Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

Posted on 9 April 2013 at 13:00 GMT

Class survey diverts focus away from power of working class to change society

Ken Douglas

"Emergent service workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains" doesn't have the same ring to it, was one response to the recently published Great British Class Survey, which itself concluded that traditional social divisions of upper, middle and working class are out of date in 21st century Britain. Can we conclude from this that the working class is no longer the force it was and does it mean that "we're all middle class now" as the former Labour deputy prime minister, John Prescott, attempted to claim?

The survey purports to present an accurate picture of class divisions in 21st century Britain. As well as questions about income, housing and savings the survey asks about lifestyle, places you like to go to, which people you know and draws out seven 'classes'.

These range from the 'elite' at the top to the 'precariat' at the bottom. The other top categories are the 'established middle class' and 'technical middle class' which are then followed by 'new affluent workers', 'traditional working class' and 'emergent service workers'.

In this month which has been dubbed 'Black April', where the Con-Dem government of millionaires has brought in benefit cuts for us while giving tax cuts to the rich it definitely seems like the traditional class system is alive and well.

The top 1% of the UK population has a greater share of the national wealth than at any time since the 1930s, whereas for the 99% incomes have fallen. 23% of large workplaces (over 100 workers) now use zero hour contracts and although factories have been replaced by call centres, conditions in them have led to them being called the new 'dark satanic mills'.


The reality is that the ongoing economic crisis and the Con-Dems' austerity attacks have for most ordinary people and many traditionally middle class people made their lives feel more precarious.

In addition the opportunity to move up in society is very restricted - the link between individual earnings and parental earnings is stronger than in any other OECD country and Britain has one of the lowest levels of social mobility and the highest levels of inequality in the developed world.

Since this government was elected workers have attempted to unite and fight back. 2011 saw events ranging from the 26 March biggest trade union demonstration in Britain since the Chartists, to the public sector strike against the attacks on pensions in November, where more workers were on strike than on a single day in the 1926 general strike.

That movement was only cut across by the right wing trade union leaders cutting a deal with the government.

With a fighting leadership, that movement could have beaten back the pension attacks and potentially brought down the government.

Is Marx and Engels' famous opening to the Communist Manifesto now out of date and with that the idea that workers have the power to change society and end exploitation? Marxism defines classes under capitalism in relation to production, to the nature of the economy.

The ruling class, the capitalist class, own the means of production, distribution and exchange (the factories, transport system, banks etc) and use their ownership of these and their control of the state to ruthlessly exploit the working class who work in banks, railways, call centres etc.

The position of the working class at the point of production, distribution and exchange makes it the most powerful class because workers can paralyse production in a strike and can go further by controlling production and distribution themselves.

In a general strike they can do that on a national scale and, as in the 1926 general strike, go on to control the distribution of goods and resources and so begin to run society.

Workers in jobs not directly related to production can also have significant economic power - a national teachers' strike for instance would be massively disruptive as many workers would be unable to go to work as they would have to look after their children.

Workers in Britain today still have all their power to bring the economy to a halt. The Socialist Party is calling for the trade unions and the TUC to organise a one-day general strike through coordinated strike action because such action has the power to stop this government's austerity drive in its tracks. 2011 has shown the possibilities; left trade union leaders must press the TUC to act.

The Great British Class Survey attempts to introduce artificial divisions between workers. This government of and for the elite is ratcheting back public spending to pre World War Two levels and transferring that wealth into the bulging pockets of the rich.

The 'divisions' will fall away under the pressure of these attacks, not just in Britain but across Europe and throughout the world, as workers unite to fight back.

This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 9 April 2013 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

Related links:

Working class:

triangleA world in crisis, ripe for revolution

triangleLabour 'purge' furore really just democracy

triangleFighting sexism, violence and capitalism - an international struggle

triangleLeft comic's take on politics will have you in tears

triangleWaltham Forest Socialist Party: Environmental crisis - a working class issue


triangleArriva bus drivers' action wins pay rise

triangle110 years ago: massacre at Santa Maria school in Chile - commemorate 21 December 1907

triangleThe Socialist's 2017 quiz

triangleNewham anti-academies strikes


triangleTrump's incendiary Jerusalem statement reignites Israeli-Palestinian conflict

triangleMovement growing against fracking giant Ineos

triangleTwo in five 'right to buy' homes now for let


triangleTamil Solidarity and Refugee Rights activists meeting

triangleTory plan to hold dinner at coal mining museum defeated

Trade union:

triangleObituary: Derek Robinson, car workers' leader, 1927-2017


triangleThem & Us

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis



Labour 'purge' furore really just democracy



Brexit deal no solution to Tory rifts



Two in five 'right to buy' homes now for let



Save our NHS


Them & Us

Them & Us



Uni market 'failure', two-year degrees - end cuts, scrap fees!



Retail sector crunch: nationalise to save jobs



Local government pay: fight for the 5% claim, fully funded



Corbyn's Labour can defeat Tories with socialist programme



Branson sues NHS: kick out the profiteers



Royal wedding exposes them-and-us visa system



RBS to sack 1,000: nationalise the banks



Rough sleeping crisis: make homes, not arrests



End Tory war on poor



Nationalise rail now

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle16 Dec Blairite council 'all ears' to rich property developers

triangle16 Dec Arriva bus drivers' action wins pay rise

triangle14 Dec Stop the rotten redevelopment plan, demand residents

triangle13 Dec Six months on - still no justice for Grenfell

triangle13 Dec Movement growing against fracking giant Ineos

triangle13 Dec Totnes MP uses coffin controversy to distract from brutal NHS cuts

triangle13 Dec Trump's incendiary Jerusalem statement reignites Israeli-Palestinian...

More ...

triangle18 Dec Leeds Socialist Party: Religion and Socialism

triangle19 Dec Bristol North Socialist Party: Christmas social

triangle21 Dec Wakefield Socialist Party: Socialists and the National Question

triangle6 Jan Socialist Party national women's meeting

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



December 2017

November 2017

October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017





















Platform setting: = No platform choice