Pro-revolutionaries in academia

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RedHughs
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Oct 28 2011 05:00
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I think perhaps Blasto and some others may have already made this point in different ways but I think the point is rather that professional academics can and do, despite the training and general atmosphere of academia, sometimes become pro-revolutionary, but that they cannot become pro-revolutionary academics and that an 'academic' approach to pro-revolutionary politics is to be considered harmful or at least suspect. So for comparison a bricklayer may become pro-revolutionary but equally cannot become a pro-revolutionary bricklayer as such. There's no difference except that it seems many 'academics' think that they can actually combine their professional and pro-revolutionary roles whereas bricklayers would never consider this in the first place.

Yes, the Blasto and what-is-in-evidence make several good points, many quite insightful points really. And whether Blasto and what-is-in-evidence are nih-com or not, the nih-com folks also make good and sophisticated points.

My "basic position" is ... you can be as insightful as fuck but if you are also a disingenuous-piece-of-shit, then fuck you, you still don't have anything to do with revolution.

Who exactly this applies to is uncertain, the evidence is not all in. But there are some indications it applies to a number of folks around...

Disingenous as in "just intervening to make my point" or disingenous as in "I know how to talk to the cops, just trust me".

Evidence. We are awaiting it...

tastybrain
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Oct 28 2011 15:46
RedHughs wrote:
Quote:
I think perhaps Blasto and some others may have already made this point in different ways but I think the point is rather that professional academics can and do, despite the training and general atmosphere of academia, sometimes become pro-revolutionary, but that they cannot become pro-revolutionary academics and that an 'academic' approach to pro-revolutionary politics is to be considered harmful or at least suspect. So for comparison a bricklayer may become pro-revolutionary but equally cannot become a pro-revolutionary bricklayer as such. There's no difference except that it seems many 'academics' think that they can actually combine their professional and pro-revolutionary roles whereas bricklayers would never consider this in the first place.

Yes, the Blasto and what-is-in-evidence make several good points, many quite insightful points really. And whether Blasto and what-is-in-evidence are nih-com or not, the nih-com folks also make good and sophisticated points.

My "basic position" is ... you can be as insightful as fuck but if you are also a disingenuous-piece-of-shit, then fuck you, you still don't have anything to do with revolution.

Who exactly this applies to is uncertain, the evidence is not all in. But there are some indications it applies to a number of folks around...

Disingenous as in "just intervening to make my point" or disingenous as in "I know how to talk to the cops, just trust me".

Evidence. We are awaiting it...

What??? That last part confused me.

I think whatisinevidence and blasto might have made a few good points but they are overshadowed, in my opinion, by the insistence that academics are all bad class enemies and manipulators roll eyes (maybe only whatisinevidence thinks this and not blasto).

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Red Marriott
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Oct 28 2011 16:39
jacobian wrote:
Red Marriott wrote:
So which of your two classes is the petit-bourgeois in, then? The ruling class?

A section of the bourgeoisie, just as a section of the proletariat is lumpen, and a section of it is professional.

So magistrates, lawyers and beggars are in the same class?
So, then, is the bourgeoisie (which, you say, includes the petite-bourgeoisie) the ruling class?

RedHughs
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Oct 28 2011 21:20
tastybrain wrote:
RedHughs wrote:
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Evidence. We are awaiting it...

What??? That last part confused me.

As to evidence, we are awaiting any statement by blasto or whatisinevidence about whether they are or are not Dupontists and I, at least, am awaiting whatever reply Mike Harmon gets with his effort mentioned on here.

Mike Harman wrote:
[if other groups see "that private correspondence" or it is made public..] it wouldn't come down to Aufheben + libcom admins vs. TPTG + Samotnaf which is a fucking stupid situation that is pissing me off.

(I should add the caveat that I am not all sure I could imagine how the information in this correspondence might be exonerating-or-whatever-you-call-it but I am willing to wait for it since it seems reasonable to argue with all the information on the table ...)

All these permutations have convinced me that when one makes a discovery such as TPTG made, it is probably best to share it first in neutral fashion before polemicizing about it. I tend to agree with TPTG and Samontof's polemics but when other random folks appear and use the situation for polemics I disagree with, I can see how folks would be irked.

Sorry to have things go back to the details of the Auf question but since there have been veiled references since the beginning, it seems reasonable to be direct.

jacobian
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Oct 28 2011 22:21
Red Marriott wrote:
So magistrates, lawyers and beggars are in the same class?
So, then, is the bourgeoisie (which, you say, includes the petite-bourgeoisie) the ruling class?

That's right, they're all in the same class.

Is the petite-bourgeois the ruling class? Well clearly they don't rule (except maybe a bit here in Ireland). They however do have bourgeois consciousness and that's a very important factor. The control of the means of production, the need to exploit labour and the consequent belief that the gains of this exploitation are your own winnings, and that any duress or failures are from the stress of assaults from both taxation and labour. These things form consciousness in big ways.

Neither is the classification into two classes merely a formal distinction based on the means of production. The distribution of income is bi-modal and the capitalist class has a different distribution than the rest of us. See figure 6.

http://www-f1.ijs.si/~rudi/sola/Statistical_mechanics_of_money_wealth_and_income.pdf

Why should we include all wage labourers in our analysis? Well, we've the most chance of being able to reconstitute society in a way that is beneficial to the whole class since we are not the class which has been deriving surplus from the control of the means of production and finance. As we expropriate these things in our own interest, we will also necessarily be in the process of ways of working with each other in mutually beneficial combination.

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Oct 30 2011 19:31
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That's right, they're all in the same class.

So the libcom version of "we're the 99%". In a courtroom where a rioter is being sentenced there are no class relations embodied/personified in the situation? The life/career path to being a judge or legal professional is in no way dependent on any class privilege and, eg, its accompanying educational access? So capitalism is a pure meritocracy? There's nothing of class privilege that determined that one became a judge and one a beggar? The fact that ex-soldiers are disproportionately represented among street homeless - but by those from the lower non-officer ranks - that too has nothing to do with class?

And historically this has always been true? Or what happened, did the middle class (as identified by Marx, Bakunin and later observers) disappear, supposedly become totally proletarianised?

Many recent western prime ministers and presidents come to power via privileged schooling and the legal profession - so, they went straight from 'the proletariat' towards the highest level of politics? (Whether as wage earning PMs/Prez's they supposedly 'remain' proles is unclear).

The idea that if one earns a wage therefore one is an exploited prole is unconvincing, wrongly assuming that one's "relationship to the means of production" is solely defined by this. If one ignores all social function and power relations as a factor, then by their wage MPs, judges, CEOs/MDs etc are also proles. For me this is a pretty useless analysis based on abstract economic technicalities. As is the claim that the petit-bourgeoisie is part of the ruling class, again a crude reductionism. If it's excluded from ruling by the ruling class, I don't see that it is part of the bourgeois ruling class; it's relationship to other classes is quite different.

If the petit-bourgeoisie is predominantly a merchant class, limited by its inability to accumulate sufficient surplus to expand production or expand itself to the level of a dominant class; then it doesn't socially dominate the means of production and its development - as the haute-bourgeoisie, or capitalist class, does - nor dominates the administration of society.

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OliverTwister
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Oct 31 2011 15:24
Spikymike wrote:
I think perhaps Blasto and some others may have already made this point in different ways but I think the point is rather that professional academics can and do, despite the training and general atmosphere of academia, sometimes become pro-revolutionary, but that they cannot become pro-revolutionary academics and that an 'academic' approach to pro-revolutionary politics is to be considered harmful or at least suspect. So for comparison a bricklayer may become pro-revolutionary but equally cannot become a pro-revolutionary bricklayer as such. There's no difference except that it seems many 'academics' think that they can actually combine their professional and pro-revolutionary roles whereas bricklayers would never consider this in the first place.

As I recall this theoretical point has been made previously by Aufheben but perhaps not been embedded in their practice.

There is a separate issue in relation, not so much to the pro-revolutionary ideas of different sections of the working class (or as some prefer the middle and working classes) but as to their respective material potential to undermine (and eventially destroy) the capitalist economy as a preliminary to any mass change towards a communist consciousness. As I see it MD, in their Nihilist Communism book and in other discussions here, have placed most emphasis on 'external' material conditions as opposed to the 'ideological' role of conscious pro-revolutionaries.

I have my own disagreements with MD, but their book in the library here is still worth a read for those who haven't seen it before.

So do you consider the idea of pro-revolutionary artists, for example, as impossible as that of pro-revolutionary academics?

Spikymike
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Oct 31 2011 17:23

OliverTwister,

I did slightly qualify my original comment (that you have quoted) in my subsequent post no 90.

So taking that into account I think 'artists' can, as everyone else, be pro-revolutionary but not pro-revolutionary artists in so far as their artistry is encompassed within the academic and/or commercial sphere. Their activity as professional artists cannot escape the dominant social relations.

If you disagree perhaps explain why - I am always open to pursuasion.

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Malva
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Oct 31 2011 18:32

Spikeymike is right on this one. It is an issue that the Situationists faced head on at their conference in Gothenburg in 1961:

Quote:
The organization of life in capitalist and supposedly anti-capitalist society takes the form of the spectacle. The point is not to elaborate the spectacle of refusal, but to refuse the spectacle. In order for their elaboration to be artistic in the new and authentic sense defined by the SI, the elements of the destruction of the spectacle must precisely cease to be works of art. There is no such thing as situationism, or a situationist work of art, or a spectacular situationist. Once and for all.

Such a perspective means nothing if it is not linked directly to revolutionary praxis, to the will to change the employment of life (an act that can in no way be reduced to merely changing the employers of existing works). The possibility of a new type of critical action, independent of current revolutionary movements, depends, furthermore, on the following.

Indeed, the above is the only context in which the situationists can even talk of a freedom of action.

From here.

lines
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Nov 9 2011 11:21

The term ‘middle class’ is used by some as a shorthand for those who occupy jobs with an expert/managerial/professional function – to make a difference between the supervisors and the supervised. The ‘working class’ is therefore defined as the ‘supervised’.

All these other sociological definitions, as have been articulated here (over and over again on Libcom), only serve to confuse everyone and muddy the waters - AND they are not at all useful for pro-revolutionaries, as the recent debates have shown. It is due, in large part, to these errors that the ‘Aufheben scandal’ has been allowed to slowly ferment for twenty years.

There are many concerns in the broad milieu (from the ICC to Solfed, from Theorie Communiste to the Anarchist Federation, from Aufheben to the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, etc) with the struggles of people in factory-type jobs (the supervised, or, the working class).

There is also a lot of analysis and interaction with democratic/political struggles, such as the Occupy phenomenon, or the recent events in Egypt – but I am concerned here not with these struggles but with making a comparison between studies of the struggles of the supervised (factory-type jobs) and studies of the supervisors (expert/managerial/professional jobs).

It seems clear, from the jobs of a lot of the contributors to Libcom and also the members of the Organisations who post here, that many of them are in the category which I would describe as ‘expert/managerial/professional’, the ‘supervising’ category (as opposed to the ‘supervised/factory-type’ category).

For the sake of simplicity, I think it is most useful for pro-revolutionaries to regard this supervising category as ‘middle class’.

The reason for this is that it allows pro-revolutionaries (eg, myself) to draw lines in the sand. These lines are important in respect of what we say and do as communists, or as pro-revolutionaries. (It doesn’t matter if we are in the ‘middle class’ or the ‘working class’, the only thing that matters is that we understand the function our job fulfils in the economy/society – there is no ‘good vs evil’ dichotomy in this.)

All this begs a question.

If a majority of people in this milieu are ‘middle class’ (by which I mean they do jobs that are managerial/expert/professional) then why do they talk so much about the struggles of the working class?

Surely they are not often directly involved in these struggles?

Surely they are involved in struggles at their own places of work?

Surely they should speak about what they know: that is, about what they are involved in on a daily basis as part of their job?

Why don’t we have lots of threads on Libcom about office politics and the divisions that are incorporated into the structure of ‘middle class’ jobs to keep the workers in those jobs divided?

We should have these reports and analyses – because we are told again and again on Libcom that jobs which were once popularly viewed as ‘middle class’, for example the job of a teacher, are now viewed by the communist/anarchist milieu as ‘proletarian’.

There is a failure of deductive logic here. One thing is lived but another thing is said. There is no continuity between life and theory. There is no genuine introspection. All we get, in regards to class here, is an amateurish rehash of sociological ideas.

This is the root of the ‘Aufheben scandal’.

Spikymike
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Nov 9 2011 14:37

My subjective experience of over 40 years involved in the anarchist and communist milieu would incline me to confirm that our milieu today is indeed populated disproportionally by those whom lines describes as the 'middle class' (though I would still argue that these are best considered for the most part as categories within a broader working class since we all have the same long term material interest in communism)) and that the influence of the more academically trained within this 'middle class' have a disproportionate influence which can distort both the theory and practice of organisations within the milieu.(It is also more obviously disproportionally male though that has received more consideration here - is there a connection perhaps between the two?).

But that is only my subjectice experience. It would be good to know, if that were possible, whether or not this was a fact and what the proportions are. That might not be possible but some sort of libcom survey and some more upfront info on more poster profiles might go some way to answering this?

Either way lines makes a good case for us all to analyse and discuss in more detail than we often do, our actual experiences of the jobs we do and the relationships we enter into, both in the context of particular struggles and also in the everyday situations which are more common, and incidentally to illustrate the extent to which some formally 'middle class' jobs, have or have not, become 'proletarianised'. (though nothing to stop lines setting an example).

There is some of that here but perhaps not enough?

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Nov 9 2011 14:40

Journalism pays an average of about £25k per annum (less up north) and basic entry level is about £12-15k depending on whether you have the NCTJ training (which is a 10-week industry course).

So in terms of class, hardly the most white-collar job in the technical aspects, but culturally very much so. Which is exactly the kind of mystification that we should be discouraging rather than levering people into a false opposition against say, a construction worker who's considered classic blue collar working class but can command significantly higher wages and often has significantly more (practical) training.

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Nov 10 2011 00:59

Lines I read the slightly different version on your (?) blog and it raises some valid points. I quite like your concise definition of middle class.

Your supervised/supervisor dichotomy isn't as clear as it seems however. Journalists are most definitely highly supervised I don't know if there is any element of supervising involved? I'm also curious about lawyers and doctors. The wife of a guy at work is a lawyer and she seems to work in factory like conditions under tight supervision and has no "belief" in her job, she does have a very good salary though.

[edit]
Just to add when I worked in transport there was very little supervision. Clock in, plan and load the lorry, leave, make it to the last stop before they close, go back, park, clock out. Almost no supervision or management interference. And I was certainly supervising that FL6 wink

My current "high status" 27k a year job is much more supervised but more intellectual. Capitalism puts very strict limitations on the job and prevents it from being a personally rewarding activity in ways much more acute than when driving a lorry. I would say the alienation is stronger.
[/edit]

Also there are few discussions about traditional working class jobs and struggles on libcom. It's mainly service sector and student stuff, you seem to have a different experience.

Some of the other points reflect the libcom 'nerdery' as I've called it before but I've seen these interests and ways of speaking amongst the supervised as well?

If I'm missing the point please explain.

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Nov 10 2011 01:49
Rob Ray wrote:
Journalism pays an average of about £25k per annum (less up north) and basic entry level is about £12-15k depending on whether you have the NCTJ training (which is a 10-week industry course).

So in terms of class, hardly the most white-collar job in the technical aspects, but culturally very much so. Which is exactly the kind of mystification that we should be discouraging rather than levering people into a false opposition against say, a construction worker who's considered classic blue collar working class but can command significantly higher wages and often has significantly more (practical) training.

The point lines was trying to make is that they think "middle-class" job struggles don't get enough coverage on Libcom, and people do not talk about their "middle-class" workplaces or organizing therein as much as in what workerists would consider "real working class" workplaces, like posties, textile workers, food service employees, etc. I'm not sure if that is correct, but I don't think the point is to get into another argument of who is working class - rather, that while most people on Libcom profess to not accepting "middle class" as a category, most of the reportage and discussions are about either "working class" struggles, or when "middle class" is approached, it's more in a professional bent, as in the whole Aufheben debacle of whether or not the content of J's work aided the ruling class or not. The real question should be, why have we never heard of J's struggle for his working conditions as an academic? Why is he being an academic a kind of "profession", in which he is trying to do the best a reformist can, rather than a field of struggle for him?

Lines may correct me if I misrepresented anything, but I think that's the gist of it, as far as I understand.

Mike Harman
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Nov 10 2011 04:01
lines wrote:
Why don’t we have lots of threads on Libcom about office politics and the divisions that are incorporated into the structure of ‘middle class’ jobs to keep the workers in those jobs divided?

There is a fair bit written about office jobs and similar. Usually when it is forum discussions it is particular situations of people getting fucked over rather than talking about their experiences. Enough people have been identified from those discussions by their employers or ex-employers (for example this one: http://libcom.org/forums/organise/trying-get-paid-owe-2-days-temp-work-02022011) that I think generally people are a bit circumspect compared to openly discussing struggles that other people are involved with, or street protests in London, France, Greece etc. It is definitely a problem with the site that people don't discuss as much about their own experiences as work as they do events happening elsewhere (or history or some other theoretical discussion), however I don't see you doing this anywhere either - all your posts on this site are about the role of academics and none about yourself.

http://libcom.org/library/shirking-9-5-diary-reluctant-temp

http://libcom.org/history/notes-working-sixth-form-college-library-london-2005-2007

http://libcom.org/library/when-it-comes-crunch-unpaid-overtime-games-industry

http://libcom.org/library/sleep-workers-enquiry

Kind of thing you're after? Or what were you looking for but couldn't find?

Note I don't think any of those jobs are particularly middle class, web developers count as 'experts' maybe, but generally if they are actually writing code they are not doing any managing or similar (not that people don't move into management from being developers as happens with many other jobs), and they rarely have much control over how sites turn out (compared to web designers and similar in the production process). Temps, games testers and low level library staff often have degrees etc. but this does not distinguish their social role for me compared to any other worker particularly.

RedHughs
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Nov 10 2011 08:41

The argument of "lines" seems rather confused.

One might argue that some portion of the sociological Middle Class (whatever you'd want to call it) is more inclined to accept the position that it's OK to be a cop consultant while claiming to radical. Sure, maybe.

However, all we know specifically that only a small group of folks knew about the cop consultant in question. As you say, a large portion of the anti-state communist milieu is composed of the Middle Class. And once J's particular activities became common knowledge, a portion of this sociologically middle class group denounced the situation of the cop consultant. This seems to prove a big fat nothing.

I think it's reasonable to critique the workerism that often seems to regularly appear around the libcom board. I like to think I do so regularly. And the case of J seems more unpalatable by the day.

But I think trying to pin J's particular nastiness on crude workerism in general on the Libcom board or the milieu is reaching, even if I find both things distasteful and I wouldn't mind attack either singly.

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Nov 10 2011 09:15
RedHughs wrote:
trying to pin J's particular nastiness on crude workerism in general on the Libcom board or the milieu

Aye. All it's done is muddy the water and divert the very real problem of JD's conduct into a navel gazing wank fest of who is and isn't working/middle class. Fucking garbage.

It's definitely not what you'd call a clear as crystal, hard as steel approach. Must do better.

lines
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Nov 10 2011 12:31

Yes, I think the baseline, to retain a useful simplicity, is that there are jobs in which one has to contribute to the enhancement of the ruling ideology by our creativity. This category would, for example, include teachers, journalists and academics, etc. Then there are jobs in which one is directed to do things and one uses no genuine creativity in the work, therefore one does not use ones imagination to contribute to the enhancement of the ruling ideology. This category would include an old style assembly-line worker (for the ‘west’), a cleaner working in a cleaning company, a garbage truck driver, a storeperson, and any worker who is at the bottom rung of the managerial or supervisory ladder.

BUT it will be pointed out (as in above posts) that some/many journalists or teachers, for example, are at the bottom of the managerial ladder. I would argue that teachers are not at the bottom of their ladder: they supervise students and teacher aides, and actively imbue their students with ruling ideology – so their case is clear. Journalists make a more ambiguous case… it may be that a journalist is at the bottom of their managerial ladder, but it would also be true that they always and without question only have articles and reports approved for publication that contribute to the enhancement of the ruling ideology. Therefore, they use their creativity to contribute to the ruling ideology. Like teachers, they speak their support of the ruling ideology every single day of their working life. See the thread on Libcom entitled, Being a teacher is like being a prison guard: http://libcom.org/forums/theory/being-teacher-being-prison-guard-07062010

BUT it might be argued that a garbage truck driver uses their creativity to make sure the streets are really clean… but anyone who really thinks this, if you will excuse me, is a moron. They have instructions to follow and they use their intelligence to fulfil their instructions. This is completely different to writing an article for a local Newspaper. Or teaching a class of students for a year in a school.

The point is not what job we do; the point is how we relate to that job as communists. This means that all teachers need to get to the point where, even though they continue teaching, they articulate as communists their knowledge of the fact that teaching jobs enhance and develop the transmission of the ruling ideology (even when it is reformist). This means, therefore, that all teachers who happen to be communists should not support the education system –at all – in whatever alternative guise it has – as communists. This means that all journalists who also happen to be communists should not support journalism at all – in whatever establishment guise it takes – as communists. This means that all academics who also happen to be communists should not support academia – at all – in whatever reformist guise it takes – as communists.

Why is it that a postal worker, as a communist, would merely say that the job of delivering the mail is a function of the capitalist economy, and has no value to human beings as human beings – but a teacher, as a communist (on Libcom anyway!), would more often than not, argue that education, as basically constructed under present conditions, has a valuable role in the development of humanity? Or that a journalist, as a communist, would argue that the transmission of information through The Press has a valuable role in the development of human consciousness.

On the one hand, we have a worker who happens to be a communist and a postal worker who says their job is crap. On the other hand, we have another worker who happens to be a communist and a teacher who says their job is useful. If communists say this second sentence they are counter-revolutionary.

These communist teachers who have fallen for the lie of the development of human progress and the lie of the validity of mass education under a capitalist system – these communists are ultimately more concerned with preserving capitalism than destroying it. This is because they have allowed their communism to be moved by the daily job they do. This shifting of perspective is made easily possible because of the fact that teaching is a job where one has to use one’s creativity to sustain the ruling ideology. This doesn’t happen so readily with the job of a postal worker. The postal worker knows that in their job there is no chance of changing the world, unless they manage to stop the actual postal system. The teacher, journalist and academic are encouraged to believe that it is possible to help change the world through the work they do as teachers and as journalists, and as academics. And the communist teacher, journalist and academic, more often than not, naturally, falls for this insidious lie.

The point is that every single communist who works in a job should have a communist critique that is in total opposition to that job.

BUT! some might cry: what about doctors and nurses? If they critiqued their job so conclusively, as communists, then in a revolution they would not use their skills to continue their work. But it gets worse: what about food producers? If they critiqued their job so conclusively, as communists, then in a revolution they would not use their skills to keep us all fed. And worse: what about those people who ensure information is circulated? If they critiqued their job so conclusively, as communists, then in a revolution they would not use their knowledge and leg power to continue to deliver the information we need….

So, using deductive logic to solve this problem which communists have set themselves about what in the world is important and what in the world we need… we find that we need almost everything. In a revolutionary situation the current milieu would be arguing that doctors and nurses need to keep working, that farmers and their labourers need to keep producing, that information communication workers need to keep working and that postal workers need to keep delivering. This is what is continually argued or implied here on Libcom by all the Organisations, including Aufheben. And it is an articulation of the theory of self-management.

It is no surprise then, that Aufeheben have ended up arguing for the self-management of crowds, even though they recognise that this self-management can only be effected through the intervention of the police.

It is not the job of communists to say what we need. Our job is only to say what we don’t need. If we start to articulate what we need (which we don’t know anyway) then we start to enter into a dialogue with the ruling ideology, just as Aufheben and every Organisation represented on Libcom have done.

No, JD should not talk about his struggles at work in academia (I can’t think of anything more boring) – he should just say that he thinks academia produces nothing of value to human beings whatsoever… including his own sociological/psychological work. But that would be a problem for him as, for twenty years, he has endeavoured to create a symbiotic relationship between his academic work and his work as a communist.

It is time to reassess the whole of the project in which we say we are engaged. The ‘Aufheben scandal’ has only brought this need into sharp relief.

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Nov 10 2011 14:07
lines wrote:
The point is that every single communist who works in a job should have a communist critique that is in total opposition to that job.

And you don't think commies that are teachers, academics, journos have that. Just recently there was a discussion on libcom about the need to abolish universities (and the way in which learning is conducted under capitalism); most of them that advocated that were academics.Is that what you were looking for?

To be honest, lines, it just seems like you want to the master of the communist club house. You want to be able to tell who can be a communist or not (because you're obviously choosing not to see those examples where so-called middle class workers do actually have critiques of the content and form of their work). You accuse Libcom of workerism, but you seem to rely on your own version of it.

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Nov 10 2011 14:31

Anyone who's ever worked a non-middle-class job knows the amounts of creativity needed to get the job done in spite of the instructions and regulations of the ruling class (which is why "work to rule" is such an effective form of working-class action). Furthermore, they could tell you how to do parts of the jobs better. Furthermore, sanitation and communications are beneficial to humanity, and will not disappear once the ruling class is gotten rid of - they will just be handled better, and those who work there will probably be able to ttell us how.

I think there is something insulting about the picture you are painting of non-middle-class jobs as just following orders, and by implication, of those working them as mindless automatons unless they happen to be communist and holding the right critique in their mind which transcends it.

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Nov 10 2011 14:54
Quote:
Furthermore, sanitation and communications are beneficial to humanity, and will not disappear once the ruling class is gotten rid of - they will just be handled better, and those who work there will probably be able to ttell us how.

Which incidentally, is basically the position the journalists and teachers on here would have on journalism and education. The whole critique rests on an idea of people who think they can be radical as teachers or journos - a position that certainly exists, but not really (I'm sure lines can trawl 6 years of threads and find the odd example, but it'd be the exception) on libcom.

Blasto
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Nov 10 2011 17:24
Tojiah wrote:
I think there is something insulting about the picture you are painting of non-middle-class jobs as just following orders, and by implication, of those working them as mindless automatons unless they happen to be communist and holding the right critique in their mind which transcends it.

What Lines described is a distinction between a managerial (middle) class and a working class. It's intended as a way for people to define class, and therefore their own class position.

Whether you agree that definition or have a more elaborate one such as that Red Marriot described, there is no getting away from the reality of a social/economic hierarchy a bit more complex than rulers vs.ruled.

I think the more important point Lines made is that people need to describe, understand and act on the world from where they find themselves. Not only is it more honest, but if we are to act on this world with even a grain of authenticity, it is the only thing we can do.

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Malva
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Nov 10 2011 17:42

The problem with this whole class analysis is that it breaks down into abstraction as soon as it pretends to be an 'objective' description of the world and not a subjective tool to abolish social hierarchy. Hierarchy and therefore alienation exists in all sorts of ways in people's everyday lives. It is hierarchy that we are trying to abolish. Talking about class is a general tool to be used to do that. But it doesn't make sense to say that an academic who has a proper critique of their own work and refuses to be an order giver is an enemy because of their income or their job. Deep down all humanity has an interest in abolishing hierarchy because it is dehumanising in its very essence. That is why people from different class background and different jobs can be communists. If you don't get that then communism just amounts to a chip on your shoulder, a tool that you use to dominate others, not to abolish domination altogether. If you don't get that then you don't get anything!

Spikymike
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Nov 10 2011 20:20

lines talks in terms of 'black and white' division's where the reality is in gradations but it is sometimes necessary to address issues in this way to get a point accross.

And of course we all reproduced capitalist social relations in our everyday activity, short of those rare situations of large scale and mass collective struggle which create temporary ruptures in the system, but some social functions performed by 'workers' contribute more significantly than others to that reproduction and to the mystifications that surrounds the process and here lines makes a valid contribution.

From my own experience as a professional worker with some limited junior management responcibillity (and sadly my initial experience of loss on retiring) I can certainly confirm the extent to which the necessary commitment to the content of the work and it's intelectual rewards skewed my personal outlook on things, despite my communist convictions and contrasted significantly with the attitude of those less professionally involved and lower in the heirachy. My communism saved me from the worse excesses of others in the same position but I think lines does express something significant here.

The problem outlined by lines in terms of the potential risks of those with the kind of commitment I have described, undermining the genuinely revolutionary content that might emmerge out of the destruction of capitalism by acting as a radical agent for the preservation of forms and modes of behavior linked to their particular function in this society is not so hard to understand, (and there is some anarchist history to this line of argument).

lines emphasises the important discontinuity between capitalism and communism in order to get to what he perceives to be the deep roots which capitalism has sunk into both the social functioning and material reality of the system. (which as an aside can also be emphasised and illustrated by a comparison of life under capitalism with life under primitive communistic societies). Unfortunately this works well as a means of obliging pro-revolutionaries to critically re-examin the extent of their own compromises with capitalism and capitalist ways of thinking but doesn't actually provide any useful guidelines as to how we could deal with the reality of there inevitably being some continuity or transition between capitalism and communism - something we have tried to deal with on another thread a short while ago.

lines
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Nov 10 2011 20:45

To Tojiah,

Non-managerial jobs are the best jobs to do - I have always argued this. In a non-managerial job one is able to retain ones dignity to a greater degree, and one is usually more able to organise collectively with fellow workers.

Yes, I know that non-managerial jobs entail a degree of intelligent interpretation of tasks, and I agree that supervised workers often suggest ways to increase productivity - but hopefully a communist in such a job would not partake in such activities.

But there is a qualitative difference between what a postal worker does and what a teacher or journalist, or any other manager/expert/professional does. If we can't see this then we have lost our way as communists/anarchists. If we allow the sociologists to set the terms of our thinking for us then we will lose what it is that makes us anarchists and communists.

To others,

There seems to be a tendency here to interpret what I am saying as meaning that teachers, journalists and academics are 'bad' and therefore that a postal worker, etc, is 'good'. This is not my point at all. It does not bother me what people do in their life in these terms. The only thing that worries me is that if communists do certain jobs then they seem to often take on the world-view or mindset of that job (because we are all weaker than we say we are) - and this makes their communism moveable.

As communists we need to remain immoveable in our opposition to capitalism. This means that we refuse, as communists, to engage in every reformist discourse that is begun in society, and held on Establishment terms; it means that we refuse to take a side on most issues, but instead point out what we think is going on. Communists need to define themselves as communists, not as another variant of reformist initiatives. It would be much easier if the world was like a game of football, and we could take sides, but the truth of the matter is that the Establishment, and the methods of the ruling discourse, have only tricked people into thinking that the world is a game of football, when, in fact, the reality of everything exists outside of the terraces and playing field.

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OliverTwister
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Nov 10 2011 23:28

Lines or anyone else who argues that the postal system only serves the capitalist economy has clearly never sent or received a love letter. How sad.

Spikymike - I'm not making the positive claim that there could be pro-revolutionary artists as artists, I'm just not sure. I think Accidental Death of an Anarchist is amazing, for example, even though it was produced as a 'piece of art.' And to Malva's response, I know what the situationists said in 1961, I think its useful but sometimes a bit too dogmatic.

Serge - you say that J's employment is a definite problem. Perhaps. But in discussions of supposed communists working as union organizers before you've treated the employment as irrelevant. Do you see a big differejce between the two?

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Tojiah
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Nov 10 2011 23:30
lines wrote:
To Tojiah,

Non-managerial jobs are the best jobs to do - I have always argued this. In a non-managerial job one is able to retain ones dignity to a greater degree, and one is usually more able to organise collectively with fellow workers.

Yes, I know that non-managerial jobs entail a degree of intelligent interpretation of tasks, and I agree that supervised workers often suggest ways to increase productivity - but hopefully a communist in such a job would not partake in such activities.

But there is a qualitative difference between what a postal worker does and what a teacher or journalist, or any other manager/expert/professional does. If we can't see this then we have lost our way as communists/anarchists. If we allow the sociologists to set the terms of our thinking for us then we will lose what it is that makes us anarchists and communists.

First, I do not accept your contention that, say, being any kind of professional is managerial. On the other hand, I do tend to think that your claim, that there isn't enough of an explication on these boards of class relations in professional jobs.

But before we go into that, I have to say that I really don't understand which sociologists are these, about whom you suggest that they would contend that postal workers and college professors are of the same category. That would in fact be more of a class view1, which sociologists would usually reject. It seems like you are making contradictory arguments.

  • 1. despite the oft-repeated claims on these boards that class analysis is not about categorizing people, usually within the same paragraph in which bosses are contrasted with workers
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Serge Forward
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Nov 11 2011 01:14
OliverTwister wrote:
Serge - you say that J's employment is a definite problem. Perhaps. But in discussions of supposed communists working as union organizers before you've treated the employment as irrelevant. Do you see a big differejce between the two?

I don't actually think the type of employment is irrelevant. It may well be a problem if someone is employed by a union, depends on what they are doing and what the job entails. The same goes for academia. Anyway, as I recall, these weren't high level buraucrats we were talking about, in other words, we weren't arguing about Dave Prentis in the IWW laugh out loud

Mike Harman
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Nov 11 2011 03:42
Quote:
Yes, I know that non-managerial jobs entail a degree of intelligent interpretation of tasks, and I agree that supervised workers often suggest ways to increase productivity - but hopefully a communist in such a job would not partake in such activities.

Actually I'm all about increasing productivity on the sly, and I think loads of other workers are as well - gives you more time for doing other things at work other than the most mind-numbing tasks. Whether management gets to hear about that is a different matter.

Spikymike
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Nov 11 2011 12:32

Adding to my observations in my post 115 above:

My reference to my experience in my past jobs can be split into the effects of it's 'professionalism' and the effects of the 'junior management' function. Though in other cases the two don't always go together they often do.

On the effects of the management functions in the here and now rather than the longer term this is significant and recognised by many employers.

Certainly my experience in the local authority was that over a decade or so the authority moved from a situation where one manager and deputy might supervise a large group of say 20 admin and/or manual workers this was broken down into much smaller 'teams' consisting of as little as 4 or 5 workers with a 'team leader' and even a 'deputy team leader'. On top of this lower, more restricted levels of supervision in the white collar area could involve additional 'one to one' supervision'. Together with all the management propaganda and 'training' this certainly helped to divide workers up and isolate potential areas of conflict and opposition. Looking back to an earlier period all this became very obvious during strikes. In the past, on the bigger issues in particular, even relatively senior managers would be out but laterly it became difficult to get out even many of the junior ones, and when it came to 'discipline' issues solidarity was even harder to elicit amingst the junior management ranks. The older amongst us could often still be relied on but the younger ones steeped in the corporate ideology - which was now actually embedded in the structure of the work were more of a problem.

As a slight aside I recall a team meeting (shorty before I retired) called by my senior manager to discuss how 'we' should respond in arguing 'our' case and organising 'our' work in the face of the impending cuts. On a slightly positive note I can say that neither I nor anyone else came up with any serious suggestions and even the manager more or less said he was 'just going through the motions'. This however more a result of general apathy and stubborness than conscious opposition.

So this is not to say that these structural changes make radicalisation of workers with some management functions impossible but it is certainly the case that such workers are unlikely to be at the forefront of struggle and may indeed need to be dragged in, often by more than just friendly arguments.

The effects of 'professionalism' previously described are perhaps more significant in terms of peoples 'identity' and the overlap into activity as pro-revolutionaries but combine that with managerial functions and you have a powerful counterveiling influence to any radicalisation let alone revolutionary communism.

As to different tendencies towards the 'proletarianisation' of this kind of work there were some in the way that office architecture, organisation and technology were increasingly utilised to atomise and isolate workers still further amidst larger scale reductions in the overal workforce and the reduction in the sheer number of these small 'teams' but that is another story.