The Sting in the Tail column from the January 1991 issue of the Socialist Standard
Class Act (1)
John Major, the Prime Minister, in his electioneering speeches for the Premiership was fond of repeating that outrageous piece of Thatcher twaddle "I am in favour of a classless society".
Overlooking the gall of the Conservative Party, who are committed to preserving the class ownership of this country, uttering such mindless piffle; it is strange that they should claim this as their aim when, from time to time, they tell us that we already have a classless society!
Class Act (2)
As reported in the November Sting in the Tail, Lady Porter's litigation against the Duke of Westminster's Grosvenor Estate has now been settled in the High Court.
The judge found that the term "working class" still exists. It says a lot for the British legal system that this momentuous decision took three days of court deliberation and cost Westminster Council, led by Lady Porter, £50,000.
Ever helpful to our "betters" the Socialist Party would draw to her Ladyship's attention an advert for socialist pamphlets in this issue of the Socialist Standard. She will find listed a pamphlet entitled "Socialist Principles" offered at 25p. post-free. She can read on page 10 of this publication the words:
Now we have capitalism, the typical form of which is that the means of production and distribution are owned by a small propertied class, the capitalist class, who also own the products and sell them to realise a profit. Wage or salary earners are the employees of the capitalist class. They, with their dependants, are the great majority of the population and constitute the working class.
25p. instead of £50,000? Surely Lady Porter would appreciate this piece of local government cost cutting!
Class Act (3)
Behind all this posturing and acting of politicians on the question of class there is the fundamental fact that, as class is determined by ownership, there can be no doubt of the existence of two classes in Britain today.
Commenting on Inland Revenue figures for 1988 published in the government's Economic Trends which showed that Britain's total marketable wealth was £1,300 billion, the Daily Record (21 November 1990) said:
Half the wealth - almost £700 billion - was held by the richest 10 per cent. On the other side of the coin, the poorer half of the population between them shared just £83 billion - less than 7 per cent of the total.
Thatcher, Major and Lady Porter are thus exposed by the statistics of their own institutions for what they are - apologists for the class divided society that they support so enthusiastically.
The struggle for the Tory leadership threw up an interesting insight into how Tory democracy works at Westminster.
Despised and ignored for 11 years, Tory back benchers were treated as VIPs by the leadership candidates. Just how unusual this was for them was reported in The Independent (27 November):
"Of course they are flattered. They are used to being consulted about sod all, and getting their arses kicked by the whips", a former whip said. "They have never been asked their opinion before, and after this, they never will be again."
The experience of those back benchers is not all that different to that of the working class at election times. Between elections they are largely ignored except when being exhorted to work harder or to pull in their belts or told to stop being moaning minnies. Comes election time they are being addressed as the salt of the earth and so on.
Funny old thing this Tory democracy.
A news item on Radio One about the proposed slaughter of 20 million sheep in Australia as a result of the slump in the wool trade, apparently affected disc-jockey Simon Bates to such an extent that he requested the newsreader to phone the Australian Consul immediately because, as he put it: "If this report is true then it is one of the most shocking stories I've ever heard".
Really? Poor naive Simon. Never mind the Australian Consul, just phone any branch of the Socialist Party and we will rattle off a catalogue of shocking stories about food being destroyed while people starve, that will make your earphones curl. Be warned though, on a pay-phone you'll need to have a lot of coins ready for this long drawn out saga.
A Short Honeymoon
After trailing badly in the opinion polls the Tories have jumped ahead due to Mrs Thatcher's replacement by John Major as Prime Minister.
Many people, especially dismayed Labourites, find this hard to fathom but they should realise that so far Major has only had to say the things which many voters want to hear.
He hasn't had to make the decisions which all leaders in power have to make about what is to be done, as they see it, in the interests of British capitalism — decisions which inevitably run counter to the expectations of those voters.
This is why every Prime Minister (Tory and Labour) and the voters have, for a while, a honeymoon followed by a cooling-off and eventual divorce. This is what happened to Mrs Thatcher and sooner or later John Major's turn will come.
Maggie's Big Deal
When the pundits were asked what they saw as Mrs Thatcher's greatest achievement, many of them replied "she tamed the trade unions".
This simplistic view ignores the dominant role played by large-scale unemployment in reducing trade union effectiveness. The slump of the early 80s enabled employers to impose on their workforces just about any conditions they wanted to.
Once the boom of the late 80s began and demand for labour rose again, then those unions which were in a favourable position could stage a counter-attack.
A Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions leaflet dated 6 November updates the many nationwide successes gained in their 37 hour week campaign. Why didn't Mrs Thatcher prevent this?
Now that another slump has begun employers are once more shedding labour and will doubtless be flexing their muscles again. Indeed, Rolls Royce have withdrawn the 9% pay deal it had agreed with some of its workers (The Guardian 1 December 1990).
The health of trade unions is more determined by the state of the labour market than the actions of trade union bashing politicians.