Revolutionary organisation and unpaid housework

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Steven.
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Dec 25 2006 03:22
Ret Marut wrote:
And John., how would calling it WfH rather than child benefit 'build any sense of class identity'?

My point was just that recognising house work as work, equal in "value" or "worth" to wage labour, and so helping people see unpaid house workers as part of the proletariat.

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Presumably the WfH would be available, like benefits, to all classes, and would put more money in the pockets of the better-off - (the Blairs, I read, still claim their child-benefit).

Well that's as maybe, but wages go to people of "all classes" as you would define them as well; people like the Blairs do some elements of wage work. This doesn't mean wage labour is not a predominantly working class activity.

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Ah, but presumably here we come to your formerly 2-class, now 1-class theory, ("I pretty much view things in terms of capital vs labour now, so basically a one class model.") which means all who qualify would supposedly automatically be working class

Well no, because someone who had a billion quid wouldn't need to work to survive. But what's the point of individually classifying that person, as well as the 6billion other people? Surely broader dynamics and trends are what are more important.

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- but then why is there such a need to 'build a w/c identity' if everyone is supposedly w/c?

Firstly, I never said everyone is working class; almost all people are though I think, and even those who aren't are still constrained by capital in similar ways, and can have it in their interest to fight for proletarian demands (such as high-up managers campaigning to preserve pensions).

Secondly, wouldn't you feel the same as me about building working class identity? Helping people see their common class interests with their fellow workers and trying to make gains collectively instead of turning against workers of a different trade, craft, gender, race, culture, age, sexuality, etc.

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Of course winning more money is desirable, but, looking from today, it seems to get to the point where the granting of such demands was likely would be the point where the ruling class was trying to buy off revolution, so why would we stop at the brink? Maybe that's an exaggeration, who knows?

Yeah this is fair enough - I don't think wfh (or universal wages) is a useful demand to be making now (and good other points about incorporating more people into wage labour as being progressive or not, etc.). I think it possibly was in the 70s, however, and on my post above I was mainly disagreeing with cantdo's complete dismissiveness.

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Red Marriott
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Dec 25 2006 18:04
Ret Marut wrote:
And John., how would calling it WfH rather than child benefit 'build any sense of class identity'?

John. wrote:
My point was just that recognising house work as work, equal in "value" or "worth" to wage labour, and so helping people see unpaid house workers as part of the proletariat.

But that suggests a narrow definition of proletarian defined by the individual activity of earning a wage - whereas most proletarians don't earn a wage - they are too old, too young, too sick, too unemployed, too preoccupied with domestic chores etc. Yet I think most of them still know they are working class (what conclusion they draw from that is another matter). And by your logic, why not a wage for schoolchildren? There is something uncomfortable about that logic, as if people cannot recognise their interests unless the wage relation invades more areas of life.

RM wrote:
Presumably the WfH would be available, like benefits, to all classes, and would put more money in the pockets of the better-off - (the Blairs, I read, still claim their child-benefit).

J wrote:
Well that's as maybe, but wages go to people of "all classes" as you would define them as well; people like the Blairs do some elements of wage work. This doesn't mean wage labour is not a predominantly working class activity.

But for the wealthy, child benefit or WfH is not a wage, it's just a bonus supplement to their already high income, unlike those for whom it is/would be sole income/"wage".

RM wrote:
Ah, but presumably here we come to your formerly 2-class, now 1-class theory, ("I pretty much view things in terms of capital vs labour now, so basically a one class model.") which means all who qualify would supposedly automatically be working class.

J wrote:
Well no, because someone who had a billion quid wouldn't need to work to survive. But what's the point of individually classifying that person, as well as the 6billion other people? Surely broader dynamics and trends are what are more important.

Well, 6 billion people divided into conflicting classes is a pretty broad dynamic. What's the point of classifying a billionaire as a class enemy/someone with opposing class interests? I think that answers itself pretty much, especially in a situation of being engaged in concrete struggle. And someone with a billion squid might well still work, keeping their hands on the wheel of their empire, obsessed with ever-greater accumulation and would still be eligible for child benefit/WfH. Is the billion squid wo/man working class then? You can't classify class at all without also referring to individual particularities that make up the mass. And if you don't know who your friends and enemies are, your strategy is fatally weakened. Classes are embodied/personified by real people and sometimes class conflict in life comes down to face to face, one-on-one. Capital mediates social, i.e. actual human, relations at many levels.

RM wrote:
- but then why is there such a need to 'build a w/c identity' if everyone is supposedly w/c?

J wrote:
Firstly, I never said everyone is working class; almost all people are though I think, and even those who aren't are still constrained by capital in similar ways, and can have it in their interest to fight for proletarian demands (such as high-up managers campaigning to preserve pensions).

If not everyone is w/c, how can you subcsribe to a 1-class model? Those who are not w/c must be of another class. And "high-up managers campaigning to preserve pensions" is not a proletarian demand - it's a high up management/upper middle class or higher demand. That's why proletarians get pissed off when the bosses who keep awarding themselves annual bonuses/wage increases demand austerity measures of the workers. (Unless you're talking about the hypothetical scenario of management campaigning to save workers' pensions? Which they would only do if under under pressure from struggle.) Is the large salary increase MPs recently voted themselves an outcome of proletarian demands/class struggle?

J wrote:
Secondly, wouldn't you feel the same as me about building working class identity?

Well I might ask - is there any contradiction between your earlier dismissing of individual classification and a wanting to build class identity? Identity surely begins as a recognition within the individual?

I think 'identity' is complex and is built in struggle by recognition of identity of interest, but w/c communities (problematic concept now, yes) have also traditionally created the basis for effective struggle in the solidarity of their day-to-day existence. (Though struggle is also when you find out how useful the pre-existing identities are for solidarity.) But, to illustrate the complexities - your notion of class is very different from and seems largely incompatible with mine. The 1-and 2-class theories mystify much and clarify nothing of my own experience of class society. But I don't want to derail this thread and am loathe to go into this debate again - we had a debate months ago on a thread that was lost in the hack, but the 2-classers just seemed to ignore inconvenient facts; I remember when I described several concrete examples of the actual existence of the middle class (as something more than a cultural category) they were ignored (gentrification being one). Now we are (sort of) down to one class. But classes are by their nature defined in relation to other classes, so I don't see how you can have a "1-class" society (yet where apparently not quite everyone is working class!) and still talk about class struggle and class society.

petey
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Dec 25 2006 18:53
MJ wrote:
Responding both to newyawka and RednBlack Ned:

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so by whom is housework not seen as valuable? it's routinely called the most valuable contribution to community and to society.

"Youse is holding up half the sky and not even asking for compensation! Keep up the great work!" Doesn't this ritual of praise exist simply & precisely because it's unwaged work?

no, emergency room doctors do livesaving work, receive massive praise for what they do, and get paid handsomely into the bargain. my response was to someone's claim that housework was unvalued.

petey
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Dec 25 2006 18:55
John. wrote:
cantdocartwheels wrote:
Because lets face it its not actually wages for housework, its benefits for having kids.

Er, cantdo, what do you think having and raising kids is? It is work, producing the next generation of labour power for capital. As such it should be remunerated as other labour for capital is.

and here we go, right back to the original question of the reach of capital. would there be any other reasons to have children, i wonder? and do any of those reasons bulk larger in social space than the need of capital for future labor??

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MJ
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Dec 25 2006 21:10
newyawka wrote:
MJ wrote:
Responding both to newyawka and RednBlack Ned:

Quote:
so by whom is housework not seen as valuable? it's routinely called the most valuable contribution to community and to society.

"Youse is holding up half the sky and not even asking for compensation! Keep up the great work!" Doesn't this ritual of praise exist simply & precisely because it's unwaged work?

no, emergency room doctors do livesaving work, receive massive praise for what they do, and get paid handsomely into the bargain. my response was to someone's claim that housework was unvalued.

Well that doesn't get in the way of the fact it's usually seriously undervalued. Sorry but if my employer stopped cutting me paychecks, no amount of praise and rhetoric would keep me showing up for work.

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MJ
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Dec 25 2006 21:11
newyawka wrote:
John. wrote:
cantdocartwheels wrote:
Because lets face it its not actually wages for housework, its benefits for having kids.

Er, cantdo, what do you think having and raising kids is? It is work, producing the next generation of labour power for capital. As such it should be remunerated as other labour for capital is.

and here we go, right back to the original question of the reach of capital. would there be any other reasons to have children, i wonder? and do any of those reasons bulk larger in social space than the need of capital for future labor??

If you're that sure your kids aren't going to work for capital then you're more optimistic than I am about how soon we might get rid of it. sad

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Dec 25 2006 23:45
Ret Marut wrote:
But that suggests a narrow definition of proletarian defined by the individual activity of earning a wage - whereas most proletarians don't earn a wage - they are too old, too young, too sick, too unemployed, too preoccupied with domestic chores etc. Yet I think most of them still know they are working class (what conclusion they draw from that is another matter). And by your logic, why not a wage for schoolchildren? There is something uncomfortable about that logic, as if people cannot recognise their interests unless the wage relation invades more areas of life.

i really wish i hadn't got into this, i couldn't give a shit about the wages for housework. I just meant the demand would show a recognition that the "movement" making the demand recognised that unpaid house workers were part of the proletariat, unlike some elements of the workers movement which prioritised industrial workers, for example. Wages for schoolchildren would be similar, though i've never heard of it being a demand of a mass movement so it's not really relevant. wages for students presumably was at some point, since grants must've come from somewhere, no?

Quote:
But for the wealthy, child benefit or WfH is not a wage, it's just a bonus supplement to their already high income, unlike those for whom it is/would be sole income/"wage".

i'm not really sure what your point is here, this an accurate statement of course, i don't see that it contradicts annything I've said.

Quote:
Well, 6 billion people divided into conflicting classes is a pretty broad dynamic. What's the point of classifying a billionaire as a class enemy/someone with opposing class interests? I think that answers itself pretty much, especially in a situation of being engaged in concrete struggle. And someone with a billion squid might well still work, keeping their hands on the wheel of their empire, obsessed with ever-greater accumulation and would still be eligible for child benefit/WfH. Is the billion squid wo/man working class then? You can't classify class at all without also referring to individual particularities that make up the mass. And if you don't know who your friends and enemies are, your strategy is fatally weakened. Classes are embodied/personified by real people and sometimes class conflict in life comes down to face to face, one-on-one. Capital mediates social, i.e. actual human, relations at many levels.

but again here yes it does come down to a one-on-one level in different circumstances. putting a stamp on someone's head of "working class", "middle class", "ruling class" - i.e. friend or enemy - just seems silly and doesn't work in the real world. A billionaire (taking a very extreme example, there are only a tiny number of billionaires anyway) in the street might stop you getting mugged and stabbed by a "worker"; a middle class co-worker might strike with you while a culturally working class person might scab. Surely what matters is your class interest in a given scenario, and who is on what side in that particular conflict?

I looked at the attendance records for my colleagues during the pensions strike, some are culturally middle class, others working class, there was no correlation between that and those who struck. And of course their cultural class will never (likely) change, whereas what side they take in class struggles will all the time; some are ultra religious and have some conservatism, some might be a bit racist, sexist, etc.

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If not everyone is w/c, how can you subcsribe to a 1-class model?

because what i think is important is the struggle of labour against capital. but again this is getting sidetracked... maybe it's best to talk about this in person

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Those who are not w/c must be of another class.

yea, but that's irrelevant - what matters is on what side individual people act in conflicts. certain actions will benefit capital, others workers. actual capitalists of course normally act in their own interests to maintain their wealth, but it doesn't matter, since if they didn't they would soon be capitalists no more (they'd go bust/be bought out). their behaviour is irrelevant as the institutional structures only permit roles to be carried out in particular ways.

Quote:
And "high-up managers campaigning to preserve pensions" is not a proletarian demand - it's a high up management/upper middle class or higher demand.

i don't think so - high up managers are in the LGPS like me and 1million others I think; them preserving the LGPS helps us all. of course they also sit around working out who to downsize, but again that's not the point.

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(Unless you're talking about the hypothetical scenario of management campaigning to save workers' pensions? Which they would only do if under under pressure from struggle.)

again see above

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Is the large salary increase MPs recently voted themselves an outcome of proletarian demands/class struggle?

no of course not, why would you ask me that? i'm not a cretin, i think you might be misunderstanding what i'm trying to say.

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Well I might ask - is there any contradiction between your earlier dismissing of individual classification and a wanting to build class identity? Identity surely begins as a recognition within the individual?

yeah it does. i don't think there's a contradiction. most of what passes of anarchist comment on class is slagging off broad swathes of people as "middle class". i think society would be better if the vast majority of workers saw themselves as part of a working class with a common, collective interest.

Quote:
But I don't want to derail this thread and am loathe to go into this debate again - we had a debate months ago on a thread that was lost in the hack, but the 2-classers just seemed to ignore inconvenient facts; I remember when I described several concrete examples of the actual existence of the middle class (as something more than a cultural category) they were ignored (gentrification being one). Now we are (sort of) down to one class.

this could be restarted; i don't remember this. but i don't think you can use gentrification as evidence of extra classes, as opposed to say stratification within a class. There are all kinds of conflicts within the working class of course.

Quote:
But classes are by their nature defined in relation to other classes, so I don't see how you can have a "1-class" society (yet where apparently not quite everyone is working class!) and still talk about class struggle and class society.

i'm not saying there's only 1 class, just that for my purposes, which are basically propaganda aimed at other workers, i mean i just can't imagine anyone who wasn't working class seeing it and getting anything useful from it. i mean from the point of view of say the everyday manifesto, the entry on Health basically says health workers should try to defend and improve standards and conditions where they are; other workers should support their struggles, and work to improve conditions + workers' power where they are. Someone who's a boss of a consultancy firm reading that couldn't take much from it from the pov of building workers' power, though they could of course do things to support workers' struggles, such as give money - as lots of rich people have done in the past. If they're not interested in that then they'll continue to act in anti-working class ways; same as a worker who's a rapist or a scab will.

i'm really rambling now, the christmas red wine and the laptop keyboard i think...

petey
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Dec 26 2006 00:56
MJ wrote:
Well that doesn't get in the way of the fact it's usually seriously undervalued. Sorry but if my employer stopped cutting me paychecks, no amount of praise and rhetoric would keep me showing up for work.

you're drifting farther and farther from the point. the original claim, that housework was "undervalued", is a straw man. the payment doesn't even enter into it. but since you tied value of the labor to payment, i offered a counterexample.

petey
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Dec 26 2006 00:59
MJ wrote:
If you're that sure your kids aren't going to work for capital then you're more optimistic than I am about how soon we might get rid of it. :(

again, you've missed it. the point isn't whether or not people will work for capital, it's whether people start families for that reason. perhaps you skipped over the original discussion, about whether capitalism totalizes human experience and colonizes all social forms. me: no. john.: yes (apparently). i guess you do too. that's what you're trying to say.

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MJ
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Dec 26 2006 02:20
newyawka wrote:
MJ wrote:
If you're that sure your kids aren't going to work for capital then you're more optimistic than I am about how soon we might get rid of it. :(

again, you've missed it. the point isn't whether or not people will work for capital, it's whether people start families for that reason. perhaps you skipped over the original discussion, about whether capitalism totalizes human experience and colonizes all social forms. me: no. john.: yes (apparently). i guess you do too. that's what you're trying to say.

No, you've missed it. Someone helping bake a loaf of bread at a bakery isn't doing it only "for capital," either -- down the line someone can get some use out of the product completely (or relatively) independent of the production of capitalist value. But the worker should still get paid (in the context of a waged world!) for the work. Saying the worker should get paid for the work doesn't mean capital has, for all its efforts, "totalized" bread or "colonized all forms" of the set of social relations that constitute the production and consumption of bread. In the context of a waged world, a firefighter should get paid for pulling someone out of a burning building DESPITE the fact that s/he feels good about having done so.

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Dec 26 2006 17:25
John. wrote:
cantdocartwheels wrote:
Because lets face it its not actually wages for housework, its benefits for having kids.

Er, cantdo, what do you think having and raising kids is? It is work, producing the next generation of labour power for capital. As such it should be remunerated as other labour for capital is. The idea of it being actual "work" (in the social factory) is good (for communists) if it spreads since it can help expand the idea of what being working class is - which is important.

Clearly its not 'housework' is it, since i could be living with my mate and say i need to do 'housework' when he leaves some dishes in the sink it refers specifically to having kids/dependents. Or at least i hope it does, i'm wouldn't argue that the state should subsidise someone to buy a bottle of fairy liquid because their mate was lazy when they came in late last night.

Quote:
Calling it "child benefit" doesn't help build any sense of class identity

Whereas calling it 'wages' is likely to turn a parent into a committed proletarian communist? What? Sorry but it just sounds like extremely patronising balls to me.
Do you think parents aren't aware that they work hard and need to be told so by academic marxists?

Quote:
(And btw your aggressive and dismissive tone ("pseudo-marxist cobblers", "mentalist", etc.) is not very condusive for good debate...)

Sorry i agree mentalist is a bit out of line, but 'pseudo-marxist cobblers' is perfectly accurate to describe the line of arguement presented. If I was to start refusing to use the word 'wage' and start claiming it should always be called 'labour power' or something, it might theoretically in some dreamland build a 'better class conciousness' but it wouldn't stop me sounding like a prick.

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Nate
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Dec 28 2006 07:57

Revol,

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as an intellectual excercise i have no problem with it, unfortunately that is all it is, there is no basis to such a campaign in the actual class, it's another one dreamt up by academics and theorists and as such isn't much more than a trot transistional demand without the populist appeal.

I don't think it was always just an intellectual exercise. I think the demand as formulated in Italy was around a demand for pensions for housewives and as a way to formulate rent strike and shoplifting demands ("we've already paid with our unpaid labor"). Venezuela also has a pension for housewives too, which means that when that was implemented it also wasn't just an intellectual exercise.

I think there's two aspects to the WFH kind of thing. One is the actual wages demand. I'd love to see it succeed, but like a lot of folk on this thread I can't imagine that happening any time soon, and it seems very close to the "basic income" demand popular among some of the Italian post-operaist folk, which I don't like very much. The other is the point about what capitalism consists of, which I think is certainly worth something - unwaged reproductive labor is part of what the bosses of the world steal from us. That's not just a matter of gendered inequality - my wife and I have relatively equal distribution of housework at our place. Some of that's still time that's functional for my boss and hers and which our bosses fuck with to some extent. I'm increasingly convinced that this is not an area where there's a whole lot of mileage to be gotten in terms of direct conflict with the bosses (I'm becoming more of a waged workplace fetishist than I used to) but there's still some room here that the analysis opens up, particularly in regard to conflicts within the working class.

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jef costello
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Dec 29 2006 11:20
Quote:
wages for students presumably was at some point, since grants must've come from somewhere, no?

I think grants came in because educated workers were needed.