21 July 2010

social class: a reality

Walter argues that class politics is now outdated, and if we are to build a coalition for socialism it has based on something else. As evidence he points to the decline, especially outside the state sector, of trade union affiliation.

I don’t think this argument is wholly correct. It is certainly true that levels of political class consciousness have declined, but does that mean class itself is less of a social reality so socialists should ignore it? I think not.

Social class is a concomitant of the relations of production under capitalism. Economic and political structures affect classes in such a way as to bring about a variety of class divisions based primarily on income and wealth, but also on ethnic group, status, education, etc.

In the last three decades Thatcherism and then New Labour have overseen an increase in social inequalities of income and wealth so that Britain is now more unequal than at any time since the Second World War. In parallel social mobility (inter and intra-generational) has declined. It is thus wide of the mark to talk about the disappearance of social class; and if social classes are a reality they cannot be ignored in politics.

As of old, it remains the job of socialists to convince working people, as working people, of the injustices of the capitalist order so that they can become instruments of progressive social change

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