Anarchism and class

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Padams
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Jan 11 2005 21:56
Anarchism and class

Anarchism and Class

In my view the Anarchist emphasis on class and the use of militant rhetoric is misguided and counter-productive for four reasons.

1) It creates a negative impression of the movement.

Militant or openly violent language will alienate potential supporters who are disillusioned with the present system and sympathise with libertarian ideas but do not consider themselves to be militants. Aggressive language (and, of course, aggressive policies and ideas) confirm the public’s impression of us as balaclava-wearing, window-smashing ‘trouble-makers’ rather than reasonable people who deserve to be taken seriously.

2) The Marxist conception of class is wrong, or at least simplistic, for two reasons.

a) People cannot be divided into distinct, homogeneous, ruling class/working class groups. This may be effective for someone trying to create class consciousness and encourage confrontation but it is not, and probably never has been, an accurate description of society. It is more realistic to see people as placed somewhere on a line between extreme poverty and extreme wealth. Not black and white, but shades of grey.

b) Class is only one part of identity. Identity is made up not only of class but also nationality, religion, gender etc. For some people their religion may be as important as their class in how they see themselves. Taking one aspect of someone’s identity and claiming it is their defining characteristic is distorting reality. If we do not see people as they see themselves then our policies and campaigning will be irrelevant to them.

3) Corporate and state power is bad for everyone.

It is right to concentrate on the poorest and most vulnerable but the belief that poor people = good/ rich people = bad distorts our judgement and leads us to alienate potential support. Someone who earns £30k a year is still a victim of capitalism if they have no input into how their job is done; if their work is stressful and has long hours, and is making them depressed and ruining their relationship with their family. They are not free if they are scared to go out at night because the media has told them that they will be mugged by an asylum seeker/traveller/homeless person/anarchist. Of course they have many advantages that a minimum wage earner does not, but my point is that this person is still suffering as a result of state/corporate power. They may well be open to radical ideas but all we do is demonise and threaten them.

4) Confrontational rhetoric and policy is wrong in principle.

As a libertarian and egalitarian movement Anarchism should be trying to do away with divisions between people not erecting barriers and stoking up tensions. We should reach out to all sections of society and spell out the benefits of Anarchism to society as a whole, not just one part of it.

Of course the obvious response to this is to point out that economic differences between people are real so we should acknowledge and face up to them. I don’t deny that economic divisions are real and important. My point is that we should be confronting oppression and exploitation as systems and ideas not demonising people and treating them as enemies. Centralisation of power is inherently bad; (most) people are not.

To sum up, I think that libertarian principles are relevant and beneficial to society as a whole. We should aim to be inclusive and as relevant to as many people as possible. If we do I believe that Anarchism can become a major influence and start to achieve its aims.

gregorya
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Jan 12 2005 11:16

I agree completely with all of that.

Trying to achieve a better society isn't necessarily about a war between those who earn £30k+ and those who earn less: Changes could benefit everyone (although the poor could benefit more), and thats what we need to emphasize.

Being violent, subversive and generally attempting to cause chaos will just relfect badly on the entire movement; we instead need to present rational, sensible and clear arguments as to why people should support the changes we propose.

I'd also like to add (possibly opening a whole can of worms), that we don't necessarily need to be 'all or nothing'. A general movement towards more community activity, more localised government and a decline in a pointless emphasis on capitalism is beneficial, even if it doesn't go as far as we'd like to.

Mike Harman
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Jan 12 2005 16:55

People need to stop thinking of class in terms of culture/income/consumption and view it structurally in terms of relationship to the means of production. Although even now share ownership by workers can confuse that, although a structural viewpoint would assess the mechanism whereby different parts of the income were earned. If class is viewed only structurally in terms of economics - not sociologically/culturally, then there's no need for all the balsamic vinegar/wine bar/holiday/council house/rented flat/skilled/unskilled bollocks that makes up so much of the discussion here and elsewhere.

Income and cultural difference do create divisions between people, but the point should be to find things that various groups have in common against capitalism/the state not to further divide people up. And I agree that plenty of people identify themselves culturally rather than by their job. In fact so many people change jobs regularly (or have more than one), that they probably self-identify in terms of their consumption rather than their work - think of themselves as a film/music fan rather than a temp secretary or whatever. Consumption is as big a part of capitalism as work, but again, rather than concentrate on good or bad consumption choices, the way capitalism works against consumers _in general_ needs to be made clear.

good to see both of you posting as well, welcome.

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Steven.
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Jan 12 2005 17:23

I'd like to echo what catch said about class not being about cultural tastes or wages - it's about the fact that you *have* to work for a wage to live.

And yeah welcome to the boards too 8)

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wheresmyshoes
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Jan 12 2005 17:28
Padams wrote:
Anarchism and Class

In my view the Anarchist emphasis on class and the use of militant rhetoric is misguided and counter-productive for four reasons.

1) It creates a negative impression of the movement.

Militant or openly violent language will alienate potential supporters who are disillusioned with the present system and sympathise with libertarian ideas but do not consider themselves to be militants. Aggressive language (and, of course, aggressive policies and ideas) confirm the public’s impression of us as balaclava-wearing, window-smashing ‘trouble-makers’ rather than reasonable people who deserve to be taken seriously.

2) The Marxist conception of class is wrong, or at least simplistic, for two reasons.

a) People cannot be divided into distinct, homogeneous, ruling class/working class groups. This may be effective for someone trying to create class consciousness and encourage confrontation but it is not, and probably never has been, an accurate description of society. It is more realistic to see people as placed somewhere on a line between extreme poverty and extreme wealth. Not black and white, but shades of grey.

b) Class is only one part of identity. Identity is made up not only of class but also nationality, religion, gender etc. For some people their religion may be as important as their class in how they see themselves. Taking one aspect of someone’s identity and claiming it is their defining characteristic is distorting reality. If we do not see people as they see themselves then our policies and campaigning will be irrelevant to them.

3) Corporate and state power is bad for everyone.

It is right to concentrate on the poorest and most vulnerable but the belief that poor people = good/ rich people = bad distorts our judgement and leads us to alienate potential support. Someone who earns £30k a year is still a victim of capitalism if they have no input into how their job is done; if their work is stressful and has long hours, and is making them depressed and ruining their relationship with their family. They are not free if they are scared to go out at night because the media has told them that they will be mugged by an asylum seeker/traveller/homeless person/anarchist. Of course they have many advantages that a minimum wage earner does not, but my point is that this person is still suffering as a result of state/corporate power. They may well be open to radical ideas but all we do is demonise and threaten them.

4) Confrontational rhetoric and policy is wrong in principle.

As a libertarian and egalitarian movement Anarchism should be trying to do away with divisions between people not erecting barriers and stoking up tensions. We should reach out to all sections of society and spell out the benefits of Anarchism to society as a whole, not just one part of it.

Of course the obvious response to this is to point out that economic differences between people are real so we should acknowledge and face up to them. I don’t deny that economic divisions are real and important. My point is that we should be confronting oppression and exploitation as systems and ideas not demonising people and treating them as enemies. Centralisation of power is inherently bad; (most) people are not.

To sum up, I think that libertarian principles are relevant and beneficial to society as a whole. We should aim to be inclusive and as relevant to as many people as possible. If we do I believe that Anarchism can become a major influence and start to achieve its aims.

I'm not quite I understand you completely, are you saying that class politics and smashing things up go together?

Without class based ideas and politics you really can't have anarchism, so to say "Anarchist emphasis on class and the use of militant rhetoric is misguided and counter-productive" doesn't make sense. What is Anarchism without some kind of class theory? what are you going to base it on without it, you can't talk about capatilism and not include class it just doesn't work.

And what do you mean by "Aggressive language (and, of course, aggressive policies and ideas) confirm the public’s impression of us as balaclava-wearing, window-smashing ‘trouble-makers" are you saying all militant anarchists are like this, so does that include class/green/primmo etc anarco's or just a certain type?I'm not quite sure who you are attacking on this one dude? this is all a bit vage. Say for example(this is NOT an attack on AR anarco's)some millitant anarco's broke into a lab and smashed it up and saved the animals would you lump them into the same catogeory, or is this just an attack on class politics?

I do see your point about alienating people with a more highly paid job though when did 30k become loads???did i miss the boat on this one? cause I go to college and if your household income is 30k or less you get 20 quid and if you get around 20k you get 30(hoho i get 30 quid go me grin ), because it's for the kid's who aren't as well off as the others so where you decided thirty thousand was this hugh amazing big amount I don't know,maybe I'm wrong on this one but this is just my personal experience.But it really isn't like "omg all people with 30k are evil and must be shot!!!!!!" have you had a previous bad experience with some other classwar anarchists?? because a lot of what you're saying is based on opinions rather than facts.But I'd be interested as to what your answers are because I can see where you're coming from even if i don't agree with you. red n black star

gregorya
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Jan 12 2005 17:30

I disagree with both of you: Reiterating what Padams said, it shouldn't be about "class" at all, no matter how you divide it. The means of production stuff too, is incorrect in my opinion: I disagree as much with the person who inherited a vast fortune as someone who owns a factory. Sure, worker ownership of business should be part of any ideal society, but its not all that matters.

The people who are causing problems are not those in higher classes (although that may well coincide), but those who have too much power. That power needn't be through owning a business, having workers for you etc. Its simply about trying to even out the influence that people have in the world. Representative democracy, nation leaders, corporate CEO's etc. are all bad.

We need real equality, not just a (very badly set up) system of equality of opportunity.

Oh, and thanks for the welcome smile

Oh, and some other guy has posted too.. will reply to that now.

gregorya
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Jan 12 2005 17:36

To me, the whole anarchist movement needn't be based on an outdated Marxian outlook , which is where you seem to be coming from. "Class" is a poor way of dividing the country into black and white, and it just isn't right.

As to militant anarchists, yes, I would put some people who smashed up a lab into the same category: they're morons (gonna get flamed for that one). That sort of thing won't convince anyone of anything, it just makes the anarchist movement look like a bunch of rebellious thugs rather than people really committed to decent change.

Oh, and finally, yes, £30k is a lot. More than most households in this country make I believe.

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Steven.
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Jan 12 2005 17:55
Quote:
To me, the whole anarchist movement needn't be based on an outdated Marxian outlook , which is where you seem to be coming from. "Class" is a poor way of dividing the country into black and white, and it just isn't right.

How does it do that? That's rubbish!

Class is a way of understanding a social dynamic. It doesn't divide into black and white, cos there's no "capitalist conspiracy" against workers, hierarchy is institutional, but that all arises out of the existence of class society.

To understand how the world has changed, you need to look at it in terms of class. And if you want to change the world you need to understand how it has changed before.

Quote:
Oh, and finally, yes, £30k is a lot. More than most households in this country make I believe.

Nah - average wage in the UK £33k (mean). Median is about £20k I think.

Mike Harman
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Jan 12 2005 17:58

Inherited wealth (be it land or money), is simply a holdover from an older form of class than capitalism. The main thing, as John said, is whether you have to work for a living or not - wage labour. Those with vast inherited fortunes, rental income from land, or who own large businesses are going to have different interests from those who earn their money from labour. Their material wealth allows them to purchase the labour of others without working themselves - itself a form of power relationship.

Obviously those in political power need to be challenged as well - however, most in political power have considerable economic power (look at the Blairs, or Kenneth Clarke for example), and their income is also 1. set by themselves 2. taken from the labour of others via taxation when it comes down to it. The State also acts as an employer (and in some situations as capitalist), and senior civil servants and some polticians have as much power over their employees as a CEO, director or company owner. Both roles, apart from being intertwined within individual people, are necessary to maintain each other.

Class is only useful in terms of revolutionary theory if it's viewed in terms of these economic and political power relationships, which it often isn't by many anarchists - who'll complain about people earning £20K a year buying french cheese being middle class but defend (culturally working class) millionare footballers. It's that that needs to be left alone, but undertanding the structural relationships which determine both political and economic power in society is necessary if you're going to move towards a "classless" society.

If you think there are people with too much power, and agree that some of that can be economic, then you probably understand society within class relationships in much the same way as I've outlined above. The word "class" has been devalued so much that I can understand discomfort using it, but strictly defined, all it does is explain those fluid and complex power relationships.

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wheresmyshoes
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Jan 12 2005 18:15
gregorya wrote:
To me, the whole anarchist movement needn't be based on an outdated Marxian outlook , which is where you seem to be coming from. "Class" is a poor way of dividing the country into black and white, and it just isn't right.

As to militant anarchists, yes, I would put some people who smashed up a lab into the same category: they're morons (gonna get flamed for that one). That sort of thing won't convince anyone of anything, it just makes the anarchist movement look like a bunch of rebellious thugs rather than people really committed to decent change.

Oh, and finally, yes, £30k is a lot. More than most households in this country make I believe.

Well fair enough then, I completely agree with you about the 'anarchists' smashing up shit just to smash shit up, but that being said the media coverage of the anarchist movement only protrays these "evil anarcos" who seem like we are just a bunch of dumbarses who break mcdonnalds just for the hell of it.....but a lot of the time anarchists get violent is because it's state initiated, like take for example two years ago I went on the school walk-out thing against the war, a bunch of kids. And towards the night it got extremely violent because we were getting tossed around and being treated like caged animals,my friend Jessie got smacked in the face because she was trying to walk through a road the police had blocked off.Also you can't expect a revolutionary movement to be peaceful at the time it is trying to progress and rebel(even if it's outcome is a peacful ending) against restraints because there's no way the state will let it go about its buisness, it's bound to have to defend itself and fight.

Classwise I just don't see much point in not recognising it's a problem because it is and it needs to be tackled, I don't think it's black and white at all I'm noooooo way an expert on class based politics but from what I've learnt it's the only way we're ever going to progress without some sort of base that is already cited by people who aren't activists as a problem in society.

I'll take your word about the 30k thing though, but that being said you've got to take into account the size of familes and how many people are providing for it.

btw it's girl not guy wink

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wheresmyshoes
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Jan 12 2005 18:18
Catch wrote:

who'll complain about people earning £20K a year buying french cheese being middle class but defend (culturally working class) millionare footballers

Quote:

it's all about the French cheese smile

redyred
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Jan 12 2005 19:58
Padams wrote:
1) It creates a negative impression of the movement.

Militant or openly violent language will alienate potential supporters who are disillusioned with the present system and sympathise with libertarian ideas but do not consider themselves to be militants. Aggressive language (and, of course, aggressive policies and ideas) confirm the public’s impression of us as balaclava-wearing, window-smashing ‘trouble-makers’ rather than reasonable people who deserve to be taken seriously.

First off you're making a mistake claiming class struggle anarchism is synonymous with violence. While obviously someone with a revolutionary class struggle analysis is at some level going to be in favour of violent overthrow of capitalism, unless they are a bit unhinged in their tactics they won't generally organise with "militant or openly violent language". Personally I don't think we're anywhere near the violent overthrow of capitalism. I and people like me mostly build up support and struggle via workplace organising and meaningful community campaigns. Also strange that you mention the "balaclava-wearing, window-smashing 'trouble-makers'" since these are exactly the anarchists who don't have a class struggle perspective.

Quote:
2) The Marxist conception of class is wrong, or at least simplistic, for two reasons.

a) People cannot be divided into distinct, homogeneous, ruling class/working class groups. This may be effective for someone trying to create class consciousness and encourage confrontation but it is not, and probably never has been, an accurate description of society. It is more realistic to see people as placed somewhere on a line between extreme poverty and extreme wealth. Not black and white, but shades of grey.

While there may be "shades of grey" as far as wealth goes, ownership and control of the means of production puts a clear dividing line through society, which while maybe not in every case distinct is big enough that it's inescapable and transcends any other social divide. Obviously there are some cases that are not so clear cut - middle managers, the petit bourgeoisie (small businessmen) etc but the fact is that the vast majority of us, in order to survive or get by, have to work for a wage for a capitalist.

Marxist conception of class is simplistic? Have you tried reading Capital?

Quote:
b) Class is only one part of identity. Identity is made up not only of class but also nationality, religion, gender etc. For some people their religion may be as important as their class in how they see themselves. Taking one aspect of someone’s identity and claiming it is their defining characteristic is distorting reality. If we do not see people as they see themselves then our policies and campaigning will be irrelevant to them.

I'd say class, certainly in the Marxist sense outlined above, is actually far less a part of identity than gender, religion etc. But what point does that make? I oppose the ruling class on political/economic grounds, my politics isn't about opposing people on the grounds of their identity and I'm assuming yours aren't either. So, just because someone's religion might be a more important factor of their identity than their class should we take sides between, say, Christian and Islamic fundamentalists?

Quote:
3) Corporate and state power is bad for everyone.

It is right to concentrate on the poorest and most vulnerable but the belief that poor people = good/ rich people = bad distorts our judgement and leads us to alienate potential support. Someone who earns £30k a year is still a victim of capitalism if they have no input into how their job is done; if their work is stressful and has long hours, and is making them depressed and ruining their relationship with their family. They are not free if they are scared to go out at night because the media has told them that they will be mugged by an asylum seeker/traveller/homeless person/anarchist. Of course they have many advantages that a minimum wage earner does not, but my point is that this person is still suffering as a result of state/corporate power. They may well be open to radical ideas but all we do is demonise and threaten them.

Agreed (apart from the title of that section, which is utter shash - obviously corporate power is good for the corporations otherwise they wouldn't cling to it). But someone who earns £30k a year isn't ruling class by any stretch of the imagination. And unless you're a twat from openly classist or something you aren't going to alienate someone just because they're middle class. You could be the bastard child of Richard Branson and Princess Anne and happen to have fantastic politics. Like I said before it's not simply a question of actual wealth, it's a question the economic means available to you - in stripped down black and white terms whether you exploit a workforce for your own profit or if you must sell your labour and be exploited.

Quote:
4) Confrontational rhetoric and policy is wrong in principle.

As a libertarian and egalitarian movement Anarchism should be trying to do away with divisions between people not erecting barriers and stoking up tensions. We should reach out to all sections of society and spell out the benefits of Anarchism to society as a whole, not just one part of it.

Once again you're mistaking class struggle with a policy of alienating everyone but the poorest sections of society. The only people I'm not concerned about reaching out to are the ruling class whos' interests are always going to be in opposition to proletarian self-emancipation. If you believe they are going to one day realise the error of their ways, give up their wealth and join the great anarchist street party that is presumably your idea of revolution you're living in hippy dreamland.

Quote:
Of course the obvious response to this is to point out that economic differences between people are real so we should acknowledge and face up to them. I don’t deny that economic divisions are real and important. My point is that we should be confronting oppression and exploitation as systems and ideas not demonising people and treating them as enemies. Centralisation of power is inherently bad; (most) people are not.

Well clearly certain reactionary elements of society are always going to set themselves up against you, it's naive not to realise that. You have to identify them as enemies cos saying "oh they're just like us" is obviously fundamentally wrong if the whole point of your struggle is to go against their interests.

For someone who thinks they're got some grand critique of class analysis within anarchism, you really don't know much about it do you?

Oh yes, and welcome to the boards grin

gregorya
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Jan 12 2005 21:11

Arg, so many replies, gonna be hard to address everything. Still..

(I'll start with the simplest first wink )

Not the greatest summary, but should be able to do the maths:

http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=389

"The average gross weekly household income for London, at £711 in 1999-2002, was £186 higher than the average for the UK"

711 - 186 = 525

525 * 52 = £27300 / year.

But thats fairly negligable to be fair.. Onto the real issues..

On class:

Quote:
Class is a way of understanding a social dynamic. It doesn't divide into black and white, cos there's no "capitalist conspiracy" against workers, hierarchy is institutional, but that all arises out of the existence of class society.

To understand how the world has changed, you need to look at it in terms of class. And if you want to change the world you need to understand how it has changed before.

I'm still not convinced we live in class society. There's no downright different rights, laws, or anything for people of what you'd like to call various classes. What there is however, is varying amounts of influence over the system as a whole (a large amount of which, I agree comes from money, but even not all of that is from what you'd presumably like to call the bourgesie (sp?)).

The media journalist who works for their boss has more influence and causes more societal problems than the man who owns the cornershop down the road. The latter may have employees, but that don't count for anything.

Quote:

Obviously those in political power need to be challenged as well - however, most in political power have considerable economic power

Yes, but their power isn't due to their money, its because of other freedoms they have which others don't. Blair can tell Cherie when to buy land and change the law so she can sell it and make a few bucks. The power has nothing to do with class. As to their income being from other's labour in the form of taxation, thats just totally wrong. At the end of the day they have stressful jobs and work long hours - ownership isn't as easy as Marx would like it to be. They provide as much labour (no pun intended!) as the next person.

To give a nice clear example as to why class is a bad way of seperating society, compare a footballer to the head of the Red Cross. According to you the head of the red cross needs to be abolished but the footballers wage is fine. That simply can't be right.

Note that I'm not making an absolute claim there: perhaps the head of the red cross is bad in some respects, and the footballer has some bads.. but according to you, the red cross man is infinitely worse than the footballer in virtue of how they stand to their labour, and thats simply not true.

Quote:

Marxist conception of class is simplistic? Have you tried reading Capital?

Have you read anything even vaguely political since? Marxist conception of class is simple. There's been a hundred years since to improve on it, and a lot has been done.

Quote:
ownership and control of the means of production puts a clear dividing line through society, which while maybe not in every case distinct is big enough that it's inescapable and transcends any other social divide

Not true. In fact, its far from clear, as I say above. It just really is a simple 'owners are evil', 'workers are great', view of how society works. There are stages in between and the owners are often good, the workers bad. Differential power is what matters. and class just simply (and very clearly) does not transcend power.

On violence:

Quote:
but a lot of the time anarchists get violent is because it's state initiated

I'm not denying that there may be an explanation for it at times, but I'd still like to suggest it should be avoided at all costs.

Boy that was long. Apologies for the non-attributed quotes and generally bracketing people, but I hope I've dealt with your points? Look forward to hearing back..

Alex

redyred
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Jan 12 2005 23:35
gregorya wrote:
Not true. In fact, its far from clear, as I say above. It just really is a simple 'owners are evil', 'workers are great', view of how society works. There are stages in between and the owners are often good, the workers bad. Differential power is what matters. and class just simply (and very clearly) does not transcend power.

And where does power come from? Did the ruling class just find it growing on a bush? Political and economic power stems from class.

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Steven.
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Jan 12 2005 23:38

Hey Alex,

sorry but I think everything in your post is completely missing mine, redyred and catch's points.

Firstly your maths is a bit off cos of course over 10% of the UK population lives in London wink

But onto more important stuff:

gregorya wrote:
I'm still not convinced we live in class society.

How can you possibly deny it?

Is it not true that there exists a large group of people (a class) which to survive has to sell its labour power (or sign on)?

And is it not true that there is a small group of people who could live of the labour of others? (Who gives a shit if they work themselves too? They don't *have* to.)

These 2 things being correct - and they are undeniably so - we live in a class society - fact.

Quote:
The media journalist who works for their boss has more influence and causes more societal problems than the man who owns the cornershop down the road.

Bollocks - most journalists control nothing. Advertisers pull the most strings in journalism.

Quote:
To give a nice clear example as to why class is a bad way of seperating society, compare a footballer to the head of the Red Cross. According to you the head of the red cross needs to be abolished but the footballers wage is fine. That simply can't be right.

That doesn't make any sense whatsoever. confused

Quote:
Have you read anything even vaguely political since? Marxist conception of class is simple. There's been a hundred years since to improve on it, and a lot has been done.

Please elaborate - for example, without reference to the working class can you explain how fascism triumphed in Italy in the 20s? Or why Thatcher crushed the miners strike? Or how and why globalisation is happening?

Quote:
Not true. In fact, its far from clear, as I say above. It just really is a simple 'owners are evil', 'workers are great', view of how society works.

So who said that then?

Right no one so please don't put words in people's mouths. A straw man argument that's called.

It doesn't matter if corporate owners are nice or not - if a company became all nice and started paying its workers a fair wage - the company would either go bust or be bought out. Capitalism is completely institutionalised, and doesn't need the control of individuals. Morals don't come into it.

Look forward to the debate continuing (without strawmen!! wink)

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Rob Ray
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Jan 13 2005 13:38
Quote:
The media journalist who works for their boss has more influence and causes more societal problems than the man who owns the cornershop down the road.

Agree with John, and would add that you're mixing up regional and national journalism. One is made up mainly of overworked, apolitical types who just churn out as much copy as possible without having the faintest what you would mean by an agenda. Influence is minimal.

The other is very similar, but is more fiercly controlled and spun against because its dealing with a vastly more powerful series of national PR machines. Influence is basically zero, unless you become a commentator (in which case you probably come from, or support, the same class as directs the spinning of the news in the first place).

gregorya
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Jan 13 2005 14:31

Hey John smile

Quote:
Firstly your maths is a bit off cos of course over 10% of the UK population lives in London Wink

(Keeping the non-serious stuff in wink) Personally I'd assume that when they say "the average for the UK" I'd assume that meant including London. To be fair, Its just not clear. Anyone got a better link?

(on class)

Quote:
How can you possibly deny it?

Is it not true that there exists a large group of people (a class) which to survive has to sell its labour power (or sign on)?

And is it not true that there is a small group of people who could live of the labour of others? (Who gives a shit if they work themselves too? They don't *have* to.)

These 2 things being correct - and they are undeniably so - we live in a class society - fact.

If you want to define class in that way, then yes, there is a class, but thats trivial. I maintain that there is no worthwhile/important class based distinction to make. The fact that some people "live off the labour power of others" is a totally pointless distinction. Everyone lives off the labour power of others - you depend on your doctor, your binman and your prime minister, as well as bill gates, richard branson and others.

If your claim is that they have the money to live without working, then money is the issue, not labour power. And if that is your claim, then its a simple one. Money is not the only evil in modern society. Tony Blair earns less than Cherie, but that doesn't make him less powerful.

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Bollocks - most journalists control nothing. Advertisers pull the most strings in journalism.

Even if I grant that, those advertisers are not necessarily the bourgousie. Furthermore, the journalists cause problems by letting their strings be pulled by advertisers. Again, its about trying to command power rather than class - the journalist figures that money = power, and sucumbs to anything necessary to get that.

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To give a nice clear example as to why class is a bad way of seperating society, compare a footballer to the head of the Red Cross. According to you the head of the red cross needs to be abolished but the footballers wage is fine. That simply can't be right.

That doesn't make any sense whatsoever. Confused

If you're dividing it in terms of living off of the labour of others (then my above point aside), the footballer is selling his surplus labour to others, and the Red Cross guy isn't. But I'd still maintain that the footballer is worse for having greater influence.

Quote:
Please elaborate - for example, without reference to the working class can you explain how fascism triumphed in Italy in the 20s? Or why Thatcher crushed the miners strike? Or how and why globalisation is happening?

My history isn't great, so I'm afraid I'll have to ignore the Italy question. With regards to miners, Thatcher was trying to maintain government and corporate power over a group of people who were attempting to usurp that power. There is no reason in principle why a managers strike couldn't occur and be quashed by the government. (of course it won't happen, but thats because they have enough power that the government bows to their wishes in the first place)

I totally fail to see how Globalisation is a result of class. Its a result of capitalism, and the corresponding maxim "grow or die". Monopolies are achieved because those who control society have the power to ensure that they will continue to control society.

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Not true. In fact, its far from clear, as I say above. It just really is a simple 'owners are evil', 'workers are great', view of how society works.

So who said that then?

Right no one so please don't put words in people's mouths. A straw man argument that's called.

It doesn't matter if corporate owners are nice or not - if a company became all nice and started paying its workers a fair wage - the company would either go bust or be bought out. Capitalism is completely institutionalised, and doesn't need the control of individuals. Morals don't come into it.

You?:

Quote:
Is it not true that there exists a large group of people (a class) which to survive has to sell its labour power (or sign on)?

And is it not true that there is a small group of people who could live of the labour of others? (Who gives a shit if they work themselves too? They don't *have* to.)

You're at least implying that whats wrong with the world is the existence of owners, and whats good is the existence of workers. Sorry if I'm over interpreting here?

And redyred:

Quote:
And where does power come from? Did the ruling class just find it growing on a bush? Political and economic power stems from class.

Let me ask you a question: Where does class come from? Did the ruling class just find it growing on a bush?

Political and economic power don't stem from class, class stems from political and economic power.

A question for all of you: If its all about workers vs. owners, then why can't you start your own business and improve your situation?

IMO, you can't. Power is so heavily weighted in favour of those who have it already that you simply can't compete. Bill Gates isn't my boss, but that doesn't stop him from preventing me starting a software company.

Thanks for the reply. Glad not all internet debates turn into shit-flinging. Mr. T

Alex

gregorya
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Jan 13 2005 14:35
Saii wrote:
Quote:
The media journalist who works for their boss has more influence and causes more societal problems than the man who owns the cornershop down the road.

Agree with John, and would add that you're mixing up regional and national journalism. One is made up mainly of overworked, apolitical types who just churn out as much copy as possible without having the faintest what you would mean by an agenda. Influence is minimal.

The other is very similar, but is more fiercly controlled and spun against because its dealing with a vastly more powerful series of national PR machines. Influence is basically zero, unless you become a commentator (in which case you probably come from, or support, the same class as directs the spinning of the news in the first place).

I disagree, on the basis of what is essentially Chomsky's work. To keep things on track in this discussion, I'll not respond to this. Sorry. If I weren't in the middle of my exam period I might start a new thread for it, but I'm afraid I don't have time right now.

Alex

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Rob Ray
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Jan 13 2005 14:43
Quote:
Even if I grant that, those advertisers are not necessarily the bourgousie. Furthermore, the journalists cause problems by letting their strings be pulled by advertisers. Again, its about trying to command power rather than class - the journalist figures that money = power, and sucumbs to anything necessary to get that.

As a journalist, I find that really fucking insulting. There's no 'let' about it. It's either do as you're told or be fired. You aren't hired for your ability to imprint your own style and thoughts on stories, you're employed to do as you're told and write copy in the 'house style'.

Journalists don't command shit, stop pontificating on something you obviously have no clue about. One of the reasons for the high turnover of journalists at most papers is precisely this point - there is no personal autonomy, we do long work, long hours and get shit pay.

Advertisers don't have any control either, they just have to sell advertising space. The only people with control over content are the heads of the advertising department and editorial, and they are ruled by what their major advertisers want, and the bosses of the company say. In effect, the media is run by the market, not the individuals working within it.

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Steven.
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Jan 13 2005 15:03
Saii wrote:
Advertisers don't have any control either, they just have to sell advertising space.

Just quickly - NB that when I said "advertisers" I mean big corporations who buy advertising space.

I'll get back to more stuff later, I'm finding this discussion increasingly frustrating...

3rdseason
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Jan 13 2005 15:15

Welcome Padams and Gregorya. This is a good discussion and I think gregorya in particular has made some interesting and challenging comments..

I started a similar thread about how I don't think all oppression is rooted in class here...

http://enrager.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=3199

I can't be bothered to repeat myself. grin grin

I have to say I disagree with the comments about smashing up a lab being pointless. The major thing there IMO is that those animal rescue actions actually save animals - they're not merely symbolic.

Why do many anarchist think you can't have anarchism without basing everything around class? You can still work towards a society free from oppression without believing class to be the root cause of all oppression.

gregorya
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Jan 13 2005 15:35

Saii: Sorry if I've offended you, but I stick to my point. Why do you work there if you get no money, long hours, no freedom and no job satisfaction? By working there you're perpetuating the very system you presumably hate.

John: If you're finding it frustrating, just leave it for a while. Don't feel you have to reply straight away. I'm away till Sunday now anyway.

3rdseason: Thanks smile Interesting thread, although this one seems to be coming at the same problem from a slightly different angle. Maybe we'll get more progress this way? You a Bookchin fan by any chance?

Re: Lab smashing, you are right, there is some intrinsic value to it, but you've got to bear in mind that such acts may actually contribute to more animals deaths by alienating those scientists who might otherwise agree with you. They then don't see your point, and don't cease the activity. Of course, its greatly dependant on both the individual occassion, and some fairly complex cost / benefit (the irony of using that phrase.. wink) calculations.

3rdseason
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Jan 13 2005 15:43
gregorya wrote:
3rdseason: Thanks smile Interesting thread, although this one seems to be coming at the same problem from a slightly different angle. Maybe we'll get more progress this way? You a Bookchin fan by any chance?

Nah I'm not intellectual enough to read theory. embarrassed

Quote:
Re: Lab smashing, you are right, there is some intrinsic value to it, but you've got to bear in mind that such acts may actually contribute to more animals deaths by alienating those scientists who might otherwise agree with you.

If its their jobs then they aren't gonna just be persuaded to stop needlessly torturing animals. Those animals are suffering in the here and now, y'know? I have untmost respect for people who rescue them. Of course we need to work towards a long term solution as well.

Scientists are taught to treat lab animals as less than living beings right from the start of medical training down to the clinical language used in test reports to eliminate sympathy for the animals.

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Rob Ray
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Jan 13 2005 16:07

Because they pay me, and I have no other job skills. Originally I went into it because I wanted to write world changing stories, but if you ever work in the field you soon find that's unlikely unless you are doing it outside work or already have a huge reputation.

As a matter of fact I also write for Freedom, where I do try to do that. Amazingly enough, as an anarchist I'm in a union, organise in the workplace, I do activism within my community and every other sunday I travel down to London to work on an independent paper. To say that I might be directing the system itself is breathtakingly stupid.

Unfortunately, I also have to write and edit bollocks in my paper because otherwise I have no money to live. Many journalists, as I said before, go into other jobs if they can. As my only other option currently is casual work for 2/3 of my current pay, I'm not going to lose sleep over the fact that I do it, just as I wouldn't expect a guy working for Wilkinsons to lose sleep over contributing to a company which uses slave labour, or a McD's worker. Albert Meltzer was a copy-taker most of his life, so he fed journalists their stories, are you saying he had no right to call himself an Anarchist?

3rdseason
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Jan 13 2005 16:10

What paper do you write for?

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Rob Ray
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Jan 13 2005 16:23

Never you mind, it's just a regional one.

gregorya
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Jan 13 2005 16:32
Saii wrote:
Because they pay me, and I have no other job skills. Originally I went into it because I wanted to write world changing stories, but if you ever work in the field you soon find that's unlikely unless you are doing it outside work or already have a huge reputation.

As a matter of fact I also write for Freedom, where I do try to do that. Amazingly enough, as an anarchist I'm in a union, organise in the workplace, I do activism within my community and every other sunday I travel down to London to work on an independent paper. To say that I might be directing the system itself is breathtakingly stupid.

Unfortunately, I also have to write and edit bollocks in my paper because otherwise I have no money to live. Many journalists, as I said before, go into other jobs if they can. As my only other option currently is casual work for 2/3 of my current pay, I'm not going to lose sleep over the fact that I do it, just as I wouldn't expect a guy working for Wilkinsons to lose sleep over contributing to a company which uses slave labour, or a McD's worker. Albert Meltzer was a copy-taker most of his life, so he fed journalists their stories, are you saying he had no right to call himself an Anarchist?

Incidentally (and I know I said I wouldn't repeat Chomsky here, but what the hell), those "with a huge reputation", are, at the end of the day, those who please both their bosses and advertisers, and are therefore almost certainly going to be right wing morons.

As to you "directing the system", I think to be fair you're greatly exagerrating me, I picked out one example off the top of my head of people who have power disproportionate to their wage and class. But, I still maintain that by working there, and submitting to their demands that you write whatever the hell they want, you're bound to end of perpetuating the stuff you're trying to fight against in the rest of your time.

As to your only option being casual work for 2/3 of your current pay, are you telling me that that extra 1/3 is worth the very clear hatred you have for your current job? Do you need that extra 1/3 to survive? If you don't /need/ the money, why do it?

I realise that everyone has to earn somewhere and a lot of companies do bad things, but you can still opt for companies who are less bad, and at least IMO, mainstream media shapes public thinking in extraordinarily powerful ways. To contribute to that is against (as I say above), what you're doing in the rest of your time.

Lets be clear: I never said you had no right to call yourself an anarchist, I haven't called you evil, and I know that you don't necessarily write the stuff you do totally out of choice.

But what I do say, is that (contrary to what they'd have you believe) you don't have to earn 'big', or even as high as mediocre amounts of money to enjoy life. You do, therefore, have a choice to stop your job and work elsewhere. I'd guess that as a journalist in London you must earn £20/year at the very least. Given that some people live off £10k or less (in fact, a lot of people do: students), why not do something you enjoy AND help the activism you obviously love.

redyred
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Jan 13 2005 17:06
gregorya wrote:

If you want to define class in that way, then yes, there is a class, but thats trivial. I maintain that there is no worthwhile/important class based distinction to make. The fact that some people "live off the labour power of others" is a totally pointless distinction. Everyone lives off the labour power of others - you depend on your doctor, your binman and your prime minister, as well as bill gates, richard branson and others.

Ok, ok, I admit it! I didn't really win all that money gambling at the dogs, I've been living off my binman for years. What's more, I dictate every aspect of his working life and alienate him from his productive process. And all he gets in return is a friendly nod as I collect the milk, itself the fruit of my equally ruthless exploitation of the milkman.

Joking apart, there is a huge difference between paying for a service or a product either indirectly through taxation or directly in the marketplace. We have to look again at the fundamentals of capitalist economics again. Workers must give over their labour power to produce things for the capitalist (and just as a side point this needn't mean making a physical object, it is more often an abstract concept e.g. a bus driver provides transport which in itself has a value even though it's not a tangible product), the capitalist sells the product and then pays the worker a wage. Because the capitalist wants to make a profit the wage is less then the price of the product. In other words the worker is effectively short changed for the value of their labour.

Quote:
If your claim is that they have the money to live without working, then money is the issue, not labour power. And if that is your claim, then its a simple one. Money is not the only evil in modern society. Tony Blair earns less than Cherie, but that doesn't make him less powerful.

The issue isn't money. If you are a capitalist you are not a producer, but because you are the owner of the means of production (equipment and worker's labour) you gain substantially from the production. A top celebrity might earn as much as a company director and so be equal in monetary terms. But are they part of a small class of people who exploit the vast majority of people? No.

Quote:
If you're dividing it in terms of living off of the labour of others (then my above point aside), the footballer is selling his surplus labour to others, and the Red Cross guy isn't. But I'd still maintain that the footballer is worse for having greater influence.

You seem to be talking in terms of liberal morality. Someone could be a millionaire company executive and give half their money to charity, or they could be desperately poor and a mean bastard. It doesn't change the fact that one is ruling class, the other working class. Because it's in the interest of the working class to see class society overturned I'll have solidarity with the working class bastard but not the ruling class philanthropist.

Quote:
My history isn't great, so I'm afraid I'll have to ignore the Italy question. With regards to miners, Thatcher was trying to maintain government and corporate power over a group of people who were attempting to usurp that power.

The aim of Thatcherite policy, in fact conservative policy in general is to defend the interests of the ruling class. Privatisation, crushing strikes, restricting unions etc etc.

Quote:
There is no reason in principle why a managers strike couldn't occur and be quashed by the government. (of course it won't happen, but thats because they have enough power that the government bows to their wishes in the first place)

Who would the managers strike against? The whole concept of a managers strike is illogical. Also your own point about their power over the government kind of disproves your point about state power being more important than class.

Quote:
I totally fail to see how Globalisation is a result of class. Its a result of capitalism, and the corresponding maxim "grow or die". Monopolies are achieved because those who control society have the power to ensure that they will continue to control society.

"It's not class, it's capitalism" - err... capitalism is a class society.

Quote:
You're at least implying that whats wrong with the world is the existence of owners, and whats good is the existence of workers. Sorry if I'm over interpreting here?

What's good, or more accurately what's necessary for human society is a production of everything that humans require, and this is possible under capitalist technology and mass production. What's bad is that under capitalism this production is organised into exploited workers and exploiting owners.

Quote:
A question for all of you: If its all about workers vs. owners, then why can't you start your own business and improve your situation?

IMO, you can't. Power is so heavily weighted in favour of those who have it already that you simply can't compete. Bill Gates isn't my boss, but that doesn't stop him from preventing me starting a software company.

How is that an argument against the importance of class? It's wrong anyway, obviously since power isn't usually handed down from father to son any more the ruling class must come from somewhere. The point is that capilalism can only exist with a minority of exploiters, so it will only be the lucky/determined few who make it to those bourgeois heights.

That last bit was a bit rushed cos revol68 is hassling me, the nonce.

Thora
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Jan 13 2005 17:09
revol68 wrote:
oh please fuck up u stupid liberal!

Do you think you could actually manage to argue your point without throwing crap insults about?

Mike Harman
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Jan 13 2005 17:13

If you stopped working for a local paper and started working as a casual labourer with no rights or sick pay then you'd be "perpetuating" shit wages, poor labour rights and no sick pay instead of dodgy journalism about school fetes. Every job for a capitalist (or state) employer perpetuates capitalism or the state, and workers co-ops, self-employment or NGO work is still firmly within those boundaries.

To understand "working for yourself or for others" without references to someone else mending your shoes or making your lunch, which has nothing to do with it, you need to understand the concept of surplus value, which comes from Marx. Surplus value only really applies to work in manufacturing, although I think contemporary analysis applies it to service industry as well. Footballing ( or being a musician or artist) is outside the system of surplus value in almost all cases, and is more complex in relationship to class.

The point with "living off the labour of others" is not that the factory worker lives in a house he didn't build himself, anarchist communists are in favour of collective labour, it's that the owner of the factory expropriates the labour of the factory worker (or pool cleaner, or call centre worker, or record shop employee) in the form of surplus value.

That surplus value can then be added to the original capital to make more capital to make more surplus value and so on - thus encouraging bigger scale and monopolies.

Bollocks, going to quote meself paraphrasing Marx in a new post.

Mike Harman
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Jan 13 2005 17:14

C - Capital

M - Manufacture

C1 - Capital + Surplus value

C + M = C1

The _fixed_ capital (materials, tools) go in and come out the same value - minus natural wastage/wear and tear which is expressed in the value of the finished material anyway. Variable capital is the amount paid to the workers.

If the workers get enough wages to sustain themselves, and do enough work to sustain themselves in six hours, the remaining (say) two hours create surplus value - they are no longer working "for themselves" but for the capitalist.

The surplus value would then be expressed as an increase of 33% on the _variable_ capital - with the fixed capital being fixed.

If the working day is increased by one hour, they're still doing six hours for themselves, but now three for the capitalist. Surplus value would then be 50%.

If the techology improves, scale increases etc. , and they produce enough to reproduce themselves (i.e. their wages) in five hours, in an eight hour day they're then doing three for the capitalist instead of two, surplus value would then be expressed at 60%.

If they work less than themselves than for the capitalist - four hours in a twelve hour day, then you have rates of surplus value at 200%.

If goods become considerably cheaper and wages go down to reflect this - yet more surplus value if the working day remains. And so on.

Apologies for any sloppiness - don't have time to go through Marx's original examples, but that gives you an idea - the amount the worker produces over and above his wages (i.e. the amount required to reproduce him).

It's not the same as rate of profit (percentage on the total capital outlay), and it's not the same as a mark-up - you have to include rent/tax and other variables as fixed capital since they're not involved in actually creating any value.