More on class

20 03 2010

Pravit Rojanaphruk writing at Prachatai (18 March 2010) has comments on “class war”. He begins by noting that the “mainstream mass media has been so busy blasting Thaksin Shinawatra for being the cause of all political evil that it has failed to see the seeds of the class struggle that have been germinating since the 2006 coup.” PPT agrees and it is clear that the red shirt tactics of blood sacrifice and class warfare have scared the government and its supporters.

Pravit notes that Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban has expressed concern about talk of a class war. Today (Friday), public television has been drenched by anti-red shirt propaganda and slabs of speech and interview with a quite agitated Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. They have clearly been spooked by a number of the red shirt activities. One example is seen in the spot that suddenly appeared under the heading “How’d you like to have blood poured on your place?” In the spot, “average” people are asked to comment on the red shirt’s “blood sacrifice,” with the most disturbing comment being that those who did this “are not Thai.”

Some of Abhisit’s talk on television has running footers supposedly showing SMS messages sent in, some of them in English. All were positive. PPT sent one that said: “You seem overly agitated and worried.” It didn’t appear.

Pravit observes that the discussion of class exploitation and unequal political voice has been growing among the red-shirt protesters, most of whom are dirt poor with little or no formal education. Well-to-do Bangkokians only have to see the welcome given by the capital’s working class to their red-shirt counterparts to recognise this.” True, but if they are watching and reading mainstream media, they’ll know nothing of it.

Just as PPT has observed in recent posts, Pravit notes that in red shirt “songs, grievances and angst” it is all “about class inequality as well as socio-economic and political disparity. The sense of injustice and inequality in Thai politics and society is real and has struck a chord with many in the Bangkok working and lower middle-class…”. Pravit makes this important point: “The point is not whether the number of protesters is more or less than 100,000, because there are enough red-shirt sympathisers upcountry and in the slums of Bangkok. And judging by yesterday’s motorcade the poor are a force to be reckoned with even if they are going to disperse in the next few days. What will not disappear though is that, with or without Thaksin, there is growing recognition that the poor are oppressed and exploited, and their demands for greater socio-political and economic equality have gone unheeded by many in the mainstream mass media, which continues writing columns lambasting Thaksin.

And this is equally perceptive: “The level of disdain and bias among the educated middle-class and the elite, mostly in Bangkok, is appalling. They’re not just ignorant about the plight of the poor, but are indifferent to it. The level of real contact between the middle-class and the elite with the poor is mostly superficial and confined to relationships where the latter are servants and subordinates. The middle-class and elite feel that they are entitled to being superior and that the poor should know their place in life. Therefore, when the poor continue supporting Thaksin, many of the well-off folk in Bangkok have no problems supporting a military coup.” Pravit, you’ve done it again. Absolutely spot on.

Pravit finishes by arguing that it is the “upper echelons of society [that] have been screwing-up Thailand for the past many decades” and suggests that it “might be fair for the poor to now say: ‘Enough is enough’, and seek a chance to run or ruin this country…”. This phrase “enough is enough” was a neat little slogan on red shirt placards that PPT saw last Sunday.

We said these are interesting times. Now with privilege and position apparently being directly challenged, they are again dangerous times. This “establishment” has show time and again its willingness to protect its interests using draconian means.


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