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Class

Class

  • The 24 hour day: women, work and class

    analogue clock

     Lindsey German argues for the development of a theory that can respond to changes in work organisation and the feminisation of the workforce

  • Night Thoughts - book review

    wallace shawn

    Night Thoughts is the subversive musings that Wallace Shawn cannot admit during the day; witty and involving, the book should be spread widely, finds Dominic Alexander

  • Beauty, a dark history, and class conflict

    Rosebery

    Alison Pennington found them all in a road trip through remote Tasmania

  • Now they've shafted the young, they try to blame it on the old - Weekly briefing

    Cillian Murphy as the shellshocked squaddie in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk (2017)

    When it comes to social division, socialists need to keep their eyes on the prize – class, argues Lindsey German  

  • Break the wheel: the politics of Game of Thrones

    game of thrones

    The wildly popular series has attracted a number of interesting attempts to analyse what it tells us about the contemporary state of capitalist culture

  • Kensington and Chelsea: a tale of two boroughs

    Grenfell Tower fire, 14 June 2017

    Doctor, activist and local resident Mona Kamal describes the genesis of a tragedy

  • Class is back - the Scottish Question must be recast

    Class politics and the Scottish Question

    Class is back - for it to advance requires anti-capitalist politics, not the frontist politics of being to the left of whatever seems like a temporary solution to a fundamental dilemma, writes Kevin Ovenden

  • Sod the old, sod the young

    Theresa May at Hampton Court in 2014. Photo: Flickr/Surrey County Council News

    The Tories will make life worse for us all, whatever our age

  • May the merciless

    theresa may

    As shattering arbitrary cuts to bereavement payments come into force this week, Kara Bryan exposes the sheer barbarity of austerity ideology

  • Class in the drama class: actors and privilege

    Hackney-born Ray Winstone holds court

    Deirdre O’Neill and Mike Wayne explain why they are making a new documentary, The Acting Class

  • Class: Money and Power in Neoliberal Britain

    Buy online: A short, sharp analysis of class structure and combativity after forty years of neoliberal offensive

  • Unionising university workers - extract

    In the third extract from The Capitalist University, Henry Heller writes about growing resistance to the corporate university

  • Universities and the Cold War - extract

    The second extract from Heller's The Capitalist University describes intellectual and political conformity that dominated academia during the Cold War

  • Universities, corporations and class - extract

    Henry Heller, The Capitalist University

    We republish the first of three extracts from Henry Heller's new book The Capitalist University, which resonates with the marketisation of HE in Britain

  • Uber drivers win employment case

    The Uber app. Photo: Pexels

    Uber drivers win the right to be classed as workers as opposed to self-employed, in a huge step forward for the labour movement, reports Lindsey German

  • Can neuroscience change our minds?

    Cover of Can neuroscience change our minds

    Steven and Hilary Rose debunk the ideologically loaded claims of reductionist neuroscience in a short but clear book, finds Elaine Graham-Leigh

  • Escaping Bleak House: sex, class and power in neoliberal Britain

    Three young women with placards in front of Big Ben, Defend Corbyn Rally, Parliament Square, London, 27 June 2016.  Photo: Jim Aindow/Flickr

    In this major new analysis, Lindsey German looks at resistance to neoliberalism, oppression's relationship to class, and how new forms of organising and the united front are central to a socialist transformation of Britain

  • How the Labour right disenfranchises young people

    corbyn kilburn

    Tom Watson recently accused 'Trotskyist entryists' of 'twisting the arms' of young members of the Labour Party. A young left-wing activist responds

  • BHS collapse: Not just a case of a bad apple

    Philip Green. Photo: Wikimedia

    Vladimir Unkovski-Korica looks at the context behind BHS' collapse

  • Why we voted leave: voices from northern England - documentary

    Photo: Guerrera Films

    A short look at why those in the north of England mainly voted to leave the EU - from Guerrera Films

  • Class struggle in France: a temporary stalemate

    François Hollande, President of the French Republic. Photo: Wikipedia

    The government has been stunned by the strength of the strikes and protests, but what now for the movement? John Mullen investigates

  • Immigration, racism and class

    bagel shop

    While mainstream ideology repackages its old myths and lies, Kevin Ovenden argues for a radical re-assertion of class-based anti-racism 

  • England always dreaming

    England fans create St George's cross at Wembley. Photo: geograph.org.uk

    For St George's Day Mark Perryman explores the connections between English football’s golden moment and national identity

  • Sheffield shines a light on Tory lies and hype

    Sketch for a PCS banner 'Keep Sheffield Open'

    A 'Northern Powerhouse or Northern Poorhouse' demonstration converged on Sheffield last Saturday, Jon Moorcroft reports   

  • Limpiadores: SOAS Cleaners' struggle - podcast

    'Justice for Cleaners' banner outside SOAS. Photo: ReelNews

    Yasmin Dahnoun speaks to Fernando González, whose documentary Limpiadores tells the story of the SOAS cleaners' fight for justice

  • Women's liberation: we think it's time

    Two women strikers on a picket line

    The anti-austerity movement is an opportunity to force women's liberation onto the political agenda says Yasmin Dahnoun

  • Tax credits: the latest front in the class war

    This Wednesday's spending review will see the Tories wriggle their way out of the impasse created by the Lords' decision to delay the tax credits cuts, argues Joanne Land

  • The necessary gravedigger

    Socialism is back on the agenda as an alternative social model in Lebowitz's Socialist Imperative, but we cannot do without the revolutionary party, argues Kit Klarenberg

  • Revolutionary Teamsters: The Minneapolis Teamsters Strike of 1934

    Book Cover

    Brian Palmer’s Revolutionary Teamsters shows the contemporary relevance of a major episode of revolutionary trade-unionism from the 1930s, argues Richard Allday

  • Socialist Register 2015: Transforming Classes

    Book Cover

    Across the world, class remains central to understanding the way the society works, as the current issue of Socialist Register(2015) demonstrates with great thoroughness, argues Alex Snowden

  • They are coming here because we were there

    Book Cover

    In the wake of the wave of demonstrations to support refugees, the long history of anti-racist organisation is recalled in the current issue of Race and Class, finds Dominic Alexander

  • The Mythology of Work: How Capitalism Persists Despite Itself

    Book Cover

    The mounting burden of work in our lives is what fuels the rise in inequality. We work so they get rich, but the answer is collective resistance, argues Orlando Hill

  • New anti-union laws: Tory class hatred and hypocrisy

     Sajid Javid

    The latest anti-union proposals from Cameron’s cabinet show the naked class hatred of democracy that lies at the heart of the Tory party writes Richard Allday

  • The worker in the 21st century | Dangerous Times 2015

    Video of the session 'Hero to Zero (hours)? The worker in the 21st Century' with Susan Newman, Guy Standing and Alex Snowdon from Dangerous Times Festival 2015. Produced by Paul Hanes

  • Womens Liberation, class and Feminism: Lindsey German & Katherine Connelly | Dangerous Times

    From the session 'Women’s liberation, class and feminism today' at Dangerous Times Festival 2015

  • Labour in the Global Digital Economy

    Book Cover

    Capitalism has used new technologies to fuel an intensified wave of commodification, but faces contradictions too, argues Mike Quille, reviewing Huws, Labour in the Global Digital Economy

  • A Diet of Austerity

    Book Cover

    A Diet of Austerityargues that to fight climate change, we need system change, and the blame must not be shifted onto individuals, finds Orlando Hill

  • Unite, Labour and the election

    Len McCluskey

    Labour's defeat has been followed by Blairite attacks on the union link and on Unite and Len McLuskey in particular. Richard Allday looks at how socialists should respond

  • E. P. Thompson and the Making of the New Left: Essays and Polemics

    Book cover

    Enduring problems of class, class consciousness and political organisation are illuminated in this important new collection of E. P. Thompson’s essays, finds Dominic Alexander

  • Miliband's sectarianism

    All sectarianism is damaging to the working class interest. But Miliband's threats to Scottish voters are dangerous, potentially mortal writes Brian Heron

  • Why one Guardian writer should be heading to Tesco’s this May Day

    The Guardian May Day article misrepresents Marx and detracts from the critical lessons learned from his life and work argues Susan Newman

  • A Diet of Austerity: the war on weight

    Diet of Austerity

    How the working class is blamed for the world’s ills: The final extract from Elaine Graham-Leigh's new book, A Diet of Austerity: Class Food and Climate Change

  • Work, Sex and Power

    Book Cover

    The entire human history of exploitation and oppression is vividly summarised in Willie Thompson’s Work, Sex, Power, finds Mike Quille

  • Silvertown: The Lost Story Of A Strike That Shook London And Helped Launch The Modern Labour Movement

    Silvertown bookcover

    John Tully’s history of the Silvertown strike reveals industrial and imperial connections, and the nature of the worker’s struggle against them at a crucial period, argues John Westmoreland

  • Welcome to dodgy Dave’s second-hand democracy sale!

    London bus workers strike outside Waterloo Bus Garage in London. Photo: PA

    Richard Allday responds to the latest Tory attacks on democracy, from curtailing trade union rights to eroding the powers of local authorities

  • London bus driver: why we're striking

    Bus strikers in 2012. Photo: Pete Murray

    London bus driver and senior Unite rep Preston Tabois spoke to Counterfire's Dan Poulton about the London-wide strike and its wider context

  • Scottish Nationalism: ambivalent about national independence?

    The continued rise of the SNP has led to increased metropolitan suspicion and a growing backlash. What is the content of the SNP’s nationalism?

  • Dancing to Ukip's tune won't save Labour

    The offending image. Photo: @EmilyThornberry

    Lindsey German: sacking Emily Thornberry over a tweet is another own goal - and after Scotland and the vote on air strikes in Iraq, Labour really can’t afford to score many more

  • A history of struggle: race and class in the East End

    Brick Lane residents confront the Nazis, 1978. Photo: Syd Shelton

    Kevin Ovenden looks at the history of race and class in London's East End and the current battle to beat back the Tory attack on Tower Hamlets

  • Who is Nigel Farage?

    Nigel Farage

    Nigel Farage should not be allowed to hijack the widespread disaffection with the Westminster elite argues John Westmorland

  • Scottish Labour: living on borrowed time

    Johann Lamont

    Following Yes majorities in party heartlands Chris Bambery examines a Scottish Labour under threat of annihilation

  • The People. The Rise and Fall of the Working Class 1910-2010

    The People

    Selina Todd’s The People is a very welcome and successful assertion of the centrality of working-class experience and power in the history of the twentieth century

  • UK undead: 10 reasons democracy is dying

    Democracy is dying

    Alastair Stephens looks at how democracy in the UK is dying at the hands of the neoliberal ruling elite

  • Scotland's vote and the labour movement - 3 observations

    Brian Heron: The new 'powers' granted to Holyrood do nothing to reduce poverty, to reign in inequality, to remove Trident or to save the health service

  • Scotland: ten things the vote signifies

    George Square 17 September. Photograph: Chris Walsh

    Lindsey German looks at what impact the vote results will have on Britain and Scotland

  • Breaking the spell: Scotland's democratic revolt

    The Yes campaign

    The Scottish referendum has demonstrated the centrality of the demand for democracy to working-class struggle, writes Alastair Stephens. This is a democratic revolt against neoliberalism and despair

  • Learning from Scotland's radical independence movement

    RIC Govan

    Chris Bambery: whatever the final result it’s worth looking at what the Radical Independence Campaign has achieved and how it might be emulated elsewhere in the world

  • Know your enemy: vote yes

    British Flag

    Chris Bambery: the British elite see working class support for independence and hate and fear it at the same time

  • Existence is resistance: review of 'Two Days and One Night'‏

    Two nights one day

    Chris Nineham reviews 'Two Days and One Night', a new film by the Dardenne Brothers

  • Hell’s Kitchen and the Battle for Urban Space: Class Struggles and Progressive Reform in New York City

    Hell’s Kitchen and the Battle for Urban Space

    The history of the working class of Hell’s Kitchen, New York, explored through the prism of subjectivities of space, is a project that promises more than it is able deliver, in Joseph Varga’s Hell’s Kitchen and the Battle for Urban Space

  • A People’s History of Scotland: The Radical Wars

    A People’s History of Scotland

    In this second extract from A People’s History of Scotland, Chris Bambery discusses working-class movements of the early nineteenth century

  • Sylvia Pankhurst: Suffragette, Socialist and Scourge of Empire

    Sylvia Pankhurst Suffragette, Socialist and Scourge of Empire

    The importance and coherence of Sylvia Pankhurst’s lifelong activism is revealed by Katherine Connelly’s grasp of her political commitments, making this book an important new account her life

  • 1934: American workers in revolt

    Battle of Deputies Run

    In 1934 three mighty strikes brought the bosses and bankers to their knees and ushered in a new era of labour-capital relations in the United States writes Sean Ledwith

  • Inequality and the working class today

    Today I spoke at the Dangerous Times festival in London alongside Selina Todd, author of ‘The People: the rise and fall of the working class’. This article is based on the talk I gave

  • Socialist Register 2014: Registering Class - the working class

    In the second part of the review of Socialist Register 2014, Alex Snowdon discusses the changing nature and position of the working class

  • Socialist Register 2014: Registering Class

    In the first of a two-part review, Alex Snowdon looks at Socialist Register discussions on the nature of the ruling class

  • Floods reveal a system in deep water

    FloodingTo protect against climate change we need to replace a society based on accumulation for profit with one based on production for need writes Elaine Graham-Leigh

  • The class referendum

    PovertyBen Wray looks at the comments of the Ipsos-Mori Scotland Director who argued that class 'is the most important factor' in influencing the decision of voters the independence referendum

  • Clara Zetkin: oppression, class, and socialism

    Clara ZetkinLindsey German responds to John Riddell's article, 'Clara Zetkin in the Lion’s Den'

  • Miley Cyrus – race, class, and gender in the pop world

    Tansy Hoskins explains why the outrage over Miley Cyrus's VMA appearance on Saturday night is significant

  • Labour needs a touch of class

    Chris BryantLabour's weakness on class and immigration only helps the employers writes Richard Allday

  • Peake's reading of Shelley classic contains a message for today

    Maxine Peake in The Masque of Anarchy. Photo: Kevin Cummins‘Let a great assembly be, of the fearless and the free’ - Maxine Peake reads Masque of Anarchy in Manchester as a call for today

  • The class contempt behind Miliband's Falkirk hysteria

    Ed MillibandThe outrage expressed by most pundits over events in Falkirk Labour Party demonstrates their belief that politics is the preserve of the elite and that the common people should stay out of it

  • Video: What class are you really in? Dangerous Ideas for Dangerous Times

    BeansGot your emerging service worker confused with your established middle class, your precariat with your lumpenproletariat? Let some socialists with work experience provide a real framework for understanding class in the 21st Century

  • Letter from Italy: race, class and Balotelli

    BalotelliElle Gierre looks at what the treatment Balotelli's tells us about the deep seated racism of Italian society and the experience of the 'italiani di seconda generazione

  • Video: Owen Jones - rebuilding the working class movement

    Owen JonesOwen Jones  speaking at Firebox cafe on 7 March 2013. Film by Paul Hanes

  • Women's liberation: a class perspective

    Teachers protest over pensions, March 28 2012. Photo: Mina BoromondLindsey German wrote this review for Historical Materialism over a decade ago but it wasn't published. We are posting it now as part of a series of contributions to the debate on women's oppression

  • Scroungers or scapegoats? The class war on welfare

    Osborne headlinesGeorge Osborne has announced real-terms cuts in benefits. The attack on welfare is an act of class war, argues Adam Tomes

  • The Old Price Riots of 1809: theatre, class and popular protest

    In 1809 audiences at a major London theatre started a concerted campaign and won. Jacqueline Mulhallen, author of The Theatre of Shelley, tells their fascinating story

  • Gove Levels: the educational abyss

    Michael Gove’s replacement for GCSEs is an all-out attack on working class kids, argues Adam Tomes

  • A Debt to History: Graeber and why class matters

    David Graeber’s ambitious attempt to interpret the span of history through the prism of debt is flawed

  • Class act: Engels classic brought to the stage

    In the 1840s Engels wrote ‘The Condition of the Working Class in England’, based upon his experiences in Manchester. Ben Metters reviews a contemporary theatrical take on this political classic

  • Workfare scandal exposes class nature of Jubilee

    Private security firm Close Protection UK (CPUK), used unpaid labour and workers on sub-minimum wage pay to provide security for the Diamond Jubilee pageant on Sunday, the Guardian reported

  • Nepal: Whatever happened to the class struggle?

    Protesters are back on the streets of Nepal again as politicians fail to reach consensus on the constitution, and parliament is dissolved

  • A Streetcar Named Desire: a classic renewed

    Chris Walsh reviews the Scottish Ballet's production of a classic.

  • Engels 2012: The Condition of the Working Class

    AnchorCondition of the Working Classaims to update Engels’ classic. Elaine Graham-Leigh talked to Deirdre O’Neill of Inside Film about the project and the relevance of Engels’ work today.

  • The working class ain't what it used to be - Owen Jones, Cat Boyd and Adrian Cousins

    Owen JonesOwen Jones, Cat Boyd and Adrian Cousins speaking at the session on 'The working class ain't what it used to be' at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas

  • Radical classics by women writers

    Angela DavisOn International Women's Day, Tansy Hoskins suggests some great radical books which have inspired movements for social change.

  • Race and Class: Black History, Black Struggle

    Black History, Black Struggle, a recent issue of the journal Race and Class, offers an important opportunity to reassess past struggles against racism in the UK and the US, argues Faduma Hassan.

  • Class war comes to Oakland as riot police attack Occupy

    oakland police'Class warfare came to one street in one moment on Oakland on a Saturday afternoon' as Occupy Oakland tried to transform a vacant public building into a Community Center

  • Party and class: lessons from the birth of British Communism

    Minority Movement coverHow socialists relate to the working class has always been a source of tension within the socialist tradition. Chris Bambery suggests that the early years of British Communism provide lessons that are still very relevant to debates today.

  • A Marxist History of the World part 55: The Making of the Working Class

    Last of the Clan by Thomas FaedThe development of capitalism entails two complementary processes. The first, explored in MHW 54, is competitive capital accumulation. The second, explored here, is the making – and continual re-making – of the working class.

  • Class Dismissed: Why we cannot teach or learn our way out of inequality

    Higher education is often presented as a road to opportunity and the route to a more prosperous or equal society. But would more graduates bring greater equality?

  • Capitalism and Class in the Gulf Arab States

    The revolutionary processes in the Middle East cannot be fully understood without an analysis of the role of the Gulf states in the global economy, and as integrated into the regional construction of US power.

  • Owen Jones & Dan Poulton: The Working Class Ain't What It Used to be | Counterforum

  • The new condition of the working class

    The debate about the nature of the contemporary working class is critical for anyone who wants to see radical change. Elaine Graham-Leigh reviews two controversial books on the subject.

  • Class, work and politics: Chavs by Owen Jones

    'Chavs' is a much talked-about, even fashionable, book. It is therefore tempting to decry it as over-hyped rubbish. Frustratingly for the polemicist in me, it is actually very good indeed.

    Owen Jones is an extremely capable and engaging writer who has done his research. His book is full of relevant insights from politicians, writers, campaigners and academics, with generally well-chosen examples from media and popular culture to support his points and a light sprinkling of statistics to give the more sociological passages some clout.

    It is gloriously free from academic jargon and the dead hand of stale far-left rhetoric, without being politically or intellectually compromised one bit.

    In recent weeks the author has been in a whirlwind of media engagements, not just promoting the book (though publishers Verso must surely be delighted at the attention) but also exploring the important issues - about class, media, politics and more - it raises.

    Class and the contempt for 'chavs'

    For the purposes of reaching a wide audience and generating public debate, it helps enormously that the book has an eye-catching title and cover, especially as they articulate a position at odds with orthodoxy. It also benefits from having a Big Idea.

    Actually, there are two big ideas. The obvious one - but actually the less important - is that frequent and widespread talk of 'chavs' is an expression of class prejudice and contempt. The subtitle, 'The Demonization of the Working Class', alludes to this. It's this element that has drawn most media attention.

    The common deployment of 'chav', and everything which accompanies it, can be seen as a way of stigmatising, rubbishing and ridiculing those who are often regarded as an 'underclass', dependent on benefits and socially marginalised. Such contempt is bad enough, but Owen traces how this demonisation is linked to a bigger rejection of the concept of a 'working class' altogether - and with it any sense of positive values, pride or collective identity associated with the working class.

    So the second big idea - an idea that is normally totally excluded from all mainstream discourse - is perhaps even more outrageous than suggesting chav-bashing is a form of class prejudice. The book argues that we still live in a society shaped by class divisions and, more particularly, we still have a sizable working class. Perhaps, Owen daringly suggests, we might even gain from a kind of politics which talks openly about class and unashamedly champions working class interests.

    Expressing distinctive and easily understood, but rarely articulated, Big Ideas is helping 'Chavs' get wider attention, as happened with 'The Spirit Level' (that book's authors, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, are quoted on the back).

    Just as 'The Spirit Level' popularised important research showing that economic inequality has a huge influence on a wide range of social ills - and desperately needs redressing - 'Chavs' can hopefully establish, beyond the left, an understanding that class may be fundamental to modern British society and provide the basis for a different sort of politics.

    'Chavs' isn't just about attitudes. It's also about the realities of class society: life for those near the bottom of a grossly unequal, hierarchical society. It makes the link between these two things. Stigmatisation of working class people, blaming the poor for their poverty and the ideology of a 'classless society' all help excuse and justify extreme social inequality.

    A deeply unequal society depends, for ideological legitimacy, on demonising the working class. 'Chavs' is therefore complementary to 'The Spirit Level': it goes a long way to explaining how British politicians get away with allowing our profoundly unequal society to become yet more unequal.

    Owen is also aware of the relationship between institutions - especially in media and politics - and popular attitudes. In the same way that institutional racism feeds popular racist attitudes, it's true that media representations of 'chavs' and the language (and indeed policies) of politicians underpin much of the casual 'chav-bashing' in British society.

    The existence of inequality itself is also a factor here. When some people live privileged lives that separate them completely from less advantaged sections of society, we see a flourishing of middle class prejudice and contempt for those who are both feared and seen as ridiculous.

    Class and today's world of work

    Throughout the book, the author's awareness that class, inequality and work must be taken seriously in analysing society are extremely refreshing. When I was half way through I felt slightly disappointed at the lack of any real probing of what the working class actually is in today's Britain. How do we define 'working class'? What is its composition, and how is this different from previous eras?

    But in the middle of the book there's a chapter called 'We're all middle class now' which takes apart the popular myth referenced in that chapter title. A kind of economic analysis with a human face, it outlines the shape of today's working class, influenced by de-industrialisation and the rise of service industries.

    A strength of the book is its dismissal of the notion that we're divided between a large middle class and a minority underclass, with no such thing as the working class anymore. Owen tentatively offers a definition of 'working class' - roughly based on the classic marxist analysis, but tied in to contemporary society - fleshed out with examples of the realities of today's world of work.

    Owen has rescued the working class from the margins. I'm not sure he's entirely rescued work - as a central element of people's lives, and worthy of serious study and political discussion - along with it, though this section of the book certainly sets us on the right tracks. There are even comments on the trade unions and the challenges of unionising newer workplaces in often difficult circumstances.

    Earlier in the book Owen writes: 'In today's Britain the number of people employed in blue-collar manual and white-collar routine clerical jobs represents over half the workforce, more than twenty-eight million workers. We're a nation of secretaries, shop assistants and admin employees.'

    It's an understanding that runs counter to the dominant trends, over many years, in the Labour Party (of which Owen is a very left wing member). There is an obsession among Labour leaders with seeing the working class - if such a category is accepted at all - as something for individuals to escape from. All the talk is of opportunity, social mobility and aspiration.

    Class and debates on the left

    Towards the end of 'Chavs', there is an attempt at outlining the political consequences of recognising that class remains fundamental to our society and its injustices and inequalities. The socialist politics here is nothing radically novel, but its relevance is demonstrated countless times in the preceding chapters.

    I don't think every element of analysis in the closing chapters is correct. On four political issues there are problems. Firstly, the passages on the BNP give too much weight to working class support for the party, obscuring the fact that many BNP votes came from the middle class. There isn't any theoretical understanding of modern fascism underpinning this section.

    Secondly, Owen is right to see most 'identity politics' as a retreat from class, but he doesn't integrate racism, sexism and homophobia into a left-wing class-based analysis. Campaigns in these areas are deemed valid and necessary, but there's no sense they may be connected in some way with class (and, in turn, part of a broader political struggle). They remain autonomous spheres, separated from class.

    Thirdly, there's also a rather odd mis-representation of the Respect electoral project as a retreat from class politics. That's certainly not how most of us involved saw it. Respect was an explicitly socialist and class-based project, rather than the (Muslim) community-based initiative Owen suggests it was.

    It's true there were tensions in this regard, especially after Respect made electoral gains in east London and Birmingham. But Owen doesn't quite grasp the nature and dynamics of Respect, or the continuing importance of the left allying with (predominantly working-class) Muslims in opposition to both war and Islamophobia.

    Finally, Owen downplays 'international issues' - notably the anti-war movement - which are considered important but also seen as an alternative to 'class politics' for the left. This ignores the crucial fact that the mass opposition to war in Iraq - and resistance to New Labour's foreign policy generally - was an integral part of the crisis faced by Blairism, which also derived from failures on the domestic front.

    Political and economic issues were, and still are, intertwined. It was 'international issues' that really widened the 'democratic deficit' - that gulf between political elite and ordinary voters (and non-voters) - and sharpened the deep disenchantment with official politics.

    These differences, however, should not distract from the considerable merits and achievements of this important - and I'm pleased to say popular - book. It is especially heartening to encounter left wing ideas being aired in the mainstream, and class being discussed seriously, prompted by the publication of 'Chavs'.

    And finally... on a lighter note there is this:




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  • 30 June: Gove urges parents into classrooms to break teachers' strike

    This is, according to the editor of BBC Radio 4's What the Papers Say (via Twitter), the front page of tomorrow's Independent on Sunday.


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  • Left behind? Chris Bambery on class, resistance and socialists

    There's a thought-provoking new article by Chris Bambery on the website of Scotland's International Socialist Group. His starting point is this:

    'One notable feature of recent global resistance to austerity is the absence of the Left. There have been momentous strikes and protests across Europe, the Arab world, and even America as governments make the poor pay for the economic crisis with cuts, unemployment, and wage crunches. This will certainly continue. The capitalist system, as Marx pointed out, breeds class struggle. But this does not guarantee that the Left will respond effectively to grow its influence and membership. Resistance doesn’t necessarily build the infrastructure of the Left.'

    The full article is here: The Left in (the) Crisis

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  • Trade union membership and the working class today

    picketsAs public sector unions prepare for a day of coordinated strike action in defence of pensions on June 30th Alex Snowdon looks the state of the union movement.

  • Chartism: the birth of mass working class resistance

    John Westmoreland recalls the first great working class movement - the campaign for political and social change in the 1830s and 1840s known as Chartism. He explains the vital political lessons it provides.

  • Spain: this is what working class revolt in 2011 looks like

    Spanish protestsSpanish people have taken to the streets in huge numbers with public squares occupied by protestors opposed to austerity and calling for real democracy. Alex Snowdon argues that this is the new shape of working class resistance.

  • COUNTERFORUM: The Working class and the movement today

    The working class and the movement today with: Neil Faulkner, writer, historian and officer of the Coalition of Resistance Dot Gibson, pensioners leader and socialist activist. Pete Ramand
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  • The working class, resistance and organisation - Counterforum reviewed

    I've only just discovered the Gramsci's Grill blog, but I am adding it to my blog roll after reading this very thoughtful post: Counterforum - discussing the politics of resistance. It's a reflective piece about Saturday's Counterforum event in London, and some of the key themes we discussed.

    The paragraphs on Chris Bambery's contribution to the event, relating his comments on today's working class and rethinking/refreshing aspects of how Leninism works in practice, are especially interesting.

    After completing my current series of posts on the Leninist tradition and the need for revolutionary organisation, I hope to explore those issues on this blog.

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  • Revolutionaries, movements and class

    This is part 2 in a series outlining the case for revolutionary organisation. See the foot of this post for more.

    Lenin argued that revolutionaries must be more than merely good activists in a particular sphere, e.g. solid trade unionists fighting for better pay, but should be 'tribunes of the people' championing a range of causes, linking them together, and challenging exploitation and injustice wherever it may be.

    Every issue, every campaign, every act of resistance, is interconnected. Highlighting these connections, relentlessly promoting solidarity, forging links between groups - these are crucial tasks for revolutionaries. A revolutionary organisation, furthermore, is about (as Marx wrote) generalising from the historical and international experience of the working class.

    It is the memory of that class struggle. But more than that: events are never a simple repetition of history, so theoretical distillation of experience (not just the reciting of it) is essential. It is probably too grand to refer to a revolutionary group as a "university of the working class", but at least in microcosm that's precisely what it is.

    There are two constant tasks for any revolutionary organisation: to organise and to educate. These two processes inform each other. The world is constantly changing, so the lessons to be derived from our 'historical and international experience' are always evolving.

    Each new situation must be analysed in its own right, though the analytical tools and intellectual framework may be inherited. What matters is what Lenin called the concrete analysis of the concrete situation.

    Stale dogma is no guide to action. Marxist theory guiding concrete analysis is, however, invalauble in plotting next steps, in answering the "what is to be done" question. Constant interaction between theory and practice is essential.

    What about the interaction between revolutionaries and wider movements of resistance? A sectarian stands apart from partial struggles - such struggles don't go far enough, or involvement in them requires 'diluting' political purity. The opposite is also a danger: becoming absorbed in specific struggles without any bigger picture of the need to smash capitalism altogether and build a different kind of society.

    The alternative is to do two things simultaneously. The two interconnected poles of revolutionary organisation are political independence and participation in the broader class struggle. This is the basis of Leninism.

    It means building a politically independent organisation, grouping together those who are committed to socialism from below, while taking part in movements, campaigns and trade unions in their efforts to defend existing conditions from attack or win specific reforms.

    Revolutionaries' attitude to the unions can only be understood in this framework. It would be sectarian for a socialist group to distance itself from union organisation, which is vital for protecting workers against the ravages of an exploitative, profit-hungry system. Socialists take unions very seriously, and help build them, precisely because they bring together large numbers of working class people and - when they move into action - boost the confidence of our side to resist.

    Anything which increases working class combativity is welcome and important. Anything which wins even small reforms, especially if it is through workers' own activity, is a boost. Victories, however minor, provide hope and act as a spur to further action.

    Revolutionaries also recognise the limits of unions. They can win reforms but not end the system that breeds inequality, oppression and injustice. The same applies to all sorts of campaigns and protest movements. It is therefore necessary to maintain political and organisational independence.

    This recognition of two fixed, mutually reinforcing, poles - political and organisational independence combined with participation in broad-based struggles - is the starting point for developing any kind of united front strategy, i.e. working with reformists in coalitions and campaigns across a range of issues. A united front approach is the way out of the twin dangers of sectarianism and opportunism.

    The word 'vanguard', a military term meaning those in the front of the struggle or battle, is much-derided. Its use by the Leninist tradition is often viewed, perhaps understandably, as elitist.

    But the first thing to grasp is that what can loosely be termed a vanguard is inevitable in capitalist society. If there is uneven consciousness, with the vast majority of working class people (in non-revolutionary times) at least partially accepting dominant ideas, a small minority who reject capitalist ideas becomes an ideological vanguard.

    If the working class is uneven in how it resists the system, a practical vanguard will be formed. This is true whether or not they are gathered together in an organisation. Lenin's point is that it makes sense for these anti-capitalists - those who are ideologically and practically consistent in opposing the system - to form an organisation.

    Georg Lukacs wrote a short book on Lenin in the 1920s. He wrote about how this vanguard must constantly interact with the larger class. It must not cut itself off. He referred to how a revolutionary organisation must be 'always a step in front of the struggling masses... but only one step in front so that it always remains leader of their struggle.'

    Lukacs stressed the combination of principle and flexibility, the latter being essential because the tempo and shape of struggle inevitably change. Revolutionaries' strategies, tactics and forms of organisation must inevitably change alongside changes in the course of resistance. He put it strongly: 'all dogmatism in theory and all sclerosis in organisation are disastrous for the party.'

    Strategies, tactics and forms of organisation must be judged in relation to the current needs of the class and the movements. This can necessitate sharp breaks with old ways of doing things - a theme I'll return to in the final part of this series, on 'seizing the key link', after considering the controversial matter of democratic centralism, which is the topic for the next installment.

    Part 1: Class consciousness and revolutionary organisation
    Part 2: Revolutionaries, movements and class
    Part 3: Democratic centralism
    Part 4: Seizing the key link

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  • A Marxist History of the World part 33: The class struggle in medieval Europe

    Assasination of Watt TylerDespite dominating western Europe in the 11th century by the 14th century Feudalism was faced with a crisis that generated a wave of revolutionary struggle. Neil Faulkner looks at the causes and outcomes.

  • Class consciousness and revolutionary organisation

    This is part of a series of posts on revolutionary organisation. See the introduction to this series.

    Capitalist society is full of contradictions. It is, for example, a society in which the ugly reality of poverty and inequality contradicts the enchanting rhetoric of fairness, equal opportunities and social mobility.

    There are contradictions at the heart of how the system works. Though a system of competition, capitalism depends upon people co-operating with each other to do the work necessary for it to function. Capitalism expands and transcends boundaries, yet nation states remain important for the ruling class. We live in an increasingly interconnected world, yet divisions of nationalism, racism and so on remain.

    One of the most important contradictions concerns the ideas we have about the world and ourselves. Marxists argue that society is divided into classes - a ruling class, which is a tiny minority, and a working class, which is the vast majority. It is in the interests of the great majority of people to make a revolution against a wealthy, powerful ruling class, seize control of the economy, and create a society based on radically different priorities.

    Indeed, Karl Marx insisted that the emancipation of the working class must be the act of the working class. Fundamental social change - moving from capitalist barbarism to a free socialist society - cannot be delivered from above. Working people must free themselves.

    There's a contradiction, though, between our material interests and the fact that - most of the time, in most places - we seem to be a long way from socialist revolution. There's a contradiction between Marx's self-emanciaption of the working class and another of Marx's observations - that the ruling ideas in any age are the ideas of the ruling class. 

    The ruling class control the media, education system and other means of spreading their views, ensuring their ideas come to be seen as a kind of 'common sense'. Yet it is never, thankfully, as simple as that. Antonio Gramsci, the Italian revolutionary, referred to 'good sense' co-existing alongside this 'common sense'. He meant that ideas more in line with workers' material interests, and opposed to capitalist ideology, were also part of working class consciousness.

    It is self evident that there's a mix of different ideas and worldviews inside the working class. It's also true that an individual can have a set of complex, contradictory set of ideas inside their head. They may (for example) be impalcably opposed to public sector cuts but support the maintenance of the royal family, despite the monarchy being an institution that legitimises class priviliege and inequality.

    Consciousness is contradictory. It is uneven. This provides the starting point for discussing strategy and organisation for changing the world.

    Reformism is, in normal circumstances, dominant inside the working class movement. This finds organised expression in parties like this country's Labour Party, which is a reaction to the unambiguously ruling class politics of the Tories but also reflects the uneven consciousness of the working class. Some things are rejected; others are accepted.

    The Labour Party seeks to unite a broad spectrum of opinion within a single organisation. It also aims to reconcile opposition to many aspects of capitalism with that very system. Lenin called Labour a "capitalist workers' party" because it appeals to workers and largely reflects their ideas, but is nonetheless dedicated to managing capitalism and working within its restraints.

    Reformism isn't just about big social democratic parties like Labour. It is rooted in contradictory, uneven consciousness, and can find different expressions. When a new protest movement develops there are those who want to work within safe, established channels, or who insist on polite lobbying over direct confrontation. There will be those who seek compromise and negotiation, or who soften their demands.

    Revolutionary organisations take a different approach. A revolutionary organisation seeks to bind together those in a small (often tiny) minority who consistently reject capitalist ideas and have a revolutionary socialist outlook. This organised revolutionary minority is characterised by clairty and agreement on political ideas, by consistency in rejecting the contradictory positions generally held by reformist parties.

    This does not, however, mean rejecting the vast majority of working class people who look to the reformist organisations as an alternative to the ruling class and its political representatives. It is constantly necessary for revolutionaries to relate to broader layers and work together in joint political and campaigning activity, in trade union struggles, and so on. Revolutionaries fight for reforms alongside those influenced by reformist ideas.

    Those who characterise revolutionary groups as elitist or sectarian miss this vital element in what it means to be a revolutionary. It doesn't mean separating yourself off, to retain 'purity' of revolutionary commitment, but rather getting stuck into the struggle, being in the thick of it.

    Revolutionary organisations can decay when they weaken their politics and make compromises with dominant ideas. But they can also decay when they retreat into inglorious sectarian isolation, standing aloof from the partial but important resistance to the system involving many non-revolutionaries.

    One final point is worth noting in this opening post to the series. Revolutionary organisations can seem marginal most of the time, but in a revolutionary situation - and, as 2011 is demonstrating, these do happen - they can become critically important. An organisation built in advance, with roots in the wider movements and class, can play a decisive role when there is mass resistance and confrontations with the old order.

    Still to come -
    Part 2: Revolutionaries, movements and class
    Part 3: Democratic centralism
    Part 4: Seizing the key link

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  • Lenin: Class Society and the State

    Lenin mugshotThe violent centralised nature of the modern political state has been on display recently both on the streets of Arab cities and Britain. How should socialists view the state? Do we need a state at all? Alex Snowden introduces Lenin's classic book The State and Revolution.

  • Kill the Bill! The Eruption of Class Struggle In Wisconsin

    Wisconsin protestWe in Wisconsin are nearly two weeks into our struggle against Republican governor Scott Walker's union-busting bill and there are no signs either side is about to surrender.

  • Egyptian activists on the rise of the Egyptian Working Class movement

    TariqIn these videos a leader of the newly formed Independent Union of Real Estate Tax Collectors speaks about the struggle to form independent unions and a speaker from the Centre for Socialist Studies speaks on the working class movement.

  • Cameron's class act has spin and gone

    Installing Andy Coulson as the ConDem's spin-doctor-in-chief was always a big risk. But then the Tories, like their City-dwelling compatriots, love to gamble.

  • Abortion - rights, morals and class

    Abortion posterLaura Woods looks at the issue of abortion and how reproductive rights are central both to women's liberation and class politics.

  • Eleven Reasons to Fight the Con-Dem Cuts #7: The cuts, the counter-reforms, and the Con-Dem class war

    Fat CatThe national debt has become a mechanism by which international finance-capital disciplines the British ruling class. The bankers’ message is: protect profits and impose cuts or we sell British financial assets and create a Greek-style crisis of state solvency.

  • A Question of Class: How workers can change the world

    chinese workersWe are told by the media and politicians that the concept of class is no longer relevant. Lindsey German argues that we cannot understand the current crisis without it.

  • Capitalism and Class Consciousness: The Ideas of Georg Lukács

    Free to read or download online, Chris Nineham's short book looks at the ideas of Georg Lukács the Hungarian revolutionary whose work explored the hold of capitalist ideas on workers' consciousness and how it could be broken.

  • There's something about Lukacs: capitalism and class consciousness

    Counterfire has a very illuminating new theoretical piece about Georg Lukacs, 'Reification and the class consciousness of the proletariat', by Tony McKenna. It complements my own earlier article on Lukacs after Leninism. Here's a flavour of the new article:

    'Luk√°cs’ 'Reification and the Class Consciousness of the Proletariat' is a disorganized but masterful essay written in the aftermath of the greatest revolution ever known.

    1917 shook the entire world and all over the poor and oppressed were given a powerful impetus, not least because now history could no longer appear as a phantasmagoria, a nebulous and remote myriad of wishes, desires and policies shaped in the minds of Tsars or ministers and formalized in huge, fortified buildings which exclude the vast majority of humanity.

    1917 powerfully revealed to man ‘the tendencies out of whose dialectical opposition he can make the future’ and demonstrated that these tendencies exist in society’s midst. The present was revealed through consciousness as ‘a process of becoming’.'

    Also, Chris Nineham's new little book on Lukacs - an introduction to his ideas - is now available, along with 'Strategy and tactics' by John Rees. See HERE for the order form.

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  • Lukács: Reification and the Class Consciousness of the Proletariat

    Lukács

    Georg Lukács made a large contribution to Marxist theory, but especially significant are the series of essays he wrote under the title History and Class Consciousness. Of these the crowning achievement remains the section Reification and the Class Consciousness of the Proletariat’.

  • Cuts, counter-reforms, and the class struggle

    cameron with cleaverNeil Faulkner argues that every socialist, green activist, trade unionist, and anti-capitalist needs to see building mass action against the cuts as the central political priority.

  • A Marxist History of the World part 6: The First Ruling Class

    the City Governor of Lagash - head of a new ruling class.This week Neil Faulkner looks at the rise of the first ruling classes as the surplus created through the increasing productivity of human labour allowed a section of society to live without producing.

  • Class, education, and the Con-Dem ‘free schools’

    Michael GoveNeil Faulkner argues that the attack on education represented by ‘free schools’ is one front of the class war launched by the Con-Dem government.

  • Neo-Liberal Scotland: Class and Society in a Stateless Nation

    Neo-Liberal ScotlandDominic Alexander reviews Neo-Liberal Scotland: Class and Society in a Stateless Nation, ed. Neil Davidson, Patricia McCafferty and David Miller (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2010), 459pp

  • Alexandra Kollontai: Class and women’s oppression

    Alexandra KollontaiWhen will someone make a film about the incredible life of Alexandra Kollontai? Born into a rich family, she rebelled with an 'unsuitable' marriage, was radicalised by visits to textile factories, became a political campaigner in the late 1890's and then left her husband and child to study Marxism in Europe.

  • Lukács, Lenin, the vanguard party and the working class

    V.I.LeninIt is the Russian Revolution and its achievements that gives Lenin his place in history. But it is also the degradation of the original revolutionary spirit under Stalinism that largely accounts for Lenin's poor reputation, even on the left.

  • The 21st Century Working Class | Kate Connelly | Counterforum | London | 3 May 2010

  • The 21st Century Working Class | UCU activist | Counterforum | London | 3 May 2010

  • E P Thompson and The Making of the English Working Class

    Peterloo massacreDominic Alexander defends E P Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class - one the most debated and influential of all the books produced by British Marxist historians

  • New Labour and the working class

    Thatcher and BrownAs we enter an election campaign that may end thirteen years of New Labour government, Alex Snowden takes a look at Tony Cliff’s assessment of Labour's victory in 1997.

  • Illegal Highs: Mephedrone ban is a class issue

    Mephedrone PillsMephedrone, the latest legal high to hit Britain’s clubbing scene, is to be classified as a Class B drug within weeks and a ban on importation was put into force yesterday.

  • Why Joe Glenton is a working class hero

    Joe Glenton at ProtestPrincipled soldier deserves our solidarity, argues Katherine Connelly, convenor of Colchester Stop the War Coalition

  • Socialist education- class struggle part 1

  • Socialist education: Class struggle Part 3

  • Socialist education- class struggle part 2

  • Egypt - rise of the working class: The Independent Union of Real Estate Tax Collectors: Marxism 2009

    Tariq from the Independent Union of Real Estate Tax Collectors - te first independent trade union established in Egypt since 1957
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    Time: 17:38 More in News & Politics
  • Egypt - rise of the working class: Center for Socialist Studies: Marxism 2009

    Speaker from the Center for Socialist Studies in Egypt
    Views: 316
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    Time: 21:23 More in News & Politics

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