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How many 'classes'?

Ruling and working
54% (22 votes)
Ruling, middle, working
46% (19 votes)
Total votes: 41

Posted By

Lazlo_Woodbine
Nov 14 2005 17:41

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Lazlo_Woodbine
Nov 14 2005 17:41

Certain classical communist/anarchist political philosophies state that there are only two classes -- the ruling class and the working class. Now this isn't good enough. Saying that it's all down to a tiny set of 'rulers' ignores the fact that there are more than just the ruling class who rule us. For example, New Labour and the Leninism are both movements that clearly came out of a middle class interest.

So basically I'm saying that, if you have to talk, in shorthand, about classes as 'things', or groups, rather than as processes and relations, then it's better to use the ruling/middle/working split.

Thoughts?

Steven.
Nov 14 2005 17:50

Hmmm well I find it easier more generally to think about capital and labour (inside and against it).

I think the main thing, if you want to argue for a middle *class* is you have to define what it is. No anarchist has ever done this convincingly. All anarchists seem to do with it is use it to slag off other politicos with no consistency.

If you want to say it exists: define it.

Quote:
New Labour and the Leninism are both movements that clearly came out of a middle class interest.

How do you work that? You're saying Labour working in the interests of teachers and Channel 4 viewers, and not in the interests of capital?

And Leninism, how do you say that? I mean it's pretty shite, but I'd say it's probably in the "interest" of any kind of bureaucracy, not a cultural group.

Lazlo_Woodbine
Nov 14 2005 17:58

Both leninism and New labour were mainly created by people used to being privilaged but also subordinate to the existing establishment, e.g. lawyers, minor landowners, etc. Both of these groups drew support disproportionally from the intelligentsia, etc.

I'd agree that looking at capital versus labour is more useful, but sometimes we use these shor-hand phrases, and I think the 'two-class' model that is often trotted out conceals more than it explains.

Lazlo_Woodbine
Nov 14 2005 18:00
Jack wrote:

Given that:

1. Nobody on here who holds a 2 class analysis argues or thinks this

and

2. You know this perfectly well.

Why on Earth would you say this? Seriously?

I've just joined the AF (I think...?), and their A+P clearly say the world is divided into two classes. Not got time to read the rest of your post, got to go off to a coordinators' meeting roll eyes

Lazlo_Woodbine
Nov 14 2005 18:00
Jack wrote:
Lazlo_Woodbine wrote:
Both leninism and New labour were mainly created by people used to being privilaged but also subordinate to the existing establishment, e.g. lawyers, minor landowners, etc. Both of these groups drew support disproportionally from the intelligentsia, etc.

And so did anarchism. Does that make anarchism a movement that 'came out of a middle class interest'?

Yes. We've been getting over that fact (unsuccessfully) ever since tongue

Garner
Nov 14 2005 18:07
Jack wrote:
I mean even the most mental 2 class type wouldn't claim cops/foremen etc. were ruling class; or that they didn't contribute towards 'ruling' us, would they?

Indeed. And no one would claim they were middle class either, hence why the three class model only serves to obscure the situation further.

Steven.
Nov 14 2005 18:19
Lazlo_Woodbine wrote:
Both leninism and New labour were mainly created by people used to being privilaged but also subordinate to the existing establishment, e.g. lawyers, minor landowners, etc. Both of these groups drew support disproportionally from the intelligentsia, etc.

Is this not the case for *any* political theory, of any kind, ever?

And even that being the case, how does that mean New Labour, Leninism, or anarchism forward "middle class interests"?

And define what the middle class is! If you don't do that there's no point even having a discussion.

The three class model is basically bollocks because it divides the working class. About 95% of the communist project is just to try to unite all workers. Why is it helpful to divide the class? (I think the burden of evidence is on you for this point)

We had a similar discussion here too:

http://libcom.org/forums/viewtopic.php?t=5408

redtwister
Nov 14 2005 18:24

This can drop into really dull sociological drivel trying to ascertain who or what is working class, middle class, a capitalist, etc, and miss the point of class entirely. So I'll try to steer it away from that...

Class is an illumination, a struggle concept, not a box into which you put people (the ones you like and yourself in 'working class', the ones you don't like into 'petty bourgeois', and the ones you hate who have a lot of money into 'capitalist'.)

Capital and labor are not classes, they are specific social relations that give rise to classes, and labor in so far as it is labor merely reproducing capital is therefore capital and not proletariat. The proletariat is revolutionary or it is nothing, is not a class, is merely the mass of inividuals exploited by capital. It is not exploitation that makes a class, but the struggle to abolish it, to abolish ourselves as wage-labor. The proletariat is only formed as labor's aspect antagonistic to capital, against it, seeking its own abolition, organizing itself.

Capital is as much the conditions under which a specific kind of labor is formed and alienated as it is a group of people or means of production or money. All these things only become capital or capitalists in so far as they extract value in the form of waged-labor via the production of commodities, and as such, while I do think that the state becomes the capitalist class, the presence of a coherent capitalist class is unnecessary as long as the state performs the functions of a capitalist class, the primary task being separating the producers from the means of production, so that they have to sell their labor power and work for a wage.

In between are all kinds of elements that mediate the relationship, that form because capital and labor as social relations do not merely confront each other directly in some epic and obvious conflict, but through a wide range of mediations: law, religion, art, science, family, medicine, management, politics, state programs, and so on. These mediating elements, massive in this society, combine with the small property owning elements to costitute the middle classes, who are not a coherent class in any sense, but an unstable mix of elements that are proletarianized at one moment, elevate out at another, that produce new layers, etc.

But these elements are not formed on some independent basis of capital and labor. They are not a third class in the sense of struggles and will either form a coherent class of petty bourgeois and thereby act as adjunct army to capital or they will join the proletariat, regardless of their sociological status. There is no independent direction for these 'clases', they can only go to one pole or another, and their assertion of independence is always the assertion of capital's power, aka fascism, national liberation guerillas, terrorists, etc.

I will say though that in so far as these elements are the professional mediators and petty exploiters, the intellectuals, the priests, the cops, the politicians, the trade union officials, the doctors, the lawyers, the uni profs, they are more attached to capital in practice and while they can be more radical in thought when it doesn't count, they are never the elements that break first in practice and are always the source of regression in a struggle. They're the ones who can be 'radical lawyers', 'radical doctors', who can see in their profession a form of radical activity, when in fact it is only in the abolition of that shit, of labor, that there is any communist element. So I sure as shit don't trust anyone who wants to pretend that there are no middle classes, that cops are workers, etc. You tell me that cops or low-level managers and supervisors or small shop owners are workers, I won't ever attend an organizing meeting with you because you are stupid enough to allow a police agent into our mists in the name of 'class solidarity'.

chris

redtwister
Nov 14 2005 19:17
Jack wrote:
redtwister wrote:
You tell me that cops or low-level managers and supervisors or small shop owners are workers, I won't ever attend an organizing meeting with you because you are stupid enough to allow a police agent into our mists in the name of 'class solidarity'.

What a bizare non-sequiteur.

As if recognising that cops are subject to wage labour means ignoring their social role and allowing them access to revolutionary groupings.

Not bizarre at all. I've seen it on autonomist Marxist and other boards that we should organize cops, treat them as fellow workers, etc.

Maybe it was too pre-emptive, but "once bitten, twice shy", ya know?

chris

redtwister
Nov 14 2005 19:19
Jack wrote:
redtwister wrote:
You tell me that cops or low-level managers and supervisors or small shop owners are workers, I won't ever attend an organizing meeting with you because you are stupid enough to allow a police agent into our mists in the name of 'class solidarity'.

What a bizare non-sequiteur.

As if recognising that cops are subject to wage labour means ignoring their social role and allowing them access to revolutionary groupings.

PS - the 'you' in my statement is not meant to indicate any particular person, but the impersonal 'you' as in 'you, whoever you are who might hold this assinine idea.' Not aimed at you, Jack, for example.

chris

Mike Harman
Nov 14 2005 19:54
redtwister wrote:
low-level managers and supervisors or small shop owners are workers

Dunno what it's like in the US, but over here some workplaces have almost as many supervisors as they do low level staff - being made team leader or whatever often means dealing with more stress for a couple % pay rise etc.- and a lot of people end up on 'management grades' but barely manage any people - it means they just don't get paid overtime. I don't think that automatically excludes them from being workers - especially "supervisors" who earn just over minimum wage - very much depends on the individual and the content of the job, not the job title. Otherwise we're falling into exactly the pattern that modern top-heavy management theory imposes on us - ever finer gradations between workers all the time to break down any form of solidarity.

Same as "small business owners" includes a lot of people in the UK who are self-employed because the companies they work for won't pay sick pay, holiday, national insurance contributions etc. etc. - I've been "self-employed" part time at one workplace for about three years (not for much longer) and it's meant very precarious (whoops) working conditions for that whole period.

lem
Nov 14 2005 23:59
Lazlo_Woodbine wrote:
if you have to talk, in shorthand, about classes as 'things', or groups, rather than as processes and relations

An unobeservable thing "just is" its processes and relations. What is class other than rocesses and relations It sounds like you're just making something up as an ecuse to get rid of people you don't like.

nastyned
Nov 15 2005 00:10

Asking how many classes is a bit like asking 'how long is a piece of string?'. You can subdivide society as many ways as you like. But for revolutionaries the important thing is the struggle of the dispossessed against the ruling class.

Here's something the worker-theoretician McCormick wrote on class a few years back:

Capitalist society is divided into two basic classes. The class which owns and controls the means of production, distribution, communication, etc. is usually referred to as the ruling class, bourgeoisie or boss class. The class which, without access to the means stated above, is forced to sell its labour power to the boss class in return for a wage, is the working class or proletariat.

The so called 'middle class' has the role of functionaries and mediators of capitalism (eg low level bureaucrats, social workers, teachers, academics, etc.) and it becomes split in times of crisis and moves either towards the bourgeoisie or proletariat. Most of the so-called middle class is simply a more 'privileged' section of the latter. On a world scale there are also peasants and subsistence farmers. They are potential allies of the proletarian revolution as they suffer the ravages of capitalism similarly.

We consider the working class to be not just those engaged in wage labour but also the unemployed, housewives/husbands, prisoners, OAPs, etc. We believe that the working class is the only class in this society whose real interests lie in the destruction of capitalism and the creation of a free, communist society. Ours is the only class capable of carrying out such a fundamental social transformation. Our class has nothing to lose exept its illusions that it has something to lose!

Lazy Riser
Nov 15 2005 01:29

Hi

I want an option for “Working and Middle”.

You can choose how many classes to use based on the problem you’re trying to solve. It may not be easy to spot where wealth and status fades into the top-down design and implementation of reactionary social policy, but that doesn’t make the middle class disappear. Professional physicists are not the enemy, but their working class credentials are certainly questionable. It’s difficult to counter the empiricism of the three-class model.

The lower echelons of the middle class are proletarians. It was the case with clerks in Victorian times and remains so now. Consider self employed tradespeople, entertainers, design engineers, quality auditors and accountants. Coalescing the upper middle classes with the elite that shuffles around Whitehall, the military and the banks gives us a very solid looking bourgeoisie, to complete a two-class picture which let’s some teachers and doctors live after the revolution.

But without a programme to address the everyday concerns of the great mass of people, what use is any analysis of class?

Love

LR

cantdocartwheels
Nov 15 2005 01:44

Do we actually have to have this debate again? Not being funny here but I'm sure it must put people off if this argument is constantly on the boards.

Especially since

Quote:
without a programme to address the everyday concerns of the great mass of people, what use is any analysis of class?

was the only useful thing said on the entire thread

the button
Nov 15 2005 09:15
Lazy Riser wrote:
I want an option for “Working and Middle”.

Yeah, me too.

I can't vote in this poll, since if you call them "ruling," it kind of infers that the bosses have a categorically different, external relation to capital. I.e. they're pulling the strings & the working class are somehow 'subjected' or trapped inside.

Whereas as any fule kno, capital is a social relation, comprising both the working class & the bosses.

The bosses' status as the "ruling class" is something which is being constantly & simultaneously consolidated, contested & reworked within the social relation that is capital.

For what it's worth, I'd hold to a 2-class analysis. However, I think problems arise from the mantra-like repitition of "It's class." There's certainly space for an analytics of the function of managers, teachers, social workers, psychiatrists & so on. But we need to get past that tired shit about "Are members of profession x working class or middle class?" and the desperate desire to work out if managers, teachers & so on are "good guys" or "bad guys." (I'm thinking Anarch here).

As the wise baldy (not me wink ) once said, "People usually know what they're doing. Most of the time, they also know why they do what they do. What interests me is what what they are doing does." (Or something like that).

Nick Durie
Nov 15 2005 13:39

To be fair Lazlo that's pish.

Marxism and anarchists have never suggested that there are no privileged sections of the proletariat. And it's basically second international shite to bang on about the bourgeoisie and proletariat and not talk about social capital at all, because it does exist and denying it is wank. Nonetheless at the economic base of our society there are only those who own and control our society and those who are forced by economic necessity to do their bidding (us). They doesn't deny that there will be a priviligeds strata of our class who may identify with the interests of the bourgeoisie tho does it?

Describing the organisation of English working class Engels said '[they were] getting more and more bourgeois with every day' and talked quite a lot about an aristocracy of labour and how there were organisations (such as the craft unions etc.) which really only represented the interests of these groups. And you can sure as hell find tons of references to the existence 'middle class' professional types in anarcho (Marxian) historical statements. I mean I think you're going a bit far here to say that anarchists did not recognize these factors.

Indeed the IWW was set up in the US precisely because of them and you can't deny significant anarchist involvement in that.

redtwister
Nov 16 2005 15:02
Catch wrote:

Dunno what it's like in the US, but over here some workplaces have almost as many supervisors as they do low level staff - being made team leader or whatever often means dealing with more stress for a couple % pay rise etc.- and a lot of people end up on 'management grades' but barely manage any people - it means they just don't get paid overtime. I don't think that automatically excludes them from being workers - especially "supervisors" who earn just over minimum wage - very much depends on the individual and the content of the job, not the job title. Otherwise we're falling into exactly the pattern that modern top-heavy management theory imposes on us - ever finer gradations between workers all the time to break down any form of solidarity.

Same as "small business owners" includes a lot of people in the UK who are self-employed because the companies they work for won't pay sick pay, holiday, national insurance contributions etc. etc. - I've been "self-employed" part time at one workplace for about three years (not for much longer) and it's meant very precarious (whoops) working conditions for that whole period.

Specifics of the new 'flattened hierarchy' model of corporations, of course lots of workers get put into 'supervisor' positions to make them ineligible for overtime and other benefits, just like they do with 'self-employed', ie TEMP workers. I'm not primarily concerned with that. Rather, my point is that the role of actually managing people, of being a professional mediator of capital, of being a really petty proprietor (actually owning a shop, actually being a landlord) tends to place these people into an intermediate or middle position, and for me it plays out very clearly in attitudes, and simple everyday conversation.

However, in fact, I will again assert that my concern is not primarily with constituted classes, but with the proletariat as a product of class struggle, of something formed in struggle, not as a mere sociological category. As such, it is mostly meaningless to have discussions of whether or not someone should have such and such a consciousness and class analysis is not designed to tell us why Jack or You or I or Lazy or whoever holds such and such ideas, acts like a twat, etc. We can describe certain actions as having a certain class content or character, but going from actions to their content is a very different thing from taking someone's "ontological" class status as your starting point to explain their behaviour.

Chris

Lazlo_Woodbine
Nov 16 2005 16:47

Heheh, only losing by one vote 8)

the button
Nov 16 2005 16:52
Lazlo_Woodbine wrote:
Heheh, only losing by one vote 8)

You think? Look again, 3-class boy. tongue

Mike Harman
Nov 16 2005 20:10

redtwister - yeah I'd agree with all that. The problem with all this is that the useful concepts of class are so far removed from their daily useage that it gets very difficult, even in forums like this, to know what people are on about. Arguing about these definitions is useful though, if only to rehearse clarifications over and over again.

Do any of the three-class people want to try to back up their model? I don't think anyone denies their are strata and divisions within the working class, but I don't see that any class in and of itself can be inserted in between.

Oh yeah - as to organising policemen. No I wouldn't want them in meetings or anything like that, but if they were to strike over wages or conditions then good luck to them. The bloke who shot a submachine gun outside the US embassy a couple of weeks ago was apparently on a new 12-hour shift system for example.

Lazy Riser
Nov 16 2005 21:56

Hi

Quote:
Do any of the three-class people want to try to back up their model?

The only back up a model requires is its utility. What problems does class analysis solve? I'd suggest that the point of class theory is to develop organisational practice and test economic systems.

Overall, I'd recommend a hybrid model that is both 2 and 3 class depending on what your trying to acheive. A bit like electron wave/particle duality.

Love

LR

(edited typo)

Nick Durie
Nov 17 2005 01:18
Quote:
Overall, I'd recommend a hybrid model that is both 2 and 3 class depending on what your trying to acheive. A bit like electron wave/particle duality.

This is very sensible, and almost what comrade anarchoal suggested to me some time ago. I quite agree with him. I think it's also useful to integrate other models as well - weberian etc.

redtwister
Nov 17 2005 20:15

Eh, fuck cops, strike or no strike. The only advantage is the fuckers aren't out on the streets, but then people get pissed because the other criminals and thugs still are. I hope their job is shit. The shittier the better. strike breakers. Demonstration beaters. Professional enemies of our class.

As for 'using' class analysis, this comes back to my last point. Do you want to be able to predict behaviour based on someone's sociological class? If so, why? It doesn't do very much, tho it is damn convenient for people who are trying to figure out who to recruit: Ok, I have my list of potential recruits, and i have to sort them by working class, middle class, and bourgeois.

A. works as a clerk in a shoe store, not a manager

B. is an independent contractor in the IT department for an insurance company

C. student, her mom and dad own the corner store that call the blacks and Latinos in the neighborhood racist names, but they're dirt poor too only making it by employing their 4 children

D. is atrust fund baby who inherited millions, but wants to donate lots of money and use it to overthrow capital

E. welds steel on highrise construction projects, makes twice as much as the IT contractor, owns more stock than the small business owners ever will and has more savings than anyone but the trust fund baby

F. assembly line worker at Ford, hates 'dot heads' and 'spics', beats hs wife, loves the union, goes to every meeting, hates the union leaders

Now I sort them according to their sociological class...

Or I can take mass aggregates and numerically derive an 'analysis', just like all bourgeois 'science', putting quantitative measure and static numbers over qualitity and activity. I can turn the working class into a passive object which accords to my definition.

OR

I can work through the point of communism, of the content of communism, I can look at the total social activity and qualitative relations of this society, grapple with how human beings produce and reproduce themselves, their ideas, their species being, and I can grasp the classes as bundles of common activity, as ways of doing ('doing' here meaning their total social practice of physical, mental, emotional activity.)

From that point of view, i can make a comment regarding a certain kind of activity being proletarian, petty bourgeois or bourgeois. However, class is asymmetrical. Since capital has an objective ontological status, while labor is that which constantly disappears from sight into commodities, ie bits of capital, capitalists in this society really exist and so does their class. they appear as real and everyone appears as a little capitalist, as a wannabe capitalist. That's why the pretence of everyone bein middle class, of being a petite bourgeois is a logical outcome of capital. the working class only exists as an identity, like gay or black or man or woman, as something which can be marketed to (pickup trucks, NASCAR and beer for the 'working class') or as something one does not want to be. Now if one does not want to be a worker, but neither do you want to be a petty bourgeois (also really existing, a small property owners, as supervisors of labor, as managers of money, etc) then you must be a renegade, a rebel, a savage, against civilization, a barbarian at the gates, a communist or anarchist. Or maybe saying 'I'm a proletarian' is another way of saying 'I'm a communist', but not so clear.

the proletariat, as a class, only really exists when it is challenging capital's very existence, when it is rioting against capital, when it is striking against capital, when it is negating capital and its state. And how do we know this? Is it because of the sociological background of the people doing it? what happens when the workers are striking to keep out blacks? or women? Or beating people up to support George W. Bush?

No, we know it because we can relate the activity to communism, because communism is active within our struggles for liberation or it is not and then what is active is the reinforcement of the existing social relations. Either communism is our starting point (again, not as a society, but as the active negation of all alienated, miserable, inhuman, debased social relations) or capital is. from the latter way, we have no way forward and are back at defining classes sociologically. My way, what I think is Marx's way and in fact part of a whole tradition within communist thought, is a way of talking about communism as present in what we do, in our collective activity.

So the whole 2 class or 3 class thing is a load of poop, ass gel, colon butter, organic waste material. That is bourgeois sociological class, not revolutionary class. and that notion of class tells us not a damn thing except, at best, in numerical terms just how fucking miserable this world is. But you can't quantify alienation, you can't quantify inhumanity, nor can you quantify dignity or respect.

All i can tell you, and this is the extent of the credence of the poop side, is that the labor side of the capital-labor relation is revolutionary (class with radical chains and all that), has the possibility to overthrow not merely capital, but all class society, to usher in a truly human society without classes (not without interpersonal conflict, stupidity, disease, or body odor, however), and that the majority of humanity today is increasingly in the labor side of the relation, have been pulled into it in their daily practice of labor. I can also tell you that the core of people whose labor it is to control that mass of labor are not smaller than before, but larger, while the number of rural agriculturalists outside of the capital-labor relation has dwindled to almost nothing (so most 'peasants' are today on the labor side of th caiptal-labor relation, although 120 years ago, this was not the case.)

i can also tell you that the side of labor in the U.S. is incredibly petty bourgeois right now in their activity, but that some element of their practical activity in life comes up against that and will at some point create ruptures because the antagonism of capital and labor always overrides its unity in the end. Whether or not that leads to the abolition of capital is far less certain.

So i will make an argument to dump the sociological class bullshit and look at class as an illumination of the formation of classes as activities, as active relations between people, mediated by things, some created by people, some not.)

k, that's too much.

Chris

jef costello
Nov 17 2005 20:40
redtwister wrote:

the proletariat, as a class, only really exists when it is challenging capital's very existence, when it is rioting against capital, when it is striking against capital, when it is negating capital and its state. And how do we know this? Is it because of the sociological background of the people doing it? what happens when the workers are striking to keep out blacks? or women? Or beating people up to support George W. Bush?

huh?

This doesn't really make sense does it?

The proletariat exists because of capital, as long as capital exists it will require a proletariat to interact with.

Two class model is fine with some extra divisions, three class model is also fine if it is made clear what these classes are.

I think two class model is probably best. There are those who have capital and those who do not. Labour is sold by those who do not have capital (generally) so police, soldiers etc are labour, but only if you divorce that from any other political context. So we come back to the point made earlier

Do we actually have to have this debate again? Not being funny here but I'm sure it must put people off if this argument is constantly on the boards.

Especially since

Citation:

without a programme to address the everyday concerns of the great mass of people, what use is any analysis of class?

was the only useful thing said on the entire thread

Quote:

Hope I did that second quote right.

redtwister
Nov 18 2005 16:17
Jef Costello wrote:

huh?

This doesn't really make sense does it?

The proletariat exists because of capital, as long as capital exists it will require a proletariat to interact with.

Actually, the working class, or labor, does not exist because of capital. at least not in that sense. The way you pose the problem puts the cart before the horse, even if in an abstract sense it is correct.

Let me reiterate my main questions however, which no one has answered and which I have yet to ever see an answer to:

Why do you want to define who is and who isn't working class? Why do you want a sociological definition? Do you define allies by their "being" working class or by their actions? Are you looking for some hidden essence of being working class? Are you trying to recruit people? What is the prupose?

Now, as to classes and the relation of labor to capital...

Capital certainly develops prior to wage-labor, as the commodity, foundation of capital, pre-exists capital and wage-labor. The generalization of commodity society and exchange relations, markets, allows for the development of capital as wealth stemming directly from the exchange of goods for the accumulation of money, which is then invested to accumulate more money. We have, at this point, the early development of capital as mercantile capital and banking or financial capital. These are necessarily its early forms, and only as the expansion of exchange relations and money relations begins to incorporate labor, begins to allow for more and more payment for labor in the form of money, ie wages.

This is the first part of the double movement from formal to real subsumption of labor to capital. The first move is to take non-capitalist labor which produces for the market or a part of whose production goes to the market (peasants in the clasic sense, but also 18th and 19th century capitalist slavery), the second move is the shift from absolute surplus value production to relative surplus value production.

In the phase of real subsumption, capital develops as dependent on value producing labor and generalized commodity relations truly become capital or the capital-labor relation. Of course, a great deal fo violence goes along with this phase as well. Where capital appeared as the predicate of the formation of wage-labor via originary (so-called 'primitive', bad translation) accumulation of capital, labor is transformed into the predicate of capital. Capital moves from merely commodities and markets to full developed exploitation by the transformation of labor into a commodity which produces Value (the unity of use-values and exchange-value.)

Now, i know this seems excessive, but bear with me a second...

What that means is that labor becomes the source of capital, but labor in a specific form: labor alienated from us in the form of wage-labor, where our activity works (labor qua capital ie variable capital) on means of production (productive aka private property qua capital, ie constant capital and raw materials portion of variable capital) to produce items for exchange (commodities qua capital) which are exchanged using and in order to obtain money (the universal form of value qua capital.)

In this whole mess, it is our labor which constitutes capital. The whole process beings from our alienated labor, taken up and put into motion via the products of our alienated labor (means of production) to produce more products of our alienated labor for exchange (commodities).

Without us, capital is nothing. Capital is dependent on labor, but our labor need not be dependent on capital. Instead, we are trapped within this form of labor, labor which produces commodities, which is itself a commodity, for the market. All of capital is the product of our alienated subjectivity, and so the whole of the social world and many of the objects of the real world (and all of the objects through which we experience the 'natural world') are products of our alienated subjectivity.

Revolution then is the end of this alienated labor, of all relations flowing from this fundamental antagonism of our subjectivity alienated from us and turned against us. Please note, here is contained all the reasons I find any defense of markets, market socialism, money, etc as reactionary and having nothing to do with communism. Anarchists who are not communists are just anarcho-capitalists, albeit of the petty proprietor sort, seeking personal liberty, an escape from 'authoritarianism'.

Out of this set of relations, classes are constituted, form of the more or less crystallized actuality of these social relations. As such, a working class does exist as the totality of wage slaves, just as the capitalist class exists as the totality of owners of capital. And middle classes do indeed exist because capital and labor do not confront each other naked with arms in hand, but through a vast number of mediations: state; religion art, science, literature, communications, education, law, politics, ie the totality of 'culture'; and so on. The vast staff of these mediations, alongside the petty property owners, literally the little bourgeois, the petty exploiters whose very existence is as if not more tenuous than that of many workers constitute that vast mass of the middle classes, fluctuating, changing composition constantly, vacillating, and really still subject to capital (in most cases these days as salariat, though in the past as petty property owners).

But these are the constituted classes of capital, the positive expression of class. The negative element of class does not present itself as constituted classes, but as the negatio of class society.

the novelty of wage labor is that it is labor dissociated of all proprerty and properties: wage-labor works means of production it does not own; creates products it does not own; sells its own existence which, once sold, it does not own; and its own activity presents itself as merely abstract human labor power, as is required for producing exchange-value, purely quantitative value sans qualities.

the result is a class with no stake in the existing society, being able to claim no specific wrongs because it is wronged in general, a class with radical chains. This negative side of the class is the part that is labor against and potentially beyond capital, labor which cannot be quantified because its resists valorization. It is the negation not merely of capital, but of being working class. The proletariat seeks its own dissolution as alienated labor, and so the proletariat, as the potential abolition of alienated labor, as the movement to so negate alienated subjectivity, is not quantifiable. Its exists in struggle, as an activity which attacks and corrodes the passivity of labor for capital and the dominance of dead labor (capital/value) over living labor.

So, part of the problem then with how we understand class, where we start from, is that in starting from the working class as labor 'for capital', we end up with social democracy in all its various forms (Leninism, kautskyism, etc.) This is the bourgeois ideological notion of class, as a thing, as a box, as something defined and neat.

In opposing this way of formulating class, we end up with a more fluid notion, one which disrupts the certainty, the fixity of bourgeois ideology, which sees class as an activity, as a moving against capital, as a contradiction. In this fashion, we also have traction on why this labor, and this class, can overthrow not only capital,but all classes. However, it will not satisfy people looking for a box to shove people in or an answer to the insipid question: 2 classes or 3?

Implicit in the question (How many classes are there?) and its logic is bourgeois ideology.

chris Abott

Mike Harman
Nov 18 2005 17:33

redtwister:

haven't read your most recent post, but a quick response to this:

Quote:
Why do you want to define who is and who isn't working class? Why do you want a sociological definition? Do you define allies by their "being" working class or by their actions? Are you looking for some hidden essence of being working class? Are you trying to recruit people? What is the prupose?

I think there's a couple of reasons why this crops up on this forum pretty often:

1. social class is historically an important part of British society, much more than in the US - accent, state school, public school, old money, new money, and on and on. These cultural manifestations of class still have a strong influence of perceptions of class in this country - especially in terms of marketing and consumption. As soon as you mention class to people with little or no knowledge of revolutionary history, it ends up with a discussion about accent, schooling, flat caps, whippets, or if you're lucky ABCDE or income definitions. Different concepts of social class permeate UK society far more than they do in the US, so you're constantly dealing with misconceptions of what you're talking about.

2. Alongside this, there are whole strains of both anarchist and marxist groups over here that trade in these sociological definitions - most notably openly classist (andy anderson), Class War and the IWCA. The focus, especially of OC, is on excluding culturally middle class people - especially professionals of any description - from revolutionary groups. The IWCA (as an organisation at least) also tends to define class by similar criteria: http://www.iwca.info/news/news0049.htm

A lot of the two class/three class stuff is a reaction (either negatively or positively) to this. In general, two class is a short-hand for rejecting fixed sociological/cultural class definitions - although I think most would accept it's an oversimplification in itself.

redtwister
Nov 18 2005 20:44
Catch wrote:
1. social class is historically an important part of British society, much more than in the US - accent, state school, public school, old money, new money, and on and on. These cultural manifestations of class still have a strong influence of perceptions of class in this country - especially in terms of marketing and consumption. As soon as you mention class to people with little or no knowledge of revolutionary history, it ends up with a discussion about accent, schooling, flat caps, whippets, or if you're lucky ABCDE or income definitions. Different concepts of social class permeate UK society far more than they do in the US, so you're constantly dealing with misconceptions of what you're talking about.

2. Alongside this, there are whole strains of both anarchist and marxist groups over here that trade in these sociological definitions - most notably openly classist (andy anderson), Class War and the IWCA. The focus, especially of OC, is on excluding culturally middle class people - especially professionals of any description - from revolutionary groups. The IWCA (as an organisation at least) also tends to define class by similar criteria: http://www.iwca.info/news/news0049.htm

A lot of the two class/three class stuff is a reaction (either negatively or positively) to this. In general, two class is a short-hand for rejecting fixed sociological/cultural class definitions - although I think most would accept it's an oversimplification in itself.

1. Well, there's a lot of that here. In fact, working class identity has grown quite a bit as a marketing tool: Blue Collar Comedy Tour, NASCAR, country music, etc. But such things have always been present, albeit prolly not so directly as in Britain, much less France and Italy with their very large CPs. It really only matters relative to...

2. So it is about who is and who isn't in a group. "The politics may be crap, or we may we not discuss ideas, substituing instead a workerist activism/voluntarism, but at least we're pedigreed proles!" Ugh.

Its not that I don't see a point to being careful about professionals and professional talkers and doing some filtering, but the most prole organizations can still end up dominated by a few 'certified' intellectuals or petty bourgeois, who mostly don't want people providing competition (Lutte Ouvriere in France comes to mind from within the Left and the Unions come to mind on a large, in fact very large, scale.)

Its one of the reaons why recruitment groups are such shit, and why this shit can be a cover for the worst nonsense, substituting a 'proletarian' set of genes worn over a reactionary bourgeois policy for proletarian politics. In the abscence of actual social struggles, this is just a method of control. on the other hand, in the midst of massive social struggles it takes on a different character maybe and this kind of sociological search for 'proletarian authenticity' is meaningless.

The asshole Sir Cumspect on the IndyMedia link discussing the pub incident after your all's book fair is a perfect example of how socilogical definitions of class are for fuck all and don't clarify shit. A) I could care less who was in the bar, the "crusties" deserved a kick in the head for being selfish little assholes, B) what the fuck is a working class bar? A dive where workers get pissed while the kids and the housework are getting done by who? A place to dip into the cups to forget it all? A great place to make money for some petty bourgeois? A place to shed tears over getting replaced by a chain joint? Why is there any freakin notalgia for 'workig class pubs'? Maybe some anger over the increasing abscence of public spaces for workers, but the pubs never were 'public' anymore than so-called working class bars here. C) Maybe Sir Cumspec was a prole. So what, he was also a reactionary cop-loving twat. Fuck him, I don't care what his class background was. his kind here vote law and order, Bush, apologize for every war, send their children to die, act like a little boss t work, etc. But in the face of claims of 'class authenticity', people get paralyzed. Shit.

Again, not there there isn't something to it intuitively, but trying to define it usually means sociologically picking apart the parts that involve the best of working class people.

Anyway, feeling ranty. I understand the motivations for some of this, and I practically into all kinds of observations about how such and such a behaviour is what I would consider 'working class', but you won't make heads or tails of that from a sociological breakdown.

chris

cantdocartwheels
Nov 18 2005 20:48
Jack wrote:
Aren't you supposed to be trying to reinvent social democracy?

tongue

well i'm not sure whether the most important thing to do is debate whether my supervisor and my doctor are both secretly members of an international ruling elite or whether we should affilliate to the labour representation commitee. Hmm maybe we can reach a consensus over this.

cantdocartwheels
Nov 19 2005 00:35
Jack wrote:
cantdocartwheels wrote:
well i'm not sure whether the most important thing to do is debate whether my supervisor and my doctor are both secretly members of an international ruling elite or whether we should affilliate to the labour representation commitee. Hmm maybe we can reach a consensus over this.

That doesn't even make sense.

Are you saying CCA might affiliate to the LRC?

eek

I really, really hope I horribly misread that.

grin i was just joking around, general humour, nothing to do with any group at all in fact.

But when we decide to develop a personality cult around mike fletcher i'll let you know though.