The Bedroom Tax is a lie!

We are all used to governmental newspeak. Naming unpopular legislation with positive terms is seen as an unavoidable tool of all parties. Even ‘progressists’ and revolutionnaries spend in my humble opinion way too much time worrying about re-branding, trying to find catchier, friendlier terms for everything. It leads to spectacular absurdities like debates between anarchism and libertarian communism not based on the different ideas of both schools, but solely on whether “Communism” is more or less positive in the collective imagery than “Anarchism” (mass-murderers against anti-social terrorists… it can be a difficult choice).

However, the Bedroom Tax was not coined by the UK government, but by its opponents (as in, the Labour Party). It does nothing to help people understand what they are asked to fight against: the bedroom tax is not a tax, it is another cut in benefits in a long list of benefits and services cuts. However, the Labour Party has all the reasons in the world to hide that fact: they subscribe, whether you think it is only a populist facade or their honest realpolitik view, to the ideology of the necessity of benefits and services cuts, and the rhetoric of benefit scroungers leeching off “honest workers”. So in order to rouse the public against a token measure (this specific cut is not good, but in the grand scheme of government “necessary reforms”, it is a drop in an ocean).

This is a recurrent technique of the institutional opposition. In France, a large movement against pretty much everything was called by the Socialist Party, the main unions and the media the “anti-CPE” movement. When the paragraph of a terrible piece of legislation about the CPE was repealed (just as the CNE later was, without any need for popular mobilisation, simply because it was of little interest to employers and unconstitutional), the movement tried to go on, but failed, mainly because its mislabelling became an issue. People then realised they should have made more of a fuss about it, but at the time it seemed a detail, arguments of “federating” people against a “simple, single concept” were brandied… Words have a meaning, and twisting them is not in the interest of sincere revolutionaries.

Anyway, in the case of the so-called Bedroom Tax, the consequences of this mislabelling is a lot more insidious: it directly subscribed into the narrative of benefit scroungers vs. over-taxed “honest people”. Bedroom Tax sounds like Window Tax, that silly bit of 19th century legislation which marked British history as an example of excessive government. It simply plays on the idea that taxes are bad (or at least unfair, although the Labour Party has yet to come up with a fair Bedroom Tax, I am sure its most “radical” members are writing up drafts for a Mansion Tax to punish the rich for the economic crisis), and attacks on the Englishman’s castle are bad. Conveniently, nothing to do with attacking benefits and services cuts, then.

A terrible bit of propaganda

A terrible bit of propaganda

So far, anarchists, just have many have crossed out anti-capitalism to write in anti-austerity on their placards without any justification or debate, have also failed to propagate the idea that the Bedroom Tax is anything else than the new greatest evil, playing the footsoldiers to the Labour Party’s pre-election campaign. We are not so much bothered by taxes, we care about benefit cuts. We do not care so much about about home-owners, we care about claimants and our communities. If we want to have any movement that can lead to some sort of reflection on emancipation from capitalism, we cannot ignore this. Failing to do this is thinking that somehow we can beat the Labour Party and mainstream media at their own game, instead of denouncing the game and changing the rules.

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