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…

Two Classes, Divided by ‘I Do’ – Single and Unequal

By ,NYT – ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Jessica Schairer has so much in common with her boss, Chris Faulkner, that a visitor to the day care center they run might get them confused.

They are both friendly white women from modest Midwestern backgrounds who left for college with conventional hopes of marriage, motherhood and career. They both have children in elementary school. They pass their days in similar ways: juggling toddlers, coaching teachers and swapping small secrets that mark them as friends. They even got tattoos together. Though Ms. Faulkner, as the boss, earns more money, the difference is a gap, not a chasm.

Single and Unequall
As a single mother of three, Jessica Schairer falls in the middle of a sharp debate about how economic inequality is increasingly linked to changes in family structure.

But a friendship that evokes parity by day becomes a study of inequality at night and a testament to the way family structure deepens class divides. Ms. Faulkner is married and living on two paychecks, while Ms. Schairer is raising her children by herself. That gives the Faulkner family a profound advantage in income and nurturing time, and makes their children statistically more likely to finish college, find good jobs and form stable marriages.

Ms. Faulkner goes home to a trim subdivision and weekends crowded with children’s events. Ms. Schairer’s rent consumes more than half her income, and she scrapes by on food stamps.

“I see Chris’s kids — they’re in swimming and karate and baseball and Boy Scouts, and it seems like it’s always her or her husband who’s able to make it there,” Ms. Schairer said. “That’s something I wish I could do for my kids. But number one, that stuff costs a lot of money and, two, I just don’t have the time.” Read more…

“By Imbeciles Who Really Mean It”: Lost Verities and Dirty Hippies

Phil Rockstroh
By Phil Rockstroh, (Frequent WWH Contributer ) – Regardless of the dissembling of corporate state propagandists, free market capitalism has always been a government subsidized, bubble-inflating, swindlers’ game, in which, psychopathic personalities (not “job creators” but con job perpetrators) thrive. By the exploitation of the many, a ruthless few have amassed large amounts of capital by which they dominate mainstream narratives and compromise elected and governmental officials, thereby gaming the system for their benefit.

Historically, the system has proven so demeaning to the majority of the population that the elite, from time to time, have, as a last resort, due to fear of a popular uprising, introduced a bit of socialism into the system, allowing a modicum of swag to funnel downward, and, as a result, the ranks of the middle class have been expanded. For a time, the bourgeoisie are bamboozled by the sales pitch that one day they will be affluent enough to be freed from the taxing obligations of a dismal, debt-beholden existence, when, in fact, they sowed their fate (like those swindled by opening their bank accounts after receiving email from parties claiming to be momentarily cash-strapped Nigerian royalty) by their own greed i.e. by their self-imprisonment within their own narrow, self-serving view of existence.

These stultifying circumstances will level an atmosphere of restiveness and nebulous rage. In general, the middle class can be counted on to detest the poor…blaming those born devoid of societal advantage and political influence for the impoverished circumstances that were in place long before the happenstance of their birth. Moreover, in a bit of noxious casuistry, as despicable as it is delusional, all too many members of the middle class have been induced by grift artists, employed by the ruling elite, to blame their own declining social status and attendant beleaguered existence on the poor.

“Be thine own palace, or the world’s thy jail.”–John Donne

This has proven to be an effective, time-tested grift: Because as long as the animus of the middle class remains fixated on the poor, the criminal cartels known as the economic elite can continue to ply their trade. Of course, in reality, by their greed and complicity, what the middle class has gained is this: trustee status in the capitalist workhouse.

Although, there is no need to fret: The run of neoliberal capitalism is about over. Don’t mourn: This late stage, rapacious, mutant economic strain has leveled destruction on community and the planet itself as well as the hearts and souls of too many of those imprisoned within its paradigm.

At this point, the situation comes down to this: paradigm shift or perish.

The hour is amenable to reevaluate, reorganize and re-occupy. Doing so will prove helpful in withstanding false narratives.

Apropos: As of late, in my hours spent at Liberty Park, I’ve been witness to increasing numbers of tourists wandering in and repeating derisive, rightwing distortions regarding the OWS movement and its participants. For example, they are a collection of whiny college students who want taxpayers to be responsible for picking up the tab for their student loans because they are too lazy and spoiled to work off their debt. These tales are variations of the old canards involving welfare queens, mouths gleaming with taxpayer financed gold teeth, arriving at grocery stores lounging behind the steering wheels of late model Cadillacs, and proceeding to purchase steaks and fifths of gin with food stamps. Continue reading “By Imbeciles Who Really Mean It”: Lost Verities and Dirty Hippies

Class Struggle in Britain: Notes From London

by: Peter Bratsis, The Indypendent Re-print TruthOut – Class struggle is like gravity: we can recognize it only through its effects. When apples or wages fall, the forces of mass and class are at work. The study of class, as with gravity, is the study of movement, action and power.

Given this, the significance of the half-million strong protest in London on March 26 against the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government’s many planned cuts to social services and public spending is still unknown. This most recent demonstration followed the lead of student protests late last year. The energy of the student movement took most by surprise and gave a glimmer of hope to all those who oppose the regressive policies being pursued by the current regime.

Organized by the Trades Union Congress, a trade union umbrella group, the bulk of demonstrators were public-sector workers and their families, allied private-sector workers, concerned beneficiaries of public services (especially students) and various factions of the extra-parliamentary left. However, the class dimensions of the demonstration are not yet obvious nor are they reducible to the social-economic positions or to the intentions of those of us who were there. The class character of the demonstration will be manifest by its impact and what will follow in the months ahead.

One very encouraging aspect of the demonstration was its size. It was, by far, the largest demonstration in the U.K. since those in early 2003 opposing the impending war in Iraq. One thing is certain, however: The March 26 protest will have as little impact on policymakers as the antiwar demonstrations did. Within the “democratic” world at least, orderly popular protests have proven to be of little consequence when it comes to influencing policies.

If we accept this point, the political potential of the demonstration resides with its capacity to shape public opinion and the thinking and will of those who participated in it. Read more…