No More Soft Soap on OAPs

Submitted by martinh on March 9, 2006

No more soft soap about oaps

The present system of working all your life for a pension is ingrained into politics and never challenged. Pensions at the end of one's working life, for most people, leaves them at the whim of the government of the day. Will the Chancellor be 'generous' with the old folks? Sign a petition for a few quid more? Reduce the age it's due, lower the age, but no way let them decide.

The idea of a State pension, introduced in Germany as part of Bismarck's reactionary plans to undermine socialism, was introduced into British parliamentarism by con artist Lloyd George. Obviously it is an improvement on the Christian-Fascist idea as seen in Spain until a year or so ago and not yet eliminated) by which the elderly poor are left to charity, or the disabled given concessions to sell lottery tickets.

No advanced capitalist society can leave people to die in the streets or turn to aggressive begging (as in India) and this is not even economically justified since an increasingly elderly population can be turned into a commercial asset. The highest flyers in the City are those who control pension funds over which people have no more control than they do over their State pensions contributions.

Neither the State, the occcupational pension managers nor the private schemes are giving out any form of charity. On the contrary they are making a bonanza. In some countries (Sweden) the unions are permitted to run these schemes as well as unemployment and health insurance (and even the worst union bureaucrat is better than the best State official).

It is true that for those at the very bottom of the economic heap, who have in (capitalist) theory contributed nothing to the national economy, have to be included in the State scheme as we know it here. But in reality, as contributions are universal and lifelong, and many who contribute do not live long enough to benefit, this can easily be afforded. In parenthesis, of course those who do not work have a vital part to play in the national economy, since they are taxed on what they consume, produce children who are vital for the future, and provide a ready-made 'hell' into which the workers may sink if they do not accept conditions as dictated, and unlike its religious counterpart,actiually be seen to exist. What sort of reputable private insurance, however, would expect at the end of the insured term or the calamity against which one insured, that it should decide how much it could then 'afford' to pay or whether you deserved it or not? That is what the State does.

Some people want to work until the end, particularly if they find something interesting and worthwhile to do. They would prefer to have their 'retirement' years whene young, travelling the world. finding new experiences. Some want one thing, some another, but everyone more wants security and happiness. Some die off when they have nothing to work for and nothing to occupy their interests.

As revolutionaries, we should not be engaged in the reformist pursuit of urging 'them up there' to raise or lower the pension age or the 'benefits'. They are not benefits, they are rights just as much as occupational or life insurance pensions are. Their administration should be taken away from the State as a first demand and given to member-accountable trade unions or friendly societies (whose financial stability was greatly diminished when the State took over providing 'benefit' which meant taking over the contributions).. At a certain point a claim can become due, just like life assurance. The claim should then be paid paid out (periodically or in a lump sum) regardless of the mood of the Chancellor, the economic climate or the continued working or not of the beneficiary. This is what we worked and fought for all our lives under capitalism and should have. In a Stateless society an independent youth, a settled middle age and a secure old age wold be taken for granted.

Albert Meltzer