What are class politics?

Some points from my contribution to the Morning Star conference this morning on redeveloping class politics.

The class divide today is more prominent than ever before. The ruling class have a straight lifeline from Eton to Oxbridge to Parliament Commons then Lords, or sometimes straight to the Lords. The arrogance of their assumption that they can do anything they want was epitomised by Pig Gate.
The perpetuation of that privilege is reinforced by their corporate friends in exchange for tax breaks and the owners of the media who went to their schools, go to the same dinner parties and send their children to the same schools. Their class colludes to shackle the working class and to demonise the poor.
The Party of Keir Hardie has now been reclaimed by socialists from the new Labour creed and the metropolitan “professional” political class. Socialists, inside and outside of the Party now have a responsibility to defend Corbyn against the assault of the ruling class interests and the snarling Labour right who are waiting in the wings.
But we must also be honest with Corbyn, McDonnell and ourselves about where the political momentum is in Scotland. And it’s currently not with Labour. Scottish Labour has yet to earn back the trust that the working class has transferred to the SNP. The cry that “I didn’t leave Labour, Labour left me” still resonates. The 56 SNP MPs were elected to Westminster on an anti-austerity ticket. All Nicola Sturgeon had to do was take one step to he left of Scottish Labour to win that trust. People will not easily “come home to Labour” yet, and anyone who advises John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn otherwise risk the new leadership shouldering the blame for the sins of the old leaders.
The very constituencies which south of the border have coalesced around Corbyn, the anti austerity and peace movements, are in Scotland more rooted in the Yes camp. Not only should this be recognised , but also understood. Many Labour members and supporters remain supportive of independence. These people do not need converted, just accepted within the Labour Party family, the same way that the Scottish trade union movement had been able to unite across this divide.
If Scottish Labour wish to seriously challenge the SNP, it can only be from the Left, with a real alternative programme – not just a list of the SNP weaknesses. The way to expose the lack of class politics in the SNP’s programme is by injecting class politics into Scottish Labour’s own. programme


2 thoughts on “What are class politics?

  1. Agreed that there needs to be a ‘redevelopment’ of class politics.
    But power is power is power – and whoever holds that power will always and ineluctably marginalise/exclude the ones ‘without power’.
    The difficulty (as far as I can see)? – that the most significant feature of the class structure in Britain has been the changing size of the class groupings. The main divisions before (50s, 60s, 70s, 80s) were between a large, fairly homogeneous working class and a smaller middle class. The opposite is true today. The knock-on effects of this can be seen in an increasingly marginalised and disengaged working class – one which is effectively ignored by the mainstream political parties and which seeks to find a ‘voice’ in parties like UKIP. Ironically the size (numbers of super-rich) of our ‘social elite’ hasn’t grown – but the size of the gap between them and the working class is bigger and (probably more importantly) more visible than it has ever been. So, when I grew up in a Council house with an unemployed Dad and semi-skilled sole-wage-earner Mother this wasn’t remarkable – there were plenty like me.To be in the same position today is to be part of a smaller ‘loser’ class – and to know that you are effectively excluded.
    It’s anecdotal, I know, but my extended family are still members of this class – and to a person they will either not vote (because politicians ‘are all the same’) or they won’t vote for mainstream parties – they are also (and I struggled to understand this for a long time) the ones who will be the most vehemently anti-welfare benefits (despite being ones most likely to require to claim).
    Trade Unions and political parties have failed this class. And they continue to fail them, And their biggest failure? The failure to engage.
    Any redevelopment of class politics that fails to understand the new class landscape or to fully engage the ‘working class’ is destined to fail.
    Fully agree with your analysis of the political situation in Scotland. I’m one of the disaffected former Labourites – though to be honest, I’m really only now starting to properly understand that Labour has never been a socialist party – but mainly social democratic – and even then sometimes only very poorly social democratic. Corbyn’s politics might be closer to my own – but his grasp on the realities of Scottish devolution and Scotland politics is poor. I thought his London-centric political experience might be a problem. I think it will be his achilles heel.
    Thanks – you write an interesting blog 🙂
    Another interesting article I’ve read on this recently is http://www.ippr.org/juncture/the-new-class-war-excluding-the-working-class-in-21st-century-britain – probably best managed to capture what I’d been thinking/fearing.

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