Speaking to his party’s supreme council on Saturday Disy leader Averof Neophytou announced that the focus of policy was the middle class. He said: “The centre of our policies is the middle class. The middle class that suffered a heavy blow from the crisis. The middle class that proved – for one more time – the backbone on which the recovery and development of our economy relied.”
This concern about the middle class drew the ridicule of Akel, whose spokesman Stefanos Stefanou said Averof “avoided mentioning that the middle class has been shattered because of the anti-popular austerity measures and policies serving the big private interests pursued by the government.” The party mouthpiece Haravghi followed the same line saying “they destroyed and made the middle class vanish and now it is at the centre of their policies.”
We first encountered political concern for the middle class in the campaign for last year’s presidential elections with Diko candidate Nikolas Papadopoulos promising to “restore the middle class,” which presumably had gone missing during the recession. Nobody has informed us who makes up this middle class that has disappeared and everyone wants to bring back. Neophytou tried to define the class on Saturday, saying he was referring to “serious, sensible, productive and prudent Cypriots.”
Sociologically, this is a problematic definition because there are serious, sensible etc people also in the working class and the upper class. Also problematic is the concern of the communist party, supposedly a defender of the interests of the proletariat, for the middle class that is, according to the Marxist theory embraced by Akel, the class enemy of the workers. If Akel still subscribed to Marxist doctrine it would have been celebrating the demise of the middle class as its members would have swollen the ranks of the proletariat and made the overthrow of capitalism easier.
The truth is the middle class has become another hollow electoral slogan. If the middle class was defined by the income of its members (as opposed to ownership of the means of production as orthodox Marxism claims) it has neither vanished nor been destroyed. Its numbers may have been slightly reduced but otherwise its members are doing very well. In fact all those employed in the public sector such as teachers, civil servants, judges, academics and army personnel, in the semi-governmental organisations and in banks enjoy a standard of living that is the envy of the middle class in many EU countries. Should we also mention lawyers, accountants, doctors and other professionals that are not exactly struggling to make a living?
The middle class is doing extremely well in Cyprus and reports of its demise have no basis in reality, even though they add a melodramatic element to the election campaign.