Sunday, August 28, 2011
Canadian Communists Discuss Terminology: "Middle Class" v. "Working Class"
Historical Note on Social Classes
- Workers' Centre of CPC(M-L) -
From: The Marxist-Leninist Daily
In Canada ongoing confusion is spread by academic and official circles over the division of society into social classes. Members of the working class are commonly referred to as middle class and being middle class is considered to be a successful status over being working class. Talk about achieving a social consensus is for purposes of denying the division of society into social classes with antagonistic class interests and the need for new arrangements which harmonize the individual, collective and general interests of society in a manner that opens society's path to progress. Instead, in the name of achieving a social consensus, working people are to give up their interests by identifying their interests with those of the ruling elite.
Meanwhile members of the monopoly capitalist ruling class are presented as hard working people!
The Workers' Centre of the Communist party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) is providing this historical note on social classes to clarify how the issue of social classes presents itself. It also recommends reading the The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Chapter 1 "Bourgeois and Proletarians."
The term middle class has a specific scientific meaning describing social forces that developed at a certain period in medieval Europe and other areas where petty production prevailed or persists to this day. Those middle class social forces nestled between the ruling landed aristocracy and the various classes comprising the peasantry and those within the guilds. The middle class of that period in Europe acquired its living as merchants, moneylenders and small manufacturers mostly in the urban areas. They were the human factor that fought for space within the feudal system, gradually developing a critical mass of modern productive forces and thinking capable of overthrowing the medieval relations of production and supplanting them with new capitalist relations of production.
With the victory of capitalism in England in the seventeenth century and its decisive break with the old in the French Revolution of 1789, members of the middle class gradually became part of the new ruling capitalist class or fell into the ranks of the working class. With the transition to capitalism in Europe, the middle class soon ceased to exist.
With the rise of monopoly capitalism at the end of the nineteenth century, scientific analysis of society came under intense attack especially from European socialism. This attack is meant to confuse the working class theoretically and persuade it to join in common cause with its own owners of monopoly capital. This was expressed politically in the one-nation politics of betrayal during the First World War when European socialism took up the imperialist banner of its own bourgeoisie and encouraged the working class to participate in the mutual slaughter of workers for the re-division of the world by the main contending imperialist states: Britain, Germany, France, Russia, Netherlands, Italy, the smaller European states, the USA, Japan and all their respective colonial possessions such as Canada.
The European socialists adopted what they called a sociological outlook as opposed to a class outlook. This unscientific outlook divided the population according to income into upper, middle and lower classes. This disinformation was to confound the basic issue that the division of the people into social classes derives from their relation to the means of production and the level of the productive forces. Class division reflects the level of the productive forces, and how people acquire their living in relation to those forces of production. The class antagonism within the relations of production is the condition driving society forward to a higher more advanced level.
European socialism and its sociological analysis stand in opposition to Marxism-Leninism and concrete analysis of concrete conditions. A scientific analysis of Canada recognises the class character of society and the necessity to resolve the prevailing class contradiction between the working class and owners of capital.
Class is determined by a person's relation with the means of production and the level of those forces of production. The amount of value people claim from the productive forces does not determine their social class.
Canada is divided into two main social classes -- the working class and the capitalist class. Membership in either social class is objective not subjective. It does not matter what the individual may think or not think about the capitalist system. It does not matter what type of work a person performs as a worker or what views an owner of capital may have. Those who acquire their living by virtue of ownership of equity, debt or land are members of the capitalist class. Those who acquire their living through work are members of the working class. It does not matter whether one works for a monopoly, the government, small company or is self-employed. The determining factor of social class is whether they work to acquire their living or they acquire their living through ownership of equity, debt or land.
European socialism and sociology are weapons to de-politicise the working class and turn its natural class antagonism and thinking into conciliation with the ruling capitalist class and into betrayal of its own independent working class interests. European socialism replaces the goal of defending working class interests in opposition to those of the capitalist class with an urge to retain membership in a sociological fiction called the middle class whose enemies are competitors from abroad as well as the so-called lower class that often consumes value without working. Working class thinking is reduced to a struggle over the amount of money one earns within the capitalist mode of production in competition with other workers at home and abroad.
Within this situation, the working class falls prey to the demand for concessions as solutions to the economic crisis, and to statements from owners of capital that competitors abroad are the cause of their falling standard of living and that saving the upper class through schemes to pay the rich are necessary to save the system, the upper class and by extension the middle class.
European socialism attempts to divert the working class from the reality that workers are in a contradictory relationship with the capitalist class. The demands of the owners of capital are crystallised in monopoly right and those of the working class in public right. One negates the other. This is true even within the simple relationship between wages and profits. With all other factors stable, higher wages mean lower profits, and higher profits mean lower wages. It cannot be otherwise within the class contradiction.
European socialism also diverts the working class from its mission to gain control over the means of production on which it works and the socialised economy as a whole, which is a basic requirement for its emancipation as an oppressed and exploited class and to move society forward to social solidarity without classes and class contradictions.
European socialism and sociology thwart the right of the working class to control its own destiny. They turn the working class and its organisations into adjuncts of the ruling capitalist class. In practice, this means that even the struggle to defend wages, benefits and pensions is muted and does not take on a dynamic class aspect of consistent rebellion and fight for the rights of all. At the worst, the working class is turned into a reserve of imperialist one nation politics and bows down to monopoly right and its neoliberal demands for concessions and pay the rich schemes as solutions to its own economic problems, and for constant wars abroad against competitors and for sources of raw material, markets, people to exploit and rob, and spheres of influence.
The working class must fight tenaciously against the political and ideological pressure coming from the owners of capital, their monopolies and agents. Independent thinking is a crucial aspect of independent politics, resisting monopoly right. In this regard, recognition of the basic class division in Canada between the working class and capitalist class and the necessity to organize to resolve it is an important step forward.