This is thought stream. It is not a finished work. This is my thoughts typed out. I appreciate and ask for feedback. I am not an expert on Marx or politics.
Last updated: 29 April 2012
I have been re-reading Marx and Engels The Communist Manifesto this week and as I read I cannot help but reflect on the occupy movement. In fact, I sit here typing in my Ikea bed wearing my “Occupy Justice” t-shirt listening to Vampire Weekend sipping my french pressed fair-trade coffee. Some friends have, probably rightly, called me the bougiest anarchist they know. As I read Marx and Engels, I believe more than ever, we need a bourgeoisie revolution in the united states of amerika.
Amerika is a nation of bourgeoisie. Many of us our taught from a young age that the amerikan dream is attainable. That no matter our background, if we work hard enough, we can be the 1%. The amerikan dream is our goal.
Marx says that “[The bourgeoisie] has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom- Free trade.” The Communist League of Britain says, “The capitalist class includes persons whose remuneration may come nominally in the form of a salary, but which is in fact due to their position in the capitalist class (e.g., the directors of large companies). It also includes persons who are not employers” (http://www.mltranslations.org/Britain/Marxclass.htm)
Marxist-Leninists define the proletariat or working class as “…that class of modern wage labourers who, having no means of production of their own, are reduced to selling their labour power in order to live (Friedrich Engels: Note to the 1888 English Edition of: Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels: ‘Manifesto of the Communist Party’, in: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 1; London; 1943; p. 204). In modern society, “… the proletariat alone is a really revolutionary class”. (Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels: ‘Manifesto of the Communist Party’ in:Karl Marx: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 1; London; 1943; p. 216).
What has happened to the workers, and Marx and Engels described? Are most of us truly proletarians? I don’t think so. I think that I and the rest of the true middle class are part of the bourgeoisie. Amerkians dont’ like to discuss class. A surprisingly large number of amerkians think that they are “middle-class” Because of so called “free-trade” agreements the United States has shipped many of its traditionally proletarian jobs overseas. We may not have as many factory and farm labour jobs as we used to, because of the rapid rise of technology. However, we still have a proletarian class and that class includes our large population of service workers.
As Marx and Engels predicted, capitalism has failed everyone. We are now at a point in amerikan history that the petty bourgeoisie and the bourgeoisie are dependant on a dual income to live in the community in which they work. Because many think that unions are for the working classes only, the bourgeoisie is without union protection and capitalism has created so many layers of “management” that petty bourgeoisie and bourgeoisie workers have no access to unions as we think of them today. Petty bourgeoisie workers in particular are exploited by the 1%.
I do not think, nor am I contending in this writing, that the bourgeoisie is more exploited than the working class/proletariat. In amerika, the workers of wal-mart, restaurants, coffee shops, factories, road workers, and especially immigrants who live here without citizenship, are exploited to such a level that we should all be appalled and working to actively change these working conditions. What is interesting, is that we also have this class of people who work by day as a bourgeoisie office manager, and by night serving tables, stuffing mailers, cleaning buildings.
The bourgeoisie classes are often hired as salaried workers. They are exempt from the 8 hour 5 day week. Because of this exemption, they often work through their lunch and get in early and leave late to get the task done. However, unlike our parents generation, this work does not necessarily mean higher wages or promotion. Unlike our parents generation, this does not mean that we can afford to live in the community in which we work.
I have followed the A&E television show Mad Men from the beginning. The show follows bourgeoisie workers in an advertising agency in the 1960’s. One of the shows main characters is Peggy. Peggy’s first day was the first episode of the show when it started 5 seasons ago. When Peggy started at the agency she started as the secretary for Don Drapper, the lead character in the show. As soon as she started her fellow workers explained that soon she would be able to move from Queens to Manhattan, like the other female workers had been able to. The point was that, now that she was making a Manhattan wage, she would be able to live in the place she was working. This is not true today. In 2012, Peggy would be moonlighting writing books, short stories, waitressing, etc. Even with 2 jobs, Peggy would struggle to live in her little apartment in the city.
What does this shift mean for our society? How are the bourgeoisie to organize? Should they?
As an anarchist, I want to see the entire capitalist system crumble. I dream of a world where we can each do the work that makes us happy and trade products and services. Where we live in communities and equitably share resources. Where direct democracy, or ideally , consensus based decisions, are the rule of the land. Where there are no lords and no masters. Though I will work till my dying day to see such a society, I am a realist, and know that it may not happen in my lifetime.
That said, I am interested in working with what we’ve got. What are our options? Most of our layers of management are unnecessary. The layers of management are only acting as a buffer to protect the 1%. It is hard to fight the “mystery man” or corporation at the top. Instead we shit upward. We complain and fight against each other. We climb one ladder rung up and complain and fight. The person on that rung climes one rung up and does the same thing. The thing is, you never really reach the top. The 1% has surrounded themselves with a buffer of bureaucracy. Even if you get through the soldiers around them. You will most likely be directed to a “board of directors” or “shareholders” to dissipate the responsibility even more.
I am not sure if amerikans are ready to overthrow the entire system. So, what can we do with the current capitalist system? First, we need to stand with the working class. We need to demand living wages, the right to organize, housing and universal healthcare.
Additionally, we in the bourgeoisie classes, need to stand up and fight back ourselves. We need to demand that we get paid for the work we do. We need to get rid of the salaried system because it is how many employers hide poor working environments and exploitation of their staff. We need to get rid of the many layers of management. We need to organize! We need to discuss our wages with each other. If you are working 2 or 3 jobs, tell your friends, tell your co-workers. It should not be an embarrassing thing. This is not your fault! The dream is a nightmare for a majority of our country. If you have responsibility over other workers. Stand up for them as well as yourself. If you have some responsibility for determining their wages, do the best you can to get them the most compensation for their time possible. If you see your employees or co-workers working through lunch, talk about a new standard of everyone eating lunch. Brown bag it outside your cubicle and office building, go look at the sunshine or let the rain drop on your face. Connect with nature, or at least the world outside your office/cubicle during lunch Enforce a policy for your team to only work your allotted eight hours.