When I was young, we didn't have double glazing; our house didn't have insulation; we played on dangerous building sites; I dressed in hand-me-downs from my cousin (this was most problematic around the time flared trousers disappeared over night); free roaming dogs were part of our gang; Vesta dried food was seen as a nutritious evening meal; people were thrown out of their houses on to the street if they couldn't pay their rent or mortgage; public swimming pools were popping up everywhere; Libraries were expanding; income distribution was at its most equal in history; working class holiday makers were tentatively dipping their toes into the Mediterranean; council estates were well maintained and housed the unemployed as well as Doctors, teachers and skilled trades-people; rents were low; electricity, gas, telecoms and water were all publically owned and prices were stable and affordable; school friends were separated from friends at eleven years old - some told they were the crème de la crème, while others told they were "intermediate," "secondary," or "B" stream. Lots of good and lots of things our politicians needed to fix.
The '70s. That time the media label, "winter of discontent" or the time when the Unions "had too much power," when workers could call the shots when they were treated badly. It was a time when even the Tories thought we were heading for a proper, democratic socialist world. They had decided that they could only slow the socialisation-sharing- of the world down , ie. ensure their interests were met and defended as the rest of us enjoyed more rights and wealth and power we had ever had in the history of western capitalist democracies.
I don't hold with the argument that working class people "had too much power" back then. I do believe that years of disempowerment meant that working class people, once given power, enthusiastically used it to make their lives better. The thing about this is though, that the rich were not impoverished by this sharing of resources. On the contrary, they continued to get rich - but their problem was that they were becoming richer slower. And then came Thatcher and her "Freedom Association" and their attacks on the Grunwick workers, the Posties, the Miners, the Journalists of Wapping, and the Liverpool Dockers and so on. Slowly, working class representation was ground down and driven out of political life, reaching its zenith with the public school boy domination of unsurprisingly, the Tories, but despicably, the New Labour project.
Unions - the organisation that gave you the weekend and the thirty-five hour week (the next focus for the Cameron Government after our pensions) used to ensure we had working class voices and concerns heard in the House of Commons and on our print and televised media. This nowadays rarely longer happens. The only working class voices we hear nowadays are those of B list personalities or affected middle class pretenders like Guy Ritchie.
We hear, instead, middle class voices telling us that they had it hard when they were young and the British people need to toughen up in order to get on. Like the Monty Python team, sucking cigars and reciting the depths of the poverty they suffered. The Pythons, back in 1974 when this sketch was first aired, understood that the people who recited this mantra were given free education, free health care (including dentistry and optical!) and all of the other benefits that meant much easier social mobility. Nowadays, the young (and the old!) are being told to toughen up by the same people who enjoyed the growth of the West that took place because of Working class power after World War 2. It is strange how people forget the benefits they received.
They upper middle classes feel that they should be the only people rewarded for any new growth. This greed has ensured that those who create growth - the people who spend money that is given to them (the working class), are further impoverished. It has meant a "double-dip" recession and it has meant that the very highest earners in our society soak up money they can never spend. When the rich get richer, the money becomes "dead." Trickle down has been proven not to work.
I don't want a return to Victorian times, a time of certain starvation for those who couldn't find work. I want a return to a tax system that ensures working class people enjoy a decent income, social mobility and empowerment. I want a better world for my children, not a back-breaking struggle.
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