People Before Profits
What is the middle class and why is it periodically given a status of high exaltation by the ruling class?
To answer the second part of the question first: the ruling class seeks to fool the working class into believing that it has common interests with the ruling class. This is especially aimed at higher-paid workers. Thus, this so-called “middle class” is called upon to act against its own best interests.
The use of the phony concept of including millions of workers in the “middle class” is a major ingredient and destroyer of collective thought, action and struggle. It is the basic ideology underlying George W. Bush’s “ownership society” and privatization of Social Security.
But it was Harry Truman, a Democrat, who promulgated the “rugged individualism” society. It was Truman who helped split the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). Truman’s policies led to the weakening of the cohesiveness of the New Deal coalition forces. He vented his spleen most fiercely against the left, progressives and Communists.
It was Marxist political economists who defined classes in society as stemming from their relationship to the means of production. The capitalist class owns the means of production in all of its varied forms. Workers who work in the factories, mines, mills and other jobs necessary to the production process are the working class. They have no common class interests with the capitalist class.
There is no class between the working class and capitalist class. The “middle class” is really a stratum. The middle strata are self-employed. They create no surplus value. The workers are the only ones who create the wealth. In the struggle for ideas, the ruling class propagates and uses such terms as “middle class values” which conjures up visions of living in “nice houses in nice communities.”
To answer the first question I put: “What is middle class?” Capitalist propagandists say it is someone who has income of, say, for example, $75,000, $100,000, $125,000, no matter how their income is derived. The aim is to cover up and deny the existence of workers as a distinct class.
Phil Murray, president of the CIO, bought into this pro-capitalist, anti-communist Cold War propaganda in the 1950s. He declared, “There are no classes in the U.S.” What did Murray get for speaking boss propaganda? The steel workers had to endure a 116-day strike in 1959.
The last two presidential election campaigns were rife with expressions of endearment by the candidates on all sides for the “great middle class.”
By artificially establishing a dollar-denoted “middle class,” proponents of this view leave out, by definition, all those who fall below the given threshold. Among those who are left out you will find, for example, the working poor, the poor, the super-exploited immigrant workers and the bulk of the African American people. The capitalist “middle class” creation is racist and discriminatory to the core, not only in its application at home but also around the world.
During the period of the rise of liberation theology, Pope John Paul II was sharply critical of the transnational/financial oligarchy and industrial powerhouse nations for neglecting the poverty of millions in the Southern Hemisphere, in particular. An expert on the papacy said John Paul II wanted to “elevate the poverty-stricken up to the middle class.”
Progressives have a big responsibility to educate and organize among the masses. They can do so confident in the knowledge that the working class will learn to reject capitalism’s phony ideological wedge. As Abraham Lincoln said: “You can fool some of the people some of the time but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”