Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Hello to the Working-Class

People tend to think that class is no longer an issue in Western Capitalism. This is in part a result of the gradual disappearance of large-scale industrial jobs in which lots of people are gathered together on a factory floor where they naturally create a solidarity that leads to what they used to call ‘working-class consciousness.’ But ‘working-class’ should not be confused with ‘middle-class.’ This distinction comes from an old notion of the ‘Bourgeoisie’ being different class. But this ancient distinction is really no longer very meaningful. Arguably, there is as large a percentage of ‘working-class’ people as there ever was. The majority of people still have very little control over what kind of work they do, they age highly dependent upon a large corporation or a small business which they do not own and, though they are more comfortable in their daily lives, they are still just as much pawns in a economic system over which they have little or no influence. But more importantly government and business in the West is still just as actively undermining the power and influence of working people, trying to make sure that workers are not empowered to significantly influence the systems of power and production.


If you doubt this just look at the pattern of the bailout packages in the US. For many years the government and business has been attempting to reduce the influence of Unions and in particular the auto-workers union which has been one of the few realms of continuing union influence. Now look at the auto-industry bailout: it has been relatively small compared to the other US bailouts and has come with specific strings about reducing the wages and pensions of the auto-workers. And when they were perceived as not doing enough Barack Obama fired the CEO of GM. On the other hand the bailouts for Wall St, (Banks, Traders, and Insurers) has been HUGE in comparison and came with almost NO strings attached! With the exception of the AIG situation (which only become an issue because of a couple of news stories), big bonuses continue to be paid out (without public attention) to the wealthy and their lifestyle is being carefully guarded by the government of Obama. While auto-workers will end up with significantly reduced wages and a weakened bargaining position for the coming generation, with reduced pensions and compromised health and futures, the power of Wall Street will go merrily on and the wealthy who control it will use billions of tax dollars (mostly paid by working people) and they will enrich their lives and their futures.

Meanwhile there is a real irony going on in London at the G20. The supposed right-wing governments of Sarkozy and Angela Merkel, are actually trying to bring more regulation to the banking, trading, and insurance system, while Obama and Gordon Brown, (who are supposed to be more ‘Liberal’) are arguing for only modest regulation and lots more bailout money, much of which will end up in the hands of the rich. Anyone who thought Obama was going to represent real reform now must surely see that he represents Wall Street more than the Working people. And anyone who thinks Class is no longer meaningful is not paying attention. 

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