ILRPs Working Together to End Classism

The RC International Liberation Reference Persons (ILRPs) for class have led three large workshops together in North America and continental Europe, as well as two additional workshops led by two or three of us.

Dan Nickerson, ILRP for Working-Class People, was the primary leader. Gwen Brown, ILRP for People Raised Poor; Sean Ruth, ILRP for Middle-Class People; and Jo Saunders, ILRP for Owning-Class People, led classes and groups.

The following is a brief summary of what we learned:

  • Telling your life story from a class perspective is more useful than trying to figure out what class you belong to. Answering the question, “What is your connection to the working class?” is a good way to begin. Your answer should include the strengths from your class background, the “stupid voice in your head” (distress pattern) from your upbringing, and one other factor that contributed to your experience of class.
  • Global Majority and Native people and other key oppressed groups need to be at the center of the workshop throughout. These “sub-oppressions” of classism divide and set us against each other and keep us from ending the class system.
  • Direct production workers (sometimes called “people currently doing working-class work”) are less than ten percent of the RC Community. There are more owning-class people in RC than there are direct production workers (who are the vast majority of the world’s workers). Because ninety percent of RCers are not currently direct production workers or were not raised poor, discharging on classism means working on oppressor distresses.
  • Classism installs feelings of “belonging” or “not belonging” on all of us and they will come up as we do this work. However, these feelings are irrelevant to the work—birds belong, fish belong, rocks belong, flowers belong, you belong. The feeling of not belonging is a distress imposed upon us.
  • In a class society we are all encouraged to be upwardly mobile, to rise higher in social status and wealth and be a “success.” However, upward mobility comes at great cost. The price can be loss of all of the following: family, culture, language, personal identity, being connected with all people, integrity, and meaning in life. The price also includes assimilation, feelings of “not belonging,” and addiction to consumption and an ecologically unsustainable lifestyle. Most current RCers chose upward mobility or were forced into it—and most of us are wealthy by world standards and separated from currently working-class and poor people.
  • The new Goal to End Classism [see the 2017 Guidelines for the Re-evaluation Counseling Community] adopted at the 2017 World Conference is designed to move our work on class away from “identity”—“Where do I belong?” “What class am I?”—to disengagement from the roles that have been assigned to us by the class society. The following are some of these roles:

Owning class: To hoard wealth by maintaining control of the economic, social, and political institutions of society

Middle class: To facilitate or enforce the movement of wealth from those whose labor creates it (the direct production workers) to those who hoard it (the owning class)

Working class: To create wealth and submit to the oppressive and irrational nature of their work

Poor people: To be used as an example of what can happen to people who do not submit to their prescribed role in sustaining the class society. The existence of poor people is used to blame us all for our failures to thrive in an unworkable system. Also, poverty ensures that there is always a supply of cheap labor.

People of all classes need to figure out how to disengage from the above roles. We need to find our voices and communicate an accurate understanding of class society and the need to end it.

  • The union movement began by educating the working class about the nature of their oppression and the nature of class societies, including why such societies won’t work. Attacks, aided in particular by anti-Semitism, have obscured the nature and purpose of class oppression. We have been robbed of words to talk about class oppression—the words “communism,” “socialism,” and “democracy” were deliberately distorted and corrupted to where they have no clear meaning among the general population. We need to find our own words and voices so we can help people understand the unworkability of the current economies. We can resume the original work of the unions—to educate and organize against class oppression.

Dan Nickerson

Freeport, Maine, USA

Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion list for leaders
of working-class people

Last modified: 2019-05-13 15:12:23+00