There is an assumption that some left-wing, middle class people have, which is that they are somehow more capable of knowing what is moral and what is right. That they are ‘informed’ about the world in some value-free, neutral way that means they are better able to identify their own needs and indeed those of others.
To be fair this does not simply afflict members of the middle classes on the left, it is equally true of those on the right. What is often forgotten is that the middle classes did not want the vote so they could establish a fully democratic system; they wanted it so they could gain a share of the power and in most countries were happy to pull up the ladder once they had gained the right to do so. Universal suffrage took much, much longer and, once it arrived, it was not without its opponents from those who had got used to exercising power and enjoyed the privileges it gave them. True democracy was never the goal of either the Tories or the Liberals of the Victorian era. Instead the lower classes were expected to be happy with the benevolent dictatorship of the elite and educated middle class. This was echoed in many countries across Europe.
The emergent democracies of the inter-war period lay in tatters not due to revolutions, but because the enfranchisement of the working class led to a decline in the power of the middle classes in these countries. Both on the left and the right, they spat the dummy out when democracies did not deliver them what they wanted, and they abandoned liberal democracy with ease.
It is easy to forget that if monarchy, tyranny and oligarchy were dictatorships of the elite, then fascism and socialism were dictatorships of the middle classes. There is no causal link between an enfranchised middle class and the maintenance of democratic systems. Totalitarianism is the means of silencing the great majority of people and forcing them to think in the ‘correct’ manner and way. Any dissent has to be crushed. Let’s not kid ourselves that Lenin was nicer about this than Mussolini. He wasn’t.
The notion that the middle classes as a group are inherently democratic or can be trusted to support democracy is a fallacy that was clear in the inter-war and post-war periods. Yet many on the far left would have one believe that, of course, they want to bring about a socialist society through consent. Do they? Well it’s a shame that the majority of people in this country have rejected it. It is even more clear that it is the working classes who were less attracted to communist and far left groupings that have always attracted a richer, more middle class and, amusingly enough, elitist group of people who wish to exercise power for the people not give it to them. The former chose the Labour Party and when they have flocked away from it have tended to go to other parties who, while they may have policies I deeply disagree with, are nevertheless committed to the democratic institutions of this country.
Corbyn won his leadership internally, not through the electorate. His mandate as an MP is no greater than that of the rest of the MP’s in the PLP. Inside the Labour Party he won a majority of the vote to lead the party. That means leading a party which has MPs in parliament that represent the electorate who voted for them.
This consists of millions who could have chosen to sign up to the Labour Party. They didn’t. They don’t need to. They cast their votes during an election and have representation in parliament. A leadership victory in the Labour Party does not mean that they ‘have to’ now agree with the new leader, it is for the new leader to get to grips with them. If he were a committed democrat, indeed if his supporters were, this simple truth would not continue to evade them. Corbyn is a classic middle class socialist who thinks he knows better; who thinks his way is the right way and who thinks that democracy is a means of getting power not a greater good that needs to be respected.
This post was originally published on the Labour Teachers website.