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Socialist Review Index (1993–1996) | Socialist Review 184 Contents

Luke Stobart


On the bottom step


From Socialist Review, No. 184, March 1995
Copyright © Socialist Review.
Copied with thanks from the Socialist Review Archive.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


As someone who always enjoys Pat Stack’s spot-on articles I was disappointed with his analysis of disabled oppression (February SR), in particular his failure to explain why disabled people are segregated from the rest of society and the unnecessary stress he puts on the difference between their oppression and racism and sexism.

Unlike now where the disabled are often hidden away in so called special schools, workplaces and homes, before capitalism they lived as part of the community. This changed with the development of the poorhouse/workhouse system and the Tory ideology of the deserving/undeserving poor. The deserving disabled working class received charitable relief in the poorhouse while the able-bodied were put to work. As time went by the oppressive poorhouses were replaced by equally oppressive hospitals and institutions.

Pat says, ‘the way in which capitalism treats the disabled is not key to the development of and well being of capitalism’, but yet this poorhouse charity was used by the ruling class to justify the exploitation of the able bodied majority: it did have a key function.

Disabled oppression is different from the other oppressions but we shouldn’t forget that the way women are oppressed is not the same as the way black people are oppressed.

Instead of dwelling on such comparisons we should be discussing disabled people’s history and their fightback, for example how amass movement won anti-discrimination legislation in the US.

The increasingly militant rights movement is important for two reasons. Firstly it is exposing the lie of the classless society. How can you get to the top when you can’t get up the stairs? When disabled activists chain themselves to buses demanding access to public transport even many working class people with right wing idea swill support them. The injustice stares you in the face. Secondly it is showing that even the people at the very bottom can fight back.

As socialists we need to fight alongside disabled activists in campaigns such as those calling for anti-discrimination legislation while insisting that genuine liberation is only possible in a socialist society. To do this effectively we will have to sharpen uranalysis.


Luke Stobart

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