Is all oppression rooted economics & the workplace?

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3rdseason
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Nov 29 2004 16:20
Is all oppression rooted economics & the workplace?

Why do many anarchist assume that all oppression is rooted in workplace relationships and the most important type of action is that which centres around defining people according to their role in the workplace? (working/ruling class)

IMO all forms of oppression and hierarchy are interlinked and depend on each other. We should work in favour of mutual co-operation and against racism, patriarchy, gender roles (which I see as encompassing the fight against patriarchy anyway), inequalities in the workplace (class if you wanna use archaic terms), animal abuse, enviromental destruction and anywhere formal or informal hierarchies exist to exert authority and oppress.

Basically what I'm saying is that I disagree with the way that many traditional anarcho-communists want to relate every issue to class and insist that class is the most important issue and the root of all of these other problems. In some ways its much too simplistic an analysis and in other ways it uncessarily complicates things. Its patronising because it says to the woman suffering sexism "yeah fight against that but keep in mind the fight against the ruling class is more important because your problem wouldn't exist without this bigger problem" - as if before big factories and farms etc. there was no sexism, no abuse of animal or any of these other forms of oppression. Either that or its saying, for example, "yeah fight homophobia by all means but you gotta relate it to class struggle for it to be really worth anything.

If you think all oppression stems from class issues then you probably believe that all other forms of oppression are kinda either a subconscious or concious plot of the ruling class... and... well I just don't think thats a good analysis at all. Its like me saying "oh yeah Im into animal rights and its ok for you to do all that class struggle stuff but you have to remember animal rights is the main issue because all of this authoritarianism started with the domestication of animals"... or the same argument could be made for various other forms of oppression.

Why single out workplace dynamics (class) as the central issue?? Why not just accept that you have to fight oppression on all fronts? Why would, for example, a society without any bosses but still with strict gender roles and/or animal abuse be any more acceptable than a society retaining hierarchy in the workplace but without animal abuse and gender roles (inc patriarchy)?? ALL forms of hierarchy and oppression must be eliminated.

IMO we are not simply fighting against a fucked up economic system where hierarchy in the workplace and corrupt governments results in power and authority in the power of the few (the ruling class). The struggle is much wider and deeper than that. It is the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual fight of two deep and opposing attitudes evident in humanity. It is an urge to co-operate and respect life against the urge to control, to use life as a means to an end and to take pleasure from exploitation. Anarchy and hierarchy have always existed in varying ratios.

Basically what I'm saying is...

Anarchism: for me its about way more than economics. It's more of a practically applied philosophy. An attitude to life. Working together to increase freedom for everyone by valuing individual freedom rather than seeking individual power by putting people down.

I know I'll probably get flamed for this and... to be honest... bring it on.

I haven't properly written down what I think about this for ages and maybe some people were confused or misunderstood me. Predictably many of you will think the above rant to be a load of crap. Hopefully it will make some people think. But whatever. I've stood up (in a weird impersonal cyberspace way) and said what I think and I'm proud of it.

Lazlo_Woodbine
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Nov 29 2004 16:25

Dude, people have been telling you for years that class doesn't mean 'what happens in the workplace'. Is there any more point in continuing this one, when you don't even know the views of the people you are arguing against?

Class is about your reltionship to the way our society is produced. Some people are in positions of power, some people are complicit in making hierarchy happen. It's class analysis; it's common sense.

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Jacques Roux
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Nov 29 2004 16:32

Yup as laz says....

3rdseason
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Nov 29 2004 16:33

So the term "Working" in working class is just there for fun??

People have been saying for years its all about your reltionship to the means of production. If it doesn't mean that then why use archaic marxist rhetoric that makes people think your views are just intellectual bullshit or have simply adapted communism and have nothing to do with 21st century life.

Why centre anarchism around the term class. That implys workplace. Why not just say you're against hierarchy and oppression and have done with it. There is nothing in the term "class" that implys anything to do with combating homophobis, gender roles, animal abuse etc.etc.

Its a prime example of over complicating things.

Anyways answer my whole post dont just make some nitpicking point about definitions of class. tongue grin

Lazlo_Woodbine
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Nov 29 2004 16:38

'working' class has always been a problematic term -- not least because most anarchists want their class to stop working wink

It's not all about the workplace -- but 'the workplace', broadly defined, is where a lot of our society is produced.

We're talking about relationships here. Imagine a room full of activists, all on the dole, but some come from families that were born to rule, some from families where they were expected to get a professional job, and some from families where university was unheard of. Although none of these people is in contact with a 'workplace' they are still involved in creating their own activist mini-society, and the backgrounds of these anarchists will affect how they behave to each other -- who speaks most in meetings, and who is listened to the most, for example.

3rdseason
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Nov 29 2004 16:48

What I was saying is that anarchism is not just a fight against a minority of people in positions of power or a few insitutions (the ruling class). Its a fight against hierarchy and certain attitudes.

I would argue that repeatedly going on about class struggle and the working class vs. the ruling class is misleading, maybe even counter-preoductive.

Class terms and prioritising thinking in terms of class means other types of oppression get sidelined or seen as subservient to the "main issue of class".

Also, I can see that what background someone comes from can effect the way they interact with others but anarchism really shouldnt be concerned with who is from a "posh" or who is from a working class background. Thats irrelevant. Everyone needs to pull together to fight hierarchy.

Class terms only serve to reinforce artificial divisions that we should be trying to break down.

redyred
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Nov 29 2004 17:04

Sorry 3rdseason but it is actually true that all forms of oppression are centred around class. Sexism, for example, is not an attack by men upon women, it is an attack upon the whole working class. Does a working class man benefit if his wife is paid a pittance or if she is forced out of her job because she has children? Of course not. The case is similar with racism - one example is strike actions that have fallen apart because black workers refuse to join a union which they see as a white institution.

Viewing oppression and exploitation in terms of an economic system is essential if you want to eradicate them. If you haven't got some way of explaining these things you fall into the old human nature trap of "People are bad, they do bad things", which would make the fight against them pointless.

3rdseason
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Nov 29 2004 17:15
redyred wrote:
Sorry 3rdseason but it is actually true that all forms of oppression are centred around class.

Why single out class? Why couldn't (for example) sexist attitudes lead to economical exploitation because primitive men exploited their physically greater strength and lack of childbearing responsibilities to make women subservient. Thats just off the top of my head but... why not the other way around?

Do you honestly think before wage labour the world was perfect and nobody was taking authority over anyone else????

I see oppression and hierarchy as a whole with all the variations interlinked. I dont see any variation of authoritarianism as the root cause.

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Viewing oppression and exploitation in terms of an economic system is essential if you want to eradicate them.

No like I said before personally I see anarchism as wider than economics because oppression is wider than economics. Look around you. Do you honestly believe that people are using each other and putting each other down and ideology is oppressing people all because of money and labour??? Sure thats part of the problem but not all of it.

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If you haven't got some way of explaining these things you fall into the old human nature trap of "People are bad, they do bad things", which would make the fight against them pointless.

No I don't think people are intrinsically bad. I believe throughout history humans have had the capability to sway towards either hierarchy or anarchy. We can help push in favour of anarchy. Hopefully one day the world will get to a point where hierarchical attitudes and tendancies are recognised as bad and counter-productive and therefore minimised and therefore the world will be free of restrictions and oppression and broadly anarchist. grin grin

captainmission
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Nov 29 2004 17:16
3rdseason wrote:
Either that or its saying, for example, "yeah fight homophobia by all means but you gotta relate it to class struggle for it to be really worth anything.

well to take your example, you won't have a proper undertanding of queer existence and homophobia with out understanding how class society has shaped family and sexual relations. Without changes in (to use that archaic marxist rhetoric) the means of production from the feudal to the industrial and the end of the extended hetrosexual family as an essential economic unit they'd be no homosexuals as we understand the term (have a look at john d'emilos capitalism and gay identity he say's it better than i could).

Also the development of consumerist culture lead to gay culture to buy a space that has some degree of exceptance. Without looking at the economic and class devides of this community you'd ignore how lower paid working class queers can't afford to partake in the 'gay community', or how the econmic position (amongst other things) of many lesbains (typically worse off than men and hetro women) leave there concerns ignored by much of the gay community. Or how business interests have depolitised and commericalised various prides.

ok so massively simplified 'class analysis' can be annoying- 'homophobia exist as a ploy to keep the working class devided', 'if people weren't gay bashing they'd be organising revolutionary unions instead'. But that doesn't mean you should ignore class.

3rdseason
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Nov 29 2004 17:23

Yeah captainmission I think we probably agree here more than you think.

I think it is important to stress to people that all forms of opression are inter-related. It is important to relate issues like homophobia and animal rights to wider society.

What I'm saying is workplace identity and economics (ok.. class) aren't any more or less important or worth fighting than other forms of oppression and its not as if you can just concentrate 90% on class struggle and all these other forms of oppression will sort themselves out.

redyred
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Nov 29 2004 17:42
3rdseason wrote:
What I'm saying is workplace identity and economics (ok.. class) aren't any more or less important or worth fighting than other forms of oppression and its not as if you can just concentrate 90% on class struggle and all these other forms of oppression will sort themselves out.

I don't think anyone actually said that. The struggle against the forms of oppression existing within capitalism is essential to the fight against capitalism as a whole. The point is never to neglect other important causes in favour of workerist struggles. The point is when attacking racism, sexism, homophobia, police powers etc etc to attack them from a class basis, rather than isolating them as their own individual issues. Firstly you can fight something more effectively if you understand where it comes from and also by interlinking struggles you can put them to more use by allowing them to feed into the wider movement.

Doing the opposite can strengthen divides and misconceptions. If you fight sexism from a purely feminist perspective, you reduce it to men vs women. If you were to fight something like pirson slavery as a single issue detatched from the capitalist economics which leads to it you would be reduced to liberal reformism. Not saying that you do that sort of thing 3rdseason, just that that is the danger of taking on forms of exploitation as seperate issues and not as symptoms of one dominant force shaping society.

3rdseason
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Nov 29 2004 21:35
redyred wrote:

Doing the opposite can strengthen divides and misconceptions. If you fight sexism from a purely feminist perspective, you reduce it to men vs women.

But I would fight against gender roles as a whole which means it could never be men versus women as I would argue against gender roles as a whole and men and women both suffer from this issue. Homophobia and the conditioning of gender roles are clearly distinct issues (someone could concievably be gay and not homophobic at all but still believe in strict gender roles) but they are very strongly linked because if there was no homophobia in society I think we would see people accepting much more fluid concepts of gender. See here how I linked two important to deal with types of oppression with using workplace terms. Not all links between types of oppression have to involve class. You dont have to constantly find ways to relate everything back to that.

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Not saying that you do that sort of thing 3rdseason, just that that is the danger of taking on forms of exploitation as seperate issues and not as symptoms of one dominant force shaping society.

Ive stressed in each post in this thread how heavily interlinked all forms of oppression are. Its just unlike you I dont regard class issues as the 'dominant' force. Just one force as important (not more, not less) as all the others. Think of all the different varieties of hierarchy as a tangled spiders web with threads going all over the place and between different types of oppression. Not as a tower with class as a foundation and all the other varieties simply extensions of class oppression and dependant on it.

Dunno if those analogies help you see where Im coming from. grin

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Spartacus
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Nov 29 2004 22:05
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What I'm saying is workplace identity and economics (ok.. class) aren't any more or less important or worth fighting than other forms of oppression and its not as if you can just concentrate 90% on class struggle and all these other forms of oppression will sort themselves out.

like redyred said, no one's saying that (well no anarchist anyway). class struggle that ignores aspects of oppression such as homophobia and patriarchy is worthless, because it would not result in the annihilation of class just in slightly different class make up, and fairly soon the reemergence of economic classes. but the thing is that economics is the way that the essentials of life are distributed, and therefore is central to human existence. to not make it central to anarchist analysis would just be denying reality. that's not denigrating other forms of oppression, it is looking at what is perpetuating them now (even if their origins were from before the emergence of modern class society), and trying to find the best way to eliminate them, which is through the eradication of class society. you can't eliminate the oppression of women by uniting ruling class and working class women, it just will not work, and the same goes for any other struggle. they're all part of the power relations that make up class society, held together by economics. i may have repeated myself here, but nevermind...

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So the term "Working" in working class is just there for fun??

the term "working" class is used because in capitalism, the value of the working class is in the fact that they can sell their labour. whether they are unemployed or not is irrelevant, their only worth as far as society is concerned is in their labour. it refers to who capitalism values them, not to how anarchists value them. and it is not archaic, if anything it's more relevant than ever, because i don't see many peasants around britain! it is almost impossible to survive within british society without working, benefits have been restructured to do everything to encourage you into work, students have to have large debts so that they have to work in the future, pensions are fucking up big time so you have to work longer, and even if you go to prison, you're more and more likely to be forced to work. so i don't really see how it's outdated. you can use the term oppressed if you like, but you'd be meaning exactly the same group of people. unless you were talking about the group that gave us such classics as "fuck fascism", "ultra-violence", "joe hawkins" and the ever so subtle "magistrate"...

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you probably believe that all other forms of oppression are kinda either a subconscious or concious plot of the ruling class

no. but they certainly help the ruling class alot, and if you believe one form of inequality is ok then you are psychologically more ready to except other forms of domination, including over yourself. and the ruling class is unfortunately not made up of inbred halfwits, so some elements of them do encourage other forms of oppression, either consciously to divide the working class, or simply because they've grown up in society and absorbed those prejudices and used them to get to the top.

also, tactically speaking, purely in terms of numbers, class is the best basis for uniting enough oppressed people to be able to take the power out of the hands of those who currently have it. non-heterosexuals are a minority, each individual race is a minority in itself, women are half the population of the world, but the working class is something like 90% of the world's population.

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If you were to fight something like pirson slavery as a single issue detatched from the capitalist economics which leads to it you would be reduced to liberal reformism

which is why caps is so awesome, because the leaflet relates prison slavery to workers conditions in general, and points out that most of all, it's class.

Lazlo_Woodbine
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Nov 30 2004 14:30
redyred wrote:
Sorry 3rdseason but it is actually true that all forms of oppression are centred around class. Sexism, for example, is not an attack by men upon women, it is an attack upon the whole working class. Does a working class man benefit if his wife is paid a pittance or if she is forced out of her job because she has children? Of course not.

Actually many early UM trade unions saw the attempt to get women into the workplace as an attack on male workers and campaigned for a 'family wage', to be earned by the male breadwinner. Likewise many trade unions opposed 'dilution' whem women started working during the wars.

They were defending their male privilages and dividing their class in order to do so.

Garner
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Nov 30 2004 14:37

So what? Trade unions are often reactionary.

Wendal
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Nov 30 2004 19:20

I totaly agree with your first post Lazlo_Woodbine.

I think that there is also way to many groups who only aim on a specific opression(opression of sexual groups, cultural groups and so on) who need to have a bigger view of the trouble. I wont agree with those Communists who for example calls feminism a bourgiouse movement. I think that all movement that fight for equality preasures capitalism(since capitlism and equality can not be combined) so i cant realy see why the comminists are so provoked by this and that-rights groups. I think that those one-isue reformative groups usualy make to logical demands tough. They seem to aim to ask only for things that the capitalists or the state will be able to give them when they realy should instead aim on their true goals and organise the groups of opressed and people sympethising with the opressed to burn the shit down when it gets obvious that capitalist democracy will never let them be equals.

There is another reason i find it most important tough to remember the tripple-opression theory.

If we will have a non-hierchal classless society* then the people must be ready to treat each other as individual and base how they relate to them and what they have to say on that persons competence, experience and so on instead of sex, sexuality, etnicity and so on...

In a democracy and even in a capitalist democracy we have some possibilities to fight discriminiation with laws and media but in a anarchistic society there must already be a mentality where a person is judged on her mind, competence and actions instead of physical atributes and irelevant stuff like sexuality or dressing.

It is not only important to achieve those goals to create a classles society(in the triple opression-meaning of the word)these goals are also important to get the revolution started.

If women, homosexuals and foriegners nows that they will be counted as equals with the native heterosexual male then they know that the revolution has something to offer them. If the country is still in a state of tripple opression even outside capitalism when the time has come for revolution then it is not that certain enought people will participate and its neither certain that some people wont try to rebuild some kind of state to stop the discrimination that they have to deal with.

When competence and good ideas is deciding what alternative that is most popular then we will also be able to have the best decissions made in each community.

*= He he, not that it would ever be possible to create a hiercall classless society. smile Hello all communists out there! black star is the only way. Fuck the dictatorship of the proleteriat.

P.s: If anyone wants a more contemporary alternative than the idea of the working class to talk about check out the book: Empire by Antonio Negri. The book is valid since it is not only the most poor that has something to gain of a classless society today. We have a huge midleclass that is much poorer that the upper middleclass and the rich majority.

3rdseason
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Dec 2 2004 12:10

Jack I understand class theory (thanks for taking the time to spell it out anyway tho).

I just don't agree that economics is the central issue. I dont think oppression will disappear if you deal with the economic inequalities in society.

Economics is a factor but I disagree that it is what all of our action and theory should be centred around.

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Yes, we agree that racism and sexism don't just exist because the ruling class want them to

Im glad you say that. Ive heard from loads of anarcho-communists who dont seem to realise that at all..

Ah well I suppose its settled then... I am still in a minority of one in my views on this on enrager... which isnt a bad place to be.

Everyone still thinks Im lacking some fundamental understanding and acceptance of the importance of class as the overriding form of oppression and I still think pretty much everyone is blinkered in their ideology and not seeing some sort of bigger/deeper picture.

I do a thread like this every so often. 8)