Tag Archives: Class Struggle

The Economic and Social Crisis: Contemporary Capitalism and Class Struggle

6-class-struggleBy Prof. James Petras,globalresearch.ca – The Motor Force for Historical Regression or Advance

One of the most important and yet most neglected determinants of the outcomes of the economic crisis and resultant deepening of social inequalities and immiseration is the ‘class struggle’.  In one of his most pithy metaphors, Karl Marx referred to class struggle as ‘the motor force of history’.  In this essay we will analyze the central role of class struggle, its impact and reflection in economic decisions and, most especially, the different methods and forms , according to the particular classes engaged in class struggle.

Having clarified the types and methods of class struggle, we will turn to the specific results of class struggles in different regions and countries: the different policies adopted as a result of class struggle reflect the balance of class power at both the national and regional level.

In the last section, we will compare and analyze a series of case studies of class struggles, highlighting the particular class configurations of power, the changing nature of class struggle (CS) and the concrete contingencies, which need to be taken into account in order for the ‘class struggle from below’ to effectively counter-act the class offensive from above.

The Two Faces of the Class Struggle: ‘From Above and Outside’ and ‘From Below’

Too often writers conceive of class struggle as actions taken by workers for working class interest, overlooking the equally significant (and in our epoch even more important) class struggle organized and directed by the ruling classes via the state.

The entire panoply of neo-liberal policies, from so-called ‘austerity measures’ to mass firings of public and private employees, to massive transfers of wealth to creditors are designed to enhance the power, wealth and primacy of diverse sectors of capitol at the expense of labor.  To paraphrase Marx: class struggle from above is the motor force to reverse history – to seize and destroy the advances secured by workers from previous class struggles from below. Continue reading The Economic and Social Crisis: Contemporary Capitalism and Class Struggle

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Exiling the Poor

Winnetka, Ill. is one of many prosperous suburban communities that has rejected plans to build affordable housing in their town. (Zol87/Wikimedia Commons)

BY DANIEL HERTZ,Inthesetimes.com – Affluent suburban communities are refusing to build state-mandated affordable housing, leaving the inner-city poor with few options

On the same day that Illinois Republicans voted to endorse Mitt Romney, residents in Winnetka, a Chicago suburb, voted on a seemingly straightforward question: “Should the Village of Winnetka expand [its] existing Affordable Housing Plan?” Seventy-five percent of voters answered, “No.”

The plan, whose tweaks to zoning law and modest subsidies might have been quietly approved in another place and time, instead became the center of a raging debate in which usually civil neighbors slung personal insults, community newsletters warned about a coming wave of sex offenders and the village council attempted to issue itself a gag order. The vote was the final nail in the coffin for an ambitious campaign, nearly a decade in the making, to open Winnetka’s housing stock to teachers, nurses, retirees, and students–among other working and middle-class people–who might want to settle among the CEOs and investment bankers who currently populate a community with a median household income of $167,000 a year.

But while some of the country’s wealthiest people rushed to reinforce the walls around their neighborhoods, others just a few miles away were tentatively pulling them down. Lake Forest, a suburb that, like Winnetka, is a member of Chicago’s wealthy North Shore, was preparing to sell its first two subsidized homes, using a model that had been employed with considerable success elsewhere in the area.

None of this would especially matter if affordable, safe neighborhoods in good school districts were plentiful. But they’re not. And even as the country’s Cory Bookers and Rahm Emanuels try to turn around their constituents’ struggling communities, those inclined to move to a place with stronger schools and less crime are finding it an increasingly unrealistic option. Absent of state and federal leadership, places like Chicago’s North Shore have the greatest power to do something about our deepening economic segregation. Will they?

Tenements and castles

Since they were first urbanized during the last Gilded Age, Winnetka and its neighbors have been the focus of debates over class and housing. One of the earliest critics of the area was Winnetka resident Henry Demarest Lloyd, a journalist who ran for Congress on the Populist ticket in 1894. A statue dedicated to him sits near the lakefront, surrounded by multi-million dollar homes, and reads: “No tenements for some and castles for others.”

But even in Lloyd’s time, the North Shore wasn’t the island of exclusivity it is today. Some workers stayed in their employers’ coach houses, or in apartments over stores near the commuter rail station. Over the course of the 20th century, however, zoning laws made it difficult to build multi-family buildings outside of the already-established downtown, and the apartment buildings that once housed lower-income workers were either converted to offices or allowed to decay. As land values rose, many of the smaller single-family homes were torn down in favor of mansions. Read more…