2016 will see the start of a promotion / recruitment drive for a new UK based pressure group named What About Classism? As the tagline states, the objective for this new pressure group is "making rigged economics a human rights issue". Our mission statement spells out our objectives more fully, as follows:
What About Classism? is a pressure group that has been set-up to advocate for the recognition of classism as a specific form of social discrimination that has its roots in rigged economics. Our mission has two main components:
To create an open and safe space for people from all backgrounds - regardless of sex, race, age, ability or class - to explore classism as a form of social discrimination and to find creative solutions to overcome this obstacle to economic justice and social progress.
To work towards putting classism on a par with other forms of social discrimination - such as racism and sexism - both in terms of (1) the level of awareness within the general public and (2) recognition within the eyes of the law.
By way of further introducing this new UK based pressure group below are three short documents that have been written to communicate the basic ideas behind this project. The first document - What About Classism? - locates this project within its historical context and tradition. This document also highlights some key legislation and statutory bodies that are of particular relevance to the issue of social discrimination in the UK today. The second document - Why? - makes the case for setting up a pressure group that focuses on classism as a specific form of social discrimination. The third document - Classism and... - discusses classism and how we see it in relation to other forms of social discrimination and areas of life.
What About Classism?
Thanks to the various grassroots struggles that have taken place over many years - the Suffragettes, the Chartists, the Civil Rights Movement, etc. - in many ways Britain really is a great country to live in. The success of these struggles has led to the passing of anti-discriminatory legislation - the best example of which is the Equality Act - and the establishment of statutory bodies, such as the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) - whose mission is to act as a “catalyst for change and improvement on equality and human rights” and whose vision states:
"We live in a country with a long history of upholding people's rights, valuing diversity and challenging intolerance. The EHRC seeks to maintain and strengthen this heritage while identifying and tackling areas where there is still unfair discrimination or where human rights are not being respected."
The second sentence is of particular importance as it acknowledges the possibility of, as yet, unrecognised forms of unfair discrimination that fall outside the protected characteristics of the Equality Act. This pressure group - What About Classism? - has been set-up to explore a form of social discrimination, called classism, as a case in point.
We believe that classism is the political elephant in the ideological room that, when seen, makes a mockery of the notion of Equality whilst also greatly diminishing the meaningfulness of Human Rights, not to mention the democratic process as a whole. Ignoring classism, as the establishment is, whilst paying lip service to anti-discriminatory practice, as the establishment does, is perhaps the contradiction of our times.
But of course, the political and economic elites that make up the establishment are not talking about this contradiction because they rely on it to maintain their positions of power and privilege. It is therefore up to us, as citizens of a democratic country, to ask - What About Classism? - and, in our proud tradition of grassroots struggle, to demand a reasonable answer.
There are three main reasons why What About Classism? has been set-up as a pressure group that focuses on classism as a specific form of social discrimination with its roots in rigged economics.
Whilst the Establishment has begun to recognise other important forms of social discrimination - such as racism and sexism - the issue of classism continues to go unacknowledged. This reality is reflected in both legislation (see the protected characteristics of the Equality Act, for example) and public discourse on social discrimination (consider how often you hear classism discussed within the media compared to other forms of social discrimination). We feel that correcting this imbalance is crucial for social progress. That is one reason we think there is a need for a pressure group that focuses on classism.
A second reason is that the organisations that already exist that should be addressing this particular form of social injustice - trade unions, socialist parties, charities - are, for various reasons, not doing their jobs well. Trade unions typically focus on “bread and butter” issues - such as pay and conditions - and rarely, if ever, talk about the more profound and fundamental issue of classism. When in power, socialist parties have tended to institutionalise classism whilst offering no vision or strategy for how to overcome this injustice. By focusing on issues such as poverty and inequality, charities focus on the symptoms of the problem, not the problem itself - which, of course, is classism.
Whilst some progress has undoubtedly been made in addressing economic injustice, the issue of classism clearly persists. It could be argued, in fact, that by ignoring classism many of these gains have helped to maintain this form of social discrimination.
Another important reason has to do with developments in understanding classism that have taken place over the past couple of decades (see Recommendations for details). We believe that these developments help to explain many of the shortfalls in tackling this particular area of social injustice highlighted above. We also feel that these developments and this understanding can help to inform a new and vibrant organisation dedicated to addressing classism as a specific form of social discrimination here in the UK.
It should be noted, however, that whilst important advances in addressing classism can undoubtedly be made within the borders of any one country it is also the case that any significant and long-lasting progress will probably only come about as a result of efforts that transcend national boundaries. For this reason we hope that other projects will be established in countries that also find themselves facing this same major barrier to progress and that these projects can work together for the mutual benefit of all as an effective transnational network in the promotion of our shared objectives.
As the name suggests, What About Classism? focuses on classism which we see as a specific form of social discrimination. In this sense we are a single-issue campaign organisation. However, it is important to understand that we do not see classism in isolation. Neither do we see classism as intrinsically more important than other forms of social discrimination - such as sexism and racism. Rather, we see classism as centrally important to other serious issues - such as war and environmental destruction - and we only highlight it here as a form of social discrimination because of the way in which history in this particular part of the world has unfolded so far.
In this part of the world, for example, we hear people talking about sexism and racism all the time. These important issues are discussed on the television, in the newspapers and on the internet as a matter of course. This simply is not the case with classism. In fact, if you type the word “classism” into your device a red squiggly line will often appear underneath indicating that it has not been recognised as a legitimate word. Again, this simply is not the case with the words “racism” and “sexism”.
So we focus on classism, not because we think it is more important than, say, racism and sexism but because classism has been obscured, overlooked and left behind. Furthermore, we should understand that to neglect one form of social discrimination is to neglect them all. Advances in social progress that overlook certain forms of social discrimination are therefore inherently fragile, making them vulnerable to regression.
We should also understand that while classism is a form of social discrimination that has its origins in a rigged economic system, it is a problem that, if addressed, would impact positively on other serious issues. Perhaps most noteworthy today are the issues of perpetual conflict and war as well as the destruction of the natural environment - both of which can be traced back to the issue of classism. There are many other important social issues that classism impacts on and vice versa (for examples see Recommendations). Here is a list that we have compiled so far:
Classism and the arts
Classism and activism
Classism and classlessness
Classism and consciousness
Classism and crime
Classism and democracy
Classism and education
Classism and the environment
Classism and equality / inequality
Classism and the labour movement / trade unions
Classism and media / journalism
Classism and mental / physical health
Classism and racism
Classism and sexism
Classism and social exclusion / inclusion
Classism and work / economics
Finally, here is a link to our website where you can read more about this new initiative and, if you like what you see, register your interest so that we can keep you up to speed with any developments: