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What happened to the working class?

Written By: - Date published: 8:36 am, December 15th, 2013 - 175 comments
Categories: accountability, activism, capitalism, class war, democratic participation, labour, mana, socialism, thinktank, uk politics, Unions - Tags:

Hugh Mair reports in The Guardian on the unacceptable decline of working class people in public life.  While the decline may not be quite as acute as in the UK, there has also been a middle class capture of public and political life in NZ. So, how is this to be reversed?

A conservative think tank no less, the Policy Exchange reports:

There is a marked under-representation of people from working class communities in many public offices, including the Houses of Parliament and among local magistrates.

The Policy Exchange rejects practices such as quotas as the way forward, but favours positive encouragement:

The new policy should not involve quotas, ‘targets’ or legislative stipulations, but instead special initiatives to encourage under-represented groups to apply for public office.

Hugh Mair takes this report and argues that,

Of the attributes Britons hold dear, the most potent is stability. Our traditions endure, institutions survive. We seem loth to countenance revolution. And yet we have experienced a coup d’etat of sorts and the question must be asked: just when did the middle classes take untrammelled control of the levers? It always was a force; but now there is hegemony. Today, a glimpse of what has happened to the vanquished.

It’s not so much that UK working classes were a dominant force in the 60s and 70s, to later be “vanquished”.  Rather, prior to World War II they began to gain a foothold in public life, only to be banished back to the margins by Thatcher’s mob.

The Policy Exchange incorrectly implies that ‘race’ and gender are causes of the problem.  I was active in the London Women’ Movement in the late 70s and early 80s. I lived there through the whole of Thatcher’s time as PM.  The grass roots’ Women’s Movement was firmly embedded in left wing networks.  That came under as much attack from Thatcher’s political campaign against “socialism” as the rest of the grass roots left (including anti-racism groups).  What survived were those elements of diversity politics that were acceptable to the neocons – a narrowed and relatively weak version of such politics, stripped of a class analysis.

Mair makes passing mention to this point, then goes on to look at the main problem:

One can disagree with its diagnosis of the problem. Policy Exchange, true to its leaning, says the diversity policies of the last Labour government were too narrow – too much focus on race and gender – but that feels like scratching at the surface. Still, who can dispute that the problem exists?

One can look to the figures. According to the Sutton Trust thinktank – which focuses on social mobility – 68% of “leading public servants” went to private schools. It says 63% of leading lawyers were privately educated, as were 60% of the upper ranks of the armed forces. Independent schools produce more than half of the nation’s leading journalists, diplomats, financiers and business people. Policy Exchange says just 4% of MPs previously worked in manual trades.

Mair puts the decline of working class representation down to Thatcher’s mob.  He recalls the people he knew when he started as a cub reporter in the London Borough of Newham in the late 1980s:

These were people who had graduated to the council having been shop stewards and tenants’ association leaders. Charlie, the taxi driver; Lew, the tube driver; Jim, the car plant worker. I think of activists such as Sue, the diffident single mother who galvanised the residents in one tower block and then another and then built a campaign that culminateding in a clutch of dangerous tower blocks being demolished. There were working-class people in representative positions, voicing the concerns of people from their communities. Fewer now. What happened?

Thatcherism happened. The social geographer Danny Dorling details how the grocer’s daughter from Grantham fractured the post-war reality of the poor becoming less poor and the narrowing of the gap between the very poor and very rich. “By the time Thatcher left office in 1990, the annual incomes of the richest 0.01% of society had climbed to 70 times the national mean.” For them to win, as they did under Thatcher and New Labour, others had to lose. Those who lost most were working-class communities.

The result has been middle class capture of public and political life and the media.  Something similar has happened in NZ, possibly aided by the off-shoring of a lot of manufacturing.

In the 1930s’ NZ parliamentary Labour, one third of its MPs were from “workmen or trade union secretaries” (Leonard D Epstein’s Political Parties in Western Democracies, 1967: p. 187).

However, as Epstein indicates, NZ’s Labour Party was never very radical, even in the 1930s. And according to an article on the Fightback site, the NZ Labour Party of the 1930s was one that aimed to administer capitalism rather than dismantle it. Fightback is participating in the Mana Movement.

mana

Is the Mana Movement the way forward to enable the significant inclusion in public life and politics of working class people and others from low income backgrounds?

How can those on low incomes gain a real voice in politics? Should “quotas, ‘targets’ or legislative stipulations” part of the solution, or should it be all carrots?

 

 

175 comments on “What happened to the working class?”

  1. Disraeli Gladstone 1

    I think what’s missing in regards to talk of the United Kingdom is also that the working class was considered a respectable group in the post war consensus. From an elite level, there was a tad of the Victorian “deserved poor” in Harold MacMillian-esque Conservatives. He had fought alongside them in the war; he was a Northern MP and had seen the effects of unemployment. The working classes were respectable people that had to be helped. From the bottom, people weren’t afraid to be working class. It was something to be proud of.

    After Thatcher, that changed. The working classes were demonised. But, most importantly, they were demonised by the working class as well. Working class people no longer wanted to be working class. They strive to be middle class and therefore people who vote for middle class policies are people who don’t gain anything by them, but are just sheerly hoping that they will one day become magically middle class.

    And you can see the beginning of that demonisation in New Zealand. Beneficiary bashing has been around for a while, but there’s the hinting creep of elitism.

    University graduates are great, intelligent people. I’m one of them! But, by God, I wouldn’t make a horrible job of replacing a pane of glass. The handyman who can do it? Shouldn’t be made insecure about his job and financial position.

    • re headline question:..

      ..they all moved to glenfield..

      ..bought laz-ee-boys….

      ..turned their backs on their roots..

      ..and drank the aspirational-cola..

      ..phillip ure..

    • Draco T Bastard 1.2

      The handyman who can do it? Shouldn’t be made insecure about his job and financial position.

      He also shouldn’t be looked down upon for doing it and I think that is the big problem. We’ve all become bloody snobs. IMO, the low wages that these people get reinforce the low value that society puts on these types of jobs. I remember one of the present National MPs whinging that they had to pay a plumber $120/hour, almost as much as a lawyer. The tone of voice indicated that they were flabbergasted that they had to pay such a lowly person so much.

      • Arfamo 1.2.1

        Yeah. The real worth of a plumber only occurs to wealthy snobs after hours when something goes seriously wrong and they’ll pay anything to get it fixed. But then moan about having to.

  2. just saying 2

    I’m wavering about supporting Mana again in the next election. The Mana response to serial misogynists Willy Jackson and John Tamihere being taken off air was a bit of a last straw. I want a party of the working class, but if not that means exchanging one kind of discrimination and oppression for another. I don’t see why it needs to be this way. The working class is no more bigoted than any other and I don’t see why I should be more tolerant – as if we’re thick or something, and can’t help it.

    I can’t see any solution to this middle-class capture without quotas, especially within left-wing representatives. But no more bigots please.

  3. BM 3

    The working class has disappeared because all the low skill manufacturing jobs have disappeared.

    Also with the advent of of the internet and other sources of information and knowledge, people now see there’s more to life than spending 50 years screwing on bottle tops or pushing a button.

    • RedLogix 3.1

      BM’s right on this.

      Personally I’m a knowledge worker. I’ve never worked for an hourly wage rate since I was 12. I’m solidly left-wing, but in my career context there are absolutely no collective vehicles for me to express this.

      I was a member of the EMPU for a long-time, but as a salaried worker I never had any expectation that they could effectively represent me or my interests. I paid my subs out of courtesy. Besides how does the old model of being hourly paid work, when I wake at 3am with my mind ‘on the job’? Or when I spend the evening answering emails?

      In the old days the distinction between the salaried ‘bosses’ and the hourly paid ‘workers’ was clear and sharp .. you knew which side of this divide you were on and what your identity was.

      But in the modern workplace is that the subjects of politics, religion and sex are completely off-limits. It has become quite normal for employers to forbid their workers to even so much as discuss their actual salaries. The only permitted topics of discussion are the weather, sports and the ‘scandal de jour’.

      Most workers don’t think of themselves as ‘workers’ any more. They’re either like me or they’ve been re-badged as marginalised ‘independendent contractors’. Old style unions are completely irrelevant to us.

      The other big change has been the rise of mortgage debt. In the old-days when you went on strike it would be tough times, but usually the union or your mates would see that you and the family didn’t actually starve. You could tell the landlord to get stuffed for a few months, and even if you did get tossed out there was usually a Plan B somewhere.

      But when you have a mortgage, striking is simply not an option for more than one or two pay days.

      Essentially if the left wants to re-capture the spirit of solidarity it has to redefine itself completely. It’s no longer a question of workers against bosses; that old model no longer fits. It really a question of the entire productive economy (worker and business owners) against the 0.001% of hyperwealthy parasites.

      • Colonial Viper 3.1.2

        Excellent points.

        Your point about paying the mortgage: debt peonage is one powerful method of control over labour.

        Without strike funds, without legal requirement for employers to keep paying workers on strike and for banks to be forced to suspend requirements for mortgage payments, labour would always be subservient to capital.

        And of course, we have had politicians of all stripes who have allowed worker debt to climb and climb and climb, through a combination of excess taxes, faux wealth through house price bubbles, and too low worker income.

        • RedLogix 3.1.2.1

          Without strike funds, without legal requirement for employers to keep paying workers on strike … .

          I can’t see that idea coming to pass, but a combination of a UBI and ‘mortgage holidays’ would be doable. (I suspect that natural justice will demand that striking will always have to come at some personal cost to the worker.)

          What is disturbing however is the relative easy with which large corporates seem to be able to lock-out groups of workers, leveraging one production site against another at little to no cost to themselves.

          That’s another development which has marginalised the traditional union model. I’m with Bill below … the left needs to start again. And if history is any guide it will be no easier this time than it was the first time around.

          • Colonial Viper 3.1.2.1.1

            And ‘starting again’ not meaning replicating what has already failed, it has to be a new vision for a new and difficult age.

      • BM 3.1.3

        . It’s no longer a question of workers against bosses; that old model no longer fits. It really a question of the entire productive economy (worker and business owners) against the 0.001% of hyperwealthy parasites.

        I agree about the old model being gone, you just don’t have the disconnect between the employee and the boss anymore
        In so many workplaces the boss works side by side with the employees, the boss is actually good mates with a lot of workers.

        That’s why so many people struggle with unions, the union narrative of how the boss is an arsehole and he’s just out there to rip you off just draws a blank and a “WTF are they on about” from a large amount of kiwi workers.

        Also people don’t see a problem with the boss making money, he or she took the risk, worked bloody hard and deserve success.
        Successful business people are respected these days not derided.

        • Arfamo 3.1.3.1

          That model is changing too though BM. The SME boss is disappearing, being bought out and/or driven out by large corporates, like supermarket and hardware chains and even trades employers. These are the organisations that don’t give a shit about their employees and will happily pay them as little as possible and make them redundant at the drop of a hat. Where do people go when they can’t get work and the state is slapping them down even further. I dunno when it’s gonna blow but it’s got to.

          • BM 3.1.3.1.1

            Where do people go when they can’t get work and the state is slapping them down even further. I dunno when it’s gonna blow but it’s got to.

            For there to be work there must be work to do.

            One thing that’s always amazes me is how little value people especially older people and business people put on their time.

            We’re only on the Earth for a very short period yet people who are quite wealthy or easily afford to hire someone will still DIY everything, it’s just ridiculous.
            People need to be encouraged to hire people to do their work instead of mocked as being lazy or somehow superior because they get a house cleaner in or hire someone to wash the house or drive way.

            This is where so many of the low skilled could be employed, instead of giving money to some charity how about hiring someone to clean the windows or mow the lawn.

            • Colonial Viper 3.1.3.1.1.1

              You’re fucking killing me mate, did you give your login credentials to someone else?

              • BM

                Normal transmission will resume shortly. :twisted:

                • Rogue Trooper

                  stay on that station.

                  • Tim

                    is it commercial-free? Sure as hell doesn’t look like sponsorship is playing a part.
                    It’s getting close to Epiphany I suppose – what is it …. 3 weeks away?
                    He might be practicing

                    • Rogue Trooper

                      very enjoyable with my fresh avocado sandwich, just a little rock salt and ground black pepper.

                • Arfamo

                  Actually, thinking about it, the working class hasn’t disappeared. The working class originally used to describe people who worked for an employing class, whether they were the aristocracy or the (then) nouveau riche capitalist employers or their overseers (chief executives and upper management).

                  The nature of the work has changed. But we still have the same division – the working class these days includes people who are wage serfs in reality working for the same exploitative classes (or more commonly not being able to even find decent-paying jobs any more) but who haven’t clicked that they are actually working class. People like office workers, middle managers, “knowledge workers”, public servants.

                  They don’t understand they are working class until their employers decide to “let them go” because with the advent of modern communications and transport systems they can easily pay someone somewhere else in some other low wage country to do the same job. And then the working class middle managers can’t get another job like they had because there isn’t one, and/or too many more like them are competing for the few that are still around.

                  Unregulated capitalism roots entire economies and societies, but first it roots the political system, by making politicians part of it. That’s what’s happened here, and elsewhere in the west, best example being the US.

                  • Draco T Bastard

                    +1

                    Well said.

                  • Rogue Trooper

                    Excellent

                  • Tiger Mountain

                    +1

                    The “there is no more working class” because we are all contractors is bs in objective terms. Someone has to do something right? Like make cans of baked beans or put white lines on the two lane blacktop. So there are definitely still workers around. Just not all stacked up in one satanic mill or a F&P factory with its own bakery for the workers. One part of F&P went to Mexico and one to Thailand apparently where there are many working class and exploited people.

                    The class angle is describable by two.
                    1. Marxist definition of working class, ruling class, lumpen proletariat etc.
                    2. Subjective and historical role/expressions of this described group

                  • karol

                    The working class originally used to describe people who worked for an employing class, whether they were the aristocracy or the (then) nouveau riche capitalist employers or their overseers (chief executives and upper management).

                    The original Marxist definition of working class?

            • Draco T Bastard 3.1.3.1.1.2

              For that to make sense you need the majority of people hiring such services and not just the rich. If there isn’t enough people hiring then the income from such work will be too low to maintain anybody. The majority of people won’t hire people for such work because they’re not actually paid enough in the first place.

              Then we hit real economics. IF there were a lot of people hiring other people to do basic services then those people are taken away from more important work such as R&D. Yes, they probably need a good education to go with that but that too is part of real economics – it’s better for society for those people to be educated which means that we need more teachers as well.

              You can’t say that we can’t afford to do all this education and R&D because we, as a nation, have all the resources necessary to do and we don’t need foreign investment either.

          • Lanthanide 3.1.3.1.2

            The Warehouse seems to genuinely care about it’s employees.

            • Colonial Viper 3.1.3.1.2.1

              Tindall is a very very good man in that regard.

              • re tindall/warehouse/’good man’..r u kidding me..?

                ..the warehouse is our walmart..

                ..also relying on the business-model of paying slave-wages..and relying on the state to top up those incomes/subsidise their business-model..

                ..just ‘cos tindall is a clever user of spin..and picks a few wage-slaves out of the mob to be slightly higher-paid overseers of the other wage-slaves..

                ..how the fuck does that make tindall a ‘good’ employer..?

                ..and how does that make the warehouse/walmart-model ‘good’ for our country/economy..?

                ..phillip ure..

      • Rogue Trooper 3.1.4

        +1 Red.

      • Tiger Mountain 3.1.5

        Yes, but Red. The SME guys and “Unit 17 Diana Drive” people still like to get the ’vette, boat and bach.We are not all in this together apart from as humans on a limited future planet. They do this through classic marxist economics–surplus value, the labour power of the worker creates his wages at a variable early point in the work period, the owner be they capitalist or finance capitalist extraordinaire or Joe deep fry, expropriate the additional values created beyond the stated wage in the working day. This is not like buy low and sell high, or a ‘margin’ it is built in every day. Bingo, the dirty little secret of capitalism along with the tendency for the rate of profit to fall which is why they are always pushing for ‘higher productivity’ but lower wages and union busting.

        Though it looks way complicated after 30 years of the “great brain robbery” that is neo liberalism, the working class is still with us in real terms, but not in the organisational or participatory terms Karol writes about. Physical and intellectual labour applied to the resources (natural and digital) of the world equals work. But ownership is another matter. Capitalism allows both private ownership and private appropriation of the result of the work of others. Has this changed? No. So why should the working class have disappeared. Coffee, cleaning, bus rides, caring, dog walking are all types of service sector working class activity that has replaced certain “button pushing” large site working reality.

        I maintain middle class people are actually middle level socio economic members of the working class not a class of their own. Working class means people with not much besides their physical and intellectual labour power to keep them going in this world.

        • Rogue Trooper 3.1.5.1

          That is very well-written Tiger Mountain, as the poor, the working class will always be with us in Numbers.

        • RedLogix 3.1.5.2

          I maintain middle class people are actually middle level socio economic members of the working class not a class of their own. Working class means people with not much besides their physical and intellectual labour power to keep them going in this world.

          And that’s pretty much the reality for most SME owners too.

          While I accept that there will always be a natural and healthy tension between business owners and employees – that is not what’s important anymore.

          Some decades ago I worked for a moderate sized corporate still owned by it’s founder. Remarkably they paid a genuine 20% profit share annually across all non-executive staff. The real deal. One year it was a cheque for (converted to today’s values) about $34,000. It worked – I knew that every dollar I put on the bottom line was 20c in my pocket.

          Combine a decent UBI scheme that meant people had some choice about whether to work or not, and this kind of authentic profit-sharing and I would argue that much of this historic tension between bosses and workers would be just that – historic.

          Our mutual and real enemy are the money-changers. (Now all we need is someone to throw them out of the temple…)

          • Rogue Trooper 3.1.5.2.1

            The Pope, a pretty influential chap by all accounts, is speaking out. Significant.
            I read an article this week on Left / Anarchist-led students protesting in the UK against the management of their education.

        • ghostrider888 3.1.5.3

          Ch.11: The Beginning of Sorrows

    • Rogue Trooper 3.2

      +1 BM

  4. grumpy 4

    We can see what happened to the working class of NZ. A security guard gets fired for doing less than the mayor was caught for and the unionists and left politicians defend the boss??????
    There is nobody defending the worker, the “liberal left” has become the elite.

    • Paul 4.1

      Death of the Liberal Class is a non-fiction book by American author and journalist Chris Hedges.
      Well worth a read.
      Or if you prefer viewing…then
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hImYfdl5pE

    • Sacha 4.2

      Some people seem confused about the difference between elected council members and employees. The security guard is employed by the council CEO, not the Mayor. Brown’s ‘employment contract’ is with voters, and it’s fair to say he’s let us down. But the consequences of that don’t happen the same way for both roles.

      • chris73 4.2.1

        Thats sort of the problem isn’t it? One rule for them and one rule for the rest of us…

      • Grumpy 4.2.2

        Jeez, you are fantastic at spinning on the head of a pin. So it’s alright for the boss but a sacking of fence for the worker. Your comment just highlights my point. A new age trendy liberal – a Chardonnay sipping socialist.

  5. Sanctuary 5

    “…according to an article on the Fightback site, …”

    John A Lee was expelled from the Labour Party 73 years. Some people still write articles where they like to affect that they have only just noticed this revelation.

    • Colonial Viper 5.1

      Chris Hedges makes it clear that it was around WWI that the true purge of socialist thinking and activity started. It was a co-ordinated and massive US government propaganda and suppression machine.

      The McCarthy ‘anti-american’ witch hunts simply finished the job and set up the perfect stage for the corporate coup d’etat in slow motion that we have seen happen in the USA.

      Notice how the US TPPA negotiating positions have nothing to do with the interests of their people, but only the interests of their corporations?

      • Lanthanide 5.1.1

        “Notice how the US TPPA negotiating positions have nothing to do with the interests of their people, but only the interests of their corporations?”

        I feel that’s slightly disingenuous. I take the point you’re making and agree with it, but ultimately what is in the interest of the corporations are in the interests of the American public, because the corporations give them jobs. Of course American corps also funnel massive wealth to the top 1% and evade as many takes as possible, but at the end of the day they do also employ a lot of people

        It would probably be more apt to say that the TPPA negotiating positions are for the interests of the 1% who own the corporations; Holywood ain’t about to go bankrupt and the changes from the TPPA will benefit them, but by far the benefits would go to those at the top and not the average production assistant.

        • Colonial Viper 5.1.1.1

          but ultimately what is in the interest of the corporations are in the interests of the American public, because the corporations give them jobs.

          What? I’m afraid I have to push back at this very very hard. It’s almost a kind of Stockholm Syndrome. You might as well say that what is in the interest of plantation owners is in the interests of slaves, because slaves rely on the plantation owners for food and shelter. Or what is in the interests of the British Empire is in the interests of subject colonies, because the Empire brings money, trade and culture.

          Even if you were to ignore the absolute betrayal of the US working class by NAFTA, how can you ignore the parasitic nature of the corporations and corporate power on the US job market now?

          Why do you think the US minimum wage (tipped) has stayed at just over $2/hr for the last 20 years? Or that corporations and the banks get hundreds of billions in free bail out money, while millions of Americans get foreclosed on or are homeless?

          Of course American corps also funnel massive wealth to the top 1% and evade as many takes as possible, but at the end of the day they do also employ a lot of people

          you mean they employ a lot of people in China? In Bangladesh?

          While discarding the bottom 10% to 20% of their home population as a necessary economic sacrifice?

          And let’s not even start about how unlimited corporate exploitation of natural resources around the world including oil from the Arctic is going to be ‘good for workers.’ I suppose in the short term at least.

  6. Bill 6

    Hmm – if class is to be defined in terms of economic power, then it’s entirely predictable that no working class representation is present in major institutions of the left after a few generations.

    Sketchily – in the 30′s, there was no intergenerational dynamic coming into play that would form accepted pathways into positions to represent the working class on the back of established and accepted networks (eg, who your father was and his reputation or what Leninist faction you aligned yourself with) . And the gradual ‘professionalisation’ and bureaucratic specialisation, associated today with even unions, wasn’t so much there.

    Anyway – although I lament the lack of working class visibility, I don’t think it’s so much down to middle class capture or ‘Thatcherite’ dynamics so much as because the emerging working class orgs set themselves apart from the people they were supposed to represent (new, lesser bases of power) and adopted the structures and logics of those things they were meant to be opposing.

    Now sure, that means they have the appearance of something we might call ‘middle class capture’ – but the protagonists were working class representatives themselves who mimicked and parodied the structures of more dominant societal power…who played the game by ‘their’ rules…who accepted ‘their’ parameters of ‘normal’ and adopted ‘their’ sensibilities…who now, if they ever even bother to reach down from their positions of relative privilege, find themselves to be ‘out of touch’.

    It’s a natural institutional evolution given the adoption of certain initial conditions for the institutions they were forming and developing rather than the result of any dastardly (deliberate or otherwise) right wing tactic.

    And the only way forward is to begin again. But to reject the frameworks and sensibilities handed down for us to use. And that’s going to be a hard row to hoe. At the moment, I can’t quite see unions for example, refusing to incorporate or behave in accord with the ERA. That would be seen (by unionists for christs sake!) as dangerous and irresponsible…not to mention union officials seeing such a move primarily in terms of a threat to their own privilege and status.

  7. Ad 7

    In what respect is Hone Harawira not fully part of the elite?
    The Harawira clan are Ngati Porou royalty – and they let you know it at every opportunity in case you haven’t seen his mother in action.

    There are a couple of other reasons you don’t see the “working class” in public discourse much.
    1. Union membership continues to plummet, so there are fewer union media spokespeople. The upcoming merger of EPMU to the SFWU in 2014 will further decrease media organisers.
    2. Universities have long since given up being the critic and conscience of society.
    3. Societal structural reform for over 30 years has collapsed the ‘working class’ into the ‘middle class’, as the 20% accelerate away and the 80% stagnate or decline.
    4. The gradual collapse of volunteer membership (Bowling Alone), including particularly low-church membership.
    5. The collapse of the media into fewer commentators, talking to a shrinking circle of media commentators from specialist firms. Bill Rosenberg stands pretty much alone now from the progressive end.

    Whatever era you are looking back on for the Big Rock Candy Mountain of civic engagement, it’s dead.

    The new form of communicating and mobilising the unwashed progressives is …

    …right here. And the other major sites. This is the new force. We are hollowing out the MSM’s power, year after year. We are the new Crowds and Power.

    • bad12 7.1

      Ad, the first paragraph of this comment is utter bullshit, can you provide a link to this supposed ‘Ngati Porou Royalty’ claim you make or are you just spreading LIES because you personally dislike the Harawira’s,

      The Harawira’s boast no such links with Ngati Porou from the North island’s East Coast,(although there is the odd connection through marraige),

      Hone’s tribal links through both His Father and Mother are Nagti Hau, Ngati Wai, Ngati Hine, Aupouri, Ngapuhi, Ngati Whatua all of which are tribes of the upper north island…

    • Rogue Trooper 7.2

      The Technological Society The resurgence of prophecy. Pairs? From PTA to Soccer Moms. :-D

    • Murray Olsen 7.3

      Ngati Porou? Really? You haven’t got a bloody clue what you’re talking about. Keep making it obvious.

  8. Sanctuary 8

    What happened to the working class is the middle class reached down and took it over.

    The middle class only emerged as an important social phenomena with the rise of the need for specialists to administer the new economy of the industrial revolution and was not politically important until the mid 19th century, and as a group it merges at the top with the ruling class and at the bottom with the few remaining skilled artisan industrial workers. This merging has meant the values of the originally small middle class – conspicuous consumption, hard work, thrift, and “self-reliance” – have colonised the working class as well (Margaret Thatcher being the most famous example), especially as rising incomes allowed the working classes the trappings of a middle class consumption-led lifestyle. The stereotypical Victorian idle toff and indolent labourer are creations of middle class morality, as neither of them at the time would have considered work and thrift as moral virtues in their own right.

    This isn’t just “middle class capture” in the sense that the middle class controls the narrative and the working class is invisible; Rather, both classes now share the same moral values. Even the upper class is nowadays afflicted by the deadly dull political, moral and social correctness of the middle class (as good example of this is the Royal family, who are a bunch of indolent toffs who have never had to earn a living, but have to behave as if they are self-employed middle class businesspeople of a particularly dreary type).

  9. just saying 9

    …right here. And the other major sites. This is the new force. We are hollowing out the MSM’s power, year after year. We are the new Crowds and Power.

    I wish this were true, but I don’t think so. We don’t exist as a group outside of this site. What have we done together except talk at several steps remove. What are we capable of doing in this format?

    • Arfamo 9.1

      +1. The msm’s still controlling the messages, dumbing down the electorates, and persuading people – especially young people – to disengage from any interest in or gain any in-depth understanding of politics and history.

    • Colonial Viper 9.2

      The Standard does risk being an echo chamber, albeit one which probably attracts far more eyeballs (including MSM journalists) than we realise. But as I mentioned yesterday, the promotion of concrete values around concrete issues organising concrete action is the only way to win this fight.

      The working class pre-1970′s (and particularly pre 1930′s) knew how to do this.

      The irony: the more the Left embraced intellectualism and identity politics, the more it retreated into it’s head: into realms of policy prescriptions and jargon filled language.

      One of the clear advantages the Greens have over Labour right now: they have far clearer values-means-end chain that the public can understand.

      • Sacha 9.2.1

        That’s better strategising – which Labour has seemed woefully weak on since about 2005.

        • Colonial Viper 9.2.1.1

          Here’s what I know: additional government spending of $1.0B-$1.5B is all that is needed to implement a Full Employment Policy for 25′s and under.

          Additional social welfare spending of $250M pa will lift the worst off 100,000 NZ families out of poverty and allow them to re-engage with society.

          Add into that a rapid increase in the minimum wage to $18/hr.

          So basically, for well less than $2B spend per annum, less than the money foreign corporations take out of the country in one quarter, child poverty, youth unemployment and a multitude of related problems can be solved.

          Ask yourself: why isn’t it happening?

          • Draco T Bastard 9.2.1.1.1

            Because the corporations and other businesses want to keep that extra $2b+ that they’re taking out of our economy and our politicians are letting them.

            • Colonial Viper 9.2.1.1.1.1

              basically yeah.

              My view of it now is that all this complex hand wringing and policy prescriptions about what to do about poverty etc. is a farce.

              We knew 20 years ago what needed to be done to tackle poverty, and child poverty. Why is everybody pretending that this is unexplored to be developed rocket science?

              Poverty in NZ could be sorted out in short order, building up the creativity, motivation and smarts in an energised population which is ready to take this country through what is going to be a very difficult future.

            • Grumpy 9.2.1.1.1.2

              You might find that they are paying for it anyway, through welfare and crime costs. CV’s point is well made. The problem is that a lot of righties would buy into it but there is nobody on the left to sell it.

              • Rogue Trooper

                jacinda…nope? (just contasting with the passion and eloquence of the Green spokespeople on their various issues; Julie-Ann Genter immediately springs to mind, bright lady, has me convinced with good argument and analysis, and I come from the vehicle industry, she comes from academic study of Transportation )

              • Colonial Viper

                And you know what Grumpy? I’d expect each and everyone of those people 25 and under to put in a solid days work, to apply themselves 100% at their assigned roles and to perform. Personal responsibility to turn up on time, groomed, ready to go, all that kind of good stuff.

                In return, the young people get solid pay, skills training, good leadership and mentoring, quality work direction, and opportunities to advance.

                Wouldn’t take a lot of money, and as you say, we are probably paying for it now anyways, and without the benefit of building up the human capital of those young people nor having the economic benefits of their productive work output.

                • Arfamo

                  Yup. Exactly. If you want a society and an economy to thrive, everybody has to have a fair stake in it and pull their weight where they can. This is emphatically NOT what we have now. What we have now is dog eat dog and devil take the hindmost.

                • One Anonymous Knucklehead

                  I’d expect each and everyone of those people 25 and under to put in a solid days work, to apply themselves 100% at their assigned roles and to perform. Personal responsibility to turn up on time, groomed, ready to go, all that kind of good stuff.

                  Unrealistic expectations. I like the overall direction but that leaves me feeling a bit uneasy – what happens to the ones who simply don’t comply?

                  For example, those who object on the grounds that their extra work will generate more CO2? Or those who are simply anti-social or nihilists or libertarians?

                  Or just unemployable?

      • Tracey 9.2.2

        There also has to be a setting aside of the idea that a synonym for working class is working man. Pre- WWII maybe but definitely not post, or even post WWI.

    • Bill 9.3

      Okay, here’s a suggestion. Pick a date, any date sometime in January when people are done with their Xmas/new year stuff. And choose a place. And people in Dunedin who read or comment on ‘the standard’ can meet and possibly formulate some plan for an ongoing real world presence that can be developed and built over time. I’ll turn up as long there is serious intent behind such a coming together.

      And if people in Wellington or wherever want to do the same, then why not?

    • Bill 9.4

      hey-ho…I’ll put up a post later on to gather some concrete stuff together as well as thoughts beside my own ideas on basic bottom lines…

  10. Sacha 10

    Bill Moyers on class and the social contract in the United States:
    http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/12/12-6

  11. whatever next 11

    Thank you Karol, this sums it up.
    Having worked in the health service throughout the Thatcher years, it is with dismaying sense of deja vu, I see the same processes happening here. I have worked for 30 years without ever needing a benefit, my children have never claimed a benefit, and are struggling to afford a university education. I remain a staunch supporter of Labour values.
    When reasoned comments on media supporting Labour are met with “loony Left” “far left….” “It’s Friday, who cares?” from young Nat’s trolling, I despair at the future of political debate in this country. TV one’s “Seven SHARP ” ……..are they being ironic?

  12. bad12 12

    The equation is pretty simple, tho my broad brush approach cannot be seen as an absolute it is seen through the lens of having spent my childhood in what was then more or less an exclusively State House town,(Porirua),with small ‘pockets’ of home ownership,

    Across the spectrum, wharfies, freezing-workers, taxi-drivers,labourers, we all lived together and the defining principle of these working class people, many absolute Communists, was that they wanted ‘better’ for their children,

    And they got it,

    i watched as the children of wharfies became the new professionals, and noses were turned up at State Housing in preference for ‘ownership’ and i watched as the wages of ‘some’ occupations moved the recipients from ‘struggling’ into that of the comfortable middle class,

    In that Labour and the Labour movement was a ‘huge success’, however, such a success has lead us directly to where we are now,

    Labour and the Labour Movement have become extensions of the concerns of the middle class, that can be taken as a criticism but on the other hand is more a ‘realism’ of what has come from the success of the post-2nd world war Labour Movement as a whole,

    The success of the Labour Movement, and believe me a huge success during the 1960,s and 1970′s it was has resulted in the abhorrence of the bulk of the Labour Movement being in many areas of society indistinguishable from the average National Party adherent,

    Since the early 80′s the demographic shift into the comfort of the middle class has had Labour as a party pull that mythical ladder firmly UP as surely as we decry the parties of the right for doing,

    Gone are these 3 ingredients which provided the means of the struggle which allowed the working class of my parents generation to fight their way into middle class comfort and take their children along with them,

    (1), Compulsory unionism,
    (2), Free education,
    (3), State Housing offering a pathway to eventual ownership,

    These 3 ingredients which formed the path and provided the ‘tools’ of the struggle that eventually lead to the comfortable middle class for my parents generation, along with most of their children, seemingly no longer a necessity after ‘victory’ was gained were simply let go by the Labour Movement,

    In doing so, this ‘letting go’ of what was no longer of the utmost relevance in a struggle already ‘won’ the now comfortable Labour Movement simply disregarded the provision of the ‘tools’ of struggle to the next generation and thus the ‘struggle’ now becomes one of a personal rather than a collective nature which in the eyes of those left to continue the ‘struggle’ has seen the Labour Movement it’self become largely irrelevant in their daily lives…

    • Colonial Viper 12.1

      Another pillar which has gone is that of pathways for socialist education, news and media (which the unions did do some of in the day).

      The Standard adds back a tiny fraction to that nowadays.

      • Arfamo 12.1.1

        TS adds a miniscule fraction to that nowadays. Really, hardly anyone knows it’s here.

      • karol 12.1.2

        Ah, yes. In London in the 70s and early 80s, the left and women’s movement was a seamless mix of workshops on theory (how do women fit into a class analysis? kind of thing), action on the streets and workplaces, linked to music in the parks, community halls, and fringe theatre venues, print texts/newsletters, union action, Workers’ Education Classes, and direct action.

        It’s all become fractured since.

        Though there is Global Peace and Justice.
        .

        • Colonial Viper 12.1.2.1

          Absolutely. The sharing of knowledge and experience in inter-personal, social contexts is crucial to building solidarity, and the depths of networks which make a real community. Bill’s new post and initiative really recalls this, I think.

    • Will@Welly 12.2

      Good analysis. And it all kicked off with Douglas/Richardson/Prebble. To a slightly lesser extent, Muldoon, with the cutbacks in state housing.

    • Paul 12.3

      And MPs whose salaries were closer to those of working people.

      • Arfamo 12.3.1

        +1. We pay them a fortune and get monkeys living in a gilded cage (and renting out their old tree).

  13. Tracey 13

    With dimunition of unions and the struggle to make ends meet on lower incomes who actually truly represents these people. They are surely too busy trying to get through life to stop and cry “help me”?

    • Colonial Viper 13.1

      Exactly. And with cult of individualism and a loss of the teaching of socialist ideas, hundreds of thousands of people are in the dark, stuck in the system, thinking that they are each drowning alone.

      NB in the US the unions have sold out the working class, and in NZ the unions voluntarily gave up the right to hold a General Strike and chose to emasculate themselves.

      • Tracey 13.1.1

        the fact that less than 25% of workers belong to unions makes an interesting statement about the continued hatred toward unions by many on he right…

        • Colonial Viper 13.1.1.1

          It certainly does. Unions and beneficiaries are still acceptable targets of hate for too many people. Brown and coloured people are also descriminated against hard, albeit a bit less openly.

          • Tracey 13.1.1.1.1

            Some folks prefer the brown folks are lazy lie hence they are over represented in the beneficiary category… it saves facing real issues.

      • Paul 13.1.2

        The dumbing down of society is deliberate.
        Sport, celebrity, reality TV…. Mindless and vacuous.
        History shows this is what happens at the end of empire.

  14. the working-class has been folded into the lower middle-class..

    ..and the middle middle-class has moved ‘down’..

    ..so society has now been split into two competing interests…

    ..with the interests of the upper middle class..the corporates/elities..and their minions/servants..

    ..using divide and rule very successfully in their battles vs. the rest..

    ..with ‘the rest’ being that new blended-class..

    ..there are also branding issues with ‘working class’..

    ..it is like nose-picking..

    ..not something most readily admit to..

    ..at best it is where they are from..not where they aspire to..

    ..and until the ‘working-class’ and the ‘middle-class’ realise they are one..

    ..that divide and rule tactic will continue to succeed….

    ..they both have to realise that it really is ‘us’ against ‘them’..

    ..and that for the last 30 yrs..’them’ have been winning..

    ..phillip ure..

  15. Rogue Trooper 15

    “Know the darkness in yourself and you will understand the darkness in others”- is a paraphrased quote.

    Once aspirations are achieved people can become bored :-D .Then they become the Chairman of The Board , nothing better to do then than stuff up other people’s lives and futures, hmmm, a few ‘professional’ classes come to mind…better not generalize too much…; I’ve met a few and it usually costs their family as well.

    See, nowadays a person can have a whole alphabet or two of titles and academic awards in their handle (as a race, many members now know and understand more than ever), and Governments like this one in particular, STILL DO NOT LISTEN.
    The incentive I identified with most for doctoral qualification was presented to me by an ecological scientist friend at the time, completing his thesis on Stewardship, “that then people will listen to what you have to say”. Won’t be long before they are burning the works of the Habermasses here. ;)

    • Colonial Viper 15.1

      LOL quite right.

      Plenty of qualifications, no vision, and no understanding of the dynamics of actual power.

      The power elite have no such issues.

  16. RedBaronCV 16

    Has it also happened that education and work mesh more than they used to? Tried looking at telephone switchboard lately – someone crawling around a hole in the ground these days usually needs more than a bit of electronic savvy.Nobody has a wheelbarrow anymore, usually mini diggers and mechanised cart away. Even production line jobs, call centres need a range of skills.

    Agreed with most of the above and also wonder if free education right through to tertiary helped even out the class structure. In the boomer generation top lawyers had parents who had fish and chip shops. Look at John Key, Steve Franks, David Cunliffe – nothing too out of the ordinary there parent wise. It also would have taken away to university some of the people who in an earlier generation would have been your natural shop floor leader.

    Lack of free tertiary education may be going some way towards recreating a group of people with abilty but lack of wealth – the wheel turns.

    So aspirationally I’d like everyone to be middle class. Shifting the multianationals and 1%’s off all our backs so that we can share what we have much more fairly. Not sure a boss working class based narrative sounds that way. Also there are plenty of better paid people out there who are seriously worried about the lesser paid and 70% of the country in some herald survey thought beneficiaries are discriminated against.

    As an aside, looking at both the Mfat leak enquiry and Len Brown to a lessor extent, there is a smearing of people by alleagtions that are not central to the problem resulting in a lot of expensive lawyers that they have to fund. MacCarthy anyone?

    • Rogue Trooper 16.1

      it is often those that are least able to afford it who are most changed by tertiary education, particularly one in the Arts; I have a friend, a Library Manager, who has a major in Classics, and was reading the Greeks in his early 20′s. Just wonderful. Yet, the intersection of education trajectories in this country do not appear to be heading in that direction, more returning to Creation, in the scriptural sense of the word; don’t give post-modernism and de-construction to people unable to steward wisely, And reflect it right back at them. :-D

    • RedLogix 16.2

      Nobody has a wheelbarrow anymore, usually mini diggers and mechanised cart away. Even production line jobs, call centres need a range of skills.

      My father used to tell that “there’s no such thing as unskilled labour”. Almost all real work demands a level of physical and mental skills that often are not immediately apparent.

      But the point you make is a good one; virtually all productive occupations these days demand some form of tertiary education. While literacy and numeracy remain fundamental; virtually every trade, technical and professional occupation requires post-secondary school qualifications just to enter.

      One of the big losses from the 2008 election was Helen Clark’s proposal to raise the effective school leaving age to 18. That’s one plain, concrete policy I’d really like to see Cunliffe put back on the table for 2014.

      • Rogue Trooper 16.2.1

        yes, Courses for Heavy Horses.

      • Grumpy 16.2.2

        I’ll buy that…..

      • Rogue Trooper 16.2.3

        Good cheer all round…now just watch some knob come along …

      • Draco T Bastard 16.2.4

        One of the big losses from the 2008 election was Helen Clark’s proposal to raise the effective school leaving age to 18.

        And can we have it so that you can’t enter uni until 25? Some years doing some basic labouring work will help show them the truth of Almost all real work demands a level of physical and mental skills that often are not immediately apparent.

        • Colonial Viper 16.2.4.1

          Not a bad idea mate…a kind of paid social national service could fit in here…works in with the idea of full employment for 25′s and under perfectly.

        • Rogue Trooper 16.2.4.2

          been revisiting The Republic ?

        • karol 16.2.4.3

          I went to work straight from school at 17. Spent 2 years working and doing other community based activities in my non-work time. Then I went to teachers’ college, and started working on my BA part time.

          After 2 years working in school, I went to Britain and then spent a few months hitch hiking around Europe. Came back to NZ and finished my BA – had a fair amount of non-academic experience through which to understand my academic studies.

          I would recommend people following the mix that suits them. Unfortunately, there aren’t the jobs there for late teen school leavers today.

          • Draco T Bastard 16.2.4.3.1

            Unfortunately, there aren’t the jobs there for late teen school leavers today.

            I’m aware of that but I think that they could be – if we dropped the neo-liberal BS that has been destroying our economy and started doing stuff for ourselves again.

      • weka 16.2.5

        “One of the big losses from the 2008 election was Helen Clark’s proposal to raise the effective school leaving age to 18. That’s one plain, concrete policy I’d really like to see Cunliffe put back on the table for 2014.”

        Only if the curriculum is radically revised ;-) My last year at high school was tedious beyond belief. I hear this from parents and teens now too, that for some the curriculum and the way it is taught fails too many.

      • Tracey 16.2.6

        PROVIDED we have more trade type courses within schools for those who are thoroughly sick of school by 15.

        • Colonial Viper 16.2.6.1

          Or even full time employment which incorporates comprehensive trade and skills training.

          • greywarbler 16.2.6.1.1

            There are already options open for students to try different subjects that aren’t the main ones they are studying. Why not allow the 15 year olds to start choosing what they want to study apart from the basics that they still haven’t attained. These should all be in hand by the time they are 14 years.

            All that they need to know will be on tap by then
            and they could have a discussion about what type of job in what sort of sector they would feel suited for, and see what courses were available that suited that job. There would be a purpose to it. They could visit sites doing that sort of work. They could talk to people doing that sort of work. It would be a portfolio style of learning.

            At uni within a BA say there will be a number of must do’s, a number that must do to lead from the 100 level into the 200 level in a few subjects that would be needed, and then there could be some others that would provide knowledge and experience in some interesting subject previously unknown. The study becomes fascinating and draws you in. That approach might help at secondary level too.

      • RedBaronCV 16.2.7

        The only problem with a blunt 18 is that there are a bunch of kids, more than a few in my family, who are done and dusted 7th form complete and passed well and they are still only 17. no ponit in them hanging around getting bored.

    • Puddleglum 16.3

      I’m not sure how many shop floor leaders were ‘taken away’ by universities in the boomer generation.

      I went through university 1978-1981 at the tail end of the boomer generation and I remember reading at the time that only about 3 percent of people at university came from unskilled parents (it was probably just fathers who were counted). I remember that statistic because I was one of that 3 percent. (I should add that I haven’t been able to check that statistic so my memory may be wrong.)

      In my world, people whose parents owned fish and chip shops or were ministers of religion were definitely ‘out of the ordinary’. I think it says something about middle class hegemony that ‘ordinary’ is assumed to be middle class.

      But you’re right – aspiration undermines a desire for freedom and democratic control of society; and no doubt working class people – like everyone else – have succumbed to that temptation increasingly. The promise of prosperity gets traded for social and economic power – hence the political importance of individual indebtedness.

      It also stokes the desire for tax cuts as salvation has been individualised.

      • Rogue Trooper 16.3.1

        what more can be said than is contained in this thread; points to class being manipulated by the lobbyists and propagandists for capital via predominantly neo-liberal economic and neo-Darwinistic-based narratives.

      • greywarbler 16.3.2

        Puddleglum
        I have noticed that working class seem to want to abandon their connections with that calss as they become more prosperous and their kids go off to uni to become lawyers and accountants and business people. Is it impossible to straddle the classes?

      • Colonial Viper 16.3.3

        But you’re right – aspiration undermines a desire for freedom and democratic control of society; and no doubt working class people – like everyone else – have succumbed to that temptation increasingly.

        Too many people have no interest in critiquing the political economics of the top 5%.

        They just want their own place within it.

      • karol 16.3.4

        When I started uni in the early to mid 70s, I was told that something like 1-3% of the population went to Uni. So I would imaging only a tiny fraction of that were people from working class backgrounds.Even though fees were non existent, few could afford to support themselves or their children with living expenses through uni. Most relied on upper 6th form bursaries and scholarships – and only a small percentage of any age cohort got those.

        Most boomers didn’t go to uni, and of those that did, the vast majority were male and white.

        • Puddleglum 16.3.4.1

          Hi karol,

          I’ve been trying to track down some information about university enrolments by ethnicity and gender but could only get back to 1989.

          In Table 60 (page 91) in this brochure while the university student population was still disproportionately white, there were more female students than male. Table 48 (page 77) drills down a bit deeper on gender and shows that males outweighed females in full-time university study, while females had higher rates of part-time and ‘external’ enrolments.

          It may be that the 1980s dramatically changed the situation from the early-mid 70s so far as gender imbalance was concerned.

          • karol 16.3.4.1.1

            It may be that the 1980s dramatically changed the situation from the early-mid 70s so far as gender imbalance was concerned.

            Yes. Or maybe slightly earlier – the shift was underway by about the mid 70s. But then there were also more noticeable gender differences in terms of subjects as well as part and full time differences.

            My first year of part time Uni was in 1970 (I started at Teachers’ College the year before). Training to teach and studying for a degree part time was a fairly common thing for women to do back then.

            I was largely going by my perceptions of life on campus. Guy’s doing more full time study would contribute to that perception.

            See here page 5

            1961-1966 shows males in the majority of Uni graduates.

            1966-71 is where the shift starts, with very noticeable female dominance 71-76.

      • RedBaronCV 16.3.5

        Yeh, I might be a bit biased there. I was in a cheap hall of residence and the main qualification to get in was school marks so it was full of kids from country areas with ability but not necessarily rich parents. They could manage between the state subsidies and holiday jobs and/or being bonded to a govt dept who paid a wage and the fees.

  17. I feel and essay coming on, but fuck it.
    The working class can be captured in a picture book with snapshots years apart or it can be tracked like a target on a GPS.
    The WC represents nature because its labour produces wealth. Everything rests on it.
    Like nature in toto its in danger of extinction as its labour power is destroyed along with other treasures of natures bounty.
    It is the vast majority of the worlds population reliant on work or destitute because of no work.
    It is a coat of many colours and designs but underneath that coat is the same animal being tracked by the NSA.
    The WC is united in its need to survive and that’s is its future. And our future.
    Just as well as the other class which lives off the WC is on the path to destruction.
    That class will meet its end when the WC rises to the task.

    • Rogue Trooper 17.1

      I explained to some visitors the other day the significance of a simple black and white photo I self-framed on my living-room wall; It shows teams of horses, wagons and men at a lumber camp in the bush watched on by an over-seer on horse-back also. The parents of my parents lived in tents in those camps and raised large families in the 30′s. That is where many of us can recognise our origins.
      Fishermen and Ploughmen. Seamstresses and Servants.Carpenters and Carers. Then to become Lorry-Drivers and Nurses, Railwaymen and Roses.

  18. alwyn 18

    I think your cutoff date for the working class losing political influence in Britain, which you put down as being in the Thatcher years, is vastly too late.
    Have a look at the family background and education of the UK leaders of the Labour Party. All the leaders from 1906 (its foundation) to 1935 were from the lower class, and often from the very bottom of that class.
    There were 7 of them and they typically had labourer fathers and started work at about 12.
    Since then there have been 10 leaders. I have left out the pair who were only leader until they could have an election after the current leader died suddenly. Since 1935 there has only been one, Kinnoch, who could be described as having a lower class background. All the others had upper middle class backgrounds except for Callaghan who could be described as being lower middle class. Foot, who is probably thought of as being the most hard-left had a couple of his brothers who were peers.
    The Labour party there hasn’t been working class from closer to the time Maggie was born than to the time she was PM.
    You can find all the Labour leaders in the Wikipedia article on the UK Labour Party.

    • Rogue Trooper 18.1

      Thank you.

    • Colonial Viper 18.2

      Cripes Alwyn, thanks for this valuable contribution. You and BM been having drinks together or something?

      • alwyn 18.2.1

        No, I’ve never had a drink with BM, whoever he/she might be. Well I don’t remember doing so, which might not be the same thing.
        I do sometimes drink with John Key of course. There was a photo of the two of us having a beer, published in the Herald this morning along with their story about their poll.
        I’m not sure that you will believe me of course.

    • Tracey 18.3

      Isn there always going to be an element of someone from a middle class background championing the plight of the WC because the working class is focused on trying to survive and, as I said up there, don’t even have the time or energy to cry “help me”?

      • Colonial Viper 18.3.1

        That was always a role of the social liberals, the social intellectuals and the ‘middle class with a conscience.’

        But at the same time it is no replacement for an activist working class Left which is prepared to put forward and push for more radical political economic proposals, not just incremental changes in the minimum wage or better health and safety laws.

      • greywarbler 18.3.2

        Tracey
        The working class have had the energy to say help me and haven’t. We are getting comments such as the one from a tradesman who said that Labour should ask them what they want, as if they are helpless beggars, or can’t talk for themselves. They are not bothering to look after their own interests now, even when they can.

        A lot of the workers have been encouraged or forced to be contractors and there is the illusion that they are semi-businessmen and women. When some contractors about a decade ago were left high and dry without payment after a business closed and someone organised a meeting to explain the situation and air their complaints, many went only once. The second meeting to keep the pressure up, only a few attended, there was to have been a legal case put forward I think. Now that is not standing tall as an individual to fight for payment or is it banding together to present a strong united front.

        Then there was the business of letting the neo liberal Nationals get away with winding down the wages and conditions and the unions lost out. It needed a show of determination but the Unions felt beaten and didn’t start a major protest. They did in Oz. If working class people want to better themselves they have to ensure that they pay money to the union, complain if they aren’t getting enough for it, but just not abandon trying to retain their rights. Speak to the business people. Stop drinking the night that an important meeting is on and go in a group of determined, informed workmates to make a case for yourself and support your union.

    • karol 18.4

      I’ve been researching some 19th century British history recently, and some of my British family history. I have found that there wasn’t such a clear demarcation between working and middle class in the 19th century. There were the clear extremes – from aristocrats to the poor (the 19th century precariat) and semi or unskilled manual workers.

      The upper working class (skilled) tradesmen often saw themselves as more middle class. And there were also a fair amount of tradesmen who set up their own small businesses. I’ve discovered that a fair amount of my ancestors spanned that (alleged) working class-middle class divide. None were the aristocrats. Some started off fairly poor and starting work at an incredibly young age. But then went on to either establish a very successful business that grew and grew, or at least a couple of them, or their sons, spent a lot of their time campaigning for the poor.

      Working class consciousness really became strong in the first part of the 20th century.

      • alwyn 18.4.1

        What you say is true Karol, but there was a vast difference between the early Labour Party leaders and the ones from 1935 onwards. Just read a biography, in Wikipedia will do, for the first of the working class, Keir Hardie, and the first of the Middle class, Clement Atlee.
        One had his formal education finish at 7, and lived in a family that had to sell all their possessions to buy food. The other was the son of a solicitor, went to a Public School (Haileybury College) and the Oxford, after which he became a solicitor himself.
        I would suggest that they had absolutely nothing in common. They are fairly typical of those on each side of the 1935 divide.
        I remember visiting an Historic Places property in Scotland once. The person who built it had the same name as I did. One of the people suggested that we might have been related. I assured him it was quite impossible as no-one went to New Zealand in the 1840′s unless they were totally destitute and desperate. They certainly didn’t have relatives that owned Castles.
        No, I think the loss of the Working Class, and the takeover by the Middle Class, of the British Labour Party happened in Britain in the by the 1930′s

        • karol 18.4.1.1

          there was a vast difference between the early Labour Party leaders and the ones from 1935 onwards.

          Oh, yes, I agree alwyn. And I said as much with respect to the NZ Labour Party – the difference between the beginning of the 20th century & the 1930s+

          I was just saying that in the 19th century there was more a continuum between upper middle class and lower-to-middle middle classes: kind of similar to the 21st century.

          • alwyn 18.4.1.1.1

            Perhaps I was reading a bit much into what I thought you meant. Personally I have never believed that there was a line between the classes, with a divide that you could mark off. Indeed in today’s society many of the most productive, and rich, people are those who run smallish businesses. I remember seeing the owner of a small panel beating business, who might have employed 20 people, arriving at the golf course in a new $300,000 Audi. I assure you I couldn’t have afforded that.
            One should also bear in mind that in the 20th century it was also possible to rise. Henry Ford, after all, was a mechanic.
            I don’t really think, however that the 21st Century is any different to the 20th. And there is no way at all that I think the 19th century was better that the mid to late 20th, for people in first world countries at least.
            The original point of my post was, however, to propose that the vanishing of the working class from the political scene occurred a long, long time before Margaret Thatcher became the Prime Minister.

            • karol 18.4.1.1.1.1

              Yes. The working class was marginalised before Thatcher’s time. However, during the 60s and 70s, in Britain, there was a strengthening of working class voices in political discourse, and in popular culture. And socialism was pretty strong at a grass roots level of politicking.

              But Thatcher set out to destroy socialism and socialist networks in metropolitan areas – explicitly. She spat the word “socialism” as if it was something from the lowest circle of hell.

            • karol 18.4.1.1.1.2

              It partly comes back to the definition of class. The more dominant one in the latter part of the 20th century, was the UK Registrar General’s classification based on occupation. The class divide was usually put between Skilled Manual and Skilled Non-Manual occupations.

              By that classification system, I am firmly middle class.

              However, Marx’s definition was based on the amount of power a person had within industrial capitalism and its system of production: ruling class (owners of the means of production) vs subject class (those who sell their labour to the ruling class).

              Marx & Class:

              To Marx, the basis upon which stratification systems rest is the relation of aggregates of men to the means of production. The major modern classes are “the owners merely of labor-power, owners of capital, and landowners, whose respective sources of income are wages, profit and ground-rent.”

              By that definition I am part of the proletariat (working class)

              Definition here of Marxist-Leninist definition of class.

              On the basis of the above definition, Marxist-Leninists distinguish three basic classes in 19th century Britain:

              “There are three great social groups, whose members… live on wages, profit and ground rent respectively”. (Karl Marx: ‘Capital: A Critique of Political Economy’, Volume 3; Moscow; 1971; p. 886).

              These three basis classes are 1) the proletariat or working class, 2) the bourgeoisie or capitalist class and 3) the landlord class, respectively.

    • The Ken Loach film “The Spirit of 45 explains it all . I believe its now on video .It should be compulsory watching for all teenagers . When one askes what has changed o the working class one needs to realize that there are now no unions ,which were basically working class.There is no
      Workers Education Society (WSA) which educated working people in world affairs including the arts and political theory ,No more night classes for working people to follow their interests and able to debate topical,subjects .The working class today are mainly the unemployed , and beneficiaries who have no chance of being organized or who understand politics .They have no idea regarding the benefits of Trade Unions or of working class organizations,Thatcher-ism has them believing the politics of self interest me .me.me . and the filthy rich Tories encourage this belief..

  19. Rosie 19

    Well Karol, your article lead to some invigorating craic today. It’s been interesting reading, especially to this ol’ shop girl.

    Good idea about getting off the keyboards and into (well, not established where as yet) but possibly the pub, the caf, the house, the hall even. Good evolution of the talk.

    • karol 19.1

      Yes, Rosie. I was surprised when I checked TS in my work breaks today to see how much discussion had been going on here. It’s been a very interesting and quite exciting read.

  20. chris73 20

    This is not about any political party in particular but when I was going through high school there did seem to be a massive change in the educational system. The feeling seemed to be that going to uni and getting a degree was the only way to get ahead and trades and apprentices got almost left by the wayside and a BA has now been devalued to the point where its almost a waste of money

    Now the most successful (by successful I mean money and capital) people I know didn’t go to uni but it seems like both Labour and National don’t really care about trades and apprentices, I’m sure they both talk about it but thats all they do.

    Just my opinion

    • Rogue Trooper 20.1

      another one been smoking the peace-pipe.

      • chris73 20.1.1

        I wonder how many people got saddled with student loans for degrees which turned out to be worthless (if in fact they graduated at all) when they could have been learning something useful

        • karol 20.1.1.1

          “worthless” in what way chris? financially?

          There is more to learning than training for a job that you hope to get the day after graduating.

          How do you measure “useful learning”?

          • chris73 20.1.1.1.1

            My point was getting an education to get a decent job was a waste of time and money for those that were encouraged to go into universities when they would have done better learning a trade

            Using myself as an example: the career I’m in has nothing to do with the tertiary education I’ve received, in fact I’d have been better off (financially) if I’d hadn’t of done it because I wouldn’t have had to have paid off a student loan

            • Arfamo 20.1.1.1.1.1

              Yeah, well, there was no policy and programme connection between the neo-libs prescription that you needed to be tertiary educated (and thus be able to think smarter) to get a job in the magnificent job market that would result from the rich getting wealthier – and the actual job market. Funny that.

        • Rosie 20.1.1.2

          I don’t think any education is a waste of time and/or worthless Chris even if it doesn’t lead to a job or career. If you are genuinely interested in the field you are studying, rather than seeing that study as a means to an end, then it will always be fulfilling and personally beneficial.

          The problem is the cost and the debt (which I’m still carrying from ’08 btw, just for a diploma, which I wanted to continue on from and further my study but didn’t have the $$$ to do so) and the time taken off work to do study. I agree that useful, practical skills and knowledge are no longer valued to the degree (no pun intended) they once were, where as education has become a commodity. Having a shiny new education, for some, they may find is an expensive hollow status symbol.

          Folks find themselves getting stuck between a rock and hard place. If you’re at the mercy of today’s employment “market” you’re either a lazy bum because you’re out of work and clearly there’s something wrong with you or you’re a loser because you never went to university.

          If you’re educated, to paraphrase what you said, you come out of the education mill with a degree that nobody, now, wants to know about.

          And then theres those of us with a solid array of skills with a bit of an education who nobody wants to know about either. Either too qualified for the job you’re told or not qualified enough. Employers don’t understand people have the ability to adapt or learn.

          • chris73 20.1.1.2.1

            “I don’t think any education is a waste of time and/or worthless Chris even if it doesn’t lead to a job or career.”

            - It is if your aim is to get a career going

            “And then theres those of us with a solid array of skills with a bit of an education who nobody wants to know about either. Either too qualified for the job you’re told or not qualified enough. Employers don’t understand people have the ability to adapt or learn.”

            - I admit I’m lucky in that the career I’m in doesn’t require any tertiary study to enter and its a field that will always be needed

            • felix 20.1.1.2.1.1

              No tertiary required to do right wing political spin, but you do have to be a bit of a cunt.

              • Arfamo

                No you don’t. Cunts are cute. You have be an arsehole to do right wing political spin. And you have to be either an arsehole or a dick to believe it.

                • Rogue Trooper

                  and some people find them appealing too.

                  • McFlock

                    sure, arseholes might be appealing to some people. But they’re still full of shit.

                  • Arfamo

                    Christ. You’re right. Capitalist running dogs. Is that any better?

                    I know, I know, you have be a dunny brush to do right wing political spin. And you have be either a turd or an imbecile to believe it.

                    Doesn’t have quite the same impact, I admit.

                • chris73

                  Cough cough *ahem*

                  “Pussies don’t like dicks, because pussies get fucked by dicks. But dicks also fuck assholes: assholes who just want to shit on everything. Pussies may think they can deal with assholes their way. But the only thing that can fuck an asshole is a dick, with some balls. The problem with dicks is: they fuck too much or fuck when it isn’t appropriate — and it takes a pussy to show them that. But sometimes, pussies can be so full of shit that they become assholes themselves… because pussies are an inch and half away from ass holes. I don’t know much about this crazy, crazy world, but I do know that if you don’t let us fuck this asshole, we’re going to have our dicks and pussies all covered in shit!”

                  [lprent: Enough! All of you. ]

              • chris73

                Yup free-lance political spin-meister, thats me all right

      • alwyn 20.1.2

        Actually Phillip Ure put us onto a source of a particularly good load of pot, and we have all been indulging. Don’t worry, the hangover tomorrow will put everyone back to normal and the epithets will be flying.

  21. captain hook 21

    first of all the masses got seduced by television.
    second the robots never took over all the shit working conditions and thirdly the geeks in the New Zealand Labour Party have done their best to keep real working people out of the local organisation and the patronage and sausage rolls that go with it.
    Last of all whatever the rights and wrongs of it the working people of new zealand dont wat a bar of the politics of sex and gender and sucking up to people to whom they feel repugnance.
    Is that enough to go on with?

    • karol 21.1

      Yes, the Labour Party took a wrong direction when it started to focus on the interests of middle income people.

      politics of sex and gender and sucking up to people to whom they feel repugnance.

      That seems like a whole diverse lot of people rolled into one piece of hate.

      The working classes (however they are defined) includes women and LGBT people. It’s in the interests of the wealthy elites to divide the working class on lines of gender, sexuality and ‘race’.

      Key’s government has been particularly bad news for low income women, especially single mothers on benefits, and women as a major part of the casualised and part time workforce.

  22. captain hook 22

    No Karol it is not hate.
    That is where you are wrong.
    It is the reaction of people at the bottom of the heap who see the poltics of sex and gender over riding their desire for a better standard of living for those who do the real work.
    You know like cleaning toilets and cutting down trees and pulling cows tits or is that sexist by your defintion too.
    do not confuse the is and the ought.
    in my experieince working people are tolerant of homosexuality but not when it overrides their ability to be heard by the party that is supposed to be working in their interest.

    • karol 22.1

      And who does most of the cleaning of toilets? That is part of the politics of gender and “race”.

      As I said in my post, the neoliberals overrode the grass roots women’s movement, and stripped it of class politics. Class and gender etc politics are inseparable.

      Where is the evidence that homosexuality has over-ridden the ability of working people to be heard?

      Homophobia can’t result in insecurity at work or when applying for jobs.

      The neoliberals did a very good job of dividing the working classes.

      • Rogue Trooper 22.1.1

        well the temporary supporters of the Tories are being divided back over asset sales.
        may have some relation to the class whose taxes and labour established them, the now formerly “working class”.

  23. captain hook 23

    the working class can kiss my arse.
    I’ve got the foremans job at last.
    Face the challenge dude.

  24. Murray Olsen 24

    The working class can kiss my arse
    I’m the member for Mt Roskill at last
    I love free trade, and cannabis crime
    For the tangata whenua I have no time

  25. Chooky 25

    I am late for this discussion….but in my opinion ….the best thing that can be done for the working class and the middle class ( often impoverished ) is to provide them with FREE TERTIARY EDUCATION……in fact all state education must be free and to the highest possible standard

    ….this is what they more or less have in Germany and France ( and the working class is strong and activist there unlike Britain where education is class riddled /exclusive and expensive) …and this is what what we once had in NZ!( John Key took advantage of this!)

    ….once upon a time in NZ many of the students at university were from working class backgrounds ( parents were manual labouring backgrounds with no university experience) and they are now PhDs and lawyers and HODs

    Quality state education to the PhD level is a HUMAN RIGHT !

    …moreover we need it for a strong economy

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