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Of Populists and Workers

27 December 2013, 18:23

There are many dangers in having a naïve working class. This topic is especially relevant today with the actions of trade unions, populist politicians and worker action. It is also important to note the significance of this topic in a historical context, as it can be said that a naïve working class is responsible for much of history’s woes.

There are many different points of view on this subject, ranging across the ideological spectrum. The main premises are: ‘a naïve workers class is indeed dangerous’ and ‘a naïve workers class is not dangerous, and is sometimes useful.’ The premise of this article will be slightly different from both.

In modern society, the majority of the nations in the world subscribe to the governmental system of democracy. The true ethics and policies of this system are widely disputed, but to avoid the risk of veering onto another topic, this essay will use the following definition: a government system in which the majority of a nation may vote on said nation’s policies or representatives.

Society did not always utilise this system. Only a century ago, many nations still employed the system of monarchy and oligarchy. These two systems were similar in the regard that they disallowed the general populace from having any say in the running of the nation. Centuries before, these systems were even more prevalent.

All the systems mentioned have a similarity, however. Within each system, the majority remains the same, and their power, the same. Workers make up the bulk of any society. They are the bricks and mortar, and the ones who place them down. Without workers, infrastructure would not be built, and the work would be left unfinished.

The working class holds a lot of power. With numbers, they can overwhelm; with their role, they can bring society to a standstill. Throughout history, however, they have rarely come to utilise this power to achieve anything. They are oppressed, they are beaten down and they are exploited, but they continue to work solemnly. Workers are like the tide. They are capable of toppling any structure, but just don’t.

One could say that workers have risen up against their oppressors before – both the Russian and French Revolutions are notable examples. A deeper investigation into these two events, though, will reveal that these worker uprisings were not as worker-related as people think.

At the helm of every so-called worker uprising is a leader otherwise known as a populist. Populists are typically charismatic politicians who, through rhetoric and false promises, appeal greatly to the general public, usually the lower classes. When allowed power, populists seldom deliver on these promises, and their rhetoric seldom does not change to pure tyrannical authority.

For all their power, workers are easy to manipulate. Due to their low incomes, they seldom receive a good education, and if they do, that education is so full of political propaganda and indoctrination, they are worse off than if they had remained uneducated.

Throughout history, populists have been manipulating the working class - either to take over governments, or to maintain them. Adolf Hitler was a populist. He rallied a frustrated working population to overthrow the current democratic government and, when in power, continued to manipulate the masses into supporting his rule.

The ‘founding fathers’ of the Soviet Union were populists, and even if on an intellectual level, many of them truly wished for the good of the worker, the results were otherwise. The workers were tools, meant to be used, and discarded when they were usable no longer.

Socialism is a prominent example of how workers have, and are, being manipulated into supporting a system which is meant to protect them, but does nothing but exploit them.

With the rise of democracy, workers were meant to ascend to a level of political consciousness. The opposite was true. Under a system that the majority rules, the workers could have fixed the woes of the system, but through their naivety and ignorance, they allowed populists – often worse than monarchs – to take the reins.

For this very reason, it could be said that a monarchy is better for a worker than a democracy.

In a monarchy, you have one leader, backed by a minority, in the form of the aristocracy. He may have armies, but his power will always only rely on them. If he is cruel or malevolent, the people can always overthrow him. He does not have their support.

In a democracy, the leader(s) are elected and backed by the majority who, either by faith or manipulation, supports them. These regimes cannot easily be overthrown.

Even under circumstances which would result in revolution in a monarchy, a dictatorship of a democracy may still survive through the very reason that it was supposed to be good: that the majority rule.

If we are to assume that workers will always be drawn in by populists, which has not been proven untrue, then we can see that monarchy may very well be the better option, as seldom are kings as charismatic as populists.

The naivety of the workers class is a danger due to the simple fact that it allows leaders to use them as violent tools of revolution or the maintaining of autocratic regimes. On the other hand, this naivety might be necessary to some degree.

If even half of the working class understood and were aware of only a quarter of what the intellectuals are aware of, nations would face violent revolution yearly. Violence and chaos would never stop, for though the workers are no longer naïve, the reasons for their exploitation cannot truly be stopped through revolution.

It can therefore be said that workers should remain ignorant of their oppression due to the fact that otherwise, society will face turmoil.

Overall, a naïve workers class is dangerous because it allows dictators into power and can be used in violent revolutions. On the other hand, a naïve workers class is needed to maintain order in society.

Regardless, workers will remain the majority, and will always hold the power to crush nation’s, but history has taught us that they will merely continue working.

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