This is how we the working class can save ourselves from being the henchmen of the elite

In a world of rampant inequality, those who strive the hardest are right to feel embittered. However, to misdirect one’s anger at your counterparts at the behest of ideologues such as Trump and Farage is counterproductive 

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The Independent Online

From the rise and rise of Donald Trump to Britain's increasingly dysfunctional Brexit, the wave of right-wing populism currently sweeping across the western world makes this a deeply unnerving time to be alive. If history has taught us anything, it's that working class disenchantment is like manna from heaven for pedlars of extremist hatred. The common modus operandi? Divert the attention of those most disadvantaged by the age of free market capitalism with a narrative of division and scapegoating. By ‘othering’ minority groups and perpetuating anti-intellectualism, a perfect storm of resentment and misplaced fury is conjured up. You are persuaded that you are a victim of the liberal elite, determined to enforce a ‘left-wing’ agenda at the expense of your job, your position in society and your very identity.

For full disclosure, I consider myself to be working class. As the son of a coal miner in the 1980s, my outlook and belief system are the unambiguous consequence of a childhood characterised by extreme poverty. The first in my family to attend university, there are those who would seek to re-categorise me as ‘middle class’, a view I find myself at extreme odds with.

Our working class anger is entirely justified. In a world of rampant economic and social inequality, those who strive the hardest are right to feel embittered. However, to misdirect one’s anger at your counterparts, be they disabled, BME, LGBT, welfare claimants or any combination thereof, at the behest of ideologues such as Trump and Farage, is both counterproductive and self-defeating.

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The lessons from the past warn us against taking the fight to the wrong opponent. Never again must working class people allow themselves to become the henchmen of exploitative right-wing leaders.

There is an urgent need to address the issue of the exploitation of the working class and to consider how we reframe the discourse so that working people are once more champions of collectivism, equality and social justice.

First, we must continually challenge the rhetoric of intolerance, never being seen to excuse prejudice or discrimination as an outlet for working class frustrations. Members of minority groups can be working class too, and they must form a part the discussion of the impact of 21st century neoliberalism on all of us working people. To fail in this regard would be to erase and disenfranchise an indispensible facet of working class community and culture.

Crucially, working people need to become more engaged in the political processes that impact so profoundly on their everyday lives. If British politics feels inaccessible to all but an establishment elite, it is largely because our electoral system exacerbates that disconnect. More proportional voting would undoubtedly boost participation among working people, many of whom are understandably too preoccupied with the inherent turbulence of life in AusterityUK™ to cast a ballot they consider to be informed yet probably wasted.

Promoting the active involvement of working people in political parties, as well as their self-organisation within trade union structures, is also of paramount importance. Parties urgently need to actively seek out potential candidates from working class communities who can best represent, articulate and formulate potential solutions to the country’s most pressing issues.

Trade unions must also continue to evolve, retaining their relevance at a time of unprecedented worker struggle. They must remain lay-led and focused on improving the living and working conditions of their members. Never has this been more necessary than now, with the government masterminding an assault on workers’ rights via the Trade Union Act.

The world stands on the edge of a precipice; working people can be the ones to pull it back to safety.

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