Lesson 4: What is the new class?
“I see the power Changin’ hands Rising from the streets”
Key concepts in this lesson:
- The very section of working people who were once the basis for the capitalist system’s stability are now being driven into poverty.
- There is no middle class.
- The new class is the only force which can lead humanity to establish a peaceful, prosperous society.
Who is the so-called ‘middle class’? They are really a section of the working class that has had stable, good-paying jobs. As the way of life of millions of these formerly stable working people is destroyed, those who had jobs, an education, relatively secure lives, and were active politically and in their communities are being pushed into insecurity and poverty. Because both political parties represent the interests of the corporations, they will not and cannot not talk about the destruction of human lives and the impoverishment of the very section of working people who were once the basis for the system’s stability.
Formerly secure people who are being thrown out of work, working part-time and contingent jobs, losing their homes to foreclosure fraud and their savings and retirement to financial fraud, are waking up to the fact that their interests haven’t been protected, addressed or heard. Today fifty million Americans are in poverty. People who a few years back had skilled and middle management jobs, homes, and some savings and benefits, are finding themselves in food lines and living in their vehicles. This is the reality of the dispossession of millions of Americans, each with their own story, but all part of an irreversible historical process.
Nothing that either party of the capitalist class, Democrat or Republican, proposes will turn this around. Their appeals to the “middle class” are an attempt to confuse people and obscure common class interests. It is also a coded way of dividing them from each other, based on what is most historically backward in American society—the false divisions of race, nationality and ideology. They are being told that their problems are their own fault, or the fault of some other section or color of workers.
A new social group is forming. They have been driven outside the market place of the capitalist economy but as human beings they must consume. This new class is growing daily through the process of technological innovation.
Discussion Question 1: What is the new class? How is the nature of poverty changing? Give examples.
There has always been unemployment and poverty under capitalism. Today’s unemployment and poverty is something new. The economists are calling it structural unemployment because it is an integral part of the emerging economy and cannot be eliminated.
The important thing is to see that the new class is outside capitalist society. It is being forced into a position where it must attack and destroy this society in order to live. Despite its current disorganization, it is a revolutionary class and is destined to organize all the non-capitalist mass of people around itself for the transformation to a practical kind of communist society.
The media focuses its attention on the problems of the inner city poor. Poverty is portrayed as a racially identified or color identified phenomena that the white poor can distance themselves from, even if it means identifying with their class enemy.
The similarities between the inner city black and the people in these semi-rural, formerly industrial towns of the Rust Belt are undeniable. Sometimes 60% of a town is on welfare in the heart of Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan. When you have poverty spreading out, people look at one another and say, “You know , it’s not true this is a black problem, or a brown problem. It’s a problem of a growing section of society.”
That section is the new class, a class that was first formed around a core of common laborers who lost their jobs. It is being reinforced by technicians and highly skilled workers whose jobs have been eliminated by electronics.
The capitalists cannot halt the downsizing and the development of a whole new class of people, of throwaway workers and part-time workers. They can’t turn it around. You ever heard of a freight train turning around? It’s going to run it’s course.
This polarization of wealth and poverty is going to continue. The only way to profitably sell anything today is to cut costs. And cutting costs means downsizing. Little by little, the poor and propertyless are going to recognize themselves as poor and propertyless. We have to help them understand that. We have to help them understand that they are part of a new class.
WHAT WAS THE CAUSE AND HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THE LOS ANGELES REBELLION OF 1992?
The new part time, unemployed, minimum wage, and temporary workers form a new class at society’s edges. Computerized control opened the door to shift production to the
lowest wage areas of the world. Opening the neocolonial national boundaries to financial investment and industrial production destroyed their subsistence economies and unsettled millions of workers, who then migrated to foreign countries, including the United States.
L.A. held a large number of this new class. They were black, white, Asian, Native American, Mexican and Central American. They were united by the fact that they were outside of and oppressed by bourgeois society and its property relations. By 1990 this new class was an uprising looking for a place to happen.
The Los Angeles rebellion will be remembered as the opening round of revolution by the new class of people created by robotics. This new class rejects existing society. It is not possible to overthrow a society which you respect and whose laws you obey. The L.A. rebellion was contemptuous of anything smacking of bourgeois law, order or property relations.
Industrialization brought about a great social revolution in Europe and America but it couldn’t go far enough to bring about the kind of political revolution that could lead to the elimination of private property. As more and more production is taken over by electronics, the displaced workers are forced into lower and lower paying jobs and many of them end up in the growing mass of permanently unemployed. A huge section of those who do have jobs work at or below minimum wage. They are forming a new class that has few or no ties to capital. This class is revolutionary because it is increasingly outside of and hostile to the wages system. It is revolutionary because it cannot fight the individual employer—it must fight the state. It is revolutionary because robotics makes it impossible for them to co-exist with private property. The only way for them to prevent these gigantic means of production from crushing them is to make them public property.
Discussion Question 2: Why must the new class attack and destroy the institutions of existing society in order to build a new society in which it can live?
Discussion Question 3: Why is the new class the only force which can lead all of humanity to a peaceful, prosperous cooperative society?
To make the transition from private property to universal abundance in a cooperative society we must rely on the new class of propertyless people. Since this new class owns no property and is without employment or resources, it cannot move in the direction of securing individual property. It has no ties to any system of private property and so it is free to lead humanity toward a cooperative, communist society. It is of the greatest importance to make this new class aware of its role in history and to spread that awareness throughout society.
At this point, there is little or no ideology involved in this movement, only the practical need for food and shelter. Until today, our weakness was an ideological movement without a practical base. The problem today is the development of a practical movement without an ideological expression. The tasks of today’s revolutionaries are clear.
Discussion Question 4: Today millions of people who are being foreclosed are fighting to stay in their homes, yet they lack a clear understanding of the underlying cause: A society based on private property instead of the public good. How do other movements, such as immigration, anti-police brutality, or the environment lack a full understanding of the underlying cause?
The material in this lesson is taken from:
The Future is Up To Us by Nelson Peery
Study Guide of the LA Culture Committee of the League of Revolutionaries for a New America