[Marxism] "Industrial workers" (was Re: Richard Estes on...)

DCQ davecq at yahoo.com
Mon Apr 1 23:19:44 MDT 2013

Not really. He was making the point (or at least flirting with it) that the working class is receding in importance because "industrial workers" aren't acting like they did in the 1930s and said this analysis was based in objective conditions. That is, the demographic decline of industrial workers necessitates looking to the agency of other, non-working-class vanguards, specifically because they are non-working class. I was trying to provide an alternative analysis by parsing that particular bit of Marxist iconography ("the industrial worker").

Your statement--that basic class consciousness is lacking in the labor movement (if by "labor movement," you mean the upper reaches of the bureaucracy)--is of course uncontroversial. Leaping from that to the idea that Occupy is or can be a replacement for workers' self-activity is a bit of a stretch.

My last bit was perhaps a tad on the "sweeping overgeneralization" side of things, but I was attempting to pick up on Louis's statement that workers today (as opposed to the idyllic, industrial-workers past?) don't think or act in class terms, which I took as a reference to the old line about workers becoming "a class for itself." In that big-picture view, every union, every strike, every demonstration, every occupation, every planning meeting, and every socialist educational is a compromise--to a greater or lesser degree--with capitalism. So my point was that when the working class--at schools, at starbucks, at walmart, at wells fargo, at the at&t help desk--actually thinks and acts as a class, capitalism will be over.

There is a lot of rethinking to do. But rather than all the tired, pessimistic "post-industrial-all-our-factories-are-in-China-now" nostalgia for the good old days of the great depression, I rather think we're in a hyper-industrialized monopoly state capitalist society, one in which relatively tiny numbers of workers can create vast amounts of products, in which "surplus workers" become drafted into surplus industries (advertising, consulting, media production, etc.) that then become fully integral capitalist concerns in their own rights, where bosses can strategically relocate factories/offices/store-fronts without much logistical constraint, where they can manipulate prices and employment levels and even the currencies of entire nations, or wipe them off the map if they get in their way. The power of the (monopoly-state-)capitalist class(es) has increased unfathomably over the years. I don't want to understate that; their wealth (which they stole from schools and hospitals and environmentally sustainable mass transit systems, etc.) gives them real material and ideological power (Bam! Here's a billion-dollar factory! Bam! Now it's closed! Bam! Here's a donation for your school's football team, or FBLA, or Habitat for Humanity club! Bam! Here's a grant for your research! Bam! We'll pay you a (small-ish) royalty on sales of this thing you invented with our grant money which allowed us to patent it!)

In the abstract, this would seem to be a problem. If the three graphic artists in an advertising company working for Wendy's go on strike, oh well, so what? It's just advertising. Wendy's can use their old crap and wait the strike out. But it does matter--in fact, it's a matter of life and death--for the advertising company which has undoubtedly promised all kinds of deliverables by certain deadlines and relies heavily on its reputation. In that sense, a simple strike could literally destroy the company. They need their products, no matter how unnecessary and stupid and artificial, to be sold. And the "just-in-time" logistics that often make companies so rich, also make them extremely vulnerable.

In other words, the working class is so passive, not because it is so powerless, but because it is so (potentially) powerful. At all costs, it must be kept ignorant of its power.


On Apr 1, 2013, at 4:43 PM, Mark Lause wrote:

> To state the obvious, workers can most certainly act as a class without
> making a successful revolution.  I think Louis was making the point that
> some elemental form of class consciousness is absent from the
> institutionalized trade union movement.  I would add that the quantifiable
> numbers indicate that the most elemental form of trade unionism seems to be
> absent from the institutionalized trade union movement.
> Recognizing this seems a very basic requiement of Marxism in the US today,
> no?
> ML
> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> davecq at yahoo.com>
> When workers do act in their own interests as a class, there will be a
> revolution. In fact, a revolutionary crisis will erupt when far less than a
> majority of the working class begins acting in its own interests as a class.
> All for now.
> Soli,
> ________________________________________________

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