Class consciousness – of politicians, workers

Workers World founder and chairperson, Sam Marcy, wrote that “democracy is merely a form which hides the predatory class character of the bourgeois state.” At a time when working people throughout the U.S. are scrambling to figure out how to survive in the face of unemployment benefit cuts, a recent analysis confirms the truth of the control of the 1% over the 99%.

The analysis, completed by the Center for Responsive Politics and using reports from 2012, shows that a majority of the members of Congress are millionaires. While the Senate has always been a millionaires’ club — the analysis lists the median net worth for all senators at $2.7 million — the median net worth of all House members, at $856,000, is well over the median household income in the U.S. during the same period, at $53,046, ( and far beyond that of the 14 percent of people below the poverty level. Combined, the median net worth of the 530 members of Congress was $1,008,767. At least 268 members of Congress had an average net worth of $1 million or more, the Center reports. (Jan. 9)

hese congresspeople are the very ones debating the extension of the unemployment benefits that they allowed to expire at the beginning of this year. Millions of people in the U.S. woke up on Jan. 1 facing the prospect of no money coming in to support them, few jobs available on the market, and even fewer resources to attempt to find those jobs.

It’s hard to go on job interviews when you can’t put gas in the tank, or buy a subway or bus fare. Unemployment numbers are decreasing not because people are finding jobs, but precisely because those who can no longer afford to seek work are dropped from the statistical workforce.

Allowing these rich politicians to make decisions about unemployment benefits is like asking the fox to guard the henhouse. Karl Marx wrote in 1859, “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.” The social being of these wealthy lawmakers allows them to see workers as expendable, their hardships a vague abstraction.

In fact, the richest member of Congress, Rep. Darrell Issa, is the chairperson of the influential and powerful House Oversight Committee, which claims to “exist to secure two fundamental principles. First, Americans have a right to know that the money Washington takes from them is well spent. And second, Americans deserve an efficient, effective government that works for them.” (

Issa’s average net worth in 2012 was a whopping $464 million.

For all the oversight committee’s supposed attempts at transparency, in 2012 the rules for congressional income reporting were changed so that spousal incomes over $1 million, rather than being reported in real figures, could be listed simply as worth “$1 million or more.” (, Jan. 9) This allows Congress to claim that the total net worth of its members has fallen — and even so, their median net worth is higher than ever in history.

As social being determines the consciousness of the ruling class in Congress, so does it determine the consciousness of the workers. This fact is what forces these politicians to consider extending unemployment benefits at all — the fact that the longer workers are unemployed, the more likely they are to revolt against the system that augments their suffering in order to continue lining the pockets of the rich. They begin to see racism, sexism, anti-LGBTQ bigotry, etc., as the tools of the ruling class that they are. They begin to unite and fight.

As more and more workers become conscious of the capitalist system’s utter disregard for their survival, more and more come to the understanding that the only way that workers will be truly respected, understood and cared for is under a system in which workers are the guiding force in decision-making about their own lives — namely, a socialist system.