Sunday, October 24, 2010
Social cleansing posted by Richard Seymour
This is presumably not the same type of scheme. For one thing, it's far too brazen a form of 'social cleansing'. Councils in the centre of London are openly organising an exodus of 200,000 of the capital's poorest people into outlying areas such as Reading, Luton and even Hastings. This is the result of a combination of cuts in social housing benefit, lower levels of socially affordable housing, higher rents and the failure to impose any kind of rent cap on landlords. It adds a new layer of callousness to Iain Duncan Smith's demand that the unemployed should "get on the bus" and find work - this from a minister whose job is to know that jobseekers are already compelled to travel far and wide in order to take work if it's available.
The alternative to being shunted out of the capital, away from friends, relatives, communities and - interestingly enough - jobs, will possibly be to sleep on the streets as, according to the National Housing Federation, the cuts to housing benefit "could see more people sleeping rough than at any stage during the last 30 years". And then it will be the job of the cops to keep the problem invisible - in the tourist areas anyway - by arresting and 'moving on' said rough sleepers who find a shop doorway or station entrance to curl up under. Such 'social cleansing' is, to different degrees and in different ways, an aspect of all spaces where neoliberal accumulation is the rule. The rule is for a global system of opulent, highly securitised 'green zones' to proliferate, with the working classes compelled to commute for hours a day from outlying, dilapidated suburbs, banlieues or ghettos, to work in shops they can never buy from, clean hotels they can never sleep in, sweep streets they have no stake in, and make goods they will never take home. The combination of economic pressures - high rents and consumer prices, declining relative wages, unsustainable debt levels, etc - would tend to have 'socially cleansing' effects in themselves, forcing the city's working classes to seek affordable accomodation in outer London overspill areas like, say, Barking. The Tories, by attacking housing benefits, have just made such tendencies into official policy.
Oh, and by the way, spare a thought for this scumbag, who has been struggling with his conscience.