"working class take power" - should we rethink this phrasing?

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boomerang
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Feb 4 2015 09:58
"working class take power" - should we rethink this phrasing?

I looked over some old threads about class but they didn’t give me satisfying answers to the questions on my mind.

Revolutionary anti-capitalists of all varieties (not just libertarian-communists) talk about how the revolution requires that the working class take power as a class (and then abolish all classes so that all humanity can share power).

I’ve for a long time felt uncomfortable with this because, in the revolutionary period, it excludes the self-employed who don’t hire/exploit anyone.

They aren’t working class… but they also aren’t capitalists, politicians, or the armed defenders of capitalism. They don’t sell their labor but they don’t exploit labor. I think by the marxist definition they are middle class, right? Or maybe he’d use the term “petite bourgeoisie.” (I’m not a marxist but anarchists generally use marxist definitions of class.)

It would be wrong to exclude them from the workers councils. I don’t think anyone here would think they should be excluded(?), but the way we talk about revolution (the working class taking power) sounds like they would be excluded. So this makes me feel uncomfortable talking about it in this phrasing.

Globally, the self-employed are a big percent of the population. And they’re on average poorer than workers!

From research by Gallup:
http://www.gallup.com/poll/175292/nearly-three-workers-worldwide-self-em...

Quote:
Eighteen percent of all adults worldwide -- or 29% of the global workforce -- reported being self-employed in 2013. But rather than a positive sign of proactive entrepreneurial energy, high rates of self-employment can often signal poor economic performance. The self-employed are three times as likely as those who are employed full time for an employer to be living on less than $2 per day.

The bulk of the self-employed live in some of the poorest places in the world, where self-employment may be born more out of necessity than opportunity.

In many countries there’s also peasants who own small pieces of land and scratch out a very basic living. They aren’t working class, but they also don’t exploit labor. They’re another reason why I feel uncomfortable talking about the working class taking power.

Shouldn’t the language we use appeal to all these people? The way we speak, it’s like the revolution doesn’t include them, even though they’re among the most oppressed.

My main question here: Is there a way we can readjust our language to be inclusive of those who aren't working class, but aren't "class enemies" either? Because, although I'm not comfortable with saying "the working class takes power" I also don't feel comfortable with saying "the people take power" because some of those people are capitalists, politicians, and their armed defenders! And saying "the working class, non-exploiting self-employed, and non-exploiting peasants take power" is too much of a fucking mouthful.

There’s also the question of who is and isn’t the working class?

From libcom’s introductory guide on Class:

Quote:
While the economic interests of capitalists are directly opposed to those of workers, a minority of the working class will be better off than others, or have some level of power over others. When talking about history and social change it can be useful to refer to this part of the proletariat as a "middle class", despite the fact that it is not a distinct economic class, in order to understand the behaviour of different groups.

Income doesn’t change someone’s class status (the standard view), but what about management power? Here they’re saying that people with “some level of [management] power” are still working class, and that the middle class doesn’t *really* exist as a class, just a useful concept.

I think the libcom guide is dishonest here. Not to say their position is wrong, but it is a controversial position, and I think that should have been stated. A lot of anarchists (and other anti-capitalists) would consider lower managers as middle class (and would see the middle class as a distinct class, even if it has hazy boundaries.)

I'm not sure my position on this one.

But if managers can be considered part of the working class, where do you draw the line? At what point does a manager stop being a worker and cross into the territory of capitalist?

Also... is a retired worker who’s living off of the interest of mutual funds now a capitalist? Technically, they are living off the profits of workers!

boomerang
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Feb 4 2015 10:12

p.s. I'd want retired workers living off interest to be included in a revolution, but I gave that example because their class position is "foggy", and it's another case of why saying "the working class takes power" makes me uncomfortable, because it makes it sound as if people like that would be excluded. I want to use language that isn't alienating to such people.

(But seriously, are they capitalists? Technically it seems accurate, but intuitively it seems very wrong! Split the difference and call them middle class? I don't know!)

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Devrim
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Feb 4 2015 10:28
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I don’t think anyone here would think they should be excluded(?)

I do.

Devrım

Spikymike
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Feb 4 2015 10:57

boomerang,

Perhaps stop thinking in terms of static (and narrow) definitions of class and class power and rather in terms of a process of class formation (starting with that old concept of 'a class in itself and a class for itself' to which some of us added the phrase ' a class becomming for itself'). Some of the Communisation tendencies have tried to tackle this question better than traditional anarchist and left communist tendencies but frankly are still struggling with it (though I would recomend Dauve on this issue more than others).

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Feb 4 2015 11:05

Depends, Devrim. It could be said that many of what passes for petit bourgeois is nothing more than sections of the "reserve army" trying to get by.

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Feb 4 2015 11:18
Devrim wrote:
Quote:
I don’t think anyone here would think they should be excluded(?)

I do.

On what grounds? If they're in a council, they must have their interests aligned with it somewhat (or else they would stay out). That implies to me that the cards about class are on the table.

When I think 'self-employed', I think of this article: http://libcom.org/library/self-employment-or-illusion-freedom and it doesn't quite sound far removed from the proletarian experience, even though you have your own tools and less job security.

In the GDR, the official umbrella term was 'working people' (Werktätige) that included everyone from working class to agricultural workers (farmers, ranchers), petit bourgeoisie, lower public administration, soldiers, basically everyone who's not a full-on capitalist or 'intelligentsia'. And it's such a nebulous term, you couldn't tell what was going on anymore.

augustynww
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Feb 4 2015 11:24
boomerang wrote:
I think by the marxist definition they are middle class, right? Or maybe he’d use the term “petite bourgeoisie.” (I’m not a marxist but anarchists generally use marxist definitions of class.)

well I don't think it's true. There is a chapter on anarchist understaning of class in Black Flame and I think this is how most of anarchist use this notion. Basically form anarchist point of view marxist understanding of class is narrow and fragmentary and it's because of economic determinism:

Black Flame wrote:
Viewed in this way, the unequal ownership of the means of production is a necessary but not sufficient description of a class system. In the first place, the own­ership of the means of production can only be used for exploitation if buttressed by relations of domination between the classes. If, as Marx argued, workers sell their labour power for less than the value of their actual labour, then the process of ex­ploitation requires the deployment of both coercive and administrative resources to ensure that more work is done than is remunerated.

For Bakunin, the "merchan­dise" that the worker "sold to his employer" is "his labour, his personal services, the productive forces of his body, mind, and spirit that are found in him and are insepa­rable from his person—it is therefore himself." To force this self to work for another, to another's benefit, requires that "the employer ... watch over him, either directly or by means of overseers; every day during working hours and under controlled conditions, the employer will be the owner of his actions and movements."149

Even in the workplace, then, where the relations of production are central, they are necessarily intertwined with the relations of domination, and the processes of exploitation and domination are interlinked. Nevertheless, given the rejection of economic determinism it is not possible to assert the primacy of one over the other.

If the state is the ultimate guarantor of domination in the workplace, it also exercises domination outside the workplace, and not simply for the purposes of ensuring ex­ploitation: the state controls persons and territories by virtue of the concentration of many of the means of coercion and administration in its hands in order to effect its rule. In the case of postindependence Serbia, the relations of domination preceded the creation of the relations of production enabling exploitation; in turn, the exploi­tation that arose helped to reinforce the domination."

"It follows that when Bakunin or Kropotkin speak of the ruling class, they do not simply mean the bourgeoisie, the capitalists, like Marx, but include also land­lords and state managers. This class has common interests, although it is not neces­sarily a monolithic group with a single mind. While the relations of production and the relations of domination are deeply intertwined, and form different and mutually reinforcing elements of a single class system, they can also contradict one another.

For example, the state might seek a war that disrupts the process of exploitation;likewise, the need to legitimise the larger class system and thereby aid in the repro­duction of the relations of domination might lead to reforms that place limits on the rate of exploitation.

It is also possible to discern a somewhat wider understanding of the relations of production in the broad anarchist tradition than in the cruder forms of classical Marxism. This understanding is revealed by revisiting the issue of state capitalism."

"These contentions only make sense if the broad anarchist tradition posits a somewhat broader understanding of ownership than that of Trotsky. A ruling class can own property collectively through a state and deprive another class of owner­ship. This is legal ownership—inasmuch as appointment to posts, the rights and powers that accompanied particular offices, and the procedures governing decisions are legally defined—but it is not the individualised legal ownership that Trotsky had
in mind. It is institutional ownership, in which a ruling class collectively holds the means of production through the state apparatus, rather than through stock cer­tificates. At the same time, ownership involves more than simply a right to allocate existing property to ones heirs. It also entails control over the uses to which the means of production are put—that is, decisive power over fundamental decisions regarding major investments and day-to-day utilisation. In state capitalism, then,
exploitation and domination are even more closely linked than in private capital­ ism, concentrating class rule to an extraordinary extent, accounting for Bakunin's and Kropotkins use of images like "barracks" and "autocracy," respectively, to de­scribe such regimes.153

Marxist understanding of class is outdated. By working class Marx and Engels understood proletariat in factories and working class defined in this way is minority and in decline in society. Whole theory of emancipatory role of working class is useless if Marxist definition of working class is preserved. It's not suited to contemporary capitalism which made somehow a circle. Once again Marx predictions were wrong as he thought self-employment disappear (only proletariat and capitalists were supposed to exist) but it made him practical joke and grew instead. But this is Marxist problem wink

In my personal opinion self-employed are generally one of working classes if understood in plural (or part of working class in singular, in more broad sense)

bastarx
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Feb 4 2015 12:45
boomerang wrote:
Also... is a retired worker who’s living off of the interest of mutual funds now a capitalist? Technically, they are living off the profits of workers!

The 2.3 million SFRs (self-funded retirees) as we call them in Australia are the bedrock of reactionary politics here and they get extremely favourable tax treatment so I wouldn't expect to see them at the forefront of the revolution.

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Feb 4 2015 12:57
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Marxist understanding of class is outdated.

Oh, really? There's a fagpaper's difference between the "Marxist understanding of class" and the anarcho-communist understanding of class. So both must be outdated, eh?

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Feb 4 2015 13:11

Ive been self employed for a decade, working from home, doing contract work.

I don't really see my position as anything other than proletarian. Sure I don't have one boss, but I have lots of little bosses, who don't have to pay certain benefits. Remember a significant part of the workforce are also in a similar position, and that workforce is growing. These are neoliberal workers par excellence, atomised and non unionised inculcated with the ideology of entrepreneurialism, sadly all too willing to do anything to keep face, long hours, free work, bad working conditions, little security. All to keep the image of successful and talented individual and all to get the often elusive next contract, that next break. Pitiful really.

Spikymike
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Feb 4 2015 13:25

augustynww's and Black Flames reference to 'state capitalism' as an illustration of the relationship of 'ownership, control and class' is useful but hardly at odds with Marx or the many Marxist tendencies that have developed that theme better than most anarchists.

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Feb 4 2015 13:42
Serge Forward wrote:
Depends, Devrim. It could be said that many of what passes for petit bourgeois is nothing more than sections of the "reserve army" trying to get by.

There are of course many technically self-employed workers who are in fact proletarians, who have been forced into this position as bosses have tried to cut the costs of direct labour.

But many of the petite-bourgeoisie who don't employ others labour, don't do it because they are not successful enough, and would take somebody on as soon as possible.

In what way would the petite-bourgeoisie exist in an immediately post-revolutionary situation? Surely the implementation of an economic programme which would destroy them as a class would be one of the first tasks of the revolution.

Devrim

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Feb 4 2015 15:12

Augustyn's assertions that:

1. Marx had no concept of the necessity of supervision and relations of domination

and

2. Marx viewed the term "working class" as synonymous with "factory workers"

are both wrong.

As for 1, Marx says almost exactly the same thing as Bakunin (as quoted by Augustyn) in the chapter on the labor process in Volume 1 of Capital. Onlythat, probably unlike Bakunin (given his rejection of "economic determinism"), he sees a clear causal relation between the "economic" relation (the capital-relation of dispossesion on the one hand and of monopoly of the means of production on the other hand) and the "managerial" relation (that of supervision in the labor process), in the sense that the former necessitates the latter and not vice versa.

As for 2, one only need to look at Marx's theory of productive and unproductive labor, where even teachers, as long as they are exploited by a capitalist, are counted among productive workers (and thus unequivocally the working class). Again, there is a quote in Volume 1 about a school and a sausage factory to corroborate this, but I can't be bothered to look for it now.

An interesting aside, even during Marx's time the "industrial proletariat", in the sense of factory workers, was a minority. Again, there is a table somewhere in the chapter on machinery that shows Marx was aware of this.

Of course, none of this means that certain forms of Marxism weren't/aren't guilty of a reductionist understanding of class. At the same time, some of the most illuminating (and often mutually diverging) analyses of class (and also the state) come from the marxist tradition (E. P. Thompson, operaismo and "class composition", the "derivation" debate, the "open Marxism" relational conception of classes etc.).

As regards the self-employed, it is important to look beyond the juridicial form. On the one hand, many "self-employed" not only do not employ anyone etc., but are proletarians in all but the contract (but because the employer does not want to pay health care or social services contributions, they force them to become "self-employed"). There are even factory workers who are formally "self-employed". On the other hand, many people who formally are "employed" and earn a "wage" aren't workers (top managment, or even enterprise owners, for example).

augustynww
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Feb 4 2015 15:27
jura wrote:
Augustyn's assertions that:

1. Marx had no concept of the necessity of supervision and relations of domination

and

2. Marx viewed the term "working class" as synonymous with "factory workers"

are both wrong.

Well, 1. is not my assertion, but feel free to discuss it smile

2.:

jura wrote:
one only need to look at Marx's theory of productive and unproductive labor, where even teachers, as long as they are exploited by a capitalist, are counted among productive workers (and thus the working class). Again, there is a quote in Volume 1 about a school and a sausage factory to corroborate this, but I can't be bothered to look for it now.

What Marx describes for instance in Communist manifesto is industrial capitalism. I mean I could quote countless fragments from Marx which sounds as if industrial proletariat was synonymous with working class

Karl Marx wrote:
Owing to the extensive use of machinery, and to the division of labour, the work of the proletarians has lost all individual character, and, consequently, all charm for the workman. He becomes an appendage of the machine, and it is only the most simple, most monotonous, and most easily acquired knack, that is required of him.

Modern Industry has converted the little workshop of the patriarchal master into the great factory of the industrial capitalist. Masses of labourers, crowded into the factory, are organised like soldiers. As privates of the industrial army they are placed under the command of a perfect hierarchy of officers and sergeants. Not only are they slaves of the bourgeois class, and of the bourgeois State; they are daily and hourly enslaved by the machine, by the overlooker, and, above all, by the individual bourgeois manufacturer himself. The more openly this despotism proclaims gain to be its end and aim, the more petty, the more hateful and the more embittering it is.

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/ch0...

Marxian description of capitalism is description of industrial capitalism and industrial working class (exploitation scheme, alienation etc - all of this is based on industrial capitalism. Why it's important even when Marx mentioned once in Capital some other workers?, Well what would suppose to happen with capitalism depended on it.

jura wrote:
An interesting aside, even during Marx's time the "industrial proletariat", in the sense of factory workers, was a minority. Again, there is a table somewhere in the chapter on machinery that shows Marx was aware of this.

It would be very hard not to notice smile But Marx and Engels predicted it will grow to become majority of workers, am I right?
What's more whole marxist theory of revolution was based on this assumption: "industrial army" will become more and more centralized etc and only one small step of state nationalization will suffice to enter the road to socialism (yes, I know the state was supposed to disappear later, don't start another discussion)

jura wrote:
Of course, none of this means that certain forms of Marxism were/are guilty of a reductionist understanding of class. At the same time, some of the most illuminating (and often mutually diverging) analyses of class (and also the state) come from the marxist tradition (E. P. Thompson, operaismo and "class composition", the "derivation" debate, the "open Marxism" relational conception of classes etc.).

and for what I know all of those theories abandoned classical Marxist idea that industrial proletariat is driving force here, am I right again? Most of them is similar rather to anarchist understanding of class

jura wrote:
As regards the self-employed, it is important to look beyond the juridicial form. On the one hand, many "self-employed" not only do not employ anyone etc., but are proletarians in all but the contract (but because the employer does not want to pay health care or social services contributions, they force them to become "self-employed"). There are even factory workers who are formally "self-employed". On the other hand, many people who formally are "employed" and earn a "wage" aren't workers (top managment, or even enterprise owners, for example).

that's true, but how it looks in context of Marx exploitation theory? They sell the product of their labour not "ability to work".
(wasn't that something that Marx criticized Proudhon about?)

augustynww
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Feb 4 2015 15:21
jura wrote:
As for 1, Marx says almost exactly the same thing as Bakunin (as quoted by Augustyn) in the chapter on the labor process in Volume 1 of Capital. Onlythat, probably unlike Bakunin (given his rejection of "economic determinism"), he sees a clear causal relation between the "economic" relation (the capital-relation of dispossesion on the one hand and of monopoly of the means of production on the other hand) and the "managerial" relation (that of supervision in the labor process), in the sense that the former necessitates the latter and not vice versa.

Well the former doesn't necessitate the latter. This is what this thread is about actually...
Self-employed are workers without "managers" so to speak.

If the latter neccesitate the former? This is what experience is telling us. When formal proprietor disappers, managers are taking his place and exploitation continues.

augustynww
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Feb 4 2015 15:29
Spikymike wrote:
augustynww's and Black Flames reference to 'state capitalism' as an illustration of the relationship of 'ownership, control and class' is useful but hardly at odds with Marx or the many Marxist tendencies that have developed that theme better than most anarchists.

That's true that some Marxists developed anarchist themes. This is good development

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Feb 4 2015 15:29
augustynww wrote:
What Marx describes for instance in Communist manifesto is industrial capitalism. I mean I could quote countless fragments from Marx which sounds as if industrial proletariat was synonymous with working class

Marx's ideas developed over time. Already during his life, he and Engels expressed reservations about the content of the Manifesto. There are other passages in the Manifesto which contradict Marx's later views (e.g., absolute vs. relative immiseration). Quoting the Manifesto on this issue is much like taking some of Bakunin's early panslavic rants and "disproving" his later views.

augustynww wrote:
Marxian description of capitalism is description of industrial capitalism and industrial working class (exploitation scheme, alienation etc - all of this is based on industrial capitalism. Why it's important even when Marx mentioned once in Capital some other workers?, Well what would suppose to happen with capitalism depended on it.

Yes, industrial production is central to capitalism. I apologize but I don't understand the last two sentences.

augustynww wrote:
It would be very hard not to notice smile But Marx and Engels predicted it will grow to become majority of workers, am I right?

Well, yeah, in the Manifesto. If you open Capital Volume 3, you find passages like this:

Marx wrote:
The commercial worker, in the strict sense of the term, belongs to the better-paid class of wage-workers — to those whose labour is classed as skilled and stands above average labour. Yet the wage tends to fall, even in relation to average labour, with the advance of the capitalist mode of production. This is due partly to the division of labour in the office, implying a one-sided development of the labour capacity, the cost of which does not fall entirely on the capitalist, since the labourer's skill develops by itself through the exercise of his function, and all the more rapidly as division of labour makes it more one-sided. Secondly, because the necessary training, knowledge of commercial practices, languages, etc., is more and more rapidly, easily, universally and cheaply reproduced with the progress of science and public education the more the capitalist mode of production directs teaching methods, etc., towards practical purposes. The universality of public education enables capitalists to recruit such labourers from classes that formerly had no access to such trades and were accustomed to a lower standard of living. Moreover, this increases supply, and hence competition. With few exceptions, the labour-power of these people is therefore devaluated with the progress of capitalist production. Their wage falls, while their labour capacity increases. The capitalist increases the number of these labourers whenever he has more value and profits to realise.

augustynww wrote:
What's more whole marxist theory of revolution was based on this assumption: "industrial army" will become more and more centralized etc and only one small step of state nationalization will suffice to enter the road to socialism (yes, I know the state was supposed to disappear later, don't start another discussion)

There were views like this, yes. Engels certainly expressed something like this. Does this falsify Marx's theory as a whole? No.

jura wrote:
and for what I know all of those theories abandoned classical Marxist idea that industrial proletariat is driving force here, am I right again?

Nope.

jura wrote:
that's true, but how it looks in context of Marx exploitation theory? They sell the product of their labour not "ability to work".

It's just like piecework, Volume 1, Chapter 21 in the English translation.

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Feb 4 2015 15:36
augustynww wrote:
Well the former doesn't necessitate the latter. This is what this thread is about actually... Self-employed are workers without "managers" so to speak.

If the latter neccesitate the former? This is what experience is telling us. When formal proprietor disappers, managers are taking his place and exploitation continues.

I think you've misunderstood me. What I wrote was that Marx certainly paid attention to relations of supervision and domination (the deployment of "both coercive and administrative resources" described in the Black Flame text). He viewed it as a necessary consequence of the underlying capital relation.

You seem to be talking about something else, also described by Marx: the "disappearance" of the formal proprietor from management and the bifurcation of the "economic" and the "managerial" functions of capital. Marx discusses this in Vol. 3 in connection with joint-stock companies.

augustynww
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Feb 4 2015 15:38
Serge Forward wrote:
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Marxist understanding of class is outdated.

Oh, really? There's a fagpaper's difference between the "Marxist understanding of class" and the anarcho-communist understanding of class. So both must be outdated, eh?

What precisely do you have in mind? It could be. I encountered in Poland some anarcho-communists with very outdated understanding of working class (basically factory workers leading future revolution)

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Feb 4 2015 15:53

Augustyn, the problem is that you operate with the assumption that for Marx, "the working class" equals "factory workers". A similar assumption is that "industrial workers", for Marx, equals "factory workers". Both assumptions are wrong.

Marx counted "commercial workers" (salespeople, basically) and many other categories of laborers among the working class (for evidence on commercial workers, see above; there is plenty evidence for other categories in Vols. 2 and 3 of Capital). When he speaks of "industrial capital" he simply means a branch of production that is organized along capitalist lines and produces commodities or services with the aim of profit. So, for example, transportation and communication are "industries". Teaching can be an "industry" and teachers "industrial workers". Marx's concept of "industrial capital" is not a technological one. It is used to distinguish certain branches of the economy (of the employment of capital, to be more precise) from others (from interest-bearing capital, i.e., finance, for example). If I make cars on my own, at home, as a hobby, I'm neither an industrial capitalist nor an industrial worker, even though I may use the same machines as a factory would use.

augustynww
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Feb 4 2015 16:01
jura wrote:
Manifesto on this issue is much like taking some of Bakunin's early panslavic rants and "disproving" his later views.

Bakunin wasn't even an anarchist when he was panslavist

jura wrote:
There were views like this, yes. Engels certainly expressed something like this. Does this falsify Marx's theory as a whole? No.

Falsification in not best word here. That's why I said "outdated" instead of "false".

jura wrote:
jura wrote:
and for what I know all of those theories abandoned classical Marxist idea that industrial proletariat is driving force here, am I right again?

Nope.

OK thx. This theory is really outdated since industrial proletariat became minority in my opinion.

jura wrote:
It's just like piecework, Volume 1, Chapter 21 in the English translation.

what about this:

"Second, the proportion between wages and surplus-value remains unaltered, since the mass of surplus labour supplied by each particular labourer corresponds with the wage received by him."

(I'm not saying its not true, just asking)

augustynww
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Feb 4 2015 16:11
jura wrote:
Marx counted "commercial workers" (salespeople, basically) and many other categories of laborers among the working class (for evidence on commercial workers, see above; there is plenty evidence for other categories in Vols. 2 and 3 of Capital). When he speaks of "industrial capital" he simply means a branch of production that is organized along capitalist lines and produces commodities or services with the aim of profit. So, for example, transportation and communication are "industries". Teaching can be an "industry" and teachers "industrial workers". Marx's concept of "industrial capital" is not a technological one. It is used to distinguish certain branches of the economy (of the employment of capital, to be more precise) from others (from interest-bearing capital, i.e., finance, for example). If I make cars on my own, at home, as a hobby, I'm neither an industrial capitalist nor an industrial worker, even though I may use the same machines as a factory would use.

Yeah and "industrial revolution" means suddenly more schoolteachers appeared wink

augustynww
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Feb 4 2015 16:12

double

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Feb 4 2015 16:37

I take it you have no more substantial points to add.

BTW,

augustynww wrote:
Yeah and "industrial revolution" means suddenly more schoolteachers appeared ;)

is literally true. It's just that "industrial revolution" also means a lot more than that.

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Feb 4 2015 16:36
augustynww wrote:
what about this:

"Second, the proportion between wages and surplus-value remains unaltered, since the mass of surplus labour supplied by each particular labourer corresponds with the wage received by him."

(I'm not saying its not true, just asking)

What "what about this"? I'd like to answer the question, but I don't know what you're asking about. The idea is that whetherb the formal agreement is "payment by the hour" or "payment by the product" ("project", "design", "app", you get the idea), it's still wage labor. It's not like all the self-employed people ("subcontractors") are individual capitalists. They're workers, they're just not formally employed at the enterprise they work for. Since when do self-professed materialists explain reality from juridicial relations instead of material relations?

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Feb 4 2015 16:44
augustynww wrote:
OK thx. This theory is really outdated since industrial proletariat became minority in my opinion.

Depends on how you define "industrial proletariat". On Marx's definition, the numbers are actually growing. The contemporary statistics are misleading in that they put a lot of (Marxian) "industrial" jobs under the "services" heading (like transport and logistcs, for example). And still, "industrial workers" (i.e., those employed by industrial capital) is not the same as "working class" (for Marx).

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Feb 4 2015 17:56

Anyway, to come back to the original post, I think boomerang raises interesting points. Marx is often accused of having a reductionist concept of the working class, in that he focused exclusively on factory workers. I think this is very easy to prove wrong. I also think that the issue of the self-employed can easily be dealt with (some of them are waged laborers, some of them are not). But there is a different sense in which Marx's mature concept of the working class/waged workers is "formalistic", so to speak: it presupposes that the worker enjoys the "two-fold freedom" of (a) being free to dispose of her labor-power, (b) being free from means of subsistence and production (and hence having to sell labor-power). Historically, but even today, many of the most exploited workers are far from being free in the first sense (some historians even say that people who satisfy condition (a) where never a majority of the working class). There is still slavery/debt slavery/indenture around, there is forced/militarized labor around, there is state-sponsored segregation/coercion in the workforce around (e.g. migrant workers can't move around freely, can't settle etc). So one probably has to keep in mind that Marx's category of the "worker" is a theoretical device used to illuminate certain aspects of the concrete reality, but it shouldn't be confused with that reality (in other words, there are millions of "gradations" and shades in which the abstract "worker" from Capital appears in reality). In other words, when we say "working class take power" we don't mean that only people who satisfy (a) take power.

Then there is the "peasant question". The original idea of most working-class-oriented revolutionaries (not only Marx-inspired) was that (a part of the) peasantry is an ally, but somehow has to be led by the more conscious and better organized working class, and also kept at a slight distance because it is potentially a very reactionary force due to its "backwardness" etc. Historically, this didn't work out too well, to say the least. It is interesting that, for instance, on the forums here or in the theoretical production of most organizations and groups that I know of etc., this question is only very rarely dealt with (aside from historical debates). Personally I often resort to saying "Well, nowadays most of them are just waged workers who happen to work in agriculture" but I don't really know if it's true and what role the non-capitalist and small-capitalist peasantry plays today.

And I don't think it's just a question of language (i.e., making ourselves more appealing); behind the language issue, there's a theoretical issue that pretty much everyone (in the "class struggle" milieu) seems to gloss over.

boomerang wrote:
Also... is a retired worker who’s living off of the interest of mutual funds now a capitalist? Technically, they are living off the profits of workers!

Well, so are the unemployed and all unproductive workers either in the public sector (yeah, including cops, but also including state-employed teachers!) or in the private sector (e.g. commercial workers) insofar they are purely unproductive workers. These categories are quite easy to deal with (the unemployed are part of the reserve army; the unproductive workers, even though they don't produce surplus-value and are ultimately paid from surplus-value extracted elsewhere, are still exploited, because what they get paid is less then the amount of labor they expend). But the retired worker is similar: he's definitely not a capitalist because he does not advance any money with the view of valorizing it (and doing it over and over), he simply finances his own (often meagre) consumption. And throughout the course of his life, insofar as he'd been a worker, he'd probably put in a lot more surplus labor than he actually receives back via interest.

boomerang
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Feb 4 2015 18:38

Thanks for the responses! But the last several posts, though interesting, have been derailing the thread. Do you mind starting a new thread for that? Or even moving it to PMs?
(Edit: As I was writing this post, Jura made the post above. Thanks for bringing it back on track!)

Two or three people have mentioned the fact that a lot of the self-employed are actually proletariat because they contract their labor out to several bosses. It’s a good point.

But it doesn't describe a lot of self-employed people. For example, friends I have who travel tell me that in poor countries you're constantly bombarded by street vendors trying to sell you one thing or another. Contract labor proletariat also doesn't describe peasants who are small land-owners. So still, the problem remains for me of feeling uncomfortable with sayings like “the working class takes power” as implying the exclusion of those who deserve inclusion.

Spikymike wrote:
Perhaps stop thinking in terms of static (and narrow) definitions of class and class power and rather in terms of a process of class formation (starting with that old concept of 'a class in itself and a class for itself' to which some of us added the phrase ' a class becomming for itself').

Can you explain what you mean by this?

Spikymike wrote:
Some of the Communisation tendencies have tried to tackle this question better than traditional anarchist and left communist tendencies but frankly are still struggling with it (though I would recomend Dauve on this issue more than others).

Thanks for the tip. But damn it, if it doesn’t have to be those friggin Communisation Theorists! They’re a pain to read and I rarely understand what they’re saying. But seems I have no choice. Is there a particular article by Dauve you would recommend I check out?

Railyon wrote:
In the GDR, the official umbrella term was 'working people' (Werktätige) that included everyone from working class to agricultural workers (farmers, ranchers), petit bourgeoisie, lower public administration, soldiers, basically everyone who's not a full-on capitalist or 'intelligentsia'. And it's such a nebulous term, you couldn't tell what was going on anymore.

What's GDR?
For the petite bourgeoisie, are they also talking about the ones who have employees but work along side them? Because that's not right. Or are they just talking about the non-exploiting self-employed?

bastarx wrote:
The 2.3 million SFRs (self-funded retirees) as we call them in Australia are the bedrock of reactionary politics here and they get extremely favourable tax treatment so I wouldn't expect to see them at the forefront of the revolution.

I wouldn’t expect it, but some I bet would want to give support. Also, they might not be so reactionary in other countries, who knows. Anyways, none of this answers the question of what their class is.

jura wrote:
On the other hand, many people who formally are "employed" and earn a "wage" aren't workers (top managment, or even enterprise owners, for example).

This is another thing I'm wondering about. On what criteria are we judging whether a manager is working class or middle class or capitalist class? (Can any of them be considered working class?)

Devrim wrote:
In what way would the petite-bourgeoisie exist in an immediately post-revolutionary situation? Surely the implementation of an economic programme which would destroy them as a class would be one of the first tasks of the revolution.

Revolution destroys all classes. So the same could be said of working class and capitalist class.

boomerang
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Feb 4 2015 18:45
boomerang wrote:
I don’t think anyone here would think they should be excluded(?)

Devrim wrote:
I do.

If they aren't class enemies, then why in the hell should they be excluded?

mikail firtinaci's picture
mikail firtinaci
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Feb 4 2015 20:02

In practice it is impossible to exclude anyone from expressing their opinions in a soviet meeting - even the bourgeoisie if they chose to do so!. So if "proletarian power" means soviet like organs to hold political power, then you can't obstruct petty bourgeoisie to raise its voice.

boomerang
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Feb 4 2015 20:03

(I hope I don't sound rude in my post #29 above. I was just trying to emphasize that I feel strongly about it.)