Class

Working class gets an injection

Issue section: 

The junior doctors' strikes raise questions about how socialists should define the working class.

Back in 1986, or thereabouts, I wrote to Margaret Thatcher to ask her to draw around her foot. My primary school teacher, whose motivations I can only speculate about, had asked us to contact someone famous and obtain the said outline. Being literal-minded, I decided that there was no one more famous in Britain than the prime minister.

Thatcher did not reply, setting me on a path towards revolutionary socialism. I cannot have helped my case by including a short passage celebrating the teachers’ strike that had recently shut down my school.

Little joy in being your own boss

Issue section: 

A rise in the numbers of self-employed people in Britain raises interesting questions for Marxists about the changing nature of the working class.

Self-employment in Britain is at its highest level in four decades, comprising one in six people in the workforce. About half of the employment expansion since the recession can be explained by its growth.

Has there been an explosion of entrepreneurialism, perhaps made up of the kind of hi-tech start-ups that cluster around “silicon roundabout” in east London? Or are people simply being pushed into more precarious forms of work by employers keen to reduce tax bills, and avoid offering sick pay and other benefits?

Too poor to die

Issue section: 
Issue: 
Author: 
Buried in the woods. A pauper's grave.

It is common knowledge that the cost of living is going through the roof, but it is only when you are faced with the death of someone close that you bump into another of the scandals of Tory austerity Britain — the cost of dying.

The average cost of a funeral in 2014 was a staggering £7,600. That represents an 80 percent rise over the past decade, and it went up yet again on 1 January. Some of this is the usual profiteering by undertakers — who have a standard mark-up of 200 percent on all coffins — but a large slice of the expense of dying is government and council taxes.

Executive pay rockets again

Issue section: 

Bosses’ pay has risen by 21 percent in the past year, while average wages for workers have fallen in real terms.

According to a new report from Incomes Data Services (IDS), top executives at the FTSE100 companies now “earn” 120 times as much as the average employee in Britain. Back in 2000 the figure was 47 times. Over those 14 years executives saw their median earnings rise by 278 percent.

Much of the inflated growth in income comes from share awards and bonuses, which top up salaries for the rich.

The People

Issue section: 
Issue: 
Author: 

Selina Todd has assembled a rich narrative based on research and interviews showing how over the last century the condition of the working class has risen and fallen according to its collective strength.

Starting with the militancy of the Great Unrest in the years before 1914 — which destroyed the perception of the working class as “the poor” — she shows how by 1945 with full employment and the recognition of working class organisation, “the workers” had now become “the people” and the force that had won the “People’s War”.

Class, power and the state in the Arab Spring

Issue section: 
Issue: 

This month marks the third anniversary of the start of the Egyptian revolution. Simon Assaf examines some key lessons while Anne Alexander spoke to three Egyptian revolutionaries.

At the forefront of the Arab Spring were the movements that took to the streets in vast numbers. The revolutions drew in diverse social forces - workers organisations, youth movements, left wing parties, liberals as well as Islamists - that have over the past three years battled to put themselves at its head. The revolutions have revealed the shortcomings of the established opposition parties, as well as the ability of the state and old ruling classes to adapt and survive. They have thrown up powerful street movements, but also forces of sectarianism and reaction.

Unpopular capitalism! Neoliberalism & working class consciousness

Issue section: 
Author: 

Has the neoliberal ideological offensive succeeded in winning the battle of ideas in society? Not according to recent surveys, writes Mark L Thomas. Two new polls suggest that the majority of workers reject the free market and firmly believe in social democratic values.

Last month Allister Heath, the editor of City Am, a pro free market newspaper aimed at the City of London, expressed a deep concern bordering on panic that support for crucial aspects of capitalism is fast eroding: "Slowly but surely, the public is turning its back on the free market economy and re-embracing an atavistic version of socialism... On some issues, the public is far more left wing than the Tories realise or that Labour can believe."

Limits of Intersectionality

Issue section: 
Issue: 

A whole series of new and renewed groups, protests and movements have appeared in response to the "new sexism" - personified by raunch culture popular on campus - that are increasingly defining themselves as feminist. Some of those involved with these movements are drawn to the ideas of "intersectionality", which attempt to explain how race, gender and class oppressions "intersect" and influence each other.

Engels revisited

Issue section: 
Issue: 

There has been a recent resurgence in writers about women's oppression looking to Marx and Engels for answers, with some arguing he crudely emphasised class at the expense of oppression. Here, Sally Campbell looks at the claims of those writers and defends Engels from the critics

There is a common assertion that Marxism as a set of ideas does not or cannot account for oppression. Some argue, for example, that Marxism is a form of economic determinism that reduces all the complexity of human interaction down to production; because we see workers' revolution as the solution, we see all other struggles - against racism or gender oppression - as subordinate to the struggle in the workplace.

This comes from the right - they want to attack revolutionary ideas, full stop.

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Class