Thursday 20 April 2006

The demonisation of the white working class

The demonisation of the white working class continues apace. George Orwell, Christopher Hill and E P Thompson sought to rescue from what the last called “the enormous condescension of posterity” the rich and vibrant culture of miners’ lodge libraries, pitmen poets and painters, brass and silver bands, the Workers’ Educational Association, trade unions, co-operatives, credit unions, the Labour Party, and much else besides. That culture’s products filled the universities at one time, and thence provided generations of, in particular, teachers in excellent state schools.
But the Marxism of Hill or Thompson ultimately could not rescue this, since serious Marxists are seldom, if ever, working-class people, who instead cling tenaciously to entirely non-Marxist, but empirically based and commonsensical, political beliefs of their own. Furthermore, the Anglo-Marxist “People’s History” reaction against “Kings and Queens”, while a necessary corrective in many ways (so long as this is recognised as a constant two-way process), ultimately negated Marxism itself by encouraging identification with Anglo-Saxon communes, the Peasants’ Revolt, the Diggers, the Levellers, and so on, all long before the rise of the industrial proletariat.
Since 1979, the only Marxist governments that this country has ever had, with only the ending changed so that the bourgeoisie wins, have effected the ruination of the civilised and civilising working-class communities by destroying the patterns of employment and service-provision (not least in housing) from which those communities’ leading figures (trade union officials, local councillors) derived their authority.
If anyone might have succeeded in rescuing working-class culture from condescension, then it might have been, as my previous post on him explains, Graham Greene, with his taking seriously of the thriller and the cinema. And his framework for this was not Marxism, with its little or no working-class following, but something with an enormous working-class following, namely Catholicism. But that, I fear, was why he never had the impact that he ought to have had in this area.

No comments:

Post a Comment