Posts Tagged ‘‘White Collar Sweatshop’’

Mad Right-Winger Alex Belfield Calls for the Revival of Working Men’s Clubs

August 3, 2021

Certain commenters on this blog have described Alex Belfield as my favourite right-winger. Well, he’s not quite that, but I do admit, I watch his videos, which may not be a good thing at all. Belfield is, I’m fairly sure, a working class Tory. He talks about how he comes from a pit estate and inveighs against the way the White working class has been neglected by liberals in the BBC and politics. Who, as he sees it, all read the Guardian, eat oysters like Naga Manchetti, for whom he seems to have a particular dislike, and are determined to push ‘box-tickers’ like gays, the ‘ambivilacious’, by which he means trans and non-binary people, and folks of colour over ordinary working people. His audience is very much the same type of people, who formed UKIP’s constituency: working class Whites in their fifties and over, who feel left behind by the mainstream parties.

There is a genuine issue here. Tony Blair and his successors abandoned the working class in the pursuit of middle class votes and Tory swing voters. At the same time, they retained and promoted minority rights and issues, loudly supporting multiculturalism, feminism and gay rights. The result was that a large section of the working class has become alienated from the Labour party, with many socially conservative older members attracted to right-wing organisations and individuals like the Kippers, Nigel Farage and Belfield. About a decade ago, the BBC put on a series of programmes about race and contemporary racial politics in the UK. One of those was a documentary asking if the White working class was being written out of contemporary politics. The trailer for this showed a man, in stereotypical working class clobber, having words written in black on his face until he gradually became invisible. I think it’s a fair question, and the Labour left is serious about tackling this alienation within an anti-racist framework by working hard for all members of the working class. That’s the best way of fighting Fascism and right-wing populism. But the voices, who are most vocal about defending the White working class are people like Belfield.

And these are people whose political and economic views are actively hostile to working class interests.

Belfield in many ways is a case in point. A few days ago he put up a video lamenting the state of the country. He was particularly concerned about the NHS and the massive waiting lists that have emerged due to Tory maladministration. The Health Service, he declared, was no longer fit for purpose, and would and should be scrapped. He wants it sold off to private administration. In fact, it’s the Tories’ piecemeal privatisation of the NHS that is responsible for waiting lists and poor service, and this will only get worse as they hand over more of it to their noxious backers in the private sector. And if the NHS is sold off completely, it will be transformed into a for-profit service, funded by private medical insurance like America’s. The result will be disastrous. Thousands of people will die and go without the medical care they need because they won’t be able to afford it. Already GPs’ surgeries, that have been handed to private healthcare suppliers, have been closed and their patients left without their traditional doctors, because these surgeries haven’t provided as big a profit to their owners as they’d like.

By championing the NHS’ privatisation, Belfield is most definitely working against, not for, his working class viewers and listeners.

He’s also concerned about the lack of opposition to Boris Johnson from the Labour party. He has a point, although it seems to come from his opposition to the lockdown and frustration that all of the parties are supporting it. Looking at the recent dismal election results for Labour, Belfield had a few suggestions of his own how the party could win back votes. Instead of concentrating on issues no-one’s really interested in, like trans rights, Labour should go back to talking to its traditional working class supporters, and start listening to them and take on board the issues that matter to ordinary people. These are bread and butter issues like healthcare provision, jobs and getting enough money to put food on the table. I agree, although I do think that the debate over trans rights is immensely important, if only because of the massive expansion of the number of young women and girls now self-identifying as trans. Labour should be fighting for better healthcare, combatting unemployment and poverty.

But this means a wholesale rejection of Tory and Blairite neoliberalism, a neoliberalism Belfield supports.

It means kicking the parasites out of the NHS and renationalising it. It means restoring the welfare state, so that the poor, the disabled, the elderly and the unemployed are given enough to live on. It means ending the wretched gig economy, including fire and rehire and zero hours contracts. And it definitely means an end to the wage restraint which has seen working people effectively take a cut in wages, while the salaries of the elite become ever more obscenely bloated.

Belfield also clearly misses the decline of traditional working class communities. And this is where he got really interesting. He wanted the return of the old working men’s clubs.

Now I actually agree with him there. Traditional working and lower middle class communities had a solidarity and ethos of mutual support that has vanished as society has become more individualistic. Thatcherism, and it’s Labour party variety, Blairism, partly drew on the decline of the British working class. As more people moved out of the working class into the lower middle class, taking up white collar jobs and buying their own homes rather than living in council estates, the right became convinced that working people were no longer a political force. A few months ago I found a video from one of the right-wing political sites on YouTube, in which a pundit blandly declared that Labour was doomed when working people moved away from their traditional working conditions. When they stopped living in back-to-back housing, for example. I disagree. More people may have moved into the lower middle class, but very many of them still have the views, aspirations and desires traditionally associated with the working class. It doesn’t matter that many of them are now office workers – working conditions in many offices and call centres is as ruthlessly exploitative as Victorian factories. See books like White Collar Sweatshop. Working people, whether labourers or office clerks, still want job security, protection from zero hours and exploitative short term contracts. They want proper sick and maternity pay. They also want proper wages that will support them and their families. They also want and deserve proper NHS treatment, a working welfare state and public utilities that are owned and operated by the state for the good of the British people, not for private, foreign investors.

Which are all Corbynite policies.

The right in America and Britain has benefited from the decline in traditional working class communities. One book I read attacking the Neocons, Confronting the New Conservatism, argued that the neo-Conservatives had been successful in gaining public support because of the social atomisation that came from the decline of working class institutions. The decimation of the trade unions and other working class institutions meant that many working people only met collectively with others when they went to church. And the ‘White flight’ of White working class people to the suburbs away from Black communities in the urban core meant that Black and White Americans were separate and divided, and so the right could play on White racial fears.

This atomisation would be reversed if working class institutions, like the old working men’s clubs, came back.

I don’t think they could be called ‘working men’s’ clubs, not after the progress of feminism. Working people’s clubs, perhaps? It may not be possible to revive them, as it would mean taking on the aggressive individualism that has advanced over the last century, as well as reviving community entertainment and participation so that it could compete with TV, computer games and the internet. But if it could be done, it could very well lead to a very strong revival in working class consciousness. A working class consciousness that would be shared by the lower middle class.

And that could very well scupper all the Thatcherite and Blairite bilge of the last forty-odd years.

Which would be very upsetting for Tories like Belfield.

Let’s do it!

A Security Card To Track Workers’ Movements in the Orwellian Office

February 2, 2018

It seems employers will seize any opportunity or technological development to spy on their workers. Yesterday the I carried a story about a tech company, that had developed a chip, carried in a security card, that would allow employers to monitor the whereabouts of their workers as moved through their building. It would help them see if they were spending too long in the loos or otherwise wasting time.

This is very much like something out of some of the nightmarish futures portrayed in cyberpunk SF. In Jack Womack’s novels of a parallel Earth in which central authority has collapsed along with Christianity – Ambient, Heathern, Random Acts of Mindless Violence and Elvissey – power is held by an oppressive industrial conglomerate. This corporation makes sure its staff stays at their desks through the simple expedient of shackling them there in stocks.

And we’re getting closer to that nightmare future all the time. I’ve mentioned the book on the terrible way office workers are treated in America, White Collar Sweatshop, before on this blog. One of the elements of modern American office life that was draining any kind of joy from clerical work was the constant surveillance.

And it’s being done over here to call centre workers. According to Private Eye, the weirdo Barclay Twins also tried to inflict it on their hacks in the Torygraph. The Gruesome Twosome had motion detectors put up around the hacks’ desks, so they could tell when they were walking about and not sat behind them making up stories about how wonderful capitalism and the Tories were, and how Corbyn was an evil Communist anti-Semite. This was a step too far for the galley slaves on the sinking rag. They revolted, and the vile pair had to take them down.

Britain really is becoming a totalitarian, Orwellian society, where we are monitored all the time. In 1984, the TVs watch you, to make sure you’re doing what Big Brother’s government wants. Now there are fears that private companies are collecting personal data on individuals from the internet, in order to target them better for advertising. And this is apart from the expansion of state surveillance under the Snooper’s Charter, and the travesty of the Secret Courts, in which you may not know what you’re accused of, nor the evidence against you, or who the witnesses and accusers are, or have members of the press and the public present, if the authorities deem all this is endangers ‘national security’.

And with the corporate media now panicking that no-one’s watching the Beeb and other news broadcasters because of their horrendous pro-Tory bias, perhaps it won’t be too long before some bright spark at a right-wing, corporate thinktank decides that we really ought to be monitored to make sure we’re watching the required amount of TV per day. Just like in the Robert Rankin comic SF/Fantasy novel, Armageddon – The Musical.

As for how evil the corporate masters of Womack’s fictional world is, the Southern businessman whose drawling pronunciation of ‘Heathen’ provides the title of the second book in the sequence, Heathern, organises shooting parties where the quarry is Black, Asian and Mexican children.

So far our captain of industry aren’t that despicable. Not just yet. On the other had, we do have IDS and Esther McVile to thank for the genocide of the disabled. This is their warped welfare policy, in which the goal is to throw as many desperate and needy people of government support as possible, even if it kills them. According to an official report, this has resulted in the deaths of 120,000 people.

They’re killing people, but doing so without alarming the sensitivities of all the ‘aspirant’ middle class folks, who vote for them. No gas chambers or SS-style murder clinics, as under Aktion T4. They just through them off benefit, have the Heil and the rest of the baying Tory press vilify them as frauds and scroungers, and leave them to starve to death.

But we can put actually physically shooting the poor for sport past them? Toby Young is an ardent supporter of eugenics with a hatred of the working class and nothing but sneers and contempt for ‘diversity’ and feminism. He also wrote that he masturbates to images of starving Africans. And his oppo Ben Bradley wanted the cops to play ‘splat the chav’ during the 2012 London riots. It might be a bit of stretch, but I can imagine both these charmers writing stupid pieces about how shooting chavs and the rest of the disadvantaged would be a nice day’s sport.

White Collar Sweatshop

May 21, 2016

Looking through the politics section of one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham yesterday, I found a book entitled White Collar Sweatshop. This was about the highly exploitative and oppressive working conditions for office workers and salaried employees in America. Looking through it at random, one of the chapters was on the surveillance of the workers by the bosses. I didn’t buy it, because some things sometimes can be too depressing and infuriating. Also, the atrocious conditions in which workers are being treated are becoming manifestly obvious. The surveillance culture amongst some bosses is a case in point. It even extends to the hacks on the Torygraph, where the weirdo Barclay twins put up motion detectors to stop their hacks moving about too much, and possibly taking too many breaks. They didn’t invent the idea. They took it, according to Private Eye, from conditions in call centres. I think the twins, Tweedleweird and Tweedleweirder, were finally forced to take them down after a revolt from their staff. But those forced to endure it in call centres aren’t so fortunate. And so responsible office workers and clerical staff ground down, just to satisfy the boundless greed and sadistic need to control of the managerial class.