Economy

Common Sense: Journal of the Edinburgh Conference of by Werner Bonefeld (ed)

By Werner Bonefeld (ed)

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Extra resources for Common Sense: Journal of the Edinburgh Conference of Socialist Economists vol 16 (December 1994)

Sample text

The "anti-social" strata: from the welfare office to the "Lager" Recent research projects have shown how the social security system and the bureaucracy which administered it were consistently seen by the German proletariat as an adversary against which it had to stand its ground. The latest issue of the magazine Werkritattgeschichtecarries a series of accounts by people telling the stories of their own personal tribulations as unemployed and poor people obliged to queue at social security offices in the 1920s.

Thus, partly as an effect of communist propaganda work, the behaviour of social security claimants became increasingly peremptory and aggressive, creating angry reactions from benefit officers and a rigidification of the structure. The same issue of the magazine records dozens of episodes of assaults, clashes, threats to benefits officers, and the police repeatedly being called. These scenes were an everyday reality in the Weimar Republic, particularly in the big cities. We should not forget that, despite the fact that they received subsidies from the state, and despite the fact that the broad outlines of criteria were fixed by the state, the municipal councils could only hand out benefits according to their financial capabilities; in small municipalities, which was where the majority of the German population lived, obviously the means available for social security were extremely limited.

Thus millions of the unemployed felt themselves constantly under threat even in m area of social right which they had acquired by means of contributions. Ordinary people, who were already desperate as a result of prolonged periods of unemployment, had the impression that the government was playing roulette with their poverty. Insecurity and exasperation grew, and there was a strong desire to get rid of the regime. But the atomisation of the unemployed prevented a social reconfiguration to the Left.

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