The whole picture

Simone Aspis is a well known activist for disability rights and this week became a supporter of the Communist Party of Great Britain. We spoke to her about her political ideas and development

What was it that drew you towards the Communist Party?

I was disillusioned with the three main parties - Labour, Liberal and Tory. None of them ever seem to think of the effects that their policies have on society. For example Michael Howard’s policy of locking kids up in secure units ignores the fact that they won’t have good models of behaviour, their families will be split up and they won’t learn how to fit into normal society. They will become more disillusioned and at the age of 14 will already have a stigma on their lives.

Labour is about five years behind the Tories, but their policies are exactly the same.

You have been involved in the Green Party?

Yes, I turned to it because it thought about society as a whole. For example, when it talked about transport, it didn’t just talk about less pollution. If there are less vehicles on the roads, there will be less stress; and the less stress there is, the more productivity there will be.

It also has a policy of a basic income, like the Communist Party’s demand. So that people can live a better life and do the jobs that they want to, rather than what they have to do.

I was attracted to the policies of the Green Party, but I soon became aware that they had no method of implementing them. It all seemed to be a bit pie in the sky.

So from there to communism?

I started an ‘A’ level sociology course last September and began to find some answers in Marx. If everything was owned in common so that people actually had a stake in society, it would run for people. The fact that this would come about through working class action was the answer I was looking for.

The Green Party was very unclear about how they planned to organise society. I thought they were for the overthrow of capitalism eventually, but they had no idea how they were going to do that.

You have become well know for your campaigning for disability rights.

I work with People First, which is a disability rights group run by people with learning difficulties. The parliamentary process is very alienating for people with learning difficulties, so one of the things we have been doing is producing the Civil Rights Disabled Person’s Bill in accessible form. I have been very active in lobbying MPs and we have been mentioned a few times in the House of Commons debates.

But one problem for us is that the capitalist system has actually divided disabled people. There is a hierarchy of disabilities. This was particularly exacerbated with the Disability Discrimination Bill which is going through the House of Lords this month. There has been a split on whether to amend it and look like we are supporting it or to just deal with the CRDPB. The government has given false hope that this bill will do, when in reality it offers nothing for disabled people. It actually takes us back in time.

How does the capitalist system treat disabled people generally?

I think we become scapegoats a lot of the time. Employers do not see disabled people as productive and they are prejudiced about what we can do, so we are left unemployed. The capitalist system has drawn people with learning difficulties into this whole ethic of having to work for a pittance. And that is not right. They become mere objects of exploitation. They are given a lot of boring jobs to do. They aren’t integrated into the whole process at the workplace nor the whole workforce.

You are putting a lot of pressure on parliament at the moment, but at the end of the day do you think that capitalism will actually give disabled people, or anybody, their full rights?

I would say no. Disabled people need to work together with others to overthrow the capitalist system. I don’t think any oppressed or marginalised group can do it on their own. We all have to be united, and what unites us is that we have social and economic barriers set upon us by the capitalist system, to keep us in place.

Do we need a Communist Party for that?

I certainly support the ideas of Marxism and, as I have said, the working class uniting to get rid of capitalism is the only way that seems real. But I still have a lot to learn.

The more I have got involved in disability politics, the more I have seen the wider picture. I have broadened my perspective and therefore have got more involved in politics in general. I have become much more aware that it is the same struggle for everybody. Marxism has started to give me answers.