Old Left Line Up In Shocking Attack on Grassroots Claimant’s Group

sanction-sabsThe Youth Fight For Jobs campaign have published a piece this week attacking Boycott Workfare supporters who have called on the PCS Union to take meaningful and concrete action against benefit sanctions.

In an astonishing diatribe the group, who are largely a Socialist Party front, accuse campaign group Boycott Workfare of ‘divide and rule’.  Based on a string of entirely spurious accusations, Youth Fight for Jobs spokesperson Ian Pattison claims to be ‘shocked and surprised’ that a campaign opposed to benefit sanctions should call on the PCS to take a stronger position on their members being forced to implement those sanctions.

This is not a controversial position, even within the PCS Union themselves.  At their annual conference earlier in the year a resolution was passed instructing the PCS National Executive to explore means of non-cooperation with sanctions.  Since then there has been silence from the PCS leadership on the issue.

Pattison ignores this fact completely in his rant, instead falsely claiming that Boycott Workfare oppose the upcoming strike by administration workers and PCS members at Atos, the company responsible for the notorious Work Capability Assessment.  Yet nowhere have Boycott Workfare taken any position on this strike at all.  The accusation merely stems from a retweet of a piece published on a different group’s website which is critical of the PCS.

There is a wide debate amongst claimant and disabled people’s groups about how, and if, those fighting welfare reform can work with the low paid DWP staff implementing the reforms.  Understandingly many claimants feel unable to stand in solidarity with the Jobcentre or Atos staff who torment them on a daily basis.  Claimants have a right to have this discussion without dusty old left wing sects stepping in and trying to throw their weight about.  And Boycott Workfare have a right to retweet anything they choose which adds to that debate.

What is perhaps most staggering about Youth Fight for Jobs’ current whinge  is the glaring inconsistency at the heart of their position.  On one hand they proclaim that the PCS is a fighting union, the vanguard against austerity who have ‘won numerous local disputes’ and that ‘just the threat of strike action’ has already halted redundancies at the DWP this year.  Yet they also argue at length that it would be impossible for the PCS Union to take any meaningful action against benefit sanctions because workers might face the sack.  In this case the so-called fighting union’s collective power appears to be trembling  under the jackboot of Iain Duncan Smith.

If this was just an attack by an outdated left wing sect on a dynamic, diverse  and successful claimant’s movement then it would be easy and best all round to ignore it completely.  After all, Youth Fight for Job’s answer to unemployment is minimum wage work for everyone without a job – a disastrous policy that would force down wages and conditions for everyone.  They are hardly likely to be game changers in the battle against neo-liberal policies which are likely to dominate the lives of working class people for the foreseeable future.

But sadly there is more to this and this is where it gets nasty.  Vice President of the PCS Union John McInally hailed this attempted hatchet job as ‘serious analysis’ calling it ‘outstanding’ on twitter yesterday.  McInally, who is also a Socialist Party member, also just happened to publish a piece himself yesterday, this time on the Socialist Party website.  His arguments are little different to those attempted by Youth Fight for Jobs and are also presented as the only possible and conceivable strategy for those opposed to sanctions.

McInally claims it is a scandal that low paid Atos and Jobcentre workers are being ‘singled out for attack by some groups’.  Yet there is no mention of the scandal of people driven to suicide, destitution and homelessness by PCS members just doing their job whilst their union sits idly on the sidelines.

According to McInally, the only way to fight benefit sanctions is a united campaign driven by the TUC.  That’s the same TUC who support benefit sanctions (PDF 3.60 pg 31) and have recently been a named supporter of a week celebrating unpaid work.  Whether it’s the bastard in the Jobcentre stopping your benefits, or a bastard in the TUC arguing for more workfare and sanctions, the PCS Union seem to determined that claimants should line up and show solidarity with those who are currently complicit in destroying their lives.

And the tragic thing is that in many cases claimants have.  There has been recognition of the frankly fucked position Jobcentre workers are in, and an acknowledgement that not everyone at the DWP takes the same delight in sanctioning benefits that some of the most virulent Jobcentre staff seem to relish.  Claimants have stood on picket lines with PCS members and PCS members have taken part in actions and protests to support claimants. There has been real solidarity at a grassroots level.

But yesterday the PCS Union leadership chose to throw that solidarity back in claimant’s faces by using a statement made in a different context by Disabled People Against Cuts and the Black Triangle campaign in a crude attempt to prop up their attack on those who refuse to toe their party line.  This statement – which is almost a year old and was published before the full extent of the PCS Union’s inaction would become apparent – was published alongside McInally’s thinly veiled smear aimed at Boycott Workfare.  A more cynical way to try and divide the claimant movement is hard to imagine.

This presumably was intended as an example of how the PCS leadership demand claimants should behave.  Unconditional solidarity with their members which only runs in one direction.  No further room for debate is acceptable.

Some claimants may choose to support the striking Atos workers, many will choose  to ignore them.  There are arguments for either position.  But the PCS Union don’t get to sit and dictate how claimants should respond to the endless brutal decimation of their lives.  Jobcentre staff currently face being sacked for not meeting sanction targets that their bosses claim don’t even exist.  The PCS leadership have plenty to be getting on with in their own workplaces before they start telling the rest of us how to behave.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

71 responses to “Old Left Line Up In Shocking Attack on Grassroots Claimant’s Group

  1. the sectarian left at it again i think there best ignored.

  2. seems like this solidarity thing is a bit one way.

  3. I have no interest whatsoever in supporting ATOS industrial action. Fuck em. It’s like asking me to support the fight for higher wages for cattle cart drivers in Nazi Germany. Some things are inexcusable and working for ATOS is one of them. There is only one action by ATOS staff that I will support and that is if they quit.

    • maybe you should support it because it would slow down the tests

    • something survived...

      I was thinking on similar lines, it’s like asking the Jewish community to support better pay for the members of the National Union of Gas Chamber Operators. Or asking vegetarians to fund the meat industry. If there was a National Union of Professional Racists, would people be asked to support it?

      At the moment people on the dole could be forced to work, for pay or as workfare slaves, for the Jobcentre! Either in JCP itself, at a callcentre (I nearly was), or at DWP offices processing benefits/stopping benefits. Also if you decide to leave your job there, it is ‘voluntarily quitting’ so they would definitely stop you getting benefits. They’d know immediately as it was for themselves that you were working. I’d call it a pile of pants but piles of pants are useful!

      Bullying people isn’t a good tactic whoever does it and whoever it’s done to, it’s not an excuse. People JV refers to actually do commit suicide over that and over losing their benefits, or could selfharm or develop a mental health problem.By the way bullying, namecalling and spite/hate attacks also corrupt and rot the personality of the bullies.

      I saw the website of the group involved. We would agree with SOME of their policies. (More rights for young people etc.) The one about making all the unemployed work for minimum wage is a bad idea, fascist, not helping the economy, ablist, etc. Some people would be evicted from homes where the tenancy conditions say you must be unemployed. And then you’d of course lose your job for being homeless. It discriminates against people who are all or part of the time unable to work or to do a particular job. They say they are for students but it would stop the unemployed/poor/parents etc. being part-time students, as they’d be instead forced into jobs they didn’t want to do or couldn’t really do properly. It should not be up to the government to decide who is disabled or not – disabled people themselves know they are! People doing jobs against their will and/or that they’re no good at, will mean terrible goods and services. And if you are sort of managing to ‘scrape along the bottom’ doing a McJob you hate, you are constantly tired and rundown. Probably one day you’ll be made too sick or injured or stressed to continue, and then be sacked or have to leave. And then you probably can’t get benefits either.

      IDS and co. would love that.

  4. Fuck the PCS(SCUM)

    Criticism, however mild of the PCS (SCUM) is not tolerated on some ‘leftie’ blogs. Kudos to ‘the Void’ and real campaigning groups such as Boycott Workfare for exposing this contemptuous ‘union’ and the evil Nazi ‘decision makers’ and jobcentre ‘advisers’ it hides in its ranks. Something to remember when we are asked to join with the PCS union in ‘solidarity’ to protect its members pay, conditions and pensions.

    • im in 2 minds about this on the one hand the solidarty seems a bit 1 way and they dont really desrve it.

      on the other anything that disrupts the atos company and the dwp like strikes must be a oood thing.

      • Nah, fuck ’em, couldn’t give a shit if the ATOS/DWP/JC/PCS cunts were thrown into a mince blender. Fuck ’em, fuck ’em. fuck ’em!

  5. Someone should tell Mark Serwotka, the PCS union and their members that the Nuremberg defence: “I vas vonly vollowing vorders.” has been found to be invalid!

  6. I shall leave them sink without even a thought about this ,but this union had been warned yet they didn’t even tell their members that treating sick and disabled unemployed the government way was wrong but nowwere there was 100 staff uc will usecomputers thuss leaving ids sack loads of them this willbring tears to my eyes of joy jeff3

  7. “Will post in more detail, but there is some very bad news coming out for us lot in a few weeks time”.

    Andrew Coates has just posted the above on his website: Ipswich Unemployed Action. Does anyone have any idea as to what he alludes to?

  8. Pingback: Old Left Line Up In Shocking Attack on Grassroots Claimant’s Group | nearlydead

  9. Pingback: Not impressed with the SP. | Birmingham Claimants Union

  10. “Britain’s Socialist Workers Party endorses Scottish capitalism”


    The SWP has been apart of the establishment since it was formed, it has some good people in it, but they are blind when it comes to anykind of criticism of its leadership!. Also, how strange that such a large party doesn’t stand people in UK election’s. For all its whinging the SWP is close to the Labour party, that’s the problem!!!.

    • Your right Annos, look at the way they closed ranks over the rape scandal they were involved in, but I still believe the party has been infliltrated by a lot of right wing thinkers like new labour.

      • PS

        Did you see Russell Brand on newsnight calling for a revolution, now that he is editor of the new statesman – I totally agreed with everything he said.

        • Another Big Mess

          Well he wasn’t calling for, just saying it’s happening. I agree with much of what he said, Paxo didn’t seem to know what to do with him.

  11. The Old Left is dead in the water, and is a completely ridiculous, irrelevant joke. The SWP are furious – as is whoever is behind ‘Youth Fight For Jobs’…snigger, because they have not managed to successfully capitalise on anti-workfare to sign up a few more wide-eyed undergraduates through one of their opportunist front groups, to replace the continuous membership turnover. ‘Right to Work’, and ‘Youth Fightback For Jobs’? Je-zus, its like 30 years *after* the event, and it was useless TU nostalgia, and party Central Committee careers which mattered in the early 80s too…Class Struggle and the very dispersed and weakened side of labour, i.e. the proletariat, do not notice or care. The proletariat is also not comprised of male factory workers, nor is it made up of workers in long since vanished, unionised heavy industry needing to have their ‘consciousness raised’ by naive cadres flogging a Trot paper. If only the TUC would become more militant eh? Vote Labour without illusions.

  12. There are some awful contradictions in McInally’s argument such as “it would be illegal” for staff to boycott sanctions but so is the 24 hour general strike that he wants. There is also the horrible whiff of trade union gradualism, “all workers together”, “united campaign”, slowly but surely (that’s my cliche but it’s his intention) which are actually calls for inaction because no one is taking action let alone a lead. And the short sighted view that if PCS workers were to make a united stand with claimants now, they would lose their jobs, as opposed to losing their jobs in a few years time when the Tories privatise the last bits of the DWP. If you look around other struggles over the past 20-30 years, similar arguments have been raised against those who bear the brunt of attacks (especially regarding racism).

    But the very serious point is that he, the PCS, and others I presume, are deluded in thinking that you can have socialism on the basis of a divided working class. You can’t. We now have employed workers targeting unemployed workers to go along with all the existing divisions that are being excarbated by the government. In order to unite the working class it would need active and fighting solidarity to achieve actual victories but the existing trade union structures and leaderships have overseen a historic fall in living standards. That should actually be a warning not a comfort blanket to carry on regardless.

  13. Rosemarie Harris

    Typical of the left don’t know what they want!. If they want minimum wage jobs then who is stopping them as long as most want part time and they are work ready then they will be employed.!! I won’t be told by a bunch of lefty’s who i should support,It’s called choice, freedom , informed etc.In any union there are Labour, tories and other political supporters in all unions and the union have to do the best for them. This is hard times and we all need to stick together for the one aim which is to get rid of this Government because if we don’t all vote against them, then the rich people will vote then back in again.I can’t see any Government changing it back again so we have to fine a line to where people who need help get it ,people who need paid jobs, training etc are able to get this. I am unemployed but have always done everything i can to find a paid full time job. For christ sake don’t give the jobcentre staff any reason to stop your money and if you are not sure about the rules look on’ What do they know ‘and look at the information that has been asked by members of the public and the answer ,It’s the freedom of information act ,use this information as it is the law (Social security law).
    Just look on the internet as long as it’s by a reconised group like ‘Citizens Advice centre etc. I have to be fair and say so far the jobcentre persons have been straight but like i said just do what you have to do!.
    These left people are the reason they are called the l***** left they will never be taken as anything other than a joke!

    • “These left people are the reason they are called the f*****left they will never be taken as anything other than a joke!

      The same can be said for the right, if the situation they are putting people from all sides in were not so serious.

  14. (Sir) John Major

    Iain Duncan Smith is trying to reform benefits. I truly wish him well. But it is enormously complicated and unless he is very lucky, which he may not be, or a genius, which the last time I looked was unproven, he may get some of it wrong. I hope Iain is wise enough to listen to a wide range of opinion because some of his critics will be right. If he listens only to the bean-counters and to cheerleaders concerned only with abuse of the system then he will fail.

  15. Landless Peasant

    Fuck Benefit sanctions, and fuck anyone who supports them.

  16. well said landless and the same can be said for workfare.

  17. How naive of me.

    I apologise for supporting the Tories by not supporting people who are enforcing their policies.

    Patronising fucks.

    PriCkS – You don’t have to be one (but it does help).

    Good riddance to the last century left.

  18. Landless Peasant

    I notice that comments are off for Pattison’s piece, so I’ll have to comment here instead; anyone who works for ATOS should do the decent thing and fucking hang themselves. Got that Pattison?

  19. can people not dick about on this thread please.

  20. Pingback: Old Left Line Up In Shocking Attack on Grassroo...

  21. There is not going to be much chance of solidarity or proper unionisation with these working in the background of British industry.

  22. “Such proposals are aimed at creating a pool of cheap labour for big business. The “jobs” referred to would be heavily subsidised by the government to encourage companies to employ workers who would be paid well below the minimum wage. The consequences of this policy can already be seen with existing work placements paying as little as £2.65 an hour and stories of unemployed workers being compelled to work for free. Labour’s intention is to make such conditions the norm.”


  23. “Scottish National Party’s bogus anti-austerity posture”


  24. Thanks for this, Johnny. It’s rather ironic that, according to the article you refer to, critics of the PCS are dividing the struggle/working class, while PCS members who sanction people or put them on workfare are not.

  25. Hi!

    I just signed the petition “David Cameron: Stop the 11% pay rise for MPs’ salaries” on Change.org.

    It’s important. Will you sign it too? Here’s the link:



  26. THis is deeply troubling.
    I am appalled at the PCS’ complete hypocrisy: they talk the talk, but when it comes to walking the walk claimants are left to fend for themselves. Their staff are among those (certainly not all of them) responsible for the cruel sanctions. They choose, IMO, to do nothing, institutionally.
    For YffJ to attack BW seems to me utterly counter productive. I am disgusted at this, not least of all because I joined the Socialist Party at the start of the year. I felt I had to do something and given the absolute mess the SWP had gotten themselves into this seemed a solid choice. I am now considering that position. I don’t care for divide and rule, at all.
    However, what the YffJ says about creating jobs is this:
    “A massive government scheme to create socially useful jobs and apprenticeships which pay at least the minimum wage (with no youth exemptions) and offer guaranteed jobs at the end”
    That isn’t quite the same as claimed above – it does say ‘at least’ the NMW. Unfortunately it does sound too similar to Labour’s scheme which, to anyone with brains, is just workfare with a smile.
    They also say:
    “Scrap all work-for-your dole schemes. Unemployed people should not be used as slave labour. If a job needs doing, someone should be employed for a proper wage to do it”
    So I think somewhere along the line they themselves have been misrepresented.
    What seems to have happened is YffJ are, out of a sense of misguidd class loyalty perhaps, jumping to the PCS’ defence. This is naive as the PCS are frankly useless and BW has done much more to combat this iniquitious scheme at least. This attack is counter productive and misguided and the YffJ need to reconsider their words.

    • Hi Ghostwhistler. I think that the SWP isn’t here to help us. From a position of 50+ years of involvement in the left / union/ rights activities, the SWP talk big, but act against our interests. They have this thing that they really only want violent revolution, so will do whatever to foment this. Sometimes it takes the form seen here as being divisive and contrarian. There is also a history of long term infiltrators (sleepers even) in both these small parties and the unions by moles. They are so keen that they do actually tend to be the sh*t that floats right to the top. I NEVER take any of this tripe at face value. We all know how to spot the crap from the government / DWP etc – their lips are moving. Just apply the same yardstick to some of those who are avidly reported by the establishment press, especially when using the dirty trick set that has been deployed into the DWP / PCS mire.

      • The SWP is not the same thing as the Socialist Party. They are separate entites.

        • Sorry, for confusion, I was aware that you were discussing the SP while saying the SWP was in a mess so you were considering the SP.,. and I was making the response that SWP or SP (perhaps I should have used more words, but lengthy posts can be boring) were the same old same old…… but any party that grew from Militant, has Nellist, as a poster boy and is part of the TUSC – which is an alliance with the SP and SWP, and in this instance the SP and behaves like the SWP………

          The article above illustrates exactly the same behaviour by the socialist party as the SWP. SP is just another splinter group …,, if it walks like a duck…..

          • What is wrong with Dave Nellist?
            Problem is it’s easy to criticise but we need evidence. TUSC is a separate entity as far as I can see. It may have the support of the SWP as well as he SP, but why shouldn’t SWP members support it? It’s the leadership that’s the problem.

            • Apologies, but the answer is a long one.
              As I said, walks like a duck…..
              Nellist is the Chair (leadership) in TUSC, so by your reasoning, he is the problem. Or are you saying that the SWP leadership is the problem?
              Not very clear. But they are also part of the TUSC……if you get my point……they too are part of the leadership.

              Herein lies the answer to your questions at to ” why shouldn’t SWP members support it?” You missed my point entirely. I was stating the opinion that the SWP’s and other factions involvement was for me a red flag, ie to not get involved or support this coalition. The SWP is wedded to mass revolution, not gaining seats at by-elections. Their part in the TUSC or any other new left group hoping for mass electoral support will not succeed because it is not in their political toolbox.

              In the 1980s Militant (Nellist) & others behaviour gifted Tony Blair the excuse to drop Clause 4, and we are now living with the results decades later. The TUSC (Nellist) is currently riven with factionalist in-fights – it follows him around, and the SP and the SWP; because they ARE the factions. It is the norm for those who act like we (i.e. socialists) are each others’ enemies, and not capitalism. There is energy, young & new followers, and a huge public backlash against the ConDems to work with. Instead, many within the TUSC seem to be intent on more internecine strife. TUSC is simply not credible as an agent of change. They make easy meat for the right wing and their press to denigrate the left, finger pointing back to the 70s and 80s. They are still the same groups going back to the 1940s using fractious coalitions to recruit and sell newspapers to each other, and being honest, given 70 years, just how has that succeeded in improving the lot of the real workers? The definition of “stupid” is to keep doing the same thing & hoping for a different outcome

              There isn’t time for all the same-old-same-old for the far left and its infighting. There is no sense of urgency on the plight of the poorest hit over & over in the “Welfare reforms” and the need to unseat those responsible, lots of time for twitter spats, though. We need a mainstream organisation, and Spart, sorry Nellist & co are not going to take us anywhere. When seeking to take on mainstream politics, why do the same ones keep sticking their hand up for the job, when they have singularly failed before? Egotism, perhaps? Intense self belief that the rest of the world is wrong, but just need to be sold THEIR factional newspaper?
              There has always been the space for genuine, political, intellectual debate within the left, and many do just that, and we are better for it, and many in these groups can and do contribute. But they should also recognise that their “model” for actual social political change (ie revolution by the masses) is no longer credible. Yet Nellist now wants to further fragment the left with yet another deposit-loosing electoral entity (the Workers Party).
              If it walks like a duck……..

  27. overburdenddonkey

    there is only 1 class of human rights, all socialist groups should represent these, our rights to vitals in life. sanctions and conditionality violate these human rights, and state or imply one only has human rights if you get it right in the judgements of others..at base all unions should ensure human rights are at the core of it’s activities, and not a matter of winning entitlement to them..the failure has been not to ensure these base human rights are at the core of all socialist activity, and being distracted by the survival of the corporate bodies originally set up to defend human rights in the face of ruthless and demanding employers, unions should always be driven from the grassroots human rights groups and fail if they detach from them..yes, a union can, should be free and able to openly admit it’s impotence to act, points scoring is not the way to go, simply because layer upon layer of argument is imposed, that implies against the upholding of human rights, that lose sight of the origins of unions, which 1st and foremost must be to protect the human rights of all, and persuade those who don’t to accept the cause of human rights, to see that they are in fact, for the good of all.
    unions should be prepared to admit it’s difficulties and lose membership, then it will be in a position to fight for core human rights values…imo the unions are regressive in this aim, and are on the back foot if in fact there is a genuine desire to push forward, with the core agenda of human rights, then it is they who should embrace the logic and courage of grassroots group like boycott workfare, and learn from them…true socialism is progressive and encapsulates all human interest, not just that of the few…
    i thank something survived’s for his comments in bringing clarity to this issue..i would also like this comment to be read in conjunction with ghost whistlers comment on this thread

  28. Pingback: The Socialist Party’s demand for one way solidarity from claimants

  29. Don’t know if this has been covered but:

    “They did however pass Motions A92 and A533.

    Motion A92 is designed to instruct PCS members to refuse to sanction PCS members who work part-time in Job Centres, whilst they continue to sanction everyone else. This is because, when Universal Credit is fully rolled out, the same ‘conditionality’ (i.e. sanctions and workfare if you aren’t doing what the Job Centre thinks you ought to be) will apply to everyone, whether they are unemployed, disabled, in part-time work, or self-employed”


    So now you know that they don’t give a fuck about you, do you really want to stand shoulder to shoulder with these scum? I wouldn’t piss on ’em if they were on fire!

  30. All of this is ridiculous. NO wonder the tories get their way when the left constantly fights amongst itself. Fuck’s sake.

  31. I agree with you all the way on this one – but about that photo-op… not very PR friendly is it? I mean, how many people did those clowns think they’d win over by dressing up like terrorists?

    Half the battle is getting off your arse – congratulations, people have done that (but sadly not round here) – and half of it is PR. Public Relations. It’s not a dirty word. People aren’t going to follow your cause just because you’re right. You have to actually show people you’re right. And wearing a balaclava to demos doesn’t help. It just makes you look like a macho fool (at best) and a scary person at worst – certainly not someone worthy of support.

    Please, anarchists – sort this out – you’re your own worst enemies!

  32. Join the sanction busters demo at Southampton job centre Nov 5 at 1oclock

  33. Why did you say ‘largely’ a Socialist Party front? They are owned lock stock and barrel by the SP. Who however gives a fuck what they think. Ipswich Trades Council backs Boycott Workfare. As do loads of us in the labour movement.

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