Socialist Worker

Don’t fall for the right wing myth of the ‘white working class’

Issue No. 2586

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Tory austerity provides a real opportunity to unite working class people in resistance.

There is huge anger over the NHS crisis, school funding cuts, attacks on benefits, lack of affordable housing and low pay.

Meanwhile, Theresa May has repeatedly failed to assert her authority over her party and faces continual crisis.

The Labour Party and union leaders should seize on this crisis to organise united action. Instead, some are echoing tired stereotypes that divide us.

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner gave an interview to the right wing Spectator magazine last week. She claimed that girls and ethnic minority children have been encouraged to get ahead at school while white, working class boys are left behind.

Rayner said white working class boys “are under the impression that they don’t need to push themselves, in the way that disadvantaged groups had to”.

She added, “We need to do much more about the culture of white working class.”

But there is no separate white working class, nor is there one white working class “culture”. The working class in Britain is multicultural and multi-racial.

White workers don’t have separate interests to black and Asian workers.


Rayner’s comments, whether intended or not, will have been welcomed by racists who claim that white people are the real victims of the system.

They say white people have been abandoned and ignored by the establishment as black and Asian people get more attention.

This turns the reality of racism on its head. And the idea that black people somehow get “special favours” is a reactionary attempt to undermine anti-racists.

It’s true that many white children are written off at school.

And in many areas of Britain white people are stuck in dire poverty with no hope of a job. Many white people suffer the Tory assaults on benefits and pensions.

But this is because they are working class, not because they are white. And racism means that black and Asian workers suffer even more than white workers do. They are more likely to be unemployed or on low pay.

TUC union federation figures confirm that there is “more poverty in every ethnic minority group than among the white British population”.

The fact that so many working class people have few opportunities in life should be an indictment of the system.

But right wingers want ordinary people to blame other working class people instead of those at the top.

Black and Asian workers don’t cause unemployment, low pay, poor housing or underfunded services—the Tories and the rich do. The whole working class has an interest in uniting together to beat them.

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