[Marxism] Petty-bourgeois--Nader campaign
marvgandall at rogers.com
Wed Aug 18 18:26:08 MDT 2004
Mark Lause wrote:
> I see the tasks as understanding divisions within the working class.
> The blue-collar/white-collar divide is immensely greater than any who's
> not crossed it can fully appreciate. But it's a common class.
> Reactionary or stupid ideas can't make a welder middle class and I don't
> think it can do the same for a secretary.
> Supervisory and managerial responsibilities mean nothing unless we
> understand them in their setting. Full-time jobs in the current
> civilization almost always get some training and management
> responsibilities tacked on.
> There might be a line where someone would cross over to be something
> other than working class--in terms of numbers managed or the portion of
> time involving management, etc.--but those who propose this should
> define where they want to put it and make the case. Usually even clear
> cut management jobs exercise authority by proxy only, though.
> Even the genuinely self-employed--not the guy picking up extra money
> mowing lawns, but the fellow who's turned it into a lawn service
> company--usually faces an even more unstable situation than did the
> classic petty bourgeosie.
> The core of Marxism incldues the idea that the workers will come to
> power, and that their rule will represent a rule by the majority. Any
> attempt to redefine these are really going to have to make a very strong
> case than I've heard here.
I'm with Mark Lause on this question. The self-employed petty bourgeoisie,
as foreseen by Marx, has largely disappeared into a society divided between
a thin layer of large capitalists and a mass base of workers - craft,
industrial, clerical, technical, and professional -- in large public and
private enterprises. To suggest most of these workers are really "petty
bourgeois" is to turn Marx on his head and flows from the idealist notion
that class is an expression of consciousness rather than the economic
Mark has pointed to some of the complexities in determining which salary
earners are "managers" -- occupying perhaps an analogous intermediate role
between workers and large capitalists as the old petty bourgeoisie -- and
which are not. In today's vast, hierachical enterprises, many hourly and
salaried personnel find themselves both supervising and being supervised,
and the pay spreads, status, and working conditions between various strata
of workers can be very wide.
The bourgeoisie itself -- at least in the English-speaking countries and
Europe, if not in the US -- has as servicable a definition as I've seen of
who constitutes a worker. It has been developed over decades by labour
boards for purposes of extending trade union and collective bargaining
rights. Broadly speaking, you're considered to be management if you have the
authority to make the final decision to hire, fire and promote, have a
significant role in corporate policy and decision making, or represent the
employer in negotiating and administering collective agreements. Everyone
else drawing a salary or hourly wage is considered to be a worker and
eligible to join a union. Even attempts by employers to weaken unions by
designating some of their workers as "independent contractors" have been
struck down by labour boards. Foremen, supervisors, professionals and
mid-level administrators are usually deemed to be employees and have been
included in wider bargaining units or made to negotiate separately.
The state is not being altrustic in casting the net so widely. Historically,
all of these different categories of workers have demonstrated an impulse to
collectively organize and bargain their pay and working conditions, and have
petitioned and engaged in work stoppages and other forms of industrial
unrest where they have been deprived of the legal opportunity to do so.
Why we would want to be restrictive rather than expansive in defining who
has an objective interest to act collectively as workers rather than
individually as capitalists, large or small, is not something I understand.
I recognize there are distinctions drawn between so-called productive and
non-productive labour, but that is another debate.
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