No Minister

Middle Class Warfare?

Readers will have seen my co-blogger Psycho Milt’s recent article on Class Warfare in the 21st century, as represented by President Trump’s executive order the other day to re-open shuttered meat and food-processing plants under the Defense Production Act of 1950 and shield them from any lawsuits resulting from infections from the Beijing

Marx, the guy who’s supposedly so irrelevant now, would have immediately recognised the relationship between those two things for what it is: class warfare.

Despite all the millions of words written attacking Marxism the best response is still to say, so what?

At both a macro and the micro-level.

To claim that there is a class that owns the means of production and a class that hires its labour out to those owners may have looked like revolutionary analysis in the 19th century but in hindsight it looks like a simple truism that Marxism never practically changed, as well being a gross over-simplification even back then, which is yet another reason why Marxist economies and societies were such spectacular clusterfucks in trying to “solve” this problem.

There were three possible solutions to this Marxist analysis.

First was Communism with [insert nation name here] characteristics. But at a macro level, what did “ownership” mean to the proletarians who slaved away on collective farms and in factories over which they had no effective decision-making control. The owners of the means of production now sat in government in far away Moscow or Beijing making the decisions, as owners are wont to do, except these clowns simply denied they were owners. And that’s just one of the philosophical objections to one of the most widespread “solutions” – before we get to the specific idiocies of centralised command-and-controlled economies and information breakdown.

Second, in the West, the solution was unions, often backed by government legislation. And for a few decades it looked like it sort of worked across many Western nations, including New Zealand. It didn’t get rid of the owner / labour divide or “class warfare”, and it didn’t even deal with the bulk of businesses. Even here in NZ at the height of compulsory unionisation only something like 50% of workers were in unions, for practical reasons related to the small size of most NZ businesses and their industries.

But even in places like the USA the only reason the UAW looked so good was that they had three giant car companies that monopolised the largest, richest car market in the world for decades. As that monopoly declined so did the union. As the world became faster and more nimble big companies declined faster and failed more often – as did the unions that relied upon them. And that world is not coming back. Fortunately they still have government, although having a union for such secure, comfortable, well-paid folk would seem like a joke to most unionists from the last century.

So what are we left with? The class that Marx himself barely recognised and that subsequent Marxists could never get a handle on: The Middle Class; the petite bourgeoisie so hated by modern Marxists who blame it for stymying the revolution ( its very nature the middle class does not represent a threat to state power); the Administration class; the Management Class. Whatever.

It’s the class that actually combines both capital ownership and paid labour and emerges out of the Toiling Masses. As such you can see why Marx, and Marxists largely dismiss it, except when it gets in the way of their revolutions.

Twenty years ago I watched a debate between two academics, one Chinese and one American. The American smugly observed that the Chinese Communists had basically given up on Marx and were heading for capitalism as far and as fast as they could. The Chinese guy observed that with the widespread and rapid adoption of investment vehicles like the famous 401(K) the American people were rapidly becoming the owners of the means of production.

And that appears to be the third solution. So the real question is not silly fights over how traditional Class Warfare is still with us while being mainly invisible, but where it’s going now, especially in its last great target, the USA.

Written by Tom Hunter

May 12, 2020 at 12:01 am

Posted in New Zealand

Tagged with , ,

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