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Welcome to Anarchy101 Q&A, where you can ask questions and receive answers about anarchism, from anarchists.

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–1 vote
So many anarchists are quick to affirm violence against the upper, owning classes; yet the middle class seems to get such a free pass.
Is this because the upper class for most anarchists is just an abstract group where as the middle class is the majority of people they know?

Are anarchists still caught up in good oppressor/bad oppressor logic?
Why are anarchists so quick to accept violence against oppressors they never come into contact with, but so reactionary in violence against oppressors they interact with daily?

edited to fix tags
by (160 points)
edited by
honestly working poor and middle class are two parts of the working class. though one could say the upper middle classes might be part of a coordinator class (if you prefer a three class analysis) basically financial standing has nothing to do with if you are part of the broad proletariat or not, IMHO there is the blue collar and the white collar working class. obviously there are still certain privileges that are afforded to "middle class" workers.
This particular Q&A isn't very—good, for lack of a better word. The entire thing seems to have stereotypical prejudices and too many unexplained assumptions as its genesis rather than any reliable theoretical framework.

So, while I believe simply budging in with a theorized framework for class relations based on Marx(ism) may be too vulgar and unhelpful in terms of actually dealing with the problems of the discussion in the course it has taken so far, I am also inclined to take more stock in it than whatever this Q&A is going for.

What is middle class? Who are these anarchists? Why doesn't the inquirer confirm this apparent ideology with actual examples instead of simply assuming it is a given? So on and so forth. All I see is stereotypes and rhetoric.
madlib, i'm not sure why you think it 's a good idea to grade people's questions. i don't know what the purpose is of assuming bad intent because people are not phrasing things exactly the way that you think they should.
a primary purpose of this site is to introduce newbies to the concepts that you are more conversant with. part of that introduction is to explain why certain ways of talking about things are loaded or complicated (or more loaded or complicated than might be immediately apparent).
it could be the poster is the person who is being introduced to the complications, or it could be that some future readers of this site are; either way, if the topic is worth complaining about, then it's worth it for you to clarify what you think the issues are.

8 Answers

+2 votes
I suspect you hit the nail on the head. A significant proportion of those who identify as anarchists in the over-developed countries come from a middle class background. Despite the chosen identity of anarchist, the middle class cultural traits remain. They still identify, whether consciously or not, with the middle class. Being aware of such a contradiction lead to the uncomfortable position of cognitive dissonance.

There may also be a desire to try to win over liberals (who are often middle-class) thus making middle-class-bashing counterproductive. Left anarchists would probably be more willing to work with liberals than post-left/ anti-left/ anti-civ/ anti-work anarchists as their aims are perceived to be fairly similar. It is also easier to piggyback upon liberal/middle class anti-corporate sentiment than to expose middle class folks to their own complicity in the state and capital.

The devil's advocate in me counters your question: But doesn't the upper class bear far more responsibility than the middle class?
by (6.1k points)
0 votes
It's a vestige of Anarchism's leftist origins, where the upper class is always evil and the working class is always good.  Many people falsely equate the "middle class" with the "working class" because the differences are much less apparent now than in the past.
by (170 points)
0 votes
Isn't the middle-class a false concept?  My understanding is that the ruling class created the concept of a middle-class as a counter-narrative to derail class struggles.

From a marxist perspective there is no middle class. There are capitalists, Managers, and Workers, (and the unemployed or lumpen, who are also workers).

Arundhati Roy has a similar but more flexible perspective.  She says that the three groups are: the Powerful, those with a comfortable relationship to those in power, and those with an uncomfortable relationship to those in power.

I think it makes sense for people to take action against the powerful and those who are comfortable with the powerful (or those who stand on the side of the powerful).

I don't know who you consider to be middle-class.  Maybe you mean workers with prestigious or well paying jobs?

Within the united states the official range for who is middle class includes people who spend more money in a year on their horses than some families make in the year.

In a global sense it was declared that half the world is middle class because middle-class means that you make at least $3 a day.

So who is this middle class and why should we attack them?
by (1.7k points)
The middle class isn't really a false concept or a socially-constructed counter-narrative, at least in that those terms would imply the class would cease to exist if people stopped believing in it.

The creation of the middle class was not a purely ideological process, it involved structural economic shifts, one of the most significant in the United States being the government's incentivation of mortgages for white GIs after WWII, a process that married people to petty-capital ownership (with the attendant allegiance to the growth of property value) coupled with debt (with the attendant need to work more). Workers have also been shifted into managerial positions, more white-collar jobs that make people "feel" like they're not working-class, and so on. All of these processes structurally align people's interests more or less toward the success of capital. By this definition, the middle class would be people whose interests are stuck somewhere between the interests of the proletariat and the interests of the capitalists.

There are many disagreements about this question, though. I think one of the most relevant things that could be said is that working-class identity and consciousness have declined substantially in the past 70 years, and simply reversing that process is not the most important step toward revolution.
I think that was part of what Arundhati Roy was saying.  Middle-class is more of an identity than a material reality.

I think the thing that confuses class relation in the US is that the white working class often sides with the capitalists because they have a shared identity as settlers.  The white working class is more prone to push for reform as a revolution could be damning to them too.  White workers have to balance their contradictory interests of protecting the US as a settler-colony Vs. revolution against the capitalists.
Have you been reading Mao?

Anyway, I don't think you understood my argument, which was that the middle-class can certainly be spoken of as a material position because of the complicated interests of workers who hold mortgages, stocks, and other investments that tie their interests to those of the capitalist class.
Class is technically and materially - in terms of a relation of bio-power - an economic relation, but it is unfortunately always confused with cultural significations and affiliations.  The ruling class (upper) are those who have the means of buying the labour of those who must sell their labour in order to survive.  The latter, of course, are the working class, the proles.  So, if you have to sell your labour to another human being or corporation, and this is your only means of feeding yourself and paying rent/mortgage etc, then no matter where you work, how you vote, what school you went to or what car you drive, you are working class.  A tradesman - say, a plumber - who owns a small plumbing business that employs other workers, is not a member of the working class.  He makes his profit from the labour of his workers.  Call it petit-bourgeois or whatever you like.  Yet would you call him middle class?  This begs the question as to the status of a duty manager at McDonalds, of a foreman or a supervisor... perhaps this managerial/organisational segment is better termed Middle Class than the loose and obscuring cultural application of the term to those who are not quite poor and may have gone to private schools or vote republican and yet still sell their labour to a corporate entity as a well-paid office worker.   When I was growing up on a housing commission block, as a child I thought those who lived in two storey commission houses were wealthy because they had 'double' storeys.
Anok, I certainly agree with you in regards to the 'complicated interests'.  That is one of the greatest problems facing us.  Strict Marxists can imagine class consciousness as something akin to a metaphysical historical force breaking out through a fire of the proletariat mind during a time of crisis; but history teaches that these forms of 'false consciousness' and reification - the 'complicated interests' -are just as likely to fan the mind's flames to the right.
+1 vote
in the uk most anarchists don't.

but then again most anarchists here arent from the middle classes. many are aware how the middle class reproduce class society by monopolising organisational roles and "the process".
by (710 points)
+3 votes
It seems that the "middle class" are nebulously defined, and don't really hold a significant amount of power. Anarchism isn't about attacking the majority for being too well off, it's about fighting oppression. The "middle class" aren't a unified class, more a vague social stratification, and they can't really be judged as a group. An anarchist railing against "the middle class" is a sidetracked anarchist.
by (390 points)
i agree that anarchism isn't about attacking anyone for being too well off (i guess), but strongly disagree that "fighting oppression" is what anarchists do. this could be a semantics thing, but "fighting oppression" and "attacking for being well off" seem very similar to me.
fighting for an empowered, full life, otoh, seems very different to me than either of those.
+1 vote
Violence is often affirmed as a necessity when considering the expropriation of the means to production (and such) from those who through various methods, have privatized them and maintain such privatization through the forces of various institutions many anarchists refer to as the state. The so called middle class is defined differently depending on is using the term. Some definitions of the middle class are based on full-time, contracted, unionized, or otherwise fairly secure employment with an income large enough privately own ones home, stocks and bonds, are part of a nuclear family with two "primary income earners", etc. Other definitions of the middle class are based on capital: the small business owners, professionals, and others who have accumulated enough capital to not only own their means to shelter, transportation, and such but to also make a profit. This latter definition is middle class as petty capitalist who makes a relatively small amount of profit through the exploitation of the working class (wage labor). There are other definitions as well...

This is a very specific sort of violence that is considered in a very specific context of abolishing the private ownership of what everyone depends on for survival and certain standards of living. Violence towards the middle class (despite what definition is used) doesn't fit into this context. Working for petty capitalists (small businesses) and such is much different than working for the ruling class and expropriating those petty capitalists of their wealth would amount to... jack shit. The basic goal isn't to simply equalize the distribution of remuneration or income, but to end for good the very system of private ownership and remuneration that makes it possible for individuals (the ruling class) to accumulate so much of society's wealth that the majority are always indebted to them, subjugated by them, in other words ruled. The wealth that we produce in our societies depends upon what the ruling class owns and not what the middle class owns: the means of production (patents, copyrights, land, technology for mass production, architectural facilities, communications networks, and increasingly water, air, universities, etc.). The middle class tend to own social capital, knowledge capital, and other shit so they can demand a higher remuneration for their service labor (professionals) or they own store fronts, .com addresses and such as distributors of commodities (and the small forces of working class labor that do the actual packing, shipping, clerical work, etc.).

So it is basically... if those working for Mom and Pop Distributions expropriate that business or take it over or whatever the fuck, they would be merely looting the commodities produced by those working for the ruling class if they even could get away with it (and by that I mean simply taking all the shit since obviously the supply of products Mom and Pop Distributions sell would be cut off by know who). If those workers somehow managed to increase market demand or otherwise keep Mom and Pop Distributions (now collectivized) running, that would be about the same as just starting up a co-operative business anyway. Since we're not living in an economy just chock full of small businesses, but one in which the total wealth of society has been accumulated by such a small class of people... that strategy would be a bit absurd.

As for violence related to racists, sexists, and other biggots ...I haven't ever read or heard an anarchist giving a shit what class that person is from or is currently still a member of. Violence against the police and those other professional enforcers of Capital is also a completely different context.
by (2.5k points)
0 votes
If this is true, the reason could be that the majority of the upper class hold the upper and controlling positions in the authoritarian in corporate and governmental to which all anarchist are opposed.

The middle class are certainly among those who are oppressed under the upper class rule.  The anarchist, in this case that you are suggesting, probably sympathize with them and also themselves may be classified as middle class, and may also some day desire the support of those in the middle class to assist in the overthrow of the authority that empowers the upper class.

This question could also be seen as the "haves" and the "have nots".  How much of anarchy is driven by rebellion and anger toward the few benefit from our current systems rather than the flaws and ineffectiveness of hierarchical systems.
by (2.0k points)
–1 vote
i dont believe anarchist truley accept the violence but they more or less want to help those in need and if violencw would become a small part in that then i see no problems with it. im sure if violence realy got out of hand then ppl would end it.
by (740 points)
mollyTA you make anarchy sound like a (grumpy) charity... :(
ok, after reading, where i could, all of what you all have written above,and thanking you for it- i have concluded.......actually, does someone wanna do me a favour and take the fucking dictionary out of their mouth and then explain? i havent got a degree in politics im sorry, and dont understand why wen people feel so passionate and committed to something, (which i love about anarchists), why do you have to shut ppl out by using academic lofty language, that sadly, means bullshit to, i didnt come here on purpose to have a go at you, came to look at questions i had myself. i dont feel im smart enough to even write a comment on this,in case u all jump down my neck trying to clever me out, and i havent come here for a battle of wits, just to find out and learn about things.where the dummys guide to anarchism wen u need it?
what academic language are you speaking of exactly?