Thursday, February 25, 2010

We ain't got no class

Do you remember the class war?

You're a better man than I if you do - because, outside of the media and a small group of politically motivated individuals in the Labour Party and various unions, it didn't exist. All the "class war" really was was a Marxist slogan designed to drum up support for a political doctrine that otherwise had very little to commend itself to people.

The reality was that the vast majority of people it was supposedly trying to help - the working class - had absolutely no interest in being anything other than working class. The only reason they signed up to the class struggle cause was because of promises of better pay and conditions - they had no interest in changing the class structure of Britain. They just wanted an "honest days pays for an honest days work" and the dignity of employment.

Dignity being the operative word - because the working class used to be a very dignified class. Just take a look at old footage of 1950's and 1960's football matches and you'll see the crowd consisting of young and old men alike dressed in suits, jackets and ties. There were more suits and ties on display at a 1958 football match between Blackburn Rovers and Preston North End than you'll find at Microsoft's corporate headquarters - but they were nearly all "working class" men. Men who dressed with dignity.

Working class men didn't swear much either and if they did it was done quietly, privately and out of earshot of others - particularly women and children. They invariably had strong, often impenetrable accents - but they didn't swear in public. Swearing was undignified.

And, contrary to the modern myth that domestic violence was rife amongst the working class before the feminist movement (it's actually far more prevalent since that movement than it was before), the working man didn't routinely indulge in fighting and brawling. Again, I point you to the evidence of pre-progressive era football matches where rival supporters mixed freely, travelled to matches on the same trains and buses and drank pints in the same pubs. Fighting and violence was undignified. Working class men had class in abundance.

The working man was a man of dignity. The dignity of work, dress, speech and behaviour were of paramount importance to the working man before the progressives got their hands on him. Fifty years later and millions of working class men do not have the dignity of labour - hundreds of thousands of "working class" people have never ever worked and have no interest in doing so. They dress for "comfort" which invariably means wandering around in adult versions of baby clothes - a baggy t shirt and shorts - and they swear profusely, loudly and publicly .... and seem proud to do it. They laugh at comedians whose "punchlines" consist of expletives.

And yet, after fifty years of progressive victory Labour is still using the class war as its election theme. All that fifty years of "class struggle" has brought is the removal of dignity from the working class. What started off as an attempt to build a classless society has actually produced a no class society.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I grew up in the 50s and you are so right, there was no one more respectable than the working class. not working was shameful and there was great pride in communities. Certainly judgement could be harsh and I am glad to see some of that go but we have lost so much that can never be regained. My dad was a steel worker in Glasgow and I now live a very middle class life in SE England, thanks to the educational opportunities then, selective education led to university as it did for my late husband whose dad was a mill worker in the Borders. They were so proud of us but then most working class people really encouraged education and aspiration, not because they envied the middle class but just because they wanted us tp have a better and easier life than they did as all good parents do. Looking back it was a privilege to grew up with such security and with the added bonus of being the first 'teenagers' in the 60s.