Class Talk

Communications Unbound

by Helen Davitt (Author)
©2020 Monographs XX, 360 Pages


A mini source-book on the roots and prevailing features of the contemporary capitalist political economy, Class Talk – Communications Unbound outlines the alternative of economically viable, politically robust and socio-culturally inclusive democratic socialism fit for the 21st Century and beyond. Tracing politico-economic and socio-cultural exploitative behaviours to historical antecedents of feudalism, slavery and colonialism, it defines the age of capitalism, examines the dismantling of the Post-Second World War politico-economic consensus, outlines shareholder control of the corporate, banking and communications systems and details the global privatization of public services and the worldwide burgeoning of commercial rentierism.
The book makes visible the web of connections between matters of immense public concern: climate catastrophe and capitalist profiteering, foreign policy and terrorism, the housing crises and the global banking cartel, education systems and politico-economic divisiveness. It signposts the discussions, debates, solidarity and organisational activism in which the poor and workingclass majority must engage if societies are to be built and maintained for the common good.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • Dedication
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Preface
  • CHAPTER 1: Power, Force and Social Class
  • CHAPTER 2: Competitive Production, Exploitation and Profiteering
  • CHAPTER 3: Usurious Banking and the Great Depression
  • CHAPTER 4: WWI, Fascism, WWII, the Cold War
  • CHAPTER 5: Post-WWII Western Economic Growth, Offshoring, Privatisation, Deregulation of Banking and Finance
  • CHAPTER 6: Twenty-first-century Resource Wars
  • CHAPTER 7: Bank Racketeering
  • CHAPTER 8: Big Technology, Agri-business, Big Pharma, Medical Profiteering, Blockchain
  • CHAPTER 9: Trading Blocs
  • CHAPTER 10: Battles for Justice, Quest for Peace
  • CHAPTER 11: Propaganda
  • CHAPTER 12: The Socio-biological Nature of Language Acquisition
  • CHAPTER 13: The Socio-cultural Nature of Literacy Development
  • CHAPTER 14: Sociopathy of Defective Hypotheses
  • CHAPTER 15: Politics of Ego and Entitlement
  • CHAPTER 16: Housing in the UK
  • CHAPTER 17: Grenfell
  • CHAPTER 18: Charities and Foreign Aid
  • CHAPTER 19: Educational Apartheid
  • CHAPTER 20: English National Curriculum and Key Stage Testing
  • CHAPTER 21: Pre-privatisation of State Schools
  • CHAPTER 22: Parliamentary Monitoring of State Education
  • CHAPTER 23: Educational Technology
  • CHAPTER 24: Office for Standards in Education
  • CHAPTER 25: Battle for Critical, Political and Multi-functional Literacy
  • CHAPTER 26: Workplace Democracy
  • CHAPTER 27: Democratisation of Mass Media
  • CHAPTER 28: Education for Democratic Socialism
  • CHAPTER 29: Into the Future
  • CHAPTER 30: Signposts
  • CHAPTER 31: Pandemic Politics
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Subject Index

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I am most grateful to Anthony Mason, Commissioning Editor at Peter Lang, and to the anonymous peer review reader who cut to the core of the mega –wordy first draft and recommended publication. Thanks to Michael Garvey, copy editor, to the ever polite and patient Production Manager, Jonathan Smith, and to new Production Manager, Sasireka Sakthi. Very many thanks also to the typographers and administrative staff, whose names I do not know.

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Class Talk – Communications Unbound concurs with the Marxist analyses that under capitalist economic conditions, the dominating ‘ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas’. Many of today’s books and media directed at the problems of the capitalist political economy sideline the central facts of that economy: the social-class division between the 99% majority and the 1% elite; that capitalism creates an exploited working-class majority; the majority is eventually left with no choice but to become the grave-diggers of capitalism.

In a nutshell, the mechanisms of the social class–based capitalist political economy dictate that in a 40-hour week, for example, a worker labours for 10 hours of those hours, let’s say, to earn the necessities of life and pay for the material outlay of the capitalist owners of the means of production, finance and communications. The worker’s remaining 30 hours of productive labour, codified by Marx as ‘surplus value’, is syphoned off by the bosses as profit for their company shareholders and directors. To reduce labour costs, capitalist competitors introduce machinery, and in chasing cheaper labour will also move production abroad. Capitalist corporations lobby politicians to get governments to deregulate banking and finance and decimate laws on health, safety and duties of care. To protect their profiteering, capitalist trading blocs, backed up by national governments, will also hike tariffs on imported goods, and, so long as price-fixing protects their overall profits, will also lower the prices of exported goods.

Marx thought trade unionism wasn’t capable of mounting much more than local action to increase local wages. And it can be true that trade union success in one sector often leads capitalists to cut wages and jobs in another. According to Marx, the contentious social relations amongst workers, unionised or not, are generated by the inbuilt divisiveness of the capitalist means of production, finance and communications. Marx thought that those alienating relations also arose from the estrangements of workers from the natural environment.

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According to Marx, the internationally united working class, the proletariat, finally analysing the exploitation of the whole of the working class across national boundaries, eventually organises itself as the greater political, economic and socio-cultural force. The organised working class then demands socialist economics and culture, inclusive of replacement of private property with public ownership, which is paid for and maintained by the now egalitarian proletariat-controlled means of production, finance and communications. In communist economics, production and consumption are geared to meeting people’s needs, automation becoming the means by which people, freed from the burdens of work, can develop all their talents:

In communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity, but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic. (Marx, German Ideology, 1845)

Italian Marxist political activist, Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937), imprisoned for his communist activism, wrote 30 densely packed notebooks about Italian and world history and culture in relation to Marxist theory, later published as The Prison Notebooks. Antonio Gramsci demonstrated that through ruling-class education systems, organised religion, belief in ‘magic’, folklore and the machinations of mass media, populations are coerced into consenting to the bogus separation of the interlocking hard and soft powers of the dominating capitalist political economy, militarism and war. Gramsci identified this interwoven propagandistic coercion as the capitalist hegemony. An essential tool for getting out from under the mystifications of that coercive hegemony is, according to Gramsci, autonomous education:

The history of education shows that every class which has sought to take power has prepared itself for power by an autonomous education … The problem of education is the most important class problem. (Cited in Davidson’s (1977) Antonio Gramsci: Towards an Intellectual Biography. London: Merlin Press, p. 77. See ‘Antonio Gramsci’, Wikiquote)

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Autonomous education doesn’t mean studying without assistance. It also involves in-depth explorations of the subject being studied – cookery, politics or medicine, for instance. Autonomous, or self-emancipatory, education must also examine information that is both for and against whatever the proposition. It must also cross the borders of the routinely separated studies of the humanities, sciences, arts. Those principles of borderless consideration also hold for the development and applications of the sciences, humanities, arts, etc.

A crucial difference between autonomous education and academic learning is that in the study of history, for instance, the autonomous learner is obliged to acquire knowledge of a particular time and place and to cross the boundaries of the conventions of historical study. History can no longer be merely framed by the likes of timelines of major events that omit the overriding contexts of ruling-class force, power and domination. Further, since the answers discovered by the autonomous learner beg the next set of questions, there can, in any case, be no such thing as history divorced from the study of slavery, colonialism, neo-colonialism, sexism, racism and the persistent struggles of the poor and working-class majority against the powers and forces of domination.

Autonomous education inevitably counters the conventionally separated subjects of formal curricula and the orthodoxies of capitalist ‘debate’, both of which regularly treat the inter-related structures of the capitalist political economy as though they were separable phenomena. Homelessness and the housing crises are treated as though disconnected from the debt-based interest-bearing banking system; terrorism is divorced from foreign policy; crime is viewed as though the vast majority of those imprisoned had not been subjected to maleducation, impoverishments and the systemic boom and bust of capitalism’s cycles of employment and unemployment, and so on.

Class Talk – Communications Unbound attempts to serve as a mini-sourcebook on the historical roots and prevailing contemporary features of the capitalist political economy. It also outlines the alternative of an economically viable, politically robust and socio-culturally inclusive democratic socialism fit for the twenty-first century and beyond.

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In reviewing the matters under discussion, while some chapters go into more detail than others, the list of chapters in Class Talk – Communications Unbound is crucially indicative of the institutionally interwoven nature of the capitalist political economy, and, consequently, of the cross-curricular nature of the book. The inter-related approach attempts to both replicate how people tend to develop their knowledge and understanding of the wider world. That inter-related approach also links the conceptual, material, psychological and socio-cultural connections between subjects. For instance, Chapter 3 examines ‘Usurious Banking and the Great Depression’; Chapter 12, ‘The Socio-biological Nature of Language Acquisition’; Chapter 15, ‘Politics of Ego and Entitlement’; Chapter 28, ‘Education for Democratic Socialism’.

The title of the book refers to the poor and working-class majority’s struggles for class consciousness against false consciousness. It signposts the discussions, debates, solidarity and organisational activism in which the poor and working-class majority must engage if societies are to be built and maintained for the common good. The Class Talk of the title also refers to the dominating talk and behaviours of those in temporary command and control, that is, the 1% politico-economic elite and the 20% of the middle class who also act as the capitalist managers and disciplinarians of the poor and working-class majority.

Twenty-first-century democratic socialism does not promote violent revolution, but depends instead on autonomously well-informed populations acting in solidarity to establish the democratic socialist political economy based on the principles of reverence for life, equal human rights and responsibilities, and the involvement of all citizens in devising the governing structures and maintaining their stewardship of the world they inhabit.

That’s a tall order. Nevertheless, despite the brutalising efforts of the powers that be, exploitation, oppression and domination have always been inherently opposed in some manner or another. In this particular historical moment, though the outcomes are as yet far more murky than clear, and potentially very alarming, there are also signs of that resistance to power and domination is becoming more widespread, is more organised and is spreading.

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For instance, in April 2019, the governors of Western central banks reinforced the message of the Extinction Rebellion campaign that unless governments act within the next 12 years to re-engineer the fossil fuel–based, capitalist political economy, the planet will enter a state of irretrievable decay.

Extinction Rebellion has three demands: that government tells the truth about the climate emergency; act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2025; and the establishment of a Citizens’ Assembly to lead government’s response to climate breakdown. Extinction Rebellion’s direct action on London’s bridges and main thoroughfares in April 2019, intended to focus public attention on climate breakdown and lead to meetings with government ministers, appears to have pushed the UK government to become the first government to officially declare a climate emergency on 1 May 2019 – though with a target of net-zero emissions by 2050. The co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, Rupert Read, plans to get 20,000 to 30,000 people on the streets over a longer period to press the government into stronger action (Ian Sinclair, ‘We could get 20,000 or 30,000 people willing to take direct action on the streets’, Morning Star, 25 June 2019).

From November 2018, the French Yellow Vest Movement of workers, an amalgam of socialists, anti-immigrant, anarchists and anti-EU protestors, have mounted weekly protests against the French government’s privileging of the wealthy at the expense of the working-class majority.

Posing no immediate obstacle to capitalist production or social class relations, Extinction Rebellion’s laudable attempts at strategic non-violence in their intermittent mass protests could result in outsourcing police brutality against those who conclude that the exploitative capitalist state must, ultimately, be also physically confronted. Extinction Rebellion gets an easier ride in the capitalist media than the Yellow Vest Movement, which disrupts business by blocking roads, roundabouts and oil depots and demands increased wages and pensions, taxes on the wealthy, government-funded public services, etc. (‘The Yellow Vest Movement: Special documentary on France’s “gilets jaunes” movement,’ YouTube, euronews (in English), 17 December 2018; and ‘Vanessa Beeley Interview – Yellow Vests, Police Violence and The Suppression of A Global Movement,’ YouTube, 28 January 2019). How far the Yellow Vest Movement will go remains in question. Will ←xvii | xviii→the French government succeed in suppressing it? Will the Yellow Vests run out of steam? Or, after possibly acquiring a share of the capitalist pie, will the movement die and government revert to the ‘yellow socialism’ of the centrist politics that support the capitalist political economy (‘Yellow Socialism’, Wikipedia, 2019)?

Despite their considerable differences, Extinction Rebellion and the French Yellow Vests Movement have demands in common, for example, educational reform, a ban on the planned obsolescence of goods, on plastic bottles, on GM foods, carcinogenic pesticides and mass-mono-crop agriculture.

Raising what was for Marx the vexed question of the ‘lumpenproletariat,’ the usual labelling of the jobless as a ‘feckless’ underclass; or the likes of the UK convicts exported to Australia and known there as the ‘intractables’; or referring to the US 2016 presidential election campaign dissenters as a ‘basket of deplorables’, and so on, this book defers to the inevitable cry of every human being for economically just and politically fair treatment, basic human rights that, through rational inference, must apply to all. Consequently, the qualities of democratic socialism this book supports means that Class Talk – Communications Unbound must inevitably opt for the building of a politico-economic democratic socialist home for all, one that requires citizens to engage in autonomous education and participate, as a matter of course, in the maintenance and development of that inclusive politico-economically, socio-culturally modern democratic socialist accommodation, the house rules of which are reverence for life, equal human rights and responsibilities for all.

Academic language seeks to usefully compress the complexities of already known concepts, but it can also butcher understanding. Class Talk – Communications Unbound, though unable to avoid all academic language, inclines instead towards more conversational language and tone.

So that readers can confirm and access additional information as they go along, or easily spot in-text references to look up later, quick fact-checking references are supplied in the body of the text. The endnotes refer to longer or more seminal works. The bibliography includes the endnote references and any necessary additional bibliographical details on in-text references.

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Some of the quotes used have been in the public domain for over a century; many come from today’s progressive activists.

The political, financial and corporate players currently in command and control are seldom mentioned by name. The aim is to highlight their politico-economic functions instead. Readers who want the full monty can check out the in-text references and endnotes for names.

As autonomous learners, readers must inevitably challenge the point of view presented in the book; take some responsibility for filling in the blanks in the evidence provided; and they are also obliged to examine the processes through which the writer, the authors of the referenced materials and they, the readers themselves, come to their political judgements and conclusions.

Autonomous learners are also obliged to reveal to themselves and others the existential realities of their politico-economic and socio-cultural circumstances, locally, nationally and globally, and to make transparent the principles upon which their worldview may – or may not – be founded.

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Power, Force and Social Class


XX, 360
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2021 (March)
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Wien, 2020. XX, 360 pp.

Biographical notes

Helen Davitt (Author)

Born in Glasgow, Helen Davitt left school at fifteen; emigrated at seventeen to California where she worked as head cashier in a loan company and was sacked for refusing to sell dud car insurances on car loans. She returned to the UK, worked full time and did a degree at Birkbeck College, University of London for four nights a week over four years. She taught in inner-city schools, worked as a schools’ inspector and then as a civilian education officer for the schools abroad for UK servicemen and women.


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