Working Class Culture and the Treason of the Liberals

One of the reasons underlying the formation of the PAD and the willingness of so many supposed liberals, professionals and academics (both Thai and foreign) to applaud the 2006 military coup is the abandonment of the working class and working class culture. This is not unique to Thailand – indeed, it is a common phenomenon in Europe and many parts of the world. From the end of the Second World War until the 1960s and 1970s, the nature of society was much more appreciative of what are now considered left-wing ideas: solidarity with the poor, strong labour union movements, increasing social mobility and decreasing income inequality and so forth. In most countries, these ideas have become deeply unfashionable and unpopular – as typified by the Thatcher/Reagan/Kohl political revolution (although systemic change was much longer in appearance than these totemic figures). Since then, working class interests have been abandoned and working class culture denigrated by those who were once its friends.

Consider the role of NGOs in Thailand: many members, especially in management, of NGOs come from the bourgeois classes, often from urban areas. At first, the NGO people were in tune with the local communities with which they were working in partnership, learning from each other and so forth. Over the course of time, the NGO people began to feel that they were the source of knowledge and wisdom and the local people began to disappoint them because they were more interested in acquiring consumer goods and enjoying their lives rather than abiding by traditional methods of production which were quaint but inefficient. For example, Thai farmers embrace technology such as chemical fertilizers if it increased yield and hence income; the NGOs tended to deplore this for environmental reasons and, crucially, for moral reasons. The poor became blamed for failing to live up to the standards invented for them by the NGOs. The latter, then, started to blame the poor for being greedy, stupid, wicked and so forth and, from there, it is a short journey to joining the fascist organisation that tries to have the poor disenfranchised.