• Rowan Prescott Hedley

Where Class and Race Collide

The worker. Workers. Exploited, manipulated, pitted against each other via the use of their skin colour to ensure workers did not revolt.

We are revolting now.

Photo by Clay Banks

We're in the big sick. Almost exactly 100 years after the last one - not actually Spanish by the way. It was called Spanish Flu because Spain was neutral in WWI so didn't have a media blackout; they reported on it and people presumed it started there.


Despite the risks, revolution against systemic racism has reached a peak of activity, in my lifetime at least. White people are getting more involved, and more positively, than ever before. Marches have been held across the globe, mostly adhering to social distancing and wearing PPE. Sometimes more PPE than workers on the frontline of Coronavirus healthcare can get their hands on.


Black Lives Matter. ‘Back in the day’ was not a safe or welcoming place for so many people to exist. It is not what we should be striving for. Come with me as I add my twopence to 'ooh I just don't think all this tearing down statues is exactly necessary'. Spoiler: it is.


I'll take you on a guided wonder through why aggression has always been needed for successful, change bringing, protest. Finally, if you've read here before, you'll know I like the details. We take a short tour of legal history still present and the concept of jurisprudence. Spoiler: law is not objective and criminality is made up.


Who said I wouldn’t put my degree to use!



___THE STATUES___


Everyone I see making comment about the taking down of statues agrees on one thing - history shouldn’t be re-written. The disagreement is on what constitutes re-writing history.


The people complaining about removing *some* statues are under the illusion that the history they think they know is the truth. That what they were taught in school and see on the TV and tell each other and heard from that uncle’s mate that his grandad saw is true and accurate and well rounded. Sadly this is not reality.


I say sadly because white supremacy is sad. Elite white culture dominance is bad for everyone. POC, women, queer folx, the non elite and working class, people with disabilities and chronic illnesses, the list continues.

Photo by Gayatri Malhotra

The reality is that history has already been re-written. The removal of (again, some) statues is going some way to removing the tools of propaganda which feed a white male elite narrative of history and our current places in the world, which is not the truth.


Sure, put them in a museum if you are desperate. I mean all these people are also in books and if people know about them it's usually from a book or the internet. But if you're desperate for the sculpted visual aide, fine. Protesters aren't stopping you.


Removing most of these statues has been peacefully protested and petitioned for, for decades with zero action from the organisations which could sanction their removal. The Colston statue will now be put in a museum so what is the issue? They must be removed from their platforms, literal and figurative, before they can be moved. Protestors just started the removal process.

___AGGRESSIVE PROTEST___


The biggie. ‘The protests should be peaceful, should be palatable for the people with the power to make policy change.’


Firstly, get this out of the way, there are no reasonable grounds where you can be more or even equally outraged by looting and property damage than actual deaths. That is the capitalist regime acting through you to keep most of us oppressed.


Also the implicit bias in the language of media coverage is overt gaslighting and racism. Suddenly the same behaviour in frustrated and scared, overwhelmingly, white men is not the danger it was from PPE’d, socially distanced, actually more peaceful overall BLM protestors. However these men are not our enemy, the system which pits us against each other is.


Now, I hear the ‘palatable point’ from white people and POC alike and in this particular context I am aware of my whiteness (though not the full extent of what that means, though I have been actively de-conditioning my whiteness for some years now, partly with the paid support of POC).


The energy of this revolution (which, as Gill Scott-Heron said of sorts, has not been accurately televised) is growing bigger than race; this is building demand for intersectional justice stirred by raging race inequality.


Part of this includes a non-male centred BLM which is what brought Say Her Name, because so many black and brown wimmin are not even named when they are killed by white police. Part of this also includes queer and disabled intersections with BLM. And part of this includes centuries old class revolt.

We are about to broach the necessity of aggression and ‘fighting back’ in the Civil Rights movement to bring change. Before you go any further you absolutely must read this thread: https://www.facebook.com/vverner/posts/10105169669872320


Documented here is how there was far more organisation, strategy, cohesion, and planning than the re-written elite white male narrative of history would have you believe. This is how oppression survives.


Rosa Parks was not just a woman on a bus who one day decided she was too tired and happened to make history. She was an activist.


Sub plot here too. In the US, the 13th Amendment ended the slave trade but enshrined slavery in law for prisoners. Cue the mass misrepresentation of POC as dangerous and needing to be locked away… to be legally enslaved.

___LEGAL HISTORY___


In the UK, our class divide and struggle is so old and so present simultaneously. It is every facet of what we do. The mace in use in the House of Commons right now (not the original head) was made in 1649.


Parts of our constitution (written but not codified) date back to 1267. Bits of law from 1267 are still in use today. These are chapters 1, 4, 15, and 23 of the Statute of Marlborough.


Chapters 1, 4, and 15 are often referred to as the Distress Act 1267 (aspects of recovering damages ‘distresses’, so some rules around compensation) and chapter 23 referred to as the Waste Act 1267 (the first paragraph was repealed in 1881 and the rest remains today).


To put that in context, the Magna Carta was agreed in 1215, only 50 years prior, by King John of England. The Act of Union with Scotland wasn’t until 1707. We have laws in action and an object in the HoC which are older than the UK itself.


The Magna Carta, the thing you probably heard about at school, you can actually see in person in Salisbury. I've seen it, it's a very surreal experience. We love old shit here.

Magna Carta 1215

___CULTURAL SERFDOM___


So what does that mean? We as a tiny little island nation are dominated, and dominated a significant proportion of the rest of the world, with a centuries old class system of cultural serfdom.


Cultural Serfdom - my own phrase. You can have that.

Noun. Def: the societal normalisation of wage slavery.


Side note - this is not a declaration of the harsh reality of white working class Brits. For as long as people have travelled distances POC have been ‘working class’ in the UK, however that was denoted at the time. This is why intersectionality is so important because nothing happens in isolation.

Pitstop here at definition station.


A peasant is a person under the law who has very little to their name and is realistically tied to a Lord of the land to keep them with (a tiny amount of) food should the harvests fail etc.


A serf is a person under the law who is bound to the Lord and forced to work the land, they could be bought and sold.


A slave is not a person under the law and is the Lord’s property to do with what they like; usually work the land, amongst other tasks, sex based for the wom*n.


Technically, all English serfs were freed by Queen Elizabeth I in 1574. 300 years after our current oldest laws, remember. However, peasants, as people under the law not legally bound to the land and the Lord, were still subject to their health, their pay, and their access to other work. If they couldn’t viably leave their employment they couldn’t leave. So they were still realistically tied to the land and the Lord.


Across the Empire, if Brits weren’t enslaving people as objects, they were cultivating the environmental and economic conditions of limited education, low pay, and minimal access to healthcare to keep workers working for them.


Where have we seen this before? (She says meaning the Tories in the last 10 years, defunding, cutting, stripping, and making ideological austerity policy to keep people limited in their choices. Bloody mill owners.)


With the development of the industrial revolution and factory work and the growth of these factory, and particularly mill, owners to owners of home, work, and social life, people existed entirely in the property of one man or one corporation or whatever tax avoidance scheme they were using at the time.

Photo by Museums Victoria

This was commonplace in the (I know more about the) Welsh mining towns before Th****er. One company owned the pit, the processing plant, the shops, the pubs, the houses, basically the people and their lives. Starting to sound like serfdom again.


Admittedly this overt structure of ownership doesn’t exist quite as much now but, as mentioned earlier, we have seen the methods used by British colonists to economically enslave locals used here, now. In the last 10 years.


Pressured to stay in crap jobs with real term pay reductions, because of inflation everywhere else, with employers given increasing freedom to exploit workers, crippling cuts to social services to help people into housing or access healthcare which is difficult to access either due to waiting lists, cuts to services, or charges for some procedures.

Austerity is ideological, unknown author

A bit after the beginning of lockdown a lot of homeless people were suddenly ‘put up’ in empty hotels, and then shoved out again a little while afterwards.


Is it really so shocking to imagine that this government would offer to house homeless people for free as long as they contributed… work for it. And then once that happened for a bit, enforce the policy because ‘ruling elite Lord knows best and can provide for you, if you just help yourself a bit'. Still sounds ok to you? Read about the workhouses.


So this is a trajectory towards enshrined cultural serfdom. I expect you would be able to buy yourself out of the ‘new workhouse’ but as people with nothing to begin with how could that be done? So then those people are in real terms tied to the land and the Lord of the land; the ‘new workhouse’ owner. All this would be legal.


Being poor should not be a crime. Neither should not being willing to exploit your body, mind, soul, and labour for disproportionate owner profits. Criminality is decided by those with the power to enforce it. This brings us nicely to jurisprudence.

___LEGAL PHILOSOPHY___


Don’t you dare come to me with ‘the protests should be legal’. Laws and policy and enshrined prejudices being wrong are literally the point of the protests.


Law is not moral.

There is an entire subset of philosophy on legal philosophy, jurisprudence. This asks what should laws be striving for, what are the end goals? Essentially what the ideology of law should be, because law is not objective.


This philosophical debate has been ongoing for as long as there have been philosophers philosophising about anything.


For the longest time ‘law’ has been made up by a group of rich white men in a room and then enforced by mates of those men in the courts where we still have an enormous problem of poor representation in our judiciary. We have much work to do yet.

Previous laws which have been repealed after protest include:

Section 28

The Slave Trade

Rape Does Not Exist In Marriage

Male Homosexuality

Women Can’t Vote

People Who Don’t Own Land Can’t Vote

Over 200 Minor Offences Punishable By Hanging

Judging previous laws, and people and statues of them for that matter, by current day standards is how we evolve. Changing our laws, our beliefs, and our icons in public spaces, is human nature, and hopefully, growth.

Photo by Clay Banks

___CLASS AND BLM___


So, I return to BLM protests.


The energy of the protests in this country; the aggression, desperation, and need to tear *some* statues down ourselves is also within the dynamic of a continuing culture of serfdom and reasonable dismission - 'do what you like serfs, you are still forced, if not legally then economically, to work for me'.


This is why the protests must be un-ignorable. The Civil rights movement knew that and anyone with any understanding of the history of English class revolt knows that.


The power of change must be felt by what matters to them, which is only money and property, and has only ever been money and property. Despite all the fights to become monarch of England or England and Scotland (sorry Wales, since 1284 you were just sort of tacked onto England as those Celts over there, and Cornwall was barely differentiated) no-one ever seemed to be pursuing the opportunity to be a good leader.


Here we are with a PM who fought tooth and nail, strategy, connections, and lies, to become PM and doesn’t know what on Earth to do with the power.

He wanted title.

___CLOSING ARGUMENT___


I’ll just pretend I work in court then shall I…


Even the people concerned about taking statues off their plinths for the sake of history should be rejoicing as we are making present depictions of history more accurate.


If you’re stressed about Baden-Powell because “the statue was for the scouts not for his homophobia and support for Hitler!” Then put a scout statue up. We don’t need problematic iconography in our public spaces.


Aggression and fighting back in revolt is necessary for change. Credit to the linked post for Civil Rights context. Particularly necessary in the UK as we are fighting such old, present structures built and fine tuned for the ruling elite over the irrelevant serfs, peasants, and slaves.

Photo by Liam McGarry

Current cultural serfdom is pushing us down a dangerous trajectory and what started as support for BLM and revolt against racial injustice in the UK is growing into demand for intersectional liberation with race, gender, sexuality, class, age, ability, etc all at the fore.


I for one am looking forward to the world we are fighting to make.


___WHERE TO DONATE RE BLM___


https://www.sistersong.net

https://www.higherheightsforamerica.org

http://www.alongwalkhome.org/index.php

https://metoomvmt.org

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Southwest England

 ©RowanPrescottHedley2020