You, Too, Can Be Class Conscious

 There are three things that you must know before you can become class-conscious. First, you must know what constitutes a class; secondly, you must know to which class you belong, and thirdly, you must know what are your class interests. Having acquired that amount of knowledge you can claim to be a fully fledged class-conscious member of society.

 There are a deuce of a lot of confused notions about social classes. People talk about lower classes, upper classes and middle classes. They even talk about upper middle and lower middle classes and of the working classes. These social divisions are income groups, not classes. A person’s class is not determined by the amount of money that he can get hold of, but by the manner in which he gets it.

 There is no limit to the number of groups that can be included in these income classifications. Every income variation of a few coppers could qualify for a new group, which, of course, accounts for such foolish phrases as. “ the working classes,” as though there are a number of them.

 We must not confuse this classification or we shall arrive at a false conclusion. Human beings walk on two legs, but that does not make them human beings. Capitalists are wealthy and workers are poor, but wealth, or lack of it, does not make capitalist and worker. It is the source of their wealth or the cause of their poverty that places men in one or other of these social classes.

 The majority of people on this earth, when they arrive at their early teens, are sent out to find a job in order to augment the family income. They set out with nothing much more than their travelling fare and they go to a prospective employer and offer themselves for work. The employer may want a typist or a turner. In either case he is interested to buy some energy. If he needs a typist he will provide the office and the typewriter; be will dictate and expect the typist to translate his words on to paper via the typewriter. If be needs a turner he will provide the lathe, the workplace and the material to be worked on. The worker will bring only his energy and that he will apply to operating the machine.

 For all typists and turners, as well as for millions of others, that is the only way they can get the wherewithal to live. They have nothing else but their ability to work and they sell that in order to get the necessities of life. They constitute a class—the working class.

 Against this there are others who have no need to work. Their parents can ensure them an education of qualify and absorb them into the family business or maintain them out of the family income. They are born into their class, as are nearly all its members; only a very few nowadays manage to creep into the privileged class over the backs of their fellows. These are the people who own the offices with the typewriters and the workplaces with the lathes. These are the people who will employ the typists and the turners and all the others. The workers will produce an income for these privileged ones and absolve them from the necessity to work. They can take themselves off to Monte Carlo, Monaco or Monte Video, and rest assured that their incomes will be safe. Because they own land, or factories, or machines, or ships or something else, they constitute another class—the capitalist class.

 There are a few people who do not appear to fall within either of these two classes. They are the people who own the means of getting a living without having to seek employment, but their means of livelihood are such that it is a mighty meagre living that they get. There is the fellow who owns a hammer, a last, a few pieces of leather and a small shop and who ekes out a livelihood repairing other people’s footwear. There is the fellow with a taxi-cab who plies for hire and the chap who raises a few cucumbers under some glass that he owns, and struggles along on the proceeds of the sales. These and some others, mostly small shopkeepers, do not fit directly into the classification of either working-class or capitalist class. In the main they are distributing agents for capitalist wholesale firms which do not want the bother of running their own retail business. As a social class their interests are so bound up with those of the working class that there is no purpose in considering them separately.

 Look along the High Street in any fair sized town and note the changes in recent years. Little John Smith, the grocer, has gone and J. Sainsbury or the Home and Colonial Stores have taken his place. Freeman, Hardy and Willis or Bata have ousted the small shoe vendor. Montogue Burton has built a palatial shop where Snippet, the small tailor, used to cut and stitch. W. H. Smith has taken over from the little “paper man.” No shopping centre is complete these days without its Woolworths, its Scotch Wool and Hosiery Stores, its J. Lyons or A.B.C. caterers, Dunn’s the Hatters, Dorothy Perkins, Timothy White and Taylors or Boots the Chemist, United Dairies, Granada or Odeon Cinema, Halfords, Mac Fisheries and all the other big names in retail business. The big capitalist firm is in the High Street and the little “middle class” man is in the side streets or the less busy part of the town, that is, if he has managed to hang on in the face of the overwhelming competition. These so-called “middle class” people are being squeezed out and are becoming managers for the big capitalist stores.

 With these “in-between” people drawn irresistibly to the working class, there is a line-up of society into two classes, the workers and the capitalists. So, to the second point. To which class do you belong? That is something that you can decide for yourself. The fact that you are reading the Socialist Standard makes it a hundred-to-one bet that, like us, you are a member of the very-hard-working-class. So, all that remains is for you to grasp what are your class interests.

 You have probably experienced the blind urge of class antagonism without recognising it. You have probably felt a sympathy for “poor” people being suppressed by “rich” ones. You have probably observed what you consider to be a lot of injustice in this society and you have more than likely, at times, got all het up about it. That is an admirable emotion, but it does nothing to indicate where lie your interests. If you find that you fit into the capitalist classification and you enjoy the privileges and luxuries that go with membership of that class, then your interest is apparently to keep things going in the same old way so that your privilege and luxury can continue.

 But if the more probable is the case and you are one of our fellow workers, what then? You will find that your interests run in two channels. In the first you will find that, as a member of the working class, you will have to wage a continual struggle to maintain your living standards, to say nothing of the struggle to try to improve them. You will be living on wages and your employer will resist your efforts to increase them. He will always want more for his money and you will be carrying on a ceaseless struggle against him. You do not have to be class-conscious for that. All workers, even those who delude themselves that they are little capitalists, have no alternative but to struggle to get what they can out of the present social set-up. But if you are class-conscious you will wage that struggle with your eyes peeled and you will not expect from it more than it is possible to achieve—which is mighty little.

 Of course, you will not be satisfied with mighty little, so you will seek a way to achieve a life free from struggle and free from all the ills that beset members of the working class. You will realise that, no matter what you gain by your struggle to improve your wages and conditions, the members of the opposing class still live in comfort and leisure and the political machinery is frequently used to nullify some small gain that you may have made. Then you turn your attention to politics.

 It is to be expected that, if you have discovered that there are very narrow limits set on what you can achieve by struggling within the present social system, you will turn your activities towards putting an end to that system. If it does not serve your interests, why retain it? It is in the interests of the capitalist class to retain it, but you should strive to abolish it.

 On the political field you will find many parties which aim to make all sorts of alterations to the present social system, but which will show their venom when anyone suggests abolishing it. Yet that is where your interests lie, not in struggling to crawl out of your class into the capitalist class, which is well nigh impossible, but in striving to end a class system of society altogether. Even if you manage to get yourself into that money-grabbing clique termed “middle class” you still need to end the system that makes you sweat for hours each day in order to get a living. And there is always some more “ successful ” fellow who is ready to give you a back kick and send you back to the ranks of the working class again.

 There you are. Make up your mind to which class you belong. If you are of the working class, then get off your knees, stand up and be a man and fight to achieve a society that can offer you a life worth living. You have been a tame and docile wage worker long enough, voting for political quacks who have led you up every garden path they can find. Take a look round, find a political party composed of people like yourself who are also class-conscious and who know what they are after. Roll up your sleeves. Until you do you are holding up those who do want to get on with it So, get weaving and let us hear from you.

W. Waters

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