The Next Stage of Middle-Class Liberation

RC middle-class liberation work has until now dealt mainly with middle-class internalized oppression. We as middle-class people have focused largely on connecting to our inherent goodness and showing ourselves. This has been important work and needs to continue.

However, with this firm base, we can now move on to the next stage: addressing much more directly the ending of class oppression. This is a significant change of direction, but it’s one that we have been moving toward for some time. It will accelerate the spread of our work to larger numbers of people.

EIGHT MIDDLE-CLASS ROLES

Broadly stated, the role of the middle class is to manage and maintain the efficient operation of the class system and to separate itself and see its interests as different from the rest of the working class. As middle-class people, we have been conditioned to play certain roles, for example:

1. To manage, coordinate, and make decisions about the work of working people in order to ensure the smooth and efficient operation of workplaces

2. As human-relations managers, (some) trade union leaders, social workers, religious leaders, lawyers, “mental health” professionals, members of the police and intelligence services, to manage, minimize, or suppress discontent and dissent

3. As parents, teachers, doctors, counsellors, therapists, psychologists, trainers, to develop and maintain compliant and productive citizens

4. As scientists, engineers, accountants, lawyers, stockbrokers, politicians, to help make money for the owning class by developing new and better products, instruments, processes, systems, rules, and controls

5. As self-employed people or small-business owners, to be preoccupied with making money or climbing into the owning class and (as with all these roles) to have a vested interest in the continuation of the class system

6. To be distracted and harmless: as consumers, to be preoccupied with leisure, fun, health, fitness, looking good, and other distractions that render us harmless and nonthreatening to the class system; as producers (beauty and health professionals, media professionals, artists, entertainers, and so on) to be preoccupied with providing distractions to other middle-class, and also working-class, people—especially retired people, young people, and anyone with time to spare.

 

If we are unhappy with these roles, there are “alternative” roles we can play, which are not a major threat to the class system and that can be accommodated by it:

1. To be social reformers and ease the harshness of the class system by means of charity, fundraising, single-issue reforms, mainstream political involvement, and so on—generally as spare-time activities but occasionally as full-time occupations

2. To adopt alternative lifestyles and “drop out”—a non-conforming, individualist option that the system may even facilitate (in many cases, the greater the non-conformity, the less likely it is that large numbers of people will be influenced)

We can also play radical, transformational, and revolutionary roles. Because the system actively discourages and suppresses these, they are not included in the lists above.

WHAT "HELPS" US PLAY THESE ROLES

We are susceptible to playing the expected roles

• if we don’t feel good about ourselves, if our self-esteem depends on the approval of others;

• if we depend on appearances, conformity, assimilating, or having a lot of money or on success as defined by the values of the class system;

• if we are confused about the system and how it works;

• if we are scared about losing our privileges or our jobs;

• if we are isolated and have minimal connection with working-class people or people of the global majority;

• if we are preoccupied with comfort and security;

• if we feel superior and entitled to privilege.

It doesn’t matter how we were raised or what our other identities are, all middle-class people are expected to play these roles. (This includes owning-class people who become downwardly mobile and raised-poor and working-class people who become upwardly mobile.) We are not bad people for taking them on.1 The class system expends enormous resources to get us to agree to them and subjects us to its propaganda from the time we are born.

A LIMITED AMOUNT OF TIME

Depending on how we were raised, we will have particular feelings about our connection to the middle class. These need to be worked on and discharged. However, the feelings are not the key issue. The key issue is the roles we play. Our challenge is to be completely honest with ourselves about them. Then we can discharge and think about other options. We need to reconsider these roles if we are to successfully take on2 the increasing unworkability of capitalism, the degradation of the environment, and climate change.

Some of us have assumed that as capitalism collapses, RCers will step forward and provide clear perspectives and leadership. This is not yet happening. Too few of us have decided to do it, and collectively we have not yet organized enough or developed the necessary leaders. I believe that we can decide to do it and become a huge resource. However, it will take decision to make this happen. I have found it useful to assume we have about twenty years to do the necessary organizing and development of leaders.

FOUR IMPORTANT QUESTIONS

The following four questions can help us focus on a commitment to end class oppression. They will be useful to the extent that we are completely honest with ourselves and do not defend, rationalize, or justify the choices we have made.

1. What roles does the class system expect someone with your identity (occupational or other) to play?

2. How have you agreed to these roles? How have you set up your life to play them? How have you benefited from playing them?

3. How have you set up your life to end class oppression?

4. What do you need to change to be able to act with complete integrity?

We can bring these questions repeatedly to Co-Counseling sessions. Greater honesty and clarity will emerge as we discharge.

TWO KEY GROUPS

Given the increasing unworkability of capitalism, the growth of the middle class in poor and developing countries, and the slow response to climate change and environmental degradation, I think that two groups of middle-class people have to be central in leading our work: young people/young adults and people of the global majority. Without their leadership, and the leadership of working-class people, it’s unlikely that we will stay on track.3

If you are a young adult, the following questions can help to clarify what the system expects of you, and the effects of that:

• What messages do you get about the kind of life you should aim for in this system?

• What price have you paid for either going after4 or resisting that kind of life?

The class system offers no good roles for young adults. A challenge is for you to find alternative, liberating, leadership roles that go against middle-class conditioning and for all of us to support you in leading all middle-class people.

CONCLUSION 

If we as middle-class people are to effectively care for the environment and end class oppression, then organizing and developing leadership need to be central to our work. We need to

• significantly increase the number of middle-class support groups and workshops;

• learn more about and get better at organizing, both inside and outside of RC;

• learn more about and effectively back5 the leadership of working-class people.

We have to resist the pull to accept other people’s formulas and instead reclaim our ability to think through the challenges and come up with6 fresh, flexible, responses and strategies.

Seán Ruth
International Liberation Reference Person for Middle-Class People
Stillorgan, County Dublin, Ireland
Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion
list for leaders of middle-class people


1 In this context, “taking them on” means assuming them.
2 In this context, “take on” means confront and do something about.
3 In this context, “stay on track” means stay on the path to ending class oppression.
4 “Going after” means pursuing.
5 “Back” means support.
6 “Come up with” means think of, create.

 


Last modified: 2019-05-02 14:41:35+00