and sold—or discarded as insufficiently profitable. As for eugenics, the theory fell from favour only after the nature and scale of Nazi atrocities became known in the years following the Second World War.

The rise and fall of the disability movement
The war economy had seen disabled people as well as women—previously considered respectively as incapable of or unsuitable for factory work—play a substantial role in wartime production. The need to rehabilitate huge numbers of wounded servicemen prompted legislation that in practice led to the expansion of existing sheltered workshops, usually paying below minimum wages. The post-war decades, however, brought virtually full employment and high levels of social spending. The foundation of the National Health Service and the expansion of the welfare state boosted further specialism within the professions. Medical advances led to more people living longer, and enabled others to carry out activities of which they were previously incapable:

Of particular importance was the availability of domestic appliances which could be operated with the minimum of physical energy and skill. Teaching a physically impaired person how to go to a well, fetch a pail of water, collect firewood and light a fire to make a pot of tea may have been impossible last century, but teaching a similarly impaired person to fill an electric kettle with water, switch on a button, etc to make a pot of tea today is well within the accepted aims of modern rehabilitation practice.18

The long economic boom created space to challenge institutionalisation and the patronage of charities, with significant numbers of disabled people joining the workforce. By the 1960s some had begun to reject their labelling by the professions as deviants or patients, and to speak out against discrimination. Inspired in particular by the black civil rights struggle, the disability movement began in the US.

The “Rolling Quads”, a group of student wheelchair users at the University of California, established the first Independent Living Centre in 1971. Within a few years hundreds more were created across the US and other countries including Britain, Canada and Brazil. Its opposition to institutionalisation and stress on the self-reliance of disabled people was to give the independent living movement an enduring influence.

Jimmy Carter’s 1976 election campaign pledged his presidency to signing Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act. These regulations, incorporating anti-discrimination law into the public sector, were partly the result of years of campaigning by disabled people, which had attracted Vietnam War veterans such as Ron Kovic.19 In April 1977, as part of a series of nationwide protests against the refusal to ratify Section 504, a group of disabled people occupied the San Francisco Health Education and Welfare Department. The sit-in, whose numbers grew to around 120, attracted widespread support (including from the local branch of the Black Panther Party). After 25 days Carter caved in. It was a stunning victory. The protesters left en masse, singing “We Have Overcome”.20 The US disability movement, however, had focused so much on campaigning for Section 504 that it virtually fell apart once it was finally implemented. It was a pattern that was to be repeated.

The UN declared 1981 the International Year of Disabled People. For reasons little to do with the UN, that year turned out to be a turning point. Disabled Peoples’ International (DPI) was formed by 250 disabled people at a conference in Canada, advocating “equal opportunity and full participation of handicapped people in all aspects of society as a matter of justice rather than charity”.21 DPI urged disabled people to unite in multi-impairment coalitions, and by 1989 had 69 members, each representing national organisations of disabled people.22

The coalition that emerged in the UK, the British Council of Organisations of Disabled People (BCODP), had by its mid-1990s peak grown to 106 affiliated organisations representing 400,000 disabled people.23 Its protests, sometimes involving several thousand people, included a “Rights Not Charity” demonstration at the Department of Health and Social Security in 1988, and two mobilisations against ITV’s “Telethon” in 1991 and 1992—the latter putting an end to the notoriously patronising charity fundraiser. BCODP activists were from the outset hostile to organisations “for” (as opposed to “of”) disabled people—primarily the professions and the hugely better-funded disability charities. This was even truer of smaller, more radical organisations such as the Direct Action Network (DAN). However, these principles rapidly gave way to joint campaigns with the big disability charities, on the grounds that the overriding priority was now to secure anti-discrimination legislation similar to that passed in the US in 1990.

John Major’s weakened Tory administration formed a task force to draft new laws. The BCODP refused to participate as a body, but some activists argued they could exert more influence by being involved. 24 The result, 1995’s Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), was widely criticised as both narrow and toothless. New Labour’s landslide election in 1997 led to a new Disability Rights Commission (DRC), which the government pledged would publicise, strengthen and enforce the DDA. The DRC successfully absorbed much of the remaining leadership of the disability movement.25 The truth is that few activists had an alternative strategy.

The alliance with the charities and New Labour seemed for many disabled people the only way to achieve broader social change. Single impairment charities had long been a vital source of welfare support or social networks. To many, disability was simply a human rights issue: “The principal thing is that we’re getting together…to make it different in terms of the politics of disability, which is about the rights of individuals; it is about the right to control our own lives”.26 Many activists saw “able-bodied society” in general as the problem, believing that people who were disabled had different and separate interests from those who were not. DAN activists were most explicitly separatist, seeing all able-bodied people as oppressors. This led to even more divisive notions such as who was “really disabled”. Meanwhile, blacks, gays and women pointed to discrimination against them by fellow disabled activists.

New Labour’s promised reforms effectively neutered the movement.27 As Oliver and Barnes put it at the time:

[We have seen] the growing professionalisation of disability rights and the wilful decimation of organisations controlled and run by disabled people at the local and national level by successive government policies despite rhetoric to the contrary. As a result we no longer have a strong and powerful disabled people’s movement… Since the late 1990s the combination of government and the big charities have successfully adopted the big ideas of the disabled people’s movement, usurped its language, and undertaken further initiatives which promise much yet deliver little.28

The crucial difficulty, however, was that the disability movement grew in Britain (and elsewhere) during and after a period of defeats for the working class, when other movements of the oppressed had already passed into decline (a fact reflected in the title of one early history, “The Last Civil Rights Movement”).29 Few activists saw any evidence then that the working class could successfully unite struggles of the oppressed with a shared interest in more fundamental change. As left and right alike within the movement agreed that disabled people needed firstly to organise for themselves, it was inevitable that the politics of identity would increasingly come to dominate those of class.

All this said, the disability movement helped win a wider understanding of the inequalities faced by disabled people, and in doing so achieved legislation addressing that inequality. How successful were these reforms in achieving this aim?

Reforms and neoliberalism
The most significant and best-known anti-discrimination laws of the last 20 years are the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and in Britain the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) of 1995 (with its subsequent amendments). However, the record since their implementation is not impressive. One US observer noted in 1999 that “the unemployment rate of disabled people has barely budged from its chronic 65-71 percent…in the first eight years [of the ADA], defendant-employers prevailed in more than 93 percent of reported ADA employment discrimination cases decided at the trial court level”.30

In 2005 Tony Blair went so far as to pledge full equality for all disabled people within 20 years.31 Two years later—and 12 years after the passage of the original DDA—the UK government had to acknowledge continuing and “unacceptable” levels of inequality among disabled people. It found that disabled workers earn between 6 and 17 percent less than non-disabled workers.32 More recent government figures show that among those of working age, fully 50 percent of disabled people are unemployed (compared with 20 percent of non-disabled people) and 23 percent have no qualifications (compared with 9 percent of non-disabled people). People with mental health problems have the lowest employment rates of all impairment categories, at only 20 percent.33

The ADA and the DDA share key weaknesses. Both require individuals wishing to pursue a legal complaint to prove first that they have a recognised impairment, with tribunals placing a primacy on medical evidence. Both also place the onus on individual disabled people pursuing—usually at their own expense—court cases which carry no guarantee of success, far less legally binding change.

The fault did not and does not lie solely in the legislation. A report produced by the Public Interest Research Unit on the effectiveness of the DRC found that “neglect of its enforcement powers, along with the difficulties individuals face in taking action themselves, has helped ensure that the majority of discriminators have got away with committing unlawful acts”.34 There is little evidence that the DRC’s successor, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), has performed any better. When Trevor Phillips (notorious for his claims that multiculturalism in Britain was not working) was reappointed as EHRC chair in July 2009, six board members resigned, several blaming the new body’s ineffectiveness under
his leadership.35

The politics of independent living
We are often told that the gains of the post-war years have led to “a demographic time bomb”. That so many people are now living longer lives should be a cause for celebration. However, the concern to capital is that a rising proportion of the population cannot be exploited, and constitute a growing economic burden. The huge public spending cuts expected in the wake of the current recession are therefore likely to include further attacks on the living standards—and lives—of old age pensioners, who comprise by far the biggest proportion of the disabled population.

With the closure of the hated institutions and the onset of community care, subsequent debates have focused on how appropriate care can be provided at home, and how disabled people can get more control over the services they use. The disability movement therefore campaigned for government policies based on this philosophy.

John Major’s dying government conceded a system of “direct payments” alongside the DDA in the mid-1990s. The scheme was championed by figures such as Colin Barnes and Jenny Morris, on the basis that disabled people must have choice over how their personal care needs are met—even if this meant further privatisation.36 Low take-up by local authorities, however, led to a rebranding under New Labour. “Personalisation” obliged the former, from 2003 onwards, to offer “individual budgets” to any applicants for disability-related services. Hopes that user-led organisations controlled by disabled people, particularly Centres for Independent Living, would provide the infrastructure and expertise to help run these schemes proved unfounded. Contracts have instead gone mainly to local authorities, charities or the private sector.37

These initiatives have so far led to little real change. One 2009 study found that 60 percent of disabled people with social care needs rely on informal help from relatives or friends to meet those needs.38

Over 70 percent of local authorities provide services only to those whose needs are considered “critical or substantial”; the rest are left to go it alone. While our politicians have adopted the language of the Independent Living Movement, users receiving services are lucky to get anything extending beyond being washed and fed.39

Labour’s approach has been adopted with a vengeance by the new government. In a keynote speech in July 2010 health secretary Andrew Lansley adopted a familiar slogan of the disability movement: “[Our] guiding principle will be ‘no decision about me without me’... We will extend personal budgets, giving patients with long-term conditions real choices about their care”.40 But the rhetoric is accompanied by budget cuts which threaten the widespread closure of existing services such as day centres and respite care. The cuts are also likely to mean that “the trend towards narrowing the eligibility criteria for support will continue, as demand for social care grows and budgets are increasingly restricted”.41 Many local care agencies have already been privatised, staffed by typically low-paid and unskilled workers. With further restrictions on disability benefits, individual budgets and/or personalisation are likely to promise meaningful choice or independence only to those who can afford to pay. For most disabled people, they offer instead an increasingly impoverished existence, atomised and isolated in their own homes.42

Health and social care services are increasingly provided by “third sector” bodies (voluntary organisations, charities and businesses), with government funding of around £7 billion a year. In 2008 Barnardo’s total income was £253 million, while in 2008-9 Scope received over £100 million and Leonard Cheshire (running care homes and supported accommodation) over £145 million.43 But these figures are dwarfed by public sector spending: the NHS budget in 2008-9 alone was £100 billion.44 The fact that most welfare services in Britain are still both free at point of use and (in the main) universally available is considered a major problem by many in the ruling class. The neoliberal solution, which US writer Marta Russell has aptly called “free market civil rights”, is a society of individualised consumers forced to shop around for services no longer run by public authorities, but by charities or private businesses. Much of the present UK cabinet may favour this solution—but they are a long way yet from achieving it.

The social model of disability
The pioneering distinction between impairment and disability was first made explicit by a group of disabled socialists in 1976, including anti-apartheid activist Vic Finkelstein. The tiny Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation (UPIAS) declared that disability, far from being biologically determined, was a social creation that could be challenged and eliminated:

In our view, it is society which disables physically impaired people. Disability is something imposed on top of our impairments by the way we are unnecessarily isolated and excluded from full participation in society. Disabled people are therefore an oppressed group in society.

Thus we define impairment as lacking all or part of a limb, organ or mechanism of the body; and disability as the disadvantage or restriction of activity caused by a contemporary social organisation which takes little or no account of people who have physical impairments and thus excludes them from the mainstream of social activities.45

These “Fundamental Principles” were later developed, principally by Oliver, into the social model of disability. He described it as a “tool for action” rather than a thoroughgoing theory:

[If disability] is seen as a tragedy, then disabled people will be treated as if they are the victims of some tragic happening or circumstance. This treatment will…be translated into social policies which will attempt to compensate these victims for the tragedies that have befallen them… If disability is defined as social oppression, then disabled people will be seen as the collective victims of an uncaring or unknowing society… Such a view will be translated into social policies geared towards alleviating oppression rather than compensating individuals.46

As he put it later, this oppression “is ultimately due to our continued exclusion from the processes of production… The social model of disability is concerned with the personal and collective experiences of disabling social barriers and how its application might influence professional practice and shape political action”.47

These ideas turned received wisdom on its head and had a hugely liberating impact on many disabled individuals. The social model played an important role in helping activists, particularly in Britain, understand and challenge discrimination. It won widespread acceptance as the disability movement grew under the Tory governments of the 1980s until the mid-1990s.48 As the movement receded, however, and hopes increasingly centred on a future New Labour government, the social model of disability began to be identified with a “rights” model centred on achieving legislative change. This “reclaiming” or “rectifying” of the social model often turned into its outright rejection, not least in the growing academia of Disability Studies departments.

The social model met increasing criticism (largely, it is true, from the right) on the grounds that it ignores impairment, a problem claimed to be at least as important, if not more than discrimination in the lives of disabled people. Oliver replied that the social model is “a campaigning aid concentrating on the collective experience of disablement, not the individual experience of impairment”. This wish to avoid divisions is understandable. Drawing on the precedents of the struggles for black, gay and women’s liberation, and rejecting biological explanations of social inequality, Oliver insists that “there is no causal relationship between impairment and disability”.49

In his influential book The Politics of Disablement, Oliver attacks the “medicalisation” of disability. This refers to the way disabled people have for many decades been made the objects of oppressive medical practice and research, focused on individual cures and treatment. Refusing to integrate impairment into the social model, Oliver argues the former is a less useful campaigning focus. However, this is to overlook struggles such as those in South Africa for affordable drugs to combat AIDS, as well as others against drugs such as thalidomide or ritalin, which have actually caused impairment. There continue to be fierce debates on the subject of medical cures or therapy among disabled people. The point here is that they are neither the whole answer to impairment nor “incompatible with social change and civil rights”, but that each should be taken on its merits.50

Other critiques of the social model highlight its lack of relevance to other forms of oppression, cultural issues or those of representation. These arguments miss the central issue—the social model’s aim was to outline a materialist understanding of disability as a form of oppression that could be fought against and overcome. 51 It dealt a huge blow to the idea that disability was simply about personal tragedy or individual medical conditions. It pointed to major social and economic change as the cause of disability and to further change as its solution. It is therefore on this basis—as a starting point in any theory of disability liberation—that the social model should be examined.

Disability and oppression
The idea that disabled people are less productive and “able”, and more dependent in general remains common sense, and in capitalist terms is largely correct. Without some form of assistance to compensate for the particular impairment or lack of function, many disabled people are likely to be less economically productive as individuals.

The advanced capitalist societies invest heavily in health, education and social services that help reproduce the labour force (keeping workers skilled, fit and healthy enough to work). Rehabilitating back into the workforce people with short-term impairments or illnesses is relatively inexpensive. But those with more severe long-term illnesses or impairments receive far less priority, as meeting their needs often carries no guarantee of future profits.

All forms of oppression share similarities but also important differences. Discrimination against black people, women, or gays and lesbians is not directly rooted in the way work is organised. Gender, ethnic origin and sexual orientation have no direct bearing on how productive individuals are under capitalism. Other oppressed groups were not and often still are not considered capable of particular kinds of work. But this is not the same as employers wishing to avoid paying the additional costs of hiring a disabled worker, whether in the form of work station adaptations, interpreters, readers, environmental modifications or liability insurance:

[The] root of our oppression is the fact that capitalism sees everything in terms of profit and profitability—and this colours how capitalists view disabled workers. Most employers see disabled employees as a “problem”—something difficult, something different, something that will cost them more to employ. That isn’t to say that capitalists are incapable of realising that disabled people can be a source of cheap labour. So the oppression of disabled people is a reflection of the way in which capitalism reduces everything to profit—effectively, capitalism says disabled people are surplus to requirements. This is especially true in periods of economic crisis—provision for disabled people is always one of the first things to be hit.52

Disability discrimination is a distinct but complex form of oppression, based on the (negligibly to substantially) greater expense to capital of the labour power of impaired people. This oppression was not particular to the Industrial Revolution. Disability continues to be rooted in the way the capitalist mode of production subordinates concrete labour (and the concrete labourer) to abstract, interchangeable and homogeneous labour. The very nature of work in capitalist society constantly undercuts any potential for liberation.

The social model’s weakness in relation to impairment needs to be addressed. Limitations or lack of “part of a limb, organ or mechanism of the body” or mental function are the raw material on which disability discrimination works, and as such cannot be divorced from the latter. We have seen how disability is historically and socially determined. But this is also true of impairment. The “particular social and historical context…determines its nature… Where a given impairment may be
prevented, eradicated or its effects significantly ameliorated, it can no longer be regarded as a simple natural phenomenon”.53

The nature and heterogeneity of impairment distinguishes disability from other forms of oppression. Impairments may be physical or mental (or both), single or multiple, temporary or permanent, and acquired before or after birth. They may be mostly invisible, severely disfiguring or incapacitating, painful or even terminal. “The limitations which individual bodies or minds impose…vary from the trivial to the profound… The majority of disabled people do not have stable, congenital impairments…or sudden traumatic lesions (such as spinal cord injury), but instead have rheumatism or cardio-vascular disease or other chronic degenerative conditions associated with ageing”.54

Most people don’t fit neatly into two categories of able-bodied or disabled. People with slight visual or hearing defects, for example, can render these almost irrelevant by using spectacles or hearing aids (although they may need to pay for them), but those who are completely blind or deaf face far greater obstacles to social integration. The most severely impaired people are highly dependent on able-bodied support, provided in Britian by six million carers.

Finkelstein raises an associated problem. Disabled people “constantly fear that they may become associated with those that they see as less employable and more dependent. By trying to distance themselves from groups that they see as more disabled than themselves they can hope to maintain their claim to economic independence and an acceptable status in the community”.55 A more recent study shows that “[both] disabled and non-disabled people regard those with a learning disability or a mental illness as the least desirable groups”.56

The issue of who is “really” disabled can be highly divisive. Mike Barratt of the NLBD recalls being told that blind people are not disabled.57 The disability movement in Britain primarily organised around a fairly narrow stratum of physical impairment and was led mainly by wheelchair users.58 As one activist with learning difficulties complained, “We are always asked to talk about advocacy and our impairments as though our barriers aren’t disabling in the same way”.59

Most disabled people do not actually consider themselves disabled. Department of Work and Pensions research in 2006 found this was true of “around half of those covered by the DDA”.60 Deaf people pose a particular problem in these terms. Many whose first language is sign see themselves as a linguistic minority, and regard integration as a threat to a history and culture at least 250 years old.61 Other disabled people may see themselves as impaired, for example, some of those identified as having behavioural or mental health problems who arguably are not, but still suffer discrimination. This highly subjective element is partly why disability, to use a cliché, means different things to different people.

The extent and nature of these differences are other reasons (besides the more fundamental one of timing) why the disability movement attracted neither the opposition nor the scale of mobilisations and involvement experienced by other movements of the oppressed. Disability has no comparable equivalent to Stonewall or the great marches for
black civil rights.

Capitalism in general does not scapegoat disabled people in order to divide and rule in the way it does with other forms of oppression. Such discrimination plays a less central ideological role than that of homophobia, women’s oppression or racism. Neither is it generally popular. A recent UK survey, for example, found that 91 percent of people believe disabled people should have the same opportunities as everyone else.62 Disabled people are often the victims of prejudice and ignorance, but they are rarely targeted solely because of their impairment. Even where this was true, for example, with the mass murder of disabled people in Hitler’s gas chambers, this was not central to the Nazi movement in the way that scapegoating the Jews was. Similarly, bigotry against those with AIDS remains largely linked to anti-gay prejudice. Disability is fundamentally about neglect and marginalisation. Those who defend it ultimately do so using a much more central ideology—capitalism’s need to extract the maximum profit from labour with the minimum possible expense.

David Cameron’s government echoes its predecessor in its approach to “equalities” with a “corporate approach to diversity” which projects an inclusive image but in reality changes little.63 The DRC, before its recent demise, largely portrayed discrimination in terms of unacceptable attitudes (for example, “See the person not the disability” advertisements). Many disabled people also see individual prejudice and social barriers as the central problem. Some believe further progress depends on strategies such as cultivating “disability pride” or urging more people to “come out” as disabled.

If disability is rooted in the economic organisation of society, real change must involve a new economic organisation of society. If it is not primarily a political or ideological construct, the key cannot be to change attitudes or language, important as these are. Achieving real change requires a power which disabled people alone do not possess.

While the differences may be significant, the experience of other social movements has shown that the common and fundamental problem in attempting to unite an oppressed group is the issue of class. The huge struggles for black liberation turned into demands for black businesses, while the fight against sexism has been appropriated by raunch culture on the one hand and concerns about the “glass ceiling” for a minority of high-achieving women on the other. For gays and lesbians too, genuine equality, despite (as well as because of) the rise of the “pink economy”, remains elusive. Despite legislation outlawing discrimination against these oppressed groups, inequality remains deeply entrenched within the system.

b2. Class and disability

Like its counterparts in the US ruling class, the Economist complained about the potential costs of anti-discrimination legislation:

Everyone agrees that it is desirable to cater for [disabled people’s] needs. But if those needs are treated as rights, the obligation to help them could become limitless… Rights for the disabled must be balanced against the goal of a competitive economy.64

After these initial warnings about its alleged unaffordability, objections to anti-discrimination legislation focused on limiting its provisions, excluding “scroungers” (including alcoholics or drug addicts) and “fakers” deemed undeserving of rights or benefits. This issue of cost underpins most debates about disability, as well as those more generally around the “social costs of labour”.65 British capitalism needs some social spending in order to compete on the world market. But in recessions this conflicts with demands for reductions in spending, leading to arguments over what and how much is to be cut.66

Disability does not impact on all individuals equally. The incidence of impairment is much higher in poorer families.67 In England people living in the poorest neighbourhoods die on average seven years earlier than those in the richest. The average difference in impairment-free life expectancy is 17 years. So working class people not only die sooner, but will also spend more of their shorter lives as disabled.68 Secondly, wealthy disabled people can afford to pay for goods and services to compensate for the effects of oppression, in the same way that rich women employ nannies or cleaners. The majority of disabled people have no such option. Their lives are dominated by poverty, poor education and housing—as is the case for most other workers. As Glynn Vernon once said, “[My main problem is] I don’t have enough money, and I don’t have enough sex”.69

The greater visibility of disabled people in the labour force means they are more likely to be accepted as workmates, rather than social or economic burdens. In Britain the first disability trade union conference (organised by Nalgo, one of Unison’s predecessors) took place in Hull in 1988. Today disabled members’ sections exist in most British trade unions, with notable efforts to unite able-bodied and disabled workers. Recent trade union campaigns (for example, the PCS’s Public Services Not Private Profit campaign and Unison’s against the Private Finance Initiative/Public Private Partnerships), as well as others such as Keep Our NHS Public or Defend Council Housing, have brought unions together with service providers and user groups, including those of disabled people.

Aids and adaptations originally designed for disabled people have often proved to have much wider benefits. The typewriter, for example, was first invented over two centuries ago to help blind individuals communicate more effectively, while e-mail and internet chat rooms originated with inventions made for the deaf in the 1960s and 1970s. Today dropped kerbs on pavements benefit parents with pushchairs or shoppers with trolleys, closed captions on TV allow hearing viewers to watch in silence, and automatic doors in local supermarkets make access easier, not just for wheelchair users, but for everyone.70 The principles of “universal design” (products and environments usable by all which need no adaptations) are now increasingly popular in education.71

Disability rights for socialists must be part of building a collective working class consciousness. The provision of aids and adaptations in schools, universities and workplaces both helps disabled individuals to participate on an equal basis and builds unity in practice. This means ensuring, for example, that the Disability Equality Duty (DED), limited as its provisions may be, is fully implemented wherever possible.72 It may also mean defending sheltered workshops such as Remploy, even though we oppose segregation, and defending “special needs” education against cuts, though we believe everyone’s needs are special.73 Social reforms must be defended—not least in order to show the possibility of winning greater change in the future—but without illusions. Working class disabled people cannot afford to pay for their rights, either in the form of services or legal proceedings to secure access to them. While individual rights are important, they are in the final instance no substitute for collective liberation.

Other social movements helped achieve important legal change, while leaving intact fundamental inequalities. Over three decades after the British Equal Pay Act women’s earnings are still on average 21 percent less than men’s.74 Disability discrimination too can never be simply legislated away, because, like women’s oppression, it is embedded deeply in the structures of capitalist society.

In its earlier days the disability movement represented and organised those who saw social change—no matter how narrowly conceived—as the key to a better life for all. As UPIAS recognised, disabled people are a minority in society who lack the power to achieve lasting change on their own. Disabled people often in practice express a broader political or class identity, rather than one based purely on disability. The biggest demonstrations on record, the huge mobilisations against the Iraq war, were also the biggest demonstrations of disabled people.

The “festival of the oppressed” has been a feature of every major period of working class struggle, where previously demonised or marginalised groups have championed a common cause. Immigrant workers helped lead movements such as the Chartists and the Wobblies. At the peak of the struggle in Poland in 1980 one hospital doctor related how working class patients discharged themselves, suddenly well enough to join the Solidarno´s´c workers’ movement.75 The Russian Revolution of 1917, which saw women and Jews elected as its leaders, producing new ideas about disability many decades ahead of its time.76 Just as oppressed minorities rose to the forefront of these struggles, disabled people will be among those leading the revolutions of the 21st century.

An end to disability?
The horrors of the past are not simply abstract history lessons. The assumptions of eugenics are still present in claims that human society and behaviour are determined by our genes. Discussing online the death of David Cameron’s disabled son Ivan, senior British National Party activist Jeffrey Marshall complained about “an excess of sentimentality towards the weak and unproductive”, adding later that “there is not a great deal of point in keeping these people alive”.77 Although such ideas remain largely confined to the margins, this can change quickly.78 Cuts on a scale unseen since the 1930s are likely to rapidly polarise society, as the media and the government round on the latest scapegoats for the crisis. The coalition’s plans to privatise workplace safety inspections, increase its predecessor’s restrictions on disability benefits and promote the expansion of “special” (segregated) schools will create more impairment and more disability. But attacks on social services, pensions and benefits risk provoking generalised resistance.

From Mumbai to Mexico City, slums similar to those Marx, Engels and Dickens exposed 150 years ago now house an estimated 1 billion people, with poverty creating more disease and opening pathways for epidemics like HIV/Aids. Much of modern capitalism, with its ageing population, service industries and technological advances, differs markedly from the Industrial Revolution. Today’s workforce is as likely to be affected by repetitive strain injury or depression as by other workplace injuries. But the remorseless global drive to accumulate continues to cause disabling accidents and conditions at an unprecedented rate. The essence of humanity, our capacity to reshape ourselves and our world through social labour, remains controlled by a small minority whose sole interest in production is profit. The removal of this exploitation—the most fundamental divide in society—is a prerequisite if humanity is to achieve its liberation.

Marx provided a new definition of meaningful labour:

In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of individuals under division of labour, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labour, has vanished; after labour, from a mere means of life, has become the prime necessity of life…society [can] inscribe on its banner: from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.79

A socialist society will not liberate disabled people from their impairments. But eradicating competitive accumulation, the basis for capitalism’s wars, waste and pollution, will also eradicate the source of so much impairment. Simple measures implemented globally, for example, could prevent or cure the vast majority of all visual defects and blindness.80 In an economy planned and controlled by the majority, science, medicine and social care will be socialised and restructured by providers and users alike. Cooperation on a scale unprecedented in history will provide the basis for a real individualism celebrating diversity difference, and mutual interdependence. Only such a society can significantly reduce both the causes and the effects of impairment—as well as providing an end to disability.



Roddy Slorach
Many young women full of devotion and good-will have been engaged in superficial charities. They have tried to feed the hungry without knowing the causes of poverty. They have tried to minister to the sick without understanding the cause of disease. They have tried to raise up fallen sisters without understanding the brutal arm of necessity that struck them down… We attempt social reforms where we need social transformations.1

Evidence shows the recession in the UK has already hit disabled people hard.2 The new government’s huge public spending cuts include further attacks on meagre but vital disability benefits.3 Their aim is to roll-back hard-won ‘social reforms’ affecting all sections of the working class.. Understanding the nature of disability discrimination can therefore play a part in defending these reforms and uniting resistance to the attacks which lie ahead.

This article aims to articulate a Marxist approach to the issues of disability and impairment and to begin a debate which is perhaps overdue. Is the discrimination faced by disabled people a form of oppression like that suffered by other minorities under capitalism? What happened to the disability movement and the social model of disability which inspired it? Is it possible—and desirable—to achieve a society free of disability?

The nature and extent of impairment
Disability is a widely misused and misunderstood concept, as illustrated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) definition:

Disabilities is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations. Thus disability is a complex phenomenon, reflecting an interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives.4

These definitions reflect the progress made since disabled people were referred to officially as spastics, imbeciles and cripples. However, they also obscure the vital distinction established by the disability movement between individual impairment and disability as social discrimination.5 Leaving aside terminology for the moment, WHO figures do indicate the extent of impairment globally:

Hearing loss, vision problems and mental disorders are the most common causes of disability… Worldwide, an estimated 650 million people (10 percent of the total population) live with disabilities, the vast majority in low-income and middle-income countries… A significant proportion of disabilities are caused by traffic crashes, falls, burns, and acts of violence such as child abuse, youth violence, intimate partner violence, and war…up to one quarter of disabilities may result from injuries and violence. [These] include: physical and/or cognitive limitations due to neurotrauma; paralysis due to spinal cord trauma; partial or complete amputation of limbs; physical limb deformation resulting in mobility impairments; psychological trauma; sensory disability such as blindness and deafness.6

The WHO’s 2008 report also highlights mental disorders as among the 20 leading causes of disability worldwide, with depression alone affecting around 120 million people. Fewer than 25 percent of those affected have access to adequate treatment and healthcare. In 2004 the Labour government estimated Britain’s disabled population to be 10 million. The statistics show beyond doubt that a very large number of people are disabled. Second, many of their impairments are socially caused, and third, a large majority of disabled people are poor.

The creation of disability
Weaker, older or impaired members of pre-class societies were more likely to survive with the development of settled agricultural production and surplus crops. Feudal societies saw impairment in religious terms, as a mark of either good or evil, which meant those affected often faced persecution. However, the rural production process, and the extended nature of the feudal family, allowed many to make a genuine contribution to daily economic life. Families living and working as large groups were able to provide networks of care for children and the elderly. This way of life, typical for much of the world’s population for thousands of years, was to virtually disappear in the last three centuries.

The rise of capitalism forced people off the land. In Britain production for the market began on a scale sufficiently small as to be carried out in the home, and therefore impaired people could still play a role. However:

the rural population was being increasingly pressed by the new capitalist market forces, and when families could no longer cope the crippled members would have been most vulnerable and liable to turn to begging and church protection in special poor houses. Market forces soon favoured machinery which was more efficient and able to produce cheaper more plentiful woven material. Those working larger looms would more likely survive and cripples would have had greater difficulty working such equipment.7

The Industrial Revolution accelerated the pace of change enormously. Larger-scale machinery concentrated in factory towns increasingly destroyed the old cottage industries as well as traditional family structures, with members forced to find work away from the home or patch of land. The new factory worker “could not have any impairment which would prevent him or her from operating the machine. It was, therefore, the economic necessity of producing efficient machines for large-scale production that established ablebodiedness as the norm for productive (ie socially integrated) living…production for profit undermined the position of physically impaired people within the family and the community”.8

Working lives previously shaped by the hours of daylight and the seasons were now determined by the rhythm of the factory—even more so with the invention of gaslight and round the clock working. People’s bodies were now valued according to their ability to function like machines:

Factory discipline, time keeping and production norms broke with the slower, more self-determined and flexible work pattern into which many disabled people had been integrated. As work became more rationalised, requiring precise mechanical movements of the body, repeated in quicker succession, impaired persons—the deaf or blind, and those with mobility difficulties, were seen as—and without job accommodations to meet their impairments, were—less “fit” to do the tasks required of factory workers, and were increasingly excluded from paid employment. [The Industrial Revolution] removed crippled people from social intercourse and transformed them into disabled people.9

Specialisms were developed to help maintain and reproduce the new working class. Poor Law officials and an expanding medical profession developed pseudo-scientific categories to identify those of the poor who were unfit for work—”the sick, the insane, defectives, and the aged and infirm”. Dependence on others was now identified as a social problem and impairment equated with sickness and illness. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries those identified as disabled were segregated into workhouses, asylums, prisons and special schools. This had “several advantages over domestic relief: it was efficient, it acted as a major deterrent to the able-boded malingerer, and it could instil good work habits into the inmates”.10

Isolating disabled people in institutions—barbaric and oppressive as they were—led to the intensive study and treatment of impairments, creating the basis for clearer scientific understanding and classification. Mental impairment, for example, was seen as a single category until Langdon Down’s reports for the London Hospital in 1866. These identified, among other conditions, what later became known as Down’s Syndrome.11

With labour power now a commodity whose components were separately identified and valued, people with mental health problems were also increasingly categorised and placed in segregated institutions. In 1826, the first year for which statistics are available, fewer than 5,000 people were confined in asylums throughout England. By 1900, this had increased to 74,000.12

Capitalism represented a huge advance from previous societies in many ways. For the first time in history the productive capacity existed to feed, clothe and house the entire global population, while scientific and medical advances offered the prospect of understanding and curing diseases. But the new working class creating this wealth were excluded from any say over what was produced and how, suffering for their pains physical and mental impairment on an unprecedented scale. Those marginalised or excluded from production, either by injury or already existing impairments, also became marginalised or excluded from wider society. In this way capitalism created disability as a particular form of social oppression.

Reform and reaction
Life expectancy in the industrial towns was incredibly short. Manchester’s Medical Officer of Health reported in 1875 that “the average age at death of the Manchester upper middle class was 38 years, while [for] the labouring class [it] was 17; while at Liverpool these figures were represented as 35 against 15”.13 Cholera epidemics, poor hygiene and sanitation were not only a threat to the poor, and social reformers increasingly saw an unregulated free market as counter to the interests of British capitalism. Charities such as Barnardo’s and the Spastics Society took a growing role in caring for disabled people. Their often wealthy patrons lobbied for state intervention, better standards of treatment, and education for their disabled children.

The years of explosive strikes and growth in trade unions known as “New Unionism” also saw the formation of the British Deaf Association and the National League of the Blind and Disabled (NLBD). Founded as a trade union in 1899, the NLBD affiliated to the Trades Union Congress three years later.14 Its members (including blind war veterans), mainly working in sheltered workshops, campaigned for better working conditions and state pensions. The league organised a national march of blind people on Trafalgar Square in 1920, carrying banners with a new slogan—”Rights Not Charity”. Despite the small numbers, its aims were widely supported. The first legislation specifically for blind people was passed in the same year, followed by more in 1938.15

The upsurge of reforms also led to a reaction from the right. Eugenicists believed that, just as weaker or “inferior” members of a species weren’t meant to survive in nature, they were not meant to survive in a competitive human society. From the late 19th century,

advocates of eugenics…propagated the myth that there was an inevitable genetic link between physical and mental impairments and crime and unemployment. This was also linked to influential theories of racial superiority, according to which the birth of disabled children should be regarded as a threat to racial purity. In the notorious Buck v Bell decision of 1927, the US Supreme Court upheld the legality of the forced sterilisation of disabled people… By 1938, 33 American states had sterilisation laws and between 1921 and 1964 over 63,000 disabled people were involuntarily sterilised… Whether or not codified into law, the sterilisation of disabled people was common in a number of countries in the first half of the 20th century, including Britain, Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden, and Canada.16

Eugenics theory advocated the enforcement of a new concept, “normalcy”, through the elimination of “defectives”. It attracted widespread establishment support in Europe and the US, but was taken to its logical and genocidal conclusion by Hitler’s fascist regime. The extermination of disabled people was the first stage in its plans to “purify” the Aryan race of those considered weak or unproductive:

Nazi ideology considered disability to be a sign of degeneracy and viewed nearly any disabled person as a “life not worthy of life” [or] as [a] “useless eater”... Compulsory sterilisation for people with disabilities became German law in 1933. More than 400,000 people with disabilities were forcibly sterilised… A formal killing operation known as Aktion T-4 quickly followed, designed specifically for people with disabilities. The Nazi mechanisms for mass extermination of Jewish victims, such as carbon monoxide poisoning in “shower rooms”, were first developed and perfected through the disability programme. As a result, more than 275,000 people with disabilities were murdered in the Aktion T-4 programme, not counting all those who lost their lives in the concentration camps and after the formal phase of T-4 ended.17

The Holocaust was unique in its scale and barbarity, but it was also the product of a system that sees human beings as commodities to be bought and sold—or discarded as insufficiently profitable. As for eugenics, the theory fell from favour only after the nature and scale of Nazi atrocities became known in the years following the Second World War.

The rise and fall of the disability movement
The war economy had seen disabled people as well as women—previously considered respectively as incapable of or unsuitable for factory work—play a substantial role in wartime production. The need to rehabilitate huge numbers of wounded servicemen prompted legislation that in practice led to the expansion of existing sheltered workshops, usually paying below minimum wages. The post-war decades, however, brought virtually full employment and high levels of social spending. The foundation of the National Health Service and the expansion of the welfare state boosted further specialism within the professions. Medical advances led to more people living longer, and enabled others to carry out activities of which they were previously incapable:

Of particular importance was the availability of domestic appliances which could be operated with the minimum of physical energy and skill. Teaching a physically impaired person how to go to a well, fetch a pail of water, collect firewood and light a fire to make a pot of tea may have been impossible last century, but teaching a similarly impaired person to fill an electric kettle with water, switch on a button, etc to make a pot of tea today is well within the accepted aims of modern rehabilitation practice.18

The long economic boom created space to challenge institutionalisation and the patronage of charities, with significant numbers of disabled people joining the workforce. By the 1960s some had begun to reject their labelling by the professions as deviants or patients, and to speak out against discrimination. Inspired in particular by the black civil rights struggle, the disability movement began in the US.

The “Rolling Quads”, a group of student wheelchair users at the University of California, established the first Independent Living Centre in 1971. Within a few years hundreds more were created across the US and other countries including Britain, Canada and Brazil. Its opposition to institutionalisation and stress on the self-reliance of disabled people was to give the independent living movement an enduring influence.

Jimmy Carter’s 1976 election campaign pledged his presidency to signing Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act. These regulations, incorporating anti-discrimination law into the public sector, were partly the result of years of campaigning by disabled people, which had attracted Vietnam War veterans such as Ron Kovic.19 In April 1977, as part of a series of nationwide protests against the refusal to ratify Section 504, a group of disabled people occupied the San Francisco Health Education and Welfare Department. The sit-in, whose numbers grew to around 120, attracted widespread support (including from the local branch of the Black Panther Party). After 25 days Carter caved in. It was a stunning victory. The protesters left en masse, singing “We Have Overcome”.20 The US disability movement, however, had focused so much on campaigning for Section 504 that it virtually fell apart once it was finally implemented. It was a pattern that was to be repeated.

The UN declared 1981 the International Year of Disabled People. For reasons little to do with the UN, that year turned out to be a turning point. Disabled Peoples’ International (DPI) was formed by 250 disabled people at a conference in Canada, advocating “equal opportunity and full participation of handicapped people in all aspects of society as a matter of justice rather than charity”.21 DPI urged disabled people to unite in multi-impairment coalitions, and by 1989 had 69 members, each representing national organisations of disabled people.22

The coalition that emerged in the UK, the British Council of Organisations of Disabled People (BCODP), had by its mid-1990s peak grown to 106 affiliated organisations representing 400,000 disabled people.23 Its protests, sometimes involving several thousand people, included a “Rights Not Charity” demonstration at the Department of Health and Social Security in 1988, and two mobilisations against ITV’s “Telethon” in 1991 and 1992—the latter putting an end to the notoriously patronising charity fundraiser. BCODP activists were from the outset hostile to organisations “for” (as opposed to “of”) disabled people—primarily the professions and the hugely better-funded disability charities. This was even truer of smaller, more radical organisations such as the Direct Action Network (DAN). However, these principles rapidly gave way to joint campaigns with the big disability charities, on the grounds that the overriding priority was now to secure anti-discrimination legislation similar to that passed in the US in 1990.

John Major’s weakened Tory administration formed a task force to draft new laws. The BCODP refused to participate as a body, but some activists argued they could exert more influence by being involved. 24 The result, 1995’s Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), was widely criticised as both narrow and toothless. New Labour’s landslide election in 1997 led to a new Disability Rights Commission (DRC), which the government pledged would publicise, strengthen and enforce the DDA. The DRC successfully absorbed much of the remaining leadership of the disability movement.25 The truth is that few activists had an alternative strategy.

The alliance with the charities and New Labour seemed for many disabled people the only way to achieve broader social change. Single impairment charities had long been a vital source of welfare support or social networks. To many, disability was simply a human rights issue: “The principal thing is that we’re getting together…to make it different in terms of the politics of disability, which is about the rights of individuals; it is about the right to control our own lives”.26 Many activists saw “able-bodied society” in general as the problem, believing that people who were disabled had different and separate interests from those who were not. DAN activists were most explicitly separatist, seeing all able-bodied people as oppressors. This led to even more divisive notions such as who was “really disabled”. Meanwhile, blacks, gays and women pointed to discrimination against them by fellow disabled activists.

New Labour’s promised reforms effectively neutered the movement.27 As Oliver and Barnes put it at the time:

[We have seen] the growing professionalisation of disability rights and the wilful decimation of organisations controlled and run by disabled people at the local and national level by successive government policies despite rhetoric to the contrary. As a result we no longer have a strong and powerful disabled people’s movement… Since the late 1990s the combination of government and the big charities have successfully adopted the big ideas of the disabled people’s movement, usurped its language, and undertaken further initiatives which promise much yet deliver little.28

The crucial difficulty, however, was that the disability movement grew in Britain (and elsewhere) during and after a period of defeats for the working class, when other movements of the oppressed had already passed into decline (a fact reflected in the title of one early history, “The Last Civil Rights Movement”).29 Few activists saw any evidence then that the working class could successfully unite struggles of the oppressed with a shared interest in more fundamental change. As left and right alike within the movement agreed that disabled people needed firstly to organise for themselves, it was inevitable that the politics of identity would increasingly come to dominate those of class.

All this said, the disability movement helped win a wider understanding of the inequalities faced by disabled people, and in doing so achieved legislation addressing that inequality. How successful were these reforms in achieving this aim?

Reforms and neoliberalism
The most significant and best-known anti-discrimination laws of the last 20 years are the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and in Britain the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) of 1995 (with its subsequent amendments). However, the record since their implementation is not impressive. One US observer noted in 1999 that “the unemployment rate of disabled people has barely budged from its chronic 65-71 percent…in the first eight years [of the ADA], defendant-employers prevailed in more than 93 percent of reported ADA employment discrimination cases decided at the trial court level”.30

In 2005 Tony Blair went so far as to pledge full equality for all disabled people within 20 years.31 Two years later—and 12 years after the passage of the original DDA—the UK government had to acknowledge continuing and “unacceptable” levels of inequality among disabled people. It found that disabled workers earn between 6 and 17 percent less than non-disabled workers.32 More recent government figures show that among those of working age, fully 50 percent of disabled people are unemployed (compared with 20 percent of non-disabled people) and 23 percent have no qualifications (compared with 9 percent of non-disabled people). People with mental health problems have the lowest employment rates of all impairment categories, at only 20 percent.33

The ADA and the DDA share key weaknesses. Both require individuals wishing to pursue a legal complaint to prove first that they have a recognised impairment, with tribunals placing a primacy on medical evidence. Both also place the onus on individual disabled people pursuing—usually at their own expense—court cases which carry no guarantee of success, far less legally binding change.

The fault did not and does not lie solely in the legislation. A report produced by the Public Interest Research Unit on the effectiveness of the DRC found that “neglect of its enforcement powers, along with the difficulties individuals face in taking action themselves, has helped ensure that the majority of discriminators have got away with committing unlawful acts”.34 There is little evidence that the DRC’s successor, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), has performed any better. When Trevor Phillips (notorious for his claims that multiculturalism in Britain was not working) was reappointed as EHRC chair in July 2009, six board members resigned, several blaming the new body’s ineffectiveness under
his leadership.35

The politics of independent living
We are often told that the gains of the post-war years have led to “a demographic time bomb”. That so many people are now living longer lives should be a cause for celebration. However, the concern to capital is that a rising proportion of the population cannot be exploited, and constitute a growing economic burden. The huge public spending cuts expected in the wake of the current recession are therefore likely to include further attacks on the living standards—and lives—of old age pensioners, who comprise by far the biggest proportion of the disabled population.

With the closure of the hated institutions and the onset of community care, subsequent debates have focused on how appropriate care can be provided at home, and how disabled people can get more control over the services they use. The disability movement therefore campaigned for government policies based on this philosophy.

John Major’s dying government conceded a system of “direct payments” alongside the DDA in the mid-1990s. The scheme was championed by figures such as Colin Barnes and Jenny Morris, on the basis that disabled people must have choice over how their personal care needs are met—even if this meant further privatisation.36 Low take-up by local authorities, however, led to a rebranding under New Labour. “Personalisation” obliged the former, from 2003 onwards, to offer “individual budgets” to any applicants for disability-related services. Hopes that user-led organisations controlled by disabled people, particularly Centres for Independent Living, would provide the infrastructure and expertise to help run these schemes proved unfounded. Contracts have instead gone mainly to local authorities, charities or the private sector.37

These initiatives have so far led to little real change. One 2009 study found that 60 percent of disabled people with social care needs rely on informal help from relatives or friends to meet those needs.38

Over 70 percent of local authorities provide services only to those whose needs are considered “critical or substantial”; the rest are left to go it alone. While our politicians have adopted the language of the Independent Living Movement, users receiving services are lucky to get anything extending beyond being washed and fed.39

Labour’s approach has been adopted with a vengeance by the new government. In a keynote speech in July 2010 health secretary Andrew Lansley adopted a familiar slogan of the disability movement: “[Our] guiding principle will be ‘no decision about me without me’... We will extend personal budgets, giving patients with long-term conditions real choices about their care”.40 But the rhetoric is accompanied by budget cuts which threaten the widespread closure of existing services such as day centres and respite care. The cuts are also likely to mean that “the trend towards narrowing the eligibility criteria for support will continue, as demand for social care grows and budgets are increasingly restricted”.41 Many local care agencies have already been privatised, staffed by typically low-paid and unskilled workers. With further restrictions on disability benefits, individual budgets and/or personalisation are likely to promise meaningful choice or independence only to those who can afford to pay. For most disabled people, they offer instead an increasingly impoverished existence, atomised and isolated in their own homes.42

Health and social care services are increasingly provided by “third sector” bodies (voluntary organisations, charities and businesses), with government funding of around £7 billion a year. In 2008 Barnardo’s total income was £253 million, while in 2008-9 Scope received over £100 million and Leonard Cheshire (running care homes and supported accommodation) over £145 million.43 But these figures are dwarfed by public sector spending: the NHS budget in 2008-9 alone was £100 billion.44 The fact that most welfare services in Britain are still both free at point of use and (in the main) universally available is considered a major problem by many in the ruling class. The neoliberal solution, which US writer Marta Russell has aptly called “free market civil rights”, is a society of individualised consumers forced to shop around for services no longer run by public authorities, but by charities or private businesses. Much of the present UK cabinet may favour this solution—but they are a long way yet from achieving it.

The social model of disability
The pioneering distinction between impairment and disability was first made explicit by a group of disabled socialists in 1976, including anti-apartheid activist Vic Finkelstein. The tiny Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation (UPIAS) declared that disability, far from being biologically determined, was a social creation that could be challenged and eliminated:

In our view, it is society which disables physically impaired people. Disability is something imposed on top of our impairments by the way we are unnecessarily isolated and excluded from full participation in society. Disabled people are therefore an oppressed group in society.

Thus we define impairment as lacking all or part of a limb, organ or mechanism of the body; and disability as the disadvantage or restriction of activity caused by a contemporary social organisation which takes little or no account of people who have physical impairments and thus excludes them from the mainstream of social activities.45

These “Fundamental Principles” were later developed, principally by Oliver, into the social model of disability. He described it as a “tool for action” rather than a thoroughgoing theory:

[If disability] is seen as a tragedy, then disabled people will be treated as if they are the victims of some tragic happening or circumstance. This treatment will…be translated into social policies which will attempt to compensate these victims for the tragedies that have befallen them… If disability is defined as social oppression, then disabled people will be seen as the collective victims of an uncaring or unknowing society… Such a view will be translated into social policies geared towards alleviating oppression rather than compensating individuals.46

As he put it later, this oppression “is ultimately due to our continued exclusion from the processes of production… The social model of disability is concerned with the personal and collective experiences of disabling social barriers and how its application might influence professional practice and shape political action”.47

These ideas turned received wisdom on its head and had a hugely liberating impact on many disabled individuals. The social model played an important role in helping activists, particularly in Britain, understand and challenge discrimination. It won widespread acceptance as the disability movement grew under the Tory governments of the 1980s until the mid-1990s.48 As the movement receded, however, and hopes increasingly centred on a future New Labour government, the social model of disability began to be identified with a “rights” model centred on achieving legislative change. This “reclaiming” or “rectifying” of the social model often turned into its outright rejection, not least in the growing academia of Disability Studies departments.

The social model met increasing criticism (largely, it is true, from the right) on the grounds that it ignores impairment, a problem claimed to be at least as important, if not more than discrimination in the lives of disabled people. Oliver replied that the social model is “a campaigning aid concentrating on the collective experience of disablement, not the individual experience of impairment”. This wish to avoid divisions is understandable. Drawing on the precedents of the struggles for black, gay and women’s liberation, and rejecting biological explanations of social inequality, Oliver insists that “there is no causal relationship between impairment and disability”.49

In his influential book The Politics of Disablement, Oliver attacks the “medicalisation” of disability. This refers to the way disabled people have for many decades been made the objects of oppressive medical practice and research, focused on individual cures and treatment. Refusing to integrate impairment into the social model, Oliver argues the former is a less useful campaigning focus. However, this is to overlook struggles such as those in South Africa for affordable drugs to combat AIDS, as well as others against drugs such as thalidomide or ritalin, which have actually caused impairment. There continue to be fierce debates on the subject of medical cures or therapy among disabled people. The point here is that they are neither the whole answer to impairment nor “incompatible with social change and civil rights”, but that each should be taken on its merits.50

Other critiques of the social model highlight its lack of relevance to other forms of oppression, cultural issues or those of representation. These arguments miss the central issue—the social model’s aim was to outline a materialist understanding of disability as a form of oppression that could be fought against and overcome. 51 It dealt a huge blow to the idea that disability was simply about personal tragedy or individual medical conditions. It pointed to major social and economic change as the cause of disability and to further change as its solution. It is therefore on this basis—as a starting point in any theory of disability liberation—that the social model should be examined.

Disability and oppression
The idea that disabled people are less productive and “able”, and more dependent in general remains common sense, and in capitalist terms is largely correct. Without some form of assistance to compensate for the particular impairment or lack of function, many disabled people are likely to be less economically productive as individuals.

The advanced capitalist societies invest heavily in health, education and social services that help reproduce the labour force (keeping workers skilled, fit and healthy enough to work). Rehabilitating back into the workforce people with short-term impairments or illnesses is relatively inexpensive. But those with more severe long-term illnesses or impairments receive far less priority, as meeting their needs often carries no guarantee of future profits.

All forms of oppression share similarities but also important differences. Discrimination against black people, women, or gays and lesbians is not directly rooted in the way work is organised. Gender, ethnic origin and sexual orientation have no direct bearing on how productive individuals are under capitalism. Other oppressed groups were not and often still are not considered capable of particular kinds of work. But this is not the same as employers wishing to avoid paying the additional costs of hiring a disabled worker, whether in the form of work station adaptations, interpreters, readers, environmental modifications or liability insurance:

[The] root of our oppression is the fact that capitalism sees everything in terms of profit and profitability—and this colours how capitalists view disabled workers. Most employers see disabled employees as a “problem”—something difficult, something different, something that will cost them more to employ. That isn’t to say that capitalists are incapable of realising that disabled people can be a source of cheap labour. So the oppression of disabled people is a reflection of the way in which capitalism reduces everything to profit—effectively, capitalism says disabled people are surplus to requirements. This is especially true in periods of economic crisis—provision for disabled people is always one of the first things to be hit.52

Disability discrimination is a distinct but complex form of oppression, based on the (negligibly to substantially) greater expense to capital of the labour power of impaired people. This oppression was not particular to the Industrial Revolution. Disability continues to be rooted in the way the capitalist mode of production subordinates concrete labour (and the concrete labourer) to abstract, interchangeable and homogeneous labour. The very nature of work in capitalist society constantly undercuts any potential for liberation.

The social model’s weakness in relation to impairment needs to be addressed. Limitations or lack of “part of a limb, organ or mechanism of the body” or mental function are the raw material on which disability discrimination works, and as such cannot be divorced from the latter. We have seen how disability is historically and socially determined. But this is also true of impairment. The “particular social and historical context…determines its nature… Where a given impairment may be
prevented, eradicated or its effects significantly ameliorated, it can no longer be regarded as a simple natural phenomenon”.53

The nature and heterogeneity of impairment distinguishes disability from other forms of oppression. Impairments may be physical or mental (or both), single or multiple, temporary or permanent, and acquired before or after birth. They may be mostly invisible, severely disfiguring or incapacitating, painful or even terminal. “The limitations which individual bodies or minds impose…vary from the trivial to the profound… The majority of disabled people do not have stable, congenital impairments…or sudden traumatic lesions (such as spinal cord injury), but instead have rheumatism or cardio-vascular disease or other chronic degenerative conditions associated with ageing”.54

Most people don’t fit neatly into two categories of able-bodied or disabled. People with slight visual or hearing defects, for example, can render these almost irrelevant by using spectacles or hearing aids (although they may need to pay for them), but those who are completely blind or deaf face far greater obstacles to social integration. The most severely impaired people are highly dependent on able-bodied support, provided in Britian by six million carers.

Finkelstein raises an associated problem. Disabled people “constantly fear that they may become associated with those that they see as less employable and more dependent. By trying to distance themselves from groups that they see as more disabled than themselves they can hope to maintain their claim to economic independence and an acceptable status in the community”.55 A more recent study shows that “[both] disabled and non-disabled people regard those with a learning disability or a mental illness as the least desirable groups”.56

The issue of who is “really” disabled can be highly divisive. Mike Barratt of the NLBD recalls being told that blind people are not disabled.57 The disability movement in Britain primarily organised around a fairly narrow stratum of physical impairment and was led mainly by wheelchair users.58 As one activist with learning difficulties complained, “We are always asked to talk about advocacy and our impairments as though our barriers aren’t disabling in the same way”.59

Most disabled people do not actually consider themselves disabled. Department of Work and Pensions research in 2006 found this was true of “around half of those covered by the DDA”.60 Deaf people pose a particular problem in these terms. Many whose first language is sign see themselves as a linguistic minority, and regard integration as a threat to a history and culture at least 250 years old.61 Other disabled people may see themselves as impaired, for example, some of those identified as having behavioural or mental health problems who arguably are not, but still suffer discrimination. This highly subjective element is partly why disability, to use a cliché, means different things to different people.

The extent and nature of these differences are other reasons (besides the more fundamental one of timing) why the disability movement attracted neither the opposition nor the scale of mobilisations and involvement experienced by other movements of the oppressed. Disability has no comparable equivalent to Stonewall or the great marches for
black civil rights.

Capitalism in general does not scapegoat disabled people in order to divide and rule in the way it does with other forms of oppression. Such discrimination plays a less central ideological role than that of homophobia, women’s oppression or racism. Neither is it generally popular. A recent UK survey, for example, found that 91 percent of people believe disabled people should have the same opportunities as everyone else.62 Disabled people are often the victims of prejudice and ignorance, but they are rarely targeted solely because of their impairment. Even where this was true, for example, with the mass murder of disabled people in Hitler’s gas chambers, this was not central to the Nazi movement in the way that scapegoating the Jews was. Similarly, bigotry against those with AIDS remains largely linked to anti-gay prejudice. Disability is fundamentally about neglect and marginalisation. Those who defend it ultimately do so using a much more central ideology—capitalism’s need to extract the maximum profit from labour with the minimum possible expense.

David Cameron’s government echoes its predecessor in its approach to “equalities” with a “corporate approach to diversity” which projects an inclusive image but in reality changes little.63 The DRC, before its recent demise, largely portrayed discrimination in terms of unacceptable attitudes (for example, “See the person not the disability” advertisements). Many disabled people also see individual prejudice and social barriers as the central problem. Some believe further progress depends on strategies such as cultivating “disability pride” or urging more people to “come out” as disabled.

If disability is rooted in the economic organisation of society, real change must involve a new economic organisation of society. If it is not primarily a political or ideological construct, the key cannot be to change attitudes or language, important as these are. Achieving real change requires a power which disabled people alone do not possess.

While the differences may be significant, the experience of other social movements has shown that the common and fundamental problem in attempting to unite an oppressed group is the issue of class. The huge struggles for black liberation turned into demands for black businesses, while the fight against sexism has been appropriated by raunch culture on the one hand and concerns about the “glass ceiling” for a minority of high-achieving women on the other. For gays and lesbians too, genuine equality, despite (as well as because of) the rise of the “pink economy”, remains elusive. Despite legislation outlawing discrimination against these oppressed groups, inequality remains deeply entrenched within the system.

b2. Class and disability

Like its counterparts in the US ruling class, the Economist complained about the potential costs of anti-discrimination legislation:

Everyone agrees that it is desirable to cater for [disabled people’s] needs. But if those needs are treated as rights, the obligation to help them could become limitless… Rights for the disabled must be balanced against the goal of a competitive economy.64

After these initial warnings about its alleged unaffordability, objections to anti-discrimination legislation focused on limiting its provisions, excluding “scroungers” (including alcoholics or drug addicts) and “fakers” deemed undeserving of rights or benefits. This issue of cost underpins most debates about disability, as well as those more generally around the “social costs of labour”.65 British capitalism needs some social spending in order to compete on the world market. But in recessions this conflicts with demands for reductions in spending, leading to arguments over what and how much is to be cut.66

Disability does not impact on all individuals equally. The incidence of impairment is much higher in poorer families.67 In England people living in the poorest neighbourhoods die on average seven years earlier than those in the richest. The average difference in impairment-free life expectancy is 17 years. So working class people not only die sooner, but will also spend more of their shorter lives as disabled.68 Secondly, wealthy disabled people can afford to pay for goods and services to compensate for the effects of oppression, in the same way that rich women employ nannies or cleaners. The majority of disabled people have no such option. Their lives are dominated by poverty, poor education and housing—as is the case for most other workers. As Glynn Vernon once said, “[My main problem is] I don’t have enough money, and I don’t have enough sex”.69

The greater visibility of disabled people in the labour force means they are more likely to be accepted as workmates, rather than social or economic burdens. In Britain the first disability trade union conference (organised by Nalgo, one of Unison’s predecessors) took place in Hull in 1988. Today disabled members’ sections exist in most British trade unions, with notable efforts to unite able-bodied and disabled workers. Recent trade union campaigns (for example, the PCS’s Public Services Not Private Profit campaign and Unison’s against the Private Finance Initiative/Public Private Partnerships), as well as others such as Keep Our NHS Public or Defend Council Housing, have brought unions together with service providers and user groups, including those of disabled people.

Aids and adaptations originally designed for disabled people have often proved to have much wider benefits. The typewriter, for example, was first invented over two centuries ago to help blind individuals communicate more effectively, while e-mail and internet chat rooms originated with inventions made for the deaf in the 1960s and 1970s. Today dropped kerbs on pavements benefit parents with pushchairs or shoppers with trolleys, closed captions on TV allow hearing viewers to watch in silence, and automatic doors in local supermarkets make access easier, not just for wheelchair users, but for everyone.70 The principles of “universal design” (products and environments usable by all which need no adaptations) are now increasingly popular in education.71

Disability rights for socialists must be part of building a collective working class consciousness. The provision of aids and adaptations in schools, universities and workplaces both helps disabled individuals to participate on an equal basis and builds unity in practice. This means ensuring, for example, that the Disability Equality Duty (DED), limited as its provisions may be, is fully implemented wherever possible.72 It may also mean defending sheltered workshops such as Remploy, even though we oppose segregation, and defending “special needs” education against cuts, though we believe everyone’s needs are special.73 Social reforms must be defended—not least in order to show the possibility of winning greater change in the future—but without illusions. Working class disabled people cannot afford to pay for their rights, either in the form of services or legal proceedings to secure access to them. While individual rights are important, they are in the final instance no substitute for collective liberation.

Other social movements helped achieve important legal change, while leaving intact fundamental inequalities. Over three decades after the British Equal Pay Act women’s earnings are still on average 21 percent less than men’s.74 Disability discrimination too can never be simply legislated away, because, like women’s oppression, it is embedded deeply in the structures of capitalist society.

In its earlier days the disability movement represented and organised those who saw social change—no matter how narrowly conceived—as the key to a better life for all. As UPIAS recognised, disabled people are a minority in society who lack the power to achieve lasting change on their own. Disabled people often in practice express a broader political or class identity, rather than one based purely on disability. The biggest demonstrations on record, the huge mobilisations against the Iraq war, were also the biggest demonstrations of disabled people.

The “festival of the oppressed” has been a feature of every major period of working class struggle, where previously demonised or marginalised groups have championed a common cause. Immigrant workers helped lead movements such as the Chartists and the Wobblies. At the peak of the struggle in Poland in 1980 one hospital doctor related how working class patients discharged themselves, suddenly well enough to join the Solidarno´s´c workers’ movement.75 The Russian Revolution of 1917, which saw women and Jews elected as its leaders, producing new ideas about disability many decades ahead of its time.76 Just as oppressed minorities rose to the forefront of these struggles, disabled people will be among those leading the revolutions of the 21st century.

An end to disability?
The horrors of the past are not simply abstract history lessons. The assumptions of eugenics are still present in claims that human society and behaviour are determined by our genes. Discussing online the death of David Cameron’s disabled son Ivan, senior British National Party activist Jeffrey Marshall complained about “an excess of sentimentality towards the weak and unproductive”, adding later that “there is not a great deal of point in keeping these people alive”.77 Although such ideas remain largely confined to the margins, this can change quickly.78 Cuts on a scale unseen since the 1930s are likely to rapidly polarise society, as the media and the government round on the latest scapegoats for the crisis. The coalition’s plans to privatise workplace safety inspections, increase its predecessor’s restrictions on disability benefits and promote the expansion of “special” (segregated) schools will create more impairment and more disability. But attacks on social services, pensions and benefits risk provoking generalised resistance.

From Mumbai to Mexico City, slums similar to those Marx, Engels and Dickens exposed 150 years ago now house an estimated 1 billion people, with poverty creating more disease and opening pathways for epidemics like HIV/Aids. Much of modern capitalism, with its ageing population, service industries and technological advances, differs markedly from the Industrial Revolution. Today’s workforce is as likely to be affected by repetitive strain injury or depression as by other workplace injuries. But the remorseless global drive to accumulate continues to cause disabling accidents and conditions at an unprecedented rate. The essence of humanity, our capacity to reshape ourselves and our world through social labour, remains controlled by a small minority whose sole interest in production is profit. The removal of this exploitation—the most fundamental divide in society—is a prerequisite if humanity is to achieve its liberation.

Marx provided a new definition of meaningful labour:

In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of individuals under division of labour, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labour, has vanished; after labour, from a mere means of life, has become the prime necessity of life…society [can] inscribe on its banner: from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.79

A socialist society will not liberate disabled people from their impairments. But eradicating competitive accumulation, the basis for capitalism’s wars, waste and pollution, will also eradicate the source of so much impairment. Simple measures implemented globally, for example, could prevent or cure the vast majority of all visual defects and blindness.80 In an economy planned and controlled by the majority, science, medicine and social care will be socialised and restructured by providers and users alike. Cooperation on a scale unprecedented in history will provide the basis for a real individualism celebrating diversity difference, and mutual interdependence. Only such a society can significantly reduce both the causes and the effects of impairment—as well as providing an end to disability.