As a share of GDP, wages have fallen from a high of 64% in 1974 to approximately 54% in 2010. This is despite the fact that we have become more productive.
Correct. The split between wages and profit is tilting more and more towards profit. The profit goes to shareholders, who tend more and more to be the high-paid. Wealth becomes concentrated while wages stagnate. We're seeing this replicated across the Atlantic, too.
"What has happened is the direct culmination of Thatcherite class war, aimed at breaking up the bargaining power of labour"
Cobblers. Thatcherite class war, if it can be so called, was only one of the factors breaking up the bargaining power of labour. It would have fared very poorly against the working class of, say, 1956. The other factors were all related to one overriding phenomenon - the collapse of British cultural self-confidence and social cohesion between around 1963 and 2003 (though some would say the process is not yet complete). This cultural revolution has transformed Britain - most Guardian readers now would be horrified at Attlee's country of 60 years back.
The effect of the 60s cultural revolution was devastating for the British working class. As Sheila Rowbotham put it in the Guardian :
"Four decades on, we can see that the rebellions of 1968 coincided with capitalism changing gear."
That's one way of putting it. But it was no coincidence.
The brilliantly successful cultural revolution weakened the old culture to the point where capitalism, flexible by nature and untrammeled by its previous cultural constraints, could flourish on the weakened social organism like some opportunistic infection.
We can identify three main strands or themes when examining the effects of the collapse :
a) individualism and infantilism rather than communalism and responsibility
"what's good for me"
"if it feels good, do it"
"love the one you're with"
"Access - takes the waiting out of wanting"
"all that really matters is right now"
All of these cultural trends were ominous for traditional trade union and working class solidarity, which often required deferred gratification and individual self-sacrifice.
b) newly educated middle class children (often of working class origin), without experience of poverty or war, who both swallowed the 60s medicine whole, and preached it to the least self-confident and most vulnerable of the working class. I wonder now how much the existence of 1970s-style Claimants Unions, whose middle class volunteers preached that the working class were OWED a living by "the state", played in creating the underclass of the 80s and beyond.
At the same time, those working class people who rejected the 60s gospel were looked down on by their newly liberated children, who may have loved them but were slightly ashamed of them (I remember the contempt my uncles had for people who chose to live on benefits. What could they, in a South Wales steelworks all their working life, have to teach a politics student about socialism?). This tendency is now the default view, in that 'enlightened' left views are now a sign of a civilised middle-class person - those not holding such views being irredeemable hicks, Sun readers.
c) a consequence of b), mass immigration.
"Disembowel Enoch Powell" chanted the students in 1969 outside the Any Questions venue. What did the demonstrations in his favour by the London dockers count for against civilised opinion ? You can see that the rupture between the working class and their self-appointed leaders and defenders goes back a long way.
Mass immigration's main effect has been to drive down wages :
“The main purpose of the bourgeois in relation to the worker is, of course, to have the commodity labour as cheaply as possible, which is only possible when the supply of this commodity is as large as possible in relation to the demand for it”
But nearly as important to capitalists is that a religiously and ethnically divided working class is much less likely to combine effectively against them - there are so many fault lines to exploit.
"Today, capitalism's crisis is all the deeper"
No it ain't. British society's crisis has rarely never been deeper in our history - but meanwhile the capitalists are filling their boots - while there's still stuff left to loot. Remember, they're 60s children too. All that really matters is right now.