Industrial proletariat and class struggle

glevy at acnet.pratt.edu glevy at acnet.pratt.edu
Sat Jul 8 05:03:14 MDT 1995


Scott:

Thanks for your thoughtful response.  A few brief points by way of
rejoinder:

1) Your point about the "long haul" is well taken.  One of the things
that pissed me off about some radicals was that they would get a job in a
factory and have the audacity to immediately tell veteran trade unionists
who had worked in a plant for over 20 years what union tactics should be.  It
seems to me that the process of earning respect from fellow workers re.
union strategy is a long one.

2) I don't really think that industrial workers' location in the class
struggle can be compared to a "center of gravity"  -- what is the
gravitational mechanism (if this was anything other than a metaphor)?
You wrote that industrial workers "*do* play a *key* role in the overall
class."  Yes, the industrial proletariat is *a* key part of the working
class (note the difference in emphasis) and will ultimately play *a*
decisive role in the class struggle.  It does not logically follow,
though, that struggles in the industrial sector will play *the* primary
role in a given conjuncture. Struggles in the industrial sector, for
instance, are not *the* central struggles today (although that most
assuredly might change).

3) "Key link in the chain"?  All links are key.  If a single link in a
boat's ground tackle fails at any point between the anchor and the
stem, then the boat is adrift and in danger of piling up on the rocks or
the reef.  How's that for a metaphor?  More seriously, there are
generally *several* key links at any moment of the class struggle.  Of
course, you have presented an admittedly "traditional" interpretation
concerning the "primacy" of workers "at the point of production" which
has long standing in the workers' movement.  For analyzing conjunctural
strategies and tactics, though, I believe that it is a not entirely
satisfactory one as it fails to incorporate the many other arenas in which
class struggle does *in fact* frequently occur.

4) You wrote that the "Illinois class war zone" was so named by the
workers themselves with good reason.  Closer to my home, the Tompkins
Square Park struggle against gentrification and in defense of homeless,
peddlers and squatters has *also* been frequently referred to as a
"class war zone." (Developments on July 4 give an indication of why the
emphasis here is on "war").  At any given moment, there are generally at
least *several* "zones" nationally where class struggle is particularly
intense.

4) The proletariat is a key sector of the working class, you write.  I
thought the proletariat WAS the working class (and included
non-industrial workers). Marx wrote: "By proletariat is meant the class
of modern wage-laborers who, having no means of production of their own,
are reduced to selling their labor power in order to live" ("Communist
Manifesto"). Using that definition it can be seen that the proletariat
includes many non-industrial workers as well.  In my previous post I was
using the terms "working class" and "proletariat" interchangeably and
used the terms "industrial workers" and "industrial proletariat"
interchangeably.

Let us know about developments in the "Illinois Class War Zone" periodically.

Regards,

Jerry



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