Karl Marx believed that creativity and toil should be equally distributed through society. This would be a good blueprint for broken Britain to follow, as it faces a recession that will hit its poorest hardest.
As summer comes to an end, so does the Government’s furlough scheme and the storm clouds are gathering over the United Kingdom. What comes next will be brutal.
The numbers of redundancies being announced every day can easily pass you by, but we must always remember that there is real misery behind each one. The future is shaping up to look truly bleak, and we have now officially entered into what will be a devastating recession.
Politicians are warning of the hardships to come, as if the last 20 years have been full of wealth and prosperity for all. But of course, they have not and, with the virus still among us, there is likely to be more misery in the coming winter months.
As an academic, my calendar starts in September when a new set of students walk through university doors wide-eyed and full of wonder. This September, I am uncertain what those students will be walking into. Yet it was only a few weeks ago we waved off our third-year graduates to a future that is offering very little, while those in their 20s and 30s are being made redundant at alarming rates. I can see a conveyor belt of competition as each generation has to turn on the other in order to survive.
The saddest element of all is that we have been here before, time and again. And it makes me wonder why society continually makes the same mistakes. Maybe it’s time to look back to look forward, and consider, for example, the words of Karl Marx.
Almost 200 years ago, Marx spoke and wrote about what makes a good society. He argued that arts, creativity and toil for the good of society should be equally distributed. Why can’t a person be both a fisherman and an artist, he argued.
This has to be a better blueprint to follow than what we are currently doing. And that will be borne out by what comes next, because I have lived through a crisis like this before and it is going to be ugly. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, mining and other industrial communities faced the same fate as we do today, with the past, the present and the future being swept away. Every age of man and boy was losing their incomes, and there was nothing else for them to turn to.
There was no plan for those being made redundant, and no care as to what would happen to them. Men in their 40s and 50s never worked again. Younger men and school leavers fought it out among each other for the next 10 years for what little work was available. Many left their communities; the 80s and 90s were desolate times for the working class in Britain.
And there wasn’t just one lost generation of school-leavers, there were, and still are, multiple lost generations of families, some which have not recovered. The women in these communities fared no better, as the factories that traditionally employed them moved their trade abroad; their competitors for work were on the other side of the world.
This is a grim picture I am painting, and if I were to recount the personal and individual pains and struggles that I have witnessed it would be far grimmer. It is a horror story of addiction, suicide, poverty and hopelessness.
So now is the time to look back at those years with honesty, and to fiercely demand on the streets and in our communities, that no more of our people are allowed to be lost. There are solutions, and they were there in the 80s and 90s, but the governments of the day chose not to engage with them and instead use draconian welfare policy to punish people.
There are now many individuals who, through no fault of their own, are unemployed. There is no work. We can look to quick fixes and grandiose spivs to help out – such as the Amazonesque warehouse model and other satanic mills – or we can think seriously about the ideas of Marx, and introduce a New Deal for the arts and for education.
Working class communities are filled with richly creative people who can tell a story, in words and images and music. There are rich traditions in every working-class community, of debate, philosophy and the arts. However, they are not recognised for what they are and instead are devalued through a limited education system. What working class people do not have is the time, the resources and the opportunities to nurture their talents in a way that works…