The death of class?

A scene from Orwell's 1984, the left still fails to grasp the centrality of democracy to socialism...

According to this piece in the Wall Street Journal, 7 out of 10 people in Britain now think of themselves as middle-class. I am sure many on the left will see this as an example of rampaging ‘false consciousness’ however, I find that theory somewhat problematic and dictatorial in its implications. You can’t force people to call themselves working class (or even upper class) even if you happen to think they are and your wasting valuable time and energy trying to convince people otherwise. All that will happen is that you will get into a highly circular and actually very pointless debate.

In a wider sense, it tends to expose a certain materialist determinism. Yes its valuable to realise the material basis of ideas and their material dynamic but it’s profoundly silly to say this is the last word on these issues. Human consciousness is a much more complicated beast than this implies. Its ability and capacity to reach beyond the confines of its immediate environment and to smash the limitations of its immediate material basis is what gives it the power it has. Where would we be as a species without people capable of building castles in the sky, even if this is initially within the narrow confines of their own mind?

Rather than waste time and my typing fingers arguing the vast majority of these people are really working class and why can’t they just damn well accept that,  I think its more productive to deal with some actual issues that arise from people seeing themselves this way. It does potentially mean that those who still self-identify as working class are likely to feel increasingly alienated from ‘mainstream society’ and this could have dangerous repercussions. Some working class communities are obviously starting to adopt a Millwall-type-attitude of ‘nobody likes us and we don’t care’. From there it is a relatively short, though by no means inevitable, step to voting for the British National Party or UKIP and marching with the English Defence League.

The austerity drive of this government will impoverish large sections of the middle-classes as well. Although I would seriously doubt this will suddenly awaken their inner-proletarian what it could do is convince them of the merits of an alliance with the suffering poor; not necessarily against capitalism itself but in a more worrying prospect against the rather tawdry and poorly functioning representative democracy we currently have and against the always feared and hated ‘other’ ie, immigrants, the EU, etc, etc. Given the fact that the left is a shambles this outcome is probably actually the odds-on favourite as things stand. Incidentally, this is why I resent Labour’s focus on the ‘squeezed middle’; it may resonate nicely with swing voters but we have to remember sometimes we are more than an electoral machine whose task is to simply grind out the right result. We are part of a wider movement and have an obligation to that too. The fascination with this one social strata is un-democratic, exclusionary and downright reckless and irresponsible.

In other regards this survey shows the co-option and absorption of intrinsically positive ideas and goals into the capitalist discourse. Personally, I am a socialist not because I lack aspiration but because I suffer from an overabundance. I think society can be much better than capitalism allows it to be and far from wanting everybody to be ‘levelled-down’, I want a major ‘levelling-up’. I feel that a socialist society where the level of provision is such that each individual is provided for by the framework of society will allow the individual more freedom than they could ever dream of having under this system. Finally, I don’t want everything to be controlled by the state, far from it, I want the state and everything it owns to be run democratically by us all.

It’s just a shame we can’t truly say this of the left. It’s a caricature but the Borg are a pretty accurate representation of how the left internally organises itself; publicly, rather than be free-thinking and plain-speaking individuals, we are all expected to behave as drones; not like human beings. If this is how we organise ourselves in the here and now then personally I have to say thinking about what kind of society we would create in power fills me with dread. One that would probably put Stalin to shame. It’s no wonder capitalist media is so successful in portraying the left as an enemy of democracy.

The D word is the answer to both the problems I have touched upon. Labour needs to put it right back at the heart of our discourse to reach out to those alienated by the ‘booming middle class’. And the left might have to swallow a bitter pill – in a world that is in some ways ‘post-class’ – it will have to realise its the only idea and concept that can unite all the different groups behind a programme that will truly challenge capitalism. Put bluntly, nobody with a sense of perspective worries much about a ‘red’ takeover nowadays. However, people truly empowering themselves…that’s an idea that is so powerful they take it for themselves and hollow it out of any real meaning. Now if only the left had the vision and conviction to give it meaning….then things would be different….


About darrellgoodliffe


10 responses to “The death of class?”

  1. Gillig says :

    You would have us roll over and give our hard won democracy, justice and freedom to the EU.
    The arguments for leaving the EU do not need repeating.
    Stop being lazy and give us one good reason to stay in!


  2. darrellgoodliffe says :


    I have been though this. I do have to say, I admire your talent for turning literally everything into a discussion on the EU….having said that I feel this is a huge flaw in UKIP’s strategy because it looks, to be blunt like you cant talk about anything else…


  3. John Reid says :

    If someone had a no one likes us, we don’t care attidtude then they would’nt be that bothered as to vote for the BNP,or walk with the EDL?


  4. darrellgoodliffe says :


    Errr no not necessarily because this attitude is what both the BNP and EDL feed off, fear of others and blaming them for ones own suffering…as opposed to looking a bit deeper at what the real causes are.


  5. Gillig says :

    Another article criticising UKIP, without stating a sensible coherent reason for remaining in the EU.
    A kind person might speculate that British journalist’s are lazy, or that there is no sensible reason for being ruled by the EU.
    I would say it’s ignorance.


  6. John Reid says :

    At the same time if you felt people didn’tlike you then you’d automatically say it’s other people fualt not liking youand dislike them back,they of cpourse might not dislike you,it s just thier culture could possibly so diffenret that you’d feel threatened bythem.


  7. darrellgoodliffe says :


    It’s not an article – its a comment. Notice you didnt reply to my point either, so we are even on that score, hey?


  8. Gillig says :

    It is seven pathetic paragraphs of Bollitics, ending with a fart about democracy.
    Your idea of democracy is Labour will allow the public to vote only issues where you can get the answer you want.
    What is your point?
    How can you have a political discussion without mentioning our rulers? Probably the same way you ignore the need for a referendum on who should have the democratic right to make our laws and take our taxes.

    What is the score?
    1/ You are lazy.
    2/ You are incapable of giving a sensible reason for being ruled by the EU.
    3/ You are ignorant of notions such as freedom and justice.
    4/ You clearly have no concept of poverty. A rich person has the security of shelter, clothing, clean water and knowing where the next meal is coming from. If you had ever been denied any of this, you would know that working class is only a convenient label for politicians.
    5/ You insult The Borg.

    You say;
    1/ “I admire your talent for turning literally everything into a discussion on the EU, having said that I feel this is a huge flaw in UKIP’s strategy because it looks, to be blunt like you cant talk about anything else…
    You get 10 points for that, so you are in the lead.


  9. darrellgoodliffe says :


    Really? Wow…do I get a prize?


  10. Gillig says :

    Yes you get a free diagnosis.
    Are you sure you haven’t forgotten to ignore that comment before?


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