"We're all working class now"

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lucy_parsons
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May 7 2006 13:27
"We're all working class now"

Was checking out the BBC news website a couple of days ago and saw an item about a survey which had been carried out:

Quote:
Conducted by the Future Foundation, the survey found that 36% of builders questioned regarded themselves as being middle-class, while 29% of bank managers said they were working-class.

I found some of the comments in the article pretty patronising and fatous, not least the bit where "Economist Bruce Anderson" says

Quote:
In all societies the middle-classes provide the bedrock of stability.

Hmmmmm. If you want to see for yourself, the article's here:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4974460.stm

But just when I thought I couldn't see a more ridiculous "is it income or education that makes a person working class?" argument, I read Rod Liddle's column in the Times online today:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,24393-2168392,00.html

God, I thought his hackneyed "freedom of speech" argument in defense of Nick Griffin was bad, but this plumbs new depths:

Quote:
Then there is deferred gratification: the thing that the working classes never much cared for. The middle classes, historically, put off pleasure for the sake of later reward. They saved money, they invested in their children’s education and, when exhausted by years of mind-numbing office work, they left their children a decent inheritance, having lived lives of polite denial.

Those greedy working classes! They just haven't got the restraint of the noble middlies!

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Jacques Roux
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May 7 2006 13:32

http://www.libcom.org/forums/viewtopic.php?t=10001

milk
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May 7 2006 13:40

An interesting and fun read of those articles. For some wrong reasons of course. grin

Most people, I view as being working class, although conferred privileges are tied in with the idenitity and experiences of those who can come from "middle" class backgrounds, and causes obvious cultural and material differences between us. A lot of people are deluded though in my experience, coming from a background of working unskilled manual jobs. when it comes to this aspiring to some level of middle classness. As anecdotal as that sounds.

But occupation alone cannot determine a persons social class, or a persons own perceptions of where their identity belongs, in terms of social class.

Caiman del Barrio
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May 7 2006 15:40

The more I see articles like this, the more I consider abandoning the term "working class" to the cultural sociologists, since it has a complex and vague definition in this country which doesn't refer to a person's relation to capital. Communists seek to unite the proletariat, not the working class. If only proletariat meant something to most English-speakers...

EDIT: But even then, I remember spending an entire term at college rowing with my English Lit teacher over whether the bourgeiosie were "middle class".

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May 7 2006 16:08

Yeah it's a shame. I think "workers" is probably better, or "working people"

magnifico
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May 7 2006 16:12

Yeah but then it sounds like you're not including people who are unemployed like the elderly and full-time home-makers or...the unermployed, and you get accused of only caring about the workplace. Especially if you're in solfed wink

I don't know either.

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Steven.
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May 7 2006 16:15
magnifico wrote:
Yeah but then it sounds like you're not including people who are unemployed like the elderly and full-time home-makers or...the unermployed, and you get accused of only caring about the workplace. Especially if you're in solfed wink

I don't know either.

Yeah it's a right bastard. We're trying to think of a word to use for libcom.org, cos workers, students + claimants is pretty unwieldy. I can see why prole.info are trying to reclaim the word prole/proletariat. Maybe we all should. But then it just sounds so old-fashioned and weird it'd put people off immediately.

In one thing we used "working people and their families" neutral

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May 8 2006 03:17

Just say workers and always carry a copy of Fortunati's "The Arcane of Reproduction" in your bag. 8) wink

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May 8 2006 10:08

Hi

My Dad was a plumber. He worked in a Ship Yard and then went self employed after they closed it. (Save Ryton? Talk about stable doors!). My Grandfathers were Wielders and Electricians. My mother is a Dental nurse and my Grandmothers worked in factories, making gloves and stuff, you name it.

All of ‘em, even the relatives who became Mortgage Brokers or sign-on etc etc all think of themselves as working class, and are totally comfortable about it. “Workers” and “Working Families” is Labour Party obfuscation, but a few Labour MPs still talk about the working class without too many hang-ups.

When even the Left of Capital is unashamedly enthusiastic about sticking by the working class, whilst the socio-economic dust settles and a new class consciousness fit for the modern age emerges, then I’m pretty sure self identified revolutionary anarchists and communists can afford to be.

The controversy surrounding class seems to me to be a concern largely of what you might call “the chattering classes”. People I speak to outside the political milieu are aware of the complex questions involved, but the vast majority of working class people still see themselves as such, with varying degrees of straightforwardness, and that’s good enough for me.

The prevailing social order confronts working class people with poverty, misery and boredom every day, implemented by a chain of command riddled with class antagonism. It is this day-to-day practical experience of class tension that concretises the consciousness of the working class, and people attaining the will and confidence to rise above the petty dictates of our “superiors” that will eventually marry cultural self-perception back to socio-economic reality.

More importantly, the working class is a self-defining, creative, force. It is up to working class people to decide who they are and shape their destiny, not for leftists to find language to pander to the insecure hand wringers that lurk on its margins.

Love

LR

milk
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May 8 2006 10:24

Good post.

ftony
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May 8 2006 11:24

i just love it when people describe their position as 'well, erm, comfortable i suppose'

very english grin

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May 8 2006 11:36

Hi

I always thought that Lazy Riser was a bit of a fruit loop (no offence), but that was quite a reasonable post.

Love

LP

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May 8 2006 12:07
Lazy Riser wrote:
More importantly, the working class is a self-defining, creative, force. It is up to working class people to decide who they are and shape their destiny, not for leftists to find language to pander to the insecure hand wringers that lurk on its margins.

I don't agree with that. Firstly I think labelling individuals by class is not useful. What's useful IMO is understanding the dynamics of society - namely the class struggle - and how society changes.

By that logic (the same as IWCA members' in general), it's almost writing off the large number of workers who don't consider themselves working class. You can say that your friends "know" but for younger people stuff's very different now post-Thatcher. Also I'm not sure of the data but I'm pretty sure lots of people from ethnic minorities don't consider themselves working class, when they clearly are, cos it's often seen as a "white" thing.

Not to mention all the rich fucks who think they're so working class cos they've got cockney accents! I think this is where a lot of my problem with this view is TBH. Firstly coming from Essex, where you've got loads of wealthy small businessmen and stockbrockers with cockney/essex accents, and getting an assisted place to a private school, when my parents were an unemployed factory-worker turned minicab driver (dad) and secretary-turned cleaner+ironer (mum) and these filthy-rich fuckers called me "posh" and "gay" cos I was smarter than them, and didn't have a regional/london accent. I have no doubt you would consider most of them "working class" on meeting them, lazy riser, whereas i'd be "middle class". As what class we should be? I want us all to live like old hedonistic aristocrats 8)

As for this bit:

Quote:
The controversy surrounding class seems to me to be a concern largely of what you might call “the chattering classes”. People I speak to outside the political milieu are aware of the complex questions involved, but the vast majority of working class people still see themselves as such, with varying degrees of straightforwardness, and that’s good enough for me.

I'd generally agree with that. Althought the only hand-wringing I see about social class is mostly amongst politicos on the internet. Generally in the issues that come up in your life which you can organise around it's not even an issue (for example, organising a slow-down at work you don't even consider excluding Guardian-readers), as long as you're aware of your collective interest as workers.

milk
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May 8 2006 12:21

I don't know if you can write off, yourself, members of the IWCA like that. I myself, am not a member, but I have donated to them before. Diluting some things, until the original point, intent or whatever, becomes meaningless is unhelpful too.

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May 8 2006 12:26
milk wrote:
I don't know if you can write off, yourself, members of the IWCA like that. I myself, am not a member, but I have donated to them before. Diluting some things, until the original point, intent or whatever, becomes meaningless is unhelpful too.

Official IWCA prop doesn't say anything like that, but from their active members who talk on the net the general view they espouse is "you know if you're working class". Which I don't think is helpful, as the above poll demonstrates. I pulled one of them up on conflating being white with being working class once, to which one responded "what percentage of the w/c is white?", I estimated in the UK about 92%, he basically said "there you go then". Which I thought was pretty ridiculous, though I think he was just wording things badly (this was on u75 btw, it's down so can't find it now). But then this is all about wording.

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May 8 2006 12:39

Hi

John. wrote:
Firstly coming from Essex, where you've got loads of wealthy small businessmen and stockbrockers with cockney/essex accents, and getting an assisted place to a private school, when my parents were an unemployed factory-worker turned minicab driver (dad) and secretary-turned cleaner+ironer (mum) and these filthy-rich fuckers called me "posh" and "gay" cos I was smarter than them, and didn't have a regional/london accent.

John., you’ve got issues comrade. I went to school with a posh gay chap from the home counties as well, I understand what you mean. You’re unfortunate experience does not, however, require you abolish the working class in its entire whippet loving glory.

John. wrote:
Official IWCA prop doesn't say anything like that, but from their active members who talk on the net the general view they espouse is "you know if you're working class". Which I don't think is helpful

Ha ha. This is the same line as the Andersonites took in Bristol Class War. I love it actually, there are more important things to life than “being helpful”.

Anyway, as a signed up member of the blue collar working class, I’d like to welcome you back. Perhaps we can heal your wounds and soothe you into the bosom of the one true revolutionary dynamo.

Love

LR

milk
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May 8 2006 12:43
John. wrote:
milk wrote:
I don't know if you can write off, yourself, members of the IWCA like that. I myself, am not a member, but I have donated to them before. Diluting some things, until the original point, intent or whatever, becomes meaningless is unhelpful too.

Official IWCA prop doesn't say anything like that, but from their active members who talk on the net the general view they espouse is "you know if you're working class". Which I don't think is helpful, as the above poll demonstrates. I pulled one of them up on conflating being white with being working class once, to which one responded "what percentage of the w/c is white?", I estimated in the UK about 92%, he basically said "there you go then". Which I thought was pretty ridiculous, though I think he was just wording things badly (this was on u75 btw, it's down so can't find it now). But then this is all about wording.

But surveying working class communities has been useful. And some from U75 in the anarchist camp, with which I sympathise with, have also been abrupt in their views. Referring them (IWCA) as being akin to Leninists in the more silly and extreme cases of argument confused I understand that a healthy critique can bring things into the open in a decent manner, but bluster and insult, which is often mutual, doesn't help. We all make generalisations.

A plural approach can be counterproductive also, if it doesn't show a way towards making common bonds visible to people of different groups. I agree that reducing the definition of what it is to be working class, or a worker to as small a group (that meets such criteria) as possible, can be seen as some kind of inverted elitism, and it restricts potential solidarity.

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May 8 2006 12:46
Lazy Riser wrote:
John. wrote:
Firstly coming from Essex, where you've got loads of wealthy small businessmen and stockbrockers with cockney/essex accents, and getting an assisted place to a private school, when my parents were an unemployed factory-worker turned minicab driver (dad) and secretary-turned cleaner+ironer (mum) and these filthy-rich fuckers called me "posh" and "gay" cos I was smarter than them, and didn't have a regional/london accent.

John., you’ve got issues comrade. I went to school with a posh gay chap from the home counties as well, I understand what you mean. You’re unfortunate experience does not, however, require you abolish the working class in its entire whippet loving glory.

Don't you want the abolition of the working class as well? I hate work! (And I'm not gay). My general point is that these sociological views on class are going to be largely shaped on personal experiences which will vary hugely between different people, and just aren't practically useful, as I hope my practical examples would demonstrate. But if you're just messin and not talking about anything practical or "helpful" then I spose this is irrelevant. On collars I do have one job where I have grey overalls, not blue. None of us wear them tho cos they're really ugly.

milk - yeah I agree the surveys are very good, and agree with your statement on reducing the definition of w/c. But then it's not even that important because the only people who care about the prolier-than-thou stuff are saddo politicos. As far as I know, Khmer Rouge aside, it's never even been an issue for workers in struggle. It becomes very obvious who your allies and enemies are.

milk
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May 8 2006 12:59

Democratic Kampuchea...The imposition, from leadership, of what it is to be a worker on the bulk of the population, by people who weren't workers. tongue

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May 8 2006 13:42

Hi

John. wrote:
Don't you want the abolition of the working class as well?

Transcendental ultra-leftism, yes. Peterloo Massacre, no.

John. wrote:
views on class are going to be largely shaped on personal experiences which will vary hugely between different people, and just aren't practically useful, as I hope my practical examples would demonstrate.

Right. But the great mass of people have personal experiences similar enough for their self-identification as working class to be practically useful. Are you arguing that in your day-to-day personal experience you don’t come into conflict with a concrete social hierarchy of real individuals that sit a class apart? If your detractors were indeed the middle class ones after all, shouldn’t your experience as a youth enhance your working class consciousness rather than undermine it?

Love

LR

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May 8 2006 18:19
Lazy Riser wrote:
John. wrote:
Don't you want the abolition of the working class as well?

Transcendental ultra-leftism, yes. Peterloo Massacre, no.

Well obviously...

Quote:
John. wrote:
views on class are going to be largely shaped on personal experiences which will vary hugely between different people, and just aren't practically useful, as I hope my practical examples would demonstrate.

Right. But the great mass of people have personal experiences similar enough for their self-identification as working class to be practically useful.

Don't you think that poll above shows that this isn't the case? And do you know what proportion of w/c ethic minority people consider themselves w/c? I think it's pretty low.

Quote:
Are you arguing that in your day-to-day personal experience you don’t come into conflict with a concrete social hierarchy of real individuals that sit a class apart?

Not at all. I rarely get into much conflict with individuals. The ones I do, have done, or could do potentially though I'll list, along with their cultural class:

1. anti-social people on the streets/public transport - working

2. jobsworths/grasses at work - working + middle

3. managers - middle

3a. supervisors - working + middle

4. cops - working

5. ticket inspectors - working

6. bailiffs - working

7. shop security guards - working

8. tv license inspectors - working

That's about all I can think of. You list yours then, I'd be interested to see what you come up with.

Quote:
If your detractors were indeed the middle class ones after all, shouldn’t your experience as a youth enhance your working class consciousness rather than undermine it?

No cos they were culturally working class and I wasn't. People tell what class people are by their accent. My mum lost her east end accent cos she didn't like her mum, so I didn't get one. My nephews actually got theirs back cos people at school called them gay (y'know and/or general peer pressure), they're construction workers now.

But again from the POV of being interest in building workers' power where we live + work what relevance does this have?

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May 8 2006 19:06

Hi

LR wrote:
But the great mass of people have personal experiences similar enough for their self-identification as working class to be practically useful.
J. wrote:
Don't you think that poll above shows that this isn't the case?

Perhaps. I suppose it would be futile to point out that polls present precisely the version of reality that a small number of middle class people want you to believe. Rather like your playground teasers, they have an unconscious agenda to undermine your authentic working class consciousness.

J. wrote:
And do you know what proportion of w/c ethic minority people consider themselves w/c? I think it's pretty low.

I’d buy that. I’m wondering if Asians, Jews and Black Women are have a greater per capita representation in the professions (Lawyers, Doctors, Architects, Accountants etc), entrepreneurialism and the media.

Regardless, what notion of class do suggest we should perceive?

Quote:
1. anti-social people on the streets/public transport – working

Classist. How do you know they are working class? They may be barristers or police inspectors.

Quote:
2. jobsworths/grasses at work - working + middle

Your conflict here is not with your fellow worker but your mutual middle class master/mistress. What do you offer your fellow worker? Struggle. What does the secret cabal of management offer? Money and social status.

Quote:
4. cops – working

Devrim once explained to me how the majority of cops are from petit-bourgeois backgrounds or members of a traditional police caste. I only believe it because I choose to.

Quote:
5. ticket inspectors – working

You’re really scraping the bottom the barrel now. Are you one of those anti-social public transport types?

Quote:
6. bailiffs – working

Some bailiffs come from working class backgrounds, why didn’t you just put “criminals”?

Quote:
7. shop security guards – working

For the love of man John., how old are you? 14? Aren’t they more frightened of you than you are of them? How do you come into conflict with retail security?

Quote:
8. tv license inspectors – working

TV license inspectors are middle class. Anyone with a radar van is the enemy.

J. wrote:
they were culturally working class and I wasn't. People tell what class people are by their accent. My mum lost her east end accent cos she didn't like her mum, so I didn't get one. My nephews actually got theirs back cos people at school called them gay (y'know and/or general peer pressure), they're construction workers now.

I’ll get my violin. Why not get a hypnotist to convince you you’re all lovely and working class. You’ll feel much better. You could be like a character in the Wizard of Oz, travelling down the Yellow Brick Road to go and see the Wizard to get a shiny new class consciousness. But when you get there, you pull back the curtain and find me instead of some big old Wizard, and you realise you had one all along.

J. wrote:
But again from the POV of being interest in building workers' power where we live + work what relevance does this have?

That’s for another day.

Love

LR

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gav
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May 8 2006 19:08
Lazy Riser wrote:
Anyone with a radar van is the enemy.

smile

Cardinal Tourettes
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May 8 2006 20:28

Basing judgement of class on accent will lead to confusion - although thinking the police are working class is taking it pretty far. The police are the professional class par excellance.

I wouldn't worry about -

John. wrote:

all the rich fucks who think they're so working class cos they've got cockney accents!

- those poor lads (always are lads, its ok for birds to be posh) do not fool even the smallest children.

The ones that really do cause confusion are the self-employed small business types.

These are the fuckers who are always held up by the media as the salt of the earth British worker, and on superficial examination they can be mistaken for same - cos of accent, living in the same area, earning similar money etc.

Take Eastenders for example. Superficially appears to be a soap about working class characters, but in fact all the main characters are petty bourgeois - pub landlords, shopkeepers, garage owners, gangsters and such - and all the minor characters aspire to be. (There are no factory workers, office workers etc.)

This little business mentality with a working class accent is the Trojan Horse in the working class mind. (Hence its voice is the voice of the tabloids.)

(On this point though - most of those builders who identified themselves as middle-class would've been right. A lot of them own their own businesses ( and earn a packet - have u seen them prices), so they're not deluding themselves cos they aspire to it - they are just correctly identifying their class. The idea that they're deluding themselves is just the would-be posh middle-class elements going "of course they're not one of us, with their dirty overalls and coarse language, how ridiculous that they think they are". )

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May 8 2006 21:22

Hi

Cardinal Tourettes wrote:
Take Eastenders for example. Superficially appears to be a soap about working class characters, but in fact all the main characters are petty bourgeois - pub landlords, shopkeepers, garage owners, gangsters and such - and all the minor characters aspire to be. (There are no factory workers, office workers etc.)

A man after my own heart. To be fair Arthur and Gus were sweepers for the council. I thought this was a bourgeois conspiracy for years, in part I still do, but at the same time it would be hard to hold down a regular job and live such melodramatic lives. Also, they all suffer from the same histrionic personality disorders as the script writers, so couldn’t really expect to make it through a normal job interview.

Cardinal Tourettes wrote:
(On this point though - most of those builders who identified themselves as middle-class would've been right. A lot of them own their own businesses ( and earn a packet - have u seen them prices), so they're not deluding themselves cos they aspire to it - they are just correctly identifying their class.

There’s some truth to this, but Marxism misidentifies their relationship to the unambiguously working class.

Cardinal Tourettes wrote:
The idea that they're deluding themselves is just the would-be posh middle-class elements going "of course they're not one of us, with their dirty overalls and coarse language, how ridiculous that they think they are". )

Indeed. Off with their heads!

Love

LR

Cardinal Tourettes
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May 8 2006 22:11
Cardinal Tourettes wrote:
The idea that they're deluding themselves is just the would-be posh middle-class elements going "of course they're not one of us, with their dirty overalls and coarse language, how ridiculous that they think they are". )

Of course, working class inverted snobs are worse than middle class straightforward snobs.

How so?

Because the latter are generally simpletons, while the former are possessed of both native cunning and the historical high ground - which ( if, as is sometimes the case, they have a vicious streak) they will ruthlessly exploit, not least at the expense of well meaning middle class "revolutionaries" who want to be down with the proles.

Me, I like an individual.

PS

"There’s some truth to this, but Marxism misidentifies their relationship to the unambiguously working class."- LR

In what way? (Genuine question)

And - Marx or Marxism?