The cover of A Very Capitalist Condition—history and politics of disability by Roddy Slorach 

SW: In your book’s new introduction, you identify some of the challenges to disabled people in the eight years since your book was first published. How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted on people?

RS: For the vast majority, the pandemic was very damaging for their mental health because humans are social animals.  

It intensified the usual pressures of domestic life for people without the social support that lots of us had taken for granted. Disabled people were some of the most vulnerable to the virus.  

In Britain figures show that two million people still have long Covid. This highlights that the impact of the pandemic still colours the situation today.  

Many people came out of the pandemic experiencing mental health difficulties that they hadn’t experienced before. Lots more people came out of it with their resilience worn down both physically and mentally. 

One of the themes that I repeatedly go back to is that our society doesn’t just generate disability. In other words discrimination against people with impairments actually generates more impairments all the time.  

Capitalism is more naked than ever and the idea of the welfare state is under attack, and neoliberalism generates ever-increasing misery for the working class. 

SW: Climate chaos and war is another section of the new introduction. Could you explain the term eco-anxiety? 

RS: We live in a world where the younger generation has been deprived of hope for a sustainable future. All around us we see climate disasters, wars and the prospect of more pandemics. No wonder people have anxiety. 

SW: Britain saw the highest level of strikes in 30 years in 2022-3. How did disabled rights activists and campaigns fit into that wider working class movement? 

RS: One in seven people in the workforce across Britain are now disabled. They are a great base of potential resistance. 

I’ve seen a shift in my union, the UCU, with many more disabled people involved in leading big strikes in universities. 

The ruling class is engaging in wide-ranging attacks on everyone from disabled people to migrants. Strikes that take up broader issues like racism and other forms of discrimination can be an antidote to that. 

SW: The Tories have got rid of the disability minister. Is that reflective of their disregard for people with disabilities and their rights? 

RS: That decision tells you all you need to know about the Tories’ attitude to disability.

A revealing submission to the UN by disabled people’s organisations in August 2023 found Britain to have “one of the lowest benefit rates relative to earnings”, and benefits in Britain are over ten percent lower than in 2010.” 

SW: What about the Labour Party? Would a Starmer government be any different for people with disabilities? 

RS: We know a Starmer Labour government has no plans to reverse all the cuts. 

We have to look to the movement on the streets, the movement for Palestine, and the organised labour movement, which needs  to make Britain ungovernable. 

The movement for disabled rights needs to keep mounting the pressure on whoever forms the next government to make reforms that actually help people. 

We who wish to save humanity from barbarism must do all we can to fan these flames of resistance and fight for a vision of a different world based on interdependence and solidarity.

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