16 November 2019

Jeff Sparrow on the danger of slipping from class analysis to right-wing identity politics: “If, for instance, you present the ‘real workers’ as white, socially conservative men living in small towns, then, almost by definition, you’ll agree with Paul Kelly that ‘Labor must get more like Morrison: it needs to listen … to the “quiet Australians”.’ Yet if you think of class in structural terms, it’s immediately obvious that many of Australia’s most vulnerable workers themselves belong to minority groups. … [The 7-Eleven wage theft] saga centred on members of the modern working class who just so happen to be young, urban and predominantly brown-skinned. Such people don’t consider racism or Islamophobia or, for that matter, border policy ‘irrelevant’ to their lives. The working-class queer kid driven out of home for his sexuality is not indifferent to homophobia, any more than Indigenous workers are indifferent to the history of colonialism. But precisely because they are vulnerable, they’re only going to embrace a political party when it offers them real, material change rather than platitudes. In other words, bridging the gap between progressives and the modern working class requires a commitment to structural transformations that will genuinely affect the lives of ordinary people.”