I just wanted to write a short post about the idea of “classism” when we talk about oppression. Often it is used as a parallel with racism or sexism (usually in privilege theory which I will write about soon), to mean the oppression that someone faces due to their “economic background”, their income or sometimes in relation to an individuals access to cultural capital. I fundamentally reject this notion of class, primarily because it overlooks the immense power that class gives us, and its vague conception of what class actually is.
Within the capitalist system class is an antagonism built into the system, which is our primary means of overcoming oppression. If we want to end racism at all levels of society, or sexism, homophobia, transphobia or ableism – we need to realise the huge potential for overcoming oppression that our class gives us. Class is not about being poor, or about your education, or how much you earn (though these things are the result of class among other things) – it is the relationship you have the the means of production within the capitalist system.
If we all went on strike and withdrew our labour (that we are forced to sell for a wage in order to live) we would bring a halt to production and stop our bosses from profiteering from the system. It is through our labour that they make profit, and in order to stop us banding together they continue to maintain their power structures and institutions which support divisive ideas, discrimination and a heterosexist hegemony. It is why our activism cannot just stop at “raising awareness” because we cannot win the battle just by putting out a different message. We need to smash the power structures that allow oppression to prevail, whilst the 1% reap their reward in terms of a profit. Currently we have an elite privileged class of capitalist property owners who keep control of what we create, and who gets it – but if we took back the means of production, and collectively owned what we create, and democratically decided what we do with it, we could provide for human need, not profit. We could build homes, feed the worlds population, provide jobs, stop environmental disaster and seek new liberating ideas about ourselves and our relationships with others.
Class is about being the 99% and although that means we suffer immense oppression, it is also our primary means of resistance. If we all stopped working and demanded an end to oppression and capitalism, the economic power base that our rulers use to control us and our lives would be lost to them. Class is about fighting back, organising the rest of the 99% so that we no longer have to suffer. Class is our agency in the struggle, and if we miss this huge and integral point to our resistance, we will fail to overcome the oppression we all wish to end for good.