Dear Telegraph – I will TELL you when it’s class warfare

April 24, 2009

Yesterday’s Telegraph headline was “The Return of Class Warfare”.  Apparently, the government’s decision to raise income tax on incomes over £150 000 to 50% is class warfare on par with Stalinist purges, etc.

Right now, if you make over £40 000, then you are in the top 10% of earners in the UK.  So, those on £150 000 are a wealthy minority indeed.  Taxing them 50% is not class warfare – it’s basic common sense.

On a 50% tax rate, you would still take home £75 000.  £75 000!!  I actually don’t know what I would do with that much money!!  I mean, there’s only so many pairs of shoes a person can own.  I love books – but you can only read so many at a time.  Also, there are charity shops, as well as this new-fangled invention called ‘a library’.  I like earrings, but I like cheap earrings I don’t have to worry about losing or breaking.  I own one really nice pair of pearl earrings that my favourite aunt (and godmother) bought me when I got married, and a really nice necklace I bought myself for my wedding.  And I wear them about once a year – they’re too nice to wear every day, they don’t match anything else I own, and I worry about losing them.  I suppose I could buy a house, but there’s just me and my partner, no children, so there’s not much point in buying a very big house is there?  Just  more cleaning to do (by which I mean, for my poor put-upon partner to do, as I am a slob).

At some point, I think people are obliged, not just practically but also ethically, to ask themselves – how much do I really need?  I’m not suggesting everyone should live a life of extreme asceticism.  Have fun!  Go to plays!  Go on holiday!  Buy that really nice pair of shoes!!  But at some point, it has to be recognised that no one needs 34 pairs of shoes, and that apples from Waitrose taste the exact same as apples from Aldi.  Having a 3 bedroom house when you live alone is actually immoral in a country where others are homeless.

I also think people who are making anywhere near £40K + are obliged to step back and recognise how lucky they are, financially (unless of course they are supporting 6 children with that one salary or something).   My partner and I are both working, both making middle-class salaries, for the first time since we’ve met.    Our combined income is about £40 K, and you know what – we’re doing really well.  It’s a huge change from last year, when we were living on my salary alone (which worked out to both of us working full-time for less than minimum wage), and each heating bill was a major crisis.  At the moment, if we weren’t trying to pay off our myriad debts before deflation sets in, we’d have ludicrous amounts of disposable income.  I’d be able to actually buy stuff at Monsoon instead of just looking longingly through the window (not a lot of stuff, mind you).  So when a couple in The Guardian talks about struggling to get buy on twice as much – I’m sorry, but my sympathy is limited. 

With all the panic about the Recession, there’s very little concern for the people who are going to be hurt the most.  There is this weird disjuncture between the “money-saving tips” found in The Guardian and the rash of new budget books, and the actual lives of a lot of people in the UK.  Most of the “money-saving tips” are things I’ve been doing my entire adult life, out of economic necessity at first, and then later, out of a dislike of waste.  Of course you should plan out your meals for the week and then draw up a grocery list, rather than just buying food at random.  Not only will you save money, but you won’t waste food.

But there are a lot of people who have either been doing this already, or for whom this is already extravagant – people who go to Asda, buy whatever is on sale, and then work out what can be made with it, even if it’s not terribly nutritious.  They can’t cut back anymore,  not without giving up food, or heating.  There’s a phrase used in Toronto to describe the situation of people on minimum wage or benefits – “Pay the rent OR feed the kids.” 

There is nothing in this budget that is going to really help those people – child benefit has gone up a pathetic £20/year. 

So yes, if you make £150 000/year – you should be paying at least 50% tax.  Outside of London, if you make £40 000/year, you are comfortably upper middle class (and in London, comfortably middle class).  If you are making more than £20 000 and you have no children, then you are doing better than at least half the country.

Actual class warfare would involve massive redistributions of wealth, so that no one is wondering how they’re going to make rent this month.  It would involve a mainstream media that recognises that going out for dinner once a week instead of twice a week is not a “money-saving tip” if you’re struggling to pay for groceries.  And it would involve all of us who are middle-class seriously reconsidering our priorities, and recognising the difference between “want” and “need.”

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12 Responses to “Dear Telegraph – I will TELL you when it’s class warfare”

  1. droog Says:

    Not to rankle you even further, but the 50% tax applies only to the top bracket, that is, marginal income above £150,000. A person making £150,000 still falls in the lower two brackets. For example, a person making £200,000 will get a net pay of around £122K, with about 39% in taxes.

    It’s 20% for the first £37,400 plus change
    Then 40% on anything between £37,400 and £150,000
    Then 50% for anything after that.

  2. charlielittle Says:

    Just to be pedantic,I’m not sure what you mean by your title: ‘You’ won’t be telling anyone when its class warfare time, cos you are middle class.

  3. Gwen Says:

    You’re absolutely right, of course. Obviously, liberation movements have to be led “from below”, by the people most oppressed by the oppressive system in question. I tend to forget that with capitalism, not only because of my own relatively privileged position (though that’s obviously a big reason for me being obtuse), but also because, of all liberation movements, anti-capitalism seems to have the most adherents who are also relatively privileged. Marx & Engels were both from middle-class backgrounds; Engels’ dad owned a multi-national corporation.

    Your comment got me thinking generally of the role of privileged people in liberation movements. Absolutely, liberation movements should be led by oppressed people. But I do think that it is possible for privileged people to be committed allies. Men can be feminists. White people can be anti-racist activists. In fact, I would go further and say that privileged people SHOULD be allies.

    There are two reasons for this. First, all systems of oppression are intersecting and interlocking. If you are oppressed by one system but benefit from another, you will never be able to overthrow the first system without addressing the one from which you benefit. Or more clearly: as a white, middle-class feminist, I know that if I am not anti-racist and anti-capitalist, then I am not actually a very good feminist. Patriarchy will never be overthrown without addressing capitalism and racism, as well as homophobia, ableism, transphobia, and other systems of oppression.

    Secondly, even while some people may benefit from systems of oppression, ultimately I think they hurt and warp everyone. So men may benefit from sexism, but they’d be a lot happier in a sexism-free world, where they were not expected to live up to arbitrary standards of masculinity. Same thing with capitalism – the middle class and wealthy obviously benefit from capitalism, but I think that ultimately capitalism makes everyone miserable.

    However, being an ally, of course, means first and foremost taking direction from the people most directly impacted by sexism/racism/capitalism, or any other form of oppression, so your point is very well taken. Though for rhetorical purposes, “LCAP will tell me when it’s class warfare and then I’ll let you know” doesn’t have the same ring to it ;-).

  4. Jen Says:

    Guys, you’re both university-educated white collar workers in the UK, economically-speaking you’re virtually identical, if there is a difference it’s largely down to the fact that lesbians have it harder than most economically speaking in the UK. Still, neither of you lives in a country that most production gets outsourced to, where people only ever get to use the stuff they make second- or third-hand, and you both live in a country that is definitely doing the dumping on poorer countries, that is not a dumpee from a rich country.

    Can I suggest that, at this point, having an S&M fest over your respective identities and “intersecting oppressions” is probably not the most constructive thing you could be doing? Particularly if it’s over who gets to embody the theories of a beardy bourgeois German dude.

  5. Jen Says:

    … none of which prevents either of you, of course, from being able to tell the difference between class warfare and taxing the rich a bit more, or from informing the Telegraph of that difference.

  6. Gwen Says:

    Can I suggest that, at this point, having an S&;M fest over your respective identities and “intersecting oppressions” is probably not the most constructive thing you could be doing?

    I certainly take your point, and very little annoys me more than people who mistake self-involved guilt-tripping for actual activism. However, I think it is really important for people to acknowledge their privilege, as the first step in taking responsibility for said privilege, and to think about what that means for them within the context of radical political movements. If you don’t do this, then you get the dread “I’m a feminist if I say I am kitten” phenomenon that you see sometimes with certain wannabe male feminists.

    neither of you lives in a country that most production gets outsourced to, where people only ever get to use the stuff they make second- or third-hand, and you both live in a country that is definitely doing the dumping on poorer countries, that is not a dumpee from a rich country.”

    Generally, once again you’re right. But of course it’s not that clearcut. There are people in the Global South wealthier than I will ever be, usually because they are fully complicit with the exploitation of 90% of their fellow citizens. And there are pockets of extreme poverty in Western countries, usually linked to the exploitation of Southern countries. Mass unemployment caused by outsourcing for example. Or the continuing colonisation of First Nations and Inuit people in Canada and the links between that and neo-liberal economic imperialism. These overlapping links are important because they demonstrate, first of all, how a variety of different oppressions intersect, and secondly, because they show were inter/trans national alliances may be possible.

    … none of which prevents either of you, of course, from being able to tell the difference between class warfare and taxing the rich a bit more, or from informing the Telegraph of that difference.

    Quite. I am just assuming that charlielittle somehow felt that my statement suggested I was assuming a leadership role of some kind.

  7. Jen Says:

    I certainly take your point, and very little annoys me more than people who mistake self-involved guilt-tripping for actual activism. However, I think it is really important for people to acknowledge their privilege, as the first step in taking responsibility for said privilege, and to think about what that means for them within the context of radical political movements. If you don’t do this, then you get the dread “I’m a feminist if I say I am kitten” phenomenon that you see sometimes with certain wannabe male feminists.

    I think it’s important to be aware of your position in the world. To make it the be-all and end-all of how qualified you are to speak on a certain issue is, however, to enshrine it as something essential that must always exist. You have to acknowledge that differences in material situations exist. My problem with the concept of “privilege” as the word is so often used in the feminist blogosphere (which is definitely not the correct meaning of the word) is that, well, in a way it’s an excuse not to question it, isn’t it? I was born this way, therefore I’m not qualified to speak and can go play outside instead. Woohoo!

    Besides, there’s a simple way to determine if, as per your example, a male feminist is a feminist: you scrutinize his political opinions. If he believes in the socially-constructed feminine as a model of oppression, then he’s a feminist. If he’s spouting a bunch of chivalrous bullshit, then he’s not (whether he’s aware of it or not…). Same goes for anyone regardless of their identity. Then again, whether they’re interested in doing valuable work for a cause is another matter again – if they’re there just to mouth off and feel good about themselves, then they can fuck off until they feel enclined to do some work. But there again, identity has nothing to do with it. I’ve seen some blowhard male feminists, but that’s precisely they’ve been focused on their identity above all else. I’d still rather have Ian MacKaye in my corner than Julie Burchill.

    Generally, once again you’re right. But of course it’s not that clearcut. There are people in the Global South wealthier than I will ever be, usually because they are fully complicit with the exploitation of 90% of their fellow citizens. And there are pockets of extreme poverty in Western countries, usually linked to the exploitation of Southern countries. Mass unemployment caused by outsourcing for example. Or the continuing colonisation of First Nations and Inuit people in Canada and the links between that and neo-liberal economic imperialism. These overlapping links are important because they demonstrate, first of all, how a variety of different oppressions intersect, and secondly, because they show were inter/trans national alliances may be possible.

    You’re absolutely right of course, and I wasn’t going to go into that much detail. But if anything that proves how little there is to choose between your material situation and Charlie’s: all three of us here, actually, are white collar workers on probably much the same income (mine’s pretty low, and I live with a call-centre worker, so his income isn’t exactly high either). And it makes it all the more ridiculous that we should be bickering over our respective identities: although we’re all struggling somewhat economically, neither of us is exactly living in poverty, though we are closer to that than to the people who jet to Dubai every Saturday (Dubai being an excellent example of what you pointed out, also).

    Quite. I am just assuming that charlielittle somehow felt that my statement suggested I was assuming a leadership role of some kind.

    Or that you were speaking out of turn. Either way – you don’t plan social unrest like you would a dinner party, we’re all (or have been in the past) part of groups who plan to do just that, which is probably misguided, though some perfectly good work gets done along the way.

    I think she has a point in that it’s worrying that disadvantaged people get objectified to a certain extent by people who take it onto themselves to be activists – a point I’ve made loads of times in the past. I’m also, however, very discouraged that middle-class women seem loath to consider the disadvantages of their own (materially comfortable but disenfranchised) situations, and that modern feminism sees their position as a kind of “liberation” to aspire to, all because they have an easier time materially speaking and even have a kind of illusion of liberation and professional success, so they’re not allowed to complain (as if complaining was the only way to say something about it, anyway). In fact, the only things they seem to complain about is small technicalities, like, hey, I didn’t get a cherry on top of my cancer-giving uranium sundae! Take to the, er, blogs and opinion columns, sisters!

    Reading women’s mags, feminist mags, and lifestyle columns (all the same bullshit, let’s face it*), it’s like they feel they bit the apple of liberation in the 70s and no longer have any right to complain (as if it was a question of right to complain, rather than a question of analysing a situation). And, women they see as disadvantaged are these pure angels. It’s all so biblical.

    That’s why I said before a feminist analysis, beyond “lots of women have it bad”, is lacking from a lot of anti-capitalist, anti-racist, and even anti-sexist campaigning. If we could get beyond identity-based guilt trips and get some lucidity about all of our respective positions, we’d be dangerous. I’m seeing a very worrying total lack of empathy for other women with most feminists lately (again, same thing in women’s magazines and especially from feminist columnists, “oh I’m so much better than most women, I know stuff” that betrays a total lack of awareness or lucidity regarding the situations of women – probably because then the reality of our own situation would come crashing down, and it’s not pretty.

    *lately I keep catching myself going on these patronising post-feminist trips, “let’s read some real women’s magazines that women actually read none of this feminist shit posing itself as basically an antidote to people and how awful they are!” – and of course, you open a copy of Cosmo or Marie-Claire and it’s all the same shit, just different make-up. Same publishing houses, often even the same people.

  8. charlielittle Says:

    Jen, to say that me and Gwen are economically the same is insulting and undermines my class struggle. You do not know me in person, and therefore I do not think you should make such assumptions about my current employment, my income or my education. I think it is wrong to undermine class struggle in Britain just because Britain is a privileged country. This sounds like- ‘despite living off low benefits and unable to afford rent in a slum like flat, you’re situation is not as bad as kids in Africa, and therefore shut up whinging…’ I think this viewpoint is a deterrent to class struggle by making people feel guilty about their own legitimate class oppression as they know there are people worse off. How convenient for capitalism!

    My comment on this discussion, was not part of any ‘S&M fest’ over identities and intersecting oppressions, as you say. It was in fact demonstrating to Gwen, that although she is well meaning, her title of the post demonstrated a sense of leadership in a struggle in which she cannot take the lead (because she is middle class). I am not however stating that she is not able to speak out in support of class warfare. I agree that middle class people need to challenge the system that benefits them.

    If you wish to discuss this with me further, you can contact me privately charlielittle1 [a] googlemail.com I an always interested to hear from women who are interested in class struggle. I am sure we would agree on more things, than would appear from this blog discussion.

  9. Jen Says:

    Charlie,

    Jen, to say that me and Gwen are economically the same is insulting and undermines my class struggle. You do not know me in person, and therefore I do not think you should make such assumptions about my current employment, my income or my education.

    My comment on your education was based on your appearance in the Guardian, where they described you as a student at Manchester University. Other than that, all I know about you is what’s on your blog – you work at the DWP (correct?), or you did, you’re struggling to live according to your principles, I think you had a post about trying to live completely autonomously from any forms of authority… I can only admire the effort and commitment, even if I disagree fundamentally with your anarchist principles.

    As for you being the same as Gwen, well, yes, you’re different enough that your life is a lot less easy, but I really don’t think that difference is so marked as to one of you being part of the “problem” and the other part of the “solution”. As far as I know from both your blogs, you’re both university-educated white collar workers. Other factors come into play – if you have a working-class accent and the “wrong” sexuality you’ll have a harder time (I don’t know what kind of accent you have, of course, I’m basing this on conjecture).

    You’ll have to forgive my skepticism, as there are plenty of people who claim to be working-class in contexts where they can use this as currency – and they’re often considerably better-off than any of us in this comment thread.

    I think it is wrong to undermine class struggle in Britain just because Britain is a privileged country. This sounds like- ‘despite living off low benefits and unable to afford rent in a slum like flat, you’re situation is not as bad as kids in Africa, and therefore shut up whinging…’ I think this viewpoint is a deterrent to class struggle by making people feel guilty about their own legitimate class oppression as they know there are people worse off. How convenient for capitalism!

    Yes, and that’s not something I would ever want to suggest – probably the majority of people in the UK live in very precarious situations. However, class struggle is about more than just providing an equal standard of living to all (although that is a huge part of it), or rather that goal itself is about a lot more than just identifying who is in need and deploring that fact – that would be the first step. If we focus on actions rather than identities, someone like Gwen is not a social climber – she’s staying pretty much in the same place socially-speaking. Social climbing is what’s really harmful – to those doing it, often at the expense of the majority of people. I’ve always appreciated feminists writing about something like gentrification and the consequences of property-development, for instance: something that completely kicks the shit out of the people already living in a certain area, but the people carrying it out are usually shooting themselves in the foot also.

    I think you’ll agree that the privileges gained by regular capitalist means – the social climbing, the big houses and three cars and a big garden, the professional success, and so on – are not especially desirable to anyone, and the people who have them often manage to age prematurely and have mid-life crises and end up having nothing except money. Of course, that’s why the holy grail for the rest of us is supposed to be winning the lottery. And what do they tell us the winners do with the money afterwards? Go sun themselves in the massive garden of their new modestly-sized mansion, which sounds a hell of a lot like the afterlife to me, rather than any kind of a life.

    My comment on this discussion, was not part of any ‘S&M fest’ over identities and intersecting oppressions, as you say. It was in fact demonstrating to Gwen, that although she is well meaning, her title of the post demonstrated a sense of leadership in a struggle in which she cannot take the lead (because she is middle class). I am not however stating that she is not able to speak out in support of class warfare. I agree that middle class people need to challenge the system that benefits them.

    Well, I see a lot of problems with middle-class protest, I think it’s often set up without asking the right questions first, and ends up strengthening the middle-class more than anything (also cause in my experience they won’t lash out at anything that props up their lifestyle, I mean the organisations mostly). Personally, I realise my rage against that whole thing is largely a result of my class privilege, and to an extent to gender privilege, I mean, I am a woman, but I’ve been treated like an honourary man by most people I’ve known and I’m sure that helps, it puts me in a position where I can slam my fist down and shout “Bullshit!” at not much material loss to myself. The stuff that feminists like De Beauvoir or Friedan wrote about middle-class women, I can totally see why activists (especially middle-class ones) these days would dismiss them as “too white and middle-class”, precisely because that’s the ideology that they don’t want to examine.

    Anyway, all this isn’t terribly coherent, but I think any amount of organised rage is useful to the class struggle, whoever it comes from, regardless of their identity and the social currency this gives them. It just needs to be aware or its own situation and the position it is speaking from, informed, and genuine. I certainly don’t think apologising for being middle-class helps, in fact no one needs apologists. I tend not to have much patience with middle-class guilt either – this could be because in some ways (not economically though) I’m privileged compared to a lot of middle-class women, I don’t know. I’m not satisfied with the fact that where you’re born determines how much you can do, though – or that we should continue eyeing each other suspiciously across the class gap, which would maintain the class system more than anything else. There is a class gap between UK radical feminists and the rest of the UK feminist movement, I’ve certainly tried to point that out to other feminists a couple of times – that maybe that was colouring our relations with each other and our ability to take each other seriously. It’s a topic of conversation that usually gets dismissed quite quickly though…

    Anyway, thanks for the offer to discuss this privately, I might take you up on it at some point – I’m in the middle of a removal at the moment though, so it might be a couple of weeks. I think we would agree on some things, from what I’ve seen of your blog – I tend not to agree with you on much, but when I do it’s quite strongly. You’re the first feminist blogger I’ve seen write about pensioners in the poverty trap, for instance. I’ll certainly take that kind of integrity and sincerity over the kind of “we’re all so great! let’s all eat some cake! how can we be even better feminists!” discussions I see elsewhere.

  10. Gwen Says:

    Well, I see a lot of problems with middle-class protest, I think it’s often set up without asking the right questions first, and ends up strengthening the middle-class more than anything (also cause in my experience they won’t lash out at anything that props up their lifestyle, I mean the organisations mostly).

    There’s a good article in last month’s Monde Diplomatique about the issues with “activist” as another middle-class consumerist identity (or to roughly quote Abbie Hoffman: “smoking pot and putting up a poster of Che does not make you a revolutionary”). I don’t think it’s available on-line so I can scan it and email it to you.

    Charlie – I’ll do my best to translate it and email it to you too, if you’d like to see it. I’m sure Jen could do a better job at the translation if she’s not too busy with her move.

    While person’s background obviously informs her actions, I’m a lot more interested in what a person does than who she is. Particularly because identity is so complicated and constantly in flux. Class means a completely different thing in Britain than it does in Canada, and involves so many complicated and often contradictory factors. I say I’m middle class, but I was flat broke for most of last year; but I was flat broke with a TV, a computer and a washing machine, all of which were presents from various relatives (weddings are GREAT for getting household stuff); my parents ran their own business, so financially things were always a bit precarious; on the other hand I’m very well educated and have been told repeatedly that I “talk posh” which obviously opens doors and makes a certain impression on people when I’m looking for a job, negotiating for extra time to pay my Council tax, etc; on yet another hand, until yesterday had I lost my job, I would not have been able to get benefits, so in some ways my situation was incredibly precarious. So I think saying “middle-class” gives a rough idea of my social situation and the class privilege I have, but it’s clearly a lot more complicated than that.

    Plus, pretty well everyone in the feminist movement identifies as anti-racist and anti-capitalist. But very rarely do you see anti-racist and anti-capistalist actions being carried out by (white) feminists. Someone can talk at length about how much they admire Angela Davis – if they still think of prison as the automatic first resort for crime, or insist that Abortion Rights must remain a single issue campaign rather than expanding to cover other aspects of reproductive justice – well then, I’m forced to conclude that what they really like is the self-image generated by holding Angela Davis as one of their heroes (’cause now they can’t POSSIBLY be racist) rather than actually being inspired by what she wrote.

    Social climbing is what’s really harmful – to those doing it, often at the expense of the majority of people.

    I think we have to identify what we mean by social climbing. I know you well enough to know you’re not suggesting “everyone should stay in their place.” Basically, poverty sucks, and you can’t blame people for wanting out. And somewhere between a hand-to-mouth existence and your third car is the happy medium where everyone has a decent standard of living and is able to pursue their interests and have an enjoyable life. I think the problem is that no one quite knows where that line is. And so you don’t know where to stop – you become convinced that if you just have a bit more money than everything will be great, and you get caught up in this horrible consumerist lifestyle and forced to work a job you hate because of it.

    My partner’s (who we will call The Maestro to make things easier) grandfather spent most of his adolescence trying to figure a way out of going into the Sheffield steelmills, and when it became obvious that he was going to have to, he transferred his ambitions onto his children. So he worked unbelievably hard (72 hour weeks AND going to night school to get O-level maths) and eventually worked his way up to management (which was unheard of back then). And his kids were able to go to University and have better jobs, and afford to buy a house. And when The Maestro’s grandad lost his job at 57 because of Thatcherism – well, his kids were able to take care of him.

    But somehow, with his children (one of whom is The Maestro’s mother) the message got garbled and became less about trying to have a decent standard of living and doing a job you actually liked and more about having stuff. So now the Maestro and I are being pressured to buy a house (and I pity the bank foolish enough to approve that mortgate, but that’s a whole other issue) even though we don’t have the money, and we’re not really bothered. Since The Maestro found a job, we can now rent a little house, heat it adequately (this is the first winter I spent in the UK where I wasn’t cold all the time) and have a little garden (the Maestro likes to garden). And we’re not bothered about the rest. But my in-laws have a really hard time understanding that, because in their mind stuff=happiness.

    And that I think is where the problem lies.

  11. Jen Says:

    I think we have to identify what we mean by social climbing. I know you well enough to know you’re not suggesting “everyone should stay in their place.” Basically, poverty sucks, and you can’t blame people for wanting out. And somewhere between a hand-to-mouth existence and your third car is the happy medium where everyone has a decent standard of living and is able to pursue their interests and have an enjoyable life. I think the problem is that no one quite knows where that line is. And so you don’t know where to stop – you become convinced that if you just have a bit more money than everything will be great, and you get caught up in this horrible consumerist lifestyle and forced to work a job you hate because of it.

    That’s more or less what I mean, the idea that there’s this bourgeois lifestyle that you’re supposed to aspire to, that each individual has to work towards, that stuff equals, well, not only happiness, but pretty much virtue. I’ve got the same with my in-laws actually, my partner’s mum accepts grudgingly that we’re not going to have houses and cars and stuff like her nieces and nephews, but whenever one of her brothers visits we have to sit through this pep-talk about how we should pull our fingers out, get a proper job and get a colour TV, dagnabbit! (or whatever the Welsh for dagnabbit is, usually involves lots of uses of the words “bloody”, “common sense”, and “taste”). Of course, those uncles grew up really poor, so they’ve wanted to preserve their kids from that, which is admirable, but they’re basically left with nothing but piles and piles of money – and it’s the kind of ideal that can only exist in a state of inequality – I mean, the flipside to that is working class people who think they should stay in their place, that this is what they’ve chosen, or what they deserve, that a living and decent living conditions are a privilege and not a right.

    So what I meant (as you will have gathered anyway) was the opposite to everyone staying in their place, it would be everyone having equal opportunities, and I also support taxing the fuck out of the rich and maximum wage of course.

    As for the class thing – my partner’s most definitely working class, my parents earn oodles but are financially inept, though to be honest I never went without stuff very often when I was growing up. Since we’ve been together, we’ve been in, well, but the same situation as you and your partner Gwen. It’s a kind of poverty – we’ve lived in a squat on dried lentils and rice and been nearly taken to court about a billion times over unpaid rent or council tax, paying our way thanks to me doing various part-time cleaning jobs. But I think it’s a very different poverty than the type you’re born into – even a kind of studenty, punk rock poverty. It’s not that my parents could have bailed us out at any time, because they couldn’t (well, when we were at our poorest I remember hardback Harry Potter volumes turning up on the doorstep unsolicited, joy! just when we couldn’t afford loo roll). But it’s very different from what, for instance, Barbara Ehrenreich describes in Nickeled & Dimed. It didn’t do us any harm – whereas, obviously, poverty kills in most cases. And that fact that poverty kills does kind of negate the differences in what “class” means from country to country.

    I think there’s a very material fact there – and we’re still discussing an identity issue. Much like with anti-racist feminism, it’s frustrating to see women of colour feminsits infantilized and objectified, but it’s equally frustrating when anti-racist white feminists refuse to disagree with them on anything – surely that’s like they didn’t say anything, if it’s just “oh, let’s hear her talk and then just say, wow!” The problem is also reflected in all this horribly ineffectual vocabulary – intersectionality, what’s that, basket-weaving? If you need a word like that, it’s a sign that people have been douches to start with. And inclusion, diversity, pluralism? Those imply that people should have been excluded in the first place – well, “diversity” is every bit as much of a racist term as a BNP member talking about “ethnics”. Pluralism just means that no opinion actually matters, since they’re all equally valid. In the end, they’re all bullshit to cloak ourselves in and convince ourselves we’re good people, without having to do any of the work of actually tackling racism, and the problems with capitalism. And a lot of anti-racist and, well, let’s call things what they really are, socialist ideas (I don’t like “anti-capitalist” so much) really seem to take a lot of feminists by surprise, they start tutting and feeling undermined – which suggests that those things aren’t really a part of their analysis in the first place, when they talk about those very fierce bad deodorant adverts. And, in turn, I don’t see much of a feminist analysis behind the issues where they do apply an anti-racist and anti-capitalist analysis. And that’s the problem with “diversity” – applying different, separate analyses to different things. I don’t think a feminist analysis can exist without a Marxist one, and I don’t think socialism really exists separately from feminism. But I guess this shows how we’ve shifted onto identity. Why is Betty Friedan thought of as a liberal feminist, rather than the marxist-leninist she was? Cause she wore lipstick and pearls (dunno if I brought this up before anyway, I’ve been saying it a lot lately). And strangely, she looked right at the ideology of white middle-class femininity that anti-racist, anti-capitalist feminists are supposed to avoid now.

    And anyway, a socialist position would necessarily be anti-individualist, so surely the whole concept of identity should be recognised as an illusion.

  12. Polly Styrene Says:

    But will the Torygraph listen anyway? Seeing as they’re doing very nicely out of the MP’s expenses stuff and all……..

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