Proletariat, precariat and unnecessariat

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

solidarityFirst we had the proletariat (well, we still have it, really; it is the working class), then recently and still with us, the precariat and now the unnecessariat.

The proletariat, the working class, arrived after the peasantry and was, in fact, forcibly created by the powers-that-be but rather should not be. The working class, almost everywhere, from the very beginning, has lived much more hand-to-mouth than the peasantry ever did, and that was also the idea. The peasantry was far too self-reliant and almost self-sufficient, despite the fact that many were but tenant farmers, at least towards the end, and had to pay tribute to the landlords.

But, self-reliance and self-sufficiency, especially combined with the common and a community that looked after one another, as was the case with the peasantry was not something that the factory owner could do with; he needed a slave class that was dependent entirely on him, the work he “provided” in his factories and the paltry wages he was paying. Often the employment in those factories went hand-in-hand with housing provided by the same factory owner and loss of work did not just mean loss of income but also homelessness. Thus was born the working class, the more-or-less class of industrial workers, the proletariat.

The precariat are the “downwardly mobile” former members of the working class, what is referred to as middle class in the USA, who are always one layoff or shift-reduction away from economic ruination.

Already before the arrival of those lay-offs, shift reduction and now, in many places the so-called “zero hours contracts” many members of the working class (I will not use the US term simply because it was designed to remove the proper class consciousness from the workers in the States) were often but one weekly paycheck away from poverty and homelessness anyway, but now things are more precarious even. Hence the term precariat. Their situation is extremely precarious.

Now below the precariat is the unnecessariat. That are the humans who are superfluous to corporations, who are a liability to the modern economic consensus, whom no corporation has any use for, except as a source of revenue from predatory loans, government subsidized "training" programs, and private prisons. This is how far capitalism has fallen under the neoliberal elite.

Corporations have realized humanity's long nightmare of a race of immortal, transhuman superbeings – robots – who view us as their inconvenient gut-flora, but it is those transhuman superbeings, namely robots into the equation and are, more and more, introducing them into the field of work. The unnecessariat are an expanding class, and if you are not in it yet, there is no reason to think you would not also land there tomorrow.

If there is no economic plan for the unnecessariat, there certainly is an abundance for plans to extract value from them. No-one has the option to just make their own way and be left alone at it.

Every four years some political ingenue decides that the solution to “poverty” is “retraining”: for the information economy, except that tech companies only hire high-grade university graduates, or for health care, except that an abundance of sick people does not translate into good jobs for nurses’ aides, or nowadays for “the trades” as if the world suffered a shortage of plumbers, though to some degree the world does suffer a shortage of good trades- and craftsmen and -women.

The retraining programs come and go, often mandated for recipients of unemployment benefit or whatever those things might be called. In the US there is also now a booming market in debtor’s prisons for unpaid bills, and , no doubt, those – privately run, more than likely – will also mushroom in other countries. It is a business opportunity after all.

There is a new – well all that new it is not – in the arsenal of the capitalism and that is hunger. More about that, however, in a separate article. Hunger, poverty and homelessness, or at least the threat of all three, are used as a weapon against the working class and unless the working class unites and fights those threats and capitalism as a whole many of the proletariat, who at present still have jobs, could find themselves amongst the precariat or even the unnecessariat.

Unite and fight; we have nothing to lose.

© 2017