VANGUARD - Expressing the viewpoint of the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist)
For National Independence and Socialism •


Ants and Elephants: Middle Class relations with the Imperialist Bourgeoisie and the Working class

Australia is a capitalist country. 

Big corporates rule the economy, their key owners are overseas capitalists with American moneybags top of the heap. British bosses are next in line with Japanese, German, French and other European capitalists being joined by latecomer Chinese owners.

Their involvement in the country is to make profits, either directly here or by securing resources for profit-making elsewhere, or both.  


Among Australians, the working class, the people who have to work for a living selling themselves to a boss, is the largest class. 

There’s a section who sell themselves at very generous premiums, doing very well out of looking after capitalists’ interests; managers, top bureaucrats, people doing the dirty work of policing workers in commissions like Fair Work, police and judges and the like. Many are paid handsomely to keep other workers in line and the capitalists on top. 

Still, there’s 3/4s of the population who work for a living in the grind of capitalist exploitation. 

Our interest in having comfortable lives, good education, good accessible healthcare, a good living, stand in conflict with capitalists making the best profit they can get. Working class interests are the mainstay of the opposition to capitalists plundering the country, its people, its resources and its environment. 

However, working class organisation and capacity to stand up for itself is at a low point. Unionism overall is below 10%. In the public sector, it’s higher but still under 20%. In the private sector unionism is in the lower part of single digit percentages. 

Union coverage varies hugely between industries, between industry sectors, and between sections of the workforce within an industry or industry sector. In construction, unionism is higher on major city jobs and tiny in housing construction. Among government school teachers, unionism is very high while it’s much lower in the private sector . In hospitals, unionism among nurses runs well over 70% while among hospital administrative and support staff it’s below 30%. 

Overall, there is weakness in the working class but there are some areas of strength.

 In the confrontation over capitalist profit-chasing at the cost of working-class living standards, the capitalists’ interest dominate, living standards lose out and down we go. 

Middle Classes

Classes other than the working-class superhero and the capitalist supervillain, are wedged between the two. 

Middle classes of small and medium businesses, self-employed professionals and the like, vary between those reliant for their social position on the big corporate capitalists and those screwed down by the system of finance and markets monopolised by big corporates. Sometimes they are in both situations simultaneously.

With the working class relatively quiet, the smaller classes and sections pull their heads in and try to do the best they can in circumstances dominated by big corporate monopolies led by US and British imperial capitalists. Those that get desperate, facing imminent ruin or losing out big time, pop up from time to time and squeal, but generally they hunker down. Some take advantage of workers’ support for local production and use the space that affords them to promote locally-owned businesses and locally-produced products, with the success available. 

In the building industry, there is experience of subbies and smaller builders supporting workers, some providing jobs when the big builders have blacklisted militants. At the same time they are capitalists, making profits from exploiting workers. Working with and struggling against, is just how it works sometimes.  

The main point however is that generally small businesses can’t afford to put a target on their back when the working class is weak, disorganised, lacking direction and fight for its own well-being and freedom and for the nation’s liberty from the plunder of foreign corporate giants.  

Workers' relations with Middle classes

When the working class is not able to impose its overall strength on the imperialists, our strategy has to be defensive. 

Within that defensive position, sections burst out on tactical offensives. Many public sector workers leapt into strike and protest campaigns in a few states last year. Workers’ sufferings grew as their locked down wages left them open to hardships as inflation raged. That wave of struggle gained concessions and has eased now. 

Wollongong Nurses and Midwives in struggle for ratios last year

While workers are on the defensive and under the boss’s thumb, the opportunity to call for middle classes to back the struggle against imperialist rule and get useful responses is limited. It should be carefully considered until workers are on the move. 

If the workers are weak at the moment, those middle classes are pretty hopeless. The limits on anti-imperialist struggle among them reflects the reality of class relations today. There’s a tendency to engage with limited reformism and use what influence they have to hold back the working class from confrontation with imperialism. 

The old African proverb “When elephants fight, ants get trampled” applies to middle classes keeping their distance in our current situation. 

Judgement of the relations of middle classes to the two giant class forces in Australian society and the anti-imperialist struggle won’t really be able to be made until workers are able to take the initiative in offensives against imperialism.