Monday, May 16, 2016

Corbyn and the Middle Class Question

Jeremy Corbyn was asked if he thought himself “middle-class” and confessed he didn’t know.

Perhaps, we in the Socialist Party can enlighten him a bit.

The idea of the "middle classes" should be knocked on the head. If you have to work for a living because you do not own the means of production, you are a member of the working class. This includes teachers, doctors, lawyers and it includes some political party leaders who aspire to become prime ministers. Naturally not all them but certainly Jeremy.

Far from becoming “middle class” the vast majority of the population who make all wealth under capitalism, remain working class by definition and will continue to be whilst the wages/salary and profit system exist. Talking about the “middle class” merely divides the working class and weakens our class analysis. We should oppose it at all costs. Class is defined primarily by their relationship to the means of production.

Socialists rightly do not speak of "upper", "middle" and "lower middle" classes. Instead, we use the language that best describes the social relationships that actually matter in society: we speak of capitalist and worker, feudal lord and serf, master and slave. Neither do we accept that class relations are based on forms of technology, the level of industrialisation or the technical division of labour. Members of the working class are not just blue collar workers, and neither are technical workers part of some lower middle class or "new petty bourgeoisie". For class relations are socially determined by reference to the property relationship and are not defined by some notion of an occupational hierarchy. Class operates in the social relations of production and not in the realm of consumption. Owning a car or possessing a mortgage does not alter the fact that you are a member of the working class.

Engels sums up the aim of the movement for socialism as “once and for all emancipating society at large from all exploitation, oppression, class distinction and class struggles". The role assigned to the World Socialist Movement is to assist in building a class-conscious working class the world over who understand the nature of class society and who will take, through majority action, the necessary steps to end oppression. With the abolition of minority ownership of production and distribution will come the abolition of class society.

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