May 18, 2005
Beginning with the FDR administration, the Democratic Party moved from being the fitful supporter of White workers to a more inclusive and more class-based working person's party. For a dozen years or more, the government did things that actually benefited working people and was rewarded by huge electoral majorities in national elections.
But all things change, even class structure. With the end of World War II, the U.S. dominated the world militarily and economically. Big business needed managers and professionals to run expanding global commerce; <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_Americans_and_the_G.I._Bill">returning White veterans</a> could improve their future earning power by taking advantage of generous GI bill benefits (this also kept them out of the workforce, a significant concern in those early postwar days when no one knew if the country would just slip back into the Depression.)
In particular, conservatives had the bejeebers scared out of them by the launching of Sputnik, the Soviet Union's (and the world's) first orbiting satellite. They willingly voted to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars in additional education funding under the rubric of defense spending.
At the beginning of the 50's, there were four times as many medical doctors as college professors. By the early 60's, that figure had reversed.
The Professional-Managerial Class grew larger and larger.
Universities and colleges expanded. The college campus, once the private reserve of the ruling class, now oversaw the messy birth of a New Class. And at many colleges, the New Class looked in all directions on campus and saw nothing but more professionals and managers. And the New Class saw that it was good.
But not THAT good, since there was a little matter of the draft, which could pull an unsuspecting student out of the classroom and plunk him down into a hail of bullets in a rice paddy.
They began to be plucked from college graduation classes by ones and twos, then by tens and twenties. By 1968, the roar of dissent from this new born class shook the windows of the White House.
It's not that the Professional-Managerial Class is unpatriotic exactly. It's just that the reference group for professionals is other professionals and they are scattered all over the world. Reflexive patriotism has never been a strong suit of the American Professional-Managerial Class. Or, in the words of Donald Rumsfeld when replying to a question about why he never volunteered to serve in Vietnam: "That wasn't one of my priorities."
1970 was also the year that a new group of Democrats, largely Professional-Managerial Class, took control of the party. This group made little attempt to appeal to the working class other than an uneasy relationship with major labor union leaders.
May 19, 2005
There have always been professionals and managers. Except possibly in Mandarin China, they were never numerous enough to justify calling them a separate class.
The Professional-Managerial Class had been growing slowly in the U.S. Growth accelerated at the turn of the 20th Century when the Progressive movement assaulted urban political machines.
Prior to this time, government jobs were filled by patronage. In big cities, political bosses organized immigrants along ethnic lines, turned them out to vote right and made sure the local ward-heelers were able to distribute goods, services and jobs. Whoever won the election had an army of loyal, happily employed supporters.
Progressives, largely at this time the underemployed educated or their parents, pushed thru civil service reforms in governments everywhere. No longer could a worker whose only credentials were party loyalty be sure he or she could find a good job. Now you had to have an education as well. The educated were well pleased with this result; the less well-educated, not so much.
This not only broke the back of most city machines, but raised up a new army of supporters now loyal to the Professional-Managerial myth of Meritocracy.
However, up through the 1940's, many members of the Professional-Managerial Class supported the cause of labor and working people. Labor was the only other major class capable of taking on Capital. Cooperation between the Professional-Managerial Class and Labor was a no-brainer for many on both sides.
With the explosive growth of the Professional-Managerial Class after World War II, the situation had changed substantially.
Under intense business pressure, big labor unions agreed to eliminate any trace of Leftists in return for better wages and benefits. The Leftists were by and large the more educated members of Labor unions, the ones who could help bridge the gap between the two classes.
With Capital focused on digesting the world economy, Labor was no longer in nearly as bad shape as in pre-war days. Although Labor struggles still happened (and the 1950's were full of labor unrest), Professional-Managerial idealists tended to get involved in different battles.
The Civil Rights movement was formative for many. The Civil Rights movement in turn legitimized Feminism, a largely Professional-Managerial movement.
Labor became the cause of choice for few Professional-Managerial Class activists. On the one side, PMC activists had a wide range of causes to choose from - Civil Rights, the Vietnam War, the Environment, Nader's Raiders, Women's Rights, Animal Rights, Gay Rights, Nuclear Power, Nicaragua, El Salvador. On the other side, McCarthyism had vanquished most Leftists from the ranks of Labor, but Labor, on the whole and especially in the established industries, was doing pretty well.
The PMC began to rethink the need for Labor's help in challenging Capital, nor did it seem that Labor was very interested in challenging Capital outside of basic wage and hour issues.
Once they no longer seemed to need each other in a common battle, the underlying antagonisms began to surface.
The problem with this scenario is that classes and class structure continue to change.
The classical Working Class is going the way of the Farmer. One hundred years ago, most people in this country were still farmers. As recently as the 1950's, big city newspaper editorial writers railed against "The Farm Bloc," the states where farmers demanded parity (a living wage), crop subsidies and protective tariffs.
Today <a href="http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/c/census_bureau/index.html?query=FARMERS&field=des&match=exact">the Census Bureau no longer counts Farmers</a>. There aren't enough of them. All that is left is the Agricultural Industry.
And with things like computerized expert systems making medical diagnoses now, the PMC is probably not far behind on the road to extinction. What is left of Labor and the PMC once again face a common challenge: How to channel the "creative destruction" of Capitalism into something that benefits the people as opposed to turning us into serfs.
May 20, 2005
Unfortunately, for the past 30 years it has been the extreme Right Wing that has been reaching out to the Working Class.
After the romance between the Working Class and the PMC cooled, the extreme Right began a lengthy and assiduous courtship.
The Right's intellectual appeal is to tradition (a past that never was), defense of helpless (unborn) children, and a <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Moral-Politics-Liberals-Conservatives-Think/dp/0226467716">strict father led family/nation</a> with clear rules and roles.
The emotional appeal is to a sense of community (especially in churches) and class resentment (against limousine liberals and other Professional-managerial types).
The political appeal is to the <a href="http://www.temple.edu/tempress/titles/1142_reg.html">unspoken Social Compact</a>, that as long as the Working Class stays out of politics, pays their taxes, keeps their nose clean and supports the wars, the government will not interfere in their lives; and their lives and their children's will be tolerable.
It seems to be time once again for the PMC idealists, social reformers and organizers to reach out to the 75% of the country that works for a living: and this most emphatically includes the White Working Class as well as all minorities.
When Socialists ran Milwaukee they were called "Sewer Socialists" because their focus was day-to-day issues of street maintenance, water, sewers, parks, etc. They were hugely popular and remained in power for decades. These are the kinds of issues that interest everyone including the White Working Class.
They tied local issues to the economy by such tactics as refusing to fund city improvements by passing bonds (bonds mainly serve to enrich the banks). Instead, they began a city improvement fund that they kept in the bank and drew from as needed and which earned interest so that the banks paid them.
Drawing connections between state and local issues and the national political economy shouldn't be that hard for the Professional-managerial Class. It is the kind of work that class enjoys. The hard part is convincing the PMC that this is the only way to win - by winning over even the White Working Class.