It would be foolish to say that the line “there’s no such thing as class” – spoken by a Tory who had more than my family ever has – is what pushed me towards socialism. It did, however, confirm that I was onto the right path.
Despite being working class, I tirelessly defended free market capitalism. People are poor, I’d argue, but just the let the market deal with it. ‘Taxation is theft’ was also a favoured argument (embarrassing, I confess) along with the argument that inequality really is not a problem. I’m now unashamed to say that these arguments – if you haven’t figured it out yet – now sound empty to my ears.
The veteran Labour MP Dennis Skinner would be supremely pleased to know that it was his memoir Sailing Close to the Wind that finally pushed me from a political no man’s land, and into the arms of socialism. His writings, on everything from Margaret Thatcher to the monarchy, exposed the failings of the blindly capitalist position. Neoliberalism was promoted in a way that it would be seen to benefit my class when – in reality – it does no such thing.
It is very easy for somebody to sit behind a computer screen, or talk over a cup of tea, or meditate on a thought-provoking book, and argue about the absolute merits of either the free market or socialism. In recent months, however, the level of homelessness in my home town has rapidly increased. It is now an unavoidable fact that people have been left behind by a system that I used to – and many others continue to – defend. Being confronted with the human suffering of capitalist exploitation is proof that the Conservatives are not working, and never can.
It is obscenely easy to argue that inequality is not nice, but that the Conservatives do care, and really do want to do something about it. For your average Conservative MP, this is undeniably true. But whenever they enter higher office, these hopes are all but abandoned. Nowhere is that more obvious than in their current approach to educational reforms.
As a result of measures announced in the latest budget – so that Theresa May can achieve her vanity project of introducing new free schools – funding for schools is being slashed. My old primary school is going to lose the equivalent of £208 per pupil in funding cuts whilst the secondary school closest to where I live is set to lose £484 per pupil. Overall, my local authority’s total estimated reduction (in real terms) for education alone is £38,153,961 by 2020. The best cure for inequality is education, but the free market Tories care more about doctrine than they do about real people.
It is capitalism that mutates people into transferrable capital, and puts them into the position of being a resource to be exploited. As a result of this, the unemployed become of little-to-no importance aside from how they affect official governmental statistics. Despite her promise that she will make a country that ‘works for everybody’, Theresa May has supported a move that ends housing support payment for under-21s. This will tragically push more young people into homelessness, which benefits the Tories in that it is easier to explain than vast wealth inequality.
Our modern times demand a long overdue revolution. The old and tired system has failed those who need support the most, and the needs of the working class have been ignored in favour of the needs of the rich. The choice is simple: a country that really works for all, or a country that works to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. One is the capitalism system, and the other helps us all.
In the documentary ‘Will and Testament’, the pipe-smoking Socialist Tony Benn said that ‘Whether you win or lose a battle doesn’t matter. The question is “did you fight hard?”’ The fight for the working class – those exploited and abused by the free market – is not going to be easy. But, from now on, I’ll fight it until the day I die.