The modern working-class is diverse and less anti-migrant than the media makes out.
The pen and its wielder are the architects of society. Unforunately though, more often than not, a middle-class media elite that constructs and misconstrues societies outlook.
In their eyes, the working people are a homogenous group: Brexit-voting; nationalistic, socially conservative, avid Sun readers.
This depiction is very much false. The modern working-class is a diverse group: black and white, old and young, religious and secular. Diversity is the definition. Yet, the media myths still endures.
One factor though, is common across the working-class and it represents the very culture of the class: disenfranchisement. And this disenfranchisement is perpetuated and precipitated by Etonian charlatan ministers masquerading as “one of the people”. Utter nonsense.
It is, therefore, the economy and its ingrained injustices that define the modern working-class. Not, issues related to so called woke culture and national identity. Social conservatism is the mark of the Conservative middle-classes, not the working-class.
It was the working-people that showed impassioned opposition to 19th century slavery, defied fascism in Europe during the 1930s and 1940s and rushed to the defence of Jewish communities against Mosley’s Blackshirts.
And, during the 1980s, it was the Labour movement that stood in solidarity with the LGBT community; in fact, the National Union of Mineworkers was the most outspoken ally of LGBT people.
More recently, one third of people labelled “unskilled” workers said that immigration was good for the economy and almost half thought Britain should allow in “many” or “some” migrants from poorer European countries, according to a BSA survey.
A far cry from the media’s portrayal of uniform xenophobia. However, it is true that working-class people are less receptive to immigration; this isn’t characteristic of intrinsic social conservatism, rather, it is characteristic of Conservative Britain.
Through an ideological crusade rather than economic necessity, the Conservatives have forced austerity upon us.
Working-class people, under this austerity regime, have been robbed of dignity and forced into misery: food banks saw a sharp rise with the roll out of universal credit, 4 million people trapped in deep poverty, and 14 million people living in relative poverty.
It is exactly these merciless conditions imposed on the working-class that lead to a breakdown of trust in public institutions. As the BSA found, a lack of trust in instutionts like government, parliament and education is associated with wariness towards immigration. It’s not innate social conservatism.
For Labour to turn away from its progressive roots towards a new form of social conservatism is, at best, nonsensical. At worst, it’s destructive and patronising to the working-class. Instead, Labour must continue forging the path towards a progressive society for the many, not the few: with the focus of creating a broad coalition of voters.
Forging this broad coalition won’t be easy. The societal organisation of the UK has undergone a seismic shift; namely, atomisation. Trade unions aren’t the leviathans of workplace justice and equity that they used to be, and as their membership declined, the inequalities festered.
Working-class solidarity has been atomised: the lone lorry driver, socially segregated factory workers, the separateness of the cleaner. Solitude, not solidarity, is the mark of the Labour movement.
And, what of emerging sectors like the 4.7 million gig economy workers? Without barely any trade union organisation, a deficit of worker rights and protections, they too lack the political organisation to make a dent in British politics.
Labour policies on nationalisation, public spending and wealth redistribution, are the policies of the working-people; not the ‘metropolitan elite’.
These are the very policies that the silent majority are crying out for, these are the polices that will reverse a miserable decade of Tory austerity and economic brutalism.
Labour must convince the working-class that we are the party of aspiration and real term material gain. But this is only achievable with strong community ethos in the context of a civil society.
Rebuilding the broken spirt of trade unions, unionising those in the gig economy, and coalescing segmented communities will unite the working-class in the face of Tory tyranny. Not, patronisingly pseudo-embracing social conservatism. And then, and only then, will Labour forge the path to victory; a victory many of us are crying out for.
Jatinder Hayre is a political journalist, medical student and academic researcher. He is a member of Keep Our NHS Public and the Labour Party.
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