The Prestige of the Working Class

Gary MacLennan g.maclennan at
Mon May 7 16:16:47 MDT 2001

My Dear Greg,

  am grateful you took the time to reply. Please my posts are born of an
honest despair.  I am not going to flame at you in anyway.  For instance I
do not use the word 'authoritarian' except to describe my anarchist
comrades where ironically it is very apt.

Now of course I do not despise the working class. But my basic point is -
look at them.  In the name of jesus yesterday they marched through Brisbane
behind some of the greatest shonks to ever disgrace the streets of any
capital city.   You seem to think that the working class are too shrewd to
follow bad leaders.  But Greg this is simply wrong. They have followed them
and have been following them for a good few decades.

I will give you just to examples from my own personal biography.  It was
1985 during the great power dispute.  The union was locked out.  I an a few
other radical got a group of academics together to march to a power station
in support of the workers.  A group of us sat down and blocked the entrance
to the power station.  Around us were a large number of workers.  They
stood watching us dumbly.  Then the police moved in and a trade union
official called out, "That's it.  we are out of here." and the working
class turned round and shuffled off after him.  Meanwhile the academics who
had been protesting for workers' rights were arrested etc.  That whole
strike was marked by worker passivity.

Another example the recent Waterfront dispute.  There was a call made by
the unions to block a train coming in.  Inspired by the demonstrations in
Melbourne we old Lefties rallied once more.  The union officials were
terrified when they saw us.  They marched us round and round that night
like the Grand Old Duke of York's Army and every time anything remotely
militant seemed about to happen they isolated the Left and the workers
looked on again dumbly. The point I wish to emphasise is that most of the
workers I spoke to agreed with the tactics of their leaders.  It is simply
wishful nonsense to portray them as the giant being held back by their evil

The point is where does the appalling leadership of the class come from? I
say from the class and they reflect the actual political consciousness of
the class. Dialectics would teach us that this could change.  The class
could further degenerate or could eventually turn and fight.  I hope for
the latter.

But we have a problem as of now.  Carroll's solution is to call everyone
working class and in one way he is correct but it disguises the problem I
am referring to.  The organised working class are led by appalling people
and the organised working class show little or no interest in doing
anything about this.  Of course a war or a depression will challenge the
quietism of the organised working class.

I could go on Greg.  But let me iterate the point.  We need an honest
appraisal of where the class is.  You give me a wish list and I hope you
are correct, but methinks not, at least not yet...



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