Monday, 23 August 2010

The Closed Shop

I have known a few 'economic entities' as the EU terms them in which the workforce is conspicuous by two or three surnames that dominate; in one small firm, half a dozen employees were related to one another. This of course is very much a remnant of the way in which the working class traditionally cared for their own; if dad worked on the docks, it was accepted by all (including the employers) that son would have a preferential place there too.

Those wonderful films that never make it to the TV screen these days, British 'B' movies of the 1960s, in which I delight, gave the inkling of change. Young Bob turns down the chance of following his dad to a job on the docks - he wants to be a hairdresser. Or go to Oxford. He's dating a middle-class girl in a mini-skirt and wants to drink things decorated with a Maraschino cherry on a stick, not pints of Mild.

At the same time transatlantic corporatism killed the paternalistic family-owned firm and socialists launched their attack on working-class self sufficiency; an independent working class was a potent enemy of the central State. The Closed Shop, often a vehicle to keep jobs in the family, became the enemy of both the right and the left. The left wanted places for women and immigrants, in exchange for driving down wages and job security. It was part of the atomisation of the working class that has left them adrift, dependent and weak.

Patronage lives amongst the middle class; we can still arrange internships for our relatives, 'put in a word' in the right place, pass on wealth. For working class kids, State policy evolved on the basis of those 1960s 'B' movies. The State proceeded on the assumption that all working class boys now wanted to be hairdressers or go to Oxford, when in reality most of them would be happiest with a job on the docks and a place to live.

A strong, independent, self-sufficient and self-regulating working class in this country may not be comfortable for the political class, but unless we enable the most positive benefits that it brings we face the horrors of not only intergenerational conflict but an intragenerational war we can't afford to win.

2 comments:

Demetrius said...

Gone, all gone with only remnants left disregarded and no longer wanted. And it was the Labour Party that betrayed and ruined them.

Anonymous said...

Here in Edinburgh , you cant get a job on the council unless you are related to someone already working there! I'm sure this is not the outcome you are recommending as breaking down the barriers to well paid , secure , pensionable positions on the council workforce should be open to all ,,,fairly.