Eric the Unread takes issue with Johann’s recent Defence of Chavs.

I’m with Eric on this one. I’m not sure where the term Chav originally comes from (is it a southern thing?) but I’ve long been reading angry complaints about the antics of ‘Burburries’ on the Burnley fans message board I read (which is hardly a middle class forum). The Burburries by the way have made up the foot soilders for the BNP in the area.

At the end of the day are we not talking about Marx’s old term lumpenproletariat? I think we might be. I can see where Johann is coming from when he reads the London media set mocking the Chavs but the people who really object to the behaviour of Chavs (rather than their fashion sense or their accents) are the ordinary working class people who live in the same communities.

And has this not always been the case? The media has a habit of spreading the brush too wide when they focus on the latest version of lumpens and do indeed sound like they are dismissing the entire working class in the process. But that doesn’t mean Chavs need defending – on the contrary.

Go and take a look through the accounts of the early days of the labour movement in your locality and you will see they focused heavily on opposing the lumpens and the influence they had on the poorer sections of the working class. That is the reason why the temperance movement had support not only in the chapels but in the Chartist movement and later trade unions. It is why organisations like the Workers Education Association, the Clarion movement and the Cooperative movement sprung up to offer a progressive alternative to the world of gin and gambling.

Since a large part of the left turned its back on the working class (or was captured by the middle class) that tradition has been forgotten. The debates about New Labour’s ‘tough on crime’ approach showed how distant many on the left were from the real concerns of working class communities. Sure there was much to criticise in the way Labour went about being tough but what was interesting back in the early 1990’s was the fact that so many people on the left were uncomfortable about the very idea of the party standing up for working class communities against crime and the broader problem of anti-social behaviour.

The same goes for campaigns against drugs that always receive a sniffy response from the liberal media. Those on the left who enjoy a toke in their living room or feel unthreatened by sniffed up Charlieheads at a party, usually don’t live in communites where smackheads, crackheads and speadheads roam the street hassling ordinary folk. Even if they do, they drive by on a Saturday night in a taxi taking them to the frontdoor of their home rather than being sat on the nightbus being threatened by glazed eyed yobs.

For what it is worth I don’t think Karl Marx would have had much time for Chavs. This is how the Communist Manifesto described lumpens:“The dangerous class, the social scum, that passively rotting mass thrown off by the lowest layers of old society”.

He’d probably be described as a ‘Daily Mail reactionary’ if he wrote that today.