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Working Class Paradox - one person's discussion

Thu, 10/02/2011 - 22:18

I had a discussion with a work colleague last week. It began with a newspaper headline about the situation in Egypt. Apparently, many years ago he had served in Egypt in the forces. He had been shocked at the level of poverty he observed there, and realised that things had probably not moved on much for many people. And so he could understand why there was an uprising there.

Then the discussion moved to the UK, and although I did not suggest a parity of conditions to him we did talk about areas of poverty in the UK, people loving in poor quality run down housing on low incomes etc.

At this point his attitude changed entirely. As far as he was concerned anyone who lived in such conditions in this country did so through their own choice or fault. Even on benefits, he argued, a person could look after their house and make it nice. He talked about people coming home and slumping in front of the TV and watching soaps. Why didn't they, after seeing the homes on the TV, aspire to a better home or a better car for themselves? His answer: because they are too lazy and spend their money too flippantly.

This is not a wealthy person I was talking to, but an ordinary working man, near retirement age on a job which probably doesn't pay the average UK wage.

It struck me, how working class people in this country manage to hold such attitudes about people worse off than themselves. I'm quite sure that this man has worked hard all his life. He has, I suspect, never been unlucky enough to have been out of work (for long, at least) and has probably been careful of his money. But how easy it is for him to be persuaded on the merit of this to point the finger at those less fortunate than himself and play the blame game.

The propaganda of the Right: that every man gets what he deserves, and each to his own is surprisingly far reaching. It divides the working class: the very class which needs to unite to fight for their interests. This is the same propaganda that gets people worked up about benefit claimants whilst ignoring the massive abuses of the rich and wealthy of the capitalist class.

This battle ground of ideas could be as hard as any direct struggle against government and capitalist elites.

We need to fight the divisiveness inherent in this position. A system which makes workers compete and which seeks to persuade those in work that those who are not, or who are in low paid jobs are in some way scrounging off them. The reality is that it is the capitalists who are scrounging from those who are working. By control of resources they make us work to make themselves richer, whilst paying the lowest wages possible and keeping conditions as poor as they dare.

The old saying comes to mind: divided we fall, united we stand.

As anarcho- syndicalists we recognise the need to join together in order to fight for a fair deal for all, not just a good deal for the few.

Solidarity.



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