Why Socialism X: Socialised Capital

soviet money

How would a nascent Socialist State get hold of the necessary financial resources to build new services and re-tool old ones? Mammoth opposition from the privileged layers of the old regime will not make it easy…

Read more on Shape

The Problem With Science

New documentary film by Michael Coldwell on philosopher Jim Schofield’s latest theories. Science has made several crucial assumptions that are fundamentally flawed, and may have skewed our view of the world around us.
Music is supplied by our friends in the Urban Exploration collective 🙂

What next for Libya

Libyan Embassy Stormed
The attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and the subsequent deaths of the US Ambassador and three other Americans has brought this troubled country back on everybody’s agenda. It has been out of the news for some time now because, from the Western Powers point of view, there had been nothing “good” to report.

In spite of mammoth support for sections of the then opposition against Gaddafi by these major powers, without which he would certainly NOT have been overthrown even now (as Syria is certainly proving), they are certainly not getting what they expected from their expensive intervention.

But that support, mostly military and using both missiles and attack aircraft, still could not guarantee the dominance of that section of the opposition preferred by their western collaborators (and another look at Syria proves that also).

Read the rest on the Shape Blog

YOU are paying for THEIR mistakes

“…the solution to the financial crisis can only be to make the Working Class PAY! They will be forced into a poorer state continually – over a period of years. Certainly NOT a one-off loss (as is inferred) at all, but, on the contrary, a rate of getting poorer every day by around 3% over a year. And the unemployed will be poorer at an even greater rate!

So, as the Governor stated, it will take a long time to get enough from the Working Class to “foot the bill” produced by the Banks and the speculators.

And a true graph of purchase-ability by the Working Class will show a long period of getting less and less from the money they have earned.

Can you stomach this theft?”

Read the whole post here

Shape on Austerity

“Are you wondering what is going on among the leaders of the Euro Zone of the European Union? Do you, along with British Prime Minister Cameron and his Tory colleagues, put the whole thing down to their stubborn refusal to act! Or do you decide that all such efforts to rationalise our World (including the lauded United Nations) are doomed to failure from the outset. Yet what is really happening is certainly none of these things! It is the final Dissolution of the Fictitious Value on which Capitalism rests. It is the regularly occurring and inevitable Crisis of Capitalism!”

More articles on Socialism and the collapse of Capitalism have recently been published on Shape Blog:

Austerity: The Rape of the Poor

The Major Crisis in World Capitalism

The latest in the Why Socialism series: The Essential Development of Marxist Theory 1

Why Socialism VII: How are Decisions Made Within Capitalist Democracy

Capitalist Democracy - Old House of Commons

Read the latest instalment of Jim Schofield’s series on the Shape Blog.

The Means to Inform


The crucial opposing factor in informing the general populace of “the truth” has always been the ownership and control of the means of dissemination by a very limited class with very different interests and motives than the bulk of the population in any given country. And this means that it would be universally extremely unlikely to be allowed access via any form of Mass Media (to socialists in a capitalist society for example). And, in the same way the bureaucracies in the so-called ‘socialist countries’ such as the Soviet Union and China, were in a similar position, and thus determined exactly what was allowed to be delivered to their populations at large.

Read more on the SHAPE Blog

Why Socialism IV: Can It Be Established?

The latest instalment of Jim Schofield’s series on socialism is on the SHAPE Blog

Why Socialism III: Why Nationalisation Failed

Re-Nationalise our NHS

The latest instalment of Jim Schofield’s series on socialism is on the Shape blog.

Why Socialism II: Socialism within Capitalism?

Is it possible?

Find out in the latest instalment of Jim Schofield’s new series about Socialism on SHAPE 

Why Socialism I: Primitive Accumulation

This is the first part of a new series on Socialism to be published collaboratively with Shape Journal

Primitive Accumulation:
How Investors First Got Their Capital

slave ship

At such a time as this, when Capitalism is being exposed for what it really is – it becomes increasingly important to recall just how it came to be – how our “entrepreneurs” accrued the wherewithall “to invest” and “support” money-making ventures of all sorts.

In other words, what forms of Primitive Accumulation produced the necessary Capital to fund a growing Capitalism?

Of course, it wasn’t anything like how it is portrayed today.

It was only possible via an accelerating concentration of available social wealth into much fewer hands, and this was first achieved by the regular application of bullying, violence and even war.


What were the motive forces behind these regrettably emergent systems?

One could easily say that it was simply down to the push for profits. Though this is certainly true, it doesn’t tell us much about what was done to achieve it. A profit motive has been around for a long time, yet these phenomena (at least as the prevailing dominant form) are quite recent.

What is it, therefore, that has brought about this significant change in mode?

The two most obvious starting points are globalism and technology.

Historical Constraints – Transport

After the start of the Industrial Revolution, which emerged wholly in the richer western countries like Great Britain, the work in manufacture had to be carried out at, or closely adjacent to, where the raw materials could be easily obtained.

Why? Because transport was the limiting factor – the price of a sack of coal could be doubled in moving it just a few miles! Also, the market had also to be within easy reach of the places of manufacture, and for the same reasons!

Such constraints were so dominant for thousands of years, that the vast majority of commodities that were traded over long distances had to be both small, and extremely valuable to make the process at all profitable.

Even with the post-industrial revolution development of empires, and the consequent procurement of both more distant sources of materials, AND new, expanding markets, the factor of transport still strangled the growth of trade to a major degree.

Historical Constraints – Primitive Accumulation

NOTE: It has always fascinated me that the most important factor in getting such processes off the ground, was the necessity for the centralisation, and concentration of wealth, and in particular the major role of direct theft in this process.

It did not surprise me that the result of the fall of the economies of Eastern Europe led to the emergence of gangster groups such as the Russian Mafia, and the direct stealing of state-owned resources to put into the hands of private individuals to re-establish capitalism.

Such methods of primitive accumulation were indeed the only ones open to the local, and potentially national ruling class. Otherwise such a re-establishment would have had to be funded externally, probably by the USA.

The same thing, of course was universal at the beginning of the modern era. Everybody has heard of the “enclosures”, where rich landowners simply stole the “common” land from the peasants, put a fence around it and used it for producing sheep and wool. Also similar sources were used to initially fund pirates and “privateers” to steal enough from the Spaniards (who themselves stole their gold from the civilisations of South and Central America), to allow new “capitalist” undertakings to be initiated.

Privateer Ship

Does it surprise you what the Zionists do to obtain Palestinian land in the Middle East?

It is essentially the same process – but given a more “legal” look by the fact that the forces of the state of Israel make these processes happen, and even buying up some such properties well below market value, much easier. Earthmovers, Tanks, Tractors and guns can easily change the rules of the game can’t they?

The biggest contradiction in the early years of the industrial revolution was the concentration of wealth at the same time as the reduction in the standards of life of the “required” local working class.

NOTE: Let me make an important point about the myths of rural deprivation that are usually put forward in this context. It is suggested that the concentration of rural peasants into an urban working class “rescued” them from acute deprivation in the countryside. The response must be, “NO!” But, in saying that it does not mean that there wasn’t any rural deprivation, indeed there was.

But it was NOT a feature of rural life. It was a feature also of nascent capitalism, in its first real theatre of operations – agriculture. The process started with the “enclosures” – the stealing of the common land, and the impoverishment of the rural peasants, who were then forced to work for the “thieves” who had stolen their livelihood – the rural aristocracy. The great impoverishment and degradation of the rural work force preceded the main rampant growth of urban industrialisation, but was generated by the same source of primitive accumulation – the wealthy landowners. AND these complementary processes overlapped to some extent.

At one particular period it was to the owners’ advantage to drive the peasants from the countryside, and drive them into the cities as factory fodder. They were an important source of extra wealth at both stages of the primitive accumulation of capital.

It is not for nothing that the “dark, satanic mills” and degradation were contrasted by privileged dreamers, with the idyllic lives of those in the pre-industrial societies such as South Sea Islanders.

Picture of a Cotton Mill in Lancashire


Of course, to talk about globalisation as being entirely new is also incorrect.

The need to find raw materials, at low prices, and new markets for the ever-increasing supply of goods, drove the expansion of the capitalist system from its outset, and dramatically changed the world. But transport developments and technological innovations accelerated the pace and content of these changes, and led ultimately to the export of the manufacturing process itself, AND the import of food and products in an altogether new scale. Quantity changes led to changes in quality, and NEW upheavals became regular, and indeed, almost continuous.

I well remember the “reason” for shutting many viable coal mines in the UK, was given as the impossibility of competing with cheap imports from abroad (e.g. Poland), whereas, only a few years later, the very same Polish mines are being shut with the same kind of excuse.

NOTE: The Polish experience is somewhat different, as the nationalised industries had somehow to be got into private hands for a song (primitive accumulation) in order to re-establish capitalism in Poland.

Transport has radically changed many aspects of the sources of perishables such as food. Coupled with refrigeration and wide-bodied jets, it is possible to import certain food stuffs CHEAPER than getting them locally. In addition climates more conducive to mass production in agriculture, plus powerful and large machinery (impossible to use in many traditional contexts), and sophisticated bulk transport systems, have brought prices down.

Small scale personal-use production in many developing countries, has been largely (and sometimes forcibly) replaced by large scale production of single crops (sugar, cotton, cocoa etc.) at very low prices and exclusively for export. This process has moved so far that such subsistence farming has almost vanished, and the population (when they don’t get jobs on the plantations as workers) find that they cannot feed themselves and have to rely on bought-in produce, when they can afford it, and foreign aid, when they cannot, or most likely of all, move into the fast growing cities to increase their chances on all these fronts.

Finally, the constant march of technology (particularly information technology) has led to automated, computer controlled manufacture, such that, with the appropriate machinery, cheap labour can easily be trained to do what once was only possible by skilled workers (on a much higher wage) in the so-called advanced countries.

Even Help and Advice services are now incessantly exported to “cheap-labour” countries. Almost all the cold-call phone salesmen and help lines for many products are now abroad – first in Ireland, but latterly in India, and other ex-colonial countries where English is widely used.

The sort of advice that you can get from these sources is of a characteristic and very narrow type!

What the workers are “trained” to deal with is wholly determined by the frequency with which the set of questions is generally asked. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are even automated via the Internet so that they require no human interface at all, and even when you do get hold of an “advisor” on the phone, in Bombay or wherever, you will many times only get help on the very commonest problems – those encountered by the largest number of ill-informed callers

Specialist, detailed and unusual queries are often NOT addressed by these systems. Statistics is the base, and the excuse!

“80% of our callers get immediate help!”, we are told. Yes, help like, “Have you turned on?”, or “Have you checked the fuse”, plus a full set of similar and occasionally slightly more ambitious levels. Complex problems are attempted (sometimes), but only on phone lines that are extremely expensive (some would say prohibitively expensive!).

It is, as I said at the beginning of this section, determined by profit, but the situation has substantially changed, and the employers have been extensively empowered in the last few decades.

There was a time when my stepfather could legitimately hold his employer to ransom with his irreplaceable skills, and demand good wages for the work of his “gang” (he worked in a major foundry in Manchester). They would regularly sack him, then re-employ him, on his own terms, when they couldn’t do what he could do. But, those days are gone!

The skills are replaced by technology, both in methods, control and materials, and the availability of, and access to, adequate (and cheap) labour forces across the world, means that bargaining power by workers with something significant to sell has been well nigh extinguished, if only organised locally.

Picture of Large Scale Casting in Foundry

Primitive Accumulation:
The Chicken-and-the-Egg

Capitalism is sometimes hard for people to grasp, because it has an inherent contradiction at its very heart. As distinct from prior economic systems, where individuals, small groups or even states gathered sufficient funds to finance various types of scheme, the new feature of Capitalism was to draw in initial funding from a much wider area of subscribers on the basis of regular, and where possible, lucrative returns.

When economic activity was essentially local, such centralisation of funding was not necessary due to the smallness of the potential market, but the extending reach of markets elicited larger scale production, and such undertakings required substantial capital investment to initiate the process.

Early on (really in a pre-capitalist era) investments were in daring trading voyages to exotic sources of luxury goods, but as the wherewithall for wider scale production and distribution became available, the classic capitalist form of investment in manufacture gradually emerged.

By the time of the industrial revolution the requirements for manufacture grew at an alarming pace. Buildings, tools, machinery, raw materials and labour were all necessary, in a particular place at a particular time. And all these things must be in place prior to a final acquisition of payment for the resultant goods. Without mechanisms to concentrate the required Capital to finance such undertakings, it became the famous impossible case of “pulling you up by your own bootlaces”. A classic chicken-and-egg situation!

It is therefore not surprising that pre–capital seats of accumulated wealth were the first ports of call for acquiring financial backing.

Feudal Focuses

The landowning aristocracy and royalty were initially often the only suppliers of capital, via their established means of wealth accumulation – via rents or taxes!

But this was a very limited source, and could only finance a tiny fraction of the possible set of profitable enterprises. It is not surprising that the supporters of the new, capitalist way of gathering the required funds should in their day have been quite revolutionary.

They considered the old feudal system to be the major brake on the development of enterprise, and were an important part of the forces that coalesced into the English Revolution in the 17th century, which not only overthrew the old system, but also separated the King’s head from his body!

Picture of Oliver Cromwell – Leader of the English Revolution

New Methods of Accumulation?

Another source of funding was certainly required.

It was clear what it should be. It required sufficient investment to initiate the process, and then the return on such investments, to re-invest into the next stage. Successive and widening iterations of this process would multiply up the funds available, and vastly increase the amount of enterprise and production. But, it wasn’t simply an alternative mode of economy that people with money to invest could simply choose to use.

The old economic system directly intervened to prohibit such an independent process. The old powers of royalty and aristocracy had a stranglehold on trade (and, of course, on the accumulation of wealth). And such a small number of privileged sources, or well-connected entrepreneurs were always going to be insufficient. “

If we don’t do it, someone else, perhaps in another country, will!” (.. and presumably “We, will have missed the opportunity!”). To significantly increase the amount of capital available AND the number of people with sufficient disposable resources to “risk” on a much wider range of enterprises – new methods were clearly necessary. In addition to breaking the stranglehold of the old aristocracy on wealth, other independent methods of “primitive accumulation” had to be developed.

The most important such method was what it had always been for millennia – THEFT!

The simplest method as embodied in the Mongol hordes

Killing people and stealing their wealth was a very efficient method of primitive accumulation. From mounted hordes of nomads out of the steppes, to Viking raiders and Elizabethan privateers, the really effective method had always been “robbery with violence”. Most of the early historical regimes in the Middle East were the result of warlike conquering of the productive farmers and civilisations of the so-called Fertile Crescent. Hittites, Assyrians, Persians and the rest were all successful accumulators, but they knew nothing of using their ill-gotten gains as a primer for further acquisitions and enterprises. It was, on the contrary, simply a matter of dividing the spoils.

The result of their accumulation was simply consumption.

Picture of “The Epitome of Civilisation?”

It always amazes me how the uses that these people put their wealth to are universally commended as “civilisation”. The “consumption” of these resources in the building of palaces, country residences, and even “Hanging Gardens” etc., could only move forward if the robbery was ongoing.

So the building of empires was necessary to continue the process. Once this was no longer possible, some form of collapse was inevitable.

In the more modern era we are considering, the primitive accumulation was used in a different way.

Of course, we cannot leave Primitive Accumulation without including what was probably the most important contribution over a considerable period – the crucial and highly lucrative role of Slavery in the process. It too is a form of robbery with violence, but of people who were then sold and put to work (without pay), to ensure a substantial return upon their cost when bought.

slave ship

And these slaves even reproduced to deliver an ever-growing slave population at absolutely zero extra cost. And, to complete the picture, the real giants of the rise of Capitalism were substantially funded by the accumulation provided by the Slave Trade, for these slaves, in the main, produced highly saleable products.

The triangular Route from Britain to West Africa (for slaves), then crossing the Atlantic to the West Indies and America (to sell their living assets) and also to pick up valuable cotton and sugar, to take back and sell in Britain. And this was a major generating engine for colossal wealth, and available for investments in the burgeoning Industrial Revolution back home in Europe.

Theft – for investment

A good and revealing story to consider is the use of identical mechanisms by organised crime in the USA. Once more we have “robbery with violence” as a means of primitive accumulation, but then the crime bosses realised that a great multiplication of wealth would be involved if these resources were not simply consumed, but used to accumulate at an ever increasing rate. So they invested in legitimate enterprises.

Crime gave them the necessary wherewithall to buy into Capitalism.

Now, such a consideration of the effects of Primitive Accumulation on the growth of Capitalism, cannot be sufficient, when addressing the situation as we are experiencing it today. For, there are now no longer any such “easy” means of pump-priming this system, that ever needs such injections, never actually reaching a self-sustaining level, as its incentive is always to increase profit. And, the impossibility of such an objective shows itself at regular intervals, as the system runs out of steam and suffers unavoidable recessions. The modern methods have always involved the extraction of surplus value (profit) from the actual producers of the traded wealth – the workers in the factories and in the fields, but the unavoidable contradiction between necessary repression and the need for ever bigger markets, not to mention the ever deceasing rate-of-profit, has meant that NO permanent solution within Capitalism will ever be possible. It consumes its own resources, and hence must continually lay waste to a greater proportion of the planet, until the final, fatal slump occurs.

Jim Schofield

Why the Universe is Shaped Like an Egg & Why Stars Aren’t Where We Think They Are

Libyan Revolution: The February Stage?

"Gadafi go to hell! Game Over!"

The revolution in Libya Is reaching the end of its “February Stage” (as in 1917 in Russia). But, perhaps it isn’t!

For by that period the Russian Revolution had many long-standing political parties and the first self-devised and set up Soviets were cropping up in many crucial areas.

But, there are literally no political parties of any standing or experience, and certainly none who have made revolution their study and purpose in Libya. There are no self-organisations of a working class and hence no political history and ideas of Socialism. Indeed, even the Middle Class seem to be bereft of parties and political positions: the simple demand for the removal of the dictator seems to be considered sufficient, (as it was also in Egypt).

Indeed, there is a good argument for saying that there is, as yet, no Working Class, in the usual meaning of the term..

Certainly, Gaddafi, as with other Arab Rulers, had imported labour from all over Asia and Africa, as an easily-handles “working class”: any trouble and they would be out, without any rights at all!

Of course, although some middle class technocrats could, and were, also imported (usually well-paid), there could not be other than the development of a native middle layer arising too.

Indeed, perhaps the situation is more like Russia in 1905, when a revolution of great herosim arose and failed.

For though King Idfris was removed by Gaddafi, he merely replaced him in a very similar position. So that revolution did not run its full course.

And that makes the current revolution, a bourgeois revolution – an attempt by the Middle Class to get political power for themselves, by ripping it away from the autocrat and his attached aristocracy..

It may even be compared with the English Revolution of the 17th century, for there too, no revolution was possible without the involvement of the lower classes. The gentleman farmers and merchants were incapable alone of removing the King: they needed and made an alliance with the lower classes, with the promise of Freedom for All, to mobilise all classes against the absolutist ruler and his hangers on. And , of course, there, like here in Libya, these soldiers expected something from their victory. Organisations like the Diggers and the Levellers grew in number with demands that the supposedly allied Middle Class could not tolerate. But as long as the lower classes were still “in arms” they could not be removed from the situation. In the end Cromwell had to attack these organisations and disarm all who did not concur with his and the Middle Class’s idea of what the revolution was for..

The renowned New Model Army latterly became an instrument of repression, as evidenced most strongly in Ireland.

And as there, so long ago, so now in Libya, the lower classes in arms are the biggest threat not only to the ambitions of the Middle Class, but also to their supporters abroad such as the USA, the UK and France. Why else did these countries act as the rebels Air Force, and go well beyond their remit to safeguard civilians.

Now, you don’t have to study the TV news footage for long to realise that the bulk of the rebels are indeed the lower classes in arms.

So, what is considered priority number one, by both the middle Class rebels leaders and their friends in the West?

It is security!

By which they mean the disarming of the lower classes, before they take the situation too far..

Yet, it is these fighters in the main who have taken the brunt of the opposing professional soldiers, yet defeated them on the ground.

They have done their job, and must now be removed as a threat to the “required” following regime. Both the West and the Libyan Middle Classes want a Capitalist State, with parliamentary “Democracy”, where in spite of the veneer of rule by the people, it will as usual, be rule by the Capitalist Class. Libya is a rich country with only about 5 million inhabitants, yet it has 150 billion dollars salted away in the World’s Banks.

[I wonder who has been getting the interest on this over the last six months: it will be in billions of dollars itself]

And let us be absolutely clear the western capitalist powers will expect many privileges from their support of the Libyan Middle Class. They would like major and profitable access to Libyan Oil.

Cameron, Obama and Sarkosy took a risk in backing this revolution (it has not been done before: the usual response of such powers was to immediately send in armies of intervention to put the revolution down)

And of course, we must not forget about the Middle East at the end of the First World War, when the Arabs fighting for their Freedom from Turkey were betrayed (via T.E. Lawrence) and saddled with both British or French imperialism AND an amenable set of autocratic monarchs.

We should know what the West has in mind!

The major crisis of 2008 is still with them, and the very same problem remains. The vast borrowings against future profits have made even the USA, UK and France (not to mention many lesser states) mortgaged up to the eyes, and well beyond.

The investors are frightened to death . Will they lose their money?

What safe and lucrative havens are there left?

Now, all this being said, I must also ask the crucial question of the organisations of the Working Classes worldwide, “What are you doing to help?” What, indeed, are their policies?

Are there any revolutionaries left, or have they all succumbed to a measure of privilege themselves? Have the crumbs from the masters’ table been big enough for them to abandon their once loudly trumpeted internationalism?

For example, what should be their advice to the fighters in Libya?

How about:-

  1. Do not give up your arms. You may need then again!

  2. Set up your own local organisations – Committees or Soviets, to organise your areas, delivers its needs and protect your rights.

  3. Demand that the 150 billion dollars of wealth salted away in banks be given back (plus interest of course) to change the lives of all Libyans: it amounts effectively to $30,000 to each and every citizen in the country..

  4. They should also insist that there should be NO foreign workers at all. Native Libyans can work the Oil Wells , Transport and resources systems nationwide. And where they are not yet up to it, they should be educated, both for this and a better life overall.

I wonder if these will be suggested to these heroic revolutionaries? Any competent revolutionary must know that this “February” deserves its “October”

Jim Schofield August 2011 (a revolutionary Marxist for 52 years)

Who are the real thieves?

Enjoy Capitalism

The uniform condemnation of these rampages through the Shopping Malls insisted that the youth involved were criminals. But why did it happen now?

For to ignore this last essential part of the question changes what is meant into a general characterisation of those involved to being always appropriate. “They are always bad!” You can’t do that! The current situation must have precipitated it, and caused some to go and get what they seemingly couldn’t have, and would never have!

For the Youth are an unusual section of Society to be dispossessed, but that’s what they are today. And even more than that, they are also excluded from access to such things even later, for they are also being deprived of a future too! They have taken away their access to skills that was always their right, and even the chance of an education by the Higher Education fees going through the roof. And even those who have managed to get through to what they thought would be an assured future, now find themselves unemployed. And all this while the boys at Eton can still go exploring in Arctic Svalbard, while others can holiday in the Canadian Rockies, and call for tax cuts for the rich.

When you cut off all possible progress, the ideas of the lumpen proletariat (the thieves and bullies) seem the only way out.

And remember, the legal thieves who normally get away with “taking away”, do it on a vastly more massive scale. Why has no-one called the PPI scheme (Payment Protection Insurance) exactly what it was – thieving – “You pay us to protect you when in financial difficulties (and then in the fine print) and we wont do it!”

Some of the Big Banks not only caused the catastrophe of 2008, and were bailed out by US, but within a couple of years they were pulling this new scam to get something for nothing – and one particular bank had to pay 1 billion pounds back in a single year.

Meanwhile large numbers of MPs were stealing by fiddling their parliamentary expenses. And at the same time the pensioner who had saved all his life to get an income from the interest on his savings was getting 0.5%, while inflation was romping along at 4.5 %. He was getting poorer by the day and the interest would not even cover his gas bills. And if he (as he is constantly urged) were to switch his savings to shares, in the present climate, he risks losing the LOT!

Come on! Don’t let these people tell YOU how to behave!

For those who run things steal, one way or another, as their modus operandi. When you are at work and make things – who thereafter owns them, sells them and makes a profit from them? Is it YOU – the maker? You know the answer!

Just listen to the politicians talking about the riots. Ed Milliband says the same as David Cameron, who says the same as the Police Chiefs. And while these kids are rampaging (yes, KIDS!), the elderly wealthy are pressing for water cannon and rubber bullets and even the bringing of the military onto the streets.

Come on! Turn the clock back to when we fought back: when Scargill has a hero.

Remember those who run the show are all TORIES – whatever they call themselves! They were in power in the 50s, the 70s and the 80s, and precipitated riots then too.

Do you subscribe to the Big Society, where you do things for nothing, and they continue to sit on top?

Do you remember Socialism? Or have they removed your politics too?

Class and Consciousness

How you relate to the World, to other people and the availability of money, is broadly determined by your social class. It is not a strictly determinist process however, and there can be exceptions, but when it is indeed class that is primary, it is the mode of life and relationships to political power that are important.
Manchester slums
Having myself started out in a Victorian slum in a northern industrial city, with a Grandmother who could neither read or write, and having ended up in a professorial post in London University, I am perhaps better placed than most as an observant outsider to many different class configurations. I started out as a Primary School teacher and ended up as Director of Information Technology in a major University and met, worked with, and even taught, many very different people, and in the case of my students, have for long periods taught many different groups whose first language was not English, but, for example, Gujerati or Cantonese. My academic life has involved many different subjects and specialisms, from politics to science, from sculpture to philosophy, and from mathematics to writing.

Nevertheless, I have never lost my broad Mancunian accent, and a working class attitude to all that I do, though this has been vastly better informed than that of my friends and relations back in West Gorton.

Now, this brief scene-setting is important, because without that history I would never have realised what factors are essential in the formation of social consciousness. From the blinkered heart of any similarly privileged (or under-privileged) like-thinking group, it became clear that there could be NO realisation of such things: a sub-group consensus is invariably dominant. So, it is by no accident that much of value in modern literature has come, most often, from the outsiders, who can both see the currents dominant in the waters in which they have to swim, and, with wide-eyed amazement, reject them!

It also takes a very long time, even with such a history, to arrive at such a realisation, because nothing equips you to find alternatives other than a lifetime of experiences: you certainly don’t come up with all the answers in your youth, even if your heart is in the right place. For most of the time you have no choice but to oscillate between various substitute world-views, offered by others, and only with sufficient time, many mistakes, and determined study, do you slowly establish a human standpoint, rather than a commonly-shared class standpoint. And it is a sad revelation, because by that juncture you are already speaking a different language, and no-one from your origins gives any credence to what you have to say. For the majority dwell within only second-hand, class-determined conceptions of the World, and you are either “on another planet”, or alternatively “talking though the wrong orifice.”

Indeed, as a teacher all my life, I have learned that to say it like it is and be understood, requires a pre-prepared audience equipped to follow your meaning, while for any understanding to actually grow, they will had to have traversed successfully many important crises (as well as failed in a fair number of others). The successful teacher has to deal in what are termed Didactic Models, so will have had to arrange for specially designed Didactic journeys on which to accompany his auditors, so that they are guaranteed to both suffer these crises and also see for themselves the necessary new paths required thereafter. You cannot merely tell them the answers, as people only ever really learn from their mistakes. Your job as a teacher is mainly to lead them to good vantage points, and even let them climb a few gum trees along the way, so that they, in the end, see for themselves where to go next.

Of course, what would be entirely inappropriate, would be to deliver to them exactly what I am endeavouring to achieve in this article. For one thing, you would not stay long in post if you did, and you wouldn’t get many takers either, because you would not be taking into account their age and experience – they wouldn’t really know what you were talking about!

Let us then consider my initial statement about World View and class position.

We have to start with Work. How do people get the necessary wherewithall to be able to support themselves in life. Historically, for the working class, it is mostly out of their hands, yet in a contradictory way, they are the people who construct, mend and adjust most things: they are the people who can make things work with practical skill. Yet the fruits of their labours do not belong to them. They get the minimum that their employers can get away with, and effectively have to work all their lives, owning nothing of what they have made.

Their education was not meant to equip them to rise above their normal state, though some (like me) did manage it. The education of the majority of the population was always to serve what they would need to be able to do as employees, and this has changed dramatically since my Grandmother had to bring up a family with literally zero education or income.

While the class I know very little about is that which sits on top of the whole structure and calls the shots, from the upper middle class upwards, the broad reaches of the lower middle class I know very well. I have worked with them in education literally all my life, and none of the real middle class do the kind of work that is familiar to the working classes, neither are they in supervisory roles, which are for a narrow band of workers, who from their detailed knowledge of poaching, make excellent game keepers. The middle class deal in design, teaching and various other professions, and they are usually paid fairly well, and don’t have the same money problems as the workers. There is more inheritance at that level, and financial support from parents who own property. And such advantages definitely produce their consciousness, and in particular their “rights” to such things.

But class has become a dirty word in our aspirational, consumer-capitalist country. People who once would have called themselves working class and been proud of it, now shrug and say “middle class… probably”. How has the fabric of our society changed? Are these real changes? Where do you really fit into it? Class is still as much of an issue as it was in 1950s Manchester, but how has our consciousness of it been changed? These are important questions to ask of yourself and society at large, but the answers won’t be easy or comfortable.