Reactionary Working Class?

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin .... No. 1383 .... March 16, 2017

Reactionary Working Class?

Asbjørn Wahl

Large parts of the western working class now seem to gather around right populists, demagogues, and racists. They vote for reactionary and fascistoid political parties. They helped to vote the UK out of the EU and to make Trump president of the world's superpower number one, and they vote so massively for the far right political parties that the latter have government power in sight throughout several of Europe's most populous countries.

Since working people traditionally are expected to vote for the left, this creates unrest, insecurity, and confusion among experts, as well as commentators and mainstream politicians -- particularly in the labour movement. There is no lack of condemnation and moralizing to those who go to the far... right. An increasing number of commentators, however, are now beginning to suspect that the march of large groups of workers toward the far right can be an expression of protest against the prevailing social development. Not all have received the benefits from the globalization success story, they say.

Nonetheless, many politicians and activists on the left have great difficulties orienting themselves in this new political terrain. People who otherwise would have been for Britain's withdrawal from the current authoritarian, neoliberal EU, for example, have told me that they voted to stay under the current conditions in order "not to be made cannon fodder for the racists and anti-immigration forces in the Brexit camp." Thus, they left it to the far right to voice the necessary opposition to the anti-social, anti-union policies of the EU.

Maybe it would have been more important and more helpful if the left had taken a somewhat more self-critical look at their own role and their own policies. Could it be that they have failed their constituencies -- that left parties are not seen as usable tools to defend the interests of those who have the least power and the least wealth in today's society? Perhaps there has been too much identity politics and very little class politics. Can it even be that the left's social analysis fails to grasp the essence of the current economic and political development?

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