15 September 2021

Roman Burtenshaw’s editorial in the latest Tribune: “Ever since … the 1970s and ’80s, the institutions which sustained the Left’s presence in work- ing-class communities have dwindled. With the absence of union branches came the demise of workers’ clubs, educational organisations, voluntary associations, newspapers, sports teams, and an entire architecture of community life which maintained our roots in the places and with the people whose interests were aligned to socialist politics. As this structure crumbled, another was built in its place: a great factory for turning highly-educated layers of society into politicians, advisors, consultants, academics, lobbyists, PR professionals, think-tankers, policy wonks, and a myriad of other functionaries. … The cause of socialism has always brought together working-class militants and bourgeois intellectuals, from Marx and Engels to Lenin, Luxemburg, Gramsci and even Tony Benn. As long as the labour movement was the driving force, these figures could put their theories to use advancing its aims. However, in the absence of an organised working-class, the middle classes take over — and socialism degenerates into linguistic obscurity and scholastic abstraction. Of course, this process has impacted the centre-left as much as socialists. In fact, it is realigning the entire political spectrum. Without the anchor of conflict between classes, politics is reduced to a cultural contestation among members of the ruling class — a choice between two parties which serve business interests; one socially liberal and one socially conservative. In these political blocs, workers will play a subordinate role on both sides. … [T]he only way to fight back against the drift of politics into a contest between elite worldviews is to rebuild class politics itself.”