The Middle Class Takeover of the Left
The Left-Wing Political Appropriation of Grassroots Through Elitist Social Policies
My mother Audrey loved Australian poetry. Even as Huntington’s Disease took hold and she lost her mental faculties, she could still quote from her favourite poem, the beginning of which, all my family knew by heart:
The night too quickly passes And we are growing old, So let us fill our glasses And toast the Days of Gold; When finds of wondrous treasure Set all the South ablaze, And you and I were faithful mates All through the roaring days!
Henry Lawson’s “Roaring Days” was a sentimental pondering of better times. The poem refers to the now forbidden glory of the Australian working-class man, who had escaped the poverty cycle of the British industrial machine in an emerging and promising nation-state.
Knowing Audrey’s love for Australian poetry, someone once bought her the collected works of A.B Patterson as a birthday gift. After the collection sat unopened for years, next to the tattered tobacco-stained Henry Lawson book, I finally asked; “Mum why do you never read that Banjo Patterson collection?” ”He’s a bit middle-class for me love” came the biting criticism of one of Australia’s most beloved poets.
“Middle-class” was a heavily loaded word in our household. That compound word could taint the character of a work of art, a group of people or a politician. But its meaning would differ on the tone in which is it was spoken and how it was applied. It wasn’t the middle class that my mother objected to, they were, she conceded, “a reliable tax base for public education and health care”; credit where it was due. And it wasn’t upper classes she disliked, after all, her collection of Lord Byron was almost as tattered as Lawson.
Audrey’s class, her politics and her culture were inescapably intertwined. She went on to clarify that Patterson “pretends to know the working class, but he doesn’t really.” There was sharp derision on my mother’s working-class tongue of anyone pretending to be working class who weren’t, and of a certain type of left-wing intelligentsia that had no connection to the struggle of the working class.
Audrey was an intelligent woman, but she lacked any opportunity to gain an education, she was destined to work in the same kind of factory and cleaning jobs for her entire life, often under people who were by far her intellectual inferior. Despite the rhetoric of the right, it wasn’t just capitalism that pulled my class out of poverty, it was the social policies that were instituted by left-wing labour political and social justice movements, policies and legislation that extended opportunity to the working class.
Australian Labor politicians were like rock stars in our household. As a small girl, I knew I was born on the same day as one important person, some famous golfer I thought. My parents would bring me out in front of their friends and ask who I shared my birthday with; “Golf Whitlam” I would say, and they would all laugh. As much as my parents loved Gough Whitlam, who was of course not a golfer but the leader of the Australian Labor Party at the time, his faults were well recognised in our household. His faults, it was understood, were not his own doing, it was just that he was “middle-class.”
Maybe Audrey was prejudiced against the middle class, or maybe she knew that the cultural boundaries of the working class had a precarious relationship to the power of the labour movement. The growing political power and success of the left were based, not just on an economic struggle but on the culture of identifying with that struggle and critically of the culture of solidarity.
In the end, both “left” and “right” are imagined cultural communities, but the left-wing culture was birthed in the common rolling lack of opportunity, in suffering, in self-deprecating humour formed in hardship, and it all rested on an essential political brotherhood. Solidarity was no joke in working-class culture, it was the single most important factor in securing a decent day’s pay for a decent day’s work, and basic dignity. Solidarity was to the working class what money is to the elite, the base of our power.
By the 80’s the success of the left meant that my parents were clinging to a fading working-class culture that was never going to survive opportunity and prosperity. With the free university access that Whitlam brought in, the working class were becoming middle class and the middle class was becoming “left-wing.” Just as my mother feared, the category of “the left” was becoming a political and cultural category, separate from the labour struggle.
The categorical re-placement of classes into political-cultural groups is the key to the capture of the power of the working-class left, along with the entire social justice infrastructure, by an elite of unsurpassed power. Along with the reinvention of the material based working-class into a cultural and moral category of the “left,” the gay rights movement has changed from a sexuality-based movement into a “queer” movement, environmentalists are now the cultural and political category of “green.” The woman’s movement has been taken over by simply redefining women into a cultural category of person who performs feminine stereotypes. Indigenous rights have taken on the cultural category of “Black,” loaded with all the political power of the American civil rights movement, a movement and history now owned by the elite left. This process has seen the appropriation of grassroots power by the new middle class left and their elite masters.
None of the demands of the new left stray from the culture into the material, they are all about flags, statues, word changes, date changes, forced declarations and compelled pronoun announcements, all shielding privilege in virtue. The new green movement's aim to consolidate international power to control energy production doesn’t seem at all suspicious to the new lefties, I can tell you the old left would have had some bells going off.
The new left is now a complete fabrication of urban dwelling, university educated, political marketing animals, in the service of more powerful brokers. Having assimilated all forms of oppression with Borg-like precision, the left has little use for the working class from whom the bulk of their power has been stolen and who now bear the brunt of its derision. The new middle-class morality like the old, rains moral superiority down on those who buck the new manufactured classifications or narratives.
It is not that the organisations that purport to represent minority and special interests are not fit for purpose, it is that their purpose has changed. Their purpose is now to control the great unwashed, appropriating their history and narratives to reinforce the power of an elite.
Domestic violence services that once centred on women’s bodily protections are now told that “gender inequity” is the primary cause of violence against women. More and more money goes from shelters into a new generation of government-dependent “charities’ like Our Watch. These “charities” use a subscription model to bring organisations under an ideological understanding of women’s needs based entirely on gender. This gives them authority to correct the sins in beliefs in a culture that will apparently stop men from hitting women because that has nothing to do with sex. The sin that is the basis of all societal ill will almost always be found in the working classes and be corrected with “education” on gender or race or whatever nonsense is cooked up in the humanities departments that are also funded by the same bureaucracy. So women’s protective infrastructure becomes a vehicle to control rather than protect women.
The new left ARE the reinvented religious, conservative, authoritarians and critically, the producers of what Alfred P Doolittle called “middle-class morality.” The bourgeois left reinforces institutional power and distributes wealth through a corrupted bureaucracy with a burgeoning class of “academics,” “advisers” and “specialists.” The institutionalisation of resistance, with the capture of social justice movements, is the genius move nobody saw coming, maybe except my mother.
Audrey knew there was a class of people who parrot all the virtue of care for the vulnerable but have not tased the foot of the oppressor on their neck and lack any real interest in the oppressed. These people were the most dangerous because they didn’t openly oppose our solidarity, they wanted to usurp it. The Banjo Patterson poetry book sat unopened on the shelf because Audrey suspected him of the crime second only to being a class traitor, and that was being a class thief.
The danger of middle-class people in working-class clothes was that they will inevitably employ the working-class politics, tied to their culture, in the service and interests of the “ruling class.” Say what you like about the failures of Marx’s theories, but the dynamic he described of the middle-class adopting, parroting and distributing the ideology of their financial masters does seem to describe perfectly the Marx loving “woke” middle class. But where to go?
I have openly confessed that I have been voting conservative for a few years and don’t in any way despise conservatives, but I am not conservative. I felt this keenly recently when someone on my “side” of the gender debate said they would like to write a column like mine but from a “left wing” perspective. This comment offended me on a visceral level.
I was offended because this person thinks I am a conservative because I am a Christian. The working-class left didn’t shun Christianity, because it would have broken its solidarity. American leftism has become an entire belief system in itself and opposes the dominant religion because the left is the new religion.
Both the Christian far-right and the ideological left seek each other’s necks under their feet because they are in a hegemonic battle. The left has won of course, but if we seriously work to reinstate a liberal system, they should both be marginalised through secular state principles. This is where I seek to make new alliances.
I have now directed my instinct for class solidarity toward the fight for the sex class of women, but I still bitterly resent my political heritage being usurped by an American cultural imperialist push of mammoth proportions. I didn’t leave the Australian working-class left, I am the Australian working-class left.
It is because I am of the working class left that I believe all the legacy civil rights institutions and the new government embedded social justice agencies, intergovernmental agencies and the Labor Party itself are unable to be reformed. They have become of critical importance to the new push against liberal democracy and without that, we don’t even have the power to argue with each other. We need to build grassroots pluralist activism again from the ground up and do it against organisations of phenomenal power.
At my mother’s funeral, I quoted the following from Henry Lawson’s “The Teams”:
And thus with little joy or rest Are the long, long journeys done; And thus—'tis a cruel war at best— Is distance fought in the mighty West, And the lonely battles won.
Anyone trying to fight for the left from within is a greater romantic than I. God rest the soul of the late Senator Kimberley Kitching, I do respect the effort. But we, lovers of freedom right and left, need to focus, in any small way that we can, on what is right. We’ve done it before. The resistance movements that have been swallowed by the cultural left have become part of the most significant authoritarian risk to western liberal democracy since Hitler invaded Poland.
And it is no time for appeasement. It just isn’t in my blood.