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The betrayal of white working-class men They've been recast as the elite's salivating attack dogs

'Fuck that.' John D Mchugh/Getty Images

'Fuck that.' John D Mchugh/Getty Images


December 28, 2023   8 mins

Cards on the table: I’m a rampant opponent of white, bourgeois, male privilege. Events such as the Coronation, or another Biden-Trump stand-off, pull this lunacy into sharp focus. Yes, these ludicrous and deranged media-driven circuses may have little to do with women, black, Asian, gay or trans people. But let’s get this straight: they have absolutely fuck all to do with white working-class men either.

According to liberal conventional wisdom, we are in a post-industrial, post-imperial society where shouty (white) men can no longer trumpet their entitled assumptions unchallenged, and perhaps even have to stand in line. Well, if that’s truly the case, thank fuck for it. After all, imperialism and the patriarchy cost a lot of lives, and gave us wars, bad politics and bad art. And nothing’s changed.

Ironically, however, most of those lives lost in Western society were male, white and working-class; basically, those citizens assumed by the paradigm of class-denying intersectionality to be the enemy of progress. White working-class males are now recast as the establishment’s salivating attack dogs; the overseers of imperialism, enforcing the bidding of their wealthier masters. Their role in securing most of our human rights — through workplace struggle in the trade unions, strikes, demonstrations, wars and riots — is to be erased from our collective consciousness.

Because some sections of the white working class bought into the reductive neoliberalism of unrestrained capitalism through the Thatcher-Reagan revolution, so the entire group was written off. In the “hierarchy of the oppressed” so beloved of intersectional theory, a (white) penis in the underpants is more important than the lack of an arse in the trousers in determining your place in the world.

So, what excludes white working-class men from this LGBT intersectional paradigm? It can’t be race, as white women are permitted. It can’t be class, as working-class women and black men are allowed in. It can’t even be sex/gender, as gay or bisexual white working-class men and women are included. But perversely, white proletarian men are lumped in with their bourgeois “brethren”; outsiders in this rainbow-coloured festival of the oppressed.

In this bizarre schematic model, working-class football supporters in Liverpool are deemed on the same side as rabid establishment mouthpieces such as The Sun’s Kelvin McKenzie, who demonised, vilified and lied about them. Conversely, black teenagers in inner London estates, continually the victims of harassment by the Metropolitan Police and at the bottom of Britain’s opportunity pile, are ludicrously deigned to have common cause with the privately-educated colonial elites placed strategically in the media and commerce through “equal opportunity” positive discrimination schemes. There’s something about the bourgeois psyche that produces a visceral reaction to that deadly combination of working-class, white and straight — irrespective of the actual views and life experiences of someone in that grouping.

The decline of class politics and its replacement by the schisms of identity is an integral part of the neoliberal order. After all, one unites and the other divides. The class war was won by the elite in Britain, probably as far back as Orgreave in the 1984 miners’ strike, when organised labour was crushed. Today, capital rules supreme, steadfastly tightening its hold, aided by a rapacious individualism that has now tipped into a demented narcissism, and a technology concentrated in the hands of corporations and its co-opted governments.

Therefore, in the realms of finance and economics, nothing is now contestable, unless it’s national elites using their power (and manipulating the populace) to try to gain more traction and influence at the expense of the interrelated global ones. What is presented to us as politics is a hollow civil war of the super wealthy, with the rest of us as pawns. Silver-spooned, daddy-issue Republicans, like Trump and his ilk, have long presented as comic-book versions of the most vulgar, dumbass versions of redneck USA. This is now Right-wing de rigueur, enabling exploiters to “connect” with a politically and socially displaced white America, which embraces grievance and victimhood as eagerly as any grouping that claims to be oppressed. This folksy affectation is only partly strategic: late capitalism has stupefied its winners as much as its losers. Hollywood has recycled the potty mouth of the ghetto into the boardroom, where the same tropes are now regurgitated in a decontextualised way, with defiant alienation replaced by entitled arrogance, under the depoliticised posturing of “attitude”.

Meanwhile, digital technology and its deployment solely for private profit through capital accumulation has fucked all our attention spans, and our sense of the past, as completely as George Orwell suggested. (Indeed, there’s little point in saying that: the ubiquity of Orwell as just another internet cliché has completely nullified the power of his message.)

In Britain, I believe that the traditional working man — of all colours — has had a bad rap. Recently, I was out with some old pals, and we were talking about how we’ve stayed close friends down the years, despite life, love and work taking us off in varying directions. One friend went on at length about how his partner and her friends were quite surprised at the continuing bond between us all. It’s a recurrent theme with women I know, who ask, perhaps not unjustly: how can you still be bothered with each other?

Men, whose camaraderie can seem frivolous, built on drinking, football and laughing at each other’s embarrassments, paradoxically tend to stick together down the years more than women, who talk of weightier, more emotional subjects. Several years ago, following a relationship breakdown scenario, I went through a phase where I felt like I was done with male company. I decided I could do without the gung-ho nature of the archetypal male response to such events: “Forget her. They’re all the same. Get another round up. I’ve left a line out for you in the toilets.” As a result, I basically surrounded myself with my women friends. Not for the first time, they were the ones offering real support and genuine insight into my predicament.

Then you realise: it’s not about thesis and antithesis. There’s always got to be room for a synthesis of different ideas and values. Once more, I’m appreciating the narrow, lazy affirmation that belonging to a mob of men can offer. The best thing about being a man of my generation is that we’re allowed to get the fuck out of the house. Now I feel for youth who don’t do this so much — they really don’t know what they are missing. When they do, the experience is invariably packaged for them. The biggest indictment you can offer our current dystopia is that we’ve created a society where the old pity the young. That’s just not right.

Masculinity (as well as femininity) is tied to our lost sense of community. As pubs and clubs close down across the country, teenagers are more likely to spend their evenings on Instagram, TikTok, playing video games or on some dubious porn forums than getting drink from the offie and messing around in the park or on abandoned railway lines. A social vacuum has been created at the same time as a dumbed-down visceral communication system has emerged. This creates a place where someone as pathetic as Andrew Tate can gain a limited sphere of influence. The emergence of such characters would have been impossible in the Nineties. They would have been dismissed as ludicrous wankers in a truly contested, democratic street culture, as opposed to the top-down media one we now live in. Now a noncey, supermarket transgression has gained a foothold, appealing to an entire lost generation of anxious, isolated teenage bedroom wankers, brimming with the sleazy narratives of onscreen porn.

While young people are being stripped of their right to be completely irresponsible — i.e. young — those of us who spent a whole chunk of our change in the last century are often unprepared to let go of our unruly youth, still investing in bad behaviour and the institutions believed to encourage it; the pub, the gig, the nightclub, the rave, the football ground and the traditional workplace. I personally thank the higher powers for those declining bastions.

In their growing absence, the neoliberal state has gutted everyone’s lives of meaning — to the extent that we have little to cling to other than a narcissistic, media-constructed sense of who we are and our supposed entitlement to avoid personal discomfort at all costs. Thus, through toxic social media platforms, proponents of various identities get to sling all sorts of mud at each other, devoid of any social setting and real human interaction. Generally, it’s an inconsequential battle, in which people are afforded the keyboard warrior’s licence — rewarded by the dopamine hits — to abuse each other with relative impunity. The objective of the game is to goad the other party into an overreach and a subsequent pile-on, with an attendant Twitter ban or, the great weapon of our times, “cancellation”. Generally, however, in those futile wars, no party claims a feasible victory. Nonetheless, the participants are rarely shy of pompously deploying tiresome, overdramatic dictums declaring their cause or viewpoint to be “on the right side of history”.

This nonsense benefits only the continuation of the current bankrupt system. The establishment’s economic, financial and social elites once starved people into compliance; now it lures them into pointless shouting matches, allowing them to stupefy themselves in the process.

So, white men aren’t the only ones rendered toxic by our culture. Every group and demographic, as evidenced by its social media extremists, are fundamentally unhappy with their lot and in existential crisis about who they are in this changing world. Part of this is the old science of consumer capitalism: keep us feeling bad about ourselves and then give us a product or service or procedure that will make us centred, complete or alive. Ignore the fact that we’re strutting around in a zoo we’ve made for ourselves. Whatever we consume or change or alter, we remain polar bears in the same concrete enclosure, pacing up and down.

The toxicity of white rich men is more consequential than that of the rest of us, which is largely an acting out, a cry for attention. After all, they are seen to have the power to change all this. Only they don’t. The consciousness-crushing machine they’ve helped create and service brings them no substantive life benefit anymore. Can a man with £400 million in the bank really be poorer than one with £500 million? How many lives do you need to live to spend that? It’s the accumulation of meaninglessness; the buying of some kind of dominance and largely imagined status over peers. Checking figures from the spreadsheets on their screens. Seeing how efficient a capitalism no longer tied to production is in taking the resources of communities, monetising it, and transferring it to their accounts. Basically, wasting their lives away in that most futile of pursuits: making non-spendable money, while the years tick by, and dreams of love and laughter are replaced by a rancid resentment and urge to satisfy the ego-driven need for “influence”.

The continuing war of capital upon consciousness, on what makes us human, continues apace. In an economy that can produce everything at zero cost, the wealthy are coming to the end of their ability to control us by paying wages. Now, this can only be done through the steady erosion of human consciousness. AI is a backstop here, just in case our spirits rebel in reaction to this, and we cut up too rough. After all, a robot or a computer doesn’t need food. And crucially, it’s not changed by anyone looking at it. It is not self-conscious. But if the system can’t make robots quickly enough to replace us, it’ll try to make us all into robots.

“We’re not allowed to say that” is the factory bleat that resonates throughout social media from all we older, toxic, white working-class males. How excited we get on our dopamine hits, when some papier-mâché faced ponce seems to stick it to the poker-arsed gatekeepers of neoliberal morality with a racist or sexist quip — while they (quietly) endorse an economic system of gross inequity that now almost literally defecates on us. Our participation in “politics” is reduced to watching a Frank Drebin from Police Squad/The Naked Gun look-and-soundalike clownishly annoy some uptight disapprover.

What we certainly are allowed to do, is to be nostalgic. The system plays on our need to make sense of our existence by processing our past, but only in a way that all conflict is taken out of it. Thus, our need to validate our lives in a fake “golden age” haze becomes a de facto endorsement of a system that has limited the potential of those lives. It encourages us to sit around crying into our beer about how things ain’t what they used to be, reconstructing a collective rose-tinted past designed to sustain us in our dotage, while ensuring this state creeps ever closer as mindless aphorisms — ubiquitous, circular — rot our brains.

Fuck that. Pick up a book instead. Let’s get educated. The smarter we are, the less easy it is for the unenlightened greed junkies to fuck things up for us. The world is changing, let’s change with it, but in ways which make sense to us, not to the blueprint of white-collar fascist controllers or soulless tech nerds who need to get properly laid. (They are the ones who’ve swamped our brains and culture with the shabby dictates of their crass dating algorithms.) If I could make one solitary plea to white working-class men: do not be servile to the upper classes. They are not your amigos. They blithely dispatched your forefathers to the killing fields, and they haven’t gained any greater appreciation or respect for you since. In broader terms, Trump-Biden 2 or 3 or 4 will not do anything for the citizens of this world that the first one didn’t. Probably much less. Toxic masculinity is just that, because it exists within a toxic system.

 

This piece was first published in May, 2023.


Irvine Welsh is a Scottish novelist and playwright. He is the author of Trainspotting and, most recently, The Long KnivesHis latest novel, Resolution, will be published in July.

IrvineWelsh

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Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
6 months ago

If this is considered one of the best articles of 2023 Unherd has a serious editorial problem.

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
6 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Who would Welsh like for company – Bill Gates or Robert Mugabe?

G M
G M
6 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

I’m wondering if considering this to be one of the best of 2023 is some kind of inside joke at Unherd.

Benjamin Greco
Benjamin Greco
6 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

You have the problem, your blind and stupid. Mr. Welsh is spot on. This piece is the best of 2023, and the best thing I have read in years.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
6 months ago
Reply to  Benjamin Greco

Mr. Bray is well named.

Alan Hawkes
Alan Hawkes
6 months ago
Reply to  Benjamin Greco

Where’s his solution? Anyone can complain how bad life is. Offering solutions is a different matter.

Jack Martin Leith
Jack Martin Leith
6 months ago
Reply to  Alan Hawkes

“If you are frequently called out for bringing problems not solutions it’s probably because you are assuming that your audience has skills, motivation, and experience to act on knowing about the problem. And they don’t.”
John Cutler on LinkedIn
https://www.linkedin.com/posts/johnpcutler_tip-if-you-are-frequently-called-out-for-activity-7146225943659823104-aobE

Benjamin Greco
Benjamin Greco
6 months ago
Reply to  Alan Hawkes

The only solution unfortunately is for the system to crash, crumble and collapse.

nigel taylor
nigel taylor
6 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

It’s the same every year ;the kids are left in charge between Christmas and the new year.

Peter B
Peter B
6 months ago

Ahistorical nonsense.
A brief tour of Cambridge college chapels would tell Mr Welch just how many upper class young men died in WWI and expose his lie that the working class disproportionately suffered and died in many of these wars. If he’d picked up a book or two and got educated (to use his own words) he’d know that Kipling’s son died as did then Prime Minister Asquith’s. To name just two.
He’s also mistaken that Britain’s “human rights” were the unique result of working class struggle. Most of the work was done by upper-middle class Liberals, nonconformists and even peers and Tories like Disraeli. The perversion of these reforms and freedoms into the “univeral human rights” quasi-religion after WWII was also the work of middle-class intellectuals (and actually involves the substituion of equality before the law for legally enforced discrimination and inequality).
Probably – as others have noted – the worst UnHerd article of 2023. Little more than a foul-mouthed ignorant rant.

Chipoko
Chipoko
6 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

“Little more than a foul-mouthed ignorant rant.”
Spot on, Peter! You might have added: “… written by a bigot.”

Eleanor Barlow
Eleanor Barlow
6 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Contrary to your assertions, working class people were in the vanguard of political struggle throughout the 19th century and beyond, starting with Peterloo and through to the Chartists and the trade union movement. The middle classes adopted their cause for their own ends and deserted it once they got what they wanted. They were quick to turn on the working classes and use all the force of the state to crush them when they got scared of the threat to their own wealth and privilege posed by working class radicalism. As if that wasn’t enough, they then colonised the Labour Party and stuffed it with their latest pet fads such as happy clappy multiculturalism and making the world safe for middle class woke orthodoxy and intellectual snobbery.
So don’t expect me to buy your nonsense about middle class ‘hard work’ which amounted to nothing more than a few campaigns, articles and letters to their favoured media outlets. It was the working classes that walked the hard yards, lost their livelihoods and even their lives in the struggle for justice

Matthew Freedman
Matthew Freedman
6 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

The chartist movement surely pushed things in the direction of universal sufferage?

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
6 months ago

If you think working-class men are in trouble now, just wait until the illiberal man-haters of the Labour Party get to power.
Harman, Phillips, Cooper, Abbot are just the tip of their misandrist iceberg.

Last edited 6 months ago by Ian Barton
Malcolm Webb
Malcolm Webb
6 months ago

The first time I read this I think I called it out for being foul mouthed and self indulgent. On a second reading I accept he had a point. White working class males have been badly let down and it difficult to see whom they can trust. Certainly not the Woke Labour Party.

Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
6 months ago
Reply to  Malcolm Webb

White working class males are quite capable of looking after themselves .. you mark my words !

Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
6 months ago

I’ve never read such self indulgent tosh in my life, but this takes the biscuit.
Out of touch with reality and completely self obsessed with one’s self, living in a World that never existed

Last edited 6 months ago by Richard Calhoun
Steven Targett
Steven Targett
6 months ago

I’m a white working class man who got educated. I have as much in common with Walsh as I do with an amoeba. I don’t like his books either and this article doesn’t reflect my opinions at all.

Dominic A
Dominic A
6 months ago

He long-ago left the working class, first occupationally then financially; whilst swapping Edinburgh for London, then the UK for Dublin, then the EU for the USA. Makes me question his Remainer, Scottish Independence, anti-capitalist, man-of-the people credentials.

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
6 months ago

This is effing absurd. The hard Left (to which this writer obviously belongs) has been doing this at least since Archie Bunker, when its campaign to bring down the establishment by destroying the role of males who largely built it, who ran it, who led the families that benefited by it was launched.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
6 months ago

I remember this got a lot of negative comments last time it was aired. I’m not sure why, I quite liked it.

It’s a reminder that the old fashioned lefty was every bit as simplistic and ranty as his modern counterpart, but was at least capable of recognising real issues even if the only solution (as always) was ‘tear it all down.’

It’s also a reminder that there were lefty’s I once had enough common ground with to be able to talk to, in the pub or at the football.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
6 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

That was when Lefty’s cared about the working class.
Where/why did they all go ?

Last edited 6 months ago by Ian Barton
Rob C
Rob C
6 months ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Perhaps they never really cared about the working class. Perhaps they just pretended to in order to gain power.

David Harris
David Harris
6 months ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Back in mid-century Britain the Left were working class. No longer…

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
6 months ago

BS. From start to finish. Utter BS. C’mon Unheard, best of 23; you must have published some real hard cr*p if that’s the case

Shrunken Genepool
Shrunken Genepool
6 months ago

Supremely moronic socialist nonsense. He rejects woke diversity politics not because it is stupid which it is, but because his group is left out. His anti capitalism is puerile. Question: compared with what ? He is all about abstract unspecified class warrior ‘solutions’ – and nothing about trade offs. He’s ashamed of his own bourgeois deviations (success). Doesn’t want his putative working class brethren to experience the same

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
6 months ago

This is a bizarre choice for one of Unherd’s best articles. It isn’t exactly bad, but it sounds a very angry tone and it’s difficult to say exactly what the author is angry about or who he is angry with since he insults basically every political camp, race, class, and demographic group. Perhaps he’s a socialist who has watched his chosen philosophy fail from a young age. That sort of thing does leave emotional scars.
Whatever the author thinks he’s ranting about, might I suggest what he’s actually ranting against is not capitalism, nor socialism, nor liberalism, nor identity politics, nor academia, nor the media, nor minorities, nor whites, nor any of the other usual suspects on Unherd and elsewhere. I submit that it is materialism that is the source of the author’s obvious distress, for it is the one thing that runs through just about all our modern institutions. It is the seed from which modern society has sprouted, and if indeed the entire tree, root and branch, is rotten, where else can the blame be laid but on the philosophical tradition that underpins all of it.

Capitalist economics is perhaps one of the first branches, being a study of physical goods, supply, demand, prices. It focuses on the physical, the measurable, the solid. It is the study of price, not value, of supply and demand, not motivation or whimsy. Socialism, being a reactionary philosophy and an antithesis to capitalism, goes so far as to codify materialism into its basic tenets. By rejecting the system without ever challenging the underlying premises, it was always doomed to failure. Once again measuring human well being, wealth, and value on a scale that can be calculated and measured, not in money but in productivity, in goods, in the various inputs and outputs that define material wants and needs.

Race, too, is a physical construct, having to do with such trivial traits as the color of one’s skin, the shape of one’s nose, or the slant of one’s eyes. It was once believed that such traits implied mental and physical superiority or inferiority, the ultimate enshrinement of the material, the superficial, the arbitrary. As socialism failed to defeat capitalism, so is anti-racism doomed to a similarly futile struggle, because underneath, there is still the conceit that these physical traits are important, whether we use them as markers to determine who is superior and therefore more deserving or who is oppressed and therefore more deserving, we are still giving power to those same basic superficial things. It is an inescapable cycle.

Sex, a biological difference, minor in some ways and significant in others, has always divided humanity into two discrete halves. It has a far longer history than race or class. In the case of sex and gender, it is difficult to tease out what is inherent from what is socially constructed, yet here again, we find materialism complicates the enterprise. Consider that the mind, the soul, whatever that undefinable thing is that allows us to think and to imagine, has no gender. Yet, in our determination to elevate the material, we assign tremendous importance to the physical trappings of gender, the arrangement of the genitalia, the clothes one wears, the length of one’s hair, etc. Some demand their fellows use their chosen pronouns so that they will not be reminded that their physical traits are something other than what they would prefer. Some alter their bodies to appear more like the gender they envision themselves as. The appearance is all important and it is critically important that people acknowledge it.
I submit that materialism is the cause of much of the angst in our modern era, and by turning away from it, we might find some peace.

Last edited 6 months ago by Steve Jolly
mick martell
mick martell
6 months ago

It’s not as bad as all that mate. Sit down, have a beer, there’s football on the tele.

D Glover
D Glover
6 months ago
Reply to  mick martell

And your best mate has left a line of coke for you in the toilets………

nigel taylor
nigel taylor
6 months ago

I’m almost lost for words ! What a moronic load of cods wallop ; if Unherd are going to continue to publish articles written by idiots believing it clever to trot out the F word every couple of paragraphs thinking it underwrites their ‘regular working class geezer credentials’ then I ‘ll be cancelling my subscription.

Alistair Jones
Alistair Jones
6 months ago

has no one commented on this? Where are the metamodernists when you need them!

Alan Hughes
Alan Hughes
6 months ago
Reply to  Alistair Jones

It was strange that there were so few comments (until today). But I think it is quite difficult to engage with a sweary rant; there are some important points raised but you’d have to wade through a lot of venom to engage with it

opop anax
opop anax
6 months ago

Checking figures from the spreadsheets on their screens. Seeing how efficient a capitalism no longer tied to production is in taking the resources of communities, monetising it, and transferring it to their accounts.”

I think this is the key. Capitalism is a dirty word – almost congruent with Fascism – to the Islingtonian Left, but to me “capitalism” means trading your skills to those that need them and keeping whatever proceeds in order to accrue a home and some sort of material stability for yourself and your dependents. A fair trade of labour and goods for stuff you, in turn, need, in my view.

Yet this word – this ethos of free and fair trade – has been demonised and is used as a sneer or slur.

The “capitalism” that is inherent in normal human trading activity is not the same as the financial capitalism (gambling with other people’s money) that is presently stealing from the whole world in the name of “globalism”..

We need a more nuanced language for all these activities and political theses.

It is, for example, not my personal belief that “property is theft”. It is demonstrably earned and conserved.

Last edited 6 months ago by opop anax
Bret Larson
Bret Larson
6 months ago
Reply to  opop anax

Its like being angry at your hammer because you keep on hitting your thumb with it.

Chipoko
Chipoko
6 months ago

“… they have absolutely f**k all to do with white working-class men either.”
I no further than the end of the first paragraph, which terminated in foul language. Not impressed!

Alan Hawkes
Alan Hawkes
6 months ago

Harold MacMillan was right when he said, “You’ve never had it so good.” Politicians did seem to make a difference in those days: perhaps because they’d fought in an existential war. They had a sense of what was really important. The present lot can’t even get potholes filled properly.

Last edited 6 months ago by Alan Hawkes
William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
6 months ago

Not just a chip, but an entire fish supper on his shoulder.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
6 months ago

No wonder the Chinese are so confident about the future; they see the rot accelerating. The time is coming when just a small push will bring down the whole diseased, debased ruin with its valorized victimhood jabbering. Billionaires like Zuckerman will be in his safe citadel in Kauai and the others in bolt holes in New Zealand and other remote safehouses.

Emre S
Emre S
6 months ago

This article is neither here nor there for me. It makes some very good and valid observations about how it’s pointless to parcel the white working men with the upper class white men, and how they are being used as a scapegoat to try to absolve these liberals from their past sins. But then goes into what appears to be a deranged rant about how capitalism works today and society functions – or at least it doesn’t make much sense to me.

Matthew Freedman
Matthew Freedman
6 months ago

Thing is class in increasing a difficult thing to describe. What is the working class? Is it plumbers who earn £40,000 or museum managers with a degree on £35,000. I’m aware of my own luck from being able to afford London property prices because previous generations had already bought in when it was cheap. Who is to say living in a zone 2 London council flat from a new build development with low rent in a world city isn’t a privilege compared to those got council housing in Glasgow but would have to pay £800 for a room to rent in London to work in a “graduate job”.

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
6 months ago

It is becoming difficult to define class, but, unlike in the USA, where class seems to be income related (think of the American middle classes who would definitely be working class in the UK), there are still a set of features which can define you as working class in the UK, independent of income. Just don’t ask me to list the features. But in my mind, class is something of a “family resemblance term”, as Wittgenstein would have said.

Si Mon
Si Mon
6 months ago

This article lost me in the first paragraph, and the idea of the Coronation being a male institution. I’ve lived less than a year of my life with a King, so it feels like a dumb take

Campbell P
Campbell P
6 months ago

A mishmash of fair and foul; mainly the latter. You do not reinforce an argument simply by inserting expletives; facts are much more compelling, and he got many things wrong because he allowed his prejudices to control the piece. I was left wondering when he actually last had any contact with white working class men.

T Doyle
T Doyle
6 months ago

Lefty right rubbish.

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
6 months ago

It always surprises me the hate socialists have for Thatcher. Seems abit sexist, maybe they should work on that.
This is exactly the guy who votes for Trump and I dont blame him.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
6 months ago

Seeing how efficient a capitalism no longer tied to production is in taking the resources of communities, monetising it, and transferring it to their accounts.
Lots of negative comments about this essay and this writer. However, I think this one comment nails the fundamental problem of today. We now live in a world where the monetization of literally everything is possible and is done without thought of consequence. And our politicians who feed at that trough think it is just wonderful — so when the inevitable risk comes home to be paid they bailout the high dollar losers of the donor class as fast as they can. And everyone else loses in the process…

John Tumilty
John Tumilty
6 months ago

How dare Unherd print a working class view!

Let’s not have any more articles like this please.

Last edited 6 months ago by John Tumilty
Brian Doyle
Brian Doyle
6 months ago

One of the best reads of my entire life of 70 yrs now, A grandson of a miner who had the guns of the State turned upon him in The General strike. fathered 9 children 3 of whom fought in WW2 ,2 killed in Action in N.Africa and Normandy , the 3rd taken prisoner at the fall of Singapore and as Sergeant Major in a Scottish regiment manning The guns in the Front line all
Whilst The English officers of his regiment and their wife’s rushed to the Quayside to make good their escape,
This Son and his unit fought to the last round of Ammo and upon being overun
by The Japanese as he was about to be
Baynotet by a Japanese Private when out of nowhere a Japanese officer who had
Been commanding this particular Japanese Unit rugby tackled this baynot yielding Private and raising him back up from the Ground giving him fury and a obvious dressing down in Japanese
Which resulted in the Private Saluting his officer and as obviously instructed by his
Superior picked this Son ( My Uncle ) from his fallen position upon such the Japanese Private stood to attention facing my Uncle Bowed his head then back to Attention saluted my Uncle then was marched away by two Japanese escorts to what consequence to this day
None know off other than attendees of his Brother’s funeral
However the Japanese officer who had a reasonable command of the English language Stood to attention and Saluted
Offering his hand to shake, My Uncle returned the Salute and handshake
The Japanese officer then proceeded to inform him that now he was a Prisoner of The Japanes Imperial Arms but taking
Care to explain that he had been observing with much admiration how bravely my Uncle and his men had fought not only fiercely and bravely but
Had done so untill all ammunition exhausted but at no point surrendered
And that’s why The Japanese Private under his command will face a Court Martial
He also went onto to say that unlike your officers who ran away without a fight if caught would incur a bad time as Prisoners, whilst as for my Uncle he informed him that he would where possible to ensure that he would do his best to try for the best for them, but pointing out that once the prisoneers handed
Over that he no longer in control
Later on during my Uncles captivity he was transferred to The Burma Railway
Needless to say he survived such a ordeal but Refused point black ever to speak of his times other than what he told his family re his capture
He was very forcible and angry when any
Enquired very firmly putting them in place and to never ask again
However when the only remaining brother
Died my Uncle refused to attend the Church service but did so for the reception after at a British Legion social
Club and though all the family were well aware of his sentiments regards his Wartime captivity but it was just too much for one of the family to understand
Why he refused to attend the Church service and despite continual questioning which others were now joining in with

His Patience and honour broke, upon which he went over to manager of The British Legion
Social club requesting if he could address those in attendance of the funeral reception and could he switch the PA system on
Thereupon which he climbed onto the Stage which upon it’s rear wall hung large Portrait of HM The Queen and a large union jack
The memory of what happened next
Is impossible to forget and no doubt so for all family but maybe not so for other
Attendees of whom although not remembering the very fine detail undoubtedly shall remember what followed
My Uncle opened with thanking all for their company but was only making this address as not only family but others
We’re almost demanding a Answer to his
Non Church attendance
Then continued with what I have written above re his capture in Singapore
Then carried out saying many today have asked as to why I refused to attend the Church service so for once and once only I answer
This is why because of what I witnessed
In the various POW camp,s of the Burma Railway and in particular that of a English
Regiment Chaplain who was a fine example of a Christian gentleman of the Cloth who every night would go upon his knees and pray to God asking for relief not for himself but for his fellow prisoners and to forgive the Japanese
Well the Night my Uncle witnessed the emancipated Chaplain pray for one Last time and collapse to the ground dead
Then that’s was the Eureka moment whereupon he realised that their was No God and the only possible way of surviving ( He acknowledged The Japanese officer at the time of capture )
Was to be found only by way of oneself
And that’s how I stand here today
Never ever more of speaking upon such
Matters
But finally saying not quite the end of the
Matter he turned around to the wall adorned with Unions flag and The Queens Portrait and spat upon both
Calmly returned to the microphone
( None in the hall dared to react as my Uncles body language screamed Dare you Not)
Then said I have only one young son and have told him and repeat so today and not to any other but reinforce it today because just like all here have heard
Of which for the whole of my life I refused to speak off
If you ever to go fight under that Flag and for the That Lady I have spat upon then you shall not be my son and forever so
End
However my mining Grandfather who knew he was dying sat me at his bedside
The night before he died imparting many a gem of wisdom to a wayward intelligent bright young boy who was going off the rails by way of his testosterone fuelled fighting
Learn only ever to fight when their no food upon the table Why because you shall be invisible but only once you educate yourself and not by the way that is a State education only go forth young man and drink from the infinite pool of wisdom and knowledge you are surrounded by it
Open your eyes and once so your mouth
And drink from this fountain
My Father was a Shale oil miner ( go research what that was and what it entailed )
Being so he avoided call up for WW 2
And when the tariff was removed from Middle East oil and the Shale mines closed he then became a face worker with the National Coal Board
Needless to say he ensured my education continued to University level
Saying no son of mine is going underground to mine wealth for the rich and powerful
What did all this achieve for a 23 yr old enlightened working class lad Well he started a business with £ 400 and a beat up 2Nd hand GPO Bedford HA van
30 yrs later gave well remunerated employment to over 160 people many of
Whom went onto excellent careers
And all by way of planting millions of trees successfully maturing and now vitally sinking CO 2
Today by way of Neo Liberal socially irresponsible far less Morally so ways could this ever be achieved by the youth of today
Finally not out of arrogance Never shall I countenance any adverse reaction from any and particularly those Key Board warriors who are in fact Cowards just as the British officers running away at Singapore were Indeed warriors and Tigers indeed both kind of you are
But one made entirely of paper
BOO go run away

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
6 months ago
Reply to  Brian Doyle

Are you of Irish decent by any chance Mr Doyle?

Incidentally the most notorious Officer to ‘run away’ from Singapore was the commander of the Australian troops, one Major General Gordon Bennett. Sadly the Australian authorities, to their everlasting disgrace, were far too embarrassed to have him SHOT as a coward as he so richly deserved.

Last edited 6 months ago by Charles Stanhope
William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
6 months ago

Is that “the” Gordon Bennett!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
6 months ago

No, apparently not I’m sorry to say.

j watson
j watson
6 months ago

Enjoyed this as much second time round as first.
Many on the Neo-liberal Right, which has led us into such a mess, like to try and ally with the white working class male. Author calls it out for what it is – self serving manipulation. Neo-Liberals decimated the white working class and now look to commandeer their favour to protect their own interests. An age old playbook. Trump too has imbibed that lesson and playing it for all he’s worth having spent his life grifting money out of this class. Author, and the White working class, have a name for these type, beginning with W and then unprintable.

Aidan Anabetting
Aidan Anabetting
6 months ago
Reply to  j watson

Yup!

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
6 months ago
Reply to  j watson

Strange to share so much of the analysis of the problem whilst pointing the finger of blame in the opposite direction.

The left, Clinton and Blair, opened the floodgates to globalisation, which has so damaged the working class. The left denigrated and denied the legitimate concerns of the ‘deplorables’ in favour of all the woke victim groups.

The indigenous working class is now being cr*pped on by the political, media, legal and academic classes enabled by the progressive left and seized on gleefully by Neo- liberals. Grifters like Trump are just surfing the wave of discontent created by the progressive left. They are it’s creation.

j watson
j watson
6 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

I think you’ll find the Author’s reference to battle of Orgreave precedes Blairism by well over a decade. Globalisation heralded by switching coal purchase to Apartheid South Africa no less to crush one of the strongest WWC entities.
You may even have missed the Thatch-Reagan reference, or perhaps too young to fully grasp that’s when the Neo-Liberals did for the WWC demographic. Blair and Clinton’s Third Way well after the event.

Peter B
Peter B
6 months ago
Reply to  j watson

For the record, parliamentary records from the mid 1980s (Peter Walker here, Hansard record) show just how little coal was imported from South Africa at that time. I make that 5% of total UK imports. Pretty insignificant.

Mr. Walker I remind the right hon. Gentleman [Stanley Orme, Labour] that during the whole period that he was a Minister, the regime in South Africa was just as intolerant to the position of the blacks, and imports from South Africa came in every year.

Following is the information:
Coal Imports January-April 1986(thousand tonnes)
Country Coal Imports
Australia 1,361
United States 1,139
Poland 493
South Africa 196
F R Germany 184
Canada 143
Netherlands 115
Belgium 47
Columbia 35
Others 65
Total 3,781
(Figures may not add to total because of rounding.)

Slightly earlier data:
In 1984, imports of coal and oil amounted to £8·8 billion. Figures for each country are published in the December edition of Overseas Trade Statistics of the United Kingdom.

Note also that the UK was a net coal exported in 1983 before the miners’ strike. An illegal strike (you’ll recall we all learnt the meaning of the term “sequestrated” at that time) which created the need to import coal. And which – quite rightly – did not enjoy much public support at all – despite what the media rewriting of history would have you believe.
Remember also that the Selby coalfield only started production in the early 1980s and continued for over 20 years. There were newer, cost-effective pits and others that were not. The Asfordby pit in near Melton Mowbary actually opened in 1991.

Last edited 6 months ago by Peter B
j watson
j watson
6 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Thanks PB. Whether 5% or 0.5% the fact we were opting to buy apartheid mined coal speaks for itself. Your stats also underpin Globalisation in purchasing certainly predates Blair/Clinton et al.
I would concur though the Miners were badly led, and furthermore the Coal industry would have waned in due course regardless. But as we know there was a dearth of industrial strategy to replace this employment. There was a Right wing dislike of the WWC associated with unionism and the social solidarity that stimulated. Neo-Liberals were happy to smash it. And that’s the point the Author was making.

Gerard A
Gerard A
6 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

You really think Blair and Clinton were left wing? They were at most centre-right and in Blair’s case heading towards the full blown right wing totalitarianism he now espouses?

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
6 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

The wholesale export of manufacturing jobs only took off in the late nineties at the same time Blair opened the doors to cheap imported labour.

I refer you to Peter’s detailed comment on coal.

I’m old enough to remember the 70’s very well. The grotesque irresponsibility of wild cat strikes over nonsense issues, rubbish piling up in the streets, candlelight evenings. All that led to a reaction – Thatcher.

Trump could not possibly be voted in without a hugely pee’d off population. They are right to be pee’d off, here and in the US. Their representatives, the political left, are no longer interested in them. The neo liberal right never was and small c conservatives have been comprehensively shouted down into silence.

No party of any stripe is making real attempts to deal with their problems or even respect their opinions. Anybody promising to do so (however improbable) will get an audience.