There is a strong case to be made for the idea that almost all of the world's biggest problems are caused by rich, white male wankers. Relatedly, it can be argued that almost all of the world's major struggles are part of one big fight against the same privileged, self-regarding class of people who run almost everything - although this risks ignoring the differences in the changes that people hope to achieve.

Class has always been a big thing in Britain, as in much of the world, to the extent that the Conservative Prime Minister John Major's talk of creating a 'classless society' was met with widespread ridicule, and we tend to have a similar response when people suggest that such a society exists in the USA. It is currently fashionable in this country to openly deride 'chavs' (or 'neds' in Scotland) - which is shorthand for 'working class, possibly unemployed people who scare and/or revolt me' - and it has never gone out of fashion to pour scorn on anyone perceived as upper class.

Among other things, social class is a very convenient way to dismiss someone, without having to engage with what they're saying. This is not always unreasonable - it is difficult for those born into positions of privilege to understand the problems faced by those who aren't. Perhaps there is some truth in the reverse, too. On the other hand, all of these things are relative, and almost all of us do face many of the same problems, whether we face up to them or not.

Maybe two thirds of Britons these days think of themselves as being middle class (depending on which surveys you believe) but on a Marxian analysis, the proletariat is just as large as ever. The control of the means of production is still overwhelmingly in the hands of a very small number of people. Almost everyone still needs to work hard for a living, and much of what we make still goes to the benefit of the very rich.

Social class remains important, but economic oppression is bigger than that. Our economic system is not run chiefly for the benefit of the 'middle class', whatever that might mean. It is run for the benefit of capitalists - people with the money to make money - and their power is greater, but more fragile, than ever. The extremely rich look on and chuckle when we devote more of our energy to tearing each other apart than we do to tearing down the structures that allow them to maintain their stranglehold.