Adam Ramsay: in defence of posh lefties


by Dave Osler    
3:40 pm - March 29th 2011

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‘Daily Mail dropped round my parents house – doing a “shock revelation” that I’m a bit posh,’ read the Tweet from Fortnum & Mason sit-in arrestee Adam Ramsay yesterday. ‘For those who’ve not met me, I’m a bit posh.’

I’ve not met him. And as the resultant hatchet job makes plain, Ramsay is indeed posh. He descends from a long line of Ramsay baronets and the family owns a small castle set in a 1,300 acre estate in East Perthshire. Excellent place for pheasant shooting, apparently.

Not too many people with titles were knocking around on the streets of two-up two-downs and council estates I grew up on, which has left me with the lifelong disadvantage of not knowing how various gradations of nobility compare with one another.

Are baronets more or less poncey than barons? I guess there must be some sort of league table determining these things, but sadly I remain the sort of bloke who doesn’t know his Archduke from his elbow.

But there have been radicals from privileged backgrounds for as long as there has been radicalism and privilege. I’m currently reading the Engels biography written by Labour MP Tristam Hunt – that name alone is a posh boy alert! – and it is quite clear that the Communist Manifesto would never have got written if Marx’s mate had not been a nineteenth century trustafarian.

Alex Callinicos, leading light in the Socialist Workers’ Party, is the son of Hon Ædgyth Bertha Milburg Mary Antonia Frances Lyon-Dalberg-Acton. His grandparents include Lord Acton – of ‘all power corrupts’ fame – and Maria Anna Ludmilla Euphrosina von und zu Arco auf Valley. That makes him related by marriage to royalty, and frankly shows up Adam as a bit of a pleb.

Does this matter? Well, I do think it is unfortunate that many leading lefties are clearly far removed from those whose interests they attempt to advance. All too often it puts off potential punters.

Not the least damaging impact of Thatcher’s war on trade unionism has been the disappearance of a layer of articulate working class militants with real bases in industrial workplaces, who could do a damn sight more for the class struggle at the point of production than organise sit-ins at fancy supermarkets or write academic treatises on Marxism and philosophy.

It too often seems that only those with private means, private education and/or celebrity parents have the resources and the self-confidence to organise protests against what their former school chums and their second cousins twice removed are doing to society.

Yet presumably neither Ramsay nor Callinicos are typical representatives of their organisations. And even if the left’s current activist base is disproportionately skewed towards the middle class, it would be entirely mistaken to criticise anybody for being on the right side.

As someone way too old to join direct action events these days, I am actually pleased that young men like Adam organise groups like UK Uncut, and I am even glad that wealthy aristos feel the need to act as theoreticians for Trot groups.

But until wider layers can be won round to the left’s arguments, the centre of gravity in British politics will remain skewed to the right.

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Dave Osler is a regular contributor. He is a British journalist and author, ex-punk and ex-Trot. Also at: Dave's Part
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Reader comments


Not forgetting the 2nd Viscount Stansgate….

Given the various ridiculous things written on blogs and in the Daily Mail about Adam recently, I feel moved to say that he is one of the best activists I’ve ever met – in terms of his ability, his committment, and his intellectual consistency. I suspect I will also be adding ‘mental toughness’ to that list soon, given the unpleasantness of some of the abuse he’s been copping on the interwebs in the last couple of days.

I, for one, couldn’t care less what his background is – proud to know him.

Matt

“baronets the and family” => “baronets and the family”

“the centre of gravity in British will remain skewed to the right.” => missing ‘politics’?

“it would be entirely mistaken to criticise anybody for being on the right side.” => right here being ‘correct’ rather than the opposite of left? :)

Thanks for the subbing, Denny.

The best part if that mail hatchet job is that they manage to get a dig at the BBC in there. Talk about covering all bases!

One of the videos produced by UK Uncut on “how to stage a bail-in” or somesuch had an young, middle class Florence (and the machine) lookalike engineering dissent in Islington, of all places…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RIHg3-xYJlI

The average house price in Islington is pushing £600K – you could buy a street for that in Bootle!

I don’t think it’s particularly helpful to exclude people from protest because of their privileged background, but I do wonder the extent to which such people might genuinely be affected by the “savage” cuts to come…

Some of the protesters will no doubt have attended private schools where the annual fees are in excess of the national median income. I can’t help but think that these are the same voices who condemn the violence and anger of their fellow protesters who, say, stand to lose 100% of their £30-a-week pittance for staying at college, or face tuition fees that mummy and daddy actually won’t be able to afford.

I think Adam’s post on 28/03 — ‘What happened after I got arrested on Saturday’ — showed him to be a self-obsessed, not very bright and deeply immature young man. His background, however, is irrelevant — unless and until he behaves hypocritically.

“But until wider layers can be won round to the left’s arguments, the centre of gravity in British politics will remain skewed to the right.”

Indeed.

Legitimate question – if Mr Ramsay’s family castle is held in trust (I’m sure it is) to perfectly legally avoid inheritance tax, will he continue with that policy or not?

Nothing to do with being “posh”.

Everything to do with hypocrisy.

9. Chaise Guevara

“And even if the left’s current activist base is disproportionately skewed towards the middle class, it would be entirely mistaken to criticise anybody for being on the right side.”

This. And also, y’know, that it’s not actually hypocritical to avoid voting in your (perceived) interests.

“But until wider layers can be won round to the left’s arguments, the centre of gravity in British politics will remain skewed to the right.”

And obviously it’ll be difficult to win these people around if people on the left are telling a large group of them that they’re a bunch of nobs born with silver spoons in their mouths. Not that this is a critical problem in leftist politics, but it certainly doesn’t help.

As long as billy bragg and Laurie Penny don’t mind their homes bieng smashed up by anarchists, then I’m all for it.

But until wider layers can be won round to the left’s arguments, the centre of gravity in British politics will remain skewed to the right.

Now I’m not just a person who was brought up in two up two down rented jobbies – in a Derbyshire pit village- but I still live on a council estate (well housing association now since the council sold all the houses for £1.00 each).

Well, maybe you should try asking yourself why is it that so many of the upper and upper-middle casses are joining the left, and why it is that so many of the working class are rejecting left wing politics.

I think you’re also missing the point that, as long as people like Ramsay, Calinicos etc are in charge, then working class people won’t identify with or join the left.

12. Lord Larry

A fuss about nothing. Baronets are the very lowest grade of aristocrat (not that he is one anway). And have a look at his ‘small castle’! Not to be rude, but it’s hardly Balmoral, is it?

Many of my blogs ( Not that they are read much )talk about fragmentised Briton.
The idea that there is the and us be it sex, political, social and racial.
And if any one steps out side the box they aren’t to be their
Articles in the press go along way in my conclusions about the subject
At least Adam had the balls to look for himself.
On twitter the Hash tags are full of bigoted and at times scary posts on how people jump to conclusions because they have been told something .
Even the BNP has been seen on the #ukuncut tag line telling people how violent uk uncut have been witch is one of the funniest if not scary things I have see on twitter for a while.
MY point?
I do not know Adam.
And if I knew he was posh I wouldn’t have the time of day for him.
Which is a real shame because he has took the time out to get to know average people in Britain.
Thus proving even myself as fragmented as the people in the blogs I write about at times.
And surely this is what is wrong with uk politics in general . ?

14. Elliot Folan

I do happen to have met Adam, and he is one of the most inspiring activists I’ve ever met.

That is all.

15. fray bentos

I am all for anarchists to smash down John Reids house, just to see the look on his stupid face. Can we make sure its some right posh anarchist too. I THANK YOU!

I think he meant ried.

Next time you see him ask whether he will be doing away with his own family’s tax avoidance schemes.

Or is tax avoidance (and grants to fix the boiler) OK for “inspiring activists”?

Though clearly not for the likes of us.

18. astateofdenmark

Surely the young lad is suffering “false conciousness”, or is that reserved for the working classes?

There have always been upper class people on the British left.

Try Stafford Cripps for example http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stafford_Cripps

Or Hugh Dalton http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Dalton

Or Tony Benn http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Benn

To name but a few.

Frankly I’m not sure what the fuss is about. Why is it so hard to imagine that better off people can have a social conscience?

… and then there is Eric Arthur Blair (no, not related to that Blair!)

Yes I bet the Benns have got a few tax avoiding trusts about the place too.

@11 – Mr X

‘Left’ voters consist of two main groups — very, very crudely:

1. the middle class left liberals (Pro: gay/ women’s rights, immigration, abortion, internationalism, greenery, individualism etc. Anti: racism, discrimination) and

2.the working class social conservatives (Pro: jobs/economic intervention, communitarianism, benefits safety net for the deserving, Queen & country, strong defence, traditional social/sexual roles, NHS. Anti: immigration (Mrs Duffy!), benefit cheats, etc)

The tension between (1) and (2) seems to be growing…while the right’s almost mirror image split between (a) liberal free-marketeers and (b) social conservatives is less in evidence – at present.

Given the overlap between (2) and (b), and the obligations the landed gentry traditionally felt towards the poor (noblesse oblige), Adam Ramsay’s views are hardly extraordinary.

Meanwhile, the ‘chippy’, lower-middle class — who feel (not so unreasonably!) threatened by those both above and below them – express their anger in the Daily Mail.

We live in a complex and multi-layered society…

@7. paul ilc

I think Adam’s post on 28/03 — ‘What happened after I got arrested on Saturday’ — showed him to be a self-obsessed, not very bright and deeply immature young man. His background, however, is irrelevant — unless and until he behaves hypocritically.

What a bizarre statement to make. Just in case you were referring to another article I’ve just re-read it. It is not “self-obsessed” (he mentions what happened to him and gives little of his opinion about it). The statement about him being “not very bright and deeply immature” is an ad hominem attack and in itself shows the immaturity of the person making the attack.

I’ve never met Adam Ramsay, and don’t know him from, erm, Adam, so my comment is based on evidence.

Eh, the Daily Mail are hypocritical scumbags, who cares what they think? They’d say anything to denigrate the left.

His background, however, is irrelevant — unless and until he behaves hypocritically.

Somehow it’s a lot easier to argue by your actions that property rights don’t matter when you have no property yourself. Otherwise it can seem…… somewhat hypocritical.

This poster on the other thread nailed it.

The holiday homes to rent seem “regal and splendid” on the official website for the castle. Unfortunately, a little costly for this taxpayer to rent for a weekend though.

Oh well, I suppose I can always get a few mates together and “peacefully occupy” it for a few days.

And even if the left’s current activist base is disproportionately skewed towards the middle class, it would be entirely mistaken to criticise anybody for being on the right side.

Or even the wrong side…

I can’t help but feel this entire thing is partially the result of Labour trying to play the class card (you know, the one that has never worked in British electoral history…) at the last election – people suddenly become all class conscious again.

Personally, I couldn’t care less. I’d regard Adam as a posturing fool (but one entitled to be such) regardless of whether he grew up in a Scottish castle or a Welsh coalmine, an English semi or an Irish bog. His origins are no more relevant than his skin colour (I imagine it to be of a reddish hue), his height (average?) or his sexual proclivities (I think I’ll avoid speculating here) – it is his actions that count.

And cjcjc. If the house is in trust, that is Adam’s parents work, and unless Adam is the only child (or beneficary if they are practicing divisive trusteeship) then he may not have the power to change things. Furthermore, I don’t think UK Uncut have campaigned against avoiding inheritance tax (draw your own conclusions…), so there is no hypocrisy evident. Why not just point out that Adam is an economically (and possibly legally) illiterate fool rather than harping on about something that is presently out of his control?

Harping will now cease.

Although there must be some kind of activist base made up of working people based around the Trade Unions – unless the coaches, trains, and even boats that carried hundreds of thousands of cleaners, postal workers, nurses, teachers, binmen and so forth into London on Saturday were all booked by Baronets ? And the marchers were all Ladies in Waiting ?

I’m glad to see that the Daily Mail’s attempt to distract attention away from the political issues and turn this into a debate on one person’s personal circumstances hasn’t worked, guys.

The global elites are getting very jumpy. And so the their puppets in the media and their pretend politicians like the May puppet Home Secretary are spinning as fast as they can, and taking away freedoms as fast as they can.

Nothing must be done to stop the total destruction of the welfare state and the ever enrichment of the greedy elites.

22 ‘ We live in a complex and multi-layered society.’

But do we? Indeed the rest of your post looks like a simple stereotype of people who support the left.
As more details of the coalition cuts are rolled-out the more people are becoming aware of the class that they really belong to. the illusion of credit card consumption and mortgage payments are pushed aside when the ability to survive becomes greatly weakened.
Thankfully Adam Ramsay is not uniique but the left need even more educated people with a social conscience.

Soloman,

It would be wonderful to find that all the left-wing protestors were aristocrats and their establishments, but I fear this may not be the case.

I suspect they were in fact honest working people who were aware that getting arrested over pointless criminal activity was not a smart idea – danger to job, lost earnings etc. This is probably pretty much the reason why most strikes in this country, whilst often loud and boistrous, do not descend into violence (exceptions like Wapping or some bits of the miners strike were people who felt they had nothing much to lose and listened to the extremists). The UK Uncut and anarchist/black block (Ride on time… sorry, my youth is coming back to me in bad puns…)/bunch of tossers groups are made up of those with less to lose or presumably less concern. I bet proportiantly very few are parents for example.

@23: “Bizarre”?

Hardly! Surely, fair comment?

Adam spends an article telling us very little — except what happened to the central point in his universe — him! (Ergo, self-obsessed?)

And he imagines the police should provide him with a telephone to make his call without him having to make the request, and that ‘room service’ should deliver his food without any additional request from him (er…surely, not very bright?)

Self-obsession + stupid sense of entitlement = immaturity

sally,

The global elites are getting very jumpy. And so the their puppets in the media and their pretend politicians like the May puppet Home Secretary are spinning as fast as they can, and taking away freedoms as fast as they can.

Hmmm, its good that the global elites are briefing you still – or are you guessing here?

Although Theresa May seems to be a real politician to me – she’s an MP and everything. Doesn’t stop her being a puppet, but I don’t think you can be a pretend politician. If you are doing anything political you are a politician, like it or not.

Incidentally, which freedoms have been removed recently? I missed the fuss on here about them you see…

Nothing must be done to stop the total destruction of the welfare state and the ever enrichment of the greedy elites.

If you insist, although I suspect the smarter elite would have noticed that they have got considerably richer through states which have welfare than they ever did through those without. Must be the fact that risk taking is less risky, retraining is easier etc. Still, you’re more in touch with the global elite than me (I wouldn’t even know where to start looking – although I suspect a wine glass might help in your case…).

35. Chaise Guevara

@ 33 Paul

“And he imagines the police should provide him with a telephone to make his call without him having to make the request, and that ‘room service’ should deliver his food without any additional request from him (er…surely, not very bright?) ”

I think the article said he was told he’d get breakfast and never received it, which isn’t the same thing as not asking for it and then complaining.

And while breakfast isn’t the most important thing in the world (especially if it doesn’t include bacon), your prison/hotel analogy is hardly apt. If you hold someone against their will, you have a duty of care towards them, which includes providing regular meals.

Room service? Are you serious? The term suggests he’s lazing around waiting for the serfs to bring his food to him. It’s not like he can pop off to the kitchen to make it himself, is it?

Honestly, you lot are acting like he’s some kind of pillock for failing to be batoned in the face or pushed down the stairs.

36. Chaise Guevara

@ 34 Watchman

“Hmmm, its good that the global elites are briefing you still – or are you guessing here?”

You know as well as I do that the global elites brief all of us EXCEPT Sally. They tell us which way to vote (Tory), who to emulate (the Nazis) and what colour shirts to wear (brown). Pay attention!

Troll “Incidentally, which freedoms have been removed recently? I missed the fuss on here about them you see…”

Well it is all over the news today what puppet May has decided to do. Which includes allowing police to remove protestors masks so they can be identified, and banning people from going on protests. Pretty rich since the same puppet home secretary approves of under cover police pretending to be protestors, and spying on the anti tax avoiders. She refuses to say how may undercover police officers are being paid to do this. So the brown shirt police can remain anonymous but protestors can’t. How very Orwellian. I remember to idiot tory trolls on here bemoaning the police state under Labour. No we have the very real corporate police state under the brown shirts. And surprise, surprise the tory trolls have no problem with this.

It is always fascinating to watch the Marie Antoinette , and Louis XVI tory trolls clutching their pearls in horror, and defending their corporate masters. Their obedience to their masters is hilarious.

Oh and the police want support for their right to strike? After all the damage they have done as the brownshirts private army.

38. Chaise Guevara

@ 37 Sally

I have to say I’m impressed with the chutzpah of a home secretary who’ll give the police the authority to remove protesters’ mask but not require them to wear their badge numbers when on duty.

@35 CG

If you don’t get something you are entitled to from a public servant, then you remind said public servant politely. He didn’t; which, at first blush, is pretty dumb!

He was entitled to make a ‘phone call: he was not entitled to have a ‘phone brought to him. Again, he did not ask. Which, again, sounds pretty dumb!

He joins in an occupation of a ‘posh’ food shop owned by a charity, when he could have found a 1001 more appropriate corporate targets… Er… not very bright!

He’s a silly boy, regardless of his background.

The Daily Mail supported Hitler. That is all you need to know about that piece of totalitarian chip wrapper. Attacking the workers and defending the elites has always been the Mails role. Darce is nothing but a corporate butler defending his corporate masters.

A lot of arguments in politics are about economics, and should be hammered out on the anvil of reason, rather than by ad hominem, which the DM article seems to be, but I would say the left plays the class card more than the right, and seems to reserve an especial hatred for working class tories. As others have said, the litmus test is that of hypocrisy, which leftists are usually more at risk from, as they are more likely to be exhorting everyone to put aside their individual interests for the collective, whereas rightists are on safer ground, hypocrisy-wise. An example of this would be Diane Abbott and her son’s private education. This would not have been an issue for a rightwing politician.

@ 22 paul ilc

Yep, you’re right here. The sad thing about your analysis though, is that if it follows through to its logical conclusion, the parties of the left will become the parties of the well off, who may mean well, but have no understanding of how working class people live – the eternal problem with noblesse oblige. I’d reckon that the result of this will be that there will, in a few years time be no more working class lefties – there certainly aren’t many where I live.

What will working class fok do then we might ask? Who knows – like you I can’t predict the future, if I could, I’d be down at the bookies right now.

I reckon that what you are pointing toward is quite a radical realignment in British politics where elements of both the current left and right find that they have more in common with each other than with their present bedfellows.

This ought to put the shits up many on the left.

reminds Sally that Stalin supported Hitler. Which meant that the Left in the UK supported Hitler.

The point being?

“This would not have been an issue for a rightwing politician.”

No , but a right wing politician like Duncan Smith was educated by the state, employed in the military, paid for by the state, and then became an arms salesman selling arms to the state, and then he became an MP paid for by the state. Still takes , his tax paid for expenses, and no doubt will take his tax paid for pension.

Yet he still lectures on how the welfare state is bad. Someone with greater morals would resign in shame.

Thanks for this guys.

For the record, my parents paid inherritance tax. The house is not in a trust. And that is the last time I am discussing their affairs – it’s not fair to drag them into this.

and, @paul ilc – erm, did you not read the large disclamer on my piece saying “I want to be clear that I am not asking for sympathy and I am not the victim here”. I may well be self obsessed in many ways. But I wrote a piece about what happened because friends asked me to, and because I thought some would want to know what it’s like. If you refuse to, you know, read a large disclamer at the top (of the original) or the bottom (of the version here on Lib Con) then that’s your business. People will lose their jobs and livelihoods and lives because of what this government is doing. I don’t pretend for a second that a day and night in the cells is at all comparable.

And, on the broader issues of working class people identifying with the left, yes, I agree that’s a problem. In particular, I agree that the way in which there are lots of posh lefties has often made us focus more on issues of liberalism than of making the lives of most better off can be a problem – we immigrant bashing works partly because we stopped talking about jobs and council housing, I think, and instead accused people of being racist.

But it would be dishonest of me to pretend not to be posh. And I won’t let it stop me from doing what I can to make things better.

I do think there is a more complex narrative going on here though. While I clearly am maybe an exception, I do think we are too quick to believe that all activists are posh/middle class. The shift in the UK workforce from manual to office or service work has led to more and more people identifying as middle class, it seems. And the right takes advantage of that by telling people from this group that their interests lie with the wealthy, rather than with others who make their living by selling their labour. The right are very good at driving a wedge between these two groups who are, in classical Marxist terms, both working class. And in doing so they win. And the narrative that this Mail story ties into – that activists are this elite ‘other’ – is very much about that – the attempt to stop people who make a living doing office jobs and who see themselves as middle class and the people who do manual work and see themselves as working class see that they are both basically working class and their interests lie together. Because it is true that most people involved in UK Uncut style actions do probably have university degrees (or are studying for them). But that is increasingly common. And that doesn’t mean that they aren’t workers – despite what the Mail likes to make out.

And many thanks to the people sticking up for me and saying nice things here.

Adam

46. Arthur Seaton

I do indeed think its a shame that people from privileged backgrounds are over-represented in left-wing parties, it can distort the outlook of said parties, and it would be great to see more working-class participation (of the like we saw on Saturday’s *march* in fact.)

So there are legitimate left-wing criticisms of this phenomenon. But what room has the Daily Mail, or anyone else on the right, to complain about this? It makes no logical sense. The only time they choose to defend the working-class is when it comes to this tedious “bash the posh lefty” game, or when they’re appealing to racist prejudice. If you don’t like posh people Mail and co, don’t spend your life promoting a philosophy that entrenches their privilege and dominance. And there’s nothing more pathetic than a right-winger trying to flash some (usually utterly bogus) salt-of-the-earth credentials (ie. “14 pints” Hague.)

At the end of the day, if someone has managed to see that the system which has handed them the world on a plate is morally wrong, and are prepared to spend their life fighting against it, then they are to be congratulated, not sneered at, and from Karl Marx to Joe Strummer they have enriched the left. Let’s just not have too many, that’s all!

47. Arthur Seaton

“In particular, I agree that the way in which there are lots of posh lefties has often made us focus more on issues of liberalism than of making the lives of most better off can be a problem – we immigrant bashing works partly because we stopped talking about jobs and council housing, I think, and instead accused people of being racist.”

You’re spot on there Adam, and spot on in general. Being attacked by the Mail and rectal warts like cjcjcjcjcjcjj is a badge of honour, so don’t worry about it!

48. Chaise Guevara

@ 39 Paul

“If you don’t get something you are entitled to from a public servant, then you remind said public servant politely. He didn’t; which, at first blush, is pretty dumb!”

Well, the way the previous article tells it, he didn’t get a chance to until 2.30. Although that’s just the way it’s written, we’d have to ask him to check. If the police DID keep him all that time without food, it’s a breach of their duty of care, albeit a pretty minor one.

My point remains about the “room service” nonsense, though. If it was you waiting to get your breakfast from the police, you’d probably call it “me waiting to get my breakfast from the police”. Someone with a posher accent or a bigger house gets arrested, and suddenly it’s room service. Lazy prisoners, expecting those police officers to bring them food!

@45 Adam,

“The right are very good at driving a wedge between these two groups who are, in classical Marxist terms, both working class.”

The class issue is a leftwing thing, and ‘middle class’ is often used pretty much as a term of abuse. The right have no interest in classica Marxist definitions.

50. Chaise Guevara

@ 49 Trooper Thompson

“The class issue is a leftwing thing, and ‘middle class’ is often used pretty much as a term of abuse.”

Because nobody on the right ever thinks about class, of course. They wouldn’t, for example, try to smear a leftwing protester by pointing out that he was posh and had rich parents… oops.

“The right have no interest in classica Marxist definitions.”

Good to see you can read their minds and speak for them as one! In any case, class isn’t a Marxist concept, so you can hardly keep pretending the right are class-blind by saying they’re not interest in Marxism.

@50 Chaise,

yes, I concede I am dealing with generalisations, and that I have not been delegated to speak for ‘the right’.

I would say, however, class is most certainly a marxist concept, although not solely, and one of the negative aspects of marxian thought is that it encourages the view that working class people and middle class people have antagonistic interests, when, not only are these fluid categories (to a degree) but their interests are much the same.

As for the DM attack, it’s pretty standard ad hominem. Obviously ‘posh’ people have long been associated with the left. Here’s a quote from ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’, having a go at the Fabian, who Orwell said would probably run a mile from a real working class person:

“The truth is that, to many people calling themselves Socialists, revolution does not mean a movement of the masses with which they hope to associate themselves; it means a set of reforms which ‘we’, the clever ones, are going to impose upon ‘them’, the Lower Orders. On the other hand, it would be a mistake to regard the book-trained Socialist as a bloodless creature entirely incapable of emotion. Though seldom giving much evidence of affection for the exploited, he is perfectly capable of displaying hatred – a sort of queer, theoretical, in vacuo hatred – against the exploiters. Hence the grand old Socialist sport of denouncing the bourgeoisie. It is strange how easily almost any Socialist writer can lash himself into frenzies of rage against the class to which, by birth or by adoption, he himself invariably belongs.”

The right are very good at driving a wedge between these two groups who are, in classical Marxist terms, both working class.

Yes Adam, I can agree with that, however, I wouldn’t go in for the Marxist definitions of class to quickly if I were you; remind me what is the classical Marxist definition of “lumpen proletariat”, and what was the classical Marxist solution?

@47 rectal warts…hehehehe

CG @ 48: Yes, arguably, a breach of their duty of care; but, equally, presumably the police in question were quite busy that day, and he should have made them aware of his needs and rights. My glib ‘room service’ analogy had nothing to do with Adam’s background.

Adam @ 45: You spent your entire article giving a rather banal account of your personal experience. Yes, we know, when you are young, it’s fun to go on demos…The disclaimer (as you call it) did not make your piece any less self-absorbed.

I would have been more impressed if you had given us some reasoned justification of your actions and target-selection. But, given your use of such phrases as “in classical Marxist terms”, I do wonder whether it would have been worth reading.

@ 47: rectal warts? Or did you mean anal warts?

On the wider point. Perhaps the reason a lot of the working class have turned away from the left. Is because the nominally left wing parties Labour/Lib Dems have essentially given up on them, and swallowed wholesale neo-liberal pro business crap started by Thatcher.

What exactly did the last Labour government do about job insecurity, employment rights, housing etc. Not much. So hardly a big surprise that the working class has turned away from a party which no longer appears to represent them.

Meanwhile, if you pay attention, the BNP has adopted an economic programme which has a lot in common with old Labour. And tagged this onto their Nazi agenda in the hope of appealing to working class former Labour voters. Apparently with some success. http://www.newstatesman.com/europe/2009/04/bnp-european-party-british

So perhaps the problem is not that the working class has abandoned the left. But that the nominal ‘left’ has largely abandoned the working class.

57. Arthur Seaton

paul ilc – No, I meant rectal warts.

Graham “So perhaps the problem is not that the working class has abandoned the left. But that the nominal ‘left’ has largely abandoned the working class.”

Absolutely, which is pretty much what Adam Ramsay said as well. Ed Milly is at least making baby steps back in the right direction.

why is it that so many of the upper and upper-middle casses are joining the left, and why it is that so many of the working class are rejecting left wing politics.

Very good point.

Re- posh UK Uncut. Am a bit poshist. Trouble is they play and fantastize about stuff cos they can asyour bloggin suggests then when they get older they usually buckle down and uphold the family tradition. ben Elton being one of the most famous cases.

Re-Theresa May or Tresemmé as I have heard her called round here-

yeah what shit was she coming out with about new powers? police can already ban trouble makers and if they declare Section60 face coverings too. What a ridiculous woman. Totally unaware of the law.

Rectal warts – that’s grown up.

Adam, you are still a fool, but I apologise.

hehehe rectal warts. Thats you that is.

Maybe Adam is a nice guy, maybe he is an inspiring kind of guy, but his blog on his arrest reeked of self-sympathetic, poor me syndrome form the point he asked nobody to feel sorry for him.

I mean come on, was the lad honestly astonished that police cells aren’t the five star luxury he thought they were? Or that they didn’t give him coffee and croissants for his breakfast?

Perhaps once he’s freed us all from “posh shop embargo” he can head out to Syria or Libya and partake in a bit of a shin-dig on someone else’s property there.

The problem with this though is that the chances of him writing a self sympathy filled blog afterwards could be very slim indeed.

Currently protesting in these countries is somewhat different and indeed more dangerous that occupying a posh shop in London and writing a blog patting yourself on the back for being arrested.

On the wider point. Perhaps the reason a lot of the working class have turned away from the left. Is because the nominally left wing parties Labour/Lib Dems have essentially given up on them, and swallowed wholesale neo-liberal pro business crap started by Thatcher.

Graham seems to forget that the state socialist policies of Old Labour were tested to destruction in the 1970s. It was their failure that led to the rise of Thatcherism and growth of the working class Tory vote.

I entirely agree that it’s wrong to criticise Adam for his background, but let’s be fair, the left are no better than the right in this regard. Think how much stick David Cameron, George Osbourne and Boris Johnson have taken for their privileged backgrounds, none of which was their choice any more than Adam’s is.

Whatever side is doing it, attacking someone based on what social class they came from is stupid. There are plenty of good reasons to hate Cameron & Osbourne, but ‘because they’re posh’ isn’t one of them.

Tim W made to look an idiot.

cjcjc making unsubstantiated, and false, claims about Castles.

Very bad day for righties on LibCon.

There’s nothing wrong with posh lefties as individuals, or even small numbers of them. But have too many and it will turn a lot of people off too. I was watching some programme about Lily Allen this week – and she seems nice enough – but she and her family are posh.
And that is off-putting. It’s the Jemimah Khan effect.

Also, invading Fortnum and Mason just comes across as something that posh or middle class people would do. Especially what they do when they get inside. Not trashing the place, and going out of their way to not even knock anything over or damage anything … and then doing some miming and performance art. Now that is posh.

@62

Graham seems to forget that the state socialist policies of Old Labour were tested to destruction in the 1970s. It was their failure that led to the rise of Thatcherism and growth of the working class Tory vote.

Scooby seems to forget that in the 1970s the world economy was in the midst of an inflationary recession in which every industrial economy suffered. And even then the “state socialist policies of Old Labour” did not manage to produce the three million unemployed and mass deindustrialisation that Thatcher managed in the 80s, despite having the cream of North Sea oil revenues.

67. Chaise Guevara

@ 54 Paul

“Yes, arguably, a breach of their duty of care; but, equally, presumably the police in question were quite busy that day, and he should have made them aware of his needs and rights.”

So, according to you, the police need people to tell them:

a) that human beings subsist on food.
b) what people’s rights are.

If the police are honestly unaware of those two point, we’re in big trouble. Don’t you think you might be bending over backwards here to make Adam the guilty party? Perhaps just a smidgen?

“My glib ‘room service’ analogy had nothing to do with Adam’s background.”

Fair enough. What was it about?

Oh come on – his piece did read like a review of a slightly unsatisfactory hotel.

69. Chaise Guevara

@ 68 cjcjc

It did, but it also read like he was trying to present a realistic assessment of events, rather than exaggerating to make the piece more exciting and less like a hotel review. Would you prefer he wrote about how “the cryptofascist pigs left me to starve” or something like that?

The term sounds like something you’d use to denigrate someone else based on their personal situation – probably either because they’re rich or because they’re a student. And in the context of a police cell, it’s ridiculous.

70. RickyRasper

When Labour speak of the squeezed middle don’t they mean middle income not middle class. If those an middle incomes are squeezed are those on low incomes the squashed bottom ? Or don’t labour care any more ? Where are the Tony Benn’s of tomorrow ?

“Would you prefer he wrote about how “the cryptofascist pigs left me to starve” or something like that?”

If he had written that ironically – as clearly he was very well treated (as everyone bloody well should be) – then I wouldn’t have minded!

Of course because there wasn’t really much to complain about the piece came across as rather…limp?

72. RickyRasper

Re-Theresa May or Tresemmé as I have heard her called round here-

Theresa May grey Dr Who space-suit on sale now @ Top-May & Skidmark £99.99

73. Chaise Guevara

@ cjcjc

“Of course because there wasn’t really much to complain about the piece came across as rather…limp?”

Again, you guys seem to be blaming him for failing to be pushed down the stairs. Are you really that addicted to exaggerated and selective reporting? I don’t think anyone’s claiming the piece is some kind of smoking gun.

75. Dan Factor

No problem with posh lefties. But have a problem with posh lefties who smash things up thinking they are doing it to make the lives of the poor better.

76. Chaise Guevara

@ 74

Agreed

Dave Osler writes:

Ramsay is indeed posh. He descends from a long line of Ramsay baronets and the family owns a small castle set in a 1,300 acre estate in East Perthshire. Excellent place for pheasant shooting, apparently.

I think Osler is either a snob or intensely envious of Ramsay,s superior writing prowess. He may even be envious and a snob also. It is a pity he doesn’t put the same effort into trashing Cameron&Clegg.

75. Dan Factor

If the government are prepared to ignore 400,000 peaceable protesters and the overwhelming weight of public opinion what other avenues of public protest are open to people ? if you have any I would like to hear them.

The overwhelming weight of public opinion:

“Guardian/ICM poll finds 57% support for current or deeper cuts”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/mar/25/voters-cuts-coalition-poll

79. cjcjc

“Guardian/ICM poll finds 57% support for current or deeper cuts”

I reject the Guardians reality and substitute it for my own !

81. Chaise Guevara

77. Benn&Ken

“I think Osler is either a snob or intensely envious of Ramsay,s superior writing prowess. He may even be envious and a snob also. It is a pity he doesn’t put the same effort into trashing Cameron&Clegg.”

I think it’s a pity that you didn’t read the article before posting. Or even the bloody headline.

82. Dan Factor

@Benn&Ken. You think the government will start listening to people and change their policies if people started smashing things up?

CG @ 67

“So, according to you, the police need people to tell them:
a) that human beings subsist on food.
b) what people’s rights are.”

No, I never said that or even said anything that implied it. I’m sure the Police know both (a) and (b).

However, in my dealings at work with the police, social services and the NHS, I do occasionally find that when under pressure many public servants need to be reminded of people’s rights and entitlements. They are not bad or incompetent – just over-burdened by demented levels of regulation; and inevitably they soon apologise and comply once the oversight is brought to their attention.

As I recall from Adam’s account, he was not treated harshly or rudely, and he conducted himself in a civilised manner once arrested. So, No, I’m not trying to make Adam look like the guilty party, at least not in respect of his food call. I’m just surprised that he remained so passive when he did not get what he was entitled to; and that was the thrust of my quip about room service.

Have we beaten this to death yet? ;)

84. Chaise Guevara

@ 83 Paul

Again, all the above would rely on the assumption that he had the opportunity to remind the police of his rights – the post in question suggests otherwise. And I think it’s a big deal if these rights aren’t upheld as a matter of course. You might expect a protester to know their rights, but maybe not a random person off the street who gets arrested. For example, I don’t know how long they can keep you without food/water/a lawyer, so if I were arrested I would be unable to make confident demands in that direction.

But yeah, we have pretty much beaten this one to death, so perhaps we should drop it (if this post doesn’t count as me trying to get the last word in).

The problem with discourse about class in this country is that we define it in three contradictory ways at the same time.

1) The American definition: it’s all about where you sit on the income scale
2) The Marxist definition: it’s essentially about whether you’re your own boss or not
3) The cultural affinity definition: it’s about some vague combination of family background, education, the nature of your work, and your lifestyle

This is why rightwing tabloids can claim a policy they don’t like is “an attack on the middle class”, meaning that it will be inconvenient for the bourgeois boss-class, but knowing that their middle-income readers (who might benefit from it) will think “Middle class? That’s me”.

It’s why obscenely wealthy Tory politicians can insist that they’re not upper class, because they belong to the boss-class as opposed to the landed gentry, while equally bourgeois Labour politicians claim to be working class because their grandparents were poor and they have a bit of an accent.

It’s why office workers who not only sell their labour but are very low paid can identify as middle class because their jobs are sedentary and they read broadsheets – and why those who do still do manual labour can agree, driving a wedge between the groups.

Note that ALL these phenomena resulting from confusion about class have the same effective result: they divide the workers against one another and help to ensure the continued ascendancy of the Establishment.

I should add: I’m proud to know Adam Ramsay.

86. john rogers

I have absolutely no problem with people of affluent backgrounds being involved, the problem comes if they dominate groups as they often do, with their self confidence and education. They can also shape the issues a group is involved in: imo, that is why issues like welfare cuts have historically been ignored by much of the left and activist culture, they simply can’t relate to being in that position..

87. john rogers

A, Adam made a similar point in his reply, seems like a nice guy, in fact i would say some very smart people of all backgrounds are getting involved now…

88. Chaise Guevara

@ 86

Really? In my experience, left-wing protest in this country seems loudest over welfare and wars (and in the latter case you could argue that the principle was the same: protect the vulnerable). Issues like these certainly seem to get more left-wing turnout than civil liberties.

@ 86.

Well said that man!

But I have frequently put considerable effort into attacking Clegg and Cameron. Trying googling.

91. Grant Wankshaft

I think it’s time for a new approach to occupying posh stores…actually

Can I express a suggestion?

Before we enter the posh stores why don’t we smear ourselves in excrement? We can all bring jars of our own excrement and help each other to smear it on in social solidarity. If students prefer to smear themselves in their own excrement then that’s of course that’s their individual choice…actually.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m totally loving that we posh uni students are very eager to express our own “individuality” by all wearing the same kind of clothes. You know, like huge hats, bright yellow dungarees and t-shirts with geeky slogans on them but it simply isn’t working when we occupy these posh stores..actually.

We all know we are very opinionated and we love to talk loudly and ignorantly about various subjects without firstly making our own minds up but it’s better to be ignorant of the facts when we do get arrested…actually.

So who’s in favour of smearing ourselves in excrement before our next peaceful occupation of a posh store in a posh part of London?

It’ll all be a peaceful, fun packed day and will express our “individuality” to be covered in excrement…actually!

Viva la Revolution!

Student Grant Wankshaft, PHD, MSB, FCK
(Director of Mega Phone participation, Wankbridge University)

Some interesting points raised, including by Ramsay.

It seems, however, that the gentleman himself and his supporters, including Osler, are too modest about Ramsay’s background. Surely someone whose family dos are opened and attended by the Duke of Rothesay, aka Prince Charles himself, must be some of the top-most people in the realm, with a great deal of power and influence.

As a Green myself I welcome Prince Charles’ patronage of all manner of environmental charities and good causes. Such patronage is the traditional way in which the upper classes do good.

But the problem comes when, as John Rogers points out, the privileged end up dominating the scene – and they always do.

The results are all around us. Beatrice (who was from an exceedingly wealthy and well-connected family, the Potters) and Sidney Webb feared the working classes and working class occupations, and they wanted to abolish them, a task that the Fabians set themselves and have almost completed, in so far as it is possible.

The Greens and the Left are dominated by the upper and middle classes, and have been for decades. This means that the upper and middle class agenda is the one carried through. The upper and middle classes get on the ladder and end up with too many of the plum jobs in the movements. The less privileged are marginalised and fall by the wayside.

This continually undermines both the Left and the Greens, and until you get the courage to face up to this and start listening more carefully to the concerns of those less privileged and involving them as an integral part of the movement, instead of marginalising their voices, the left and the green movements will never succeed in creating the fundamental changes that we all need.

There is an adage that a good friend of mine consistently refers to when issues of class background seemingly muddy the ‘authenticity’ of left actvists – ‘it is not which class you are from but which class you are fighting for’. Dave Osler has just written a very good defence of ‘posh lefties’ specifically with regards to Adam Ramsey and the Daily Mail attempting yet another hatchet job on a prominent and articulate member of the anti-cuts movement. The defence is one that points to Adam’s priviliged background, a motif that the right wing press do everything to pick up on (even if your dad is a cabbie and you are from a relatively humble background, they can of course always get you on exercising regularly and being healthy). However I would like to make a few clarifications for Dave.

Firstly, the student movement and young activists across London and the rest of the country are from every demographic imaginable. I myself have the pleasure of knowing dozens of young people at University College London, undergraduate and graduate students as well as the recently graduated who truly rank among the most intelligent and passionate people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. They are dynamic (hence the success of the UCL occupation before Christmas), articulate and from every possible walk of life. A former gardener from the north-east who is completing his MA and who is looking to begin a phd next year will often talk to two first year English students I know (both from London and of differing ethnic backgrounds) all of them are different – none of them adhere to the expected template persistently reproduced by the Mail, Sun and Express of the actvist/ toff. The student movement from the organised left and autonomists to those who will mobilize for major rallies, occupations and events represents the diverse demographics of this country far better than it has done for a very long time. Black British EMA students will sometimes converse with erudite feminists, first year undergrads, lighter on theory but very heavy on practice will discuss and deliberate with older graduate students problems ranging from the money supply to the merits of cycling – sometimes under the gaze of unionised staff members, lecturers and local trade unionists.

Some of these young people are privileged, some are not – however many have learnt first class organising skills and direct action tactics in a very short period of time and are excellent proponents of online co-ordination for such actions as well as being remarkably savvy with the media, the broader public and their own civil rights. The same can be said indeed for the entire movement, young and old and hopefully with the involvement of trade unionists this will only spread.

Elsewhere Dave fails to recognize that Adam is not an organiser (there are no permanent organisers within networked forms of protest) and that subsequently seeing him as typical or not of such ‘organisers’ misses the point. He is a participant – who is more prominent because he blogs and a is a member of the Green party, which is not to say he is part of some organising cadre. As a participant who is reasonably wealthy the right wing press have sought to hound him and find a story. The point is they wouldn’t do that for the thousands of other Uncut activists and participants who are normal public sector workers, mums, dads, students and schoolkids up and down the country.

Regarding this one comment, “ Not the least damaging impact of Thatcher’s war on trade unionism has been the disappearance of a layer of articulate working class militants with real bases in industrial workplaces, who could do a damn sight more for the class struggle at the point of production than organise sit-ins at fancy supermarkets or write academic treatises on Marxism and philosophy.”

I think this really misses the structural points at work – we have more young people going to university than ever before and an unprecedented amount of autodidactism thanks to the internet. The vast majority of these young people when they graduate, specifically in London, are either unemployed or underemployed and are having to face up to increased rents and high inflation at a time of stagnant wages (graduate or not). What we are beginning to see is that these young people (again bare in mind 20% of which are unemployed and this number will only rise over the next few years) are beginning to organise through networks such as UKuncut, artsagainstcuts and various others such as the Really Free School and Deptford Job centre Plus and probably over the next year or two will start joining (and hopefully help transforming ) unions en masse.

To the point raised above – what we are looking at over the next five years of a low growth, low job creation economy is a large body of people who might be labour militants, can write academic treatises on Marxism, can occupy builidngs both short and longer term and furthermore, and most importantly, will do far, far more – organise in workplaces, organise legal support groups (like the excellent GBC legal team). These people currently veer on the younger side but that will change. What is unfair to say is that they are from a certain social milieu, which for perhaps the first time in a few decades they most certainly are not.

Like it or not the last five months are just the beginning of a vibrant, bottom up re-assertion of a serious politics that represents labour over capital. The organising in workplaces, pamphleteering, networking, learning and finding each other is only just beginning – and we are doing more every single day.

93
Good points well made
In the final analysis, people who have strong political and social beliefs, of whatever hue. have decided how best to create the good society. Socialists identify that an equitable society is more likely to create the best conditions for all, so why would it be strange for someone from a privileged background to hold those beliefs.

“One of the videos produced by UK Uncut on “how to stage a bail-in” or somesuch had an young, middle class Florence (and the machine) lookalike engineering dissent in Islington, of all places…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RIHg3-xYJlI
The average house price in Islington is pushing £600K – you could buy a street for that in Bootle!”
There’s a few ‘city types’ in Upper Street etc, but there’s also a lot of working class people in Islington, just look at communities like Finsbury Park, Holloway etc. It has one of the highest rates of child poverty in London and is one of the most deprived boroughs in the country.
“I do wonder the extent to which such people might genuinely be affected by the “savage” cuts to come…”
Islington will be one of the boroughs hit hardest:
http://londonist.com/2010/12/mapped-how-the-cuts-will-hit-londons-councils.php#

#
56. Graham .
i have to say I agree with your post In fact I would go further to say this is why people don’t even vote these days and they see all political parties are the same and their right,
There is no choice in British politics any more con,lib,labour all from the same school all fashioned for politics and all have no idea How people live.
This is why the people don’t care any more why should they .
It’s a case of
Do what I say
not
do as I do
Then our PM gets up in parliament and tells us a people sitting in a shop are hooligans.
It’s a joke and people believe it .
Don’t they even know that David and Boris where members of the Bullingdon Club – a club for toffs notorious for smashing up restaurants and then chucking large wads of cash on the floor to pay for clearing up the mess ?
Yet even here where people are well educated you get off with name calling because someone hasn’t got the same views as your own.
Then perhaps I don’t really blame you if you look at the house of commons question time and watch a bunch of overpaid life nobs get off with name calling and at times childish antics.
Then we all wonder why people don’t vote why people think they have not got a real choice any more ?
Then they tell us we are all in it together then give themselves more expenses.
It’s a joke .
Then we are discussing a guy sitting in a shop ? and if he too posh to protest.
When pensioners who are getting heating money took off them this winter.
That millions haven’t a job in the uk .
That a government thinks ema (£10 to £30) isn’t worth giving to kids when they get a extra (£21)on the dole ? (51.85) And that they tell us its about saving money.
This is the reason people feel they don’t belong
Why Britain is so fragmented at the core.
Why people feel so isolated and condescended
Then spoke down to like children by the people that they voted for this fundamentally is what is wrong with British politics at the moment.
But then again I wouldn’t class my self as left or right because then I would place myself with a political class I don’t really believe in.

Is the thinking that, because the upper middle classes have contributed so much in taxation, that they should be entitled to lots of benefits from the public purse?

I’m familiar with this argument, but I usually associate it with the political Right.

98. Chaise Guevara

@ 97

No.

Next question.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Adam Ramsay: in defence of posh lefties http://bit.ly/hNc2Kp

  2. Chunkylimey

    RT @libcon: Adam Ramsay: in defence of posh lefties http://bit.ly/hNc2Kp

  3. Paul Crowley

    F&M protesters: if you are NOT posh you are motivated by class hatred; if you ARE you're a hypocrite, of course. http://bit.ly/hNc2Kp

  4. Rupert Griffin

    Excellent >> RT @libcon 'In defence of posh lefties' http://bit.ly/hNc2Kp

  5. sianberry

    RT @libcon: Adam Ramsay: in defence of posh lefties http://bit.ly/hNc2Kp

  6. George Marsh

    RT @libcon: Adam Ramsay: in defence of posh lefties http://bit.ly/hNc2Kp

  7. MUSHKUSH

    RT: @libcon: Adam Ramsay: in defence of posh lefties http://bit.ly/hNc2Kp

  8. AdamRamsay

    RT @libcon Adam Ramsay: in defence of posh lefties http://bit.ly/hNc2Kp <<thanks guys! #ukuncut #solidarity

  9. annie american

    RT @AdamRamsay: RT @libcon Adam Ramsay: in defence of posh lefties http://bit.ly/hNc2Kp <<thanks guys! #ukuncut #solidarity

  10. Tom Ashworth

    RT @AdamRamsay: RT @libcon Adam Ramsay: in defence of posh lefties http://bit.ly/hNc2Kp <<thanks guys! #ukuncut #solidarity

  11. Alasdair Thompson

    RT @AdamRamsay: RT @libcon Adam Ramsay: in defence of posh lefties http://bit.ly/hNc2Kp <<thanks guys! #ukuncut #solidarity

  12. James Lloyd

    Adam Ramsay: in defence of posh lefties | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/DTJr6hA via @libcon

  13. punk wreck

    I was all set to be disapprovingly prolier-than-thou about @AdamRamsay, but he comes over well enough here: http://bit.ly/gJT4C4. #march26

  14. punk wreck

    I was all set to be disapprovingly prolier-than-thou about @AdamRamsay, but he seems fairly commendable here: http://bit.ly/gJT4C4 #march26

  15. Daniel Pitt

    RT @libcon: Adam Ramsay: in defence of posh lefties http://bit.ly/hNc2Kp

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