Showing posts with label working class. Show all posts
Showing posts with label working class. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Understanding class


There are two classes in society - the one possessing wealth and owning the means of its production, the other making the wealth by using those tools and technology but only with the permission and only for the benefit of the possessors. These two classes are necessarily in opposition to one another. We have before us today, in capitalist society, masters and slaves, exploiters and exploited but to put it more bluntly, robbers and the robbed. Two economic forces whose interests ceaselessly clash, are pitted against each other. These two classes can never be reconciled and it is this that we call the class struggle. Workers, be they “white” or “blue” collar, skilled or unskilled, because they are workers, cannot survive except by selling their labouring power. Yet were it not for the working class, the whole social fabric would collapse in an instant. It is they who do the useful work. It is they who produce the wealth.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Ca' Canny

The Libcom website has an interesting working class history article on the Glasgow dockers "ca' canny" go slow campaign of 1889.

To break strikes the employers regularly brought in scabs from other cities. Workers had to devise another industrial struggle strategy.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Without the Rose-tinted Glasses


This rather unsympathetic article by Gary Girod about Red Clydeside is of interest and a rich source of facts and details.

The Background

For many years, the Left have painted a picture of Glasgow and Red Clydeside as a revolution that almost was. Some have argued that the unrest in Glasgow during WWI and the immediate post-war period was a prelude to the establishment of a workers' republic in Scotland. Willie Gallacher's said of the 40 Hours' Movement that "we were carrying on a strike when we ought to have been making a revolution." Memoirs written decades after the 1914-1919 period and the government's hysteria paint a picture of Clydeside which was far more revolutionary in hindsight than it ever was in reality. In 1983 Iain McLean's "The Legend of the Red Clydeside" asserted that Red Clydeside was neither a revolution nor "a class movement; it was an interest-group movement." Glasgow was not Petrograd and it never could have been. Its goal to maintain the standard of living in Glasgow as the war strained the economy. According to the 1916 STUC report, the cost of living between July 1914 to July 1915 increased by 35% while food prices increased by 17% in small towns and 19% in cities.This would prove to be but a mere taste of the war's costs for the lower class. By December 1917, food prices had increased 106% while the cost of living increased by 85% to 90% as compared with pre-war levels. Workers' wages did not even come close to keeping up with this inflation. By April 1917, skilled laborers' wage increased by only 50%.

In 1913, for the first time in the history of Great Britain, a census of production catalogued the wealth of Great Britain. According to the report the £712,000,000 that formed the net output of Great Britain was divided between 6,984,976 workers, which would mean that if this wealth was divided evenly, each person would make  £102 per year. However, the average wage of workers in Great Britain was "officially stated to be not more than 24 shillings per week, or  £62 4/- per annum. Thus in 1907, the British worker was generous enough to pay the manufacturer  £40 per annum for the privilege of working to produce wealth. The Scottish Trades Union Congress uses the findings of the report to calculate the inequality amongst engineers and determined that the "net output per person employed [was]  £108." Meanwhile, the average annual wage of engineers was £67. "There is the simple answer, £41 per employed person to the capitalist." The 1920 Manifesto of the Socialist Labour Party notes that "of the wealth produced in this country, roughly £1,700,000,000 per annum, the workers' share is, according to capitalist authorities, less than £665,000,000 so that the working class gets little more than a third of the wealth produced." The manifesto would conclude that "this is wage-slavery."

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Tough at the top? Not really

Capitalists love touting the benefits of trickle-down economics. It is a rationalization of inequality. By linking the welfare of the working-class  directly to the prosperity of the rich, they can protect the interests of corporations and the wealthy without the fear of backlash.

The investment banking hierarchy is essentially a large bureaucracy. At the bottom are the manual unskilled maintenance staff like security guards, the janitors and the cleaners who keep the offices safe and warm and clean. Then there are the administrative assistants, who support several bankers at one time and make about $35,000 a year. Above them are the analysts, college graduates whose life consists of 120-hour work weeks and an endless stream of menial tasks for $65,000 to $90,000 a year. Next up, and supported by the analysts, are the associates -- freshly minted MBAs with more than a $100,000 in school loans hanging over them -- who can look forward to taking home between $100,000 and $175,000 a year. If these young men and women, who work 90-hour weeks while trying to juggle a family, survive long enough to become vice presidents, their compensation can rise to $200,000-$300,000 per year.

Above the vice presidents are the directors, which is a training zone for the next pay grade (or a graveyard for those who don't have what it takes). Directors rely on the workers below them to do all the grunt work, including research, financial analysis, and client presentations, while they mainly babysit clients and occasionally come up with ideas to pitch to them. Their pay for these relatively cushy tasks ranges from $350,000 to $500,000 per year; but even this is meager compared to what their superiors make. Managing directors, who work even less and spend more time golfing instead, can make anywhere from a million to several million dollars a year.

Finally you have the really big fish -- the CEOs, presidents, executive vice presidents, and others who manage the entire circus, think deep thoughts, and schmooze with politicians to get regulations loosened. What makes these gigs so coveted is not just the fact that few ever manage to join that echelon but that the pay-scale jumps to tens of millions of dollars (even hundreds of millions) per year for work that is only moderately more challenging than that of the managing directors. It may be lonely at the top, but it's  lucrative.

It should be clear from the above that the wealth generated in these organizations gathers mainly at the top of the pyramid, while the people at the bottom, who do a lot of the heavy lifting and are instrumental in building that wealth, receive only a fraction of those riches. Sure, the pay scales in investment banking are pretty good by the standards of other industries, but it is the proportional difference between the compensation at the top and the bottom that makes a difference. This large income gap leads to an exponentially faster accumulation of wealth in a few hands, which in turn widens the prosperity gap even more. In other words, prosperity is not really trickling down but trickling up.

The more wealth trickles up in the capitalist system, the more it frustrates those at the bottom -- without whose efforts that wealth could not be created in the first place.

Taken from here

Monday, February 06, 2012

Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) has called for a new body to be set up to protect workers from abuse and exploitation by bosses. In the past two years, Scottish citizens advice bureaux have handled 107,000 cases where people claimed to have been treated unfairly at work. CAS said it feared that could be the tip of the iceberg.

The Fair Employment report said one of the "key features" of the recession had been that "many employers retained staff on less generous terms and conditions rather than making large numbers of employees redundant". While it said this was "usually preferable" to redundancy, it claimed cutting workers' hours and wages could have a significant impact. The report stated: "As a result of the fragmented enforcement regime, our evidence shows that many employees are unable to raise and resolve poor practices that they experience at work. This leaves some employers free to continue inadequate and sometimes illegal employment practices."

CAS head of policy Susan McPhee said "It is time for the government to give exploited workers somewhere to turn, through the creation of a Fair Employment Commission with the legal powers and resources both to secure individual vulnerable workers their rights, and to root out the rogues. As a society we might have hoped that workplace exploitation was a thing of the distant past. Sadly, this report shows that many Scots are still being treated unfairly. Examples include illegal changes to contracts, unfair dismissal, low pay, withheld wages and victimisation of those who have tried to demand their rights."

Such good intentions but the government is the executive committee of the capitalist class and represents their interests, not the workers. A few cosmetic changes may be possible but the balance of power will always favour the employer.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Class

The newspaper reads "The number of middle-class homeowners in Scotland who are declaring themselves bankrupt is rising dramatically...The trend is being blamed on the well-off no longer being able to use rising equity in their homes to finance their lifestyles and pay off debts.."

Oh , how often we come across the expression "middle class" , as if those people are somehow different from the working class. This article from the archives of the Socialist Standard explains why there is no such thing as middle class and that we are all members of the working class.

Getting the blues in suburbia

There aren't many factory workers like me in the area where I live - a pleasant suburb called Giffnock which lies just over the south side of the Glasgow boundary. I moved there about five years ago and when my workmates heard where I was moving to they were amazed. Al­most all of them live in council flats or houses (Scotland has a much higher percentage of council and other rented housing than England) and they seemed to place Giffnock in the same wealth bracket as Beverley Hills or Mayfair. "They've all got money up there" I was told.


Of course, when I moved into the place I found the reality to be just as I expected. Nearly every household is de­pendent on at least one wage or salary earner and so far I haven't met or even heard of a single millionaire. On the other hand, I have met people who have equally strange notions about factory workers. They presumably get their ideas (preju­dices would be a better word) from the media and are quick to condemn strikes and wage demands which they imagine industrial workers indulge in every five minutes, just for the fun of it.
Obviously, different sections of the working class have false ideas about the others, but it only needs a look beneath the surface to see the essential sameness of all their lives.


Every morning from Monday to Friday, excluding holidays, I leave home at three minutes to seven. I buy my news­paper in the newsagent round the corner and stand in a shop doorway waiting for my lift to work. I get picked up about five minutes past seven and we are on our way. The streets are deserted and as we approach Eastwood Toll we, pass the big houses and the tall blocks of luxury flats which sell for around £80,000. All of them are in, darkness so the occupants must still be in bed, and' it's the same with the bungalows just along the road.
In the next ten minutes we pass through the massive Pollok council estate. There's plenty of lights burning in the houses here and lots of activity, with people walking along the streets, standing at bus stops or waiting at corners for their lifts. Most of them probably feel, like me, that it's tough having to start so early, but in an hour's time the Fenwick and Kilmarnock roads will be jammed with the cars of the salary-slaves from Newton Mearns, Whitecraigs, Williamwood and Giffnock all heading into. the city. For despite what my workmates may think, most of those who live in the big houses, luxury flats and bungalows are employees too, and the fact that they start around nine changes nothing-except that they get home in the evening an hour or two later than we do.


So there are superficial differences between these owner-occupiers and council tenants but the things they have in common are much more important. Like problems, for instance. When we read about all those redundancies in factories, shipyards and steelworks, does anyone imagine that only the shopfloor workers are involved? "White-collar" workers, right up to the highest levels of management, get the push, too. They are not immune to this (nobody is these days) and many of them live in places like Giffnock.


Just recently we noticed that Ian, one of near neighbours, was home a lot during the day and, his car was usually parked outside his house. Eventually we learned what had happened. He worked as some kind of executive (he sometimes talked about his "staff" ) in a big whiskey com­pany, and as the trade is in the middle of its biggest slump in over fifty years his employers had "let him go".
Ian's problem now is to find a new employer. Naturally, a man in his position will look up the situations vacant columns in so-called "quality" news­papers like the Scotsman and the Glasgow Herald rather than the more "popular" Daily Record. There was a time when he could have made an appointment at the impressively titled Executive Register, but not now. The Register was closed as part of the government's economy drive so instead of a private interview in a posh office with a fitted carpet, Ian may have to go to the local Job Centre the same as anyone else.


It cannot be denied that the in­habitants of Giffnock are generally a bit better off than those in, say, Pollok. Here and there you can see an extension being built onto the back of a house or maybe double glazing being installed, but they feel the pinch just the same as workers in industry. Another neighbour, Colin, hasn't taken his family on holiday for two years. "Can't afford it", he tells me; the high interest rates which mortgage payers currently face could be the reason. There must be lots like him in Giffnock.


So some of them try to earn a bit extra just as electricians, plumbers, painters, joiners, and other workers do by taking on "homers" in their spare time. The local newsagents have some cards in their windows which demonstrate this. For example, a local man who is probably an architect will draw up plans for your new extension or garage; an accountant offers his services and someone who is "fully qualified" will provide English tuition in the evenings. In the next street there is a woman who does part-time market research. They need more cash, too.
The classified ads in the newspapers also tell a story. Some years ago the dis­covery of oil in the North Sea encouraged speculation that the fuel would cost next to nothing, so people in places like Giff­nock rushed to have oil-fired central heating systems installed. Nowadays the rush is to convert to cheaper gas and the ads are filled with unwanted oil burners and tanks but you can't give them away. I know, I had to pay the local dustmen to get rid of mine.


The fact that many people in places like Giffnock live in better houses, do different work or earn more money than some others does not elevate them out of the working class. They still have to work for a living, worry about making ends meet, face the indignity of the sack and in one degree or another, suffer the prob­lems created by capitalist society. This is what places them firmly in the ranks of the workers whether or not they like it or my workmates know it, and the passing of time makes it more and more evident.


V.V.
Socialist Standard January 1981

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

we don't need no edookashun

The report confirmed what official statistics already indicate: that children from deprived backgrounds tend to do worse at school .

By analysing a long-term study of 14,000 young people in England, it found that youngsters in certain neighbourhoods were less likely to stay on in full time education after the age of 16.
The areas with the lowest educational aspirations, termed "low horizons" by the researchers, were characterised as deprived, close-knit cohesive communities with high levels of social housing and a history of economic decline.
The areas pinpointed by researchers were mainly those formerly dominated by heavy industry, often in the north of England. However there were also clusters of neighbourhoods in isolated rural areas of East Anglia and the west country.

An analysis of the 2008 GCSE results showed that only one in six white boys who are entitled to free school meals obtained the government's benchmark of five good GCSEs.

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