Class, conflict and confusion
George Lakey’s writing about class over at the Waging Nonviolence blog. 3 recent posts have touched on different aspects of class. In Do we mean what politicians mean by ‘class’? he helpfully gives his interpretation of the different classes and the qualities of each, as well as offering some conclusions on the relevance of class (mis)understanding for activists:
After looking closely at family backgrounds we can see that some activist conflicts are not so much about ideology as about class-based assumptions. In the midst of a campaign, a class conflict can result in losing the support of the class that loses, with no one in the organization realizing what’s really happening — and the whole organization losing. The stakes are high.
In Middle class confusion about class war, Lakey critiques recent writing by Bill McKibben on campaigning against fossil fuels through the class-lens. Here’s what he says about a common middle class assumption:
The middle class is socialized to remain confused about power. That’s how middle-class people can create narratives that ignore class struggle and assign the primary responsibility to — in the case of energy policy — consumers. The amount of privilege and the appearance of power given to middle class individuals make them especially prone to versions of “blame the victims.”
And finally in Opening ourselves to the realities of class he recounts a positive tale of an alliance across class and draws lessons for today’s individual activists and movements:
Movements will grow stronger if we understand each other better across class lines, but class is often made a matter of statistics instead of lived experience…
..Our chance to defeat the 1 percent depends on our willingness to give up demanding that others become like us, and instead learn to walk in their shoes. That’s true when it comes to race and gender, and other differences including class.
I’m not advocating a dismissal of action in favor of obsessing about political correctness. A living revolution focuses not on rigid rules but on opening ourselves to others’ realities, and being grateful when they are willing to express them. We can open in the course of an action campaign, as MNS did in its blockade. We can open in the safety of a workshop. It means going outside our comfort zones, in workshops as well as campaigns.
The result is expansion, of ourselves and of our movements.
One of the other strengths of this latter post is the collection of statements that Lakey’s gathered and edited together to help shed light on the values and thought-processes of people from differing classes. Here’s a snippet of these 3 voices:
You may encounter my fear, so please insist that we can make contact. Underneath, I’m a decent and ordinary human being…
…please remember that underneath my facade of correctness lies a living, breathing passionate person who would love to show it…
…If we’re not speaking up it’s not because we don’t have something valuable to say. To work successfully with us, listen.