[Marxism] ‘It’s in the Air, It’s in Your Bones’: Notes on an Aftermath - Salvage

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Dec 20 09:16:35 MST 2019

In some principled Lexiters, no matter how judicious and careful they 
are about the analysis of class in the abstract, is in their 
pro-Brexitism a discernible nostalgia for the very traditional, 
‘cultural’ or ‘income-based’ theories of class they would rightly 
criticise in others. Ash Sarkar persuasively contested John Curtice’s 
argument that Labour had become a party of the young rather than of the 
working class by pointing out the changing intersections of 
demographics, employment and income, to insist that his was a category 
error. And yet there are clear strains of such a position in 
Burtenshaw’s claim that ‘[a]s party memberships exploded in London and 
the South East, they were often stagnant in the very “heartlands” we 
lost … Labour lost not because it was too much of a working-class party, 
but because it was too little of one, in too few areas’. Of course, we 
would never disagree that it should always be more of a working-class 
party in more areas. But missing from this is the sense that the 
explosion of membership in the south might also be in substantial part 
of the working class – but a working class different from the 
traditionalist horny-handed-sons-of-toil image. This implicit 
culturalist workerism becomes explicit in Philip Cunliffe’s description, 
on the podcast Aufhebunga Bunga, of what he perceives from the Labour 
Party as a ‘shift towards a particular middle class, which is to say 
academics, cosmopolitan-minded academics, pro-EU areas of the country, 
and students’: to be a ‘pro-EU area’, seemingly to be ‘pro-EU’, is here 
definitionally to be middle-class, a position both circular in terms of 
justification for Lexit, and idealist in terms of theorising class. 
Missing, to go further, is any understanding of how the pro-Remain 
affiliation of many of these new, yes, in large numbers working-class, 
Labour members and supporters, is a class-inflected position. Such a 
position reflects the nature of class, culturally, politically, 
economically, professionally, as they experience it, no less than do the 
pro-Leave inclinations of a worker in the heartlands.


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