Monday, 3 December 2007

The Working Class

As we slip from one TV channel to another, as we leaf through various magazines found in shops, it seems that the efforts of many capitalists to make countless individuals forget about class issues is working. As societies all over the world are polluted by numerous broadcasts or features about people such as Paris Hilton or Britney Spears, many fall into the trap of thinking that there are no considerable differences between such individuals and the average person selling Whopper meals at a Burger King restaurant. Britney Spears has kids, right? Well, there are thousands of young mothers out there, but does that mean that just because they also have children, they are also able to spend several nights at extremely luxurious hotels? For the vast majority of young mothers, the answer would probably be as follows: Of course not!!!

Every capitalist country has noticeable class distinctions. In some places, the gap between one class and another is more visible while in others, the gulf is not always so clearly evident. It is still perfectly possible to talk about the working class. Indeed, I have found a very interesting article about the latter. I am quoting this article below:

What is the working class?
Thursday, May 11, 2006 By: Ben Becker
Part of a series on the fundamentals of Marxism

The Marxist outlook is based on the irreconcilable conflict between the working class (the proletariat) and the ruling capitalist class (the bourgeoisie). But how do we determine which people belong to which class? Is a secretary a worker? What about professionals? Isn't there a middle class as well? Why do Marxists look to the working class to bring revolutionary change?

When class is talked about in the media or schools, it is in terms of income. "Upper class" means "rich," "lower class" means "poor," and everyone in between is in the middle class. Mainstream commercial culture idolizes the ruling class, demeans the average person's lifestyle, and refers to blue-collar work as "working class." It is not surprising that a vast majority of U.S. workers believe they are middle class.

But the commonly held definition of "class" is imprecise. Is everyone with a bank account or a child in college middle class? Is class just a question of how you perceive yourself?

The working class is composed of people who work for others, while members of the ruling class have people work for them. The vast majority of the U.S. is working class.

Different sources of income

The word "working" is not arbitrary. It refers to people who must sell their ability to work to employers. They are paid a set wage, salary or commission (regardless of how much profit they make for their bosses.)

Employers own the factories, offices, mines, restaurant chains and banks. To make money, however, they also need labor. The employers buy the workers' most valuable possession-the ability to work-and apply it to their businesses to turn a profit.

But don't CEOs work? Although it is true that some employers take on managerial duties, that is of a completely different nature. Employers earn their money not from their own individual labor, but from their ownership of the wealth produced by others. They own and sell the services and goods produced by the working class.

When the capitalists divide up the ownership of a company into shares, they each take a certain percentage of what the worker makes. They are only "sharing" amongst themselves. The ruling class survives and thrives due to its ownership, not its labor.

The "middle class"

Does this mean there is no middle class? Surely, there are different layers of the owning class as well as of the working class.

Among the working class are professionals whose work and elevated incomes differentiate their ways of life from lower-paid workers. While the average worker hopes to have some spending money for the weekend, the professional often hopes to build a stock portfolio, become a partial owner and live off the labor of others. This privileged layer of the working class easily intermingles with the small owners like shopkeepers or self-employed lawyers and doctors, who often identify with the interests of big owners even though they are usually victims of the banks and big corporations.

In the last few decades, the U.S. economy has transformed greatly. The workforce is no longer only concentrated in factories although millions of workers still do work in the industrial sector. Millions of other workers are now working in service industries, including ever-growing numbers of women, African American workers and immigrants.

For some workers, these changes have fostered the illusion that they are part of a permanently stable "middle class." But service-oriented jobs hold the same problems for the working class as manufacturing positions. In every kitchen and every cubicle, workers' wages and benefits are under attack.

Workers see the growing army of unemployed and fear for their own jobs. No matter how many mornings they come to work, they recognize that the building still does not belong to them. No matter how many times they have worked a particular machine, the machine is not theirs. Most workers still spend their days repeating a few tasks over and over again.

Revolutionary potential

Underneath these miserable conditions lies the potential for revolution. The working class, which on the surface appears to hold no power in politics or the workplace, actually possesses the greatest power of all. If workers unite on a political or economic issue and withhold their labor, the power of the working class becomes instantly recognized.

The working class holds the ability to create a new society. It produces the wealth, it has the training and, most of all, it is the vast majority of humanity.

Working people are taught to feel grateful for the small comforts they receive in exchange for the vast wealth they produce-their home, their car or their television. All these comforts evaporate, though, the second that bosses announce layoffs or a family member becomes sick and healthcare costs mount.

An economy based on a tiny handful of people owning the wealth produced by the great majority can only offer the promise of subsistence wages and perpetual job insecurity. In the daily grind, workers inevitably find themselves laboring for an economy that takes without giving. They find themselves, like U.S. soldiers in Iraq, fighting a war that does not serve their interests.

History shows that in times of great social change, the illusions of today are cast aside as the working class moves forward to fulfill its historic role as the agent for revolutionary change. Socialists work to hasten this process.


Captured Moments Photography said...

This is a great article. As Mary Parker Follet Said "Working through people". It is this simple rule of nature that the toughest always wins but as Einstein had claimed, exceptions exist.

This article brings about the plain reality of the working class which I strongly think is the class that is not a reactive society but a society controlled by those in power. We are all driven by something and this is a fact the ones in control have understood. those who own the carrot will drive the donkey, so those who don't will simply follow the donkey. I do not think that one can really distinguish the lower class because there is no ownership in a middle class, thus the ones really in control are those in the higher class, those who own the carrot.

They know that we as the working class want a better car , that we want a larger fridge, that we would like to have that hdtv set in our living room. So what they do is they feed us with what we want and thus they turn our wants into needs for a price. Our freedom, our intellect, our rationality is at stake and it is therefore this that decides how many people are employed and in which position they reside and how much money they get.

This opportunity cost that we as the working class have to take is not a fiscal decision but an emotional totally humanistic choice that might make us want to resemble or even feel like those in control. We sell our freedom for the materials that they make us produce to get them higher in their position.

The circle continues and the vampires remain up there. So the question is, am I a vampire or am I the innocent victim. This I believe is only decided by the society we live in. But the problem is that most of society seeks to satisfy their thirst with their physical eyes and not the eyes that distinguish us from man to beast.

La delirante said...

Great post David! I really identified myself with the "Middle class" layer and I thought about how easy it is to fall from that "class" to after all sheer poverty...

I agree with Reuben's comment too which I find very interesting. I especially felt identified with this paragraph "they know that we as the working class want a better car, that we want a larger fridge..." It is so true.

I somehow tend to disagree with your first paragraph: "it seems that the efforts of many capitalists to make countless individuals forget about class issues is working" Those programs (insane mega-yatchs and the most expensive weddings of the century, etc.) I sometimes watch when I am having lunch during my break are really appalling as they show the stupid amounts of money that celebrities are spending everyday. The aim is obviously to show how much these "gorgeus creatures" (using one of the expressions I listen to while watching these programs) have and how they can afford to waste while "ordinary" people could not remotely think about being able to afford doing something like that; not even in their wildest dreams would someone think of wasting so much money the way some celebraties do.

David Cuschieri said...

Thanks a lot for the feedback! I believe that one of the saddest things related to many members of the working class is that in the struggle to make ends meet, they have very little time (or energy) to reflect about how the oppressing class enjoys maintaining the current state of affairs so that its enormous wealth can be preserved or even expanded! Every country needs to have a strong political organisation that can educate the members of the working class so that they can fully understand the roots of their oppression. Furthermore, the members of the working class need to be shown that there IS a way forward; there are steps that can be taken to change the current state of affairs! In Malta's case, forget about the Nationalist Party, the Malta Labour Party, the Azzjoni Nazzjonali, and the Alternattiva Demokratika...none of these parties offer genuine solutions that would improve the plight of the working class on a long-term basis. Only a truly socialist party could advance such solutions. Hopefully, the country will soon witness the growth of a party that is seriously committed to Socialism!

La delirante said...

Hi Dave,

I agree with your last comment. Poverty and struggle for survival is like an opium which makes the senses dull and thus, people are more interested obviously in trying to survive rather than reflecting about their current situation. Some of them do though and that's when some changes can be seen in society. Apathy is one of the worst enemies of change.

La delirante said...

Hi Dave! I have given you two awards! Please do visit my blog when you have a chance to collect them :)

David Cuschieri said...

Thanks for the awards! Will surely collect them! :))

Captured Moments Photography said...

Hi guys,

I was sick all over the weekend and during this time had some time to think. I am sorry I did not feel the need to connect but today I am back :-) and have come up with a conclusion that the more I understand about society the more I feel I should not form part of it and its really worrying. We all agree about the ones in control but the problem is that nothing can be done since its there embedded, hard-coded ever since we are born, tagged, connected to the wire-frame to make one whole body of controlled beings.

I agree with you la delirante that people are more interested to survive, however some are designed to hunt others are designed to lead and some are just meant to be led.

Just two weeks ago I had a good 3 hour discussion with a philosopher, Catholic priest. Besides the obvious explanation in relation to the teachings of the church we came across an interesting case in point that really gave me much thought. The fact that is mostly worrying is that we are all being driven to become an individual greedy and with an attitude that if it fine with me then it's fine and if you don't agree , I am sorry hard lines.

This turns us into the machine they want us to become. What was so interesting about this was the fact that this is exactly what the parties in control seem to want an individual , incapable to wisely communicate with the other and therefore to wisely stop and think and raise questions.

I don't know which government globally offers the best for its society.I guess the word government within itself means nothing more than control.

David Cuschieri said...

Reuben, thanks once again for your comments! Hope that you are feeling much better. :)

Having lived and worked in a capitalist society for all my life, I can bear witness to the fact that there are clear divisions between the ruling exploiting class and the more numerous oppressed one. Capitalism cannot thrive without slaves.

Nowadays, I am fairly acquainted with Marxist-Leninist literature. I believe that the Marxist-Leninist approach deals very adequately with many of the problems we face on a daily basis in our capitalist society. By supporting scientific reasoning as opposed to religious or superstitious thinking, Marxism-Leninism asserts that if we want to change the world, only we can do so. If we just wait for some mystical entity to do the job, we might end up spending our whole lives in a miserable state with nothing better than hope in a fairer world after death!

During various conversations, I have often referred to the cult of the individual in virtually all capitalist societies. This cult worries me a great deal. The fact that every person is apparently encouraged to believe that he/she should only struggle to achieve his/her own goals without really caring about the welfare of the other people making up a community troubles me very much. There is so much pressure to be the best, better than everybody else! Of course, no society can ever witness lasting stability if every individual wants to be better than everyone else! Competition conflicts with co-operation. Competition also tends to breed a huge lack of trust and conflict. I do not feel comfortable living in such a society.

The masses are often quite ignorant when it comes to knowing what are the most suitable options for a society's positive development. That is why it is important to have a strong guide who can show the way forward and educate the masses. The masses are like small children; if they are left without any guidance, there is a great chance that they will get into one type of trouble or another. The do-whatever-you-want-to lifestyle that is presently encouraged by various popular TV shows and media celebrities does not seem to be leading to more peaceful societies. On the contrary, the crime rate seems to be getting worse in virtually all capitalist societies as one government after another appears to adopt a more favourable approach to individualism.

I believe that while fulfilling its role as a guide, a government could surely be regarded as a controlling entity. This agrees perfectly well with the Marxist-Leninist theory. Yet, since the latter aims at a classless society, such a government is not intended to last forever; indeed, Marx had talked about the withering away of the State. Of course, the State would only disappear during the Communist stage when human beings would be able to live together without exploiting one another.

Reuben, do not forget that another world is possible!!!