These are just some thoughts I have been having recently, but could class composition be seen as Leninist? Basically, the argument behind the operaist notion of class composition boils down to (if I understand correctly): Highly skilled professional workers were represented the most in workers’ councils, as well as in much of the reformist social democratic parties and trade unions, of the early 20th century, and since they identified to a large degree with their work, they were for worker’s self-management rather than for the abolition of the capitalist organization of labor. Therefore, it would take the period of Fordism and the rise of the semi-skilled or un-skilled “mass” worker who, with no identification with production, would completely oppose capitalism.
In the first place, wasn’t “worker’s self-management,” at least for the council communists, to take an anti-capitalist character, and not become a capitalist organization of labor? And aside from the question of whether skilled workers were even represented the most in this period, aren’t these differences in reality too minimal to think that the skilled workers couldn’t develop class consciousness? I think it’s true the conditions for skilled workers were different from semi-skilled or un-skilled workers, but to me this kind of argument just seems like a variation of Lenin’s idea of “trade union consciousness” or the idea in his “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism” of a “labor aristocracy,” a privileged layer of the workers, who is at home in the existing conditions in the developed world because of profits generated by monopolies through imperialism and therefore a revolution would have to begin among workers in the developing countries such as Russia. I would argue that it’s precisely the opposite: because the differences between skilled workers and un-skilled workers, and between the working class in different countries, are so minimal, there is a strong potential for class consciousness to develop among them as they work together. Of course, there are hierarchies within the working class, but I don’t think these sort of distinctions between skilled or un-skilled allows us to understand reformism with the worker’s movement. Lenin tries to understand changes in the movement through a kind of economistic determinism, while the operaists do so through technological determinism, by looking at the technology in production.
The objectivism is combined with a contradictory subjectivism (found also in capitalist ideology): just as vanguard party for Lenin is automatically anti-capitalist, the “mass worker”’s struggles for the operaists represent an automatic resistance to capitalism. (I think many operaists also held the vanguard party was, too, didn’t they?) Such subjectivism is also evident in their theory of crisis, which is related I think: they answer crisis is caused by capitalists answering to worker’s struggles, just as in Lenin’s monopoly theory it is the will of “lords of monopoly” which leads to crisis.
Anyway, I am interested in whether my thoughts on this may have any validity – I’ve only read some operaist writings, so I could definitely be wrong about this, and it would be nice to hear from anyone who knows more about the notion of class composition than I do. And I would be interested to see if there any critiques of class composition or operaismo in general if anyone knows?