- Created: Wednesday, 05 December 2012 12:12
- Written by Dominic Mulgrew
As the deadly attack on disability benefits continues, with several thousand sick and/or disabled people a year dying within six weeks of having their entitlement to benefits stopped, the need for unity in action of all against the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Atos is vital. No one would disagree with this, but it begs the question, on what basis and in whose interests? This has become a burning political question given that a clear division has emerged between sections of Disabled People against the Cuts (DPAC), which has been organising militant direct actions, and the union primarily organising within DWP and Atos, the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS). The issue is, should the fight against Work Capability Assessments, against Atos and the DWP, be led by those who suffer the consequences, or by the union organising those who are implementing the cuts?
The PCS has insisted that it should be consulted over proposed direct actions against the DWP and Atos, claiming that its members feel intimidated, and that anyway they are against the cuts. It has attempted both nationally and locally to restrict such actions, and to isolate those involved in organising them, as we have reported in FRFI when Glasgow PCS and Coalition of Resistance opposed an Atos picket in June 2011 (see FRFI 222). Comrades in Glasgow have not been alone in experiencing this.
In late October Dr Liza van Zyl, of DPAC Caerdydd (Cardiff) and vice chair of the University and College Union Wales (UCU), commented on facebook:
‘I have spent so much time working right through the night to persuade people not to go down the job centre next morning and commit suicide in some horrific way so as to “get back” at the DWP staff who treat us with contempt and drive us to homelessness and destitution when they stop our benefits...I have put a huge amount of effort into persuading DPAC Caerdydd members to not take direct action against the DWP, that we should engage with PCS instead. But it’s clear we should no longer bother trying to work with PCS. They are part of our oppression. And therefore a legitimate target for direct action.’
On 26 October 2012 just before midnight police invaded Liza’s home in a clear act of intimidation, accusing her of ‘Criminal acts against the Department for Work and Pensions’.
Following this, in early November, the PCS, DPAC and the Black Triangle disability rights campaign met and agreed a joint statement (see PCS website) which declared the need for unity, but which avoided any demand that DPAC or other groups consult the PCS before taking joint action against Atos. However, the newly-formed DPAC Cymru rejected the agreement in particular because it does not say ‘whether PCS respects the right of disabled people to take peaceful direct action against the DWP’, and called for the PCS to boycott implementation of welfare cuts. Alongside this DPAC Caerdydd issued a strong condemnation of the tactics of the social democratic left:
‘As for the parties on the socialist left – we have had nothing but condemnation from them for “dividing the working class” and “attacking” workers when we advocate peaceful direct-action protest against the DWP which is destroying us. It appears we’re expected to go away and die quietly at a rate of 73 of us a week (according to the DWP’s own figures) and sacrifice ourselves on the altar of Left “solidarity”.’ (DPAC Caerdydd facebook page, 15 November 2012).
On 20 November Liza reiterated this point:
‘Folks, I’ve been on the receiving end of an extraordinary amount of abuse in recent weeks with regards my (and other disabled activists in DPAC Cymru and DPAC Caerdydd’s) criticisms of PCS. To be fair, most of this has not come from PCS members themselves but rather from those elements of the assorted Trotskyist left who seem to see their function in relation to PCS as identical to the function the Swiss Guards play for the Vatican.’
The social democratic and Trotskyist left’s dogma that only trade unions can lead a fight against austerity is leading them to attack the most militant sections of the working class. FRFI condemns this attitude, and supports the direct action strategy of DPAC and other disabled people who campaign against the cuts.
FRFI 230 December 2012/January 2013