I have to admit one of my biggest irritations is the M word. Americans are strange creatures, anyone from the super poor to the super rich identify with the concept middle class. I am not middle class nor do I ever want to be. I am a proud member of America’s fighting working class.
At best the middle class is a fetish which Zizek explains rather well.
…today, the only class which, in its ‘subjective’ self perception, explicitly conceives of an presents itself as a class is the notorious ‘middle class’ which is precisely the ‘non-class’: the allegedly hard-working middle strata of society which define themselves not only by their allegiance to firm moral and religious standards, but by a double opposition to both ‘extremes’ of the social space – non-patriotic ‘deracinated’ rich corporations on the one side; poor excluded immigrants and ghetto-members on the other. The ‘middle class’ grounds its identity in the exclusion of both extremes which, when they are directly counterpoised, give us ‘class antagonism’ at its purest.
In Marxian terms middle class serves as a buffer of sorts between the working and capitalist classes. It is not a central organizing class of society, but more a reflection of the working and capitalist class struggles. Simply put, if you make your wealth from labor you are working class, if you make it from capital – stocks, bonds, interest – you are the capitalist class. Middleclass becomes this hybridization with its identity based within both class struggles.
We can see this with members of the working class becoming more dependent on pensions and generating wealth from money. But for the vast majority of the working class their wealth generation comes from work not capital. Most of their pension is deferred wages rather than wealth made from those deferred wages. So, while there is clearly a middle class it is certainly not a class most Americans belong to.
Middleclass is foremost a capitalist, or its sympathizers, tactic of driving a wedge through the working class. Recently WSJ Chris Rickert http://wp.me/p2a0y-ne used it as a device to put a wedge between “middle class” public union folks and private sector workers. Chris was perplexed as to to why those on Badger Road and Allied Drive were supporting protests over collective bargaining. Rickert believed that unions, public sector ones, should have their back in return.
While I question the wedge tactic that was used, I think Rickert has a point. Unions have been as guilty as everyone else in building up the mythical middle class. In the process we have created a public – private schism, and one between unions (mostly public) with labor in general. We need to as Mahlon Mitchell pointed out honor labor, not only unions. We must preserve the House of Labor, and to do so is to abandon the capitalist construction of a middle class.
So please, when we are talking about the protests, unions, working people, lets call them by their name, working class. In short, we will refuse to use our slave name any more.