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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Amidst discussion of White, Male Privileges Social Class has been relegated to 'The too -hard Basket'



Dr Tristan Ewins

Dear Readers:  For this week I thought the following letters were interesting in light of Trump's appeal to parts of the white American working class and underclass.   The discussion is also interesting on account of the modern Left's neglect of class after having fully embraced Identity Politics.  Both were sent to 'The Age' at the date indicated.  Once more, neither were published. 
Parts have been slightly extended on account that I no longer have to limit either to 200 words for publication in The Age.  Upon submission both were 200 words or less.

Duncan Fine (16/8) portrays Senator David Leyonhjelm's case against Fairfax on account of the Racial Discrimination Act as ludicrous.  Indeed white men do enjoy certain kinds of privileges which need to be understood and recognised in context to provide a fair go for women and minorities.  And Leyonhjelm is not being serious apart from trying to 'test the boundaries'.  But on the other hand surely vilification on the basis of gender or race should always be taken seriously. There are contexts, here, where emotional and social harm can be visited upon those usually considered to be privileged. Further, where once we heard of the dominance of ‘rich white men’, these days the element of class is conveniently ignored.  Economic stratification and the class system under capitalism are ‘conveniently relegated to the too hard basket’. In the United States  working class white men have become increasingly propagandized by the forces of social reaction.  And to a significant degree this has occurred under the watch of a Democratic Party – which until Bernie Sanders’ Presidential campaign had overwhelmingly failed to address their class interests. Indeed many seem to have no issue with terms like ‘poor white trash’.  Human liberation requires reciprocal human solidarity ; and this is not exhausted by the categories of race and gender.

In his article (21/8) Paul McGeough laments the cynical attempts of some to form a kind of ‘white racial consciousness’ ;  and the danger that such a project will be exploited to promote an agenda of racism, or even white supremacism.  But does ‘consciousness of whiteness’ have to take such a form?   What if instead we were talking of a kind of ‘critical consciousness’ that recognised the injustice of past privileges of ‘whiteness’ ; but which also recognised the double standards and dehumanization that goes with middle and ruling class putdowns of ‘poor white trash’ and the like?  As well as recognising pre-existing forms of class exploitation and oppression. Where past privileges are fading, and where white working class and under class people experience various kinds of disadvantage, contempt, and even vilification, perhaps it is time to develop new kinds of solidarity –between working class people entirely regardless of ‘race’.  But also recognising the specific injustices faced by economically disadvantaged ‘white’ communities. Unlike class relations ‘whiteness’ cannot (and of course should not) be ‘abolished’.  So for human liberation disadvantaged working class and under-class ‘white’ communities need to join in solidarity with other oppressed communities in a common struggle for mutual recognition, respect, inclusion, and liberation.


above: A photo of the author of
"Making Science Work for All", Adrian B L Soh

And opposite: a photo of the Front Cover
The following is a brief synopsis of the book:

Australia having a population of just over 23 million people versus the BRIC countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China, Australia and countries of a similar population size will struggle to compete against these economies in the 21st century in terms of wages. However, the implication of the low wages of these countries will also mean two things that middle-tier countries will find it hard to argue for increases in taxation, reduce costs in other areas of the economy or find niche or new industries to compete in. This is why it is imperative more than ever for middle-tier countries like Australia to invest in science and technology. Public investment in science is needed, because it would take pressure off private sector research and development budgets by conducting basic research in technology before it becomes commercialised by technology start ups. So the question is how can we balance these competing objectives of having to keep taxes at a competitive level, investing in much needed basic research, providing finance to technology start ups, while maintaining income levels in an increasingly competitive global market. I argue in my book "Making Science Work for All" that we can do this through a participatory budgeting scheme for science.




  1. Lots of people, who have more melanin in their skin than I do, are members of the bourgeoisie, the ruling class. It's absurd to think that I have some political power over them by virtue of my genetic heritage. Racism does exist and it does divide the producing class against itself. So, shoot yourself in the foot, be a proud member of a separate but equal race, liberals.

    Racism needs one important ideology to remain in our minds, the ideology that there are multiple races. In fact, there aren't multiple, genetic races. For the science of it all see:

    I'm working class because I have only one commodity to sell to make a living, my labour power. On the other hand, capitalists have lots of commodities to sell, commodities produced using my labour power and the natural resources by virtue of the legalises system of private ownership of property. My landlord owns my dwelling and I pay him rent. He's in another class. It doesn't matter to either capitalists or landlords how much melanin I have in my skin; both classes are happy to live from the wealth I produce.

    That workers are caught up in racist ideology is victory for those who rule us, as the workers divided will always be defeated.

    What the members of the ALP need to understand is that workers are the immense majority. They make up at least 90% of the citizenry. If 90% of the citizens unite politically and industrially as a class, there is no power which can defeat them.

    1. Sorry...I mean to write "legalised" not "legalises" above. Ahem....another slip of the finger.