If Marx and Engels were around today, listening to the corporate media pundits on cable and in print, they might have started their Manifesto with, “A specter is haunting the U.S. 2008 elections — the specter of communism.” All of a sudden these folks have discovered the working class. Talk about the disappearing middle class.
Problem is though, the corporate media has only discovered a caricature of the working class. Since punditry depends so much on “slice and dice” analysis, their “working class” seems to be only a very narrow section that they define as “blue-collar, white male workers.”
In fact working class describes the overwhelming majority in this country. Class is not determined mainly by income. Sure, poor people are mostly working class, but so are most people who have “middle” incomes. Union jobs, skilled jobs and most white collar jobs are also working class. Middle-income people don’t live off the profits of other people’s work. If you are employed by a company that makes profits from your work then you are working class.
But the more worrisome problem with the pundits’ new discovery of the working class is an obvious racist bent. Implicitly African Americans and Latinos are poor people who supposedly don’t work, and only white blue-collar workers are working class. As in “candidate X is getting the ‘working class’ vote.”
In this “discovered” world Black, Brown and white workers seem to occupy parallel universes. In reality, almost every workplace, factory or office is a multiracial, multinational beehive of interaction. One of the most important characteristics of “working class” is the social interaction and cooperation that it takes to get most work done — you have to work together.
People who work together influence and learn from each other in many ways. African Americans and Latinos are overwhelmingly working class as are whites. Sure some are influenced by racist ideas, but in today’s world what binds workers together is much stronger than the negative influence of racism. Workers are bound together by declining incomes and a bad economy, by lack of health care, by high gas and food prices, and by rejection of a brutal and unnecessary war.
Barack Obama is getting a larger percentage of the total working class vote than any other Democratic Party presidential candidate since the 1960s. And that vote, united, scares the hell out of right-wing Republicans and corporate America.