Dole autonomy versus the re-imposition of work: analysis of the current tendency to workfare in the UK

Aufheben's 1998 analysis of the tendency towards workfare schemes in the UK.

1. Introduction

The global advance of 'neo-liberalism' has been given fresh impetus in Britain by the election of the New Labour government. Under Blair's leadership, the Labour Party has abandoned its traditional commitment to social democracy and has fully embraced the neo-liberal project originally pioneered by Margaret Thatcher. However, whereas Thatcher was obliged to attack the social consensus that had been built up on the basis of the post-war social democratic settlement, Blair is seeking to build a new 'one-nation' consensus around the on-going attacks on wages, working conditions and welfare entailed by the neo-liberal agenda.

As such, Blair's government recognizes that it is no longer sufficient simply to impose the discipline of money. In order to shore up conservative moral and 'family' values, the neo-liberal project has to be buttressed by direct social intervention, beyond the mere rhetoric of the party conferences, even if this means spending more money. This is clear with New Labour's 'Welfare to Work' programme.

While recent benefit 'reforms' and workfare schemes have clearly been 'cost driven', and this was no doubt foremost in the minds of the ministers who were responsible for introducing them, such measures were not simply about saving money on the welfare budget. With people compelled to work, wages would inevitably become depressed and existing workers would have less leverage to press for improved conditions. Likewise, 'Welfare to Work' is an attack not just on the conditions of the unemployed but also, through the job substitution and increased labour-market competition it will result in, on wage levels. But it is more than this. 'Welfare to Work' is part of a crusade to re-impose the work ethic. It is the government's flagship policy and is central to 'reforming' the very principles of the welfare state. As such, it is far better funded than previous benefit 'reforms', with £3.5 billion being raised specifically for it from a windfall tax on the privatized utility companies.

Despite these attacks, however, there is barely a movement of the unemployed in the UK today, let alone an effective unity between the unemployed and those in work. In contrast, the 1920s and 30s saw often effective action by a mass movement of the unemployed in the UK. The lack of an unemployed movement today is despite a relatively high level of non-representational political activity among those on the dole in recent years; indeed, the dole is the very basis for a number of the most vigorous direct action movements. The energies of the natural opposition to the attacks on benefits (the unemployed and the politically active) are currently being channelled in other directions. Workfare is being introduced in the UK, not because the unemployed have become 'acquiescent', but because a potentially powerful opposition prefers - misguidedly in our view - to fight over other issues or to seek individual solutions, rather than to defend the conditions that make some of their campaigns and activities possible.

We seek to situate the present situation as follows. The current tendency to introduce workfare as part of dealing with the welfare 'problem' in the UK is a political-economic expression of the current retreat of social democracy (which is the other side of the coin of the advance of 'neo-liberalism'). This tendency to benefit cuts and workfare in the UK is stronger now than at any time since before the post-war settlement. The present inclination to workfare is the logical expression of capital's current requirement to re-negotiate that settlement: to restrict welfare and to keep down wages through labour market competition; attacking the entrenched autonomy of dole-life is a vital part of this re-negotiation.

2. The UK background: the struggle from workhouse to welfare

The essential precondition for capitalism is the dispossession of the direct producers of their means of production. The direct producers have to be placed in a position where they have nothing to sell but their labour-power, where the principal source of their livelihood is wage-labour. Yet, since there is no obligation on capital to buy all the labour-power on sale, there is no guarantee that all the direct producers will be able to obtain access to their means of subsistence through wage-labour. As a consequence, from its very inception, capitalism has faced the problem of the existence of a substantial number of people without means of subsistence.

As early as the sixteenth century, the enclosures, which tore thousands of peasants from the land, created vast numbers of people who had no source of income other than begging, theft or robbery,[1] and who constantly threatened to coalesce into a 'mob' which could seriously threaten the social order. To deal with this, the first Poor Laws were introduced during the reign of Elizabeth I. Through the local administration of poor relief, these Poor Laws sought to regulate and contain the poor and workless within their local parish, where they were no doubt known personally by the local gentry, and thereby prevent them from forming companies of free-roaming outlaws.

With the emergence of industrial capitalism in the nineteenth century and the need for huge concentrations of wage-labourers in the new industrial cities, the old Poor Laws became obsolete. In order to drive the poor into the mills, factories and the mines, the new Poor Law of 1834 sought to make unemployment as unattractive as possible by imposing labour on those without proper jobs. The existence of the workhouse served as a threat to the whole stratum of proles not to ask for relief.

Yet, although there has long been a requirement to make unemployment unattractive (since otherwise few would have any motivation to work), the power of capital to construct dole-life as it wishes has varied significantly over the last 150 years. Indeed, such was the resistance to the 1834 Poor Law that it did not become fully operational until the 1870s when it became more centrally organised. At that time, the more far-sighted members of the bourgeoisie recognized that the Poor Law served to create a more united working class - in opposition not just to the workhouse but to the whole society. Hence a less harsh version was substituted.

The most well documented and perhaps most significant struggles of the unemployed emerged in the 1920s and 1930s around the National Unemployed Workers' Movement (NUWM).[2] The NUWM might be said to have been an extension of the militant shop stewards' movement of 1914-1918. This movement had successfully challenged the right of management unilaterally to decide matters in the workshop, despite the agreement between the TUC and the government that a truce in the class war should be called for the duration of the world war. As unemployment rose after the war, the militant shop stewards were among the first to lose their jobs. Those who formed the core of the NUWM were ex-shop stewards as well as unemployed ex-servicemen.

As its name indicates, those involved in the NUWM saw themselves as 'workers'; and indeed their defining demand was for 'work or full maintenance'. The NUWM also gave active support to workers on strike, in order or maintain the price of labour-power.[3] In relation to their demand for 'full maintenance', existing levels of relief were regarded as intolerable, and the unemployed were also faced with a series of attacks on their benefits. The NUWM launched a series of campaigns both to prevent the cuts and to improve existing conditions. The first campaign of the NUWM was against the task work system whereby those claiming outdoor (i.e., non-workhouse) relief had to work for their benefits.

The unemployed movement of the 1920s and '30s is famous now for its more spectacular forms, such as the national hunger marches. These mass marches were certainly seen as a threat to public order, and occasioned often violent confrontations with the cops. It was this kind of threat that, in the 1920s, forced the government to extend the unemployment insurance system. Despite the movement's national profile, however, most of the NUWM's successes were in the form of local agitations which forced concessions from the locally-administered relief system. In Coventry in the 1920s, for example, there were daily demonstrations of around 4500 people against the local Poor Law guardians who decided on relief payments and levels. Many of these local activities, too, entailed battles with the police, particularly in London, where the movement was strongest.

In 1931, a re-organization of unemployed benefit relief scales resulted in cuts for the unemployed and their dependants. Mass public demonstrations across the UK followed, both local and national. In 1932, a mass march from different towns across the UK, converging on London, ended in a riot with police in Hyde Park. Actions continued throughout the 1930s, although there were considerable regional variations in the strength of the movement, with London remaining the stronghold. For example, in South Wales, 300,000 took part in a demonstration in the weekend of 2-3 February 1935, and 30,000 rioted in Sheffield on 6 February of the same year. These kinds of actions forced the government into a hasty limb-down on Part II of the proposed Unemployment Bill, under which benefits were to be slashed and claimants were to undergo compulsory 'training' and work-for-dole in 'social service centres'. By the late 1930s, the movement's actions diversified; instead of the standard hunger marches, crowds of the NUWM occupied benefits offices and the Ritz restaurant, demanding to be fed.

It is estimated that around ten per cent of the unemployed were involved in the NUWM; around one million people passed through its ranks. Hundreds of thousands were mobilized in their large-scale protests. Latter-day supporters attribute to the movement of the unemployed the ending of the arbitrary Poor Law guardian system, and indeed the beginning of the welfare and full employment policies of the 1940s and 1950s.[4]

Whether the NUWM itself can take full credit for these changes or not, it is undeniably the case that, despite a series of defeats (particularly that of the engineering lock out in 1922 and the General Strike in 1926), the working class as a whole remained a continual threat throughout the inter-war period. Fearing that it would soon use its strengthened position following the end of the Second World War to launch a revolutionary wave as it had at the end of the first, the British ruling class had little option but to attempt to integrate the working class within capital and the state through the post-war social democratic settlement. Of course, unlike many of its continental counterparts, the British bourgeoisie had not needed fascism to smash the workers' movement before it could allow its representation within the state and capital. The exceptional conservatism of the leadership of the British labour movement made it readily amenable to class collaboration.[5]

Dominated as it was by members of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), the NUWM clearly saw itself as part of the labour movement and as such it sought to put forward 'respectable' social democratic demands. Yet the leadership of the official labour movement refused to accept the NUWM. Thus although NUWM was autonomous of the TUC, and committed to tactics of direct action, this was not through choice but because the latter rejected them.[6] Indeed, it could be said that the NUWM was forced to become radical despite its social democratic orientation. With the establishment of the post-war social democratic settlement the NUWM's aims of 'work or full maintenance' were achieved. The working class would make itself available for exploitation by capital and in return the state would guarantee the working class was paid wages or benefits sufficient to reproduce their labour-power.

3. The triumph of social democracy

3.1 The post-war settlement
The British welfare state represents a crucial class compromise. The working class in effect surrendered the demand for revolution or further radical social changes in return for welfare provision, full employment, rising real wages and representation within capital and the state (i.e. labour governments, corporatism, tripartite organizations, trade union rights and recognition etc.). Keynesian demand management policies represented the recognition that working class demands would have to be accommodated and harnessed as the motor of capital accumulation. Thus deficit financing allowed for rising real wages and public spending on welfare, to be repaid by returns from future exploitation. Given 'full employment', most unemployment was short-term and benefits were expected to cover people just for the few weeks while they were between jobs. With the relatively small numbers of unemployed, the costs of paying benefits were limited and could easily be paid out of transfers from the working class as a whole through National Insurance contributions or general taxation.

3.2 Consequences for forms of struggle
Social democracy, as the political and economic representation and integration of labour within capital and the bourgeois state, played a central role in the construction of the post-war settlement. The triumph of social democracy had consequences for the nature of antagonistic action by the proletariat.

Struggles and negotiations became institutionalized. The vital role of the trade unions within both capital and the state now became fully recognized. By enforcing rising wage levels against individual capitals, the trade unions ensured rising effective demand necessary for the general accumulation of capital under the Fordist mode of accumulation which came to be established in the post-war era. At the same time, the bureaucratic administration of welfare displaced mutual aid within working class communities and served to atomize the unemployed and separate them from those in work.

The establishment of a comprehensive welfare state also meant that the stakes came down - those made redundant would no longer starve. With day to day bread-and-butter issues removed from the ambit of radical and revolutionary politics, a split was created between the 'ideals' of a free society and mundane issues such as wage levels, which had been seen as inextricably linked in the old workers' movement; and so for example Kautsky's notion of reformist struggles paving the way for revolution (by 'educating the class'), and the tension between 'maximum' and 'minimum' programmes, which had previously been so important, were no longer relevant. The questions shaping the debate over forms of struggle within the old proletarian movement therefore became redundant. 'Reform' was now part of consensus politics. The triumph of social democracy also saw the long-term demise of the mass party forms characteristic of the 1920s and '30s. The CPGB and the Independent Labour Party therefore gradually lost their place as 'natural' homes for radicals and revolutionaries, and came to decline in membership and importance.

The institutionalization of reformism meant that antagonism became fragmented. Struggles over bread-and-butter issues such as wages took place within the institutions of the 'consensus'. The yearning for a wholly new type of world therefore sought new ways to express itself. One of the ways it did this was through 'cultural' forms: beatniks, hippies and other 'alternatives' in various ways expressed a critique of the state and of capital which was typically utopian. At times, these movements did effectively question the commodity form - as in the squatting movement, a direct attack on private property. But, as these 'cultural' movements provided identities for participants quite different from those of the old workers' movement, they tended not to grasp how the revolutionary movement is grounded in the basic contradictions of wage labour as the essence of capital. There was little sense that they shared a common relationship with the rest of the working class in their common antagonism to capital; and they had no means of realizing their aspirations for 'freedom' beyond dropping out, taking drugs, travelling, living in communes etc.

4. Crisis and retreat of social democracy

4.1 The upsurge in struggles at the end of the 1960s
The post-war settlement provided the relative social peace that served as the basis for the post-war economic boom. But with the upsurge in class struggle and the onset of the crisis of capital accumulation across Europe and the USA in the late 1960s, the conditions of the post-war settlement became an increasing burden on the capitalist class and served to strengthen the hand of the working class. It was a labour seller' market for most of the period from the 1950s, and wages continued to rise even above prices for decades. As anticipated by the Situationist International, even the relative prosperity of the time - with employment, cars, televisions and washing machines for nearly all - was not enough for many in the working class. Within work, the 'refusal of work' was such that it became recognized as a new, generalized form of struggle.[7] The events in France 1968 and Italy, 1969-1977, represent the highest expressions of a tendency that was sweeping both Europe and the USA. In the UK, the 'bloody-minded' workers of the early 1970s may not necessarily have been revolutionary, but their restrictive practices and continued demands for higher wages, political strikes etc., were seen as just as threatening and dangerous to capital as the more overtly revolutionary upsurges associated with students and others outside the traditional spheres of the workers' movement. The final humiliation for UK capital was the political strike by the miners, the strongest section of the UK working class, which toppled the Heath government of 1974.

Taken together, this upsurge was an uncontainable attack on the Keynesian settlement that had maintained social peace since the war. Crucially, it represented a convergence between struggles (typically by workers qua workers) over bread-and-butter issues and those which were more utopian (the 'new social movements'[8]). Thus the post-war compromise and hence social democracy could not contain and confine class antagonism to institutional forms. The way was therefore open for new political forms and ideologies, hence the rebirth and resurgence at that time of such forms as Trotskyism, class-struggle anarchism, left communism etc.

4.2 Mass unemployment and restructuring in the UK
Capital took flight from the traditional bastions of working class power in the face of the increased working class militancy, leading to crisis for sectors of the British economy, most notably in manufacture and heavy industry. But with Capital's successful use of crisis to undermine the gains of the proletarian offensive began a crisis in the newly resurgent anti-capitalist movement themselves, resulting in the return of the previous divisions. As we shall see below, such division seems to be at the heart of the failure of the unemployed and the rest of the natural opposition to workfare to respond as a movement.

The crisis and flight of capital meant in effect that governments in the industrialized economies could no longer sustain a commitment to full employment. In Britain, the initial response to the development of mass unemployment was to mitigate its effects as much as possible. The Labour Government at this time was committed to a strategy of defusing class militancy through a corporatist deal with the unions that came to be expressed in the now infamous 'social contract'. This demanded an 'equality of sacrifice' from all sections of the working class. To minimize conflict with those in work, wage restraint had to be matched by a commitment on the part of the government and employers to minimize compulsory redundancies and achieve the necessary reductions in the workforce through 'natural wastage'. However, this freezing of posts led to a dramatic increase in youth unemployment, as those leaving school or college found it harder to get work.

Youth unemployment threatened to place a whole generation outside the experience of wage-labour. Labour's response to this was the introduction of a 'work experience' scheme, the 'Youth Opportunities Programme', in 1978. In 1983, the Conservative government extended this scheme and made it compulsory, renaming it as the Youth Training Scheme (later simply YT). These were the first of a series of make-work schemes, which in effect took the place (inadequately) of the old apprenticeships rather than operating either to create 'real' jobs[9] or as a form of job-substitution. Like workfare schemes and unlike apprenticeships, however, they had no credibility with the majority of young claimants sent on them. The 'training' and 'work experience' they offered was almost valueless, the money was crap, and the sole function of the schemes was perceived to be to mask the true unemployment figures rather than provide a real job with a decent wage.[10]

The Labour strategy of corporatism was smashed in the 'winter of discontent' in 1979, when many of the key sectors of working class struck, bringing the country almost to a standstill. Thatcher's Conservative government adopted a radically new strategy. Abandoning the old social consensus, it sought to use mass unemployment to impose a substantial restructuring of British capital and hence reshape the post-war settlement more in favour of capital. Within little more than a couple of years of Thatcher coming to power, unemployment doubled to over three million. Whole industries were destroyed, leaving wastelands in many areas of the country.

Yet the government was careful not to provoke the working class at this time. One of the first acts of the new Conservative government was to abolish earnings-related benefits to prevent an explosion of in benefit payments caused by the strategies of mass redundancies; but apart from this, the first Thatcher government maintained existing conditions and levels of benefits. Moreover, mass unemployment was cushioned by substantial redundancy payments, particularly to older workers - in the government's view, a price worth paying so as to be able to close down inefficient and 'overmanned' industries, and to threaten existing workers with unemployment to get them to drop their restrictive working practices - i.e., to raise the rate of exploitation.

4.3 The autonomy of dole lifestyles
To make up for the increasing costs resulting from the strategy of mass unemployment, the government attempted to hold down administration costs. This resulted in a significant relaxation of the benefits regime. First, the increase in the numbers signing on was not matched by a corresponding increase in the numbers working in the DSS or Unemployment Benefit Offices. With the consequent increase in workload, welfare and employment departments had to concentrate increasingly on their core activities of paying out benefits, and to reduce their policing and snooping activities. Second, pay was held down for benefits and Employment Service workers, as it was for most other white collar public sector workers, undermining the notion that this was middle class work. The result of both these factors - increased workload and demotivation of dole workers - combined with the fact that for most people there were few if any 'suitable employment' opportunities, was that the pressures on unemployed people to find work diminished substantially.

Throughout the 1980s, the government introduced a large number of job schemes, as well as encouraging a number of informal ruses which also served to make the unemployment figures appear smaller. One of the most popular schemes among the 'voluntary' unemployed at this time was the Enterprise Allowance Scheme, under which unemployed people were given a grant for a year, rather than having to sign on,[11] provided they could produce a 'business plan' and some 'accounts'. Many of the 'voluntary' unemployed also welcomed being moved to the status of a 'sickness' claimant through the support of their doctor. This meant slightly more money, and, again, none of the hassle of signing on.

Thus there were a number of opportunities for the unemployed to forge for themselves a reasonable lifestyle on benefits; time and space existed for individuals and groups to be creative and to please themselves in a number of ways, whether by travel (holiday arrangements meant that regular signing on was not always necessary), music (forming bands), art or whatever. If necessary, the subsistence level payment of the dole could be supplemented by occasional work on the side. With mass unemployment, the refusal of work became pushed from the workplaces onto the dole.[12]

Dole autonomy didn't always express itself in these individual forms, however. A number of more collective antagonistic lifestyles and tendencies also thrived, most notably anarcho-punk, a movement which expressed itself well in the Stop the City demos and the trouble-making elements on the CND demos, but which split into class struggle and liberal fragments over the miners' strike and issues such as animal liberation.[13] Also during this period, the so-called Claimants' Unions continued to operate. Claimants' Unions developed in the 1970s, as a form of solidarity between various unemployed groups who wanted to avoid being found jobs by the government, rather than as a defence against forms of attack on welfare. In the 1970s, the Claimants' Unions' key demand of a basic minimum income for all without conditions (i.e., that is without having to work) seemed believable, since everyone else was involved in struggle and all demands seemed capable of being met. In the early to mid 1980s, Claimants' Unions and other unwaged groups mounted an effective campaign against teams of benefit snoopers who picked on single women suspected of co-habitation.

The investigation teams would call on such women, but would be greeted by supporters from the Claimants' union who would interrogate the investigator and tape record the conversations. The more successful interventions of this type were a result of co-operation between Claimants' Unions and dole workers, who alerted Claimants' Unions to the imminence of visits.[14]

Also in the early 1980s, the TUC initiated the setting up of a number of 'unemployed centres' around the country. These were for the most part conceived as services for the unemployed (advice, meeting space, education etc.), and their financing sources imposed certain restraints on their political possibilities - although there was also some contestation of this by groups of the unemployed themselves.[15] The unemployed centres were intended to serve the vital recuperative function of keeping the unemployed (and who, it was assumed, necessarily wanted to work) within the influence of the trade union and labour movement, and out of the clutches of both fascism and such 'ad hoc' groupings as the independent Claimants Unions.

4.4 The end of the 1980s dole-boom
Having defeated the miners in 1985, the government felt confident enough to tackle the problem of the high costs of mass unemployment. Hence the Fowler Review of 1988, under which automatic entitlement to benefit was withdrawn for those aged 16 and 17,[16] while benefits for those aged 18-25 were cut by 30 per cent. Moreover, for all claimants, the condition for receiving benefit was now not simply to be 'available for suitable employment', the claimant also had to be 'actively seeking work', even if there was no work to be had. It was at this time that regular 'Restart' interviews were introduced to pressure the unemployed to accept places on the various 'training' schemes. Drives to harass claimants onto these schemes coincided with pre-election periods, as they functioned again to conceal the true unemployment figures.

Unemployment remained high - around two million even on the official figures - throughout the 1980s. However, for most people in work, wages rose far faster than prices to pay for the increased productivity demanded. This was in sharp contrast to the USA where a similar increase in unemployment and attack on benefits through the recession of 1980 saw the value of wages plummet. in the UK, it took another severe recession - at the end of the 1980s and early 1990s - to break rising real wages and introduce the increased job insecurity of short-term contracts and part-time work necessary to maintain the profitability of British capital. But with this recession of the early 1990s came the burden for the state of increased long-term unemployment.

5. Signing on in the 1990s: the end of dole-life as we know it

5.1 Cuts in eligibility
In the early 1990s, Conservative Social Security Secretary Peter Lilley admitted that, following the Fowler Review, there was little scope for cutting the level of benefits since they were so low already. The government strategy to reduce the welfare bill was consequently two-fold. In the first place, it sought to withdraw entitlements from increasing numbers of people. Hence benefit entitlements have been withdrawn from students (previously entitled to get income support and housing benefit in the holidays), European Union workers[17] and asylum seekers. Second, the government sought to tighten up the benefits regime. Thus whereas in the 1980s there was a tendency to encourage some of the unemployed to claim sickness benefits, in the 1990s there has been a reverse process; the criteria for claiming types of sickness benefit has been made more rigorous through stricter tests of incapacity and use of the DSS' own doctors. Moreover, claimants registered as unemployed have been required to expand their job search after three months to include jobs which they wouldn't initially consider as 'appropriate'. Courses to teach job search, interview skills and drawing up CVs etc. have been made compulsory: 'Job Plan Workshop' (after 1 year) and 'Restart' (after 2 years). At the same time, the government have continued to rehearse the 'scroungers' and benefits fraud theme in order to lend these attacks some legitimacy and encourage division within the working class as a whole.

While organized resistance among the unemployed to these changes has been gravely disappointing (as we discuss further below), the government has still run into problems in implementing them successfully. This is due to a significant extent to the entrenched working practices and active resistance of workers in the benefits and employment offices. Seeing themselves as overworked and underpaid,[18] many dole workers have been reluctant to work harder to discipline the unemployed on behalf of the government.[19] This entrenchment has concrete expression in the common experience amongst claimants of being helped through some of the standard questions by counter staff. It has also been demonstrated in the repeated failure of the Employment Service to impose more regular Restart interviews. The Employment Service had to repeatedly initiate drives to impose stricter benefit controls, only to have the situation revert to normal once the drive was over.

5.2 The JSA
It was in the context described above that the Job Seeker's Allowance (JSA) took shape. The JSA, which consolidated Unemployment Benefit (contribution-based) and Income Support (means tested) in October 1996 has a number of features, the following perhaps being the most significant:

- the cutting of contribution-based benefits from 12 to 6 months

- a contract (the 'Job Seeker's Agreement') such that the claimant must search for a given number of jobs each week, and must on demand produce evidence of their job seeking

- increased sanctions for not 'actively seeking work': loss of all unemployment benefits for set periods rather than just a proportion as in the past

- the ability of 'client advisers' to issue 'directives' telling claimants to apply for particular jobs or to make themselves as presentable (even including haircuts and removal of earrings etc.) on pain of sanctions.

In relation to dole workers the JSA meant:

- the streamlining and eventual merging of BA and ES functions, and hence an overall reduction in the number of posts

- increased quotas/performance related pay (i.e. pay was to be more closely linked to how many people were pressured off the dole).

Although, the immediate aim of the JSA was to save money by restricting the numbers of claimants, it was also a major change in the very nature of welfare administration designed to put pressure on the unemployed to compete on the labour market and thereby undermine the general level of wages and conditions of those in work. It also paved the way for workfare. Under the old system, the unemployed only had to satisfy a number of general conditions in order to receive benefits. With the JSA, in addition to such general conditions, certain individual conditions can also be imposed at the discretion of the 'client advisors'. In order to ensure that such discretion is not used too leniently, claimant reduction targets are imposed on individual workers, sections and offices within the Employment Service.

5.3 'Project Work'
With the bad name associated with workfare in the UK, the Conservative government introduced two pilot schemes, named 'Project Work', which they presented as 'work-experience' rather than 'work-for-your-benefits'.[20] The stated aim was to 'help' the long term unemployed by allowing them to re-learn discipline of work. The schemes began in Hull and Medway (Kent) in 1996, and everyone in these areas who had been unemployed for 24 months or more was eligible. The attempts to gloss the workfare nature of the schemes failed, and the schemes never gained legitimacy. National voluntary organizations and charities such as Oxfam and Mind condemned the schemes, and the local councils, trades union councils and unemployed centres called for a boycott by all the employers in these areas. In Medway, placements were continuously given to people to paint the Napoleonic Fort Anherst; the fort was painted 27 times in less than a year.

There was also widespread individual resistance by claimants. It is certainly true that if you stand outside any JobCentre in the UK with leaflets criticizing the treatment of the unemployed, you will encounter many people who want a job, who feel depressed (as well as poor, of course) to be on the dole, and who are just as critical of the anti-work tendency as many of those who are in work. Yet these pro-work ideas do not of course translate easily into a willingness to accept any job and scheme; most people sent on compulsory schemes regard them with contempt. Hence a common response of the unemployed in Hull and Medway was (nominally) to move away from the pilot area or to sign off - at least for a while.

By take-up rates and the numbers who eventually moved into proper jobs, the schemes were a flop. The Conservative government response was to present a changed rationale for the programme. They claimed that 'Project Work' was a success in that it had served to flush out those who were working on the side - forcing them to give up either their black economy jobs or the dole.[21] The government therefore extended the pilots to a further 27 towns across the UK. With the abolition of the Community Programme and the introduction of this new, compulsory version of this work experience scheme, the agenda of punishment of the unemployed through workfare arrangements, extending the logic of the JSA to drive down wages, was set to continue. The implementation of these further pilots was delayed by the election. They finally began in August 1997, with a number of regional variations. Thus while the scheme in Brighton uses only organizations registered as charities, the one in Edinburgh has involved care work placements in the local hospital service, old people's homes, children's homes and day centres. The Project Work schemes are due to finish in Spring 1998, when they will be replaced by the 'New Deal', a more ambitious programme of schemes for the unemployed.

5.4 New Labour, New Deal
The 'New Labour' government, elected in May 1997, have described the 'New Deal' - or 'Welfare to Work' - as their flagship policy, and indeed it characterizes in many ways the 'New Labour' approach to work, unemployment and welfare, and indicates why this government has been welcomed so unambiguously by British capital.

The project of New Labour began with the recognition among senior Labour Party figures that Keynesian policies was dead, and therefore that 'socialism' (social democracy) was finished. New Labour starts from the assumption that the renegotiation of the post-war settlement begun by Thatcher et al. is irreversible but incomplete. It is incomplete because the Conservative Party is beset by various irrationalisms (petty nationalism, racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.) which only sustained and aggravated the divisions it provoked in the great Thatcherite upheavals of the 1980s and '90s. 'New Labour' therefore wants to eliminate these divisive irrationalisms and create a new consensus on the basis of the existing 'neo-liberal' attacks on wages, conditions and welfare. 'New Labour' intends to be the new 'one-nation' party, in a country where all agree that 'flexibility' in labour markets is necessary and desirable. Consensus, and hence lack of strife and strikes, makes for a more efficient capitalist national-machine, as we all pull together for the greater good, recognizing our duties just as much as our rights.[22]

Keynesian ideas about boosting the economy through public sector investment are out, but Labour are able to capitalize on the ghost of Keynes expressed in the widespread desire for creating more jobs. Chancellor Gordon Brown has hinted that 'full employment' is a possibility again. The trick is that 'full employment' has become redefined to mean that the opportunities for 'a life on benefits' are going to be squeezed out. In this vision, forms of workfare become 'opportunity' instead of punishment; and with so many 'opportunities', there will be no excuse for not having either a job or a 'training place'; hence the plan to eliminate the dole for certain sections of the population. In effect, and although they certainly wouldn't use the term, workfare has been transformed from anathema to a vital component of the new consensus; the only questions that remain are over the details.

The language and strategy of Labour's 'New Deal' or 'Welfare to Work' has been based directly on the recent American workfare models, particularly that in Wisconsin. The American schemes, which have exploded in number and scale since the 1990s and look set to expand even further, have led to widespread job substitution in the public sector. This is particularly the case in the New York version. New York City has now cut over 20,000 unionized city jobs through natural wastage and severance buyout packages. By mid-1997, there were around 75,000 workfare workers being employed in the public sector doing these same jobs - in the parks and public works departments, child-care centres, and even social security offices. Workfare workers will eventually comprise over half the labour force employed by the city. Obviously, as has happened elsewhere, once those made redundant from the city join the welfare roles they stand a good chance of getting their old job back - this time for benefit level 'wages' and none of their previous employment rights.[23]

The 'New Deal' is principally targeted at those in the 18-24 age group who have been unemployed for six months or more.[24] It entails four 'options':

A six month placement with an employer who will receive a subsidy of around £65 per week per placement, and who will be expected to provide one day a week of training. This 'option' entails receiving some version of a wage, although it appears likely that this will not even equal the forthcoming minimum wage. The government hopes that the placement will become a real job when the subsidy runs out; but there is nothing in the legislation to enforce this and only vague stipulations that job substitution should not take place.

A year of full-time education - but only up to NVQ2[25] - for dole money.

Six months 'work experience' with a 'voluntary' organization including one day a week of training, again for dole money.

Six months work with the 'environmental task force', doing 'good work' for 'the environment' and 'community'; participants receive their dole plus a one-off grant of £400. This seems to be the mop-up option.[26]

Both ministers and loyal backbenchers have repeated the slogan that there will be no 'fifth option' - i.e., no option of not choosing one of these options, not all of which will be available to all the 'client group' in any case, because the whole thing is subject to a large number of local variations.

Although Labour make a virtue out of being 'new' and 'modern', the principles of their current plans in certain important ways echo those behind the 1834 Poor Law, discussed earlier. First, there is the guiding principle, as stated by New Labour's welfare ideologue Frank Field,[27] that no one who is able bodied should be allowed to exist on benefits without giving something back. Second, and maintaining the trend of recent years, signing on is to be made increasingly unattractive and punitive. As with the threat of the workhouse, the new workfare-style schemes being proposed are too expensive to be offered to all; rather, there will be a period of intensified bullying to get unemployed people into existing (low-paid, short-term) job vacancies before the government has to fork out for the new subsidized schemes.

New Labour boasts about how it is using £3.5bn windfall tax to pay for this ambitious project, money taken from the profits of the privatized utilities. By injecting money in this way, which seems to echo their Keynesian redistributive past, New Labour demonstrates its commitment to the plight of the young unemployed in comparison to the cynical, cheapskate, 'Project Work' scheme of the last government. But compared to genuinely Keynesian strategies, £3.5bn, which will be spread over four years, is small fry. A more important contrast with Keynesian strategies previously pursued is that New Labour have never promised to create more jobs per se. Instead they believe that the way to deal with unemployment is to equip individuals with 'skills'. So their approach to the problem of unemployment and the welfare bill is ultimately the same as that of the last government: creating competition in the labour market to the advantage of capital - although this time perhaps the more skilled sectors will be affected, not just the bottom end.[28]

In the world-view of New Labour, work is the solution to almost all social ills, providing not just a healthy, competitive economy but 'independence' and 'self-respect' for those otherwise deprived of the experience of wage-labour. The New Deal maybe relatively cheap compared to Keynesian strategies but it must be understood as part of a huge ideological offensive according to which the work ethic is instilled in everyone, and those groups who have taken a life on benefits for granted come to be 'included' in the world of wage-labour.[29] New Labour recognizes that a key problem for UK plc is that too many people are not 'job ready'; having spent too much time on the dole, they no longer have work discipline and can't even get out of bed on time in the morning; hence the current talk of The current talk is of cutting the money paid to unwaged single mothers and those on invalidity benefits, and 'encouraging' them to work outside the home, even part time. Thus, not just those registered unemployed, but almost everyone is to be expected if not forced to work.

As part of the Labour government's attempt to build a new consensus, they have sought to consult widely on the idea and implementation of the New Deal. A series of consultative conferences have had some success bringing aboard the various constituencies - including the unions[30] before the whole scheme begins. In these financially strained times, it is not only business that welcomes the thinking behind New Labour's New Deal.[31] Most local councils are now Labour, and though critical of Project Work, they are largely enthusiastic about the New Deal. The councils are to be involved in the planning and co-ordination of the schemes, and will certainly benefit from the availability of so much cheap labour. The voluntary sector also welcomes the New Deal. This sector has increasingly taken over functions from the welfare state as the latter has been run down. Although some of the more socially aware liberals running voluntary organizations recognize that forced labour of the sort entailed by the New Deal conflicts with the spirit of voluntary work, they have a chronic need for labour.[32] Finally, there is the education sector, particularly the further education colleges, which in many cases will be providing the education option in the New Deal. This sector now operates in a market, getting paid per student, being penalized financially for drop-outs, and with each college advertising their wares in competition with other colleges. The New Deal will bring them money, and in these times of marketization and restructuring they don't care where money comes from.

At the time of writing (April 1998), the New Deal has gone national following the implementation of twelve local pilot schemes (from January). Even at this late stage, much of the New Deal seems to exist as plans and prospects and there are growing signs that New Labour may have bitten off slightly more than they can chew. Nevertheless, even to consider such an ambitious scheme, the government must be confident that there will be little in the way of effective resistance. It is now necessary to step back and ask why the natural oppositional forces to the current stricter benefit regime and workfare schemes have allowed things to get this far.

6. Activity of the oppositional forces

6.1 Leftist responses to the JSA et al.
The TUC campaign coined the slogan 'Jobs not JSA'. Their argument was that in fact unemployed people do not need to be bullied into work since they want to work, and would do so if (decently paid) jobs were available. Their 'campaign' was in fact just a matter of lobbying and producing briefings with their arguments.

Some frustration has been expressed among otherwise traditional unemployed groups affiliated to TUC unemployed centres over what they saw as the lack of support and sense of urgency of the Labour Party and TUC over the JSA and 'Project Work'. This led in some cases to a convergence between these traditionalists and the more direct-action based approach of the Groundswell network (see below). On the whole, though, the unemployed groups associated with the TUC centres have had little to do with autonomous claimants' action groups.

The most significant activity from those on the left has not been a product of a particular leftist organization or ideology as such (whether Labourism or Leninism) at all, but has rather reflected the fact that the restructuring of welfare has affected not only those on benefits themselves but the workers who administer it, as mentioned earlier. JobCentres and benefit offices were anyway areas of relative strength for members of leftist groupings such as Militant, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) etc. The usual (libertarian) criticism of such leftists is that they try to impose a party line on the struggles of others, and are too inflexible sometimes to recognize the validity of autonomous struggles.[33] But, in the case of the attack on the welfare system, it was in many cases the leftists' own workplace that was involved. This, combined with the general decline amongst leftist organizations in the 1990s, has meant that their behaviour has in many cases been different - less sectarian, less dogmatic.[34] Anarchists and communists therefore had to relate to them differently; that they didn't always do this is characteristic of the limits of the opposition as a whole.

6.2 Groundswell and the JSA
In 1995, a number of anarchist and similar groups from around the country, often connected to Claimants' Unions or community action groups, began meeting to develop a common strategy against the JSA. Most of the people at these Groundswell conferences were unemployed themselves, and had in an important sense chosen to be so. Common to most of them, and certainly of the more influential groups in the Groundswell network, was a suspicion of if not a hostility to the left and the trades unions, not just in terms of their representationalism, but also in terms of their attitude to work.

While the left and the TUC whined on about wanting 'jobs not JSA', Groundswell groups pointed out, rightly, that the JSA was precisely about creating more jobs: shit, poorly paid ones. The JSA aimed to bully people into the existing crap jobs so that employers could have a supply of cheap labour, allowing further expansion and investment - and creating more such crap jobs. The TUC and the left avoid acknowledging the widespread hatred of work among workers and the existence of work-refusal among the unemployed; to do so would expose their own workerist ideology and their dislike of shirkers - their commonality with the bosses. But the Groundswell groups saw the refusal of work as a key issue; they have principally been concerned to defend (and extend) the comforts of unemployment rather than see further jobs provided. The slogan they developed was "Against dole slavery, Against wage slavery".

In terms of strategy and methods, the anarchist/Claimants' Union heritage seemed to reflect itself in the use among Groundswell groups of a number of self-help and individual/small group solutions. Methods included the distribution of leaflets outside JobCentres giving people advice on how to fail job interviews without being sanctioned. Of course, everyone who is on the dole needs to use such scams from time to time, and it is obvious that we can help each other by sharing insights on scams etc., and hence find in each other a source of strength. This certainly worked for the Claimants' Unions in the past. But rather than bringing people together, the scamming/advice strategy can also serve to reinforce the individualism that is partly inherent to dole-life anyway. The seeking of individual solutions can obviate the need for getting together - indeed that is the argument of most of those who do not get involved in their local claimants' action group: that they can 'sort things out for themselves' by scamming, bluffing etc. But, of course, as these resourceful individuals are also aware, the quota system entailed by the JSA means that while the most articulate may survive, others will still be caught out, and the logic of the JSA will go unchallenged, leaving it well-positioned to get you in the future. The favouring of individual solutions of scamming and advice has a parasitical effect on claimants' action groups themselves too. Individuals in some cases treat claimants' action groups as a welfare rights service. Where groups are small, this tires activists out and leaves them disillusioned with their potential for transformation. The tendency within Groundswell to favour individual strategies through giving out advice on scams etc. is therefore essentially an organizational expression, rationalized by anarchist anti-work ideology, of the existing dominant tendency among the unemployed to resist as individuals.

But support for scamming was only one strategy employed by Groundswell groups. There were also a number of 'days of action'. Thus a year before the JSA was to be introduced, groups held pickets outside JobCentres and occupied JobCentres and 'training' agencies until removed by cops. However, even the largest of these actions numbered no more than 100 participants.[35] There were also two national demos and an occupation of the DfEE headquarters, but again the numbers attending were low - no more than a few hundred. Some local groups were more active than others in taking collective actions to put pressure on the Employment Service. On the day the JSA came into force, the biggest demo in the country was in Brighton; over 300 laid siege to the JobCentres, and dole-workers used it as an excuse to down tools, bringing the new system into chaos on its first day. In other places, however, even in London, the response was minimal if not non-existent.

Groundswell remains a network of small campaign groups rather than a movement. Groups in the network have neither captured the imagination of large sections of the unemployed nor have they made many significant links with those in work - not even those who work in the JobCentres. While the former problem is arguably largely beyond the control of the claimants groups, many of whom have been working flat out to get people involved, the problem of a lack of a relationship with dole workers is due in part at least to the limits of the analysis amongst some of the Groundswell groups.

6.3 Relation of claimants action groups to dole workers' struggles
When the claimants' campaigns against the JSA first began, most Groundswell groups had virtually no contact with even the most militant of dole workers. However, In the winter of 1995-6, the CPSA[36] called a strike over performance-related pay in the JobCentres. An increased component of performance-related pay was only one of a series of measures functioning to proletarianize a workforce that was already poorly paid. The JSA itself was intended to lead to the loss of thousands of JobCentre and Benefits Agency jobs as the service was streamlined, increasing the workload for those remaining; it also was designed to increase the policing role of the JobCentre workers. While the strike was not against JSA as such[37] a victory for the workers would have strengthened their hand against that of management in the introduction of the new regime; crucially, many dole workers did not want to 'perform' harder when that meant harassing claimants. Throughout the strike, dole workers managed to disrupt the implementation of the JSA, delaying it by more than three months, far more than the entire Groundswell network alone has been able to do in three years.

Despite the early hour of the picket line and the freezing weather during the period of the JobCentre strike, a number of claimants groups joined striking workers on their picket-lines, and hence contact was made. In Brighton, for example, claimants were on the picket-line every day for weeks, explaining to those who came to sign on the reasons for supporting the strike. Such support on the picket lines showed militant dole workers that organized claimants could be taken seriously. However, the depth and endurance of contact varied. This was partly due to the fact that the strike was all-out in only certain selected regions; in other areas the strike was just for one day.

More controversially, in August 1996, Benefit Agency workers in the CPSA came out on strike. Again the strike wasn't over the JSA as such, but over the fact that under the JSA, BA workers would be sent to work in JobCentres (rather than Department of Social Security - DSS - offices) which were not equipped with security screens. While the JobCentres had changed from screens to open-plan and pot-plants in the early '90s, DSS offices retained use of screens to protect staff against attacks from irate claimants. A number of Groundswell-affiliated groups, and even some CPSA militants themselves, argued that the rationale for the strike was not one that should be supported: the demand for screens implied that claimants were knife-wielding nutters rather than human beings like anyone else. The group in Brighton, however, were among those who again turned up on the picket-line. While screens were certainly part of the technology of power, was the pot-plant and open-plan approach really a concession to claimants' demands to be treated as human? Hardly. The two approaches were merely different methods of achieving the same ends.

The demand for screens was a crap one; it might offend our moral dignity as claimants, more importantly it served to preserve union sectionalism and hence limit the possibility of being effective. By being based precisely on the nature of BA staff contracts, it was not an issue that the JobCentre (Employment Service) workers could join them in striking over - even though both BA and ES staff were in the same union. Claimants in some areas joined BA staff on the picket-lines, however, for two reasons. In the first place, the demand if successful could have caused considerable disruption in the implementation of the JSA. The use of screens was incompatible with the way the JobCentres had become re-organized, and victory for the BA workers would have led to staff shortages, additional relocation and training costs etc. Second, support for the strike by an organized group of claimants was an attempt to break down the union sectionalism by demonstrating to workers that there was a forum for organizing resistance outside of the union channels. Ultimately, however, the CPSA stitch-up succeeded: the union leadership gave in to militant union members by allowing a strike to go ahead, knowing that it was unlikely to develop beyond their control; and the claimants' groups were unable to provide a viable alternative, despite the efforts of militants from both the ES and the BA to organize with these claimants. The arguments of claimants' groups, anarchists and the like who said we shouldn't support a strike over screens always pre-supposed a powerful movement of claimants as an alternative. The fact was that there wasn't such a movement, and the strikes by dole workers have so far been the most significant form of resistance to the JSA.[38]

6.4 The 'Three Strikes' controversy
The controversy over the relation between organized claimants and dole workers reached new levels of intensity with the move that came out of the Groundswell conference in May 1996 to call for a strategy of 'Three strikes and you're out', targeting over-zealous dole-workers. The 'Three Strikes' strategy had previously been used to some effect in Edinburgh where a claimants group had been active for a number of years. They used the strategy in response to a government snooping campaign. In the Groundswell version of the 'Three Strikes' strategy, any Employment Service worker persistently reported as harassing claimants is sent two written warnings by the claimants' group. If these are not heeded, the claimants' group distributes a poster depicting the offender and prints it out on a poster describing what the person has done; the poster is then distributed in the local area.[39]

This idea of providing claimants with an equivalent of the ES' power to punish errant individuals has an understandable appeal; anyone who has signed on will have discovered that there are some workers in the dole system who despise the unemployed as 'scroungers' and try to give them a hard time. Yet the method was designed for dealing with individuals, and seemed to some Groundswell-affiliated groups to be ineffective as a way of combating a government policy. It didn't seem conducive to building a practical unity with militant dole workers, either. Employment Service management used Groundswell press releases announcing 'Three Strikes' to promise that they, management, would protect ES workers from the 'violence' of organized claimants, whose campaign consisted of 'an attack on workers'. Not only, therefore, were waverers in the ES possibly frightened into the arms of management, but militant ES activists who had contacts with Groundswell-affiliated groups were publicly denounced by the leadership of their union. 'Three Strikes' was used as a pretext by management and union leadership to reinforce the division between workers and claimants and to head off any alliance between the two.

The 'Three Strikes' strategy generated an amount of heat disproportionate to its actual existence. In fact, due either to lack of support for it among Groundswell-affiliated groups or lack of numbers in these groups, the method has been implemented on only a handful of occasions, and only by the groups in Edinburgh, Manchester, Bristol and Nottingham. Its adoption reflects a go-it-alone siege mentality among groups, whereby specialist groups of unemployed activists will take up a complaint by a claimant against an individual miscreant and 'do the business' for her. It promises more than it can deliver: again, there is not a movement capable of making militant activity against dole workers into a viable strategy.

The Brighton claimants group proposed an alternative strategy, according to which, when a sanction took place, a phone-tree network of claimants would be activated, descending on the JobCentre and occupying it until management had overturned a sanction decision. Thus this strategy placed the emphasis explicitly on management and intended to mobilize a crowd rather than a small group with a camera. However, this too failed to take off - in the Brighton case not because people were unwilling to take on the role of the angry mob, but rather because those sanctioned appeared unwilling to stick their heads above the parapet - fearing, wrongly, that by confronting the JobCentre in such a way they would make things worse for themselves.

For some groups in the Groundswell network, the 'Three Strikes' strategy took on an almost fetishized importance.[40] This reflected, in part at least, their perception of dole workers simply as forcing work on claimants. But the argument about work being forced on people reflects a certain one-sidedness of among groups in the Groundswell network. In a sense, many of the Groundswell groups are the mirror opposite of the TUC; they tend to neglect the fact that most unemployed people want work (if only for the money), just as the TUC turn a blind eye to the anti-work tendency. This relative neglect has had consequences for some groups' understanding of the relations between claimants and dole workers.

While some dole workers may distinguish between good claimants who are looking for work and bad ones that are not, many recognize that there are not enough jobs to go around even if everyone wanted one, and that most of those that are around pay shit wages that no one should be expected to work for. Importantly, however, the balance of these attitudes depends on the balance of class forces within the office. If management is strong then individual dole workers will only be able either to stick their necks out and get the sack, or else keep their heads down, and hence will tend to adopt a more hostile attitude to claimants. When the workers are strong then they can resist the demands and targets set by management.

The operation of the JSA varies considerably across different regions. In areas where the dole workers are weak and not organized, the JSA is stricter and there are more sanctions. But in other areas, such as Brighton, where the dole workers are organized and strong, there have been far fewer people sanctioned than in surrounding offices. Brighton Employment Service has traditionally been a militant stronghold with a laid back signing regime, but the support of the claimants groups has contributed to the confidence of dole workers to organize and take action over the last two years or so.

6.5 The campaign against 'Project Work'
The introduction of 'Project Work' in many areas saw a re-invigoration of some Groundswell groups. The Brighton claimants' group held a small demo the day the 'intensive job search' component of the scheme began, in April 1997, again managing to close down the JobCentres, despite the meagre size of the crowd. When the job placements began, in August of that year, the group occupied the offices of the placement providers (the 'training' agencies who are paid for each placement they can find). The main tactic of the claimants group, however, was to target the placement organizations themselves. As mentioned earlier, the Brighton version of 'Project Work' involved the 'voluntary' sector, and therefore in many cases charity shops. Pickets of charity shops encouraging consumer boycotts forced some to pull out, although a large number remained involved, including such humane organizations as the local Red Cross, the British Heart Foundation and Barnardo's.

However, the relative success of the small Brighton campaign would appear to be unrepresentative of what is happening in the country as a whole, where Project Work has continued despite the activities of the local claimants' groups. Thus, even the introduction of a blatantly punitive workfare scheme which didn't even pretend to provide jobs or give people training has not led to the development of a movement of any significance. We have looked at the limitations of the existing oppositional forces to the attacks on benefits, but our criticisms do not explain why more people have not joined in. Indeed some of the limitations of the Groundswell network groups - their 'go-it-alone' mentality - are a reflection of the fact that they have not attracted the widespread involvement necessary: that they are in many cases an isolated 'vanguard'.

7. The failure of resistance to generate a movement

The reasons for the failure so far of the resistance to the recent attacks on benefits to take the form of a movement might be analysed in two parts: first, some 'general' experiences of unemployment which discourage collective action; and, second, some particular features of the natural opposition to these attacks.

7.1 The reluctance of the mass of the unemployed to get involved in organized resistance
It is commonly observed that it is far easier to organize in a workplace, where groups of people are regularly in daily contact, than on the dole, where people are required to sign on only once a fortnight. However, historically there hasn't always been a huge distinction between the social conditions of the workplace and of 'relief'. In the 1920s and '30s, the unemployed were forced to sign on twice weekly; consequently people were often gathered together in the same place for extended periods. It was therefore relatively easy for the queues to turn into the occasions for public meetings and even direct action demonstrations.[41] Moreover, the system of 'task work', like present-day workfare schemes, mirrored the work situation in all ways except the wage, and made both go-slows and strikes possible. Indeed, in 1919, when unemployment was beginning to rise, the reason that the government didn't extend task-work was because of the fear that it would concentrate too many of the militant unemployed.[42]

The organization of benefits is important in a second respect. In the 1920s, the benefits system was far less centralized. 'Relief' was administered by local 'guardians' and later by local councils: people who could be identified and pressured, and who could take decisions on whether how much relief was given without consulting a central authority.[43] Under the present system, of course, local offices have far less discretion, even in the face of collective resistance.

However, although the unemployed are cut off from the world of proper work, the black economy is undoubtedly thriving, and the unemployed are undoubtedly among the key participants. Despite the increased rationalization of the benefits system and the recurrent 'shop a scrounger' initiatives by the Employment Service, working off the cards and other such scams continue unabated. The opportunity to eke out a reasonably pain-free existence in this way contributes to the claimant's reluctance to get involved in overt resistance; to stick one's head above the parapet risks getting done not just for the resistance itself but for all the illegal scams, which could result in a jail sentence. The unemployed are generally not 'acquiescent', but keep their heads down, resisting as individuals. Individual resistance exists in competition with collective resistance; the former seems to many of them easier, more viable; the latter seems more uncertain and less effective. But, again, given the collective successes of the past, this fatalism would seem to be a product of its times rather than something inherent in the condition of unemployment. What we need to explain is the current form of resistance.

7.2 The failure to get involved of the unemployed radical 'politicoes'
As we have seen, the autonomy of dole life in the 1980s allowed the development of a number of antagonistic lifestyles and tendencies in the UK, most notably anarcho-punk. Relaxed benefit regimes allowed anarchos and others 'dropping out' of work to make a virtue out of necessity. There weren't enough jobs, so many were able to choose the unemployed lifestyle and make it a basis for various projects, political or otherwise.

In the 1990s, the most vigorous of the autonomous and dole-based political movements in the UK have been the anti-roads and Criminal Justice Bill (CJB) campaigns. The anti-roads direct action movement began with the struggle over the building of the M3 extension in Twyford Down, Hampshire, in 1991-2, and reached new heights of activity and politicization with the M11 link road campaign in north-east London (1993-4), the campaign in Glasgow over the building of the M77 through Pollock Park (1995), the campaign against the Newbury bypass (1996) and the defence of the Fairmile encampment in Devon against the upgrading of the A30 (1997). The anti-roads movement led to significant government climb-downs; at the latest count, only a quarter of the original 600 roads are scheduled to go ahead. Some of the earlier anti-roads protesters have diversified into opposing the Manchester Airport expansion (1997) and involvement in the Reclaim the Streets campaigns, which entail carnival-like attacks on existing roads rather than simply on ones yet to be built.[44]

The trajectory of the anti-roads movement was bisected in 1994-5 by the campaign against the CJB. The Bill, with its public order provisions against forms of trespass, gatherings with music and encampments, was seen as an attack on various lifestyles and 'alternative' political campaigns, and so served to unite struggles that otherwise may have seen little in common with each other, including anti-roads protesters, free party ravers, hunt sabs, squatters and travellers.[45] The campaign against the CJB failed to prevent the Bill becoming law, and much of the impetus for the new unity was lost. The CJB movement became what is sometimes known as 'DiY culture'. In the last two years, RTS and others in the 'DiY' movement have made significant links with the 'traditional' working class through joint demonstrations with the sacked workers in the disputes at Merseyside docks, Hillingdon hospital and the Magnet kitchen factory in Darlington.

Yet, despite the vigour of these autonomous campaigns and their recent willingness to link up with workplace-related struggles, what is most striking is the lack of a real movement to defend the very conditions that make their lifestyles and movements of resistance possible in the first place. The prevailing attitude among individual activists has been that they, personally, will find some way to survive and continue their particular struggles.[46] Thus, a relatively successful and certainly very active political culture, which largely depends for its very existence on the dole, is basically content to pursue particular autonomous projects rather than find an effective unity through defending the very conditions of subsistence that allow their campaigns to exist! Indeed, in this respect, these 'alternative' politicoes are no different than the great mass of the unemployed, since in each case the tactic is almost exclusively to seek individual solutions - scams, signing off, moving away, busking, selling beads at festivals, going to university etc. etc. etc. As a movement, they think they can simply ignore the threat to benefits through the re-imposition of work.[47]

7.3 The failure of the autonomous movements to relate to capital's need for work
Unlike the unemployed of the 1920s and '30s, the dole-based cultures and movements of the 1980s and 1990s have developed an ideology which is implicitly and often explicitly anti-work. Yet the price of this would appear to be a denial of the social role of work, and hence a denial of what they all have in common. In the 1920s and '30s, people defined themselves in relation to work - a basic requirement for life - and that served as the basis of their shared project of mass resistance. Participants in the movements of recent decades do not necessarily see themselves as 'unemployed' as such. Rather their autonomous projects give them identities and hence other sources of unity: in the 1980s, anarcho-punk, animal liberation and various cultural projects (music, art, alternative religion, etc.); in the 1990s, the various 'DiY' projects which allow participants to feel that they are 'contributing' to a 'better society' even outside the realm of wage-labour (free parties, permaculture collectives, anarchist cafes etc. etc.).

But labour is the fundamental category in an understanding of capital - capital presupposes labour, and the essence of capital is the self-expansion of alienated labour. Where numerous political projects exist but do not understand themselves in relation to labour - to capital - then fragmentation predominates. The current fragmentation is a vestige of the triumph of social democracy whereby utopian aspirations sought expression in ideas and projects removed from workplace struggles.

In the 1980s, with capital expressing itself through the Thatcherite ideology of individualism and egoism, various altruisms emerged as the radical alternative, a way of connecting with our true morality which people felt that Thatcherism falsely denied: the classic cases being the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and animal liberation. On the other hand, Thatcherism also promoted a conformity around the values of hard work and consumption. The alternative to this was therefore to drop out of employment and consumerism as an individual. In sum, then, politics meant on the one hand a concern for some other subject or some other time (nuclear holocaust, 'third world' peoples) or else something highly personal which, where it didn't mean sectarian tribalism, could be easily recuperated into careerism: ethical lifestylism, radical feminism, gay liberation etc. Animal liberationism, with its lifestyle of veganism, was the ultimate example of these tendencies. What united the two extremes of 'other' and the individuated 'personal' was not solidarity but the sense of freedom of moral choice; politics was no longer seen to be borne of necessity.

In the 1990s, the anti-roads movement offered at least some possibility of breaking free of fragmentation. What started for many as a moral issue of 'the environment' became clearly linked in the minds of participants with the forces of the state and interests of capital as they were caught up in battles with the cops. But the national roads programme is now dead, and the remaining anti-roads campaigns now find their unity in the 'DiY' movement, as expressed in the SchNews, in which almost any form of 'direct action' is seen as a legitimate thing to get involved in. This privileging of form over content offers a kind of supermarket of politics, in which 'class' appears only as category of oppression - that afflicting the manual worker - alongside those afflicting women, blacks, gays, animals or 'the environment'. In this an eclectic approach, support for the iconic workplace struggles of the day - Merseyside, Magnet and Hillingdon - is just as important (or unimportant) as protests over live exports, prisoners, roads, airports, fascism etc. etc. Each individual is 'free to choose' their own issue (even though what is 'in' is a matter of fashion, determined by the most 'in' people), just as everyone is entitled to their own 'unique' individual ideas and opinions (even though they are usually as un-thought out and regurgitated as everyone else's). The moral rationale means that the struggle over the dole appears as just one more of these choices, even for those who are on the dole themselves. With so much to choose from, activists are drawn to the most exciting and glamorous actions. A long-term campaign involving months of leafleting outside JobCentres and other such mundane activities does not feature high on these criteria. Thus, despite the fact that many of the participants in these campaigns are themselves threatened by the changes to welfare and the introduction of workfare, they have turned their attention away from their own direct relation of antagonism with capital to that of other subjects.[48]

8. Prospects

Whereas in France the unemployed have recently taken to the streets and demanded, and in part won, increases in benefits, here in Britain, as we have seen, resistance to the attacks on welfare have so far been minimal. This only serves to underline the current predicament that we find ourselves in the UK. Like elsewhere in the world, social democracy has been on the retreat for more than 20 years, however, in recent years this retreat has been accelerating and is now on the point of a rout. Yet while the working class gains preserved within social democracy - such as free health, free education and comprehensive welfare provision - are being rapidly eroded there is as yet no sign of the return of what was lost with the triumph of social democracy. There is little sign of the re-politicization of the working class or the merging of struggles over bread-and-butter issues with the desire for revolutionary social change.

Yet it is also true that it will not be all plain sailing for the Blair's New Labour. So long as there remains broad passive popular support for the welfare state, New Labour will have to tread warily. Any major reform will have to involve a substantial increase in public spending, at least in the short to medium term, to minimize the losers and to make it work. Yet this runs directly contrary to New Labour's 'iron' commitment to cutting public spending. Already strains around this issue are building up within the government.

'Welfare to Work' is a clear example of this. To make this flagship policy work, New Labour was obliged to make the one exemption from its policy of rigidly adhering to the previous government's spending plans and pledge £3.5 billion to the programme, financed by a one-off windfall tax on the highly unpopular privatized utility companies. However, while £3.5 billion sounds a lot of money, and is a sum the Tories would have never contemplated spending on such a programme, because it is being spread over four years it actually adds up to less than one per cent of the entire welfare budget. It will not be long before the hype over this programme has to confront reality, and any major recession in the next few years is likely to overwhelm this scheme.

At a more general level it seems that already there are signs that the broad anti-Tory coalition that brought New Labour to power is coming apart. With Blair coming down firmly in favour of the interests of big business at the same time as either delaying or reneging on even the limited promises he has made to the trade unions, it is becoming increasingly difficult for even the most right wing members of the labour movement to see the Labour Party as any longer representing the interests of the working class. As the economy moves into recession over the next couple of years this disillusionment with New Labour is likely to become critical. Whether this leads to either a resurgence of the left within the Labour Party or to the left splitting from the Labour Party remains to be seen.

A resurgence of social democracy in some form is a distinct possibility, as has been shown in the USA. There, resistance to workfare has principally taken the form of unionization among workfare participants and the demand for proper wages and working conditions. For example, in New York, workfare workers and others on welfare from a variety of local activist groups formed 'WEP[49] Workers Together!', a quasi-union which aims to see the creation of permanent jobs and hence the elimination of workfare. Similarly, established unions, such as the public sector union AFSCME, have been signing workfare workers up, as has the 'community' pressure group ACORN.[50] All this links in with the wider resurgence in active trade unionism that has begun to take place in America in recent years.

The question for us is whether we can get beyond such a resurgence in social democratic forms. As we have seen, the emergence of non-workplace based movements has led in some instances to a breaking down of the rigid sectionalism of British trade unionism.[51] However, it must be recognized that recent links made between those in struggle at work and some of the 'new' movements are based on a mutual weakness. This is perhaps most apparent with the Liverpool Dockers dispute. Even a dozen years ago the fact of 500 dockers being sacked for refusing to cross a picket-line would have brought half of the major ports in the country to a halt. Within three weeks the economy would have been in crisis. But in the present case even the dockers' own union - the Transport and General Workers Union, the largest union in the country - refused to officially recognize the dispute for fear of legal penalties. It was this lack of traditional trade union support within Britain that led the dockers to make the links we mentioned above with the anti-roads and 'DiY' movement, and thus with the politically active unemployed.

The question is how can we build on these kind of links and overcome their limitations and thereby begin to break down the divisions between those in work and the unemployed. With the unemployed being herded into quasi-work situations through workfare the basis for convergence of interests and perspectives may be in the making. This is the challenge for the future.

References

* 'AFL-CIO to Organize Workfare Participants', Labor Notes, 217, April 1997.
* AFSCME. (1997). 'Workfare Workers: A Road Map for Organizing' (July 21).
* http://www.crisny.org/not-for-profit/unions/workfare.htm#top (a large collection of informative documents attached to this site).
* Love & Rage, 7 (5), October/November 1996.
* People's Weekly World, April 12, 1997.
* Piven, F.F. & Cloward (1993) Regulating the Poor: The Functions of Public Welfare, 2nd edn. (New York: Vintage).
* Public Hearing on Workfare, Workers' Rights Board, March 11, 1997.
* Rose, Nancy. E. (1995) Workfare or Fair Work (New Jersey: Rutgers).
* Rotger, Karen (1997) 'Fighting Wisconsin Workfare: Organizing to Reform Welfare Reform', Guild Practitioner, 54 (1).
* Vila, Daniel (1997) NY Workfare Participants Demand a Union, SOCNET, 26 February.
* Walker, R. (1991) Thinking about Workfare. Evidence form the USA (HMSO).
* 'Worker Exploitation Programme', Socialist Review, March 1998.
* Workfare. A TUC briefing, 1995.
* Work for the Dole in America. usadole.htm
* 'Workfare in NYS: Does it work?' Report by Hunger Action Network of NYS, 12 May 1997.
* 'Workers' Rights Board Hears Workfare Horrors at Albany Meeting', Solidarity Notes, April 1997.

Notes

[1] "They must first be forced to work within the conditions posited by capital. The propertyless are more inclined to become vagabonds and robbers and beggars than workers." From Marx's notes on pauperism and capital in the sixteenth century, Grundrisse, p. 736 (Penguin edition).

[2] For gripping first-hand accounts of the activities of the NUWM see: Wal Hannington, Unemployed Struggles 1919-1936: My Life and Struggles Amongst the Unemployed (Wakefield: EP Publishing, 1936). Ernie Trory, Between the Wars: Recollections of a Communist Organizer (Brighton: Crabtree Press, 1974). I. MacDougall, Voices from the Hunger Marches (Edinburgh: Polygon, 1990). For academic overviews of the movement, see: Richard Croucher, We Refuse to Starve in Silence: A History of the National Unemployed Workers' Movement, 1920-46 (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1987). Paul Bagguley, From Protest to Acquiescence? Political Movements of the Unemployed (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1991).

Of course it could be argued that it was only with the introduction of the National Insurance Act in 1911 that the category of the 'unemployed' became constituted as such by the state. Struggles of the unemployed qua the unemployed were thus, in some sense, already expressions of the formal recognition of working class needs within the state. See G. Kay & J. Mott, Political Order and the Law of Labour (London, Macmillan) and 'The Leopard in the 20th Century' in Radical Chains, 4. See also our critique of the Radical Chains analysis of the relation between the 1834 Poor Law and the development of capital in Aufheben 4, (Summer 1995).

[3] The NUWM were heavily involved in the engineering dispute of 1922, for example, and saw it as a key aim to prevent the recruitment of the unemployed as scabs to break the strike.

[4] Croucher, op. cit.

[5]The most infamous expression of such collaboration and conservatism came with General Strike in 1926, when the TUC leadership called off the strike after only a few days, despite overwhelming grassroots support.

[6] The NUWM's relations with the TUC varied in the early years, but fell into bitter and terminal decline after 1927, when the latter endorsed the Blanesburgh Report, seen as the most important attack on the unemployed during the 1920s. The TUC and Labour Party anyway sought to distance themselves from the NUWM after the 1926 General Strike. Previously the TUC's approach had been to set up joint committees with the unemployed movement, through which they hoped to influence the latter yet without committing themselves to anything in particular. They were forced to recognize the independent power of the unemployed, in effect, since their own strategy of simply getting the unemployed to join the unions of their former trades was a non-starter - many of the unemployed in the 1920s had gone straight from school into military service and had no trades. The TUC-Labour Party also tried to set up rival organizations to the CPGB-dominated NUWM.

Indeed, on this question of possible 'rivals', it is important to note that the NUWM were by no means the sole organizational expression of the autonomous unemployed during the period under discussion. A group with a genuine communist programme, associated with Sylvia Pankhurst, was a serious rival to the NUWM in the early 1920s; by 1923, Pankhurst claimed that her group was the same size as the NUWM in London. Pankhurst's practical advice on how the unemployed might remove cops from their horses went down well in the East End, and the group was particularly successful in involving women. Pankhurst attacked the NUWM's defining demand for 'work or full maintenance', calling instead for the abolition of wage-labour. This genuine communist tendency became isolated after Lenin realized that it was the 'left-wing' variety; and the CPGB types made all the running in creating a properly nationwide movement of the unemployed. A key point in all this, however, is that, though the NUWM made social democratic demands, its actions went far beyond the exchange of rights and duties that marks social democracy, and in practice Pankhurst's group was often little different: NUWM members squatted to gain meeting places, broke into workhouses to steal food, rarely shirked a fight with the cops, occupied factories to prevent overtime, &c., &c.

[7] See Toni Negri (1978) 'Capitalist Domination and Working Class Sabotage' in Working Class Autonomy and the Crisis: Italian Marxist Texts of the Theory and Practice of a Class Movement, 1964-79 (Red Notes/CSE Books, 1979). See also the discussion of the Zerzan-Reeve argument in The Refusal of Work (Echanges et Mouvement, 1979).

[8] The very term 'new social movements' is part of their recuperation as different sets of non-class based identities within the democratic polity rather than as expressions of proletarian antagonism.

[9] The term 'real jobs', which itself came out of the social democratic compromise, refers to jobs which pay the full value of the labour-power they entail and which serve to reproduce not just the individual worker but also the family. For a useful overview of government schemes from 1986, albeit from a leftist perspective, see Anne Gray, The Rights of the Unemployed: A Socialist Approach (Nottingham: European Labour Forum, 1996).

[10] For a useful overview of government schemes from 1986, albeit from a leftist perspective, see Anne Gray, The Rights of the Unemployed: A Socialist Approach (Nottingham: European Labour Forum, 1996).

[11] 'Signing on' means regularly having to attend the Unemployment Benefit Office/JobCentre and make a signed declaration of eligibility for benefits.

[12] In the 1960s and 1970s, the refusal of work, in such forms as absenteeism etc., began to spread across workplaces as a common strategy linking different spheres. By becoming pushed onto the dole, however, such links were lost.

[13] See 'Kill or Chill? Analysis of the Opposition to the Criminal Justice Bill' in Aufheben 4 (Summer 1995).

[14] See the pamphlet Unwaged Fightback: A History of Islington Action Group of the Unwaged 1980-86, produced by the Campaign for Real Life. See also the useful article in Bad Attitude, 8, Autumn 1995. Some Claimants Unions still exist today, and some are part of the Groundswell network (which we discuss later), but on the whole their radical and mass campaigning intent has been largely superseded by their mundane task of providing advice and fighting individual welfare rights battles.

[15] Discussed, for example, in Bagguley, op. cit. The Manpower Services Commission - a government agency - provided much of the cash for the TUC centres. Both they and the TUC were spurred into 'doing something' about the 'problem' of youth unemployment by the 1981 urban riots.

[16] Those aged 16-17 age group can claim benefits only in cases of 'hardship', a typical example being the teenager who leaves the parental home because of abuse.

[17] The Conservative government made a bid for the xenophobic populist vote by railing against European 'benefits tourists', but their rule changes have also caught out large numbers of British nationals spending time abroad.

[18] A high proportion of workers in dole offices are now so poorly paid that they have to claim housing benefits!

[19] Particularly at a time when individual claimants' rejection of the terms of the social democratic settlement has increasingly involved the threat of violence against these dole workers. Assaults on staff at JobCentres rose by 240 per cent from 1992 to 1995 (The Guardian, 14 July 1995).

[20] Indeed, the Conservative government themselves opposed a 1995 private members' bill to introduce workfare because of the risk of job substitution (Working Brief, November 1996).

[21] Undeniably many on the dole work on the side - exact numbers are impossible to quantify for obvious reasons. Many of these black economy jobs are short term and insecure - i.e. casual work, and part time. They are often not paying enough in themselves to live from.

[22] This development from the 'excluding' style of leadership of Thatcher (and, in management, of Edwardes, MacGregor et al.) to the 'inclusive' approach of Blair, yet for the same ends of labour market flexibility, was anticipated in John Holloway's useful article 'The Red Rose of Nissan' (Capital & Class, 32, 1987). The concern of government ideologues with providing unifying identities to gloss over and compensate for the atomism and conflict necessarily entailed by neo-liberalism is evident in such concepts as 'communitarianism'.

[23] For details of the American workfare schemes see the Appendix of this pamphlet.

[24] The scheme was originally planned to take 250,000 of the young unemployed, but there are currently only about 122,000 within this category, hence the recent announcement of an eventual extension of the scheme to everyone under 35. There are as yet undisclosed (undecided?) plans for the long-term unemployed in the older age bracket, plus strategies for single parents and those on forms of disability allowance (see below), neither of who count as 'unemployed' but who take up a huge section of the welfare budget.

[25] National Vocational Qualification. These vary in content and quality, but NVQ1 and 2 are the most basic.

[26] It has also recently been announced that there will be a further option of a self-employment grant (perhaps on the model of the old Enterprise Allowance Scheme), although few details of this have yet been provided.

[27] Field's position in the government remains ambiguous, however, and it is certainly not clear that all his extreme statements will be translated directly into policy.

[28] All this is taking them at their word, of course. If the talk about 'skills' is waffle - and the example of NVQ2 as 'education' might suggest that it is - then the 'skills' component of the 'New Deal' is as bogus as every previous government scheme. On the one hand, the government's commitment to some form of minimum wage seems to be a recognition that the state can't do much more about the bottom end of the labour market. On the other hand, the Labour leadership's evangelism about education ('education, education, education') does suggest they hope to combine the flexibility of the U.S. (as delivered by Thatcher) with the higher productivity levels typical of Japan and Germany (achieved, in part, by their emphasis on training).

[29] Although by no means a spokesman for New Labour orthodoxy, Will Hutton expresses their ideology well when he argues that the value of work to the worker should not be understood merely in terms of the recompense of the wage; the rhythm of work gives life meaning, and its social relations provides the worker with an identity. Will Hutton, The State We're In (London: Jonathan Cape, 1995). Blair and Brown would perhaps go even further in their endorsement of the work ethic, the latter apparently believing that 'work is good for the soul'.

[30] The TUC have already come out strongly for the scheme (just as they supported the slave labour of the 'social service centres' of the 1930s), and the leadership of the union whose members might perhaps be most threatened by public sector participation - Unison - have pledged to become involved (albeit 'critically' in relation to the element of compulsion) in the process of making the New Deal 'work'.

[31] In fact, New Labour have so far been disappointed by the current rate of confirmed placements offered by the private sector, who they hoped to provide two thirds of the places for the 'employment' option. It would appear that, although many employers obviously just want cheap labour, others place more importance on workers who are properly motivated and who therefore do not have to be forced to take up a placement.

[32] The most visible manifestation of this sector has been the explosion in the number of charity shops in the high streets. The stuff that they sell would previously have gone to jumble sales to be snapped up by poor proles for 5p, 10p etc.; but now it is sold in these shops for £3, £5 etc. Given that it is the same people buying the stuff, more or less, what this price increase represents is appropriation by the property-owning class, as a huge proportion of it has been imposed in order to cover high street rent. We discuss further below (6.5) the anti-proletarian role recently played by high street charity shops.

[33] The most notable example is perhaps Militant's attempt to control the anti-poll tax movement in 1989-90. See Danny Burns, Poll Tax Rebellion (Stirling: AK Press, 1992). More recently, there was the example of the manipulations of the SWP in the University College Hospital strikes and occupations of 1992-4. See Occupational Therapy (London: News from Everywhere, 1995). Of course, the key criticism of such leftists is that their programme is essentially indistinguishable from that of capital.

[34] This was noticeable at a rally and debate which followed an anti-JSA march in London in 1996. Many of the leftist dole workers present expressed an understanding of the contradictions inherent in their relations with claimants. Only a lone SWP member called on claimants to renounce all independent action in favour of unity behind the workers. This makes the point that, while there has been an important tendency among leftist dole workers to act in ways that go beyond their own workerism, there are obviously instances where this has not been the case. A further example is the story of the demise of Wales Against the JSA (a grouping which included both union members and unemployed activists) due to the attempt by leftist dole workers to orient the whole campaign around the usual appeal to the TUC/Labour Party. See 'The Job Seeker's Allowance... Dole Bondage? Up Yours!' in Subversion, 22.

[35] Get Yer Hair Cut!! (Newsletter of Brighton Claimants Action Group), issue 2, November 1995.

[36] Civil and Public Services Association, the main union to which dole workers belong. It also covers the rather higher paid workers in the civil service.

[37] Indeed, legally it could not be; such a strike would be deemed 'political' and would have had to go beyond the union.

[38] The JobCentre strike resulted in a three month delay in the implementation of the JSA.

[39] The method of flyposting pictures of offenders was also used by the Claimants Union anti-snooping campaigns in the 1980s.

[40] See the debates in Subversion over the 'Three strikes' strategy and the 'moral' position of the dole workers: Subversion, 19, 20, 22, 23.

[41] The understaffing and hence long queues in Unemployment Benefit Offices in the early 1980s were also an opportunity for forms of collective action. See the pamphlet Unwaged Fightback: A History of Islington Action Group of the Unwaged 1980-86, op. cit.

[42] Croucher, op. cit., p. 20.

[43] Bagguley, op. cit.

[44] See 'Auto-Struggles: The Developing War Against the Road Monster' in Aufheben 3 (Summer 1994), and the Aufheben article 'The Politics of Anti-road Struggles and the Struggles of Anti-road Politics: The Case of the No M11 Link Road Campaign' in George McKay ed., DiY Culture (London: Verso, 1998).

[45] See 'Kill or Chill?' in Aufheben 4 (Summer 1995).

[46] This was perfectly encapsulated when two of the A30's media stars were challenged on TV about their eligibility for the dole. When the interviewer pointed out, rightly, that by spending all day at the protest site they were not 'actively seeking work', they proudly responded that they didn't need to sign on because they were very 'resourceful'.

[47] The worst expression of this tendency among some in the 'DiY' and eco-struggles movement to think they can ignore the attack on the dole was the leaflet 'JSA - So What?' produced by the 'Primitivist Network', which argued that other struggles were more important, and referred patronizingly to 'poor sods who want to work'. A useful reply, 'Against the JSA - Against Blackmail, Against the Arrogance of Political Sects', is available from the Campaign for Real Life, c/o BM-CRL, London WC1N 3XX, UK.

[48] As well as being a symptom of the current fragmentation of class antagonism following the triumph of social democracy, the denial of necessity in struggle also reflects the predominantly middle class composition of the recent dole-based movements. For those with middle class backgrounds (middle class parents and a university degree), unemployment may appear as a positive choice to opt out of the alienated society of work and conformity. Just as they thought they could opt out of wage slavery, they now think they can opt out of dole slavery and hence the struggle against it. However, such a 'positive choice' can often be a rationalization that masks the reality of the reduction in middle class career opportunities and the wider proletarianization of middle class work. This attitude is in stark contrast to many working class unemployed who see unemployment not merely as a necessity but as an inevitability. In this case, the result is often an apolitical fatalism.

[49] 'Work Experience Programme'.

[50] See Appendix.

[51] See also the fHuman paper 'UK Flexploitation and Resistance Beyond Wage Labour' (Second Intercontinental Meeting for Humanity and Against Neo-Liberalism, Spain, August 1997).

Posted By

libcom
Jul 24 2005 15:26

Tags

Share

Attached files