A Xmas Letter To A Neoliberal Friend
I totally agree with you that the Arab Spring was the big story of 2011. Toppling dictators means putting your life on the line. That takes guts and, politically, nothing else comes close. So no arguments there.
But what you havent quite grasped is the political significance of the other big international protest story of 2011: the Occupy movement. Whether its all middle class kids or not is of little importance. The fact that the Occupy movement has ebbed away, while the banks continue as before, isnt important either. Street protests against banks were never going to put an end to financial skullduggery. That needs legislation, government regulation and progressive taxation.
The major significance of Occupy is that it redefined leftist politics almost overnight. The old lefty jargon about working class, ruling class, middle class, capitalists versus workers, has been all but swept away. What has emerged is a new class-based politics which the Occupy movement have defined as the 99% versus the 1%. And, crucially, this has struck a chord internationally. This is so breathtakingly simple it masks the subtle but far-reaching shift in thinking that has taken place.
The significance is that people all over the world are beginning to identify with and politically align themselves with the “99%”. Against the 1%. The 19th and 20th Century concepts of “working class” and “middle class” are becoming politically redundant. Its only aging political dinosaurs like you (and me) that persist in speaking this archaic incoherent terminological gibberish.
I can see why you hate this new development with a passion because it undermines your entire political vocabulary. But whether you or I reject the concept of the 99% is irrelevent. What matters is whether it will provide an ideological framework for a serious and sustained international challenge to the financial elite, corporate power and neoliberal agenda.
Of course its too early to call either way but given the way the world economy is screwing up so badly, and given that people are increasingly realising that its the financial institutions and corporations (the 1%) who are responsible for global austerity, my gut instincts tell me that the concepts of 1% v 99% are here to stay and will become deeply entrenched into political thinking and actions.
The millions of trade unionists who took strike action against the Westminster posh boys? The kids camping out in tents? The Arab Spring youth? The students on the streets demanding free education? The Greek workers striking and protesting against austerity measures? There is no differentiation. These are the 99% resisting the agenda of the 1%. There is no “middle class” or “working class” anymore, my friend. Its a case of out with the old, in with the new.
The jaded ideological remnants of the 20thC left are being overthrown in the process too. And not before time either since they spoke political Esperanto as far as most folk were concerned. But by identifying the 1% as the removable object to social justice, and by merging the politically divisive concepts of underclass/working class/middle class, a giant ideological leap has been made in 2011.
I’m surprised you aren’t grasping the bigger picture. Even Time magazine get it. But as you say, each to their own.
Have a great Xmas