For our rulers, ordinary people are best seen and not heard. They want us to accept politics as a spectator sport, and to take as little part in it as possible.
That lies behind the Labour right’s outrage at supposed “entryism” by tens of thousands of Jeremy Corbyn supporters.
The prospect of mass meetings by working class people with an agenda of their own is what really has Angela Eagle bricking it.
It’s why her rival Owen Smith thinks people should be sent back to the polls for a second EU referendum after, as he sees it, failing to give the right answer first time.
Sometimes it’s tempting to absorb this idea of ordinary people as passive observers.
Currently there’s an immense sense of pessimism among much of the left. It sees anyone who voted to Leave the bosses’ European Union as the dupes of racist politicians.
And it sees the dramatic events in Turkey last week as a conspiracy manipulated by its ruthless and repressive president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
But the events in Turkey showed something else. A row inside the country’s establishment that could have been resolved very quickly and brutally instead ended in humiliating surrender.
What made the difference was many thousands of people defying a military curfew, protesting in the city squares and then confronting tanks in the streets.
It wasn’t manoeuvres at the top of society that broke the coup. It was the courageous mobilisation of people who are often regarded as “unpolitical”.
That is the power that isn’t supposed to exist in today’s world. Yet it beat the coup and could make all the difference in resisting any clampdown that follows.
The ruling elite in our society is small, and the social forces it tries to rule over are immense.
Like a flimsy raft on a surging ocean, it is dependent on forces outside of its control to stay afloat.
The establishment is locked into a social structure that makes it unwilling and incapable of acting against climate change, even when it threatens the whole of humanity and the planet.
The system’s leaders have led us into two world wars. They could easily take us towards a third—with weapons deadlier than anything imagined at the time of the Somme.
The power of those below to challenge them is usually latent. Our rulers fight to keep it that way with everything from subtle ideology to naked violence.
But when Tories turn on each other, the Parliamentary Labour Party implodes or a military coup fails, it isn’t only the right that can gain.
Such things weaken the mechanisms that help the ruling class rule. They open up a chink in their armour, and an opportunity to build up the power that can overthrow them.