Notions of belonging to the working class are…outdated and belong to the era of flat caps, factories, steel works and going down the pit.
Such denials by various academics, politicians and other commentators of what is as plain as the nose on your face are one clear reflection of the ongoing class war. Another is the inequality that is rife throughout most aspects of Brown’s Britain. It is with this in mind that the latest installment of our series ‘No such thing as class?’ (see page 11) has a look at class divisions as shown up by poverty and access to education and health services.
expenses, fiddles & pay-offs
Yet another way the class division is manifest is in how people expect to be treated when things go wrong. Or to put it another way – it’s one rule for them and another rule for us.
What would you expect to happen if you were to completely mess up your job? A £¾million golden goodbye plus £2.5million pension pot? Maybe not, but that’s what Adam Applegarth, incompetent former chief executive of Northern Rock has walked off with after master minding the first run on a UK bank for over a century. No such luxury though for the 2,000 Northern Rock staff set to lose their jobs as a direct result.
What would you expect to happen if you were caught siphoning off tens of thousands of pounds of your employer’s money to family and friends? A 10 day suspension and then just carry on as if nothing had happened? No? Well that’s exactly what happened with Tory MP, Derek Conway, after it emerged he’d paid his son a full salary and parliamentary expenses for three years for not a tap of work. A stark contrast indeed to the treatment of those on or below the poverty line who come under the merest suspicion of fiddling their benefit claims.
These are just two of the more prominent examples of how the system is stacked in favour of our rulers and bosses. We can add the revelations regarding Prescott’s food bills, Blair’s TV licence, Brown’s cleaning costs and Cameron’s mortgage payments, all claimed from public funds. We can add the case of Rose Gibb, the NHS boss who presided over Britain’s worst superbug outbreak which contributed to over 300 deaths at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust. Gibb has rejected a £75,000 pay off and has begun a legal claim for a bigger pay-off, reported to be in the region of £¼million.
We could go on, but the point is that these people not only get treated differently, they absolutely believe they are entitled to it. And with the coming economic slowdown guess who they think should bear the brunt.
culture of resistance
And the attacks have already begun. The recent budget has removed the 10p tax band while the government is trying to impose a 2% ceiling on public sector pay rises over the next three years. If this goes ahead it will amount to pay cuts for millions of workers since, as everyone knows, the real inflation rate is far higher than the massaged figure the Treasury works with.
However, there are signs of resistance. The coordinated one day strikes by teachers and civil servants that are due to go ahead as we go to press are to be applauded. If Labour’s attacks on the British working class are to be beaten off, anarcho-syndicalists and other workplace activists must use the anger and momentum that is building to revitalise and reestablish workplace based organisation and links between workplaces that go beyond the divisions imposed by reformist trade unions. It is only this kind of escalating pressure for action that can wrest control of the struggle from our union leaders, prevent them from doing shoddy and inadequate deals behind our backs and go on to establish the basis of a genuine culture of working class resistance to capitalism. Such recent offerings by the likes of the Unison leadership and the way forward are the subject of ‘With friends like these…’ (see page 6).
Beyond the workplace too, the slowdown will inevitably exacerbate the yawning inequality that a decade of New Labour has only served to widen. However, here there are also hopeful signs of the growing culture of resistance. One inspiring development involves the use of direct action principles to tackle official shilly-shallying and outright illegality in areas like housing provision (see ‘London Coalition Against Poverty’, page 8). The potential for this kind of approach to empower people at the sharp end of Labour’s anti-working class offensive are very clear.
also in this issue...
Besides this, we have provided some war commentary (see ‘War is murder for profit’, page 14, and ‘The first casualty of war’, page 16) while this issue’s historical focus is the Barcelona ‘May Days’ of 1937, which were a major turning point in the fortunes of the anarcho-syndicalist led social revolution that took place during the Spanish Civil War (see page 18). Amongst our international coverage we have an interview with a militant of the USI, our Italian sister organisation, which gives some insight into the issues facing workers and anarcho-syndicalists in Italy (see page 23). As well as the usual review section we also take a closer look at the relationships between patriarchy, capitalism and religious morality in ‘Anarchism, Sex and Freedom’ (see page 31). Enjoy the read.