Class as a weapon against Racism
I want to write a couple of pieces looking at the re-emergence of the Class debate in recent weeks. If the last decade saw an attempt at the triumphal claim that class no longer mattered, this decade is likely to require a head-on tackling of class issues, whether or not a Tory government is elected on 6th May. John Denham MP, Communities Minister, has brought this to the fore in discussions regarding the role of racial and class-based divisions in society today.
The Minister released a statement entitled “Tackling Race Inequality: A Statement on Race” today, but in his department’s press release, I was please to read the following:
"We are committed to tackling inequality and disadvantage wherever it exists. If the cause is racism and discrimination we will challenge racism and discrimination. If the cause of disadvantage is social class, we will promote opportunity. And if the cause is a combination of racism and social class we will tackle both together.
"We are working towards building a society where regardless of class, race, beliefs or anything else: in every community, in every corner of the country – we are on people’s side. No favours. No privileges. No special interest groups. Just fairness."
The last sentence of the first paragraph I’ve quote is rather daring; rarely does one allow the complexities of double-minority effects to complicate one’s political message, but here he has taken the issue straight on. His broadside to special interest and privilege is also remarkable. We should talk about privilege more, and not just the privilege experienced by the Tories, but the privileges we ourselves have, simply by living in the UK, and the responsibility this position of privilege brings us, despite other’s greater wealth.
This comes at exactly the same time as Labour’s “Back the Ban” campaign to ensure their progress on blood-sports is not reversed in favour of the well-off. It also comes only just after Tessa Jowell MP has made a public plea not to bring the class backgrounds of the different political party’s respective leaderships into the debate. The fact is, it should be the easiest area for Labour to connect with the kind of numbers of voters needed to swing the election back towards themselves – though it will take more finesse than typical SWP’esque Class-bashing ranting to do that.
The fact is, white working class communities do feel abandoned. But that doesn’t mean that the BNP have the best answer to their problems. It is always much easier to demonise the weak than to confront the powerful, so the BNP takes on ethnic minorities. The message must be, loudly and clearly, that both White and Ethnic Minority communities at the bottom of the socio-economic scale have common interests.
I must add that I find Denham’s triumphal pronouncements about how far Labour has come rather hollow. Experience shows that relative poverty is on the rise in the UK, and I wish he would tackle that. If one is only receiving the trickle-down of a recent economic boom, then one is still being left behind, slipping towards the margins. But we can take solace from the improvements that have occurred, and hope to hear much more of this kind of sense coming from the Government. Unfortunately, its been a rare commodity under Labour, and it will be a vanishingly rare gift under the Tories.