TODAY marks the 104th anniversary of the death of Robert Tressell, writer of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists.
Everyone knows about corruption in national and local Government. Those swinging contracts in their favour or using public money for private business gain. Blaming workers foor being work-shy and not the idle rich or allocating the work ethic to one part of the population alone. Keeping the population down or in poverty and ensuring the rich are rich by some “Darwinian” notion of survival of the fittest.
The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists long ago pointed towards clear answers.
Tressell is now seen as a visionary. A house-painter by trade, his prose explains in graphic detail how the “sacred few” rule over the rest of us with rods of iron, robbing us of the fruits of our labour through “the great money trick.”
A century later, this sleight of hand has been honed, rehearsed and polished to such an extent that the working classes can barely see it coming — until it’s too late and they’re already buried in an avalanche of debt on zero-hours contracts.
Teeming with universal truths, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists continues to inspire.
How many of us are ragged trousered philanthropists to day?
There are the disenfranchised working class and middle strata, thrown out of manufacturing jobs and business, professionals and managers who can’t get decent paid work, fragmented and disorganised. Getting scraps of work here or there and presented as being ‘in work’ even if there are no hours on the contract. Living worse than hand to mouth and receiving no benefits. Why does it appear that Trades Councils are substantially still on their own raising the issues from such a poor standpoint, like bedroom tax, community, minimum and living wages, food-banks, homelessness. Why do certain Trades Unions ignore, marginalise and disenfranchise these modern day “ragged trousered” philanthropists? Why are they separated from their class, particularly by the higher paid or better paid companies? Surely this is the result of decline in the economic base of society and caused by the rich and empowered class?
The working class in higher paid remaining manufacture or offices, keeping their heads above water with tentative security with volatile pension schemes that can’t be guaranteed are still awkwardly placed. A class still reliant on Public Services, the NHS, education for their children, decent transport and support for their families. Yet under organised even in basic trades unions let alone politically and still marginalized. This class still has to participate much more, engage with the totally disenfranchised and become political if it is to lead society out of this crisis, change direction of the economy and reconstitute the nation with itself sovereign as its destiny proclaims it to be.
If the working class allows society to become divided it cannot fulfil its aim, it leaves the worst off as targets for the right and fascism, it can never abandon the rest of its class, the low paid, the unemployed, the pensioners, foreign workers, it must unite and it must join in the struggle and lead all out of the doldrums for a better future.