A Modest Suggestion Regarding The Targetting Of Key Economic Sectors By Troublemaking Types
By the clumsy term "key economic sectors" I simply mean jobs where workers appear to have a continuing, or burgeoning, collectively confrontational role with their bosses. Of course, highpoints in class struggle are always shifting (slowly or suddenly), but it should be apparent, to those who care to look, which jobs are likely to put one closer to industrial action. (If we had one revolutionary postie in every town.....)
The bosses and the State would rather we used our skills and insights as social workers, personnel officers, managers, academics, designers, programmers and experts than as shit-stirrers on the shop floor. There must be a lesson for us in this.
"The lowest ebb [of the situationist project of the 1960's and early 1970's] has been an intellectualized reading born of the inability of a large number of people to destroy what can only be destroyed (through sabotage and subversion - not occupations) by the workers responsible for the economy's key sectors." R. Vaneigem, The Revolution of Everyday Life, reprinted 1983, p.214.
"Those who already feel the need for communism, and discuss it, cannot interfere in [...] struggles to bring the communist gospel, to propose to these limited actions that they direct themselves towards 'real' communist activity. What is needed is not slogans, but an explanation of the background and mechanism of these struggles. One must only show what they will be forced to do. This cannot be done without participation in such movements whenever this is possible, though not by wasting one's time." J. Barrot, What Is Communism, reprinted 1983, p.39.
"Scientists and the like have to think for their bosses, they have to work out the ways that profit is to be made and control maintained. They are not forced to do this, they could always get a job in a restaurant." Proletarian Gob, #6, p. 6.
I find it an increasingly sad fact that most of the radical milieu with whom I have a passing acquaintance in Britain, and in whom I find the most intelligent criticisms of this society, do not have what may be termed "crap working class" jobs.
Instead (if they are not idling comfortably as "claimants"! - I'll come back to this sector later) they have fairly cushy well-paid and what some would term "middle-class" jobs. Now, it is not the cushiness or the pay that I have an objection to, it is the fact that the jobs themselves mean that the radical person in question has, at the daily point of the production of value, little or no contact with the very strata (roughly speaking) of the population that we are relying on to kick out capitalist economics.
If we want to help workers wake up to the systematic misery of their exploitation, and to do something about it then it seems fairly logical that we have to be amongst them. This approach, of course, entails looking for the sort of job in which one might have the most influence and in which there seems a good potential for ongoing class struggle (i.e. look for a job where you have a good contact with other workers on the same level of pay as you and where there is a history of troublemaking by those workers).
Of course the problem with working in these sort of jobs is that it is not usually as pleasant as whiling your day away at a computer terminal, or wandering through the halls of academia, or supervising things in an office, or doing something "meaningful and worthy" on behalf of the local state for the poor and distressed of your borough. The problem, perhaps, is that some radical types are just too well educated! And they just can't resist letting their brains and initiative being picked by a well-paying boss who guarantees that they won't have to get their hands dirty.
Now, I'm not going to blame anyone for wanting to get out of "crap" low-paid jobs and into something easier and that will give you a better standard of living. This is not the point I'm trying to make. What bothers me is that the most radical critics of this society are often not in any position to have any impact on the working class. Added to this, of course, is that they often end up, through their job, putting a large part of their creativity (as opposed to just time) at the service of the administrators and managers of this society. This fact can be rationalised and justified no end but it is still a fact.
One false impediment many radicals might use to their getting "crap" jobs is that they are overqualified and already have a job history that would exclude them from most "crap" jobs. However, this can be overcome by lying, job histories and education are not looked into by employers as much as you might think it is. If you're unhappy with unsupported lies get a couple of references off a dodgy builder or cowboy cleaning firm, taxi firm, etc - use your imagination. If you are worried, with your posh accent and all, that you'd never be accepted by other low-paid workers you needn't be - you'll soon discover the amazing variety of backgrounds of the people you'll be working with, and anyway there is no need to tell them that you have a PhD in Nuclear Physics or whatever.
Most importantly, at your job on the railways or Royal Mail or wherever, you will learn so much about the class struggle it will make your head hurt. You will see things differently, things you thought were straight-forward will become more complex and things that were once shrouded in fog in your head will become clear. Your new non-career will engender a lot of serious and independent thought on your part, you will learn about what the awareness of subordination does to you and others and you will learn about your complete and utter expendability. Of course, you will have to have at your disposal an open mind, in this regard the reading of a few fiction books by B. Traven probably wouldn't go amiss.
Apart from those comrades who are in work there are the ones who aren't at all. Being unemployed is also not an ideal way to be amongst the "key sectors" of our class. Naturally, in some geographical areas getting a job is extremely difficult, but this is not the case everywhere. I don't blame people for trying to avoid getting a job, I've done it for long periods in the past too. Used wisely, the amount of "free" time that can be gained from not working can be used to involve oneself deeply in unemployed struggles, squatting, and general propaganda work. However, anyone with two short planks to rub together is aware that the unemployed are not a powerful sector of the working class, they usually have no labour to withdraw - this may change with workfare though! - and the difficulty this sector has in defending itself and making concrete demands is legendary.
So, what I'm saying is that it might be a good idea to put it about that getting a job in an industry which has the potential to "hold the country to ransom" is a good idea. The logical extension of this idea of targetting industries that we think are important to the class struggle is also targetting areas of the world in which class struggle is escalating, S.E. Asia, or Brazil, for example. Getting a job as a car worker in S. Korea might be a bit too difficult to achieve though - let's not go to extremes!
The above suggestions are not born out of any "Lord high and mighty", misplaced moral highground, "I'm better than you because I was born in a council estate and the cops once looked at us", type of self-justifying whingebaggery. Neither am I jealous of anyone. I'm not advocating any sort of "immersion" in "working class culture", to the extent where you pick what you think is an absolutely true and honest working class lifestyle and try to live it. I'm just saying that maybe we should try getting jobs in industries that we think are most important to the class struggle.
I might also be accused of "workerism". If people want to justify their non-acceptance of the above text by labelling it "workerist" then so be it. For me it will only prove that these people have little understanding of the class struggle and its essential role in our future liberation.
"The organization of insurgent workers - the only revolutionary organization needed henceforward - must be the work of the insurgent workers themselves." R. Vaneigem.
Postie article in issue 20 of Subversion.
All previous stuff on class in Subversion.
Communist Headache, especially Volume 5, available for large SAE from C. H., c/o ATX, PO Box 298, Sheffield S10 1YU.
1. Some members of the group have disagreements of a serious nature with the article, nonetheless we feel that it is a useful starting point for a debate.
2. We all feel that revolutionaries should seriously consider all the implications of a job before taking it. It is not enough to merely state that we need the money. However, we are not all sure what makes a particular sector a key one or not. This changes as the years go by. Further, once you get trapped in a job, and have made decisions to raise families or get sucked into the housebuying trap, for example, it becomes difficult to move from one job to another. Undoubtedly there are other reasons which make changing jobs difficult.
3. We feel that a revolutionary group should represent all sectors of the working class. At the moment, when groups are small, it is inevitable that they reflect a very small cross-section of the class. Should they ever get bigger, we would hope that they would not be restricted to just blue-collar workers and would be horrified if they were only made up of post-university types in white-collar jobs.