Why whither the Middle Classes?

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NannerNannerNan...
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Sep 17 2012 05:23
Why whither the Middle Classes?

If you've read any of my previous threads here, you'll know I really want to establish a real populist, working class anarchist movement that can be both popular and a significant force in politics. However, as a poor person, something seems to be coming up more and more.

A lot of people in the US (not sure bout the UK but you guys are as fucked as we are just about) aren't poor, but aren't rich. Neoliberalism is certainly taking away their well-being too, but the middle classes identify mire with the bourgeoisie than with their fellow workingmen it seems.

In fact, the only reason Hitler gained power was because middle class Germans were feeling antipathic towards the capitalism that fucked them in the ass, but were scared silly at a German communist victory. (And from what I understand, the communists were hella popular with the working people)

Fascists, then and today, draw the majority of their support from decadent middle class types. Even the myth of the working class skinhead is a myth, and the typical skinhead is just a privileged cunt. (Not that skinheads are all that concerned with maintaining their class privilege their just racists who joined a club). The neo-fascists in Italy maintain their power through some specific business interests and gain their rank and file from middle class types fearful of teh communists.

But to be honest, I don't think it's integral for middle class people to be reactionary fucknuggets. (who are still fellow workers, mind). While I'm wary of the middle classes and their typical decadent nature, I think they are only attracted to conservatism is because they identify with the bourgeoisie. Since they identify with the bourgeoisie, a threat to it is a threat to them too.

Theoretically, if we could convince middle class people to stop glorifying decadent hedonism and elitism and convince them to identify with workers instead of their masters, they could join us in our struggle against capitalism.

Clearly we aren't powerful enough to even contemplate this, so my question is the following:
Should we also focus on converting middle class people to communism? There were many middle class revolutionaries throughout history (Lenin and Mao for one) so they aren't completely backwards and unfeeling like the capitalists. Anarchist communism, really, is an ideology that wants to bring prosperity and happiness to everyone, instead of some elitists. Logically, I don't see how any middle class person four paychecks away from the poorhouse could viscerally react to it as negatively, as most capitalists do, right?

Sorry for the absolute shit grammar, it's late.

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Railyon
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Sep 17 2012 11:39

Hmm, how do you define middle class? Are we talking about the petit bourgeoisie proper or higher-ranking working class people?

As to the actual question, if we only knew we'd be doing a lot better. The communisation theory folks maintain that the working class self identify and -affirmation of olden days is no longer applicable today1 because unlike in the fordist accumulation regime there is no 'business partnership' between the organized working class and the bourgeoisie anymore, and that after a big nice round of union busting and neoliberal policies (according to them, starting in the 70s) in general the status of the organized working class has been / is being dismantled and as such there is no longer a strong link between actual proletarian existence and the consciousness thereof (another theory put forward by Peter Decker is that this waning working class identify has to do with the bourgeois state and how it integrates the working class - as no longer the fifth wheel on the wagon, but ful-fledged 'citizens' and that this has shaped working class consciousness tremendously). Defeats of past socialist movements also play a larger role than some may think - that it's an antique model of thinking, the working class as such doesn't exist anymore, no alternative2, etc. Basically, pick your poison - there's lots of good reasons...

If one accepts that, the question takes quite a different turn. I know I'll be probably be shot down for even saying this by the next leftcom poster, lol! It's a tricky question though - how does one (self-)organize the working class without working class self-identity being possible on a scale necessary for changes beyond a return to the glorified welfare state?

  • 1. and that it actually has become impossible to go back to that but I'd disagree on that specific determinism.
  • 2. I think I remember Decker also talking about this - people actually do realize it's all a crock of shit but they have lost the will to change anything. This is also my own experience, that some people don't even want to think about the implications of wage labor being exploitative. Sad, innit.
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Melancholy of R...
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Sep 17 2012 13:45
NannerNannerNannerNannerNanner wrote:
Fascists, then and today, draw the majority of their support from decadent middle class types.

For starters there aren't that many REAL fascists out there. Authoritarians, conservatives, neo-lib fundamentalists and so on, sure, but fascists is such a specific term you probably could only find massive support for them in Europe in very small cases such as the Golden Dawn in Greece. And if you look at those actual fascists, you'd be surprised how widespread is support for them across income brackets.

Quote:
Theoretically, if we could convince middle class people to stop glorifying decadent hedonism and elitism and convince them to identify with workers instead of their masters, they could join us in our struggle against capitalism.

This is assuming that "working class" don't also glorify decadent hedonism and somehow have a different set of values. Do they? really?

Quote:
Should we also focus on converting middle class people to communism?

I don't think our efforts are about converting people at all. And if they are, we're going about it the wrong way putting the horse before the cart.

NannerNannerNan...
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Sep 17 2012 16:46

Oh, sorry about the whole "GODDAM HEDONISTS" talk. I just really fucking hate the rich riding around their fancy cars acting so drat smug about everything. Elitist bastards.

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Croy
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Sep 17 2012 20:13
NannerNannerNannerNannerNanner wrote:
Even the myth of the working class skinhead is a myth, and the typical skinhead is just a privileged cunt. (Not that skinheads are all that concerned with maintaining their class privilege their just racists who joined a club). .

Good documentary I saw at the weekend about French Anti Fascism talked a lot of about the skinheads there. Apparently original skinhead values were not really as the fascists that supposedly hi jacked the culture made them be.

http://vimeo.com/49117152

Kambing
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Sep 18 2012 08:48
the croydonian anarchist wrote:
Apparently original skinhead values were not really as the fascists that supposedly hi jacked the culture made them be.

Yeah, skinhead culture developed in the UK as an unstable convergence between Jamaican migrant ska/’rude boy’ culture and white working class youth. It wasn't exclusively white let alone white supremacist, though there was a lot of anti-Asian racism (with groups of black and white skinhead youth assaulting Asian shopkeepers and such). However, this cultural ‘alliance’ soon broke apart as its component parts pursued conflicting, racialised identifications—with ska being largely superseded by reggae/rasta with its invocation of an essentialised ‘African’ identity, while significant sections of the white skinhead subculture embraced right-wing nationalism and outright neo-Nazism. Shane Meadows' film This is England represents this period pretty well. (British) punk emerged in part as a (mostly unsuccessful) attempt to recapture the cultural possibilities of that earlier convergence, but could not evade the hegemony of racialised identities in British youth culture – hence you get stuff like ‘White Riot’ by The Clash. A lot of the early ‘Birmingham School’ subcultural studies stuff is basically about the cultural politics of all this.

NannerNannerNannerNannerNanner wrote:
Even the myth of the working class skinhead is a myth, and the typical skinhead is just a privileged cunt. (Not that skinheads are all that concerned with maintaining their class privilege their just racists who joined a club).

Skinhead was (and to a much lesser extent still is) not so much about ‘middle class’ lifestyles, but rather a cultural expression of the anxieties and disorientations associated with the decomposition and recomposition of the working class. This involved the breakdown of earlier forms of working class identity along with the actual changes in the organisation of capitalism and labour. In terms of cultural politics, you got the production of new subjectivities and cultural forms, but also their subsequent recuperation into the neoliberal/Thatcherite project. Assertions of youthful autonomy against the post-War ‘social democratic’ order were transformed into an entrepreneurial ethic supporting ‘flexible’ and precarious forms of labour, combined with nostalgia for an imagined lost (white) working-class community re-cast in virulently nationalist and racist terms.

The mods were in many ways an ‘apolitical’ expression of the first part of this—while it seems laughable now, at the time there was a real moral panic about working-class youth adopting ‘middle class’ styles and consumer habits. This was perceived as deeply threatening to the social and moral order. The skinheads actually developed out of the 'hard mods', embracing a more self-consciously working class (though still not overtly political) style and identity. However, in response to the crisis of the 70s, they were ‘politicised’ in a more firmly nostalgic and racist mode, though punk also emerged from this milieu.

By now, of course, most of these styles have been largely (though never quite completely) recuperated within neoliberal modes of lifestyle consumption. But this still isn't the same thing as being 'middle class', unless you want to define the working class out of existence.

Anyway, although you can still find the odd gang of boneheads, I think the proper neo-Nazis have mostly moved over into the black metal and 'industrial folk' scenes.

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ComradeAppleton
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Sep 19 2012 09:45
NannerNannerNannerNannerNanner wrote:
Oh, sorry about the whole "GODDAM HEDONISTS" talk. I just really fucking hate the rich riding around their fancy cars acting so drat smug about everything. Elitist bastards.

I think you are letting it get to you a bit too much. Why don't you just laugh at the ridiculous consumerism instead of being angry about it?