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An Introduction to Middle-Class Liberation. 

by Harvey Jackins

All class societies which have existed among humans so far—the slave-owner/slave societies, the feudal lord/serf societies, and the owning class/working-class societies which presently dominate the world—all have consisted primarily of two classes—the oppressing class which exploits the majority of the population economically, and the oppressed class which is exploited.

In every one of these societies, the invention, development, and enforcement of auxiliary oppressions has taken place in order to divide the majority of the economically oppressed against each other and keep them from successfully uniting and rebelling against the economic exploitation.

Some of the auxiliary oppressions that have been invented and perpetuated are the oppression of one gender by another (usually the oppression of women by men), the oppression of young people by older people, the oppression of many groups of people “racially” on any basis on which they can be distinguished from the rest of the population (often, but not always, skin color), and oppressions based on language, features, size, culture, diet, sexual preference, disability, age, etc.

A PARTICULAR KIND OF OPPRESSION

In each society so far a very important form of division which needs our attention, analysis, and a liberation program has been the division of a part of the working classes on the basis of the functions or roles assigned to them in the economy and culture. Some members of the working classes have always been rewarded, bribed, educated, conditioned, or enforced to play the role of the agents of the owning class in carrying out the functions involving management, culture, education, religion, and military leadership.

These functions are necessary for the economy and the culture to operate, and are part of productive work, but the intent, the education, the conditioning, and the enforcement is to make them operate on behalf of the oppression and against the interests of the oppressed, so that these individuals are under heavy conditioning and training to regard their interests as being the same as those of the oppressing class and counter to the interests of the other working classes.

IN PAST SOCIETIES

Under slave-owner/slave societies certain people were allowed to remain free if they would play these roles, or were given privileged positions as slaves, or were promised freedom for their children. In the ancient Roman slave society people were rewarded with citizenship, “Roman Citizenship,” if they would play these roles well on the behalf of the actual rulers.

Under feudalism, people who carried out the will of the barons and the highest Church hierarchy were given livelihoods as priests and bishops and nuns and monks, as overseers, knights, guild- masters, etc.

LARGER AND LARGER
 NUMBERS

Under the current owning-class/working-class societies, a huge variety of specially trained, specially educated, specially rewarded working people have been trained and conditioned to be managers on many different levels, professionals, clergy, military officers, or even small subsidiary entrepreneurs or franchise-owners who will take much greater responsibility for the intensive exploitation of a small group of workers in order to feed sub-assemblies or partially produced products into the larger enterprises of the economic system.

We are very clear now that members of the owning class are also victimized by the system and do not deserve the blame of the rest of us or their own feelings of guilt. They, too, have been forced by the system into playing their oppressive roles. Therefore, it is certainly ridiculous that the guilt which is universal in the current middle classes should be supported or enhanced, or that any of the rest of us in the other divisions of the working classes should rehearse our resentment against the people in these middle-class sections. They have been victimized, bribed, and enforced in a special way, but they share the same oppression basically which the working classes do. Their freedom to be fully human and fully productive lies in the same direction as it does for all the rest of us, which is in a free society without classes where people who work are also the ones who own the means of production.

The middle classes are simply sections of the working classes. The conditioning which has separated them from the rest of the workers and kept up the hostility and resentment on the one side, the guilt and condescension on the other, are simply patterns that need to be discharged. The interests of all of us are in common.

TWO CONTRADICTORY IDEOLOGIES

The effects of the conditioning upon individuals in the middle classes have gone roughly in two directions:

1) The internalization of the conditioning, leading to their acceptance of the notion that they are “special,” that their interests are identical with that of the owning classes, that they are “better than” the other working people, and that they must fight to defend and perpetuate the exploitive system; and

2) Widespread rebellion against all this conditioning, enhanced by the relatively freer access of middle-class people to correct information, knowledge, and reality. This has led large numbers of middle-class people to become leaders of reform, rebellion, and revolutionary movements, and to assume leadership and guidance of movements of the rest of the working class.

The pull in these two directions is responsible for much of the widespread feeling of “confusion” that is almost typical of the distress of middle-class people.

We in RC have been slow to recognize the actual state of affairs for middle-class people. We have correctly concentrated on developing the role of the overwhelming majority of the working class (the people who know they are working-class) and have even responded to the needs of the owning-class individuals in RC by developing some clarity about their role. However, we have been very slow to recognize the relatively great importance of middle-class individuals in the movement for re-emergence and the movement for liberation of all people from all oppressions.

At this point, it is essential that we help to initiate, clarify, and organize a vast movement of middle-class people based on the following special characteristics:

1) Middle-class people are actually a section of the working class subject to enormous pressure and conditioning to feel, think, and act as if they were not.

2) Middle-class people are natural allies of all the other working classes, and they should be respected, sought out, and welcomed by the working-class movement in general.

3) Ideological clarity must be sought, fought for, and attained for middle-class people in RC and in the wide world movements. Middle-class people must be welcomed as sections of the working class, but the ideology which has been enforced on them, that their interests are the same as those of the owning classes, or that they are smarter than, more dependable than, or superior in any way to the rest of the working class, shall be rejected.

4) Middle-class people shall be helped to establish a movement distinct from the blue-collar, pink-collar, farm, computational, etc., sections of the working class.

5) Middle-class people will be welcomed as members of a division of the working class, but they are expected to build, organize, and clarify the ideology of their own movement, and to join the rest of the working classes in their own strength and clarity, rather than simply try to identify with blue-collar, manual, labor, or other working people.

Overall, of course, all the working classes will be united, but not by ignoring the differences in our backgrounds.

All human beings, including the owning classes, are sought as allies and fellow fighters in preventing nuclear holocaust, in establishing a new, rational society, and in preserving and enhancing our earth as an elegant home for all living things, a home in which human beings play the role of elder brothers and sisters and caretakers to all other forms of life.

Reprinted from Present Time #73, October 1988


Last modified: 2020-07-17 20:50:52+00