Saturday 2 May 2015

Is this the shittest defence of workfare ever?

Back in 2012 when the Tory DWP boss Iain Duncan Smith was battling against the Court of Appeals decision to declare his "Workfare" forced labour schemes unlawful, he launched an astonishingly pitiful defence of his unlawful "Workfare" scams (you can see a video and my critique of it here). I never though I'd see a more useless display of poorly considered rubbish, but someone recently left an attempted defence of "Workfare" forced labour schemes on my Another Angry Voice Facebook page that even manages to beat Iain Duncan Smith's bizarre ranting for sheer wrongness.

I know it's hardly worth my time to critique a ridiculous comment on my Facebook page, but it is often illustrative to demostrate just how wrong it is possible to be (plus I actually enjoy tearing hopeless arguments to pieces, so this article should be a doddle to write).

I'm going to quote the whole comment and then go through it piece by piece showing how mind-bogglingly wrong it is.
"Workfare is obviously not slavery, as no force is being applied to join them. Anyone is free to leave at any time. Hence the scheme is liberal, ie it makes for a free and so more just society in this regard (which is why the left hates it so much). It beggars belief that anyone could claim that working for one's wage is slavery - and then in the same breath say they want to enslave other people, by living off the taxes that other people pay."

So here's my point by point demolition:

"Workfare is obviously not slavery ..." - WRONG - Firstly I didn't actually claim "Workfare was slavery", so your opening salvo is a straw-man argument. Secondly, whether Workfare is slavery or not depends on your definition of the word "slavery". If we define slavery as "forced unpaid labour" then Workfare seems to fit the definition quite neatly. I've often advised people to avoid using workfare/slavery comparisons because it can be perceived as hyperbolic language by the pro-workfare people we're trying to dissuade from supporting it, but to claim that it's "obviously not slavery" is just misleading. We'll come back to inappropriate slavery comparisons later ...

" no force is being applied to join them" - WRONG - It is well documented that harsh benefits sanctions are used to force people into joining workfare schemes. In fact, the court case Iain Duncan Smith lost was all about whether his workfare punishment regime was lawful or not (it turned out that it wasn't).

Anyone is free to leave at any time" - WRONG - If people leave their "workfare placements" at any time, they are invariably punished with the absolute destitution caused by benefits sanctions. This fear of absolute destitution leaves workfare victims in the appalling situation where they have to simply put up with it if they are being bullied or abused by the bosses, or by other paid staff who resent people on unpaid workfare placements because they represent a very clear and obvious threat to the continuation of their paid employment.

"Hence the scheme is liberal" - WRONG - What the hell kind of defintion of "liberal" are you using in order to make it compatible with the state forcing people to work for no wages and with no labour rights, under the threat of absolute destitution?

"it makes for a free and so more just society in this regard" - WRONG - A free and just society where the state can bypass minimum wage legislation and force the citizen to work for no wages in jobs that they can't leave without suffering absolute destitution? What the hell kind of definitions of "free" and "just" are you using here? 

"which is why the left hates it so much" - WRONG - this isn't even a left-right issue, it's a libertarian-authoritarian issue. Stalin (left-wing) used forced labour schemes, as did Hitler (right-wing). The distinction here is whether we believe that the state has the right to extract the labour of the individual for no compensation and distribute it to favoured clients (an authoritarian stance) or whether the labour of the individual actually belongs to the individual (a libertarian stance). 

"It beggars belief that anyone could claim that working for one's wage is slavery" - WRONG - workfare isn't working for a wage, it's working for subsistence level social security payouts that have been paid for through National Insurance contributions. If the state makes the individual work in order to "earn" their social security payments, then what the individual has paid in National Insurance contributions has essentially been stolen from them by the state hasn't it? If you're fine with the government stealing from the public, you're the one who is beggaring belief, not me.

"and then in the same breath say they want to enslave other people by living off the taxes that other people pay" -WRONG - As already mentioned, unemployment benefits are paid in the form of National Insurance scheme payouts. They are not paid directly by other people, they are the payout from a collective insurance fund. If you don't understand how our social security system even works it's no surprise that you're the kind of half-wit who thinks that paying National Insurance contributions is comparable to slavery. This mind numbingly stupid "tax =  slavery" stance betrays the utter stupidity of your position. First you argue that the state taking the entirety of an individual's labour value and distributing it for free to favoured corporate clients (like Warburg Pincus, the US based conglomerate that owns Poundland) is "obviously not slavery", but then you whinge that the state taking a small percentage of the individual's labour value as a contribution towards a national insurance fund designed to protect against disability, unemployment and old age is "slavery"!

All in all this attempted defence of workfare is one of the most pitiful displays of utter wrongness I've ever witnessed!

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.

The decline in political participation and the rise of the non-traditional parties
Iain Duncan Smith's lame "Workfare" propaganda
The myth of right-wing patriotism
How George Osborne has created more debt than every Labour government in history combined
Iain Duncan Smith - Slavery and Narcissism
12 significant Tory-UKIP defectors
A letter to fans of Workfare
Michael Gove's ideological vandalism of the education system

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