“It is not normal for the top 1% of a society to have the majority of the wealth, that is not normal,” says anti-inequality campaigner Ben Phillips. But despite the COVID crisis worsening this inequality, he believes, “this could be a moment where if we seize it, we could turn things around.”
Speaking with On the Job, the author of How to fight inequality and why that fight needs you explained that the key to effectively addressing inequality is people power.
“We have won in the past. But on every occasion, the reason why it’s happened is because people pushed for it,” said Phillips.
“Whenever we look back in history, and we ask, what was the process through which decision makers came to take the actions that would reduce inequality, the pressure from below was the constant.”
While Phillips concedes that government is the vehicle through which change can happen, the push must still come from us.
“Government is really just the mechanism, the drive to push government has to come from us.
“Now, if we don’t push, there are others who are pushing. And those others from the 1% are pushing for a less equal society and they’ve been very, very successful in doing so”
According to Phillips, the key to pushing for change is banding together in groups like trade unions.
“It’s so important, for example, that people join a trade union. When you join a union. You don’t just make your company fairer. You make your country fairer. This is statistically demonstrated world over.
“It’s not just about unions, though, people also need to join neighbourhood associations, people need to be part of community groups, social movements, women’s organizations, progressive faith groups.
“When those groups come together…that’s when you have real power”.
To support this belief, Phillips draws on many historic examples of workers or community groups organising to bring about social change across the globe, including North America, South America and Africa.
“In the past … in every country, there’s examples of how people got together and made their country more equal.
“We just have to reclaim those memories and remind people that it was us that did it and it’s us that will do it again”.