I have just finished four months in the U.S., in Madison, Wisconsin, where the ‘culture wars’ have succeeded in mobilizing rural resentment against the cultural elites in order to fuel one of the most regressive state policies, one that actively dismantles social and environmental protections in favour of the real financial elite. This is happening one way or another in the whole of Europe, where former working class areas are shifting towards the same type of politics. The Brexit vote was strongest in the regions previously marked by the revolt of the Luddite movement and the birth of the labor movement in the 19th century.

This is a key division that must be overcome, between the old working class that is pushed out of the remaining social protections and the new knowledge-based working class that is engaged in precarious ‘autonomous’ work, but linked through networks and digital knowledge commons. Think taxi drivers against Uber drivers as another example of such a destructive division.

Joseph Todd expresses this well in an article for ROAR, that deals with the fall-out of Brexit vote (excerpt):

“This is the narrative sweeping the media; one of an irrevocable, all out culture war. A nation split down the lines of leave and remain. A battle of class, race and geography. And it is one that will only end badly for the left. If this narrative takes hold, we’ll hemorrhage support to the center and the right. If we are to build a progressive majority, we must begin to articulate a very different story.

The left need to reach two constituencies if it is to build power. First are the young, urban, educated and often culturally middle class; those who were promised stable, fulfilling and well paid employment and instead suffer a largely precarious, freelance and uncertain existence. They get by, but only through a mixture of agency, bar and office work. They find somewhere to live, but only by paying 60 percent of their income in rent.

The second are the the rural and semi-rural working classes of former mining and industrial towns. Those who the press term “core Labour voters”. They live in areas torn apart by Thatcher. Where the little employment that exists is provided by the state. Where migration of the young is endemic. Where investment is nowhere to be seen.

Both these groups have a potential left inflection. The former are young, socially liberal and economically precarious. They’ve been raised on networks rather than hierarchies, gifting them an anti-authoritarian, open source impulse. They are unlikely – as their parents were – to be bought off with cheap housing and decent salaries as neither are readily available.

The latter are those worst hit by austerity. Most dependent on government run services. More likely to have had child tax credits or disability living allowance perniciously snatched away. They find themselves enmeshed in the disciplinary mechanisms of the job center, police station and courtroom. They are the ignored and unrepresented. Absent for decades from mainstream political discourse.

A progressive alliance between the two would be explosive. It could deliver Corbyn enough seats to govern. Yet such a possibility is threatened by this manufactured culture war, by the establishment’s framing as impossibly oppositional; defined by Leave or Remain, as if it were the only determinant of ideology and identity.”

Photo by Sir Hectimere

2 Comments For progressive transition majorities, we need to move beyond the culture wars

  1. AvatarSerena

    This article is seriously confused. The ugly fact is that Britain is a divided society, split between the hand-wringing liberal middle classes who have aligned themselves with the ruling class and their globalisation agenda, against the rest of us who take a more common sense approach and are fed up with being ignored and treated as expendable fodder.

    Joseph Todd seems to be using the word “Trotskyist” as an all-purpose term of abuse for those he disagrees with. Trying to dismiss as Trotskyites people like George Galloway, Kate Hoey, Gisela Stuart, Frank Field, David Owen, Arthur Scargill, Dennis Skinner or Alex Gordon along with Trades Unions ASLEF, RMTand BFAWU would be laughable if it weren’t so sad and desperate on Joseph’s part.

    Jeremy Corbyn, now leader of the Labour Party, has never supported the EU dictatorship, along with many great figures on the British Left, including Michael Foot, Peter Shore, Bob Crow and Tony Benn who would all have campaigned for the Leave vote if they were still with us today.

    The current enmity on the British Left is rooted in history and originates in the uneasy alliance between the predominantly middle class Socialist societies such as the Fabians, and the then predominantly working class Trades Unions, back at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries. The middle class Left has always feared and despised the working class Left and our values and priorities and so it continues today ….

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pq72f81kkM4 Lexit the movie

  2. AvatarKeith Parkins

    I agree with Serena. I do not know what is writing about, but it is not the political or cultural situation in England.

    There is an uneducated working class.

    It is they who have suffered from mass inward migration from Europe. Migrants at first employed because they were cheaper, now employed because they are better educated, have a better work ethic.

    It is this uneducated, and in the main unemployable, working class, who vote for UKIP, and are attracted to English Defence League.

    But it is a huge mistake to call either of these organisations racist or xenophobic.

    In the run up to the EU Referendum there was a lot of garbage spouted by both sides, the worst was from Remain, that also engaged in scaremongering. Economic Armageddon, dodgy dossier from the Treasury that was laughable, loss of jobs, bad for young people, threat of economic terrorism if voted to Leave, and even that Leave would lead to WWIII.

    Similar tactics were tried in Norway in the 1990s, they failed then, failed now.

    EU is a cartel for big businesses, a democracy-free zone, a failing economics area due to structural failures in the euro. Southern Europe has been devastated by the EU, youth unemployment running at 50%, in Greece at 60%.

    Being anti-EU is not the same as anti-Europe, anti the people of Europe

    Labour and the Trade Unions, have traditionally and historically been opposed to the EU, seeing it for what it is, a proponent of austerity and neo-liberalism, an organisation for the benefit of Big Business.

    If Tony Benn and Bob Crow were still alive, they would have been leading the Leave campaign, and the vote to Leave would have been massive

    Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Paul Mason, Yanis Varoufakis et al took the view there may not be anything good about the EU, but let us fight it from the inside.

    Others took a pragmatic view. EU is beyond reform, let us Leave, cause the whole rotten house of cards to collapse, form a network of cooperating democratic sovereign countries.

    Both sides now see the need to cooperate to design a post-Brexit future. A future that is too important to be left to politicians.

    The danger is, 2008 is our 1929.

    Jeremy Corbyn threw his hat into the ring last year when Labour went down to a massive electoral defeat. His approach has popular appeal, and he was elected Labour Party leader with a massive majority. He has overseen a massive increase in Party membership, turning Labour into the largest socialist movement in Europe. But not popular with the Labour Party Establishment, not with Labour MPs, who think they have a sinecure for life.

    The comments in the media, Jeremy Corbyn has lost support of labour MPs is nonsense, he never had their support.

    Brexit has been used by Labour MPs as an excuse to mount a coup against Jeremy Corbyn. A coup that has been orchestrated by Blairites.

    Labour NEC has disenfranchised 130,000 members who joined after 12 January 2016, set a fee of £25 to resister as a supporter (which disenfranchises the poor), suspended one of the largest local Labour parties in the country at Brighton (no coincidence supports Jeremy Corbyn), barred any local Labour party from holding meetings until after the Labour Party leadership election.

    Fabian Society is now controlled by Blairites and is part of the coup against Jeremy Corbyn.

    What we are seeing is not Jeremy Corbyn v Labour MPs, not Left v Right. What we are seeing is the Members v the Labour Party Establishment, the 1% v the 99%.

    What Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters are trying to do is create a mass social movement with participation at all levels, not the conventional lust for power for its own sake.

    There is currently a massive smear campaign against Jeremy Corbyn by the mainstream media, especially the BBC, false stories that are never corrected, every other day, a platform granted to opponents of Jeremy Corbyn to launch an attack.


















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