"selling" your politics (Class war article on here)

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Aug 13 2008 07:52
"selling" your politics (Class war article on here)

So I just read an article on here wailing on Class War pretty hard because they marketed themselves a certain way (or something, I don't really understand what makes them different from any other group with a logo and a paper in this regard), in order to 'sell' their politics to the working class. I am just wondering what is necessarily wrong with this? Historically hasn't this the point of propaganda whatever side of the fence you're on? So we can't do this now? I'm not that familiar with Class War but I don't see how the tabloid stuff or whatever is bad, some of it's a bit cringeworthy but it's obviously aimed directly at young people and seems pretty effective. Anyway, have at it.

I am not talking about their politics, or am I?

I would ask the author but the article just says by 'libcom'

http://libcom.org/library/paper-tiger-class-war-aufheben-6 <-- This is the article

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Aug 13 2008 08:04

iirc, the author is a poster on the forums here, so hopefully he'll see this. i think the argument is that their tabloid form is inherently linked to their populist, beano class analysis content:

Death of a Paper Tiger wrote:
This denial of an historical perspective led them to define the working class, its interests and consciousness in terms of their most immediate, temporary and shallow manifestations. This was the basis of Class War's adopted tabloid style.
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Aug 13 2008 08:14

That argument sounds like a bit of a stretch. Sounds like he has a hardon for them. What mediums and formats for pushing ideas are not 'alienated' or patronising to the working-class then? What do you think, Joseph?

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Aug 13 2008 08:50

well i have no first-hand experience of the original class war and little experience (beyond some online spats and reading their website/media) with the current incarnation, but i'd tend to agree with the thrust of the article.

i think the article is claiming that the specific caricature of what it is to be 'working class' (i.e. a set of cultural signifiers rather than a relation to capital) pushed by class war is patronising, and that the tabloid form adopted to convey this is not class-neutral as it's based on suspension of critical thought and the reduction of reality to simple binaries. i don't think you can extrapolate and say all media is. for example i don't think the most recent thing i've been involved in, Tea Break, is patronising or reductive.*

* Unless you follow Sean68's 'argument' that it reduces workers to mechanical drones only capable of desiring more crumbs from the masters table, but this is nonsense as it performs no such reduction: it's simply a dispute bulletin so it focusses on the dispute.

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Aug 13 2008 10:25

I think a main point of the article, which juozokas claims not to understand, is that Class War, the tabloid publication, simply situated itself within the capitalist marketplace of newspapers, and tried to compete with the biggies, by trying to market itself as the tabloid for angry young proles. They did this, as Joseph has pointed out, by creating a rather simplistic (and reductive or reductionist) image or representation of proletarian revolt, always (or almost so?) white, male, young and punk. You could say they were just trying to reach a certain segment of the "market", what's so wrong with that? But they called it Class War, and this representation suggests that only these people (this part of the class) are the true vanguard of the class war. But another point, I think, is that they just took these people they were trying to reach as they are, without challenging them, without any kind of critique that might lead to a better understanding of their situation and of what needs to be done. That is, it pandered to them, as being already prepared for what needs to be done, without any need for difficult theoretical work. As if all that was needed was information and organization (or direction).

I think some of this critique relies on a certain familiarity with the analysis developed by the Situationists, so if you aren't very familiar with the SI, that might explain why the critique in this article escapes you.

You claim that Class War seems to have been "pretty effective" at doing what they were doing. But what exactly were they pretty effective at? Pushing forward the real class war towards total social revolution? Or fetishizing a certain image of rebellion, and merely popularizing and cheerleading it, and, of course, promoting themselves as the mouthpiece and representation of this segment of the class?

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Aug 13 2008 10:37
waslax wrote:
But another point, I think, is that they just took these people they were trying to reach as they are

i think this is important, and is reflected in the 'class unity! class pride!' stickers i've seen round brighton. it's trying to ape the nationalist populism of their tabloid rivals, but substituting class for nation. However, what on earth is there to be proud about about being working class?

Gilles Dauvé wrote:
All theories (either bourgeois, fascist, stalinist, left-wing or gauchistes) which in any way glorify and praise the proletariat as it is and claim for it the positive role of defending values and regenerating society, are counter-revolutionary. Worship of the proletariat has become one of the most efficient and dangerous weapons of capital.
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Aug 13 2008 10:38

I really have no idea but thanks for the reply, makes sense. So Class War aside, Spanish Civil War propaganda is not fetishizing a certain image of rebellion? That part kind of seems unavoidable. Popularising rebellion is no good?

I'll get onto the Situs again, I tried once to read them ages ago but it was too advanced for me

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Aug 13 2008 10:47
juozokas wrote:
So Class War aside, Spanish Civil War propaganda is not fetishizing a certain image of rebellion? That part kind of seems unavoidable. Popularising rebellion is no good?

then or now? today (i.e. using 70 year-old images), it would certainly come in for similar criticisms as class war, although perhaps it's a better image to fetishise if there is such a thing, what with it being one of the high points of working class struggle in world history. then, sure it portrays a certain image to the exclusion of other elements, this is what propaganda and all media, even all communication does. however the criticism of class war is more the patronising, reductive sterotype of the working class that they fetishise, rather than them trying to popularise rebellion per se.

juozokas wrote:
I'll get onto the Situs again, I tried once to read them ages ago but it was too advanced for me

they're often unneccessarily difficult to read, but the key works aren't that long and have some useful stuff in once you get past the hegalian language. the main misreading people make is simply treating spectacle as a theory of media and consumption, rather than social relations, a higher stage of capitalist alienation and class rule. i think waslax is referring to their 'critique of the militant', i remember reading it but can't remember who it's by. iirc it criticises 'professional militancy' as a kind of representative function, a separation from the class as a whole, which i guess relates to Class War insofar as they charicature what it is to be working class, separating the subject (actual working class people) and its representation (as portrayed by CW).

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Aug 13 2008 11:13

ok thx

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Aug 13 2008 11:47

I don't think they actually had much in the way of politics as an organisation. Class War members held all sorts of contradictory ideas. What they were promoting was not their politics, but their organisation.

Devrim

john
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Aug 13 2008 11:57
juozokas wrote:
Spanish Civil War propaganda is not fetishizing a certain image of rebellion?

isn't the difference that Class War propagated a particular image of the working class-as-workers, and then idolize it.

fighters in the Spanish Civil War are surely not acting as workers, but actively seeking to overcome their proletarian condition.

also, i think Class War had a three-class analysis - which alienates those members of the 'middle class' who effectively experience exploitation in the same way as the rest of the proletariat. arguably this was necessary for Class War in order for them to popularize their own self-proclaimed 'working class' image.

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Aug 13 2008 14:52

What's wrong with being a worker then? Surely socialism is just about everyone becoming a member of the working class? That's what it means to me anyway.

And I think Class War was a bit of good fun, a laugh, and inspired some good stuff. It was a new, fresh wake-up call that politics didn't have to be boring, cliched bollox as found on the Left. It went nowhere as a political organisation of course, but fair play to 'em! I'd rather read an issue of Class War any day than Aufheban (did I spell that right?), truth be told. Ultimately I think the way forward is a middle road between the dry as bones, boring, intellectualist pointy-head stuff and "laddish", unthinking, tabloid-style demagoguery-by-any-other-name.

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Aug 13 2008 14:55
john wrote:
also, i think Class War had a three-class analysis - which alienates those members of the 'middle class' who effectively experience exploitation in the same way as the rest of the proletariat. arguably this was necessary for Class War in order for them to popularize their own self-proclaimed 'working class' image.

To be fair, so do more modern and fashionable types like Parecon. Workers, managers, and capitalists are three good distinctions. And the managerial class can have its' own class dynamic, not necessarily simply falling in with the proletariat or bourgeoisie, as the Bolshevik counter-revolution shows.

The idea of libertarian socialist social workers still makes me queasy.

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Aug 13 2008 15:10
Personalist wrote:
What's wrong with being a worker then?

you're on a communist board and need to ask?

Personalist wrote:
Surely socialism is just about everyone becoming a member of the working class? That's what it means to me anyway.

it's about the abolition of the working class, and class itself. this isn't semantics. the working class is the dispossessed class, this couldn't be further from the means of production held in common by humanity and self-managed through councils etc. of course we'd get rid of the parasitical class(es), and everyone works 'according to their ability', but this is a long way from praising the class as it is now.

Personalist wrote:
And I think Class War was a bit of good fun, a laugh, and inspired some good stuff. It was a new, fresh wake-up call that politics didn't have to be boring, cliched bollox as found on the Left.

from what i've read and been told, CW were indeed an improvement on much of the anarchist movement at the time, but i think that says more about many of their contemporaries than anything else.

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Aug 13 2008 16:25

Class War as tabloid had a certain appeal particularly during the anti-poll tax mobilisation. It was certainly the most read and bought anarchist publication in that period in Belfast, and was street sold in Portadown!

The problem with Class War was it tried to be an organisation, one with shit contradictory politics and applying the same 'tabloid' approach to organisational matters. I have no problem with the notion of an anarchist tabloid. I'd love to see one do a good job of it, and I believe there would be a place for it. Nor do I have any problem with slogans like "Class Unity, Class Pride" - it is of course a largely aspirational slogan and one that celebrates unity and pride in that unity, that is a pride in what workers should be proud of, of standing together, of solidarity. To see nothing to be proud of about being working class is indeed a sorry state of affairs and one that makes me wonder exactly how you see libertarian communism developing Joseph K?

I mean "Be ashamed of your class - destroy it" or "We are our own gravediggers" are not going to have any appeal as slogans or stickers at all now are they? At least class unity class pride is positive and we need a bit more of the positive.

john
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Aug 13 2008 16:42
Boulcolonialboy wrote:
Nor do I have any problem with slogans like "Class Unity, Class Pride" - it is of course a largely aspirational slogan and one that celebrates unity and pride in that unity, that is a pride in what workers should be proud of, of standing together, of solidarity. To see nothing to be proud of about being working class is indeed a sorry state of affairs and one that makes me wonder exactly how you see libertarian communism developing Joseph K?

I mean "Be ashamed of your class - destroy it" or "We are our own gravediggers" are not going to have any appeal as slogans or stickers at all now are they? At least class unity class pride is positive and we need a bit more of the positive.

there's a difference between saying

1) 'we' are united in our experience of exploitation, and should be confident in the fact that 'we' are able to run this world without the parasites that exploit 'us', and work together to achieve it

and

2) 'we' are culturally superior to the class that exploits, so let's praise that cultural superiority.

personally, I think the second one risks getting stuck in a dead-end of conserving caricatures of working class identity.

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Aug 13 2008 16:55

Yeah, cos like I disagree with that? Don't get me wrong, I have little time for the politics of the Class War Federation.

Bobby
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Aug 13 2008 17:26
Boulcolonialboy wrote:
Class War as tabloid had a certain appeal particularly during the anti-poll tax mobilisation. It was certainly the most read and bought anarchist publication in that period in Belfast, and was street sold in Portadown!

The problem with Class War was it tried to be an organisation, one with shit contradictory politics and applying the same 'tabloid' approach to organisational matters. I have no problem with the notion of an anarchist tabloid. I'd love to see one do a good job of it, and I believe there would be a place for it. Nor do I have any problem with slogans like "Class Unity, Class Pride" - it is of course a largely aspirational slogan and one that celebrates unity and pride in that unity, that is a pride in what workers should be proud of, of standing together, of solidarity. To see nothing to be proud of about being working class is indeed a sorry state of affairs and one that makes me wonder exactly how you see libertarian communism developing Joseph K?

I mean "Be ashamed of your class - destroy it" or "We are our own gravediggers" are not going to have any appeal as slogans or stickers at all now are they? At least class unity class pride is positive and we need a bit more of the positive.

very much agree, we do in deed need more of the positive, imagination and vision. people have enough shit in their lives to cope without some sections of the left promoting doom and gloom. boring as fuck!

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Aug 13 2008 17:54
Boulcolonialboy wrote:
Nor do I have any problem with slogans like "Class Unity, Class Pride" - it is of course a largely aspirational slogan and one that celebrates unity and pride in that unity, that is a pride in what workers should be proud of, of standing together, of solidarity. To see nothing to be proud of about being working class is indeed a sorry state of affairs and one that makes me wonder exactly how you see libertarian communism developing Joseph K?

certainly not from pride regarding anything about the status quo! sure, we can be proud of things we do, like standing in solidarity together etc, but to be proud of what we are, 'class pride', makes no sense at all. i mean we have no choice over our position in society, to glorify it is slave morality pure and simple. the only positive thing about our class in itself is our potential to blow this society apart, and we can be proud of that when we realise it.

Boulcolonialboy wrote:
I mean "Be ashamed of your class - destroy it" or "We are our own gravediggers" are not going to have any appeal as slogans or stickers at all now are they? At least class unity class pride is positive and we need a bit more of the positive.

or 'the boss needs you, you don't need the boss', or other slogans that capture both our potential and the need to not be content with the way things are. being positive about a condition that is not does not make it so, "worship of the proletariat has become one of the most efficient and dangerous weapons of capital."

Bobby wrote:
very much agree, we do in deed need more of the positive, imagination and vision. people have enough shit in their lives to cope without some sections of the left promoting doom and gloom. boring as fuck!

i've got loads of positive stuff in my life thanks, but funnily enough none of it involves wage labour and dispossession. how am i promoting 'doom and gloom' by not celebrating that which we presumably all want to destroy, what with posting on a libertarian communist board and all?

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Aug 13 2008 19:17
Joseph K. wrote:
Boulcolonialboy wrote:
Nor do I have any problem with slogans like "Class Unity, Class Pride" - it is of course a largely aspirational slogan and one that celebrates unity and pride in that unity, that is a pride in what workers should be proud of, of standing together, of solidarity. To see nothing to be proud of about being working class is indeed a sorry state of affairs and one that makes me wonder exactly how you see libertarian communism developing Joseph K?

certainly not from pride regarding anything about the status quo! sure, we can be proud of things we do, like standing in solidarity together etc, but to be proud of what we are, 'class pride', makes no sense at all. i mean we have no choice over our position in society, to glorify it is slave morality pure and simple. the only positive thing about our class in itself is our potential to blow this society apart, and we can be proud of that when we realise it.

I agree. I suppose the slogan 'class pride' depends very much on how you interpret it, as such I wouldn't use it devoid of 'class unity' which is aspirational to a large extent though when it does occur, albeit in limited form, this is actually something to be proud of. How about pride in the fact that, unlike the parasitic classes we actually produce the wealth of the world? Of course this does not mean we should be or are proud of the fact that this wealth is expropriated from us.

Joseph K. wrote:
Boulcolonialboy wrote:
I mean "Be ashamed of your class - destroy it" or "We are our own gravediggers" are not going to have any appeal as slogans or stickers at all now are they? At least class unity class pride is positive and we need a bit more of the positive.

or 'the boss needs you, you don't need the boss', or other slogans that capture both our potential and the need to not be content with the way things are. being positive about a condition that is not does not make it so, "worship of the proletariat has become one of the most efficient and dangerous weapons of capital."

Yes, "the boss needs you, you don't need the boss" is better. Look, I agree that it is our discontent with our position in society that gives us the impetus to change it. In saying this I do not feel the proletariat has a historic mission to change society, it is simply in our best interests to do so.

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Aug 13 2008 19:57
Joseph K. wrote:
Boulcolonialboy wrote:
Nor do I have any problem with slogans like "Class Unity, Class Pride" - it is of course a largely aspirational slogan and one that celebrates unity and pride in that unity, that is a pride in what workers should be proud of, of standing together, of solidarity. To see nothing to be proud of about being working class is indeed a sorry state of affairs and one that makes me wonder exactly how you see libertarian communism developing Joseph K?

certainly not from pride regarding anything about the status quo! sure, we can be proud of things we do, like standing in solidarity together etc, but to be proud of what we are, 'class pride', makes no sense at all. i mean we have no choice over our position in society, to glorify it is slave morality pure and simple. the only positive thing about our class in itself is our potential to blow this society apart, and we can be proud of that when we realise it.

Boulcolonialboy wrote:
I mean "Be ashamed of your class - destroy it" or "We are our own gravediggers" are not going to have any appeal as slogans or stickers at all now are they? At least class unity class pride is positive and we need a bit more of the positive.

or 'the boss needs you, you don't need the boss', or other slogans that capture both our potential and the need to not be content with the way things are. being positive about a condition that is not does not make it so, "worship of the proletariat has become one of the most efficient and dangerous weapons of capital."

Bobby wrote:
very much agree, we do in deed need more of the positive, imagination and vision. people have enough shit in their lives to cope without some sections of the left promoting doom and gloom. boring as fuck!

i've got loads of positive stuff in my life thanks, but funnily enough none of it involves wage labour and dispossession. how am i promoting 'doom and gloom' by not celebrating that which we presumably all want to destroy, what with posting on a libertarian communist board and all?

I was not referring to you Joseph K

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Aug 13 2008 20:13
Bobby wrote:
I was not referring to you Joseph K

then i doth protest too much wink

Boulcolonialboy wrote:
How about pride in the fact that, unlike the parasitic classes we actually produce the wealth of the world? Of course this does not mean we should be or are proud of the fact that this wealth is expropriated from us.

as a class we do, but although it has it's rhetorical uses, i'm still not that keen on it as so many of us (the unemployed, finance/accounts/admin workers etc) don't really produce anything of value, even in capitalist terms, and adopting such a 'positive' understanding often leads to productivist workerism (who are really productive workers...) or negri-esque 'everything is productive' nonsense.

i mean i take your point that we shouldn't take the 'class pride' bit of the slogan in isolation to the 'class unity' bit, and perhaps i did to an extent. but if we're talking context we also can't ignore CW's almost identity-politics take on class struggle, which is afterall what i raised the sticker as a symptom of. in that context it seems to be pride in being "young, white, living on an estate and swearing a lot" as the 'Death of a Paper Tiger' article puts it.

Deezer
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Aug 13 2008 20:34

sad once I was young, white, lived on an estate and swore a lot - you gotta problem with that? Now I'm a bit older, still white (well sorta), rent off a private landlord and I still swear a lot. Apart from this I don't think I fit the Class War caricature as I am doing a PhD and I work in education. Oh how I wish Belfast had have had a coal pit, or that I'd at least stayed on the trains. I could always buy a pitbull or whippet to compensate.

I must also admit to being a productivist workerist, fuck all you unproductive parasites wink Nah, but I am certainly quite a workerist worker in a broader sense, and while not going for anything negri-esque all those you have listed do actually contribute to the capitalist accumulation of wealth, except maybe those who are unemployed.

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Aug 13 2008 20:55
Joseph K. wrote:
Personalist wrote:
What's wrong with being a worker then?

you're on a communist board and need to ask?

Well I know what's wrong with being a wage worker.

Quote:
Personalist wrote:
Surely socialism is just about everyone becoming a member of the working class? That's what it means to me anyway.

it's about the abolition of the working class, and class itself. this isn't semantics. the working class is the dispossessed class, this couldn't be further from the means of production held in common by humanity and self-managed through councils etc. of course we'd get rid of the parasitical class(es), and everyone works 'according to their ability', but this is a long way from praising the class as it is now.

Well that's not what I'd define the working class as. That's what I'd define the "proletariat" as. The proletariat are enslaved workers, as opposed to free workers.

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Personalist wrote:
And I think Class War was a bit of good fun, a laugh, and inspired some good stuff. It was a new, fresh wake-up call that politics didn't have to be boring, cliched bollox as found on the Left.

from what i've read and been told, CW were indeed an improvement on much of the anarchist movement at the time, but i think that says more about many of their contemporaries than anything else.

Yes, quite. wink

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Aug 13 2008 20:57
Boulcolonialboy wrote:
I suppose the slogan 'class pride' depends very much on how you interpret it, as such I wouldn't use it devoid of 'class unity' which is aspirational to a large extent though when it does occur, albeit in limited form, this is actually something to be proud of. How about pride in the fact that, unlike the parasitic classes we actually produce the wealth of the world? Of course this does not mean we should be or are proud of the fact that this wealth is expropriated from us.

Nicely summed up. That's exactly what I was trying to get over.

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Aug 13 2008 21:57
Boulcolonialboy wrote:
all those you have listed do actually contribute to the capitalist accumulation of wealth, except maybe those who are unemployed.

they can certainly contribute, in the same kinda way overhead costs make the bottom line possible within a single firm. you can even argue the unemployed keep wages down and discipline those in work, thus contributing to profitability/exploitation. which is why i agree as a class we do produce all of society's wealth. i wouldn't conflate all this into 'production' though, at least in marxian categories, although this is a whole other debate which has been had before. in finance in particular though, so much of what is 'accumulated' is speculative paper titles to future wealth it does really constitute ficticious capital, so even contributing to the production of such is nothing to be proud of. likewise i'd argue firefighters/nurses etc produce no value for capital (only necessary use values, but not exchange value which is necessary for value, and surplus value), but from a 'producing something useful' point of view as opposed to 'producing value for capital' are perhaps amongst the most 'productive.' wealth and value are not the same thing, and 'productive' has different meanings from different perspectives. but i digress.

Personalist wrote:
Well that's not what I'd define the working class as. That's what I'd define the "proletariat" as. The proletariat are enslaved workers, as opposed to free workers.

this is in danger of getting semantic, but how do you have one class without another, in what way is a post-revolutionary humanity a class? but for what it's worth i'm using 'working class' and proletariat interchangeably here although strictly the former is narrower than the latter. as to being proud of creating society's wealth, i've addressed this is my responses to boul.

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Aug 13 2008 23:37
Personalist wrote:
What's wrong with being a worker then?

It's boring and the hours are rubbish wink

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Aug 14 2008 07:10

I agree with Camatte when he said that the tendency of Capital is to turn all of humanity into proletarians, and the project of the proletariat is to liberate all of humanity. (paraphrasing of course).

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Aug 14 2008 07:18
OliverTwister wrote:
I agree with Camatte when he said that the tendency of Capital is to turn all of humanity into proletarians, and the project of the proletariat is to liberate all of humanity. (paraphrasing of course).

i haven't read camatte, but i don't see how capital can exist without a class of human agents to implement its 'needs.' even the 'dispossession' of the classical bourgeoisie into a class of directors and fund managers doesn't exactly render us all proletarians together.

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Aug 14 2008 07:59

I havent read enough of him either, but i think its a correctly described tendency, even if its one that could probably never be wholly completed (as there would probably either be a revolution or extinction beforehand).

For example if Singularity is possible then that would be one example of real autonomous capital.

Also one big thing in camatte is the tendency for capital to colonize human beings and turn them into agents of itself.

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Aug 14 2008 08:15
Quote:
as a class we do, but although it has it's rhetorical uses, i'm still not that keen on it as so many of us (the unemployed, finance/accounts/admin workers etc) don't really produce anything of value, even in capitalist terms, and adopting such a 'positive' understanding often leads to productivist workerism (who are really productive workers...) or negri-esque 'everything is productive' nonsense.

i mean i take your point that we shouldn't take the 'class pride' bit of the slogan in isolation to the 'class unity' bit, and perhaps i did to an extent. but if we're talking context we also can't ignore CW's almost identity-politics take on class struggle, which is afterall what i raised the sticker as a symptom of. in that context it seems to be pride in being "young, white, living on an estate and swearing a lot" as the 'Death of a Paper Tiger' article puts it.

I dont really see this beef you have with class unity-class pride as a slogan, i mean when you and your workmate stood up to the bosses over that issue of yours a few weeks back you probably felt a bit of pride having done so right? You can take pride in organising if it has a productive result and theres nothing wrong with a bit of class pride in relation to management, certainly could do with that on this call centre i work in where self esteem is pretty much rock bottom for a lot of people.
But theres the rub really because class wars ''class pride'' isn't pride in organising in the workplace or community, because their praxis is just a rather pathetic form of stuntism. Also its not class rpide in relation to antagonism to management, since these days they have no real engagement with workplace struggle so it just becomes a rather dull identity politics related to ranting about some abstract amorphous ''middle class'' of their own imagining. All of which is unproductive, uninclusive and somewhat hypocritical in quite a few cases.