The Geography of Class Struggle

Howie Chodos howie at magi.com
Sun Jul 9 21:54:15 MDT 1995


In his ongoing controversy with Leo, Scott wrote:

>Scott: Yes it is somewhat a figment of your beliefs. Your bald assertions do
>not constitute any kind of proof. For example take steel. According to steel
>industry figures the US is consuming @ the same tonnage of steel as it did
>in 1980. Roughly 80% is made in the US. It is true that due to technology @
>half the number of USWA members are invlolved in making that steel today. It
>is also true that now mini mills employ a growing number of steelworkers,
>not nearly back to 1980 levels, but growing never-the-less. Are these
>workers now to be written off? How terribly unscientific. They still play a
>key role in the economy and you've given nothing but assertions of faith
>that this isn't so. Is steel still vital in construction, infrastructure,
>auto, machine tool, etc etc. Yes by any objective standard. And you have yet
>to specify what has replaced these workers in your 'new advanced stage'. Is
>there some other source of the basic comodities that are nessessary for
>human life? Are they now made by techies in labs and on computers. I don't
>think so though it *is* true that both labs and computers play an increasing
>role in production - thst means the production process has changed, not that
>manufactoring workers have disappeared. It also means that some techies etc
>are becoming more proletarianized.

Two points:

A) I am not convinced that the strategy pursued by Scott here can meet the
challenge that Leo posed. It seems to me to be the wrong level of analysis.
Leo asks what is the relation between industry and international finance
capital and Scott responds that there are still steelworkers. I simplify
somewhat, but it is not far from the essence of Scott's reply.

B) Much depends on what one means by the "basic commodities that are
necessary to human life." First, this would not seem to be a strong
assertion on behalf of the case that Scott is trying to make. If what we are
talking about is the production of the most basic necessities of human life
then we are not talking heavy industry, but agriculture, where the relations
of production and class analysis become muddied by such phenomena as peasant
labour and small independent farmers. Second, it strikes me as a surprising
assertion from someone who has a long experience of work. The fundamental
importance of the working class does not depend on what is produced (i.e.
whether it produces essential or inessential commodities) but on how it is
produced and what this imposes on the people who do the producing. Third, if
one then considers the strategic importance of what is being produced, which
is an important consideration in its own right, one would have to conclude
that Windows 95 is more important to US capital than the output of any group
of mills.

Howie Chodos



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