Plebs and Toffs – The Class War or Rhetorical Jaw?

The musician Morrissey once spoke the lyrics, “The English are sick to death of Labour, And Tories.” After listening to Ed Miliband’s speach yesterday, one might ask are the English one nation or part of one nation?

I am British – but a four nation Briton. But Ed’s claim that being one nation means no longer having divisions between rich and poor is too similar to the New Labour movement I signed up to which never happened.

Blair told me, and I believed him, that the battles between left and right would be over under New Labour, and they would govern pragmatically using the best model in practice and not just follow aged theory. Labour values in a modern context I was told. This appealed to me, but Ed’s rebranding of Labour as a one nation party will not convince me the Labour Party will be any different if he were to get in. If Blair, with his high social and emotional intelligence couldn’t do it, aided by Gordon Brown with his high cognitive and systemising intelligence couldn’t change the Labour Party and Britain, I’m not convinced that Red Ed, and Big Ed can do it!

I recently used the word “plebian” in an Oxford journal to distinguish the experts in areas from the laypersons. In many areas I am a plebian – knowing just enough to get by, but not enough to have an in depth conversation – we are all like this, but as “plebs” (literally ‘voters’) we have as much right to an opinion on the things we know little about as the things we know a lot about. Maybe though we have a duty to challenge these opinions rather than hold true to them if we know truthfully they are inaccurate?

Unfortunately the word “pleb” is not used the way I use it on the whole. It is used to reinforce the class divide of rich and privileged verses poor and destitute – Labour attack the first as “toffs” and praise the second as the “working person” and the Tories attack the second as “plebs” and the praise the second as “wealth creators.”

Where do I stand? I have the income and saving of Labour’s target voters and the accomplishments of the Tories’ target voters. I am what Tony Blair called an “aspirational” who is not the richest of people, but wants to better themselves and the world. Most people in the Labour Party I have met are what Blair calls the “intellectuals” – They are philosophically against capitalism and in favour or the working class.

But from my point of view, such people are only deluding themselves. The working class – that is people forced to work for a private sector employer in order to make ends meet – can only exist in capitalist societies.

If we had the transition from capitalism to socialism the Marx envisaged, there would be no working class! The working class would control their own means of production, distribution and exchange and be the wealth creators!

So what is socialism, and why is it seen as an endpoint and not a stage in the transition to a autonomous self-governing society without the need for the state as Marx saw it? Socialism is from my perspective no different from capitalism, except that the wealth of the country is not invested in private companies but invested in the state. How is working for a public employer any more what Marx wanted than working for a private employer?

If we had the Marxist dream, where effectively all “plebs” were “toffs”, what would happen to Labour and the Tories?

The fact is, Labour and the Trade Unions need the working class “plebs” to exist in order to have power, and the Tories need them to exist in order that the “toffs” who control big businesses can maintain that control and power.

Ed’s one nation socialism is therefore no more attainable be him than the same ideas of “New Labour” were attainable by Blair. When Blair made his forces of conservativism speech, I was reading a book by Peter Mandelson about vested interests that would hold up the New Labour project. Blair’s rhetoric may have suggested a desire to end the socialist verses capitalist battle than holds back Britons, but I think this speech was a sign that Blair knew, with the civil service and big business as powerful as the were and are, that the game was up, and his vision would not become a reality. I don’t think Red Ed and Big Ed have the competencies of Blair and Brown to pull it off, and it seams they lack the willingness to, with the Tories taking back New Labour’s policies as their own, leaving Ed Labour to fight to preserve their intellectualist mantra, as the aspirationals stay away from Labour, some as “Blue Labour” who are now Tory voters, and others like me, who are looking for a way beyond partisanism where political self-empowerment is the game in town.

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