Popular self-confessed 12-year-old lookalike Owen Jones, who wrote the book, “Chavs: The Demonisation of the working class,” posted this tweet to Twitter:
“The General Strike has taught the working class more in four days than years of talking could have done.”- Tory Arthur Balfour
I replied to this, criticising him for glorifying class conflict, and he replied:
@jonathan_bishop To get rid of those divisions we have to understand the ones that currently exist, rather than pretend they’re not there
I think he is right that we should understand the ones that exist, and many of them are perpetuated by many associated with the Labour Party calling entrepreurs who want to do something with their life, or any public service funded by tax-payers income and not their taxes “posh”.
It seems from Labour politicans point of view, anyone who has any amount of wealth, even if they earned it from the fruits of their own Labour are “posh” and being posh is bad. One thing one can take from this is, working class voters, are not posh, and therefore as Labour aren’t posh, then if one is working class one should vote Labour.
How does one define working class? Is it someone who works hard but earns below the national average? Is it someone who is a member of a trade union who has no choice but to work in order to live?
If it was the first one, then as a risk taking entrepreneur I meet that definition. In terms of the second, well I could not maintain my existence without working, but how does one define ‘trade union’?
For me being working class has little to do with income and more to do with division of labour and control over one’s working life. I would say one is working class where:
- One works for an employer for income and has little freedom over the work they do and the direction it takes.
- One cannot vary one’s asking price for work as one’s paymasters has one tied down to a restrictive contract of employment
- One cannot easily withdraw one’s labour without risking breach of contract and losing one’s income stream
- One cannot send someone else to do one’s work if one is ill, meaning one could lose one’s income for the day one is not at work
- One has to work a set amount of hours in order to get by and often relies on overtime to make ends meet.
- One can be moved from a task one is enjoying doing without any say-so if that is what one’s paymaster wants
Trade unions depend on the working class, as if there were not people under the restrictive conditions above, they would have no purpose. I am self-employed, and probably take home less money that most workers in those jobs above. However, I don’t see myself as working class, for one because none of the above apply to me, and also because I:
- Enjoy the fruits of my own labour – the profit made from the work I do goes to me
- I control my own means of production – I can do whatever work I think profitable, at present writing and speaking, and I can vary how much I do and when I do it
- I control my own means of distribution – I can sell my products and services to whoever I want who also want it. I can distribute it via any printer/publisher, I can choose my own supply chain, engage my own marketers, etc.
- I control my own means of exchange – I can decide to only write for people who pay me certain royalties, or I can choose to barter, by providing a person with a good or service in exchange for theirs, or even using what I call ‘co-operative advantage’ which is where I work with others pro-bono in the hope of future profits from what we co-produce
Ask yourself this. If everyone, like me, was self-employed and a member of a profession body that gave similar rights to traditional trade unions, then who would join these traditional trade unions? Equally, if every worker was emancipated through self-employment, accountable only to themselves and not being supressed by an employer or trade union, and therefore not working class, then who would vote Labour?
While Labour and The Sun are the guardians of the working class, and the Tories and certain broadsheets are the guardians of the business owners the class system in this country will continue to perpetuate. It is only by breaking past these divides and people taking control of their own working life, perhaps through self-employment, that the suppression of the working classes can end, as they would cease to be working class and start being the individuals they are.