Is the Working Class Right Wing?

In the 80s and 90s it was fashionable to say that the working class no longer existed. Only the last remnants were left and they were in rapid decline, the final legacy to a bygone era.

This process began in the mid 70s with restructuring in the factories, with the progressive and inexorable reduction in jobs under the pitiless pressure of the crisis. Technological innovation – the microprocessor and information technology – accelerated the phenomenon even more, allowing the relocation of the workforce to areas where labour power costs much less and there is not even a pretence of limitations on the dictatorship of the bosses. Every day the mass media and "opinion makers" preached, with a religious zeal inspired directly by their God, the market, the new "truth," a (debatable) truth which implied that the conflict between workers and employers – in short the class struggle – was old fashioned stuff that, perhaps, might have had some meaning back in the nineteenth century, but certainly not in the twentieth century and even less in the new Millennium. The “working” class, both in the narrow sense of "blue collar" workers, as well as those in job sectors that grew considerably in the second half of the last century, have been put, by the sociologists, the above-mentioned "opinion formers" and, not least, by politicians in the all-embracing and reassuring category (for those bourgeois ideologists) of the so-called middle class. A sociological category, which in trying to include everything, says nothing. Its unifying criterion puts very different jobs and incomes in the same category based solely on "job security" and a wage or salary above the poverty threshold. It was, indeed, it is, clear that this concept of middle class includes if not most, certainly a large proportion of "blue collar" workers and those employed in the service industry who if they can (or could) boast a higher standard of living than the lower layers of the working class (from the point of view of income), can only be objectively placed in the "middle class," with great difficulty given the type of job they do and the income they earn.

Like any self-respecting myth, this contains a grain of truth when baldly stated, but when it is thoroughly distorted by the capitalist opinion makers, and mixed, for good measure, with liberal doses of total invention, it becomes pure "bollocks".

Today, after the election of Trump and the unquestionable electoral advance of the fascist right in Europe (including Italy), there is a strong feeling that the bourgeoisie are building another myth, even though, unfortunately, it is certainly closer to reality then the first.

What do the "experts" of all stripes, from the newspapers and major television networks, to websites and teeming blogs on the net, tell us? That such a populist right, of Nazi-Fascist origin, more or less updated for the third millennium, is voted for by the proletariat, and especially by the former "solid" working class, hit hard by so-called globalisation and deeply worried about the future. This social discontent has its main root in the waves of immigration [1]. The migrants are seen as those who take too great a share of the "welfare state" (health, housing, benefits and even direct subsidies), those with whom you have to share the increasingly feeble crumbs of a welfare – financed by deductions from the payroll and taxation. That the phenomenon exists is beyond doubt and there is no need to analyse election results: just listen to fellow workers talking, when you're in the doctor’s waiting room, in the supermarket checkout queue or in any other public place. It's not uncommon to hear someone rattle off the usual inaccurate stereotypes about the alleged privileged lot of migrants, of the danger they bring, of the thieving character of the political class (this is undoubtedly true ...), without which and with the guidance of "real representatives" of the people things would get sorted, the crisis would pass and a future to smile about would return, though not before summary justice had been dealt out to the bloodsucking politicians. Obviously we are dealing with an "analysis" devoid of class vision or appears – if it appears at all – in a very distorted way, shaped by the toxins of bourgeois ideology in its crudest form, inhaled in an environment made even more toxic by the lack of an anti-capitalist political reference point.

Those vague references to some sort of angry anti-capitalism – in itself more than legitimate – by growing sectors of the proletariat, have been revived and reshaped in the traditional ways of the fascist right, which, of course, when and if it rises to power, will make sure to put into practice those measures trumpeted on the campaign for the protection of "the people" or the lower social classes. At the same time though they will continue to hit them even harder than before, as the real rulers of capitalism, the bourgeoisie, demand. The politicians are not only part, or becoming part, of the bourgeoisie but belong to its upper layers. Without the tools of Marxist analysis it would be incomprehensible to fully understand why some of those who are hardest hit by the ruthless policies applied worldwide to counter the crisis, "choose" as their representatives billionaires of the Berlusca or Trump type, entrust their “anti-system” anger to characters like Salvini, who have never done a day’s real work in their lives, never had to think about how to make ends meet by the end of the month, but who spend their existence resting their ass on this or that comfortable institutional armchair (city councilors, or as members of the national or European parliaments): people, in short, who are part of the system right down to their fingertips and beyond.

An increasing number of the proletariat and the declassed petty bourgeoisie have gone through a process which tends to reduce them to mere “plebs” [2]. It is, as we said above, a fact, confirmed by the advance of fascist electoral formations even in the old "red" strongholds [3] of European cities. However alongside this phenomenon, there is another one, usually much less emphasised by the mainstream media. It is, simply, the growth of abstention from one side of the Atlantic to the other. This is true for America’s Presidential election as well as, just to give a local example, Monfalcone. The municipal elections of early November took place in this town where both "indigenous" and immigrant workers are numerous. The abstention rate here was close to fifty percent, allowing the council to be dominated by the list of right wing parties: it seems likely, in fact, that at least a significant part of the working class electorate, which previously supported the "left", rightly disappointed by their old "representatives", abandoned them, by refusing to participate in the fraudulent electoral game. Examination of the data in the US Presidential election shows roughly the same thing: “popular” abstentionism was mainly on the "left", thus in a large part working class, in order to punish a candidate, Clinton who has always stood unequivocally, and with a certain arrogance, on the side of the infamous "1%" [4].

The disgust for capitalist society – although expressed in confused and contradictory form – has huge potential for the communist vanguard and is an uneasy factor for the capitalists. As always they are trying to stem growing social discontent with weapons of mass distraction, with false information, to defuse explosive issues – which are only potential so far – but they are building up.

Abstention is a necessary but insufficient first step; if voting is useless, not to vote is not enough, because the bourgeois system is not only not bothered in the slightest by a lower turnout, but can even take advantage of it. If the no-confidence of your disappointment and anger does not convert itself into practical mass action, on an anti-capitalist working class basis – the only attitude to be truly anti-system – either in the workplace or workplaces (for those with "intermittent" jobs), in the streets, in schools, nothing will change. Indeed, the capitalist class and its political expressions (they are called the European Union, national fronts, and so on) can continue undisturbed and put us – the proletariat – in the meat grinder to feed a system that can survive only by butchering us. Every other way, whether "democratic" or "national-populist", is just an ugly, tragic deception.

CB

Notes

[1] Whether true, alleged or exaggerated, it does not really matter, we could add.

[2] The reference is to the lower class of ancient Rome which constituted the majority of the population. It survived, in a dull political indifference, thanks to the free bread donations bestowed by the Emperor, distracted with equally free performances at the circus. They were also used by the state as a tool to prevent the development of anti-regime consciousness and thus to control a potentially dangerous mass, but rendered totally subservient to the existing system of domination. The mass of plebs was manoeuvered by this or that (naturally rich) political leader in the last phase of the Republic. It never played an independent political role and, in the end, sympathised with its rulers in the crushing and oppression of slaves and the populations who paid tribute to the Roman state.

[3] “Red” in the sense of being run by parties of the Social Democratic and Stalinist type of the past.

[4] See the article published on this site following the election of Trump. leftcom.org

Photo at top of article: The banner says “The Bosses screwed you when they blame the immigrants". The reference is to Tor Sapienza, a suburb of Rome where the fascists of Forza Nuova and Casa Pound organised a “popular” protest against the relocation of 30 migrants there who had survived a shipwreck in the Mediterranean. They were supported by the Northern League (which has no seats in Rome) led by Matteo Salvini (also mentioned in the article above alongside “Berlusca” or Silvio Berlusconi ex-Prime Minister, and founder of the other right wing party, Forza Italia)

Wednesday, December 7, 2016