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What Does Being Working Class Actually Mean?

Updated: May 13, 2021

Working-class Britons include old, young, black, white, minorities and many others.

Only by uniting can they be empowered again

What factors actually makes someone working-class? Working in a factory? Being a plumber? Being white? Voting Brexit? If you watch TV or read a newspaper you will probably think all of the above. Unless you’re actually working-class, that is. From David Dimbleby declaring on the night of the EU referendum result that working-class votes were the decisive factor in the Brexit referendum to TV dramas depicting the lazy and criminal, the mythology built about working-class people is wide-ranging and often damaging. This is important, because if we see class as purely about culture, we ignore the role of the economy, the state or community.

Today, working-class people include black people, white people, old, young, people in social housing, people in private rented accommodation, migrants and many others. What unifies them is the way in which capitalism and its supporting state infrastructure chews them up and spits them out. They live precarious lives, face prejudice, have very little power and voice in their day-to-day interactions with work or the state, yet take pride in the place where they live.

No one has waged class war more than the Tories, whether it be culling trade unions, selling the idea that we have more freedom when the state isn’t around to support us, and even that inequality is good for us. Yet we found examples of working-class communities coming together to fight for local justice. Even as estates and factories are demolished, and communities split up, still the bonds of unity in adversity remain. The working class is down but not out.

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