April 08, 2010
Does The Working Class And The Employing Class Have Anything In Common? re-post from Willamette Reds, October 29, 2009
Does The Working Class And The Employing Class Have Anything In Common?
Not all workers and not all bosses all of the time, mind you. Not now, in the capitalist present and every day, but in an objective and historical sense. Not as a matter of theory or an ideal, but in the real relations human beings live out as workers or capitalists.
How about it--do workers and employers have anything in common or not?
Sam Webb, Communist Party leader, has an article in the People's World in which he says:
The notion of the capitalist class on the one side and the working class on the other may sound "radical," but it is neither Marxist, nor found in life and politics. Pure forms exist in high theory, but nowhere else.
I highly recommend that everyone read the article. Sam Webb also has a related post here.
For many of us, we took Lenin at his word and came to socialism with at least two concepts in mind. One was that workers and bosses have nothing historically and objectively in common. Another was the notion that "ordinary" people can govern ourselves by holding all of society's wealth in common. This public ownership presupposed a different kind of administration of things--different social relations--and was neatly summed up in the slogan "Every cook can govern."
Many of us sharpened our thinking on this when we read Kuusinen's Fundamentals Of Marxism-Leninism. We read:
The genuine class struggle of the proletariat begins when this struggle goes beyond the narrow limits of defence of the workers’ immediate interests and develops into a political struggle. For this the first requirement is that the advanced representatives of the working class of the whole country should begin to wage a struggle "against the whole class of capitalists and against the government that supports that class" (Lenin).
Working backwards, many of us then read in Marx:
These few hints will suffice to show that the very development of modern industry must progressively turn the scale in favour of the capitalist against the working man, and that consequently the general tendency of capitalistic production is not to raise, but to sink the average standard of wages, or to push the value of labour more or less to its minimum limit. Such being the tendency of things in this system, is this saying that the working class ought to renounce their resistance against the encroachments of capital, and abandon their attempts at making the best of the occasional chances for their temporary improvement? If they did, they would be degraded to one level mass of broken wretches past salvation. I think I have shown that their struggles for the standard of wages are incidents inseparable from the whole wages system, that in 99 cases out of 100 their efforts at raising wages are only efforts at maintaining the given value of labour, and that the necessity of debating their price with the capitalist is inherent to their condition of having to sell themselves as commodities. By cowardly giving way in their everyday conflict with capital, they would certainly disqualify themselves for the initiating of any larger movement.
At the same time, and quite apart from the general servitude involved in the wages system, the working class ought not to exaggerate to themselves the ultimate working of these everyday struggles. They ought not to forget that they are fighting with effects, but not with the causes of those effects; that they are retarding the downward movement, but not changing its direction; that they are applying palliatives, not curing the malady. They ought, therefore, not to be exclusively absorbed in these unavoidable guerrilla fights incessantly springing up from the never ceasing encroachments of capital or changes of the market. They ought to understand that, with all the miseries it imposes upon them, the present system simultaneously engenders the material conditions and the social forms necessary for an economical reconstruction of society. Instead of the conservative motto: “A fair day's wage for a fair day's work!” they ought to inscribe on their banner the revolutionary watchword: “Abolition of the wages system!"
Anyone can throw quotes around, and quotes by themselves of course prove nothing. It may be that our understanding or the way many of us learned Marxism is at fault. Marxist methods either give us the tools to understand real and lived experience or they are worthless. Perhaps Marxism has missed something or is passe?
So--what is lived and real experience here? Do workers and employers have common interests or not? Is there a class struggle or not? Can "every cook govern" or not?
Posted by ethnicguy at 10/29/2009 09:40:00 PM
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