This article appeared in the Oct 3 issue of the Northern Life Community Newspaper, Sudbury, On.
by Paul Chislett
Make poverty election priority
Janet Gasparini of the Social Planning Council is again bringing the important issue of poverty into public view. To do so during a provincial election campaign is an excellent idea. However, all the publicity in the world will not change a thing.
The poverty issue can be too easily manipulated by well-meaning activists. The word serves only to further divide people. What we are really talking about is who gets to participate in the economy. This has always been the prime concern of the working class – whether one is a man or a woman, working in a wage job or in the home, walking the streets begging, going to school or work.
If we rely on someone or some organization to pay us, we are members of the working class. Poverty, unemployment and underemployment are the inevitable result of the capitalist system. For the power elites to be assured of continuing profits there must always be a pool of surplus workers. After decades of struggle, workers managed to mitigate the worse excesses of capitalism; the entire post-war period was a time when the working class was able to extract some measure of wealth re-distribution from the system. Higher wages, universal health care, unemployment insurance are examples of what we call the ‘social safety net.”
Sometimes, in Canada, we called this effort social democracy. These days, we usually fail to ask what this “safety” net is to protect us against. It protected us from the ravages of capitalism – a stark reality. The “net” is in tatters, and too many of us play the fool in not accepting what is evident right before our eyes.
What I and others see is that the existing global economy, of which Sudbury is a part, is the result of deregulation – another word for the dismantling of the social safety net.
De-regulated capitalism is destroying the modern working class. Low-wage jobs, obscene tuition and easy credit are just a few examples of greed at the highest levels of corporate power. Global corporations now form a cartel which controls who gets what out of the economy, and this cartel is protected by the vast media conglomerates that distort the real picture of the world. In the short term, the Social Planning Council could better use its resources to help enumerate those living in low-income housing. In the longer term, the SPC could work with unions and other social agencies to educate those in the working class who find themselves unemployed and struggling, on working class history.
The working class can then vote themselves a government that will act in our interests. At this place and time, this means voting for the New Democratic Party. The working class deserves our own ship, not a safety net.