Labour aristocracy and "privilege"

Tom O'Lincoln red_sites at
Sun Nov 10 20:51:29 MST 2002

Juriaan wrote: "The concept of the labour aristocracy pits workers against each other, it
can easily become a kind of racist envy"

Peter replied: "The fact is that workers *are* pit against each other under capitalism
and relative privilege plays a critical role here, providing a social
base for racial and gender oppression"

Peter's logic is very familiar. It is usually put this way:

White workers enjoy "white skin privilege", male workers benefit from women's oppression, white Australian workers benefit from Aboriginal disposession, straights benefit from homophobia, and in the specific case Peter's talking about, workers in the west benefit from imperialism. Oh yes and the securely employed are privileged too.

As a white straight Australian male in a skilled public sector job I should be in seventh heaven.

But personally I don't think any of this is true. Capitalism benefits, but white workers are *worse off* because of racism. That's why I believe they can be won to an anti-racist stance. And you know what, I think I'm *worse off* because my fellow workers lack job security. I've noticed I'm working harder since they lost it. Therefore I have an incentive to fight for their rights.

Tony Cliff put it quite well with regard to women's oppression, asking if we could imagine a male worker writing to his friends: "Hey, good news, my daughter was raped. Better still, my wife is underpaid. And to fill my cup of happiness to the brim, my daughter is pregnant and can't get an abortion."

It's true whites males THINK they're privileged. The system breeds this illusion. As long as they think that, it will be harder to build working class unity. For that reason, it's our job to challenge that idea, not reinforce it.

If white males are privileged, there will be no material basis for that slogan of ours, "workers of the world unite". It will become an abstract moral imperative, and therefore utopian.

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