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(en) Freedom 6321 Nov 2nd 2002 - What we say ...

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sun, 24 Nov 2002 05:47:51 -0500 (EST)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

In recent years, the left has increasingly abandoned talk of
equality and the redistribution of wealth in favour of a
'recognition of difference' and respect for 'diversity'
(multiculturalism, as sociologists call it). For anyone
committed to changing this society from one founded on
massive inequality to one rooted in social and economic
justice, these ideas are a dead end. If we're to respect
'difference', what makes the ideas of the British National
Party any more or less worthy of respect than those of militant
More importantly still, in all the prattle about 'difference'
something fundamental always gets obscured. This is that our
society is divided by class. Ducking this fact doesn't make a
politics of 'recognition' easier, it just makes any effective
anti-racist politics impossible.
Look at it this way Ğ whenever the issue of asylum appears in
the mainstream media, it's usually accompanied by a
politician talking about 'swamping'. David Blunkett will turn
up to deliver his party piece about how there's 'no room' for
more refugees. All of this is a deliberate ploy, used to distract
our attention from deeper questions. Is it true we can't afford
to accommodate them? Who is it, ultimately, that pays?
The same issue comes up in a different way in any discussion
of the firefighters' pay claim. They want a rise of 40%. Now,
Tony Blair has no problem with such a whopping raise in
practice - he's just given himself the same amount, after all.
But he tells the FBU the economy can't afford it without other
areas of state welfare being affected. Again, the question must
be: who pays?
Between 1983 and 1995, the proportion of income taken in
taxes from the poorest fifth of the population rose from 27% to
35%, while the proportion taken from the richest fifth fell from
41% to 36%. Little has changed under New Labour. Over 50%
of the total UK wealth is owned by 10% of the population. The
incomes of the richest 10% are over four times higher than
those of the poorest 10%. According to the TUC, British
employees work the longest hours in Europe (more than four
million of us work over 48 hours a week). An average UK
employee clocks up unpaid labour worth £5,000 every year.
In September, Blair told the Labour Party conference that the
government was committed to "the redistribution of power,
wealth and opportunity". When he said this, he was speaking
the truth. More and more of us work longer hours, pay more
taxes, get lower wages in less secure jobs or rot on the dole so
that, in the name of flexibility, the rich get richer.
Flinching whenever someone mentions class won't solve
anything. It's the class division that's the root cause of the
miseries of poor housing, poor health and second-rate
education. Politicians play the 'race card', but prattle on about
multiculturalism to make us focus on each and every
'difference' except the most crucial Ğ the one between rich
and poor.
For the moment, those of us committed to the abolition of
capitalism are in a minority. If we want to live in a community
based on the anarchist idea, a society where (in Bakunin's
words) "all men shall be equals and live in freedom, peace and
harmony", we can't win our battles through abstract
propaganda for a promised land.
In every contest, whether it's over asylum, the FBU's pay
claim or the cost of the NHS, we need to make sure the battle
is focused, not solely on the issue at hand, but also on the
wider question of who pays the price. Is it the richest in our
society or the poorest? The fundamental inequality at the
heart of capitalism must be brought into question, each and
every time.

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