Pure Class

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It’s one of the dirty words of politics. The thing that our political culture doesn’t want us to talk about and, worse, wants us to think has gone away. The dirty c-word of all dirty c-words, that has an amazing ability to cause some people to huff and groan like no other word in the English language: Class.

For the first time in my generation we are having a discussion about how we are governed. We’re looking at how our politics works; who funds it; who controls it and how does it work for us and those like us? However it was never supposed to be this way. These are questions that the British establishment – made up of the super-rich and powerful of our small island – hoped we would never ask.

Wealth has hijacked Britain’s democracy. A powerful and super rich elite have a much greater influence over our governance than ordinary people do. Whether it’s the rotten way in which political donations are governed, the financing of thinktanks and economists, or the print and broadcast media that is largely owned and run by the same elite, our entire political discourse is decided by them and in their favour. Whilst this is not a new analysis of what is wrong with British democracy, it strikes at the heart of the referendum debate.

I can already hear the groans.

Just look at some of Westminster’s priorities. The UK Government recently moved to introduce fees of up to £1200 to take your employer to a tribunal (something that is reserved to the UK Parliament). In a victory for the boss-class, politicians have put themselves on the side of bad bosses and against those who wish to take employers to tribunals for harassment and mistreatment. If you’ve been unfairly dismissed by your employer then you better be able to cough-up and prove it. Otherwise, shut-up and get on with it. Welcome to Britain in 2014.

Tax avoidance is a huge priority for voters right across Britain, and it has been for some time. Around £35bn is lost each year due to tax avoidance and non-payment. Loopholes in the tax system have been exploited by the elite for years and governments have done all they can to scupper any sort of international agreement to clamp down on avoidance. However if you’re a small business and you are only days late in paying your tax bill, then you can be sure that an HMRC officer will be knocking on your door – one rule for them and another rule for us.

It’s no wonder that establishment figures, such as Tory donor Ian Taylor – whose company, Vitol, has been able to legally pay minimum levels of tax equalling an average of 10.5% on global profits of £15bn over the past nine years – have backed the No campaign. He is part of the system. It should surprise you even less that he has backed it with a fistful of money – £500, 000 to be exact. This is how the super-rich react when the system that feeds them is under threat. The more they have to lose, and the more that ordinary people have to gain, the tighter their grip gets.

A Yes vote presents a clear danger to their system. It gives the opportunity for our democracy to be led by the citizens of Scotland – and ordinary people like the idea of this.

I campaign with my local Yes group in the Southside of Glasgow every week. There’s barely a day that goes past when we aren’t signing up people to vote for the first time, or the first time in many years. In areas such as Castlemilk, where I was born, people are anxious to use the only power that they feel they have; the vote. They don’t have the money, the access or the resources to influence the British system to work in their favour – despite their numbers. So they are voting to take back control of their lives and their government.

There are some on the No side of this debate who believe that, because of the class struggle, it is better to stick with Britain. However the corporation that is Britain today has killed that idea. Our public services are being privatised; work place rights are being eroded and our welfare state is being dismantled. This has been done deliberately; because those running corporation Britain know that once these things are gone they are very difficult to get back. Britain has become an obstacle to social justice, not a path to it.

A miasma of despair hangs over working people across Britain. We have a chance in Scotland to shake that off, do things differently and lead, in solidarity, a quiet revolution of politics and economics in favour of the many and not the few. Could we really claim to be progressives if we turned that opportunity down?

Some folk – largely those who are not engaged in the debate – think our referendum is about nationalism. They view it through the lazy prism of Scotland versus England. They could not be more wrong. The ‘us’ and ‘them’ in this debate are ordinary people and Britain’s super wealthy.  Do we continue to be governed by ‘them’ and their system, or choose to self-govern as confident citizens in a modern country? That’s the question we need to answer, and it is plainly a question of class.

Comments (14)

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  1. I’d actually say it was a question of democracy.

  2. Ben says:

    That’s all good, but what logic is there that an independent Scotland won’t also be ruled by an elite for an elite. Maybe there is evidence for this, but the article just assumes it’s true. There are corporate interests both sides of Berwick.

    1. Ben. We will have a constitution written by the people with public oversight. We will try our very best to prevent the kind of wealth/power monopoly that taints the 21st century anglophone world.
      There will be no title and peerage in the new Scotland either and hopefully we will be a republic in the fullness of time.

      1. John Page says:

        That will require huge vigilance/scrutiny from day one and an analysis of the extent to which the Big 4 accountancy firms and others already influence policy making at Holyrood

        1. I agree but it will be worth the effort.

  3. Johnny Foreigner says:

    How will a Scottish government undo the class system ? It is built in to the monetary system.

  4. juuxjuux says:

    I have a few friends, of the staunchly anti-SNP, I’m-working-class-despite-having-a-senior-management-job-and-an-Audi-on-the-drive, Labour-voting type, who need to wake up and understand this.

    They claim to have working class in their blood yet are happy to perpetuate the current system in blind faith that somehow, sometime, things will “get better”, despite all the evidence being to the contrary.

    There are none so blind etc. though.

  5. Scottie says:

    http://rt.com/shows/keiser-report/176740-episode-max-keiser/

    Very accurate summation of the uk economy – 23 minutes onwards.

  6. Heather says:

    Good article, food for thought, many people really do believe that the class system no longer exists in corporate uk. It most certainly exists by the very fact that we have the privately educated rich who are guaranteed a place in government should they want it. The divide between rich and poor is in effect a caste system, whereby those at the bottom, born without privilege and very often with few prospects, face huge hurdles just to be able to attain decent, basic living standards. Not only that, they are blamed and told it is their own fault.

  7. John Page says:

    And for anyone like me who struggled to finish Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent, A Quiet Word: Lobbying, Crony Capitalism and Broken Politics in Britain by Cave and Rowell gives an excellent explanation of the mechanisms for the capture of Westminster by the elite
    There is a residual memory in this generation of the collective struggle of our parents for decent housing, health and education………..the Referendum is our last chance to keep their values alive.
    And, as so many have said, the real struggle will begin after a Yes vote

  8. My only issue in the summation that wealth hijacked democracy, when did that happen ? I think you’ll find that democracy was begrudgingly bestowed to alleviate a greater threat to the hegemony of the wealthy throughout the history of the UK. We plateaued in the 70’s to reach equality and the diminishing of the class divide it seems rather suspect that the narrative of that time is one of division and misery. From then any notion of social equality have been trampled to death by the rising dark star of neoliberalism.

    Independence and a written constitution is the genesis of a future, how draconian you impliment that but my only reserve would be is how to amend that in the future so there were safeguards but not intransigence for changes but then major changes could be by referendums, they seem to be the quite popular in these parts. We are being given the opportunity to re-engage with democracy to mould it but it is our responsibility to protect it to nurture it, the WM system does not allow this but will allow and protect the worst of corruption and duplicity as long as they espouse the values of the retntion of the present system.

  9. Iain MacLEOD says:

    Stop nagging on about tax avoidance, instead publish information so as everyone can enjoy the benefits of legally avoiding increasing taxation. Not many opportunities for the ordinary person to avoid tax. Oooops. Perhaps governments should have a tax system that pays the bills of the country instead of having to borrow to pay the day to day bills.

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