For this reason, Marx is right to argue that if we want to dispense with the need
for an institution claiming a monopoly of legitimate force, we must dispense with
classes. In a well-known comment, Marx argues that in class-divided societies,
social relations are not ‘relations between individual and individual, but between
worker and capitalist, between farmer and landlord, etc. Wipe out these relations
and you annihilate all society’ (Marx and Engels, 1975a: 77).
This comment is not concrete enough, for workers also have a gender and
national identity, etc., and this materially affects how they relate to others. It is not
that the class identity is unimportant: it is rather that it fuses with other identities
since these other identities are also a crucial part of the process that creates class.
Brown argues that class has become invisible and inarticulate, rarely theorised or
developed in the multiculturalist mantra, ‘race, class, gender, sexuality’ (1995: 61).
The point is that we do not need to present these other identities as though they
are separate from class.
In this view, class is only seen in ‘other’ forms. The Independentreported (8 May
2003) that whereas 4.5 per cent of white British men (age 16–74) are unemployed,
this figure rises to 9.1 per cent for men of Pakistani origin, 10.2 per cent of
Bangladeshis and 10.4 per cent of Afro-Caribbean men, and the ratios between
these different ethnic groups has not changed in the subsequent decade. There are
not simply two sets of figures here (black and Asian men and unemployment): rather
it is that unemployment is integral to the discrimination from which black and Asian
men suffer. Class only becomes visible through the position of women, gays, ethnic
minorities, etc. The diversity of form in which classes express themselves is of the
utmost importance, and it is the reason why no particular group should be privileged
over any other in the struggle to achieve a classless and stateless society.
Socialists must, in other words, seek to mobilise all those who are excluded by
contemporary institutions. This goes well beyond the concept of a ‘proletariat’,
although those who are poor and have to subject themselves to the ‘despotic’ rules
of employers are an obvious constituency in the struggle to govern one’s own life.
It is impossible to be free and equal if one is subject to aggressive pressures from
employers and managers. Democratising the workplace to allow greater security,
transparency and participation is critical, and all those who suffer from these
problems are natural constituents in the struggle for socialism.
The point is that we cannot exclude the wealthy and the ‘beneficiaries’ of the
market and state from the struggle for socialism, even though it would be foolish
and naive to assume that the ‘haves’ will be enthusiastic proponents for a socialist
future! Nevertheless, it has to be said that those who drive cars (however rich they
are), are still vulnerable to the health problems associated with pollution. They suffer
the nervous disorders linked to congestion and frustration on the roads. Inequalities
and lack of social control, whether within or between societies, make everyone
insecure, and result in a futile and wasteful use of resources. Wealthy people who
try to ‘buy’ peaceful neighbourhoods, are seeking to escape from problems that will
inevitably affect them too.
Take another issue. It is becoming increasingly clear to ‘establishments’ in
advanced industrial countries that if nothing is done about the divisions within the
international community then liberal traditions will be eroded, as refugees move
around the globe. We will all suffer as a consequence. Some years ago the British
government announced measures to place terrorist suspects under house arrest.
Chapter 10 Socialism 231