Friday, November 25, 2016

Working Class

Wouldn't you know it. The term "working class" is being widely used again, but it's because it's being used as shorthand for "those white trash subhuman misogynist racist idiots who voted for Donald Trump and who are completely different from enlightened, very well informed and highly intelligent me."

As in a sneering Washington Post blog in which Paul Waldmon, who is nowhere near getting over the defeat of Hillary Clinton, tees off on the slobbering morons who didn't vote for her so he can re-establish his own compensatory sense of superiority.

I often use the term "working class" in it's traditional "Marxist" meaning where it means everyone who works for a paycheck or a salary -- as opposed to people who live off invested capital and rent -- and as often as not I include that "paycheck" meaning in the sentence, because I think the more recently invented term "middle class" has everyone confused as to the meaning of the term "working class."

What we think of as the "middle class" is part of the working class. It's a subcategory that has some descriptive value. The term came into use when the American working class -- as a result of the Labor Movement and its influence on Capitalism and on politics -- had achieved a standard of living that was substantially higher than it had had from the advent of Capitalism until then.

The term also has value because it means a working class that is using its power such that it has raised its standard of living to a particular if not a precisely defined degree, but it's a harmful term also. After "middle class" began being used you'd still hear the term "working class" but it had come to mean, in popular parlance, the working poor, a kind of underclass, that part of the working class that had been left behind or hadn't made it yet. And, in peoples' imaginations and in the way they defined themselves, i.e. the way they identified, it divided the working class into two separate and distinct groups. Not in the traditional sense. Everyone thought of themselves as middle lass and no one thought of themselves as working class, but every member of the working class then felt superior to some vague, undefined grouping of others and not as if there were any bonds or even common interests between them.

I use the term working class a lot because I want to try to normalize it and to fix its meaning in the traditional Marxist sense. Those are are almost necessary conditions for the working class to see itself as a class -- i.e. to attain class consciousness. The ruling class has class consciousness. It thinks and acts as a class, that is, it thinks and acts in ways that further the interests of the class and by which it practices class solidarity. The working class doesn't because it doesn't have class consciousness. It doesn't practice solidarity as the ruling class does.

The introduction of the term "middle class" served to divide the working class, but identity politics divides it even further, and that's one of the ways in which identity politics is harmful. It divides us into ever small groupings.

That's why the Democratic Party, which has as its historic role the suppression of class consciousness and the prevention of a working class uprising, adopted it as its central pillar, and why, now, the Democratic Party and larger Liberal establishments are striving mightily to cast their recent election defeat in terms of identity politics -- it was because of misogyny, or it was because of racism or it was both, depending on who's talking. It wasn't about class but it was because of that deplorable white working class.

Besides serving the useful function of denigrating Trump voters and discrediting the real and tangible reasons they voted for him, the sullying of the term "working class" heads off a class consciousness that would occur under the working class banner; it discredits the working class anger and the profound  disillusionment with the Democratic Party that resulted in and drove the Bernie Sanders candidacy, and which still has the potential to result in and drive something more well organized, is independent of the party, and would be extremely powerful.

The struggle over the meaning of the election, like the struggle over the meaning of the working class, is literally the struggle of the working class to achieve class consciousness. The ruling class and its bourgeois handmaids in the Democratic Party and the Liberal establishment know that if and when the working class achieves class consciousness, as large segments of it did by way of the Labor Movement, it could mean the end to their perks and privileges and cushy lifestyles.

If the working class succeeds in defining the meaning of the election it will at the least mean more Socialism and less unregulated no holds barred neoliberal Clintonesque Capitalism, but it will mean, necessarily, Socialism in one form or another.

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