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How the Ruling Elite are Planning for the Future


John Simkin
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The Ministry of Defence has a “Concepts & Doctrine Centre”. It was commission to write a report to help the government deal with the problems of the future.

The 90 page report was written by Rear Admiral Chris Parry. It includes a lot of what one would expect such as the growing economic importance of India and China, the militarisation of space, increasing problems of migration from the underdeveloped world, the growth of population in the underdeveloped world (by 2035 87% of all people under 25), an increase in Islamic militancy and the use of political terrorism, climate change, etc.

Two areas of the report particularly interest me. One is the concern raised by the growth of “internet-enabled, citizen-journalists”. One weapon against this being developed is an electromagnetic pulse that will be able to destroy all communication systems in a selected area or “international business service hub”.

The other claim in the report that I find very convincing, is the suggestion that in the future the “middle-classes could become a revolutionary class, taking the role envisaged by the proletariat by Marx”. I believe this could well happen. Marx believed that the working-class would eventually develop a revolutionary political consciousness. This did happen in certain countries during periods of the 19th and 20th centuries but it never reached the proportions that made revolutions possible. All the revolutions took place in underdeveloped countries where the masses were led by a political vanguard. As Rosa Luxemburg pointed out in 1916, this would eventually lead to the establishment of military dictatorships in these countries (Russia, China, Cuba, etc.)

The report suggests: “The world’s middle-classes might unite, using access to knowledge, resources and skills to shape transnational processes in their own class interest”

It seems to me that because of the Roman idea of dealing with potential revolutionaries by providing “bread and circuses” the proletariat will never become a means of creating a new society. However, a reasonable percentage of the middle-classes are fairly well-informed about the state of the world. They are becoming aware of the growing gap in wealth and power between the middle-classes and the ruling elite. They are also concerned by the growing negative power of the urban under-class. It is possible that the middle-classes might well try to take action in order to distribute this wealth from the rich in order to achieve social harmony.

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Guest Stephen Turner
The Ministry of Defence has a “Concepts & Doctrine Centre”. It was commission to write a report to help the government deal with the problems of the future.

The 90 page report was written by Rear Admiral Chris Parry. It includes a lot of what one would expect such as the growing economic importance of India and China, the militarisation of space, increasing problems of migration from the underdeveloped world, the growth of population in the underdeveloped world (by 2035 87% of all people under 25), an increase in Islamic militancy and the use of political terrorism, climate change, etc.

Two areas of the report particularly interest me. One is the concern raised by the growth of “internet-enabled, citizen-journalists”. One weapon against this being developed is an electromagnetic pulse that will be able to destroy all communication systems in a selected area or “international business service hub”.

The other claim in the report that I find very convincing, is the suggestion that in the future the “middle-classes could become a revolutionary class, taking the role envisaged by the proletariat by Marx”. I believe this could well happen. Marx believed that the working-class would eventually develop a revolutionary political consciousness. This did happen in certain countries during periods of the 19th and 20th centuries but it never reached the proportions that made revolutions possible. All the revolutions took place in underdeveloped countries where the masses were led by a political vanguard. As Rosa Luxemburg pointed out in 1916, this would eventually lead to the establishment of military dictatorships in these countries (Russia, China, Cuba, etc.)

The report suggests: “The world’s middle-classes might unite, using access to knowledge, resources and skills to shape transnational processes in their own class interest”

It seems to me that because of the Roman idea of dealing with potential revolutionaries by providing “bread and circuses” the proletariat will never become a means of creating a new society. However, a reasonable percentage of the middle-classes are fairly well-informed about the state of the world. They are becoming aware of the growing gap in wealth and power between the middle-classes and the ruling elite. They are also concerned by the growing negative power of the urban under-class. It is possible that the middle-classes might well try to take action in order to distribute this wealth from the rich in order to achieve social harmony.

The middle classes, whether they realise it or not, are part of Marx's Proletariat for the simple reason that they do not own the means of production, and distribution, they, in the main, simply manage this state of affairs for the true ruling class, and are as liable for dismissal as any "mere labourer" Nearly all great Revolutionary leaders have come from this particular social strata, not surprising when you consider their advantages in wealth, education and leasure time over the working class.

I do, however, find the idea that "The Worlds Middle classes might unite" unlikely in the extreme, one only has to look at the History of the muddle-class(as a class, not as individuals) to see why. Put simply, they dont do solidarity. They are far more likely, IMO to continue to enact their historical role, that of a buffer zone between the true poor, and the vampiric rich.

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The Ministry of Defence has a “Concepts & Doctrine Centre”. It was commission to write a report to help the government deal with the problems of the future.

The 90 page report was written by Rear Admiral Chris Parry. It includes a lot of what one would expect such as the growing economic importance of India and China, the militarisation of space, increasing problems of migration from the underdeveloped world, the growth of population in the underdeveloped world (by 2035 87% of all people under 25), an increase in Islamic militancy and the use of political terrorism, climate change, etc.

Two areas of the report particularly interest me. One is the concern raised by the growth of “internet-enabled, citizen-journalists”. One weapon against this being developed is an electromagnetic pulse that will be able to destroy all communication systems in a selected area or “international business service hub”.

The other claim in the report that I find very convincing, is the suggestion that in the future the “middle-classes could become a revolutionary class, taking the role envisaged by the proletariat by Marx”. I believe this could well happen. Marx believed that the working-class would eventually develop a revolutionary political consciousness. This did happen in certain countries during periods of the 19th and 20th centuries but it never reached the proportions that made revolutions possible. All the revolutions took place in underdeveloped countries where the masses were led by a political vanguard. As Rosa Luxemburg pointed out in 1916, this would eventually lead to the establishment of military dictatorships in these countries (Russia, China, Cuba, etc.)

The report suggests: “The world’s middle-classes might unite, using access to knowledge, resources and skills to shape transnational processes in their own class interest”

It seems to me that because of the Roman idea of dealing with potential revolutionaries by providing “bread and circuses” the proletariat will never become a means of creating a new society. However, a reasonable percentage of the middle-classes are fairly well-informed about the state of the world. They are becoming aware of the growing gap in wealth and power between the middle-classes and the ruling elite. They are also concerned by the growing negative power of the urban under-class. It is possible that the middle-classes might well try to take action in order to distribute this wealth from the rich in order to achieve social harmony.

The middle classes, whether they realise it or not, are part of Marx's Proletariat for the simple reason that they do not own the means of production, and distribution, they, in the main, simply manage this state of affairs for the true ruling class, and are as liable for dismissal as any "mere labourer" Nearly all great Revolutionary leaders have come from this particular social strata, not surprising when you consider their advantages in wealth, education and leasure time over the working class.

I do, however, find the idea that "The Worlds Middle classes might unite" unlikely in the extreme, one only has to look at the History of the muddle-class(as a class, not as individuals) to see why. Put simply, they dont do solidarity. They are far more likely, IMO to continue to enact their historical role, that of a buffer zone between the true poor, and the vampiric rich.

Steven,

As I recall, a classical Marxist analysis did not entertain the notion of a 'middle class'.

Accepting that 'middle classes' actually exist in the real world, however - as you appear to do - and that we both mean roughly the same thing when we use the term, I strongly disagree that "they dont do solidarity".

I think that is an old left-wing myth. It contains a kernel of truth - because working class solidarity, at times in the past, has been inspiring, powerful and occasionally decisive (at least in the short term). But overall, it's a stereotype that romanticizes poverty and desperation.

Extending your own argument, I'd say that educated people with a modicum of leisure time are generally much better placed to "do solidarity" than their less fortunate fellow citizens. In the last fifty years, middle class people largely formed the leadership and cadres of a plethora of progressive movements - from the environmental movement to the peace movement, consumer rights and third world justice. It’s the same with most political parties, for that matter. Even, increasingly, with trade unions. Much harder for worker class people - especially impoverished workers - to sustain involvement in political activity.

That's not to put faith in the middle class as a force that will 'change the world'. It's a fuzzy term at best, IMO. Anyhow, a class analysis is no substitute for a strategy.

The bottom line is that humanity as a whole needs a plan to get out of this dreadful mess we find ourselves in, where governance and public plicy is warped by the machinations of a cryptocracy underwritten by a plutocracy.

It would be one thing if this 'ruling elite', to use the term coined by John, was competent and grounded in fundamental realities of ecological science. But there's little sign of that. as far as I can see.

I don't mean to brag, but it was clear to me more than 15 years ago that we'd most likely need carbon emissions reductions of well over 80% in the industrialized countries - and should embark on the transition ASAP. I wrote stuff at the time about it - not because I was a genius, but because I was paying attention to scientific articles available in places such as the New Scientist. Of course there was 'room for debate'. But no-one in their right minds conducts an experiment with the entire planet. Except the ruling elite...

I was interested to learn a year or so ago that Rupert Murdoch has just figured out that climate change is real and we need to do something about it. Since then, it has taken off big time. I'm not saying Murdoch set the elite trend. He's part of it. Gee whiz! These guys have finally figured it out.

Skiers at Davos each winter now chat about climate change like they discuss interest rates or the futures market. Apparently Schwarzenegger broke a leg over it. The BBC World 'Service' currently runs a series on high-flying corporate whizzes who are taking on the challenge of climate change.

All of which, IMO, is very well - and thank God it's happening at long last - but where have these brilliant minds been for last two decades? Funding think tanks to slow down and erode the process of building a consensus behind action, if I remember correctly.

A peaceful world is the sine qua non of successfully resolving our critical social and ecological problems, but because the elite has come to be dominated by a highly partisan agenda (Zionism), owing to the wholly disproportionate number of Jewish Zionists among the ranks of billionaires, there will be no peace until these idiots either win or lose (whatever 'winning' might mean... one dreads to imagine).

How long will that take? After 9-11, I recall speeches softening us up for a new 100 years war. Some were more 'optimistic' and suggested 50 years.

I'd say we have much less time than that to get our act together. Even the current, 'low level' warfare (an Iraqi or Palestinian might justifiably take exception to my use of the term in this connection) is so destructive to our ability to work together as a planet and focus on obvious common priorities that it represents a very grave danger to our future. Hot war of course, would be a lot worse and is potentially cataclysmic.

I was struck, after 9-11, with the swift and efficient way FEMA dealt with the crisis. It helped that a team of FEMA folk were conveniently in NYC the day before. Within hours of the three unprecedented collapses, the machine-like precision with which FEMA controlled the crime scene and swept up the evidence was a marvel to behold.

By contrast, FEMA's inadequacies when faced with the real (natural) catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina made the USA the laughing stock of the world in 2005.

A man (or a bureaucracy, or a major western government, and ultimately the UN itself) cannot serve two masters: the cryptocacy and the common good.

If we want a decent future, we leave obvious criminals in charge at our peril.

Michael Chertoff, for example, should be facing prosecution over 9-11 - not still in a high position of power and able to do yet more serious damage to our civilization, whether by malicious intent or plain bloody incompetence.

Parenti's article bears re-visiting in the context of this discussion:

The Super Rich Are Out of Sight

January 2000

The super rich, the less than 1 percent of the population who own the lion’s share of the nation’s wealth, go uncounted in most income distribution reports. Even those who purport to study the question regularly overlook the very wealthiest among us. For instance, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, relying on the latest U.S. Census Bureau data, released a report in December 1997 showing that in the last two decades “incomes of the richest fifth increased by 30 percent or nearly $27,000 after adjusting for inflation.” The average income of the top 20 percent was $117,500, or almost 13 times larger than the $9,250 average income of the poorest 20 percent.

But where are the super rich? An average of $117,500 is an upper-middle income, not at all representative of a rich cohort, let alone a super rich one. All such reports about income distribution are based on U.S. Census Bureau surveys that regularly leave Big Money out of the picture. A few phone calls to the Census Bureau in Washington D.C. revealed that for years the bureau never interviewed anyone who had an income higher than $300,000. Or if interviewed, they were never recorded as above the “reportable upper limit” of $300,000, the top figure allowed by the bureau's computer program. In 1994, the bureau lifted the upper limit to $1 million. This still excludes the very richest who own the lion’s share of the wealth, the hundreds of billionaires and thousands of multimillionaires who make many times more than $1 million a year. The super rich simply have been computerized out of the picture.

When asked why this procedure was used, an official said that the Census Bureau’s computers could not handle higher amounts. A most improbable excuse, since once the bureau decided to raise the upper limit from $300,000 to $1 million it did so without any difficulty, and it could do so again. Another reason the official gave was “confidentiality.” Given place coordinates, someone with a very high income might be identified. Furthermore, he said, high-income respondents usually understate their investment returns by about 40 to 50 percent. Finally, the official argued that since the super rich are so few, they are not likely to show up in a national sample.

But by designating the (decapitated) top 20 percent of the entire nation as the “richest” quintile, the Census Bureau is including millions of people who make as little as $70,000. If you make over $100,000, you are in the top 4 percent. Now $100,000 is a tidy sum indeed, but it's not super rich — as in Mellon, Morgan, or Murdock. The difference between Michael Eisner, Disney CEO who pocketed $565 million in 1996, and the individuals who average $9,250 is not 13 to 1 — the reported spread between highest and lowest quintiles — but over 61,000 to 1.

Speaking of CEOs, much attention has been given to the top corporate managers who rake in tens of millions of dollars annually in salaries and perks. But little is said about the tens of billions that these same corporations distribute to the top investor class each year, again that invisible fraction of 1 percent of the population. Media publicity that focuses exclusively on a handful of greedy top executives conveniently avoids any exposure of the super rich as a class. In fact, reining in the CEOs who cut into the corporate take would well serve the big shareholder's interests.

* * *

Two studies that do their best to muddy our understanding of wealth, conducted respectively by the Rand Corporation and the Brookings Institution and widely reported in the major media, found that individuals typically become rich not from inheritance but by maintaining their health and working hard. Most of their savings comes from their earnings and has nothing to do with inherited family wealth, the researchers would have us believe. In typical social-science fashion, they prefigured their findings by limiting the scope of their data. Both studies failed to note that achieving a high income is itself in large part due to inherited advantages. Those coming from upper-strata households have a far better opportunity to maintain their health and develop their performance, attend superior schools, and achieve the advanced professional training, contacts, and influence needed to land the higher paying positions.

More importantly, both the Rand and Brookings studies fail to include the super rich, those who sit on immense and largely inherited fortunes. Instead, the investigators concentrate on upper-middle-class professionals and managers, most of whom earn in the $100,000 to $300,000 range — which indicates that the researchers have no idea how rich the very rich really are.

When pressed on this point, they explain that there is a shortage of data on the very rich. Being such a tiny percentage, “they’re an extremely difficult part of the population to survey,” pleads Rand economist James P. Smith, offering the same excuse given by the Census Bureau officials. That Smith finds the super rich difficult to survey should not cause us to overlook the fact that their existence refutes his findings about self-earned wealth. He seems to admit as much when he says, "This [study] shouldn't be taken as a statement that the Rockefellers didn’t give to their kids and the Kennedys didn't give to their kids." (New York Times, July 7, 1995) Indeed, most of the really big money is inherited — and by a portion of the population that is so minuscule as to be judged statistically inaccessible.

* * *

The higher one goes up the income scale, the greater the rate of capital accumulation. Economist Paul Krugman notes that not only have the top 20 percent grown more affluent compared with everyone below, the top 5 percent have grown richer compared with the next 15 percent. The top one percent have become richer compared with the next 4 percent. And the top 0.25 percent have grown richer than the next 0.75 percent. That top 0.25 owns more wealth than the other 99 percent combined. It has been estimated that if children’s play blocks represented $1,000 each, over 98 percent of us would have incomes represented by piles of blocks that went not more than a few yards off the ground, while the top one percent would stack many times higher than the Eiffel Tower.

Marx's prediction about the growing gap between rich and poor still haunts the land — and the entire planet. The growing concentration of wealth creates still more poverty. As some few get ever richer, more people fall deeper into destitution, finding it increasingly difficult to emerge from it. The same pattern holds throughout much of the world. For years now, as the wealth of the few has been growing, the number of poor has been increasing at a faster rate than the earth's population. A rising tide sinks many boats.

To grasp the true extent of wealth and income inequality in the United States, we should stop treating the “top quintile” — the upper-middle class — as the "richest" cohort in the country. But to do that, we need to look beyond the Census Bureau's cooked statistics. We need to catch sight of that tiny, stratospheric apex that owns most of the world.

Michael Parenti is the author of Against Empire, Dirty Truths, America Besieged, and most recently, History as Mystery, all published by City Lights Books.

Edited by Sid Walker
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The middle classes, whether they realise it or not, are part of Marx's Proletariat for the simple reason that they do not own the means of production, and distribution, they, in the main, simply manage this state of affairs for the true ruling class, and are as liable for dismissal as any "mere labourer" Nearly all great Revolutionary leaders have come from this particular social strata, not surprising when you consider their advantages in wealth, education and leasure time over the working class.

I agree. So does Marx. He called them the "petite bourgeoisie". According to one follower of Marx: "The characteristic of this class is that it does own some property, but not sufficient to have all work done by employees or workers. Members of this class must also work in order to survive, so they have a dual existence – as (small scale) property owners and as workers. Because of this dual role, members of this class have divided interests, usually wishing to preserve private property and property rights, but with interests often opposed to those of the capitalist class. This class is split internally as well, being geographically, industrially, and politically dispersed, so that it is difficult for it to act as a class. Marx expected that this class would disappear as capitalism developed, with members moving into the bourgeoisie or into the working class, depending on whether or not they were successful. Many in this class have done this, but at the same time, this class seems to keep recreating itself in different forms."

I do, however, find the idea that "The Worlds Middle classes might unite" unlikely in the extreme, one only has to look at the History of the muddle-class(as a class, not as individuals) to see why. Put simply, they dont do solidarity. They are far more likely, IMO to continue to enact their historical role, that of a buffer zone between the true poor, and the vampiric rich.

Recent history suggests that members of the middle classes are as likely as the working class to unite in order to achieve political ends. For example, pressure groups, are almost exclusively made up of the middle classes.

Unfortunately, the traditional working-class does not seem to be very interested in politics. They ignore politics and therefore the politicians can afford to ignore them. Therefore, it is the middle-classes who currently have the potential to bring about revolutionary change.

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Guest Stephen Turner
Steven,

As I recall, a classical Marxist analysis did not entertain the notion of a 'middle class'.

Accepting that 'middle classes' actually exist in the real world, however - as you appear to do - and that we both mean roughly the same thing when we use the term, I strongly disagree that "they dont do solidarity".

I think that is an old left-wing myth. It contains a kernel of truth - because working class solidarity, at times in the past, has been inspiring, powerful and occasionally decisive (at least in the short term). But overall, it's a stereotype that romanticizes poverty and desperation.

Extending your own argument, I'd say that educated people with a modicum of leisure time are generally much better placed to "do solidarity" than their less fortunate fellow citizens. In the last fifty years, middle class people largely formed the leadership and cadres of a plethora of progressive movements - from the environmental movement to the peace movement, consumer rights and third world justice. It’s the same with most political parties, for that matter. Even, increasingly, with trade unions. Much harder for worker class people - especially impoverished workers - to sustain involvement in political activity.

That's not to put faith in the middle class as a force that will 'change the world'. It's a fuzzy term at best, IMO. Anyhow, a class analysis is no substitute for a strategy.

The bottom line is that humanity as a whole needs a plan to get out of this dreadful mess we find ourselves in, where governance and public plicy is warped by the machinations of a cryptocracy underwritten by a plutocracy.

* *

Sid, I dont disagree with your general analysis, however, a few points.

Marx did recognise the notion of a middle class, he just didnt use that particular term.

As regards the solidarity of the middle class, and its ability to act as a revolutionary vangard, I guess we will have to agree to disagree here. As I have already pointed out individual members of the class in question may be possed of a radical mind set, they have, as you pointed out taken leading roles in many reformist movements, but Johns original post was talking about the Class as a whole, not individual members, if a general strike was called tomorrow guess who would act as scabs,they have, from their point of view, too much invested in capitalism and indentify more readilly with, and aspire to join the ruling class, indeed the defining characteristics of the middle class may be said to be their fear, hatred and scorn of the working class. I realise my arguement may be somewhat monolithic, and in some respects over simplistic, but I beleive the main points to be true.

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As regards the solidarity of the middle class, and its ability to act as a revolutionary vangard, I guess we will have to agree to disagree here.

One of the best examples of this happening is when a group of politically motivated members of the middle-class, the Bolsheviks, overthrew the Duma in order to impose the communist system on the Russian people. The largest party in the democratically elected Duma was the peasant’s party, the Socialist Revolutionaries (SR).

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