GORDON Brown last month made an off-the-cuff jibe about Tory policies being produced “on the playing fields of Eton” — referring to Cameron being an old boy of that establishment. Cameron, obviously feeling stung on a sensitive spot, retaliated by “accusing” Brown of resorting to “class war” tactics — if only he would!
But this was followed by a chorus of dismay from some New Labour MPs, either, like Tessa Jowell, criticising Brown for using class war terminology or desperately trying to reassure the ruling class that they had no such thing in mind.
The class war is not a tactic or a fashion or some kind of dated and clichéd propaganda tactic. It is a fact of life, a historical reality dating back thousands of years to the time when the new concept of property being owned by a specific person came into being and society was divided between the haves and the have-nots. The haves had all the power and were able to force the have-nots to work for them in order to have access to the necessities of life.
Ever since then, openly or covertly, the class war has raged between those who exploit the labour of others and those who are exploited. The interests of the contending classes are irreconcilable — the gain of one class is the loss of the other. That is the stark essence of our society and will be until we achieve real socialism.
But it is not surprising that the exploiters do not want us to fight back; they do not want us to realise that we are being exploited. They want to pretend that we are all friends and on the same side battling a great economic storm as if it were a creation of nature and not a creation of their greed.
They have done everything they can to suppress class awareness among the workers: vaunting rags to riches stories to delude workers that they could all rise through the ranks if they tried hard enough and fostering ultra-“left” trends to divide class conscious workers.
Of course the ruling class itself is fully class aware and holds the fools who work for them with utter contempt. They would not be seen dead enduring the same poor standards of healthcare, education, transport and social care that we fight so hard to secure and improve.
The ruling class rarely gets its own hands dirty fighting the working class; instead it pays opportunist middle class hacks, like the New Labour leadership, to keep us diverted, misinformed and confused about our own best interests. Their job is to deny that the class struggle exists.
But the reality of our exploitation is becoming abundantly clear to most workers as this financial crisis bites deeper. Every time a boss cuts wages, hours, jobs or conditions, the workers know they are being punished for the greed of the rich; every time they are forced to pay huge banking charges and interest rates they know the bankers are exploiting them — growing rich on the extra hours they are forced to work to cover the debts. And every time they are forced to pay higher rents or mortgage charges — on pain of eviction — they know the landowners are holding them and their families to ransom because they need somewhere to live.
If Brown were now to take up the class struggle on behalf of the workers; if he were to threaten to jail, or even shoot, a few irresponsible greedy bankers, his poll ratings would certainly rise. And the bankers would suddenly realise they can live without huge bonuses. This really scares the ruling class — which is why Cameron reacted so sharply to Brown’s jibe. Brown has been the ruling class’s hired stooge up to now. But he is facing election defeat and has nothing to lose. They are scared he really might take up the class struggle, which would undoubtedly be his best chance of surviving the election. In Iraq Saddam Hussein was once US imperialism’s stooge — but he changed. It can happen.
Now is the time for all real left and progressive forces in the country to exert all the pressure they can through whatever channels they can — their MPs, their unions and so on — to persuade Brown to fight for real working class policies: withdraw from Afghanistan, build council houses; scrap Trident — you know the list — and don’t forget to jail the bankers.