Within the 99% are millions that are part of the professional managerial class. Think upper, mid level and even lower level managers that identify heavily with the boss and whose income often depends on extracting more out of workers, keeping a union out or defending the boss’ interests in other ways. Also in the 99%, but not really part of the working class, are professional layers like engineers, doctors, lawyers, and economists who generally look to the ruling class for political leadership and who often believe that they are in a privileged position because they earned it. They worked for it. In the U. S. there are also millions who are managers of the non-profit industrial complex. These managers and executive directors depend directly on the goodwill of the ruling class, through donations and grants, for their paychecks and their futures. Finally, there are millions of small farmers and small business people who are not wage earners, but depend on the sale of agricultural products or other commodities for their livelihood. These individuals can be won over by a strong working class movement but can also swing the other way toward fascism and the bosses fairly easily.
This is not to say that the individuals in these groups are bad people and some of them may be won to our side. It is to say that their relationship to power, to production and their wage levels means they are less likely to join in a fight against the capitalist system or against social injustice. These are not the groups we want to orient to. If we do and if they are in the majority in the ranks of an organization like DSA, over time, we will lose our way politically.
We have been witnessing a relentless drive by the 1% to extract more value from us and drive down labor costs. Who is most affected by the profit drive and who most stands in the way of increased extraction? Who has the least number of connections to capital and who identifies least with the capitalist class? Who is most likely to rebel against this exploitation? Rail workers recently flirted with a national strike because, while they are relatively well paid, they have seen a steady reduction in staffing, affecting safety and forcing them to work an exorbitant number of hours. Nurses, also well paid, have also been involved in strikes across the country as they resist cuts to staffing. Both groups are definitely part of the working class.
Amazon workers, Uber/Lyft drivers, Delta Air Lines workers and Starbucks workers are all suffering under the blows of short staffing, speed up and increased exploitation. This explains why we are seeing an increase in attempts to unionize and increased strike activity. Working class people are also often particularly well positioned in the economy to bring the wheels of society to a halt, as with UPS, or force a political crisis as with the MFT strike. We all saw what happened when food processing plants, meat packing plants and auto plants shut down during the pandemic. Food shortages and shortages of vehicles.
These are the people that we must have our eyes on. These are the people that we must recruit, retain and then move into leadership in order to keep our political bearings. We have a number of opportunities to drive deeper roots into the working class in the coming year. Participating in the numerous opportunities presented by the 2024 contract compression will be an important avenue of involvement for many DSA members. Nearly all industries where we would like to have members work are hiring right now, so we should be looking to get more members hired into union jobs and organizing drives. Coming to picket lines and labor rallies and engaging with workers there will be important and can lead to recruitment of workers moving into struggle.
We agreed last year at our chapter convention that we wanted to build real multi-racial working class power and pick fights with the ruling class that we can win. Essential to this is making sure we have our heads turned in the direction of the organized and soon to be organized working class and both feet firmly planted there.
By Kip H