Dan Nickerson—International Liberation Reference Person for Working-Class People

Working-Class People

In 2016 the RC Communities took a historic new direction in our work in ending classism. All four of the International Liberation Reference Persons for people of different class backgrounds led two workshops called “Working Together to End Classism.” One was on the West Coast of North America, and the other was on the East Coast of North America and included the Caribbean Islands.

I, Dan Nickerson, the International Liberation Reference Person (ILRP) for Working-Class People, was the primary leader. Gwen Brown, the ILRP for Raised-Poor People; Seán Ruth, the ILRP for Middle-Class People; and Jo Saunders, the ILRP for Owning-Class People led segments of the workshops.

The thinking behind these workshops was as follows:

  • Due to the crises facing the current class societies, people of all classes need to move together against class oppression.
  • Because enough work has been done by each of the class constituencies that we recognize in RC, it is possible to take a new step in addressing classism together.

The workshops required an enormous amount of organizing. Our goal was to have voices that reflected the class and cultural backgrounds in the parts of the world where the workshops were held. We decided to have sixty percent raised-poor and working-class people, thirty percent middle-class people, and ten percent owning-class people. We also decided to have as many People of the Global Majority and Indigenous people as possible. Many thanks to the many people who helped with outreach. We reached our goals in terms of class, and about forty percent of the participants were Global Majority and Indigenous. Two hundred people attended each of the workshops.

Mary Ruth Gross, from the Bay Area of California, USA, organized the West Coast workshop, and Leslie Kausch, of North Carolina, USA, organized the East Coast and Caribbean workshop. Many thanks to them.

Thought and time were put into organizing the Jews, both before and during the workshops, since the oppression of Jews plays a unique and central role in perpetuating class oppression.

Attention was also put on the ending of sexism and male domination and on the unpaid work of women. It is women’s unpaid work that provides most of what we actually need as humans—as opposed to goods and services that can be sold for profit.

The ILRPs worked with their own constituencies. They also shared with everyone their perspective on their group’s role in the current class societies and the directions their group needs to take for ending classism.

At each of the workshops, I led a class for People of the Global Majority and Indigenous people. Eunice Torres and I led the class at the East Coast workshop.

The primary direction held out for us as a whole was “A New Initiative on Ending Classism” (see Present Time, July 2014, and <www.rc.org/publication/present_time/pt176/pt176_008_dn>), which is to get the theory and practice of RC into the hands of “those workers engaged in the direct production of goods and services.” This was in recognition that they are the workers whose production directly creates the wealth that the rest of us live on, that their labor is key to the functioning of society, and that they are a group that is barely represented in RC.

My estimate is that this group of workers, which is probably eighty to ninety percent of the world’s workers, was represented at best by about ten percent of the workshops—roughly the same percentage as the owning class.

The effects of classism are evident in that the vast majority of RCers who identify as “working class” or “raised poor” currently live middle-class lives. This is not to point fingers at or cast blame on those who have become “upwardly mobile” in the class system. It is merely to point out how classism—along with racism and the genocide of Indigenous people—has isolated us in the RC Community from the vast majority of people in the world.

We invented the term “poverty bomb” to describe how racism, genocide, and classism shatter poor working-class families. We noted that in the enslavement of African-heritage people and the genocide of Indigenous people, destroying the family was a deliberate policy. “If you break the family, you break the spirit of the people,” and they will find it hard to stand up against the oppression.

Many of us who have been upwardly mobile or university educated have experienced a similar effect. Our greatest struggle in ending classism may be to reach our own people, whom we have been so forcefully or subtly separated from.

The attacks by capitalist societies on “communism” and “socialism,” on the organizing of workers, and on the concept of class oppression have been effective. They have left “the productive majority” of the working class (and people of other classes) ignorant of the nature of class oppression and without a rational explanation for its destructive effects. They have left the working class, which plays such a significant and powerful role in the functioning of society, vulnerable to the installation of racist, anti-Jewish, nationalist, genocidal, and sexist patterns (to name just a few of the “sub-oppressions” of classism) and thereby to the manipulation of these patterns. The resulting conflicts are being acted out, often in violent ways, worldwide.

As the exploitation of people and the earth’s resources becomes more obviously unworkable, oppression falls more and more heavily on the workers in direct production. It is important to recognize that the oppressor patterns that are then imposed on them are not of their creation, and that they have been installed on people of all classes, to keep us pitted against one another.

We do have to unite to defeat these patterns.

We need to unite across class lines, and it is particularly important that we reach the “currently working class”—that is, “direct-production workers.” We need to reach them with a sensible explanation for the dysfunction of society and provide them with the means to free themselves from the patterns that keep people of all classes submissive to the roles they have been assigned by the class society.

Dan Nickerson

International Liberation Reference Person for Working-Class People

Freeport, Maine, USA

(Present Time 188, July 2017)


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