Middle Class?

I am sick and tired of people on the American left yapping about the middle class. They either don’t know what the middle class is or they see the middle class as some social democratic aspiration. Union MadeAmerican Unions consistently talk about the need to “rebuild the middle class,” and that the demise of organized industry is the demise of the American middle class. There’s something wrong when the unions, representatives of the workers, think themselves representatives of the middle class. Clearly they don’t want their members to become small shop owners, or middle management? Well perhaps the UAW, but they’re fools.

So then what does all this jargon about the middle class mean? Well I think it has a lot to do with the weakness of class analysis these days. The trade unions in America have bought into the same fable that all Americans have bought into, that there’s this mystical middle class that we all can attain. The vast majority of Americans, rich, poor, or in between, all state their impassioned belief that they are middle class. Why? Because middle class isn’t a real class, but a cultural archetype. It contains everything that it means to be American ie everything that it means to be a good capitalist. The Middle Class Man aka Homo Mediatus is everything that capitalism values. He is independent, he is a property owner, he is educated and most importantly, he is entrepreneurial. Homo Mediatus is an enterprising and dynamic individual; he is Horatio Alger and Andrew Carnegie. He is not rich and aristocratic, living off his wealth, contributing nothing, fighting innovations that harm his bottom line. Nor is a whining worker, too stupid to rise above his means, trying to suck money from the government and his employer.

Yet the middle class as a social class does not exist. It never has. People merely think they have middle class status because they own some kind of middling property (aka a house) or they hold some sort of autonomy on the job. Or they own a lot of property, but don’t consider themselves “rich” because they still “work for a living.” None of this has anything to do with proper revolutionary class analysis. Your class is based on your relationship to capital. Do you own it or control it? If you own some, do you own enough to live off of it? If you primarily work for capital, what sort of work do you do? Do you have power over others; can you hire and fire them? The list goes on.

The middle class is a combination of several classes all mixed into one. A small portion is petit bourgeoisie, small business owners that can’t seem to win out against the big capitalists. These people are scum, as they’re nothing but weak capitalists. Most or a large minority of the middle class is actually working class. They may have a higher degree of work autonomy and they may garner higher wages, but they work for a living, and they aren’t the boss of anyone. Folks like medical technicians, middling to low level engineers, school teachers, skilled tradesmen (carpenters, plumbers etc.), technical writers, freelance writers, many newspaper and script writers etc are working class. All of these people get lumped in with the “middle class” and as a result are inculcated into the cult of conservatism and moderation.

The other part of the middle class is the real middle class. These folks are the coordinator class. They hold a weird contradictory position in society. On the one hand they don’t own enough capital to just sit around, nor are they workers in the traditional sense. They occupy a middle ground peculiar to modern capitalism. Coordinators are the folks who you see everyday and HATE. They’re the management, the politicians, the middle to upper bureaucrats, lawyers, doctors and occasionally professors, though they occupy a weird position. And of course those dirty cops.

The coordinator class serves two functions, 1 they supervise everyone else. They manage capital and labor while the capitalists learn modern art. They beat in skulls while the capitalists gather at Davos. 2 the coordinators take on the “really tough” stuff. They’re the specialists of the specialists; their multiple title degrees give them prerogative to make decisions and take initiative. Tom Wetzel sums it up well when he says “The power of the coordinator class is not based on ownership but on a relative monopolization of levers of decision-making and other empowering forms of work. ”

The coordinators are the guardians, and administrators of power. They typically ally with the capitalists, acting as a bulwark of strength. However in times where their work is routinized and pay degraded, they side with workers. They also have their own class interests, as was enshrined in various state socialist regimes. State socialist governments didn’t represent working class people, they represented coordinators. The industrial managers, military personnel, and commissars of Soviet Russia, red China, and Batshit Crazy Albania, were coordinators. They didn’t own the means of production individually, but instead controlled them through access to exclusive education, and exclusive social networks. This is especially pertinent with Maoism, where the revolutionary core literally resides within a group of dissatisfied coordinators.

I’m so pissed off about the misapprehension of the American middle class because it forces an ever larger number of people into a false coordinator class, and petit bourgeoisie consciousnesses. With capitalism becoming ever more skilled, folks will soon need a college degree to apply for a job at Wendys. More and more Americans are getting a college education, at ever higher prices. A whole generation of white collar, debt riddled workers are popping out of the universities, ready for a life of doomed struggle, as they run like hamsters on a wheel toward their rightful dream of middle class respectability. If we’re to rebuild our class, we need to first dispel this illusion. We shouldn’t enshrine our victory as the rebuilding of a conservative and exclusive middle class, especially when that class “proves” the utility and fairness of modern capitalism. There is no middle class, and the sooner we realize it the better off labor will be.