Olga Zeveleva
October 2017.

Working classes are oppressed and poor today, just like before. Why aren't they rebelling?

1 answer

What can you offer them? You know? First, if you look at  the past, okay - there are exceptions, but many revolutions don’t happen when things are at their worst. They happen when the powers already made some concessions, but then don’t go far enough and so on. Like the French Revolution happened when the French monarch was already retreating and giving more and more and more freedom.

You need an ideology. You need an idea that attracts the people. Now tell me, apart from this abstract idea of revolt and so on, what is offered to the people? What is offered? They are wise enough to see that just this pro-Western propaganda which played maybe a certain role in the 1990s obliteration of communism, but people don’t buy this. This is depoliticisation of the people. We have now some very good protest movements, strikes, in the West - but still when you say working class, isn’t it an extremely sad phenomenon that their only serious (in political sense, with political strength) political orientation are right-wing anti-immigrant populists? They play the working class against what they perceive as threat. Not big capital, but immigrants and so on, refugees, and so on and so on. This is, I would say, very sad.

The predominant workers’ politics today in France - it’s not as simple as that - but its true that most of Marine Le Pen’s voters are ex-communist voters. I mean, today’s social democrats are so obsessed with the idea that they don’t want to appear out of time, that they totally adopted this postmodern terminology, you know, "we must be nice to small creative digital capitalists" and so on, and they are absolutely afraid to appear as still dominated by trade unions and traditional worker’s organisations, so that the only power politically still referring to working class interests in France is Marine Le Pen.

Or in Poland it’s the same tragedy - Kaczynski - okay, he is not nominally head of state, but he is the secret master in Poland - he openly speaks the language of working class rights, of workers, he even did something. So again, I understand the idea of "workers rebelling" - okay, but what is offered to them? When you say “revolution”, you need a plan for revolution, like to do what?

Although there is some nostalgia for communism, I wouldn’t take that nostalgia too seriously. It’s not that they are satisfied simply, the workers, and that’s why they don’t revolt, but they are disoriented in total cynicism. And I even claim that this is the predominant ideology today - neoliberalism is not just neoliberal rules, and you will all be rich or whatever, no! It’s more cynical. The message of neoliberalism is much more cynical: the 20th century shows us that every large-scale attempt to change society for the better ends in Gulag necessarily. So it’s very ironic how today’s ideology is basically in some perverted sense anti-ideology. They try to destroy any vision of alternatives. They claim this is old ideological thinking. That’s the neoliberal vision, although they are themselves ideology at its purest. But every vision of a different future is decried as totalitarian. 

Incidentally, even with this term “neoliberalism” I have great problems, because, you know, neoliberalism is not a reality. If you look for example at the United States today, it’s not exactly a neoliberal country, the state is really getting stronger and stronger. Today’s capitalism needs a stronger and stronger state which manipulates, regulates market conditions, which is why ex-communists are so successful in running the wildest capitalist countries. The future, I think, is what they do in China, in Singapore and so on - the terrifying combination of capitalism with nonetheless a very strong state which regulates it and so on and so on.

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