The New Class Meets the Ruling Class


The chief visible product of leftism is a feigned egalitarianism. While Marx and his disciples claimed to create a classless society, the reality was of course quite different. There are always the insiders, the ones who scheme and maneuver, who look out for themselves and their friends.

While this behavior is part of a universal human condition, it’s most pronounced in socialized economies where the state is the gatekeeper from which all blessings and curses flow. And the “new class” loitering by the gate always takes care of itself – first.

Milovan Djilas had the temerity to identify these loiterers in The New Class, his 1957 book about Communist hierarchy. Djilas, a Yugoslav communist, rose through the ranks to become Tito’s second in command in postwar Yugoslavia before falling from favor for his dissident views about communism and the Nomenklatura running the show. Tito imprisoned Djilas in 1954 after Djilas publicly expressed his views and Djilas later smuggled the manuscript of The New Class from prison where it was eventually published in the West.

Djilas’ message – as fresh today as in the 1950s – is that overreaching government creates a new class, the select few who position themselves to dispense all largess while living far above the masses. And as Djilas observed, the Nomenklatura and the bureaucrats surrounding them become the reason for the government’s existence, thereby pitting themselves against the great mass of people in a smoldering civil war of privilege and resentment.

Can we see the seeds of the new Nomenklatura in our own day? Oh, yes. Just take a look at the British Parliament, which was recently wracked by scandal surrounding the perks and privileges enjoyed by its members. As reported in the UK media, the scandal cost the Parliamentary speaker his job and the members’ right to regulate their own affairs. As noted by the UK blog Samizdata, there is an ‘enemy class’ at work:

This whole saga demonstrates the truth of the thesis that politicians increasingly have come to regard their own interests as set apart from the country as a whole. It adds to the notion, put forward by Sean Gabb, of an “Enemy Class” that is quite consciously at odds with the more conservative (small – c) values of the country. Of course, there has always been an element of this – it is naive to imagine that Parliament ever quite met some Greek ideal – but it is now in a particularly bad way.

Let’s hope Mr Martin sees sense and takes the proverbial bottle of whiskey and the loaded revolver into his study. He will be the first Speaker to be ejected from his role in more than 300 years. Not a record to be proud of.

And in our own country, it’s all out in the open now. As Angelo Codevilla noted in his recent essay on the ruling class, we’re in the midst of a cultural and political confrontation the likes of which we’ve not seen since the 19th century.

As resistance grows so do the outrages. In Cambridge, Massachusetts, the city council has ordered MIT not to lay off employees. Stunning, I know, but apparently true.

The Cambridge Chronicle reports that City Councilor Marjorie Decker is not amused with the behavior of her subjects over at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Commissar Decker and the Cambridge City Council issued a fiat in April ordering MIT to maintain full employment, “to halt layoffs and any cuts in hours, salary or benefits for employees.” MIT, however, faced a budget shortfall and was forced to cut $125 million from its budget, of which 10% came from job layoffs.

Ms. Decker wasn’t having any excuses: “What we said to you, to MIT, was ‘Don’t contribute to the destabilization of families in our community.’ And we got zero response … For me, that is just an incredible level of arrogance that not only does the council not matter, but this question of really who they impact doesn’t matter.” This is a classic case of projection; Councilor Decker herself exhibits a level of arrogance one might expect to find in the nomenklatura of a totalitarian society. “How dare you disobey me?” she appears to be asking. “Don’t you know who you’re messing with here?”

I think Milovan Djilas would instantly recognize Ms. Decker for who and what she is. And in Djilas’ world, the petty bureaucrats imitate the manners and mores of apparatchiks greater than themselves. The current tone is being set by President Obama, after all. When he fires the chairman of GM, apparatchiks like Ms. Decker behave accordingly.