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Sunday, May 19, 2024

The modern left and the working class

By: Dr Matevž Tomšič

In the era of classical industrial capitalism, it was believed that individual political organisations (parties, movements) defended the interests of certain social groups (layers, classes). Each of these followed a certain ideology, which contained an ideological framework, value orientations and moral guidelines for its actions. The programme and action plan for operation were based on it. All great classical ideologies were also socially, or “class” based. Thus, in the beginning it was considered that conservatism was the ideology of the aristocracy, liberalism the ideology of the bourgeoisie, and socialism the ideology of the working class. Even the classic split between the left and the right was defined to a considerable extent by class, which means that it was based on the different positions of individual groups in the economic sphere (or as Marxists would say, in production relations).

Things have changed over time, but until the end of the last century it was considered that the right mostly defended the interests of the owners of capital and other wealthier classes, while the left mostly defended labour and other less wealthy classes. This was also reflected in the electoral choices of citizens. Thus, members of the working class mostly voted for left-wing parties, while members of the bourgeoisie overwhelmingly voted for right-wing and centre-right parties.

To date, the importance of the economic divide for the functioning of political groups has diminished. Of course, this does not mean that the political struggle is any less fierce. It even seems that in recent years, the ideological conflicts are intensifying. Many argue that a real culture war is taking place, the main protagonist of which is the Western Left (which has its offshoots all over the world). However, it is a left that has changed its social base significantly in recent decades. Now it is no longer a representative of labour. If the left-wing parties refer to the struggle for workers’ rights in their public appearances, this is only pro forma.

The new left is not so much fuelled by the original thought of Marx as by the so-called cultural Marxism and is more concerned with various allegedly neglected minorities such as women, homosexuals, ethnic and religious minorities, immigrants from the third world, etc. rather than with the position of workers. It bets more on racial, religious and gender conflicts than on class. It practices cultural struggle instead of class struggle. Instead of a social revolution, it seeks to infiltrate the institutions of the system, especially those that are important for the formation of human consciousness, i.e., education, science, culture, mass media. And in these efforts, it must be admitted that it is quite successful.

The modern left no longer relies on labour, but on the middle class, especially those urban circles that are tied to the public sector. Moreover, it is increasingly associated with the business elite and global capital circles. It happens that large multinational corporations and various “philanthropists” (such as George Soros) fund radical left-wing organisations (such as Black Lives Matter) with their donations. Capitalists and their alleged critics have apparently (at least on certain points) found common ground.

The alienation of the modern European left from ordinary working people is nowhere more evident than in its support for a ban on the sale of cars powered by internal combustion engines (which is expected to occur after 2035). This will undoubtedly increase the cost of personal transport, as electric cars are significantly more expensive. This will especially affect people with lower incomes. But the elite will benefit. Its members will be able to afford Tesla electric cars and the like, while ordinary people will languish in overcrowded buses and trains. Therefore, they will no longer have to wait in traffic jams, because their “paradise” will not be crowded. All in the name of “environmental sustainability”, the price of which will be paid primarily by those for whom left-wing politics once stood for.

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