Friday, 24 May 2013


Tax their Boardrooms - not our Bedrooms

Thousands are marching in Scotland against the vicious, vindictive Tory Bedroom Tax. 
Anger is turning to outrage on the streets and on the demos, as this cruel theft of income from the poorest has claimed its first victim. Stephanie Bottrill, a grandmother, was driven to suicide by the impossible prospect of having to find another £20 a week. She had done without heating all winter to save up for the Bedroom Tax bills.

And horrific reports are emerging of investment of time, money and staff hours by social landlords in what amounts to 'suicide watch'; housing staff, caretakers and welfare rights workers are being sent on courses to spot the danger of suicide amongst those tenants affected by the Bedroom Tax. What a searing condemnation of the system and government we live under in the 21st century!

We're all in this together!

All because the Westminster Coalition Cabinet, stuffed full of 23 millionaires - including Welfare Minister Lord Freud, with his two mansions and eleven spare bedrooms - dictates that 670,000 households across the UK have 'spare bedrooms' and are to be punished for it.

All because the Tories and Lib Dems are waging war on the working class, robbing hundreds of £billions off benefits and wages, so the millionaires can enjoy an annual tax cut of £107,000.
And people's anger is not restricted to those directly affected, including the 105,000 households in Scotland. An absolute, decisive majority of those queueing up at SSP street stalls to sign petitions demanding 'No evictions - Scrap the Bedroom Tax', tell us "This doesn't actually affect me, but..."
These 105,000 households in Scotland - including 83,000 with at least one registered disabled family member - are at the sharp end of the Tory Tax. But this affects us all in some way. When many of those confronted with bills of £10 a week or more on incomes of £71 simply can't afford to pay, rent arrears means the threat of evictions - but it also threatens the jobs and wages of workers in local housing associations and councils, plus the vital services they provide in communities.

An estimated £53m shortfall in rental income to social landlords this first year alone because of the Tory Tax has already begun to take its toll. At least one Glasgow local housing association, whose bosses are on £100,000 and £85,000 each, have declared redundancies and ruthlessly cut the wages of staff with 20-plus years of devoted service to their tenants by a shattering £5,000 a year. Their "explanation"? That they have to cut back due to the bedroom tax and Universal Credit.

United - despite vile propaganda 

The Tories and LibDems thought they could divide working class people with their vile propaganda about 'skivers and strivers', 'shirkers and workers' - but a growing unity is turning into action again the Tory architects of the worst assault since the poll tax.

That's why those marching through Glasgow on Saturday 1st June should and will then turn their fire on the Scottish Tory party conference in Stirling the following Saturday, 8th June, on the protest march called by the broad-based No2BedroomTax campaign. 

We need to make the Tories feel like an endangered species in Scotland - but with no plans for conservation! They need to feel the hot breath of fury at what they are presiding over and justifying, and given the clear message that the only people who will be evicted in Scotland are the Tories - not tenants.

No evictions

And evictions are a very real threat - contrary to those who scoffed when we warned of this months ago. For months before the tax was imposed on April Fools Day, the SSP, No2BedroomTax campaign, Unite Community union and others took to the streets demanding that councils, local housing associations and indeed the Scottish government outlaw the threat of evictions. 

Repeated protests and street campaigning has had some positive results. Councils controlled by the SNP have pledged there will be no evictions for at least the first year - provided they are satisfied "tenants have made all reasonable attempts to avoid rent arrears". So has the Labour/SNP/Green coalition Edinburgh city council. And some local housing associations have adopted the exact same policy with the exact same proviso attached.

Those are welcome, if faltering steps in the right direction. And let us be clear: they did not drop from the sky; they are concessions won by vigorous, determined campaigning on the streets, outside council meetings, through the local media and at councillors' surgeries. 
People in protest can win concessions.

Backdoor evictions

But the danger inherent in the clause about 'making all reasonable attempts to avoid rent arrears' is that it could lead to backdoor evictions, unless the pressure is kept up on the social landlords and the mainstream politicians - even including those from the SNP . 

When tenants are eking out an existence on £71 a week, how the hell is being expected to pay ANY amount of bedroom tax 'reasonable'? 

When people already under a repayment arrangement for previous rent arrears are then hit by demands for £10 or more bedroom tax, all the 'attempts' in the world will still make it impossible to avoid rent arrears and therefore they could face actual eviction procedures. 

Scottish government 

The SSP has fought from day one for councils and local Housing Associations to not only help every affected tenant apply for Discretionary Housing Payments to reduce the impact of the Tax, but also to mount a ferocious campaign for funding off the Scottish government to fill the shortfall in rent. This side of getting the Tory Tax scrapped - which is our clear, unqualified aim - that is the only serious route councils and LHA bosses can take if they are genuine about avoiding evictions.

Likewise the SSP has demanded throughout that the SNP government should use the powers they already have under the straitjacket of devolution to mitigate the crucifying cuts people face. To outlaw all evictions, which would cover local housing associations as well as those councils (such as those run by Labour) which are refusing to declare 'no evictions'; and to cough up the guesstimated £53m shortfall in rents to social landlords this year, to stop cuts to jobs, pay and services - and to then spearhead a Scots rebellion demanding back the stolen £billions off Westminster, so that neither housing, the NHS, education, transport nor any other public service suffers cuts.

Stinking Labour hypocrisy

The Labour party has unleashed a great hue and cry of criticism of the SNP government for not declaring an all-embracing, national 'No Evictions' policy. But Labour's hypocrisy on the bedroom tax and indeed evictions has a more overpowering stench to it than the average sewage works on a hot summer day!
Labour councils have failed utterly to declare against evictions. Worse than that, a mere six weeks into this vicious Tory Tax being installed, Labour councils in both North Lanarkshire and South Lanarkshire have delivered letters threatening evictions. 

In South Lanarkshire, this scared the living daylights out of the likes of Angela Buskie, mother of three, who they expected to pay £22.08 a week, leaving her £10 a week to feed herself and three kids. She was threatened with being turfed out of her home, in a letter delivered by hand on a Sunday - because she owed them £129! 

Faced with news of this outrage, Labour council leader Eddie McAvoy claimed it was a mistake; that he knew nothing about such letters being sent out. Either he's lying, or the elected Labour councillors have allowed unelected officials to run riot in wielding the Tory Tax as a blunt instrument against tenants on rock bottom incomes.

Tweeted words are cheap

In the case of North Lanarkshire Labour council leader Jim McCabe, no such feeble explanation was given. No claims of mistakes, no public apologies, no immediate withdrawal of the threatening eviction letters. 
This is Scotland's biggest single social landlord. On 13 March, North Lanarkshire Labour boldly tweeted "tomorrow we will be campaigning against the vile bedroom tax". Weeks later, whilst Labour politicians make hay out of the abject failure of the SNP Scottish government to unequivocally ban bedroom tax evictions, McCabe's Labour council threatened a Coatbridge man with eviction - a single man, with a history of mental illness, who has never incurred rent arrears prior to the Bedroom Tax, and had requested a move to a smaller house, but was told none was available. And the letter warns him of legal costs of £289.70 because he has accrued the grand sum total of £50.10 in arrears! 

Don't rely on Labour

These rank hypocrites are playing games with people's lives. Spouting opposition to the Tory tax to recover some of their lost base in Scotland, but not even promising to abolish it if they win the 2015 Westminster elections, and meantime implementing the Tory Tax like a gang of fundamentalist zealots, against the very people they falsely claim to represent. 

At UK level, Labour's Shadow Minister Liam Byrne has declared "we are not going to make promises we can't keep"!

We can't rely on the Labour opposition at Westminster nor local Labour councillors to resist and disrupt the Tories' tax. Far from it, they are at the forefront of implementing it.
Opponents of the bedroom tax, including those directly hammered by it, need a twin track plan of action against the threat of evictions: building local networks of people prepared to mount human walls of solidarity against any attempted evictions, and piling the pressure on the politicians and housing association bosses with demands that they outlaw evictions, fight for full Discretionary Housing Payments, and launch a serious campaign for Scottish government funding to remove the prospect of either slashing staff and/or harassing people for rent arrears they are simply  incapable of paying.

Reclassify rooms

Running parallel to these demands against evictions, the SSP, No2BedroomTax and others will continue to pound the social housing landlords with pressure to reclassify their homes, so that rooms are declared 'not liable' to payment of the Bedroom Tax. That road is being travelled by Knowsley Council on Merseyside and Nottingham council.

The first and so far only Scottish Council to have partially conceded this is North Ayrshire.

They now promise to reclassify rooms, starting with smaller rooms that they may declare to be boxrooms. This is a breach in the defenses of Councils that say their hands are tied. 

It is the result of a wave of repeated protests, organised by the SSP in Ayrshire, with twice-weekly street stalls, big public meetings, numerous highly publicized protests at council meetings.
They now need to be pushed to reclassify all their houses - as do other Councils and housing associations across Scotland. If enough do this, as well as fending off the dire poverty and potential evictions, it would help make the tax unworkable.  

Struggle - and socialism

The SSP has been at the heart of building meetings, protests, demos and anti-eviction networks. We have spearheaded putting pressure on council and housing association bosses to outlaw evictions, reclassify rooms and demand the funding off the Scottish government to offset loss of rental income and the astronomic rise in applications for Discretionary Housing Payments - an increase of 338 per cent across all council areas in the month of April, with the biggest increase of any area in the UK being in Glasgow, where 5,501 desperate people have applied for these emergency payments, compared to 1,437 the previous month!

But the SSP will also continue to empower people with the knowledge that there is absolutely no excuse or justification for this daylight robbery of benefits. 

The country is awash with wealth, but it's in the hands of a filthy rich handful. 

Last year the richest 1,000 people - that's a piddling 0.003 per cent of the population! - INCREASED their personal wealth by £35 billion. That's 70 times more than their hired political servants in the Tory/Lib Dem Coalition are stealing off the poorest through the Bedroom Tax. 

The richest 100 fat cats had an average rise of £2billion. So 100 people could live on the minimum wage and then still pay the entire Bedroom Tax bill for all those affected for the next 400 years! 

Tax their boardrooms, not our bedrooms

The system of capitalist exploitation and inequality is absolutely obscene. Fighting the Bedroom Tax is one important step in turning the tide of crucifying cuts to living standards suffered by millions under successive Tory and Labour governments. 

The fearless fighters marching against this measure should go on to help build a powerful, united movement to challenge the rule of the rich, with demands for taxing the billionaires and boardrooms, not our bedrooms, and for democratic public ownership of the banks, big industry, construction, energy and all public services. 

That way - the socialist way ahead - could ensure decent, skilled jobs for all, on a guaranteed living wage, including to build top-rate social sector housing at affordable rents.

Join the marches against the Bedroom Tax. Build a movement to evict the Tories, not tenants. Join the SSP in the struggle for an independent socialist Scotland, where benefit cuts, poverty pay, poor housing and mass unemployment will be banished.

Monday, 20 May 2013

United with Labour = United with the Tories

How late it was, how late. And not just late, but lame. 

Gordon Brown's attempt to help Scottish Labour distance themselves from their conjoined twins and bedmates in Better Together, the reviled Tories. 

Gordon Brown - intellectual arrogance and political stupidity

The launch of 'United with Labour' was a cynical attempt to appease the growing nausea in the ranks of the trade unions in particular, and the wider working class, at Labour leading the anti-independence 'Better Together' campaign with the Tory/Lib Dem partners in crime at Westminster. 

The recent STUC conference was a warning to Labour's high heidins that they will reinforce the growing openness to independence amongst workers every time Alastair Darling speaks on behalf of this Tory-funded triumvirate.

A tory campaign "led" by Labour left a bitter taste in the mouths of trades unions

As we predicted in a previous blog (23 April) Labour was obliged to try and put 'a distinctive Labour case for devolution' - which is camouflage for Labour trying to con workers into believing that by voting 'No' and staying part of the capitalist British state, their lives and living conditions will improve. 

Nostalgia for post-1945 Labour reforms 

Hence Brown's attempt to resurrect the mass support of older generations for what was achieved 60-70 years ago, when the post-1945 Labour government constructed the welfare state, including the NHS.

But a total con-trick it is. 

Those far-reaching reforms, marked also by the extension of public ownership (albeit monstrously bureaucratic) to a peak 20% of the British economy, were part of an international strategy by capitalism designed to stave off the threat of revolutionary movements across Europe in the wake of World War 2.

It was in part funded by the USA Marshall Aid programme, where the mighty imperialist power poured hundreds of billions of EuroDollars into western Europe to prop up capitalism, in the face of encroachment of their 'territory' by the Soviet Union in eastern Europe. 

The threat of spreading 'communism' - despite it's monstrously bureaucratic and viciously dictatorial form - scared the wits out of western capitalist leaders, and combined with the militant demands of their own working class, pressured the likes of Clement Atlee's Labour government to make serious inroads into the untrammeled rule of the capitalist market.

Put another way, after the Hungry Thirties and the privations and mass slaughter of War, workers in the UK demanded a greater share of the wealth they produced, and the trade unions affiliated to Old Labour helped socialists in the party at the time to win the giant concessions of the NHS; welfare benefits; wholesale construction of council housing for those confined to overcrowded slums and unable to afford mortgages; comprehensive education; and a reduction in the levels of poverty and inequality. 

Reforms, in the proper sense of improvements in the lives of millions of people, were affordable then precisely because of the unprecedented upswing in capitalist wealth production globally for the 30 years up until the first simultaneous capitalist economic crisis in the mid-70s. 

Change, utter change

I only refer to these features of the past to show how things have changed since; utterly changed. From the mid-70s onwards, capitalism as a system of exploitation has gone through its classic pattern of booms and slumps. 

As Labour Chancellor, Gordon Brown had the intellectual arrogance and political stupidity to claim New Labour had banished the cycle of booms and slumps in their period of government from 1997-2010. 

Try telling that to the hundreds of thousands of workers who have been chucked out of work, left to rot in the permanent 'mass army of reserve labour', only then to be demonized by successive Labour and Tory/LibDem governments as 'skivers', 'scroungers' and 'benefit cheats' - background music to justify crucifying cuts to those same benefits. 

How changed, how utterly changed, compared to the 1950s, when even the Tories did not seek to dismantle the safety net of welfare benefits, and subscribed to the aim of full employment! 

Labour counter-reforms

A whole generation experienced the limitations and downright disappointments of Old Labour in government. Governments led by Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan in 1964-70 and 1974-9 came in with raised expectations amongst working class people, with radical promises of 'a fundamental and irreversible shift in the balance of power and wealth in favour of working people', and with even Labour arch-right wingers like Denis Healey threatening to "tax the rich 'til the pips squeak"!

But as a party wedded at the top to capitalism, these governments of Old Labour never broke the chains of capitalism, and were held to ransom by big business with threats of 'a strike of investment' - and even plots of military coups on the fringes of the ruling class, especially in 1974. The result: not reforms, but counter-reforms: savage cuts to public expenditure in the 1970s as they obeyed the diktats of the IMF; brutal wage cuts under the wage restraint policy of the so-called Social Contract signed by the Old Labour government and the top union bureaucracy; and eventually a revolt of low-paid workers against this assault on their ability to survive, with a wave of strikes against the Old Labour government in 1978-9 - the oft-mentioned Winter of Discontent. 

Labour paved the way for Thatcher

Mass disgust with Old Labour's actual track record turned Labour voters away in their droves in 1979, with massive abstention allowing the hated Thatcher to take power and proceed to systematically slaughter many of the gains for working people of the post-1945 generation.

Thatcher's was a government of counter-revolution, unbridled capitalism, unashamedly slashing the social wages and democratic rights of the working class majority. 

For 18 dark years they waged war for their own class with a battery of vicious and union laws; extensive privatisation; the virtual elimination of major industries like coal, steel and shipbuilding; the stripping away of workers' hard-won rights in the print industry and elsewhere; conscious preparation for 'the final showdown' with the heroic miners and their communities, in a class-driven civil war that unveiled the naked brutality of state forces in defending capitalist interests...and the ultimate assault that was the poll tax. 

New Labour's record 

That government above all confirmed that the days of advancement for the working class majority within the confines of capitalist rule had crashed to a shuddering halt. 

But the same, critical point was proven even more decisively by the experience of the subsequent 13 years of Labour Westminster rule, from 1997-2010.

Under both Blair and Brown, New Labour demonstrated that the British capitalist state had by then exhausted all its radical potential. 

Gone were the days of even modest taxation of big business and the rich to fund social provision. Rather than extending public ownership and control they privatized vital assets. I recall vividly the way Labour's Helen Liddell joined with National Savings Bank workers and their union in Glasgow in strident condemnation of Tory plans to privatise it just weeks before the 1997 general election - only to then sell it off to German multinational Siemens a few weeks after Labour won a landslide election victory! 

Under the utterly capitalist project that is New Labour, benefit cuts bit deeper, single parents were demonised to justify this assault, and welfare turned into warfare. 

Not a single Tory anti-trade union law was repealed. 

The national minimum wage was conceded under sustained pressure from trade unionists and socialists (the one and only demo calling for a national minimum wage was organised by the SSP 's predecessor, the Scottish Socialist Alliance!). But it was pitched at such a low level that it on several occasions led to employers cutting their existing wage levels to drag them down to the legal Minimum Wage! And it had more exclusion clauses than the worst dodgy insurance policy. 

Poverty - and getting filthy rich

Under the Labour governments of Blair and Brown, inequality and child poverty both escalated massively. Inequality grew faster under Labour than it had under Thatcher and Major's previous Tory governments. Inequality actually reached its highest levels since 1886! 

After peaking in the mid-1970s, wages as a share of national weath plummeted to their lowest since records began in 1956... a trend that continues to this day. 

Peter Mandelson blurted out New Labour's core philosophy with his pithy sneer that he was "intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich".

And far from sustaining the marvellous gains of the NHS, part-privatisation, pay cuts for staff, and cost-cutting hospital and ward closures that provoked the revolt of thousands in small towns were the hallmarks of Labour in power from 1997-2010. 

New Labour carried on like converts with the Tory PFI schemes, authorizing most of the 700 completed projects; schemes that mortgage future generations with public liability for repaying roughly £6 back to private profiteers for every £1 borrowed off them for public sector projects, with leases mostly lasting 30 years. 

From welfare to warfare

Foreign policy is a natural extension of domestic policy - sometimes implemented by brute military force. So it was no surprise to socialists that the nakedly capitalist New Labour government of Blair and Brown proceeded to send young working class soldiers to the slaughterhouse of Iraq, joined at the hip to George W Bush and his blood-stained imperial ambitions, leading to 200 corpses returning to these shores, dwarfed of course by the slaughter of at least 120,000 Iraqi civilians, with the total death toll estimated at 'somewhere between 500,000 and a million'. 

It was no idle boast when Maggie Thatcher claimed her greatest legacy was New Labour. Millions of people will have felt like puking or smashing the TV when David Cameron used the death of the hate figure of the 1980s to claim "we are all Thatcherites now". But the kernel of truth in his boast is that in terms of the major mainstream parties and their ideology, he is right - at least on fundamentals, if not in every policy detail.

Distinctively Labour cuts

So when Gordon Brown is wheeled out to show how different Labour is from the Tories for the purposes of defending the British capitalist state from the threat of Scottish independence, let us remind the Scottish working class majority of some basic real-life facts and experiences.

Brown trumpeted that the national minimum wage, NHS and benefits are illustrations that we are ''better together'...but in a 'distinctively Labour way'!

United with Labour, Johann Lamont, and other - more leftist - Labour figures try to varnish the case for Westminster rule with talk of 'a redistributive Britain'. 

They should all be challenged to justify the glories of the minimum wage to those hundreds of thousands of Scottish workers who live on or just above £6.19 an hour as prices collide with astronauts in the stratosphere. 

They seem to forget the NHS is devolved, and despite all its many shortcomings, the Scottish government has certainly not conducted a crusade to slaughter service levels, conduct wholesale closures, or privatize and decimate the NHS in the manner currently gathering pace down south at the hands of Westminster. That is the grisly future if Scotland votes 'NO' in 2014.

United with Labour gloss over the fact it is Westminster which ushered in the hated Bedroom Tax, as part a package of £18billion benefit cuts - and no matter how 'distinctly Labour', devolution would leave the power to punish the poorest through such measures in the hands of the Westminster razor gang, regardless of how Scotland voted in the 2015 Westminster elections.

Factions of capitalist rule

In another lame attempt to throw a sop to the anti-Tory clamour and the questioning of the case for the unequal capitalist state amongst workers, Scottish Labour's Johann Lamont floated the idea of devolving income tax to Holyrood in the event of a No vote. 

She was slapped down by the UK Labour leadership. And in any case, even if this was conceded - "to kill nationalism dead" as Labour put it when they reluctantly granted a Scottish parliament in 1999 - it would still not give a Scottish government control over the 'commanding heights' of the economy. Income tax only accounts for about 25% of total government revenue. 

And Labour (unfortunately backed up by the STUC) are explicitly opposed to devolving Corporation Tax - potentially a major source of public funding for the public good - let alone devolving the powers to take energy, construction, the banks or big business into democratic public ownership. 

And which of the four big parties down south do Labour have in mind for taxing the rich; closing loopholes that rob society of £120 billion a year in taxes on big business and the rich; or raising expenditure on the NHS, education or public transport? The Tories? LibDems? UKIP?! New Labour? These are just different factions of the same capitalist party. 

Prospects under Labour

Labour's Ian Smart blurted out in his recent tweet, "Better 100 years of Tory rule in the UK than independence". 

Gordon Brown and United with Labour try not to be so crass, especially given the views on the Tories within the Scottish working class they seek to dupe into voting against determining their own future, their own government, and therefore ultimately their own conditions of life. 

But Labour fail to answer the real amd present danger that it's arguably just as likely Westminster could face a Tory/UKIP Coalition as a majority Labour government - in flagrant defiance of how the Scottish people vote in 2015. 

But even if Labour was to win the keys to 10 Downing Street, what are the realistic prospects of reforms, improvements, for working class Scots? 

Gordon Brown never once chastised nor disagreed with his then chancellor Alastair Darling when in 2010 he warned voters that in the event of Labour winning the Westminster elections, they would carry out public sector cuts "far deeper even than those of Margaret Thatcher's government". 

The poster boy of Better Together was never going to be contradicted by the brooding Heathcliff of United with Labour; after all it was Brown himself who earned the eternal wrath of low-paid civil service workers when he declared plans to slash 100,000 jobs on 12th July 2004! 

Labour in Westminster has absolutely no intention of scrapping the anti-union laws ushered in by Thatcher, retained by Labour for all 13 years when they had the power to repeal them. 

They have a no intention of scrapping Trident and diversifying defense workers' jobs into peaceful, socially useful activity. 

History proves they would rely on some newly-labelled version of PFI and PPP to fund the remnants of the NHS, rather than transforming it (including the pharmaceutical industry) into a fully publicly-owned service with democratic control by staff representatives, patients' groups and the government - funded by taxing the rich.

Millionaires and millions

Regardless of which of the four parties vying for power down south wins in 2015, working class people will certainly not be 'together' with the millionaires and 88 billionaires that bestride the wealth of these islands. 

We certainly won't be 'Better together' with the class of parasitic bankers and tax-dodging businesses that Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling and the rest of New Labour fete and favour. 

So instead of being conned by catchy phrases like 'United with Labour', the working-class majority population in Scotland need to seize hold of their own future, vote Yes to self- government, with the realistic prospects and full-blown powers to then elect a government of the left, demanding a root and branch transformation of where the power and wealth lies. 

Independent socialist Scotland

United with Labour is above all a cynical ploy to breech the growing obstacles to Better Together's overtures to the organised trade unions, as well as generally seeking to confuse Labour voters into thinking a vote for independence is a vote for the SNP, or more narrowly for Alex Salmond. 
Download a free copy of the SSV HERE

It is a mythical promise of better living standards within the UK, based on the lie that Labour is fundamentally different from the Tories.

Socialists are best placed to counter this, in a manner pro-big business nationalists like Alex Salmond are unable to do. 

The SSP, and broader campaigns within the trade unions like Trade Unionists for Independence (TUFI), need to confront the myths underpinning 'United with Labour'. 

Facts, stubborn facts, about Labour's real-life track record since the 1970s should be enough to shred Labour's lies about the wonders of Westminster rule, and prevent them dragging the name of the trade unions into the Tory-infested swamps of British unionism.

A socialist vision for an independent Scotland - alongside spelling out the stark, dark prospects under the heel of capitalist Westminster rule - is needed to counter the late, lame attempts by Gordon Brown and New Labour to woo workers into thinking they are best 'united with Labour' - which in fact amounts to being 'united with the Tories'.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Trades Unions for Independence Meeting tomorrow

West of Scotland Trade Unionists for Independence

Tuesday 14th May 6pm:  In Auctioneers Bar, 6 North Court, Glasgow  (off St Vincent St/corner George Sq - 2minutes from Queen St station).

Friday, 10 May 2013


the bedroom tax...

By Richie Venton

Thousands are expected to march against the Tory Bedroom Tax in Glasgow on Saturday 18th May, determined to bring about it's downfall.

This march, rally and family fun day has been called by the No2BedroomTax campaign, which initiated and organised the huge 30th March demo. And it's been backed by the Scottish trade union movement, in the form of the STUC conference, as well as UNITE Community union.

Unity between different sectors of the working class is critical in resisting the vicious onslaught of the Westminster millionaires' razor gang. 

Cameron and Clegg have systematically tried to divide and rule working class people on behalf of their class of parasites. 

For months they talked of 'shirkers and workers' as they capped benefits at one per cent for each of the next 3 years - trying to bury the fact that 65 per cent of those hammered by this one cut alone are people in work - facing cuts in Working Tax Credit, child benefits, housing benefit and the likes.


They demonise the sick and disabled as they hire multinational outfits like ATOS to drag people through assessments on their fitness to work, conducted by ill-trained staff, hounding people off marginally higher rates of benefits by declaring them fit to work. 

No wonder ATOS' headquarters in Glasgow has been dubbed 'Lourdes', such is the miracle cures they perform, declaring very sick people well as they leave the building! 

But it's no joke - vast numbers have died within weeks of being declared fit by these profiteering hitmen for the government.

But perhaps the most consciously divisive of all the Tory-Lib Dem cuts to benefits is the Bedroom Tax. They thought by picking on 105,000 Scottish households they could isolate them from the rest of us. In vain!
People joining the marches are often there on principle, not directly affected themselves. The most common expression used by the thousands who have stopped and signed Scottish Socialist Party street petitions is "It doesn't affect me, but...".


This crude theft of incomes from the poorest sections of the working class - in part designed to pay for the bankers' bailout and the millionaires' recent tax cut - has infuriated tens of thousands and given them the chance to lash out at a government they detest for all it's other attacks.

Unity between those directly affected and tens of thousands of others is growing. 

People on the streets condemn a Tory Tax that tells disabled people they are not allowed an extra room for lifeline disabled facilities, or for sleepovers by carers unless they are getting 24/7 cover from registered carers. 

They are appalled at multi-millionaires like Lord Freud - government Welfare Minister, who has 11 spare bedrooms in his two luxury mansions - telling separated parents they face the punishment of the Bedroom Tax for having a bedroom for their own kids to stay in several nights a week.
Likewise with grandparents who share in the upbringing of their grand-kids, or couples who need an extra bedroom to get a night's sleep because of severe health problems such as COPD.

Daylight robbery

The term 'daylight robbery' arguably arose 450 years ago when King William introduced a Window Tax and people avoided it by bricking up their windows. This is daylight robbery 21st century style. It is depriving children, parents, grandparents and disabled people of their human rights. It is stealing £500 million a year off the poorest to give to the richest, from the neediest to the greediest, from the millions to the millionaires.

The Bedroom Tax is now well known for stealing 14 per cent of housing benefit off over 80,000 Scottish households, and 25 per cent cut off nearly another 25,000. 

Robbing an average of £14 a week off people often on weekly incomes of £71 is of course what the Tories exist to do: they are the party of the millionaires and multinational capitalists.

Stay put and fight

But this might as well be called the Disability Tax, or the Single-end Tax. 

In Scotland, 8 out of every 10 households hammered by it have at least one family member with a registered disability. And when they tell people they need to uproot themselves - often after decades in the family home, or in the immediate aftermath of their partner's death - because millionaires living in mansions dictate they have 'too many bedrooms', they are trying to drive people back to the overcrowded conditions of past generations.

Why should people have to uproot themselves from the home they have invested time, money and memories in, or from the neighbours whose friendship and solidarity they depend upon for a decent life?
People should stay put, refuse to budge, and join the fight to scrap this vicious tax.

Struggle or starve!

Whilst millionaires were rewarded an annual 'pay' rise of £107,000 through tax cuts last month, the same government's own civil service calculated that 42 per cent of the households hit by the Bedroom Tax were literally unable to afford to pay it from day one.

People in this rich nation have already suffered the choice of heating or eating. Now they are confronted by the impossible choices of heating, eating or paying the Bedroom Tax. With Food Banks trebling in number over the last year, we are well and truly traveling back to the Hungry Thirties or even Victorian times.
The choice is blunt: in the words of one of the main slogans of the working class movement of the 1930s, we either "Struggle or Starve"!

People in abject poverty being robbed by the Bedroom Tax is a recipe for evictions - which is why the anti-Bedroom Tax movement is so important.

The campaign is determined to help people appeal every housing benefit cut decision - on time, within a month of the authorities issuing the letter of decision. This can be on grounds ranging from upholding clauses of the Human Rights Act to Children's Acts to challenging what the so-called spare bedroom is actually used for. Several legal challenges are in the courts, and if any succeed, those who have submitted written appeals could win concessions or exemption.

Reclassify homes

Alongside individual appeals, the pressure which campaigners, including the SSP, have put on councillors, Housing Association bosses and the Scottish government to outlaw all bedroom tax evictions is critical - and has already reaped important dividends.

Protests at Council meetings, street campaigning and fighting demands in local media calling on these people in power to declare there will be no evictions has forced them to sit up and listen.
In a number of Councils - including South Ayrshire, Edinburgh, Renfrewshire, Highlands and Dundee - they have taken at least a faltering step in the right direction, pledging there will be no evictions for at least the next year.

After a series of big SSP public meetings, which went on to organise several protests at council meetings - pounding those in power to outlaw all bedroom tax evictions, reclassify houses so as to avoid rooms being eligible for the tax, and to demand the shortfall in rents from the Scottish government - North Ayrshire Council has gone further than any other so far in Scotland. 

The SSP led local people in demanding they follow the example of Knowsley and Nottingham councils and reclassify rooms. Under this pressure, as well as declaring no evictions for at least a year, the Council has now said they will reclassify two-bedroom houses with a small room to become one-bedroom and a boxroom. 

Also, to make their one-bedroom houses available to all ages, not just the elderly; and to give those asked to downsize an extra 50 housing points so as to increase their chances of getting rehoused.

Partial victory - keep fighting 

This is a partial victory for the SSP-led campaign in the area, which has been ferocious and persistent.
But it's still only partial; we are stepping up the pressure on councillors to reclassify ALL their housing stock, and importantly to launch a campaign alongside tenants and council workers for funding off the Scottish government to fill the gap left in rental income by people simply being unable to pay the Bedroom Tax.
Failure to do this could lead not only to cuts in jobs and services, but also to the threat of evictions by another route in the future. 

People who don't pay because they can't pay will end up in arrears. Unless the pressure is sustained on the politicians in charge, they could then decide such tenants face eviction procedures because they did not "take all reasonable steps to avoid getting into rent arrears" - the clause adopted by every single council and housing association that has so far pledged 'no evictions for at least a year'.
Some of these tenants may already be on a repayment Pre-eviction arrangement, and if they now get clobbered by the bedroom tax, they could be driven by poverty into defaulting on their payments and face eviction procedures. 

That's why the No2BedroomTax campaign and the SSP will keep building local networks of people ready to form human walls of solidarity against any evictions, as well as demanding local Housing Association bosses and the Scottish government come off the fence and outlaw evictions.

That is why the campaign needs to sustain the demand for funding off the Scottish government of the guesstimated loss of £53m this year in rent to social landlords. Otherwise some local Housing Associations will declare cuts and redundancies - one in Glasgow has already issued redundancies and cut the pay of longstanding staff by up to £5,000 a year. 

And some of them might even go under, which is an added motive behind the Tory Bedroom Tax; to drive people into the private rented sector to be exploited by profiteering shark landlords who are subsidised by public funds through housing benefit - and to even drive weaker ones into the clutches of the banks and the profiteering private sector.

No excuse for cuts

The SSP will unite with anyone prepared to resist the Bedroom Tax. But we do not share Labour's view that it should just be reformed and applied differently. Labour's aspiring future government Minister Helen Goodman has blurted out they would keep it but only apply it if a tenant is offered a smaller house and declines it!

The SSP is not out to reform or amend the Bedroom Tax, we are out to scrap it, to help build a movement that makes it unworkable and forces the government to abandon it.

And we will never tire of exposing the fact there is absolutely no excuse for introducing this, or any other benefit cuts. 

The government peddles the lie that cuts are unavoidable due to the national debt and annual deficit in public spending. But the figures for these were consistently higher than they are now for most of the past century - including during the decades when the NHS and welfare state were built, millions of council houses were built, and unemployment reached an all-time low.

The cuts to benefits are based on ideological dogma, opposition to social provision and universal benefits - something which the Tories and Lib Dems share with New Labour! - as well as a crude drive to divide the working class and make it easier to carry out a wealth transfusion to the very richest away from the rest of us.

Tax the rich

There is no excuse for these savage cuts to living standards given the fabulous wealth of the nation. It's not a problem of the wealth available, but its outrageously unequal distribution. 

Last year, the tiny elite richest 1,000 people in the UK - making up a miniscule 0.003 per cent of the population - increased their wealth by £35billion. That's more than the entire budget spent on DLA, ESA, JSA, care allowances and similar benefits! It would pay, twice over, for the £18bn cuts to the benefits bill implemented so far.

And the bloated rich - individuals and big corporations - systematically dodge £120bn a year in tax, which is 240 as much as their Tory-Lib Dem political representatives are robbing off the poorest through the Bedroom Tax.

Socialism, not savagery

There is no excuse for these cuts. And there is an alternative - socialism.

The SSP is fighting to scrap the Bedroom Tax, halt all benefit cuts, and for the Scottish government to stand up to the Westminster dictatorship by refusing to carry our their butchery, demanding back the stolen £billions that could expand jobs, services and incomes. 

Contrary to the SNP leadership's message, the Scottish government don't have to choose between protecting the NHS, education, council services, council tax payers and tenants battered by the Bedroom Tax. They should mobilize all these and more in a Scottish rebellion against the Westminster thieves, demanding back the £billions stolen by them, that could be deployed to massively invest in jobs, services, housing, pay and benefits.

We are campaigning for an independent Scotland with the power and political willpower to abolish the Bedroom Tax. 

We are fighting for a socialist Scotland where by taxing the rich and taking vital services, natural resources, energy, construction, banking and major industry into democratic public ownership, we could guarantee a well-paid job and apprenticeships for all those fit to work; a living income for those unable to and the retired; and decent, affordable social sector housing for all needs, built to the highest environmental standards.
Unite through No2BedroomTax campaigns to fight for the abolition of one of the most vicious attacks in a whole package of savagery.

Build a mass movement to evict the Tories, not tenants.

Join the SSP for an independent socialist Scotland where the wealth of the nation is owned, controlled and used for the benefits of the millions, not the millionaires.