Collective Action offer some initial and cursory remarks on David Cameron's speech today in which he announced his party's intention to make further massive cuts in welfare and to scrap housing benefit for the under-25s. These comments are to be followed by a more substantial look at what these cuts mean to the working class.
1. The high proportional cost of housing benefit relates less to the value of the existing (and depleted) social housing stock and more to the over-inflated rates of private tenancy. Any kind of state regulation in this sphere, however, would be political suicide considering the millions that all parties (but especially the Tories) receive from wealthy property developers and the economic impact this would have on the sector.
2. Cameron's comments on the "unfairness" of benefits rising with the rate of inflation, while wages drop, re-affirms the disciplining role of unemployment and the unemployed to the workforce. In essence; claimants are poor, but not as poor as they should be.
3. The proposed scrapping of housing benefit for the under-25s should not only be recognised as a further attack on a lost generation but an attempt by the state to shift the responsibilities concerning the reproduction of labour power. This is a dynamic that can be seen also in the scrapping of the education maintenance allowance, workfare placements and spiralling rates of student debt. All of which disproportionately affect young people but also modify the material conditions (and "self-investment" needed) for entering the workforce.
4. In scrapping housing benefit the state wants to go further by shifting the burden of housing young proletarians back on to their parents, perhaps in the hope that they might learn a thing or two from this "bought" generation - those who are the products of Thatcher's social engineering, who are getting poorer but are predominantly property-"owners" (mortgaged) and relatively economically stable. In this sense Cameron hopes to rely on past compositional changes in the working class - in the original sell-off of the social housing stock - to both stabilise and discipline an increasingly precarious young workforce. A young workforce which both trashed his party headquarters and burnt and looted the capital in August. This attempt to move reproduction back into the private sphere is something that can be likewise seen in the (less popularly covered) attacks on disability allowance. This is what the rhetoric of the "Big Society" denotes, that proletarians have to now accept the burden of social reproduction (something which was previously paid via taxes and guaranteed through welfare). It should therefore be understood not as further attacks on minority sections of the class (the young, the unemployed) but a generalised attack on the conditions of all workers.