“I thought I was working Class till I went to Glasgow. Then I realised I was middle class”
So as Ian Bone calls for Class War to go to the Polling booths. I ask do we need to redefine what class is? and is there still a class war? Where are the battle lines and are they as clear cut as this battle cry implies? or is it a state of mind? I understand that there has been class systems since the invention of the family and the birth of capitalism, but it’s about the class system that I know effected and defined the place I find myself in right now. And the question, “If we are fighting a Class war, are we not the ones perpetuating the class system with this war? and who benefits from the divisions? and is the Class War still valid and in what context?”
I grew up in the country in a farming community. The village I lived in had a Lord of the Manor. He lived in a massive house at the end of a very long drive, where yearly hunts took place and pheasant shoots were often. I never met him it didn’t interest me much, But I can always remember my mum screaming at the hunt to get off her garden and abusing them with such gusto that I remember I felt very proud. We also had workers houses where the farm hands that worked on his land lived. In the same village we had a working mans club and where everyone spent time with each other, a little bar with a pool table in the back and pictures of dogs in suits lounging around smoking cigars and the odd folk night with songs of everyday battles in days gone by. My parents brought me up to respect, honest and hard working people where manners were more important than money and the message was drilled into me that this was irrelevant of their “position” in the class system. But that also had an opposite that if you were a nasty bastard you were a nasty bastard irreverent of your “social standing” not because of it.
So was my house an upper working class house where we were educated into the free market and old school christian values? My father whom I considered a feminist, brother to 2 girls and father to 3 had a mantra that I soon came to realise that the rest of the word wasn’t ready for ” If you work hard enough you can do anything you want in the world” My mum whom I considered a snob at the time spoke of the realities of the class system and always talk of bettering “yourself”. So with my dad telling me the world was my Oyster and my mum reminding me of my class. I left school with as little as my Coventry accent and a couple of GCSe’s and found myself in a middle of a recession, Miners strikes, Car Plant closure’s, NF, battles on the streets and The winter of discontent, The reality of the class system was in my face.
This was my youth and to me the class system was very defined but things have changed or have they? The government has now split the class system into more groups. In the 20th century there were 6 social grade classifications and in the 21st century it has already reached 8 with the 8th being long term unemployed the creation of an under class. With the rise of a female work force and more varied jobs and the demise of manufacturing things were changing. Were the lines merging. “Working Class” creating successful businesses with nothing to lose and rising through the so called social grade classification system and “Middle classes” loosing land and properties and companies and not having a pot to piss in, relying on benefits. So the cry of Class War to Smash the Rich is directed at who exactly? One battle cry of Class War is to go to Eaton and bash up some posh boys. Really? Half the students at Eaton are overseas students and I really don’t see a bunch of school kids as the real threat to our life styles, our life choices or being able to choose at all, even though they may be part of that system we are fighting against but so are we.
So a Class War meeting was called and we all found ourselves in an upstairs room in a workingmens club.There were old faces I knew and younger faces that gave me hope. There were about 40 of us and we were all asked to introduce ourselves and a little bit of background. So the introductions from potential Class war candidates and supporters and I myself explaining that I needed to be convinced that what they doing was the way forward, to enter into a system, the very system we are trying to bring down. A hierarchal structure serving a capitalist state. What were they going to be campaigning for? And was it not going to make Class war a laughing stock? The meeting convened and Ian Bone said my thoughts were irrelevant because the decision had been made and they were going ahead with fielding candidates and it wasn’t up for discussion. The procedures and legalities of being a political party, costs of registering a candidate were explained, funding and how and if candidates were to fund themselves and it was the feeling of a few if you couldn’t raise the £500 for yourself then you can’t really stand, in other words if you can’t fund your self tough and other items like setting up a party HQ Politics and election campaigns and how they wouldn’t be winning but Class war would have a platform. During the afternoon I listened to everybodies thoughts and ideas, Important things like heckling other party candidates and cheaper football tickets in the proposals and the launch of The Class War Political party. During the afternoon there was a mixture of seriousness and the taking the piss attitude attributed to the Class War Style of campaigning with a few laughs and chuckles. Some good suggestions surfaced such as a maximum Wage and getting rid of beer tax. However it saddened me to hear racism as a candidate said he was pissed off with “Russians” building and buying massive houses and coming over for three weeks a year, Me personally I see this as capitalist fuckers nothing to do with where they’re from and when a young woman who talked about why she wanted to stand as a Class War candidate and cited local problems that were effecting her family and community. Her passionate desire to change real time things was talked over.
I could excuse it by saying it was a generation thing but actually there is no excuse. Surely you can drag yourselves into the 21st Century and realise that the language used is as bad as the language used by our oppressors therefore taking away your power. To alienate women by being sexist and using sexist language in your campaign, well words fail me actually. I am not going to go on a rant about how important women are regarding your ideology, I would have thought that was obvious. You can try and justify your use of sexist language but in todays world it does not have a place. So I left the meeting infact with a heavy heart I had hoped for so much more, I wanted to hear talk of grass roots groups and takeovers. I wanted to hear talk of revolution. Not how £500 is worth the vitriol. Just to say it is simply we are The Poor versus the Rich.
But hadn’t we missed something hadn’t the Class War been revised and brought into the 21st century, reborn under a new name, the name of Occupy movement and the battle cry “We are the 99%”. They had defined the new enemy as the 1%. Another recession in full swing and talk of Austerity, Bank collapses, suicides, cuts to pensions, bankruptcy, lost jobs, privatisation of nearly everything we had salvaged from the Thatcher years. The boom years had blurred the lines between the classes index even more but the banking crisis laid bare the bones of the financial system and those that were the real criminals. The Banks, The corporations, The fucking capitalists. To me Occupy seems to me to be the grown up version of Class war. They were highlighting the real villains the Corporations not paying Tax the dirty thieving bastards that were using every loophole possible and using their global status to bounce business around various nations and avoiding their responsibilities. Occupy aren’t screaming for “Double the Dole” They were screaming for a “Living wage” where the is no need for a dole system. They may seem to be a little more mainstream in their methods and some people may like to see things burn, but their continuous direct actions and acts of defiance and their very visible camps . But there initial statement is still one of the best statements ever produced by 5 hundred odd people on the step of St Pauls 26th October 2011( http://occupylondon.org.uk/about-2/ )
Not long after the Class war meeting Ian Bone released a blog and gave us a list of all things had been agreed during the meeting. Hold on a minute I must have missed something. I can’t remember any consensus of any kind on anything. A few cheers in the odd place. So you want me to support a hierarchal class war group to get rid of a hierarchal class war system. Now let me think about that for a minute ok I have thought about it “Fuck Right Off” One thing that Occupy had managed it was a non hierarchal system of working groups were decisions were made by consensus and that it was mature in its language and it’s message.
So I still do not know what Class really is or even how to define it and I think that to consider it a class war of the Ian Bone version is naive and childish. But I do believe more now than ever the fight between the rich and the poor is a battle that should be fought on every level, The capitalist system, the oppression that it brings with it to maintain is growth a system that still only really benefits a few is still a Class war but the Class is different now it is the oppressive corporation class. So if Class war can drag itself into the here and now and not the romantic vision of days gone by it could be a powerful movement but if it doesn’t become a progressive forward thinking group and continues accepting and using language of the oppressor you can count me out.