Saturday, November 30, 2019

Observations: Scroungers (1982)

The Observations Column from the October 1982 issue of the Socialist Standard


In early September you may have seen the headlines: “POLICE SPRING TRAP ON SOCIAL SCROUNGERS”. “Scroungers”? you may have pondered; “Ah yes, those people who consume wealth which they have played no part in helping to produce. Those anti-social elements who live on the backs of the rest of us. Recent examples of that sort of social parasite of whom you have read flash through your mind, mind.

There is the lady from central London, Betty Windsor, whose state benefits cheques for 1981 totalled £3,260,000 while other notorious spongers from the same family were on a similar dodge. Anny Philips applied to the Ministry of Agriculture for a 22½  per cent grant to improve the water supply at Gatcombe Park — the 1,200-acre estate bought for her by Betty for £750,000. The amount involved worked out to a cash payment of about £1.500 and the application was made weeks after Anny got a £19.600 pay rise in her own capacity as a sponger on the Social Security Civil List.

Then there is Mike Pearson, whose scrounged unearned income was sufficient to allow him to vacate his £2,000,000 home in South Kensington to become a tax exile in Ibiza where he will spend half the year, with the other half in Monte Carlo. Pearson inherited £7,000,000 on his 21st birthday and his personal wealth is now estimated at £20,000,000.

Scroungers, Ah yes, the top 2 percent of the population who own over 64.4 per cent of all the land in Britain and 70.5 per cent of all company shares (Inland Revenue Statistics 1980). So the police are springing traps on these sort of people are they? A row of lavish houses went on sale for £650,000 each in Knightsbridge after eleven of them had been sold. The agent said in an interview: “Everyone has paid cash for these properties . . . they don't need to bother with mortgages”. Perhaps it was reported to the police that these conspicuously rich people were never known to work and that they must therefore have been getting money by scrounging.

Then you stop wondering about who the scroungers are and pick up the newspaper. The trap, which was set up by police and supplementary benefit officers in Oxford, was part of a government crackdown on social security fraud; 286 people were arrested in swoop arrest tactics and each was questioned on suspicion of obtaining payments of £67 a week by giving false bed and breakfast addresses.

Wealth is created by labour. But those who own the most wealth do not contribute any useful labour to society. When we are not permitted to work for them in a recession and if we are accepting their paltry doles, they call us scroungers. Parasites of the non-human variety have got no worries about the willingness of their hosts to provide them with a living because non-human organisms cannot make choices about whether or not to accept the parasites. Members of the ruling class have got more to be worried about because the working class can make such a choice.
Gary Jay

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