Of course, it’s impossible to isolate these problems as felt by Sheffielders alone. Unity is needed now more than ever. Politicians and media pundits have been eager to whip up ill feeling against the unemployed and those claiming. This is clearly an attempt to take the heat off the banks and the politicians and manufacture an easy scapegoat as we all start to feel the pain from the cuts. Northern Rock, RBS and Lloyds banking group, all saved by state bailouts, announced they had returned to profit in July 2010. HSBC also recently announced its profits had doubled to £7bn for the first 6 months of 2010. This is while pound-for-pound the government spends 624 times more on adverts demonising ‘benefits cheats’ than catching rich tax dodgers.
Welfare has its limits as well. We have to acknowledge that while benefits are essential support for those dependent on them now, the state (even at its most “generous”) will only ever give us enough to keep working and survive. What we really need to fight for is not just the defence of the existing system but a new one based on our needs. That means taking direct action in all areas to be effected by the cuts – strikes, occupations, sit-ins – and building solidarity with others affected in this struggle. With so many empty properties across Sheffield, squatting should also be encouraged and supported. It’s criminal that at a time when we are being priced out of our own homes that empty houses are allowed to rot unused. There is an alternative based not on profit but on human needs where good quality housing can and should be freely available to all.