Western factory workers...faceless and docile? OH, MY GOD HOW

Ang uls at msn.com
Mon Oct 14 22:24:16 MDT 1996

Louis G.,

	The Rand study you summarized below was very
painful to read.  Of course, the Rand Corp. would like to
believe the conclusion of their researcher, and on the other
hand, would certainly like an accurate picture of the
propensity of workers in the industrialized countries to be
revolutionary.  There are so many issues here.  And with
each conclusion made, I literally take a sharp intake of breath,
scared that's it's true,  thinking it's gotta be true, then
wondering how each obstacle could be overcome and finally
my hopeful side takes over and says, no the conclusions
reached aren't fair/accurate or even if true don't mean that the
tides can't change.

"Are factory workers--at least in the West--congenitally
incapable of leading movements that radically transform
their societies?"

The researcher, based on his interviews with 2,000 workers,
concludes yes.  But, "congenitally"?  Even if all he says is
true, it's only true for the present and recent past .  For the
rest of Louis G.' summary, I'll just put extra blank lines between
the researcher's conclusions and hope lots of you comment
on this.  By the way, where did you hear about/obtain this study?


  A new comprehensive
study by Allen Lucas of the Economic Policies Unit of
the Rand Corporation uggests the answer is,  sadly,  "yes".
The study,  released last week, further suggests that the
precipitous decline in both numbers and influence, long the
bane of the western industrial workforce,  may be all but
complete by the year 2010.

Reviewing the surprisingly tepid history of labor unrest in both the United
States and Europe since the Second World War,   Lucas concludes that,   far
>from the being the harbinger of revolutionary socialism envisaged by Marx
and others,  the role of the industrial proletariat--"so called"--may more
properly be termed a "modernizer" of bourgeois norms at critical junctures
in the development of capitalism.    He points,  as an example,  to the
events of May,  1968 (a "watershed" in the French workers' movement) in
which France passed from authoritarian conservatism of a traditional type to
a modern,  technocratic and more permissive capitalism.    That process,
according to Lucas,  was not a revolutionary moment but "a necessary
catharsis en route to a more sophisticated and subtle form of bourgeois
Lucas acribes a similar dynamic to the history of labor unrest in the United
States,  Belgium and Germany since the 1950s, when the "internationalization
of modern capital meant wrenching changes in the social fabric of the home
countries," but which left intact  "basic assumptions concerning economic
relationships within those societies."

It is difficult,  he declares in
his epilogue,  "not to conclude that the mood of workers is less, not more,
revolutionary today than it was seventy years ago."
And in describing the
attitudes of individual workers (he interviewed some 2,000 factory workers
across Europe and the US in the years 1987-1994),  Lucas uses such words as
"craven,"  "anxious," "tentative," "self-loathing," "prophylactic," and
"mute."   This contrasts sharply,  in his view,  to the "character and
aspirations" of the workers during Marx's time who,  in Lucas' view,  were
"more cohesively part of a social whole--vibrant,  energetic,  hopeful,  and

He spends surprisingly little effort on the role of trade unions in post-war
social transformation,  though at one point he specifically dismisses the
(formerly) Communist-led CGT (Confederation Generale du Travail) as "little
more than a vehicle for ensuring class peace" in post-war France.    Lucas
has,  apparently,  even less use for the AFL-CIO;  in his foreword he gives
short shrift to the notion that American labor is poised for a comeback.

Much of the decline in the prospects of the industrial worker can be laid,
according to Lucas,  to the "silent but very powerful consensus that has
been established between workers and employers on the need to maintain
profits." The parties may still quarrel about the division of spoils,  but
are united in the desire to maximize them.

 This has been made easier,  in
Lucas'  mind,  by the "precipitous social decline of the western industrial
working class itself."

I found Lucas' study evocative and disturbing.    Engels discovered the
corruption by the capitalists of what he called a workers' aristocracy.
Lenin applied the same concept to the working class of capitalist countries
*vis-a-vis* the colonial world.    It is perhaps here that the denouement
foreseen by Marx is finally played out.

Comments anyone?

Louis Godena

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