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

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Auld-bod's picture
Auld-bod
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Feb 4 2015 20:11

It appears to me that defining ‘who is for us’ in the revolution in strictly defined class terms is misplaced, and to put it in rather dated terms, whoever is on our side of the barricades is ‘working class’ and as always historically, a minority of obvious members of the working class will side with the boss class. The black and tans and the brown shirts were recruited from the oppressed but for whatever reason they sided with their masters. The revolution will be a massive shake up of social class – leading to the elimination of classes. The present political and class divisions will redefine themselves. History will be sprung from our backs.

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jura
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Feb 4 2015 20:19
boomerang wrote:
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.

"Street vendors" are traditionally viewed as petty bourgeoisie. Of course, for many this is simply a way of avoiding wage labor; it's not like they inherited a fast food stall from the founder of their petty-bourgeois empire. But the question is whether their position puts them ("objectively") in conflict with the interests of waged workers. The general answer tends to be in the affirmative, but I think that's a simplification. If there's a major upheaval, many of them, simply out of family relations etc., will simply join the struggle and leave their stalls behind (even better: free burgers veggies for everyone!).

One of the ways of looking at it is that the experience connected with certain class position facilitates views not only on how society works, but also how it should work. A long-standing tradition in revolutionary politics (common, I think, to both anarchism and marxism) says that the petty-bourgeois experience tends to foster views that emphasize individuality, "entrepreneurship", autonomy, "fairness", "equality" etc. – basically the classical bourgeois ideals minus the "corruption" and "parasitism" associated with "Wall Street" and "corporations" (i.e. an capitalism without the... capitalism). And this despite the terrible living conditions it often has to endure (in the latest issue of the German Wildcat magazine, there's an interesting analysis of the recent "democratic" movements throughout the world as basically "petty bourgeois" or "middle class": limited to more democracy, less corruption, more self-determination, less bureaucracy etc., precisely for these reasons). So the petty bourgeoisie, as far as its criticism of and opposition to contemporary society is concerned, has always been viewed as extremely limited and ultimately reactionary. Similarly with small landowners. Of course, there is also the not insignificant point that even illusions about "equality" and "freedom" without "corruption" etc. are not uncommon even among the "salt of the earth" proles (as we know, the "wage form" itself is conducive to such illusions).

(There's also a different question: whether the working class/its militants should consciously concentrate on trying to organize these strata. The answer tends to be negative, due to the atomization and apparent lack of potential power they have; i.e., if some street vendors stop selling lemonade, nothing happens, but if tube workers stay home, the city grinds to a halt. But this is a different, "tactical", question which can also be posed with regard to different sectors of the working class.)

I don't want to speak on behalf on Spikymike, but I think a useful text on class is Richard Gunn's Notes on Class (incidentally, it's not communization theory but "open marxism").

boomerang wrote:
What's GDR?

The German Democratic Republic a/k/a East Germany. In Czechoslovakia, pretty much everyone was officially part of the "working people" which included "workers" (traditional industrial occupations), "peasants" (collectivized in cooperatives) and the "working intelligentsia" (teachers, doctors, engineers etc.).

boomerang wrote:
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?)

This is something I've been wondering about too.

First of all, some of the supervision/direction/planning functions that managers (on various levels) perform are simply necessary due to the complex and cooperative nature of the labor process. Insofar as they are necessary in this respect, Marx calls them productive. They arise out of the technical nature of labor process and the activities that constitute them will have to be carried out in any future society, although we'd probably want to organize them differently as far as possible.

Other supervisory functions are necessary due to the antagonistic nature of the mode of production. The workers have to be supervised because they tend to slack off, steal etc.

I think there are different types of managers who embody these two kinds of functions to different degrees. On the same scale, most of these managers will be – at the very least formally – waged. So on the one side of the spectrum, you have managers (like the "group leaders" in some factories) who actually take part in production, stepping in for workers who need the bathroom, helping out rookies etc. From what I know about some workplaces in my country, they earn the basic assembly-line operator's wage plus a bonus (of about 10%, perhaps a bit more) for being a "group leader". On the one hand, they're the transmission belt which is supposed to ensure that everything works as planned on the lowest level. On the other hand, they get a lot of shit from their superiors if it doesn't. At the same time, there's a lot of pressure and a lot of shit from below, because they're often the ones who have to try to speed things up, deliver bad news etc. But also, because they're more experienced and skilled (or have a permanent contract unlike the rest of the people on their team), they're often the ones who talk back to the higher-ups and even lead other workers to action. So obviously their position is contradictory (but let's face it, whose isn't?).

Then there's a myriad of other layers of management who are less and less involved in direct production, although they may still perform "productive" tasks (mostly of non-manual nature) which are necessary due to the cooperative nature of the modern labor process. They may be waged, but the higher echelons may also receive stock options or whatnot. Finally, there's the director or a whole board of them who actually do fuck all as far as direct or indirect production is concerned, but who formally or juridicially are employees and receive a "wage" (apart from separate shares in profit in one form or another).

Again, there are different ways of looking at it, I think. There's the "abstract-theoretical" point of view, in which even a top manager, who receives stock options but also a regular wage and performs productive tasks, is at least partly (say, for an hour a day) a proletarian. This is because from the point of view of total social labor, some of his labor is unpaid surplus labor. Politically, this doesn't seem very useful.

Then there's the "fire or hire" point of view: as long as you don't have these competences, you're a worker. Many organizations use this a criterion. Practically, it can be useful, but I wouldn't make it the basis of my critique of capitalism (I don't mean to imply that any organization does this). For example, although many people, especially in office jobs in small companies, don't formally (in terms of their contract and official tasks) have these competences, they actually have them informally (and vice versa, some only have them formally but can't/don't execute them).

I digress. There's also the "social function" point of view, for lack of a better term. Many professions traditionally associated with the "middle class" (although they don't necessarily secure a "middle class life"), like teachers, although they are waged and often lead a sorry existence, perform certain functions which one way or the other help reproduce the class antagonism. And often on the ideological level they have many excuses for doing it and how their job actually benefits society and the working class (I know this firsthand, a part of me is a teacher and often makes these excuses to the part of me that's writing this post). Here's an interesting quote:

Martin Glaberman wrote:
An important distinction between teachers or social workers and manual workers is that workers manipulate things and teachers and social workers manipulate people. And although they are exploited and underpaid and should unionize and strike, they perform certain functions of control in this society which cannot be ignored by simply defining them as working class. If that distinction is lost, then a very important distinction that relates to various tactical and strategic questions is lost. if you define everybody that is getting low pay (and many teachers get less than many workers; there are tool and die makers that make much more than grade school teachers) then, unless you go back to a definition in terms of income, that does not change the reality of one being essentially middle class and the other being essentially working class. Both have reason to resist and revolt against this society. There is no social revolution in the modern world that I know of that can take place with simply the working class. Other sections of society are bound to participate. The French events of 1968, for example, were touched off by student demonstrations, students battling police in Paris and elsewhere for several weeks. Society is an integrated whole. But that is another type of question. The difference is that street demonstrations become transformed into a social revolution if the industrial working class intervenes and moves to take over the means of production. Unless we keep in mind that there are different types of work with different relationships to the process of production, important distinctions are lost.

I know, this is probably not helpful at all smile.

augustynww
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Feb 4 2015 21:10
jura wrote:
Since when do self-professed materialists explain reality from juridicial relations instead of material relations?

1844?

The point is it doesn't fit into definition of "selling labour power for wage". Self-employed don't sell labour power and this is not wage.
At least in Poland that is, I don't know how it looks like in other countries, in Poland those are basically one-person businesses.
It's not so important to me

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Feb 4 2015 21:15

Please don't tell me that the cashier in a supermarket chain around the corner who is formally a "przedsiębiorca" or works "na własny rachunek" (I hope this is the correct word in Polish), i.e. an independent contractor, is a one-person business. This is simply a form the employer uses to cut down on health and social insurance contributions, as well as to evade the labor code.

augustynww
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Feb 4 2015 21:53

Yes these are correct words.
Of course they are doing this for these reasons but it doesn't change the result i.e this is not wage labour.

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Feb 4 2015 22:51

OK, let's agree to disagree, then. I sincerely hope you are the only anarchist not only in Poland, but the whole world, who believes this sort of blunder. (Some food for thought: the putting-out system.)

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Feb 4 2015 22:50
Auld-bod wrote:
It appears to me that defining ‘who is for us’ in the revolution in strictly defined class terms is misplaced, and to put it in rather dated terms, whoever is on our side of the barricades is ‘working class’ and as always historically, a minority of obvious members of the working class will side with the boss class. The black and tans and the brown shirts were recruited from the oppressed but for whatever reason they sided with their masters. The revolution will be a massive shake up of social class – leading to the elimination of classes. The present political and class divisions will redefine themselves. History will be sprung from our backs.

This is an important point, I think. In a revolutionary situation, people will make their positions clear through their actions. A mid-level manager at a supermarket prevents people from taking food without paying? Guess he's not on "our side." A mid-level manger at a supermarket stands aside while people take food? Guess he's okay.

The aim of socialist revolution is the abolition of class. Although it's clear enough that some stand to gain more materially from this than others, it's also possible that some worker might push for the reinstatement of the old hierarchy while some shop owner will happily surrender his goods to those who can use them. What would have to be repressed for the existence of communism is the continuation or reemergence of capitalist social relations, not people who may have had the "wrong class identity" at some point.

confusionboats
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Feb 5 2015 00:25

I like the castoriadis thing where the division is between orderants and executants and think maybe distinctions could be less vague with some sort of notion of time ('labor time'? namely how we chose to spend our time and who controls that) which is admittedly still pretty vague but as of yet I haven't really figured the whole thing out...

to me, the idea has both the necessary 'libertarian' aspects (freedom of expression etc.) and the 'communist/socialist' ones (the substantial capacity to do so..) I mean, that's not exactly well articulated but I think it makes sense.?

boomerang
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Feb 5 2015 03:16

A lot of good points being made by a lot of people.

One point I want to focus on:

Auld-bod wrote:
It appears to me that defining ‘who is for us’ in the revolution in strictly defined class terms is misplaced, and to put it in rather dated terms, whoever is on our side of the barricades is ‘working class’ and as always historically, a minority of obvious members of the working class will side with the boss class.

also stated here

Tyrion wrote:
This is an important point, I think. In a revolutionary situation, people will make their positions clear through their actions. ... What would have to be repressed for the existence of communism is the continuation or reemergence of capitalist social relations, not people who may have had the "wrong class identity" at some point.

I very much agree! The one thing I take issue with is saying that whoever is on our side of the barricades is "working class" - tho I don't think this was meant literally.

Sorry to keep coming back to words/slogans, but I think it's important. Or at least it's important to me, and I still feel uncomfortable with "the working class takes power."

I'd prefer something like "Everyone who supports the revolution takes power" or "The revolutionary movement takes power". It addresses my original concerns, and also addresses this:

Quote:
as always historically, a minority of obvious members of the working class will side with the boss class. The black and tans and the brown shirts were recruited from the oppressed but for whatever reason they sided with their masters.

augustynww
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Feb 5 2015 06:06
jura wrote:
OK, let's agree to disagree, then. I sincerely hope you are the only anarchist not only in Poland, but the whole world, who believes this sort of blunder.

I don't know must check smile

jura wrote:
(Some food for thought: the putting-out system.)

now you get it? Putting-out system was what I had in mind when I said "capitalism made a circle" (and is returning to some early forms)

augustynww wrote:
It's not suited to contemporary capitalism which made somehow a circle.

it was pre-industrial form of capitalism and those workers were something in between industrial workers and artisans.
Only now it's going into opposite direction like new artisans of sort (not industrial workers) in post-industrial capitalism
Figure it out what it has to do with Marx theory describing capitalism in the process of industrialization and why I said it's outdated when we're dealing with process of de-industrialization

confusionboats
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Feb 5 2015 08:02
augustynww 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".
(wasn't that something that Marx criticized Proudhon about?)

was he criticizing Proudhon's conception self-employed labor or just labor in general?

I sort of think that both of these things are true. In the case of self-employed it seems like you would only be selling the product of your labor but that it wouldn't be 'wage labor'. A cashier is clearly 'wage labor' but I think there may be some disagreement as to what Marx's conception of that was. I've had a number of dead-end jobs where I was basically paid to just be there and occasionally do stuff. So I was being paid for my ability to work and not the product of my labor. The same could be said for a cashier. I think almost everyone here would agree that someone who makes minimum wage in a supermarket is a member of the proletariat. So, augustynww, is your critique of Marx that he saw the working class as being only comprised of those who sell the product of their labor?

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Feb 5 2015 08:55
augustynww wrote:
it was pre-industrial form of capitalism and those workers were something in between industrial workers and artisans. Only now it's going into opposite direction like new artisans of sort (not industrial workers) in post-industrial capitalism

Yeah, well, from the point of view of Marx's theory, the workers in the cottage industry were waged workers too (that's why they're discussed at length in Capital).

(Again, it's just like piecework in a factory. The form, i.e., that the product is physically "exchanged" between the cottage worker and the person who hires her, does not matter. For that matter, this can also happen within a factory; in some management systems, the different sections of a factory do their own accounting and sort of buy and sell the unfinished product between them; this is basically used to cut down on waste. But what makes something wage labor is not the content of the contract with the boss, nor is it the location of the workplace, nor the physical movement of the product, nor the fact that the worker doesn't bring any of her tools. All of these "explanations" consititute the most vulgar of economy. What makes something wage labor is the (often completely invisible) social form that labor takes: that the worker is paid, in some form (not necessarily, although mostly money), the price of her labor power, and that the product she makes is ultimately sold for more than that, while the difference is appropriated by the capitalist. Whether the price of her labor power is formally presented as the "price of the product" or the "price of her labor", does not matter.

Even a regular contract between an "wage laborer" in a factory and an "industrial" capitalist makes the impression that all labor is paid, i.e., that the boss buys the labor of the worker in the form of the finished product. This does not make it not wage labor. And it's exactly the same with cottage industry and many if not most "self-employed" workers. It's also the same if there are middlemen between the worker and the enterprise, like in the old sweating system or with temp agencies today. The formal arrangement makes it appear as if it was something other than wage labor, but it isn't.)

Spikymike
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Feb 5 2015 10:35

boomerang,

jura and to some extent Auld-bod and Tyrion have all made points that I broadly agree with so not to duplicate those here, but just in terms of the question of 'the working class taking power' and 'the process of communisation' I think this text is the most useful in getting your head around the issues and worth a read when you have time: http://libcom.org/library/communisation

PS: I should add perhaps that I am still argueing this approach out with the more traditional approach of left communist comrades in the CWO.

augustynww
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Feb 5 2015 11:59
confusionboats wrote:
augustynww 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".
(wasn't that something that Marx criticized Proudhon about?)

was he criticizing Proudhon's conception self-employed labor or just labor in general?

Probably both i.e that Proudhon doesn't understand what labour in capitalism is and that he is "petty-bourgeois socialist" because he supports self-employment.

confusionboats wrote:
I think almost everyone here would agree that someone who makes minimum wage in a supermarket is a member of the proletariat.

I surely do (and other self-employed are proletariat too)

confusionboats wrote:
So, augustynww, is your critique of Marx that he saw the working class as being only comprised of those who sell the product of their labor?

Sell labour power you mean? Yes, my point is that "classical Marxism" can't properly deal with this development of capitalism because move such workers outside proletariat, working class etc. Like this:

Devrim wrote:
Quote:
I don’t think anyone here would think they should be excluded(?)

I do.

Devrım

This is how classical marxism used to deal with self-employed - they are petty bourgeois or some anomaly, rather unimportant.

On the other hand trying to squeeze this new self-employment to fit into category of industrial working class as understood by "classical marxism" (Jura) is bad idea because it preclude understanding of some new form of capitalism.

augustynww
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Feb 5 2015 11:57

Jura,
In my opinion this is not like piece work.

maybe its only wikipedia but still

wikipedia wrote:
Proletarianisation

The most important transformation of society for Marxists has been the massive and rapid growth of the proletariat over the last two hundred and fifty years. Starting with agricultural and domestic textile laborers in England and Flanders, more and more occupations only provide a living through wages or salaries. Private manufacturing, leading to self-employment, is no longer as viable as it was before the industrial revolution, because automation made manufacturing very cheap. Many people who once controlled their own labor-time were converted into proletarians through industrialization. Today groups which in the past subsisted on stipends or private wealth—like doctors, academics or lawyers—are now increasingly working as wage laborers. Marxists call this process proletarianization, and point to it as the major factor in the proletariat being the largest class in current societies in the rich countries of the "first world.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Class_in_Marxist_theory.

So if its process of proletarisation what would be the name for self-employment going in opposite direction - de-proletarisation?
(if we stick with marxist theory of classes of course, I'm not saying self-employed aren't proletarians, they are I think)

Karl Marx wrote:
Firstly: Some of the labour which produces commodities in capitalist production is performed in a manner which belongs to earlier modes of production, where the relation of capital and wage labour does not yet exist in practice, and therefore the category of productive and unproductive labour, which corresponds to the capitalist standpoint, is entirely inapplicable., But in accordance with the ruling mode of production even those relations which have not yet been subsumed under it in fact are subsumed under it notionally. The self-employed labourer, for example, is his own wage labourer, and his own means of production confront him in his own mind as capital. As his own capitalist, he employs himself as a wage labourer. Anomalies of this type then offer a favourable field for outpourings of drivel about productive and unproductive labour.

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1864/economic/ch02b.htm.
Well, this is clearly some metaphor only to be "ones own capitalist", not literally, in economic terms.

Also:
Sergio Bologna in Beyond Marx: Theorising the Global Labour Relations of the Twenty-First Century says something very similar: when he started to study the problem of "phenomenon of self-employed labour" Marxism "offered him no historical or theoretical reference point whatsoever"

Sergio Bologna wrote:
There was no single passage in Capital, in Theories of Surplus Value the Grundrisse or any other text that I could make use of... Marx is historical personality, his ability to anticipate capitalism's dynamics has it's limits. To deny these limits is tantamount to treating Marx as a prophet, as the founder not of revolutionary movement but of a religion

etc

edit:I should have made some experiment here and write it as if my own words. I wonder how many votes down I would get wink

I admit I didn't read the book I only found this fragment when trying to find some information how marxists deal with self-employed labour.

This is unlike piece work I think and also Bologna understand it or at least it seems so (I don't know his conclusions only this starting point). You are wrong Jura. This is not wage labour this is something different. I said "new artisans" from lack of better term, something in between artisanry and wage labour and as confusionboats says it can have many various forms, some workers are nearly exactly the same as wage workers, some not.
For Marx it was "anomaly", some residue from earlier system but we see now it's not anomaly (it developed in 20th century and now) if like 30% of workers fit into this category and it's growing

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Feb 5 2015 12:04

Boomerang #40

‘Sorry to keep coming back to words/slogans, but I think it's important. Or at least it's important to me, and I still feel uncomfortable with "the working class takes power."’

I too think words are important. As a fan of John Berger, I found his short article in the Guardian on the 13th December 2014 of interest. It was titled ‘Language can’t be reduced to a stock of words – Most political discourse is inert and ruthlessly complacent’. Here is a short extract:

‘… Words, terms, phrases can be separated from the creature of their language and used as mere labels. They then become inert and empty. The repetitive use of acronyms is a simple example of this. Most mainstream political discourse today is composed of words that, separated from any creature of language, are inert. And such dead “word-mongering” wipes out memory and breeds a ruthless complacency.

What has prompted me to write over the years is the hunch that something needs to be told, and that if I don’t try to tell it, it risks not being told. I picture myself as a stop-gap man rather than a consequential, professional writer.

After I’ve written a few lines I let the words slip back into the creature of their language. And there, they are instantly recognised and greeted by a host of other words, with whom they have an affinity of meaning, or of opposition, or of metaphor or alliteration or rhythm. I listen to their confabulation. Together they are contesting the use to which I put the words I choose. They are questioning the roles I allotted them.

So I modify the lines, change a word or two, and submit them again. Another confabulation begins. And it goes on like this until there is a low murmur of provisional consent. Then I proceed to the next paragraph.

Another confabulation begins…’

To stay relevant it is necessary to constantly review our use of words.

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Feb 5 2015 13:34
augustynww wrote:
For Marx it was "anomaly", some residue from earlier system but we see now it's not anomaly (it developed in 20th century and now) if like 30% of workers fit into this category and it's growing

I disagree with the post-operaist take on this. There is a tendency to present things which have always existed in capitalism (migrant labor, temporary workers, precarity etc.) as something radically new, something that only happened after the 1970s. I think this theoretical fashion is an abomination really.

It appears "radically new" only if you compare it to the immediately preceding period of the Fordist compromise, where everyone was a mass worker with a permanent contract. Ironically, this period was itself an anomaly, and a short-lived and geographically restricted one at that. Another reason is that people tend to take Marx's abstract definition of labor power (with its "two-fold freedom") too literally. In fact, long-term contracts, the worker freely disposing of her labor power, as well as "ideal" labor-market relations are historically the exception. But perhaps Marx and Engels are also guilty of presenting this conception of labor power as a some kind of a teleological end toward which capitalism necessarily gravitates (they were wrong on many other things, so why not this).

I'll try to restate my view, hopefully in a clearer way. A part of the self-employed are simply wage laborers; to a large extent, it's the people who work beside "normal" wage laborers in the same workplace, but their contract is different (some workers even prefer this because the net wage they receive that way may be higher). Another part surely are small entrepreneurs, i.e., the petty bourgeoisie. We have to see it for what it is: a lot of the formally "self-employed" are not really "independent producers" at all. Their situation is completely unlike the archaic small-scale domestic manufacturing that originated with peasants producing for their own need and gradually became extended to producing for the market (which is what Marx is talking about in the quote you posted). The assembly-line operators, supermarket cashiers or office secretaries who formally are small "firms", "one-man businesses", are completely incapable of any independent economic activity. It's not like the supermarket cashier is in the same situation as the private accountant who does the books for a dozen small companies. In the case of the former, the "self-employed" form is there simply because the employer can dodge contributions and the labor code (they're easier to fire, for example). Often, the people are given a simple choice: we will hire you, but not unless you become "self-employed".

This also has to do with the fact that "traditional" wage labor became integrated, over the course of the 20th century, into the system (labor, health, pension legislation, unions, left parties etc.), and today (unlike in the 19th century!) this form carries many disadvantages for the capitalist. That's why they're turning toward "self-employed" subcontractors. If there were no labor regulations around, most of the self-employed (all of them except those who really run independent businesses; the latter include many traditionally "middle class" and "liberal arts" occupations, like accountants, artists, high-profile journalists and writers, private physicians or legal counselors etc.) would be "traditional" wage laborers. This difference in form, i.e., in the contract, does not amount to a difference in the content: it's wage labor both here and there. (One can also look at it this way: in my country, many companies advertise jobs, for example office jobs, as open to, at the same time, "permanent employment" or "short-term" or "self-employment". Once, when I applied to a network administrator position, they gave me a choice: either have a definite-term contract with wage X, or become self-employed and get paid X+Y, i.e., more than in the former case, because the company would save on health care contributions and could give me more. Would my economic position as a waged worker change depending on which option I chose? Would, in the second case, the computers that I administrated suddenly become my property, so that I'd own "means of production" and be an "independent producer"? No, my position in society wouldn't chage at all. Economically, it's the same. The difference is in the security, in the money, in some rights, and in the some formal bureaucratic obligations, like having to do your own taxes etc.)

And if it really isn't wage labor, if the self-employed worker really sells her product, the question is where and how profit enters the equation. The only reasonable answer to that is "unequal exchange". And we're back to square one, with the Ricardian socialists and Proudhon. No thanks.

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Feb 5 2015 15:48

@ augustynww

You should definitely give this a read: http://www.libcom.org/library/introduction-three-volumes-karl-marxs-capi..., if your not interested or not yet prepared to read Marx's Capital.

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Feb 5 2015 15:47

Separately, your claim that the working class is shrinking or being replaced by self-employment is highly ridiculous. Of course the petite-bourgeoisie hasn't entirely disappeared, but to suggest that there's a tendency towards that category becoming the biggest is clearly wrong.

boomerang
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Feb 5 2015 17:18
jura wrote:
I don't want to speak on behalf on Spikymike, but I think a useful text on class is Richard Gunn's Notes on Class (incidentally, it's not communization theory but "open marxism").

Spikymike wrote:
I think this text is the most useful in getting your head around the issues and worth a read when you have time: http://libcom.org/library/communisation

Awesome. smile Both added to my reading list.

Auld-bod wrote:
I too think words are important.

Glad you understand. Lately a couple friends have shown interest in anarchism and I've been discussing it with them, so how to express these ideas has been on my mind.

confusionboats
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Feb 5 2015 18:04
augustynww wrote:
Sell labour power you mean? Yes, my point is that "classical Marxism" can't properly deal with this development of capitalism because move such workers outside proletariat, working class etc. Like this:

I think that a number of posts in this thread suggest that Marx's notions of labour power already includes a number or the groups of people you claim that it omits

Agent of the Fifth International wrote:
@ augustynww

You should definitely give this a read: http://www.libcom.org/library/introduction-three-volumes-karl-marxs-capi..., if your not interested or not yet prepared to read Marx's Capital.

my assumption is that augustynww probably deals with more marxists than people who have read marx

Jura, while I find your post on traditional wage labor being integrated helpful, clearly the neoliberal word-fuckery involved with terms like 'self-employment' isn't what is meant by pre-industrial jobs such as artisans. And while I tend to agree that isn't becoming the majority class under post-industrial capitalism I can see how it appears that way with (at least here in the states) most cultural centers looking sort of like that 1890s bit from portlandia..

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Feb 5 2015 18:52
Quote:
you're constantly bombarded by street vendors trying to sell you one thing or another

There might be others who know more about this, but just on this point my understanding is that often of those vendors are organised basically on capitalist lines. So, there's one dude (usually from the same ethnicity or nationality) who acts like the capitalist, supplying the products in advance (sort of like the old-school newspaper sellers - you've seen Newsies, I imagine) or on a sort of piece-rate basis. So I think what you're experiencing there is actually one of the most super-exploited stratum of the working class.

More generally, a revolutionary situation brings out the fractures in society and people will be forced to take a side. Some workers will side with the bourgeoisie. Some bourgeoisie (or more likely their heirs) will side with the workers. Some self-employed will join the workers; other won't. Shit, I imagine even some cops will defect to our side.

Those who come to our side will get some sort of say in the revolutionary situation - joining a Soviet or whatever and engaging in that type of work, for example. Those who side with the forces of reaction, don't. And, ATR, we'll have dismantled capitalism and it'll be a questions of integrating those who opposed us (or, ya know, packing them onto the boat...).

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Feb 5 2015 19:23

When people are queuing up to join us, maybe then we could discuss who can't join? Until then, this just looks like rearranging the deck-chairs on the Titanic...

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Feb 5 2015 19:44
jura wrote:
augustynww wrote:
For Marx it was "anomaly", some residue from earlier system but we see now it's not anomaly (it developed in 20th century and now) if like 30% of workers fit into this category and it's growing

I disagree with the post-operaist take on this. There is a tendency to present things which have always existed in capitalism (migrant labor, temporary workers, precarity etc.) as something radically new, something that only happened after the 1970s. I think this theoretical fashion is an abomination really.

While I agree with you on many points* I don't fully agree that there are no new categories of labour hiding within the self-employed amalgam. Let's take taxi drivers. Dublin famously has more taxi drivers than New York, thanks to a neoliberal brain wave from our local regulators who basically decided to give out as many taxi licences as they could sell at knock down rates.

There were taxi drivers in Dublin back in the time of the 1913 Lockout, horse-drawn hansom cab drivers. But generally they worked as wage labourers to the big stable owners who owned horses, cabs, etc. So they would be productive wage labourers in a capitalist taxi industry, producing surplus value.

But today's taxi drivers don't have bosses and consume all they earn for the service they provide. So does this mean the taxi industry has regressed to being a basically unproductive trade? If we simply class these individual cab operators as petit bourgeois who consume all income as revenue, then don't they fall under the same category as the people who individually sell personal services mentioned in Marx's "unpublished" chapter 6?

On the other hand, when in conversation with cabbies, I often hear them say "at least I choose the hours I work, and I don't have a boss". To which I usually reply "Do you have a mortgage?". The dig being that their bank manager is their boss.

During the boom, Irish workers who lost or quit their employment could, as the tale is told, walk into their bank and get a car loan that included the price of the taxi licence and insurance thrown in. I've even hear tell of "full package" deals that included house mortgage, car and taxi licence loans in one deal. On certain "tiger" estates, the joke was that when you bought a house it came with a taxi on the driveway. Certainly having leafletted those estates, there are quite a lot of taxis on those drives.

The point is this. Are these self-employed "petit bourgeois" cab operators, that go out and earn a living and then pay the bank their cut, earning surplus value for capital's cycle or not?

Given also that these "small capitalists" will never grow to employ other labour, does that category really fit?

I'm tempted to consider another category of "disintermediated labour" (or something less wordy). I know Costas Lapavitsas has done some work on whether mortgages, etc, constitute a means for capital to extract surplus value from self-employed or otherwise non-traditionally earning workers. (See also NINJA loans...)

On another level, there's a question mark over whether the shift from PAYE taxation to domestic home or water taxes (which is the big current class struggle here at the moment) is also in some way a response to the increase of non-PAYE proletarian earners.

Anyway, I await your corrections to my misapprehensions about the productive/unproductive divide. wink

----------
* I too work in IT, where permies sit next to self-employed contractors with no difference in work or subjection to boss-command, etc. There is a clear category of workers where the contract difference does not imply a difference in wage labour content, from high-earners down to the most exploited. At the bottom end my union works with many migrant labourers whose "self-employed" status is simply a device to get around the minimum wage and other basic labour law protections.

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Feb 5 2015 22:17

Ocelot, those taxi drivers are a good example. I think they're in a similar position as that accountant for hire who does taxes etc. for small companies (of course the drivers' earnings and living standards are lower). So, yeah, they are one-man businesses and no, as "independent producers" they aren't wage laborers (how much they earn is of no concern here).

It would be great if we could base this discussion on some empirical data. I think the general trend towards more and more "self-employment", precarious labor etc. is to a larger extent just a cover-up for plain old wage labor under more favorable conditions for capital, and to a smaller extent involves emergence of genuine new "one-man businesses" in some sectors. I can't prove this though.

augustynww
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Feb 5 2015 23:06
jura wrote:
I disagree with the post-operaist take on this. There is a tendency to present things which have always existed in capitalism (migrant labor, temporary workers, precarity etc.) as something radically new, something that only happened after the 1970s. I think this theoretical fashion is an abomination really.

You will be surprised then when I tell you that wage labour existed even in antiquity and capitalism didn't invented it wink
There is a difference between existence and being central. I really doubt any post-operaist ever said that there was no migrant labor etc before 1970s.

jura wrote:
And if it really isn't wage labor, if the self-employed worker really sells her product, the question is where and how profit enters the equation. The only reasonable answer to that is "unequal exchange". And we're back to square one, with the Ricardian socialists and Proudhon. No thanks.

And where profits were coming from in early forms of capitalism (like in merchant or commercial capital, before industrial capital and actual wage labour)?

Is this true that Marx regarded workers in putting-out system as commercial workers, not industrial? Could you explain why exactly?

augustynww
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Feb 5 2015 23:13
Agent of the Fifth International wrote:
Separately, your claim that the working class is shrinking or being replaced by self-employment is highly ridiculous. Of course the petite-bourgeoisie hasn't entirely disappeared, but to suggest that there's a tendency towards that category becoming the biggest is clearly wrong.

Yeah. And now read my comments because you obviously didn't.

augustynww
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Feb 5 2015 23:17
confusionboats wrote:
I think that a number of posts in this thread suggest that Marx's notions of labour power already includes a number or the groups of people you claim that it omits

that's true, there are many posts suggesting it.

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Feb 5 2015 23:18
augustynww wrote:
You will be surprised then when I tell you that wage labour existed even in antiquity and capitalism didn't invented it

I don't think s/he will be very surprised at all because of course it existed before, just like how money and commodities, trade and production existed prior to capital. They all are not only the logical, but also the historical presupposition/preconditions to capital. Capital wasn't created ex nihilo; historical change for Marx is not a break, but a continuity in which phenomena that existed prior to it gain new social forms particular to capitalist society. By turning labour-power into a commodity, and by making the commodity generalized, everything in society is something that is bought and sold, the commodity becomes something that contains surplus-value (whereas before the commodity was mainly just a surplus of product over and above what was produced for subsistence), which in turn means that the predominant way to gain the means of life and survive has to be done through the wage. So while "wages" existed prior to capitalism, in capitalism the wage is generalized through society. That is not only a huge difference in social relations of production, but also changes what production should be for: from producing to satisfy needs to producing surplus-value and making money.

So your so-called "objection" is a moot point, and again reveals your general lack of understanding of what Marx's theory is about. As several have suggested before, rather than throwing up weird objections to Marx (because it is Marx) just fucking read the dude and argue from a position of being relatively informed rather than completely clueless. The suggestion to read Heinrich's Introduction to the Three Volumes of Capital is a good one; it is just 200 pages, a rather enjoyable read and directly addresses a lot of misconceptions about Marx's value theory.

augustynww
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Feb 5 2015 23:25

are you serious grin

read this and go away

Irony (from Ancient Greek εἰρωνεία (eirōneía), meaning "dissimulation, feigned ignorance"[1]), in its broadest sense, is a rhetorical device, literary technique, or event in which what appears, on the surface, to be the case, differs radically from what is actually the case. Irony may be divided into categories such as: verbal, dramatic, and situational.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irony

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