[Marxism] Can the Working Class Change the World? | Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Dec 21 08:18:51 MST 2018

The cover for Michael Yates’s “Can the Working Class Change the World?” 
was a stroke of genius. Ralph Fasanella’s “The Great Strike (IWW Textile 
Strike, 1912)” sets the tone for a book that has deep roots in 
working-class struggles in the USA and that shares the artist’s 
solidarity with the people who take part in them. Fasanella’s father 
delivered ice to people in his Bronx neighborhood and his mother worked 
in a neighborhood dress shop drilling holes into buttons. In her spare 
time, she was an anti-fascist activist. The family’s experience informed 
his art just as Michael Yates’s working class roots and long career as a 
labor activist and educator shapes his latest book.

Many years ago when I was a Trotskyist activist, the party was consumed 
with how to reach working people. To be frank, we would have learned 
more from Michael’s books than reading Leon Trotsky especially given the 
life experience outlined in the opening paragraph of the preface:

BY ANY IMAGINABLE DEFINITION of the working class, I was born into it. 
Almost every member of my extended family—parents, grandparents, uncles, 
aunts, and cousins—were wage laborers. They mined coal, hauled steel, 
made plate glass, labored on construction sites and as office 
secretaries, served the wealthy as domestic workers, clerked in company 
stores, cleaned offices and homes, took in laundry, cooked on tugboats, 
even unloaded trucks laden with dynamite. I joined the labor force at 
twelve and have been in it ever since, delivering newspapers, serving as 
a night watchman at a state park, doing clerical work in a factory, 
grading papers for a professor, selling life insurance, teaching in 
colleges and universities, arbitrating labor disputes, consulting for 
attorneys, desk clerking at a hotel, editing a magazine and books.


More information about the Marxism mailing list