Class Wars: No New Hope

Russell Brand struck a nerve recently. Whether you agree with him or not, we saw a surge in Britain’s top form of political activism, sharing videos on Facebook. Russell was able to bring people to the point of radical politics but then, through no fault of his own, everyone was surrounded by a forest of annoying points and had no idea how to proceed with their newly realised outrage. For me, Russell Brand revealed that we tend to be able to identify problems but are at a loss when it comes to confronting them given how entrenched the problems are.

In terms of identifying the problem, Russell Brand was looking at the tip of a rapidly melting iceberg, and that was the concentration of wealth. This is where Russell didn’t go far enough in his rhetoric in identifying the divisions in the class system as the cause of many of the ills plaguing people.

The working classes are being hit hard by the austerity that’s deemed necessary by ruling classes in order to maintain the economic system in which we live. The idea of austerity seems to imply that people having the decadent desire to eat and not freeze to death in their homes somehow caused the financial crisis, and not the contradictions and structures of global capitalism.

George Osborne recently said that Britain needs a return to the can-do attitude of Victorian era Britain. I don’t so much think it’s the can-do attitude that appeals to him but the class system of a Charles Dickens novel as a horde of street orphans are a potential welcome boost to job numbers.

We are actually seeing the realisation of the neo-Victorian dream of Cameron and Osborne. The heightened economic and social poverty of the bygone era is reflected today as someone who has recently lost their job can, on their way to the job centre walk past a recently closed library and a bustling food bank; this is before returning to their freezing home to be greeted by an ever increasing energy bill. Whilst this happens bankers are given massive bonuses. And who says life isn’t fair?

Working class votes are becoming as useless as they were in the day of Queen Victoria, as the only body close to government willing to listen to them are GCHQ. Many would say we can address these issues by voting, but Russell Brand certainly had the right idea when he said he didn’t vote.  A lot of people will say that Labour is the best that the left and the working class have, and in some respects this is true, but only because the alternatives are effectively heartless super villains. Labour did rule from 1997-2010, overseeing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan whilst beginning a creeping privatisation of the NHS with their private finance initiative. Labour leader Ed Miliband has said he wants to make capitalism work for working people, despite the fact that working people are the ones who are exploited in a capitalist system. Even saying this, Miliband is still branded ‘Red Ed’ and a Marxist by elements of the British press due to the persisting idea that Labour are a leftist party and not just another neo-liberal group.

It would be wonderful if Labour was a genuine alternative but the reality is that they would still champion free markets and continue the boom and bust cycle of capitalism that keeps the wealth divided as it is.

So, the problems can be identified, even if they’re not accepted as problems by everyone. But once you’ve identified the problems you can do little more than shrug. The problems do have a tendency of massively outnumbering the solutions. If you can’t vote effectively in a democracy, how do you change the political landscape? That’s the problem with this sort of political analysis; it says what it believes to be the problems but can’t really offer any real solutions, and that’s incredibly frustrating. Simply calling for revolution seems redundant if the voice of the opinion is not willing to do anything themselves and fails to offer a means of revolution. Often when someone like Russell Brand manages to tap into a vein of discontent, the discontented often find themselves with no viable options for an outlet. What is effectively needed then to attempt to solve or alleviate the problems highlighted in this article is a vehicle that dissatisfied masses can use to improve their situation, at this current moment in time there appears to be very little hope of one appearing.

4 responses to “Class Wars: No New Hope”

  1. Ryan says:

    While I agree, with your analysis on problems facing both the Political voting systekm and the lack of choice. Ed Miliband and Labour have shifted the debate to government for the people for the first time in a long time, we are not just just another Neo-Liberal group…. we might be too kind on markets for some on the left but where they work, where profit isn’t just exploitation like small enterprise where it is an incentive we support it and where it is just rampant exploitation of market power and of corporate greed I.E Energy and the Bank bosses we have said the right thing.  

    We have also recently and I am proud to have been a part of it, had a success with the Sharkstoppers group. While not a party thing it has been full mainly of party members or supporters and now supported by the leadership If your unaware we managed to get a commitment to 1. Cap the cost of credit and 2. Tax Pay day lenders to fund Credit unions… This sort of thing has to be welcomed and it isn’t done by fracturing the left or turning us away from hope. 

    What Labour is offering is different to the Tories, is a more responsible and more restrained Capitalism. Im not just talking about the freeze but in terms of priories.  I am a member of the Labour party and am currently Co-Chair of Hampshire and IoW Young Labour but I see my role within the Labour party not just of winning elections or of door knocking but of making a change. Labour is a pool of people like us and without people like us they would be just another Neo-liberal group, I see my role as making Labour worth electing and I am yet to see a time where I would rather have the Tories or the Liberals in Government over Labour. 

    Join us and fight with us and help shift the ground, don’t just leave the ground there for the Tories. 

    As Robert Webb said Voting is a very British Revolution. 

    • I think Labour being in opposition is what has shifted them to the left slightly. And I really don’t want to undervalue the work you do at a local level, I think it’s really important. And of course I’d rather have Labour in than the Tories, I’d rather have the cast of Hollyoaks run the country than the current Cabinet. Now that’s out the way, I just think that leftist elements of the Labour party are drowned out by the neoliberal and market friendly elements that ultimately exacerbate the problems you are attempting to remedy. Tireless efforts by charities and groups at local level are undermined by the market friendly forces at the top. I would like to see a separate leftist alternative to Labour that’s potentially formed from the socialist aspects of the Labour party. I don’t think Labour’s problems are limited to the UK either, they’ll still engage in our toxic foreign policy and the arms trade and I don’t see why we should just forget about the Iraq War. I don’t buy the line that New Labour was somehow a different party.
      And when Robert Webb said voting was a “very British” revolution, I think invading someone else’s country and installing a leader that sells us cheap resources is closer to being a “British revolution”.

      • Ryan Carter says:

        Then join is in working with us and shifting the party to where it should be, the factionalism is what has meant Labour has shifted to the right over the years.  When party membership falls, money talks, of course it does. That was an argument from the Independent Labour party and Labour resistance committee over a 100 years ago.  

        I do also think though that the left has been split because some people fail to realise the being left isn’t just as simple an nationalisation ( I don’t mean you here) but that people like Crossland was still left wing, the Cooperative model is a hybrid between democratic and community owned markets(socialism) and that all too often the State can feel alien to us even if we do vote for it, our say is drastically diminished. On the topic some of the pre-Marx socialists were Cooperative supporters.   

        We had to move on from our old Clause 4 but i also think that we didn’t do enough in government and that we can do more in government and Ed basically pledged to nationalise government, a government for the people. 

        • Christopher McMahon says:

          I don’t want to join a group that will continue British foreign policy and continue to favour markets, I don’t see why a lot socialists should have to compromise on those things.  Those are the aspects that I see as being what undermines work done at local level.  
          I’d prefer a solely socialist movement without having to compromise on private forces and foreign policy, but in Labour you’d have to. I don’t that’s too much to ask.

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