John Riddell: Democracy in Lenin's Comintern

How did Communist parties handle issues of internal discipline and democracy in Lenin’s time? The recent intense discussion within the British Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP) and beyond has heard claims that the SWP rests on the traditions of democratic centralism inherited from the Bolsheviks.

John Riddell: Democracy in Lenin's Comintern

Richard Atkinson: Death and the Bedroom Tax

Some extended thoughts about Stephanie Bottrill, the woman who committed suicide because of the bedroom tax.

Richard Atkinson: Death and the Bedroom Tax

Dave Renton: Who Was Blair Peach?

Today marks the 35th anniversary of the killing of Blair Peach by the police. David Renton looks back at Blair Peach’s life as a poet, trade unionist and committed antifascist

Dave Renton: Who Was Blair Peach?

Bunny La Roche: Nasty Little Nigel gets a rude welcome to Kent

Bunny La Roche of RS21 on Nigel Farage's visit to Kent

Bunny La Roche: Nasty Little Nigel gets a rude welcome to Kent

Financial Appeal

We're up and running! An appeal for funds to kickstart the IS Network

Financial Appeal

Some arguments about the UK government's welfare reform programme - They are enforcing a patriarchal discipline on women and families by means testing

 

 

9. They are enforcing a patriarchal discipline on women and families by means testing

Separate income tax assessments for couples were introduced in 1990, abandoning any assumption about family composition and income structure and ending any interference by the state in the private lives of people paying income tax. Ironically this interference had to be partially re-introduced when the Coalition tried to introduce taxation of Child Benefit for higher band income taxpayers in January 2013. They then realised they had no means of knowing when taxpayers were members of a couple, information they needed to apply the new rule. But for benefit and Tax Credit claimants the requirement to inform the state when you began to live with anyone never went away and has always been rigorously enforced (as the Child Benefit rule won’t be).

If you start to live with anybody “as man and wife”, or “as civil partners” for same sex couples, and you claim means tested benefits or Tax Credits, you must inform the DWP or the Revenue immediately or risk benefit fraud sanctions and prosecution (anyone who falls foul of the new Child Benefit rules by contrast is penalised, if at all, under the much gentler income tax rules - they may have to pay something back but there is zero chance of prosecution). And they decide when you are living with someone, not you, under very opaque guidelines.

The result is that poorer women, in particular, live with the permanent threat of state scrutiny of their personal and sexual behaviour:

  • Your son storms out after a row. You don't know if or when he's going to move back in but he keeps coming back for a sub. So you keep claiming for him. 
  • Or your kids are taken into care. You want them back but you've got a dodgy boyfriend so the social workers will only let you have daytime contacts - no overnights. You've still got the expenses so you still claim for them.
  • Or your boyfriend sort of comes and goes. Good fun when he's around, brings drugs for you and presents for the kids. But you've got two kids and you can't rely on him so you claim as a single parent. BIG overpayment because he used your address to apply for a credit card and you can't prove he wasn't there most of the time.
  • Or you get divorced but you can't get rid of your ex. He keeps coming round because he can't find anywhere half decent to live so you drift into letting him sleep on the sofa. That neighbour you quarrelled with phones the fraud hotline and you're in Court for cohabitation.

The mistake people make is to assume that the complicated messes they make of their lives are their problem and their business. WRONG. If you're poor and claiming benefit, and especially if you're a woman with children, it's the state's business and you account for it in Court. This is happening every day - Styal prison is half full of women caught for ‘cohabitation’. Because it only happens to poor people, and mainly to poor women, it is considered acceptable. It is a direct consequence of a means tested benefit system, and is high on the list of reasons for abolishing any such system.