Moving Working-Class Issues Forward in RC

From a talk by Tim Jackins1 at a small working-class workshop in Seattle, Washington, USA, November 2014

Welcome. You are here because you have thought about or been connected in some way to the working class. Of course you are not the only people who could be in this group—there are at least two or three times as many. And though you are wonderful, picking this group wasn’t about selecting “the best”—it was about having a solid, good group that could begin this work.

You are experienced people committed to RC, committed to using RC ideas and not allowing distress to stop your mind. You have that theoretical commitment and you put it into practice, almost always. Because you have this background and some experience with, connection to, and commitment to class issues, you are a good group in which to figure out next steps together.

We’ve talked about class from early on in RC. All of us have tried to work on it, and all of us feel less than happy about the efforts we have made. We want to figure out more. We want to figure out how to be more effective—in particular, how to think more clearly about working-class issues.


We live in a well-developed state of capitalism that depends on class distinctions. And, here in the United States, we live in a version of it that tries to muffle and blur those distinctions, as if they are not important. At the same time, capitalism has developed all these other oppressions, all these other ways of mistreating people, that keep people hurt, restimulated, and alienated from each other. Over the years we have come to better understand many of these oppressions and have figured out how to take them on.2 We still have a lot of work to do, but we’re not so confused. We know the work is not done, but we know we are going to do it. We know how to continue. That the work will be done is assured at this point.

The other oppressions have made class issues hard to grapple with. We are aware of the issues, and yet we all have difficulty. In particular, we have difficulty building working-class RC. How do we get RC ideas to the people who function in the working class every day? How do we build an RC Community with these people at its center? There have been successes, and everyone has played good roles or we wouldn’t be this far, yet we want more.

I have a hard time thinking about it, and it looks like just about everybody else has a hard time thinking about it, too. What I notice about our confusion is that we simply don’t know what to do next. We wait for something—something better, some better situation, someone else.

One of the problems for this group comes from having been in RC a long time. We’re all already committed to certain pieces of the project. Our time is overcommitted. If we were starting with class issues and it was thirty years ago, something different would happen. It may be late for us to fully take this on. Maybe the next generations of RCers—people who haven’t yet fully made their time commitments, who aren’t yet fully obligated to things they care deeply care about—need to do it.

If other people take leadership of this project, what role can we play to support them? We have knowledge, experience, and the ability to provide backing3 in many ways. What role can we play? Maybe we have to put aside things we are already good at and do things we are not so good at. There are a lot of different questions. I think we have to figure out what gets in the way of our minds on this issue. What are the distresses that have us here at this point and not further along?

The reason a lot of us have working-class issues in our minds at all is because of my father.4 Working-class RC exists as clear as it is because his mind was clear about it. He had no doubt about it—because of his experience, because he had actually been part of class struggles. He had faced and lived through them and learned to handle them in a way that was crystal clear. He could communicate about them and not waver. I don’t think that’s as true for a lot of us. We know about and believe the ideas, but we haven’t lived them in the same way. We have tried to duplicate something for which we haven’t had as solid a foundation in our lives. We haven’t known the same things or had the same experiences my father did. We have tried to bridge over our distresses and lack of knowledge to make something happen. Sometimes we have tried to do more than we knew how to do, because we wanted it to be done.

It’s not surprising that class oppression is hard. It’s the fundamental oppression in our society. We’ve all lived in it every single day of our lives. All the other oppressions are built on top of it. We understand some of these other oppressions fairly well, but we still don’t think well about class. This weekend I’d like us to look at everything, every piece of distress, that stops our thinking about it. It will mingle with all the other oppressions—with racism, with genocide toward Native peoples, with sexism, with anti-Jewish oppression—because those oppressions are there to support it.


As we explore this, we will need all of our minds fully involved and out in the open. We’re not used to functioning with others without being careful about what we say, without hiding our difficulties. It’s fine that we have difficulties. It’s fine that we have oppressive material.5 It’s all right not to hide our distresses here. None of us is terribly vulnerable, no matter what distresses anybody else has. We can all get restimulated, but nobody is in danger here of being mistreated. We need a space to show our minds and not have to pretty up everything6 or our thoughts won’t get out fully. It’s all right that we don’t know things. It’s all right that we struggle with things. It’s all right that we have faulty ideas. We all do. It’s part of thinking to have ideas that don’t work. And we need the chance to try them out or we won’t learn what works well. We actually have to go ahead and make mistakes.

It’s still difficult for us to deal with behavior that is restimulating to us. We have a tendency to be upset at people’s distress and use it as an excuse to act out our own material. Some of us, at least for a moment, end up feeling like we hate the person because he or she has been hurt and showed us the hurt in a restimulating way. This is a big confusion. It affects our relationship with that person and our picture of him or her. Nobody is to blame for the distresses he or she wears. No relationship is going to work well unless we are delighted with the existence of the other person. We can’t build much unless we are delighted with that person’s existence, even in the distressed form it is in. We have to take it all. And we have to be able to do that in order to fully show our minds to each other, and also have sessions fully. It has to be safe in that particular way—and it hasn’t always been, particularly when oppression issues have been involved. So the first order of business here and now is to use the discharge process in that direction. We need to be able to trade thoughts openly in order to move working-class issues forward in RC. Let’s do a mini-session.


We live in a class society. Societies so far have always been class based, even when people tried to make them otherwise. They still ended up there. Even though individuals made good efforts, the distresses locked a structure in place so that nobody could think. No group has ever been able to think about everyone, or had the power to make things move in the interests of everyone. There have been good experiments, but distresses have always gotten in the way.7

In class societies, the group that produces all of the things necessary for life is controlled and exploited by another, much smaller group. The workers never receive a significant portion of the value they generate by their work. It goes somewhere else. As long as a capitalist society is expanding—pulling in more people to exploit, producing more things—it looks like it works. In an ever-expanding market, there is always somebody new to sell to and somebody new to exploit. Eventually, however, everybody has been exploited and there is nobody new left to squeeze, so the existing people have to be squeezed harder (our present-day situation). More people are forced down into poverty, and a smaller group rises higher and higher. This turns out to be8 unworkable. It simply cannot go on indefinitely—not because it’s hard and unjust and unfair and oppressive (which it is) but because it just doesn’t work. It doesn’t matter whether it is good or bad for any individual; the system itself has inherent built-in problems.

Our society is getting to this point. The difficulties are showing more and more clearly. More and more people are being driven closer and closer to the edge of survival. A large number of people are being pushed out of the working class into chronic unemployment and poverty.


All of us here have had some connection to the working class somewhere in our lives, and we have the patterns that come with being in that position. To enforce class divisions, certain distresses have to be installed on people so that they accept their position. They don’t have to be happy about it—they may be grumbling—but they have to accept their position. There aren’t enough guards to guard everyone unless the people guard themselves to some extent. All of us have been hurt in ways that keep us from going out of bounds, from challenging things past a certain point.

When we are young, we may think we can get away with going out of bounds.9 We are not tethered to lots of things, and we think we have time. Then, as we build our lives, we have more and more that we feel committed to, or trapped by, and it seems less possible to step free of those things and start clean. Few young people feel constrained in this way, but most older people do. How much is distress and how much is a new circumstance? It’s not clear, but it’s part of what we have to look at.

I want us to look at everything that has happened to us because of being working class, everything that has made us stop thinking about the big changes that need to happen, including in our individual lives. Things that we have counted on having the rest of our lives, we may not have. It may be necessary to step away from a lot of things. My father, out of his revolutionary background, wanted young people to be the revolutionary cadre. That was what had always happened before, because the older people had been too burdened with distress. Young people remain the primary group able to push for change. However, we are the first older generation that has any choice in this. We’ve arrived at this age in good enough shape10 to play a different role than any large set of elders has before us. Can we play that role, or support the young people to play it? Well, if we can get these distresses moving, I suspect we can.

So where is your mind hampered by class material? It’s hard to face what we gave up on early. It isn’t just hard to face the feelings, it’s hard to show someone else how badly defeated we were. We’ve had to hold a defensive pose. This means that some heavy distress hasn’t gotten worked on fully, and a piece of that is about class.

1Tim Jackins is the International Reference Person for the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities.
2“Take them on” means confront and do something about them.
3“Backing” means support.
4Harvey Jackins, the founder and first International Reference Person of the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities
5“Material” means distress.
6“Pretty up everything” means make everything nice and unthreatening.
7“Gotten in the way” means interfered.
8“Turns out to be” means results in being.
9“Get away with going out of bounds” means successfully, without serious repercussions, go out of bounds.
10“Shape” means condition.

Last modified: 2017-04-06 23:03:41+00