The Prestige of the Working Class

Carrol Cox cbcox at
Tue May 8 08:08:59 MDT 2001

Macdonald Stainsby wrote:
> There is something to this notion, even if Gary wasn't meaning to "go there". The
> measure to me shouldn't be the unionised (that can vary up and down) but the
> industrialised working class. They are disappearing- even though they will likely not
> vanish.

(An aside: If I remember correctly, there were far more household
servants in mid-19th century England than there were factory workers.)

Perhaps not an aside: All those household servants have been
"proletarianized" in a fairly simple fashion. They work in restaurants.
They work for house-cleaning corporations. They work in warehouses. They
work in hospitals and nursing homes. The working class (=variable
capital) is far larger today than in the past, and I think potentially a
more revolutionary class simply because their mutual relations are
richer and more complex. The class potentially _knows_ so much more
about the world.

We need to get rid of romanticized and/or static (they add up to the
same thing) notions of what the "working class" is or was. After all,
those working classes of the past did not make a revolution, so why the

> So what do we do about this? The "Agent" will remain the working class.

More thought needs to be give as to _why_ the working class is and was
"the agent." It did not have to do primarily with their misery or their
toil-hardened hands or grimy features. Those are and were surface
features. "Nothing to lose but their chains" remains true today as ever,
but also as ever one must not construe that "nothing" in a simplistic
fashion. (As a passing snippet: one of the last sectors of workers to
end their building occupation in France '68 were TV station technicians
and announcers.)

 But it might
> be time to stop imagining that we can merely transpose a lot of the old notions onto
> the new class-formations of the workers. Cubicles are not likely to give us Soviets.

The Soviets were ahead of their time, and only in a world in which
cubicle dwellers, assembly-line workers, and nurses intermingle do
Soviets become a real and lasting possibility.

Political thinking is based not on what _is_ (present) but what will be
in a world changed by proposed action. In a world such as the present,
absent an ongoing mass movement, only highly theoretical thought is even
minimally practical.


> Macdonald The Worm maker.

More information about the Marxism mailing list