middle strata, 6/6, conclusions

Jack Hill mlbooks at mcs.com
Sun Oct 29 21:14:06 MST 1995


Middle strata, Part 6 of 6, Conclusions
(by Pete T.)

                      Some concluding thoughts.

     The materials reviewed above cannot help us have a
definitive answer on whether the new middle strata form a
seperate class, form varieated strata between the working class
and the owning bourgeois class or form a house servant labor
aristocrat type section of the working class. Yet the materials
from Marx, Kautsky, Lenin and the German authors do give us a
basis to understand the contradictions in the social position of
the segments of this strata which give rise to its conservative
and vacilating political positions. As well the history reviewed
should give pause to any illusions of straightline
proletarianization and left radicalization of these strata or
sections of them. In fact vacilations and rightwing politics are
frequently to be expected.

     The insights of Marx, Kautsky and the documentation of Speir
give us some idea of the factors giving rise to the growth of
this strata, the growing complexity and scope of capitalist
production, distribution and finance, the management of the
contradictions in society etc. At the same time they also point
out a trend of routinization and proletarianization of functions
and sectors of this strata. Thus both a tendency for a growth of
the middle strata and a tendency for its bottom layers to get
proletarianized and sink into the proletariat. As pointed out in
the introduction in 1900 white collar office workers--managers,
professionals and clerks-- accounted for 15 per cent of the
economically active population. Today they account for over 50
per cent. But most clerical workers are now women and their
position has become very proletarianized and most certainly they
jobs are no longer a route to management. But meanwhile the more
clearly middle strata professional/managerial occupations have
grown to 25 per cent of the economically active population. The
same trends will continue within this middle strata. For example,
the functions of the engineer are increasingly being broken down
into more routine, less responsible functions performed by
technicians and the more professional managerial functions
performed by graduate engineers. Thus the technician occupations
are growing twice as fast as engineer jobs. A similar
differentiation is taking place in the  registered nurse
occupation. Thus it would seem that at a certain point the
process of the growth and of middle strata core and the process
of the shedding of the lower layers of the middle strata should
reach an equilibrium.

     Such a stabilization has great importance for the
development of class consciousness of the lower strata. So long
as the middle strata grows above its internal replacement rate,
there is considerable room for upward mobility out of the working
class. And that factor has great effect on consciousness of the
workers of their position as a hereditary class. (Engels pointed
out a similar circumstance as a major factor inhibiting the
emergence of a proletarian movement among the pre-industrial
proletariat in Britian). In fact there has been considerable
narrowing of the channels for upward mobility out of the working
class over the last 15 years. Moreover even the position of a
large section of professionals has become much more insecure with
the restructuring of industry and government. How far this will
go is an open question. There are already politicians and even
business leaders expressing concern over the effect of
restricting access to education and elimination of the higher
paying jobs on social stability. At certain point resistance from
the poor, from sections of workers, from, many interests is bound
to come up.

     But the policies embodied in Gingrichism, restructuring etc
are not just a whim. To a certain extent they are being forced on
American and other Western captialist establishments by the
changes in the world economy. These include a decades long real
stagnation of Western economies and much of the third world
combined with the rapid growth of industrialization in Asia,
which is causing intense price and wage competition and
forcing up unemployment throughout the West. We have previously
seen this competition from Japan and the Asian Tigers, but now
China and even India and Indonesia are growing at phenomenal
rates and their weight in the world economy is becoming major.
According to World Bank estimates, China's economy will be larger
than the US economy in just 9 years (The Economist, October 1,
1994) This change in the world market is bound to keep up intense
pressure on wages in the higher wage countries and not just on
industrial and non-professional wages for several decades. In
addition the tighter world market, the nearly instantaneous flows
of capital around the world, and the changing relations of power
among the various capitalist-imperialist powers make for great
problems for capitalism to maintain its stability. Thus although
the finding of a delicate balance that will maintain sufficient
stability cannot be ruled out, there are major factors at work
for the hardening of social stratification and for the eventual
reemergence of working class political movements.
     But it should not be considered that such a process will be
quick or even. It will take a number of decades for the lower
mass to become conscious that they are a class and a force. It
will take time for the masses to shed the illusions of the Post
WWII prosperity, to shed the "we are all middle class" illusions,
for the more dispersed office, service and now even industrial
workers to find new centers, forms and hooks for organizing.
Meanwhile we can expect a great deal of pain and suffering from
right wing movements of hysterical members of the middle strata
and upper sections of the working class who strive to maintain
their previous relatively priviledged position by attacking the
lower mass of workers and the poor by falling for various race
baiting schemes and vicious national chauvinism. Indeed
capitalist politics world wide is playing this right wing card to
divert the growing anger in society. And yet unless the
capitalists can find some way to stabilize their system
sufficiently to stop the deterioration of conditions for the
lower middle strata and the upper sections of workers, race
baiting, and scapegoating in general must eventually get pretty
hollow.  One way or another the fight against racism and rabid
nationalism will play a major part in the reemergence of a
new working class movement.


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