1980s >> 1982 >> no-929-january-1982

Five Myths About Class

Class is determined by how you speak, how you dress or where you live.

Class is not a subjective concept, but is determined by the objective relationship of a n individual to the ownership and control of the means of producing and distributing wealth (the factories, mines, offices, docks and so on). In Britain, over half of all wealth is owned by the richest ten per cent and top one per cent own more wealth than the poorest eighty per cent. The working class produce all wealth and the capitalist class, who own the productive and distributive apparatus, receive the profits which result from production.

There are three classes: Upper, Middle and Working

Sociologists invent class labels to fit their own images of society. There are in fact only two classes in society: workers (about ninety per cent) and capitalists (about ten per cent). The characteristic of a worker is that he or she owns virtually nothing but an ability to work (labour power). A capitalist owns sufficient capital to have no need to sell his or her labour power for a wage or a salary. If you can’t live without seeking employment, you’re a wage slave, no matter what class you claim to be in.

Class used to be important, but these days it’s irrelevant.

Any worker who thinks that class is irrelevant should try living the life of a capitalist – he or she will soon discover the extent to which class determines lifestyle. The capitalist is free to exist as a social parasite, living in luxury on the labour of others. Being in the working class guarantees a life of social insecurity; if it is not profitable to hire you the boss will soon fire you.

Under Labour governments, class differences diminish.

Between 1974 and 1976 the richest one per cent increased their concentration of wealth ownership. This under a Labour government pledged to redistribute wealth. (That was one promise they kept.)

Socialists advocate class hatred.

Socialists are opposed to capitalism, not to specific capitalists – some capitalists are bastards, others may be “jolly decent chaps”. It is the capitalist class whose interests are antagonistic to those of the working class. The workers must dispossess the capitalists, and to this end the Socialist Party of Great Britain (and our companion parties) call upon workers of the world to join our movement. Should capitalists wish to join, they may do so if they are principled advocates of the working class interest. Should any capitalist object to what we say, too bad.

Steve Coleman

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