The Con-Dem coalition has been attacking benefit claimants persistently in order to prepare the ground for a major attack on their living standards - starting with the recently agreed 1 per cent cap on benefit payments.
The existence of the unemployed, the reserve army of labour, is used by those in power to keep wages down and to divide the working class. Hence the language of strivers and shirkers.
At last October's Conservative conference George Osborne made the infamous statement: "Where is the fairness, we ask, for the shift-worker leaving home in the dark hours of the early morning who looks up at the closed blinds of their next-door neighbour sleeping off a life on benefits? When we say we're all in this together, we speak for that worker."
This was clearly designed to direct working-class resentment at the current economic crisis onto the unemployed rather than to those in control of, and therefore responsible for, the economy.
The ideological state apparatus has swung into action via the political class and the mass media.
There has been a systematic distortion of the country's situation by political leaders and the popular press. The recent YouGov opinion poll commissioned by the TUC showed the impact of this campaign.
As previously reported in the Star, when asked how much of the welfare bill is spent on the unemployed the average respondent said 41 per cent. The real figure is actually just 3 per cent.
The overwhelming majority of the welfare budget is spent on pensioners, children, the disabled and the working poor. Indeed, as a percentage of the entire public spending budget the unemployment benefit bill amounts to less than 0.75 per cent.
As for the long-term unemployed, on average respondents thought that 48 per cent of claimants continued to claim jobseeker's allowance for over a year, while the real figure is only 28 per cent.
Also, as pointed out by a number of back-bench Labour MPs in the debate on the Welfare Bill, the majority of benefit recipients are net contributors to the Treasury, not burdens on the state.
There is also the oft-repeated claim that so much is claimed fraudulently by scroungers and "dole cheats."
The average estimate was that 27 per cent of claims were fraudulent when even the government's own figure is in actual fact 0.7 per cent.
Fraudulent claims amount for less than £1.5 billion of a budget in excess of £200bn - and the government actually saves over £12bn a year in benefits that aren't claimed, according to the Department for Work and Pensions.
Myths perpetuated by the media also apply to the deficit. The overwhelming majority of people do not actually know what the deficit is.
There is confusion over trade figures or the wider overall national debt.
The simple reality of the deficit is that public spending amounts to about 45 per cent of this country's GDP while only 39 per cent is taken in in tax revenue.
This amounts to a shortfall of about £100bn which then has to be borrowed.
The glaringly obvious solution to this is to increase the tax revenue to cancel out this structural deficit. But to both the Conservative and Labour parties such a solution is anathema. The option is rarely if ever discussed, and when it is it's dismissed as a solution that will only drive the rich out of Britain.
Drive them where - to Russia along with Gerard Depardieu?
There is almost no evidence of a brain drain or a loss of investment in countries with effective progressive tax systems. Countries such as Denmark and Sweden have their highest tax rates set at over 50 per cent and corporation tax at over 25 per cent. Their combined tax revenues are almost 50 per cent of their GDP, yet there is little evidence of a loss of investment.
Indeed both economies are growing while low-tax Britain is still flatlining and rather than a deficit the Swedish government is running a surplus.
Britain only needs to raise its tax revenue by 6 per cent of GDP to cancel out the deficit.
In fact if we were to raise our taxes to Swedish levels we'd have an extra £100bn which could provide for much needed investment in housing, education, health care and transport.
But instead the government and the media have conspired to convince many people that the only solution is to squeeze the poorest and most vulnerable in society in order to preserve the low-tax regime that the rich demand.
The reality is that the attack on the welfare state is ideologically driven and this opens up the question - why does the right have a problem with the welfare state? Even more simply, what's the welfare state for?
Simply put, the purpose of the welfare state is to ameliorate the effects of capitalism.
Left to its own devices the capitalist class makes profit by creaming off surplus value. This is done by continually looking to cut labour costs through keeping wages down and, where possible, by making redundancies.
The principle behind the welfare state is, therefore, to tax profits and salaries in order to provide top-ups for the low paid, to ensure security for those unable to work, such as the ill, the disabled and the elderly, and to provide a basic minimum of support to those that have been made unemployed.
So to defend this attack on this safety net the powers that be have to argue that the profits of the rich are their just rewards, while the recipients of benefits are vilified as lazy, workshy, dishonest and welfare "dependent."
However the political class fails to explain why there are sudden coincidental outbreaks of "laziness" whenever a recession hits or when the decision is made to withdraw financial support for the manufacturing sector.
This response is merely a return to the Victorian tactic of blaming the poor for being poor.
It shifts attention from those in the capitalist class responsible for the economic crisis and creates a fabricated division within the working class between so-called shirkers and strivers.
Perhaps there is an inevitability about these developments.
Capitalism's own self-serving dynamic cannot tolerate the existence of the welfare state while it continues to try to increase profit margins.
The contradiction at the heart of capitalism is the dialectic between the interests of the working class and the capitalist class.
The latter no longer have any interest in appeasing the working class with the support, the security and the simple fairness of the welfare state.
It no longer has to deal with the alternative that the socialist states of eastern Europe offered with the appeal of full employment and job security.
However it also knows it needs to maintain the consent of enough of the British working class to maintain its hegemony.
So this is clearly a long-term ideological strategy to divide the working class and to demonise welfare claimants.
This is not an issue on which we can compromise. Either working people or capitalists will win this fight.
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